Dominican Republic Coffee: Guide + The Best Brands to Try
Coffee from the Dominican Republic doesn’t get a lot of recognition on the global scene. But that’s not because it doesn’t exist or because it isn’t delicious. It’s because Dominicans like it so much that they drink most of it before the rest of the world gets a chance.
Luckily, a fraction of the country’s exceptional coffee makes it to market. So we’ve tracked down the top six. Try any of these brands, and you’ll understand why Dominicans don’t want to share!
At A Glance:
The 6 Best Dominican Republic Coffees
Coffee from the Dominican Republic tends to be smooth, well-balanced, and easy to drink. You’ll find it with a variety of roast levels and flavour profiles. That’s great news, because no matter your taste, there’s a perfect option for you!
You can always count on Volcanica to offer high-quality coffee. They source 100% Arabica coffee from only the world’s premier growing regions, typically the slopes of volcanoes, and they always roast fresh to order. For our favourite Dominican Republic this year, check out their organic Dominican Red Honey.
The coffee is grown high in the hills of the northern Jarabacoa region on the famed Ramirez Estate. The beans are naturally bright flavoured, and the red honey processing enhances this. Honey processing adds a sweet and fruity character (1). Volcanica expertly roasts them to medium for a smooth brew with flavours of strawberry and stone fruit and a nice hit of acidity.
With its bright but balanced flavours, this is a perfect pick-me-up coffee to start the morning. It’s very versatile, so go ahead and try it as a pour over, drip coffee, AeroPress, or even a cold brew on a summer’s day.
Kimera Koffee is coffee but also so much more. Just look at their slogan, “Make every morning legendary!” That might be tall order, but at the very least, with Kimera you can start every morning with a delicious cup of coffee.
Each bag of Kimera Koffee starts with high-altitude-grown organic coffee from the Dominican Republic mountains, but then it’s supplemented with their proprietary vegan-friendly Nootropic formula (2). This includes Alpha GPC, L-Theanine, Taurine, and DMAE, along with our favourite booster, caffeine. This combination improves both your cognition and your athletic pursuits, thanks to enhanced focus and more energy.
But don’t worry, it still tastes like coffee! The dark roast is well-balanced, without an overly charred flavour. You’ll taste dark chocolate and dried apricot with surprising hints of vanilla and lily and an oaky aroma. Try brewing this one in a French Press or Moka Pot.
For a classic medium roast with just a bit of quirky character, take a look at this organic and direct trade option from Fresh Roasted Coffee, consistently rated among the best coffee on Amazon. It has a mild flavour and pleasant smooth body that’s perfect for easing into your day.
The coffee beans are of the Red Caturra varietal, grown at high elevation in the Cibao region of the Dominican Republic. This is single origin coffee taken to the extreme. The beans are produced on a single-family-run farm in the area. And you can feel good knowing that the family is known locally for putting their profits back to work in their community. Additionally, it’s roasted in the U.S. using an energy-efficient Loring roaster to minimise carbon footprint.
Once brewed, the Fresh Roasted coffee is low in acidity but with a bright, fruity sweetness that distinguishes it from many medium roasts. You’ll enjoy balanced flavours of baked apple, grapes, vanilla, and spice. It’s vaguely apple cobbler but in coffee form. Perfect for sipping on a cool fall morning.
Light roast coffee is known for having complex and subtle flavours. You’re tasting more of the bean itself and the characteristics of the origin, as opposed to the caramelisation effects of the roasting process. With a light roast, bad coffee has nowhere to hide.
Luckily, this single-origin micro-lot Dominican coffee from Cafe Kreyol starts with exceptional coffee beans. The beans are grown on a specific farm, the well-known Ramirez Estate in the high-elevation Jarabacoa region of the Dominican Republic. They’re certified organic, shade-grown, and red honey processed.
The result is a brightly acidic coffee with just a touch of added sweetness from the honey process.
It’s a well-balanced brew featuring flavours of stone fruit and florals and a surprisingly punchy aroma of strawberry.
Light roast Dominican Republic coffee is best showcased in a brewing method using a paper filter, which gives a clean cup that lets the coffee’s subtleties come through. Try brewing this coffee with a Chemex, Kalita Wave, Hario V60, Aeropress, or drip coffee machine.
