Kicking Horse Coffee Review: Is it Kick-Ass Coffee without the BS?

Kicking Horse Coffee Review

So, you want to know more about the infamous Kicking Horse Coffee Company? Perfect, we’re here to tell you all about the roasts they offer and the history behind this amazing company in our all-access Kicking Horse Coffee review!

Roasting beans is no easy task, coffee geeks all around the world pour over the intricacies of the process as if it were their firstborn (pun intended!).

The brand combines passion with ethics through its sustainable practices, and it also makes real kick-ass dark roasts!

Kicking Horse Coffee Review – History

Kicking Horse Coffee, Kick Ass, Dark Roast, Whole Bean

First, let me walk you through the history and practices of Kicking Horse. What makes this brand different from its competitors in the market?

Kicking Horse isn’t the longest-standing coffee roasting business. In the beginning, its founders were operating out of their garage in the Canadian Rocky Mountain, “in the middle of nowhere” as they claim. And they’ve roasted in the Rocky Mountains for 25 years.

Since then, the company has expanded its garage to add more working space and employees to roast more and meet the increasing demand. From a 2-person job, Kicking Horse is now one of the best places to work in Canada together with over 100 other crew members.

And, they have moved from selling at a street vendor and local grocery stores to being available in cafes, grocery stores, and online shops everywhere in North America. Doesn’t sound so underwhelming now, does it?

In 2008, the company even opened its own Kicking Ass Café right outside its headquarter in Invermere BC, Canada, providing delicious coffee using the brand’s freshly roasted beans along with complimentary snacks and branded merchandise.

In 2017, Kicking Horse Coffee was bought by the Italian corporation Lavazza. However, one of the co-founders still remains the CEO to continue their mission of making kick-ass coffee.

Kicking Horse Coffee Review – Coffee Beans

Next, I’ll review Kicking Horse coffee sourcing and roasting practices.

One of the reasons Kicking Horse is so well-loved is the fact that it’s considered to be the number 1 Organic and Fair Trade roaster in Canada for 13 consecutive years.

Fair Trade

Kicking Horse claims that 100% of its coffee is certified.

A product, brand, or company that’s approved by the Fair Trade movement makes conscious efforts to help to empower workers, including small local businesses, protect the environment, and carry out sustainable operations.

In this case, Kicking Horse, as the biggest Fair Trade roaster in the country, sticks to strict standards to offer better working and trading conditions for workers and partnering coffee farmers.

This contributes to raising local farmers’ living standards and encouraging them to adhere to environmentally friendly farming practices.


Other than that, Kicking Horse is also 100% organically grown.

It’s certified by ECOCERT, an organization that’s committed to promoting sustainable practices through certification, consulting, and training services, including agriculture.

Coffee beans that are considered organic are those that haven’t been grown with artificial pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers which contain harmful chemicals to both the product and the local cultivating soil.


The brand sources its coffee beans from local farms that are certified Fair Trade and Organic in many large coffee regions all around the world:

  • Central and South America (Latin America): Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Honduras.
  • Africa: Uganda and Ethiopia.
  • Southeast Asia: Sumatra (Indonesia) and East Timor.

Coffee in each region has its own distinctive aroma and flavor characteristics differing by the body, tasting notes, and aftertaste.

Some are bold with earthy and dark chocolate tones while others are lighter and brighter with high acidity.


Some are packed with vibrant fruity tasting notes while others are more tamed with concealed nuttiness.


Some coffee roasteries have started to offer coffee beans in the form of a coffee pod to accommodate the increasing popularity of pod coffee makers such as Keurig and Nespresso.

However, roasted in the Rocky Mountains, coffee is only offered either as whole bean or ground coffee. The brand doesn’t want to contribute to more unnecessary waste getting dumped into the environment, a likely outcome of single-use coffee pods.

Artificial Flavor

The company also clarifies that they don’t add any artificial flavorings to the coffee beans. When you drink the extraction from its coffee, the taste is the all-natural essence coffee compound which is drawn out from the processing, roasting, grinding, and brewing methods.

Acid Levels

If you’re a coffee fan that’s seeking out coffee products that have lower acidity, today’s your lucky day!

Generally, Kicking Horse Coffee is mild in acidity. In particular, its Kick-Ass coffee, which I will review in more detail in the later parts, is popular for its low acidity.

