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Maxwell House Vs Folgers: Which One Is Better?

Maxwell House vs Folgers – is there any real difference between these titans?

The short answer is yes, these are actually very different coffees.

In this article, I’ll give you a brief overview of each brand. 

Then we’ll dive a little deeper into how they stack up against each other.

Let’s get to it!

Maxwell House: A Brief Overview

Maxwell House has been around for a long time. And I mean a long time.

It started back in the 1890s by a coffee wholesaler. He started the brand after selling bags of his blend to the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville.

The rest, really, is history. Because we all know Maxwell House to be a titan of 20th-century coffee.

They expanded to include instant coffee and decaf coffee after World War II.

And towards the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s, they came out with different roast levels and blends.

These days, we might recognize Maxwell House as the grocery store coffee of our grandparents. It’s definitely a second-wave coffee brand that is losing market share.

But it still dominates a certain demographic of coffee drinkers.

Folgers: The Basics

If Maxwell House was the dominant coffee brand in the Eastern United States in the late 19th century, then Folgers was the coffee brand of the West.

It started in the 1850s in San Francisco, where coffee drinkers had to buy green coffee beans and roast them at home.

But Folgers came along in the later part of the 19th century.

The founder of Folgers Coffee Company was James Folger, an American businessman. They became the sole coffee company in California throughout the early part of the 20th century.

Folgers has many roasts and blends of regular ground coffee, from light roasts to super dark.

They also offer some decaf options and some instant coffee options.

Maxwell House vs Folgers

The real question is, how do these two titans stack up against each other?

In this section, let’s put the two brands head to head and declare a final winner.

What type of beans do these brands use?

arabica and robusta coffee beans

There are two main types of beans used by coffee companies: Arabica and Robusta coffee beans.

Arabica beans are tastier and of higher quality than Robusta beans. Arabica beans are the dominant beans used by specialty coffee shops these days because of their elevated flavors.

But Robusta beans are typical of heartier blends and companies that seek out a higher caffeine content. 

Robusta coffee bean was a popular choice in the early days of coffee because of its natural resistance to coffee plant diseases.

Because Robusta beans aren’t as tasty and aren’t as desirable, they are more expensive than Arabica beans.

The general consensus these days is that 100% Arabica bean coffees are simply better than Robusta.

That said, it wasn’t until 2007 that Maxwell House switched from an Arabica/Robusta blend to using only Arabica beans in their coffee.

That isn’t necessarily a knock on Maxwell House coffee. After all, they were just following the major trend of coffee drinkers.

Folgers, on the other hand, seemed to double down on the Robusta blend.

The reality is that an all-Arabica blend will be more flavorful than a Robusta blend. But it will also be more expensive.

And if you like your coffee strong and with cream and sugar, a Robusta blend will give you that.

If we talk about the type of roast, both brands use everything from light to dark roast coffee.

Naturally, there will be some differences in taste depending on the roast.

A light roast (breakfast blend coffee) will have a more acidic and bright taste, and a dark roast coffee will be bold and a bit bitter.

Medium roast falls somewhere in between, and it has a balanced and smooth flavor. If you want the medium roast coffee, go for Maxwell House Original roast, or Folgers Classic roast.

IN A NUTSHELL
Maxwell House moved to all-Arabica ground coffee beans. That means they care about the flavor they put in your pot. Folgers stuck with Robusta beans as the driver for their coffee. Which means they are slightly more bitter and have a more classic diner-style coffee.

Is there any difference in taste between the two?

The taste of each brand comes down to the beans they use.

Arabica beans will be more flavorful and have more sweetness. Robusta beans will be more bitter, heavier, and have more of a diner-style flavor.

Typical, Maxwell house coffee is known for having a sweet aroma with notes of nuts and chocolate. From personal experience, that’s pretty spot on.

I’d choose Maxwell House over Folgers for drinking black for the sweeter aspect of the coffee.

Folgers uses a Robusta blend, so is often seen as tasting pretty bad. But I think that’s a bit unfair. Especially considering you can add just about any flavor to Foglers to make it taste much better.

Coffee drinkers today don’t have the same palate as older generations.

If you can get past the dominant tastes of the coffee market today and understand the flavors that Foglers is appealing to, it isn’t that bad.

After all, there’s a place for sludgy coffee that packs a crazy caffeine kick.

What would we do without the 3 am mug of coffee from a dive bar?

BOTTOM LINE
Folgers and Maxwell House are aiming for different flavors these days and aren’t really competitors anymore. Folgers is aiming at a taste that is really only popular with older generations. It’s heavier, more bitter, and generally only good with cream and sugar. Maxwell House is aiming for a sweeter, more drinkable cup of coffee that tastes good straight.

How much caffeine is in Maxwell House vs Folgers?

two cups of coffee

Again, the caffeine content of each brand comes down to the beans they use.

Robusta beans have more caffeine than Arabica beans. So, Folgers coffee will, on average, have more caffeine than Maxwell house coffee.

When you actually calculate the numbers, the difference in caffeine is not so big.

Per 8 oz cup of coffee, Maxwell House has about 112 mg of caffeine.

Folgers coffee also comes in with about the same numbers.

What gives? That’s an average number for both brands.

But the bottom line is that you should make your decision between the two brands on something other than caffeine content.

Well, unless you are drinking coffee without caffeine, of course. In that case, both brands are offering decaffeinated coffee.

IN A NUTSHELL
Maxwell House and Folgers coffee have nearly identical caffeine numbers. There really isn’t anything else worth saying about it. But you should base your decision on something other than caffeine content.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that Maxwell House wants a broader customer base that wanted tastier coffee. 

So they started using 100% Arabica beans in 2007.

Folgers stuck with their tried and true Robusta blend. They hoped that older generations of coffee drinkers would stick with them.

That means that Maxwell House probably will taste better to you than Folgers. 

But if you’re looking for a punchy, heavy, bold cup, Folgers takes the cake.

Can’t decide between ground and instant coffee of these brands? Check out our article on the differences between those two types of coffee!

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Craig Carey
Craig spent a year as a barista in Denver's specialty coffee world. He spends his days rock climbing, cycling, drinking espresso, and hanging around the Rocky Mountains. He still lives in Colorado.