If you enjoy the traditional rich and bold Italian-style espresso, check out the Cafe Santo Domingo Espresso coffee. Cafe Santo Domingo is THE BIGGEST COFFEE BRAND in the Dominican Republic. Both Dominicans and people around the world love it, which is why they ship it worldwide.
The Espresso comes pre-ground at the outstanding level required for pulling a shot of espresso, so it’s an excellent option if you haven’t invested in a high-quality grinder. Generally, I would always recommend grinding your Dominican coffee fresh if possible, but if you are buying ground coffee, a powerful dark roast like this one from Santo Domingo is your best bet.
Even if it’s not at peak freshness, the flavours are strong enough to pack a punch regardless.
Speaking of those flavours, they’re very traditional. Dark chocolate and toasted nuts, just like what you’d find in Italy (3). It makes a pleasantly sweet espresso with a full body and creamy mouthfeel. The bold flavour takes really well to milk, so that it would make a fantastic latte or cappuccino.
Buying ground coffee at a budget price is rarely a recipe for success, but this nice medium roast from Manabao is a pleasant surprise. The Premium Harvest is a blend of Cibao Altura beans, a renowned coffee grown at high elevation in Juncalito.
Cibao Altura Dominican coffee is known for its bright acidity thanks to its high elevation growth. In this case, the sweet caramelisation of the medium roast balances it nicely. The result is a smooth blend with subtle notes of tangerine and nuts.
It’s not a strong coffee. The flavour is mild, and the body is relatively light, so it’s very easy to drink. I’d recommend this one to anyone who likes to sip away on coffee all day long; you’ll never feel overpowered.
The Manabao Premium Harvest is well suited to many brewing methods because of its mild flavour, including a drip brewer, pour over, or French Press. In hot weather, it makes for an exceptionally smooth cold brew.
How to Choose the Best Dominican Republic Coffee
|Volcanica Dominican Red Honey Coffee||
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|Kimera Koffee Dark Roast||
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|Fresh Roasted Coffee Organic||
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|Cafe Kreyol Ramirez Estate Microlot||
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|Cafe Santo Domingo Espresso||
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|Manabao Premium Harvest||
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Coffee is grown throughout the Dominican Republic, which means you’ll have lots of flavour profiles to choose from because each region has a unique environment. You’ll also want to consider roast level, certifications, and whether or not you wish to grind your coffee.
Sound confusing? Don’t worry. This buyer’s guide is here to walk you through it.
Coffee Growing Regions and Flavour Profiles
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. Both countries share a beautiful landscape, rich farmland, and an often under-appreciated coffee production industry.
Though it’s a small country, the Dominican Republic produces a surprisingly diverse selection of coffee. It has six central coffee-growing regions spread across four mountain ranges. They’re scattered throughout the country, each with a specific altitude, soil, and microclimate contributing distinct flavours.
The government recognises the officially delegated regions of the Cibao Valley, Bani, Azua, San Jose de Ocoa, Barahona, and Juncalito. However, small farms exist in many less prominent areas as well.
Most Dominican Republic coffee farms are small, at less than 3 hectares each, and family-run. The plants are typically shade-grown, thriving under a canopy of macadamia and guava trees. The main varietals of Arabica coffee you’ll encounter are Typica, Caturra, Catuaí, Bourbon, and Mundo Novo. Robusta beans are also grown, but they’re relatively rare and never exported (4).
Most coffee beans grown in the Dominican Republic are wet-processed (also known as washed processed), which means that they remove coffee cherry fruit before drying. Washed coffees tend to be cleaner tasting and are more consistent in their flavours than dry-processed coffee.
Honey processing is also popular in the country. In this case, some of the coffee fruit remains during the drying process. It’s more difficult to control than wet processing.
When done well, honey processing contributes a sweet character to the final coffee.
Because the Dominican Republic has such a diversity of growing conditions, it’s hard to assign a specific flavour to coffee from the country.
The Dominican Republic’s variable weather and coffee varietals make for an equally variable finished cup, depending on where the beans were grown and how they were roasted.