So, to coffee enthusiasts who have GERD-related health conditions such as acid reflux, you don’t have to give up on coffee altogether. Just look for low-acid alternatives.

Kicking Horse also advises that to lower the effect of acid in coffee, a home barista may also:

  • Dilute the consumption by drinking water at the same time as drinking coffee
  • Avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach.
  • Brew coffee using methods that incorporate a filter (i.e. drip machine, Pour-Overs, and AeroPress)

Caffeine Content

Caffeine is the largest stimulant that people use to speed up their central nervous system. This explains why many people drink coffee first thing in the morning to stay awake and from time to time during the day to stay focused.

The amount of caffeine content in a cup of coffee depends on the coffee brewing method and the amount of coffee ground used. According to the brand, a double shot (2 oz / 59 ml) of espresso brewed with Kicking Horse Coffee contains around 80 mg of caffeine, which is 40 mg/oz.

And, one cup (12 oz / 355 ml) of drip coffee contains around 120 mg of caffeine, which is only 20 mg/oz. So no wonder espresso is often called a caffeine shot. Moreover, pay attention to the number of cups of coffee you drink during a day as it affects the amount of caffeine content you consume as well.

This coffee brand also offers decaf options that have gone through the chemical-free Swiss water decaffeination process effectively eliminating 99.9% of the caffeine content.

That 0.01% level of caffeine is still there but rest assured that it’s not significant enough to mess up whatever plan you have for your diet.

Kicking Horse Coffee Review – Comparing the Roasts

As I’ve briefly mentioned above, Kicking Horse Coffee offers both whole bean and ground coffee options in a number of roast profiles, ranging from light and medium to dark and dedicated espresso and decaf roasts as well.

I suggest getting the whole bean and grind the beans yourself to make sure your cup of Kicking Horse is as fresh as possible.

You can also have the whole bean ground at local grocery stores if you don’t own a coffee grinder yourself. But for future consumption of coffee at home, invest in a quality one. You won’t regret it.

Roast TypeBean NameFlavor CharacteristicsBest Brewing Method
LightHolaMild, sweet, and creamy with notes of juicy red berriesDrip machine, Pour-Overs, and Cold Brew
MediumSmart AssDeep yet fruity of tart berries, sweet of sugar cane, and silky of milk chocolateFrench Press, Drip machine, Pour-Overs, Cold Brew, and Espresso machine
MediumThree SistersSweet and balanced with notes of sweet tobacco, stone fruit, and cocoaFrench Press, Drip machine, and Pour-Overs
MediumHoodoo JoEarthy and deep yet bright and tangyFrench Press, Drip machine, Pour-Overs, Cold Brew, and Espresso machine
MediumZ WranglerLuscious and syrupy with a hint of spices and tanginessFrench Press, Drip machine, Pour-Overs, Cold Brew, and Espresso machine
DarkKick-AssNotes of deep chocolate malt, molasses, and licorice with an earthy aftertasteFrench Press, Drip machine, and Pour-Overs
DarkHalf-AssSimilar to Kick-Ass but half the caffeineFrench Press, Drip machine, and Pour-Overs
DarkGrizzly ClawDeep with notes of chocolate, roasted hazelnut, brown sugar, and cacao nibsFrench Press, Drip machine, and Pour-Overs
Dark454 Horse PowerVelvety and smooth with notes of sweet tobacco and a luscious black licorice finishFrench Press and Pour-Overs
EspressoCliff HangerVelvety and chocolaty with notes of wild berry syrup and a smooth cocoa finishDrip machine, Pour-Overs, and Espresso machine
DecafDecafBalanced, aromatic, and nutty with a lasting aftertasteFrench Press, Drip machine, Pour-Overs, and Espresso machine

Light Roast

Lighter roasts have been unfairly judged as a roasting profile that produces awful taste before. However, the truth is light roasts bring the most complex flavor profiles to your cup of Joe.

Therefore, they’re harder to get right when roasting and brewing. But no worries, today’s roasteries, including Kicking Horse Coffee, have figured out a way to work with them.

The lighter the roast, the more compounds and original flavors are preserved and extracted into your brew. That’s why light roast is usually sweeter, tangier, and brighter. It can be the highlight of your morning if you master the extraction process.