You’ll find earthy, nutty, sweet, and full-bodied coffees that make excellent espresso in some regions. In others, you’ll find bright, fruity, and acidic coffees that are fantastic brewed as a pour over.
Your Favourite Roast is the Right Roast.
Dominican Republic coffee tends to be well-balanced and clean in flavour, similar to Central American origins like Nicaragua and Guatemala, so it takes well to pretty much any roast level. On top of that, the diversity of coffee growing regions means that different coffee beans from within the country may be best highlighted with a particular roast.
As a consumer, this is great news!
You don’t have to adapt your tastes to enjoy the best Dominican Republic coffee. Whether you prefer a fruity light roast or a chocolatey dark roast, there’s already a brand to meet your needs.
Coffee Certifications Matter But Not Too Much.
If you’re a conscious consumer, there’s a good chance you’re checking your bag of coffee beans for labels like Organic or Fair Trade. Good for you! It’s important to care about the environmental and socioeconomic conditions at coffee’s origin.
These certifications can indeed be a reliable way of knowing how your Dominican Republic coffee was grown and marketed. That said, they aren’t a substitute for doing a bit of research into the brand you plan to support.
For example, many different organisations can award a Fair Trade type of certification, each with their criteria. A direct trade model is a better system for both consumers and producers in many cases.
In direct trade, for which there is no certification, producers, and importers negotiate directly, cutting out the certifying middle man. This promotes better prices for farmers and better quality beans for Dominican coffee lovers (5).
A number of importers and exporters in the coffee business are saying we can get more money into the pockets of farmers through direct trade than if we use the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations model.
While the definition of Organic is a bit more precise than that of Fair Trade, it also falls out of favour as a priority for specialty coffee companies. Often small farmers are sustainably growing coffee beans and simply lack the resources to obtain official certification.
Grind Your Own Beans When Possible.
The best way to ensure your coffee is as fresh and flavourful as possible is to grind it yourself right before brewing. So where possible, we always advise that you buy whole coffee beans. This is particularly important with lighter roasts, which tend to have milder flavours quickly lost as the coffee goes stale.
However, not everyone has the time or money for grinding at home, and buying ground Dominican Republic coffee isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially for bold and powerful darker roasts. Look for brands that turn over their stock quickly or, better yet, grind fresh to order. Try to buy in smaller quantities, and store your coffee in a proper coffee canister in a cool place to keep it tasting fresh.
The Dominican Republic doesn’t get a lot of press on the world stage as a coffee-producing nation. But as it turns out, that’s not because they don’t grow great coffee; it’s because they drink most of it themselves!
With a diversity of growing regions, microclimates, and varietals, there is a Dominican coffee that will suit any coffee lover, whether you’re in search of a chocolatey espresso or a fruity pour over brew.
Dominicans drink coffee in a variety of ways. They don’t have any specific national beverage. It is common to see coffee consumed black with sugar at home, often brewed in a Moka pot. At the cafe, cafe con Leche and Americano are popular orders.
In 2013, nearly half a million bags of coffee beans were grown in the Dominican Republic or around 66 million pounds. However, only about 20% is destined for export, which means the Dominican Republic makes up less than 1% of the global coffee market.
Coffee from Haiti is excellent. Despite the country’s economic woes, it produces some exceptional coffee beans. That said, quality can vary widely, so it is crucial to find a reliable brand. At its best, Haitian coffee is rich, well-rounded, and full-bodied.
- Kilbride, D. (2017, February 23). Honey Processed Coffee: What’s the Difference Between Yellow, Red, & Black? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2017/02/yellow-red-black-honey-processed-coffees-whats-the-difference/
- Berry, J. (2019, September 18). What are nootropics (smart drugs)? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326379
- Poggioli, S. (2017, July 14). Italy’s Coffee Culture Brims With Rituals and Mysterious Rules. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/07/14/535638587/italys-coffee-culture-brims-with-rituals-and-mysterious-rules
- Fedenia, L. (2017, March 30). Diving into Domonican Coffee Production. Retrieved from https://www.freshcup.com/diving-into-dominican-coffee-production/
- Haight, C. (2011). The Problem With Fair Trade Coffee. Retrieved from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_problem_with_fair_trade_coffee