Hola Roast

This is a popular light roast option of the brand that can jolt you awake with its caffeine boost and wild and tropical feel.

Hola consists of 100% Arabica beans from Central and South America that are Organic, FairTrade, Kosher, and Shade-grown certified, all of the keywords environmentally conscious drinkers like to hear.

Hola is well-loved for being mild, sweet, creamy, and full-bodied, heightened by the bright and fruity tasting notes of juicy red berries.

The best ways to extract all of the goodness from the Hola roast are using a drip machine, Pour-Over methods, or making Cold Brew.

So, you can enjoy this interesting blend regardless of the weather. Considering how hot summer gets, making Cold Brew with this exciting blend is the silver lining of the season.

Medium Roast

Medium roast beans are darker in color than light roast. It’s the easiest roasting profile to work with as the coffee beans bring a well-balanced flavor, body, aroma, and acidity level.

It’s suitable for all brewing methods and a good start for beginners getting into brewing coffee by themselves at home.

Medium roast beans are also among 2 of the main focuses of the brand, so expect them to kick it out of the park with the following selection varieties.

Smart Ass

As cheeky as its name is, these medium roast beans can show off their bright yet deep taste with the characteristic dark chocolate undertones of coffee.

The brand knows what it’s doing when incorporating the fruitiness of tart berries with the sweetness of sugar cane and the silkiness of milk chocolate.

Coupled with the sweet brown sugar syrup and vanilla bean aroma, the cup of Joe knows it’s just what you need in the morning.

When brewing with common coffee-making methods such as French Press, drip machine, Pour-Overs, Cold Brew, and espresso machine, you can expect a balanced brew that’s not too vibrant or bold.

Smart Ass beans contain a blend of 100% superior Arabica sourced from Organic, FairTrade, Kosher, and Shade-grown certified farms in Africa and Central South America.

Three Sisters

Another popular Medium Roast of the brand is the Three Sisters blend, which is smoother and more savory.

According to the brand, the Three Sisters roast was created to specifically pay homage to the powerful Canadian Rocky Mountain, on which its roastery lies from the earliest days to the present.

What’s special about this seductive blend is Three Sisters will hit you with a combination of 3 roast profiles at once – light, medium, and dark roasts – for the trio of the Rocky Mountains, creating a new and interesting coffee smelling and tasting experience.

Similar to the above 2, these Three Sisters Arabica coffee beans have also been sustainably sourced from Indonesia, Central, South America.

While brewing using a French Press, drip machine, or Pour-Over coffee maker, you get to enjoy the fruitiness, nuttiness, and chocolate of Three Sisters laced with the aromatic smell in the air. What a pleasant way to enjoy the early morning.

Each sip of coffee is smooth and well-balanced from the tip of your tongue to the end of your throat. Along the way, you can pick up mellow tasting notes of sweet tobacco, stone fruit, and cocoa as well.

Hoodoo Jo

If you’re still on the fence about trying this brand, Hoodoo Jo can be your first experiment.

No matter what type of coffee lover you are, light or the hardcore dark, this coffee can give you the bright and tangy notes of fruits while not overshadowing the earthy deep tones that are an inherent part of strong coffee.

Hoodoo Jo contains an Arabica coffee blend of different regions around the world, including Africa, Indonesia, and Latin America, giving it a robust and distinctive flavor profile that’s different from others.

And, you can use these beans for any coffee brewing method that suits your preference and lifestyle.

I suggest taking out your French Press and brew using the immersion method to make the most out of it.

Z Wrangler

For those looking for something stronger and bolder yet still retains the smoothness, sweetness, and none of the unwanted bitterness, Z Wrangle has some words with you.

This medium roast differentiates itself from the others with all of the nuances in flavors and body.

Luscious and syrupy with a hint of spices and tanginess from Indonesia and Central America, from which the organic beans are sourced.

It’s certainly worth a try with whatever brewing method you have in mind.

Dark Roast

Hello, darkness, my old friend. Dare to come to talk with it again by walking in the dark with these exquisite blends by this brand?

Full-bodied, lower in acidity, and oilier than the other 2 roast profiles, Kicking Horse’s dark roasts are also worth exploring. And who knows, maybe you won’t be able to resist a second cup of Joe to taste more of its chocolate malt, toasted coconut, and caramel-tasting notes?

Kick-Ass Dark Roast

Fully embodying Kicking Horse’s spirit to “wake up and kick ass”, Kicking Horse Kick-Ass dark roast is another signature product of the company.

If you love a dark roast, the Kick-Ass dark roast made of 100% certified Organic coffee beans sourced from Indonesia and South America can be your new best friend.

With tasting notes of deep chocolate malt, molasses, licorice, and an earthy aftertaste, Kick-Ass beans are deep in the body to kick your ass awake and soothing to sip on while you’re tackling a stressful day of work.

Kick-Ass dark roast is recommended to be brewed with a French Press, drip machine, or Pour-Over methods to best extract the intense coffee compounds that have yet to be broken down by the roasting process.


Now, the name doesn’t mean that the brand only half-assed its job with this roast profile or advising you to half-ass your job.

Almost an exact copy of the Kick-Ass dark roast, this Half-Ass roast has the same amount of body, flavor, and sass that Kick-Ass does, but with half of the caffeine!

So if you enjoy Kick-Ass but are concerned about the caffeine content, get this sweet and smoky Half-Ass blend and go out and kick ass as usual.

Grizzly Claw

Grizzly Claw doesn’t actually grizzle but it’s reminiscent of the wild, mysterious, and strong roars coming from deep inside the mountains.

And this is reflected well through both its appearance and essence.

Rejoice, dark chocolate lovers! Kicking Horse’s Grizzly Claw Dark Roast is filled with rich, deep, and smoky notes of chocolate, roasted hazelnut, brown sugar, and cacao nibs.

To best extract the spirit and soul of Grizzly Claw, the Latin American Arabica blend, you can go with the common drip machines or lift your hands and take out manual brewers such as the French Press, V60, or Chemex.

454 Horse Power

Keeping it in theme, 454 Horse Power wants to emphasize how smooth the coffee is and how the brand goes the extra mile with this roast to make sure that 454 Horse Power hits all of the depth of the dark roast.

What the company refers to as a “champion roast,” 454 Horse Power is velvety in texture and has smooth and satisfying flavors of sweet tobacco and a luscious black licorice finish.

You can also expect the spice-and-everything nice aroma of 454 Horse Power to embrace your whole kitchen.

Enjoy this one as a simple yet delicious cup of French Press or Pour-Over black coffee or a hearty cold brew!

Espresso Roast

Are you a dedicated latte fan? Treat yourself right with Kicking Horse’s espresso roast: Cliff Hanger.

Cliff Hanger Espresso

While many use dark roast for their espresso brew, Cliff Hanger espresso medium roast will surprise you with what it’s capable of.

One sip of Cliff Hanger espresso roast and you’re mesmerized by the seemingly never-ending taste of the delightfully velvety and chocolaty blend.

You get to taste all of the complex flavor notes including the wild berry syrup which explains the sweet aroma that catches you off-guard at the beginning.

But all good things come to an end. However, unlike movies and TV shows, Cliff Hanger doesn’t end with drama. This ends on a good note with a smooth cocoa finish, fulfilling yet still leaving you wanting for more.

Since it’s an espresso roast, made to specifically complement espresso and espresso-based drinks, you don’t have to save it only for those occasions.

Enjoy daily cups of Joe with other techniques as well, including drip machine and manual coffee brewers.

Decaf Roast

Does drinking caffeine cramp your style? Try Kicking Horse’s Decaf Roast! Now you can sip some of the most delicious coffee on the market at any time of day without a care in the world. You can thank us later.


As I’ve briefly mentioned earlier, the brand utilizes the Swiss Water Process to decaffeinate beans safely while still retaining their top qualities – deep, dark, and delicious – as the brand says.

The Arabica from Latin America bring a cup of Joe that’s balanced, aromatic, nutty with a lasting aftertaste that’s hard to forget.

The complexity in flavors can also be noted from the moment you smell their aroma as well. No caffeine, no problem!

You can use this to make whatever type of coffee you enjoy, so no need to overthink there either.

Our Final Verdict

To conclude my Kicking Horse Coffee review, I believe that this brand is definitely worth a try no matter what roast profile you’re looking for.

Buying from an environmentally friendly brand means you’re taking part in the push for sustainable practices in the industry as well.

However, for those looking for single-origin beans to achieve a perfectly balanced and consistent brew every time, the brand can’t meet your demand as it only offers blends.

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