Serious Eats: Drinks
Taste Test: Grapefruit Juice
#1: Serious Eats Office-Squeezed Juice
#2: Whole Foods Fresh-Squeezed
#3: Trader Joe's Fresh-Squeezed
'Tis the season to eat and drink plenty of citrus. Grapefruit is a good friend of ours: sour and tangy with an underlying sweetness. Though it's available year-round, it always feels especially virtuous to slurp up all those refreshingly acidic, Vitamin-C-packed juices during the chilly winter months.
And since sometimes you want the grapefruit experience without dealing with a fussy little knife to segment the whole dang fruit, we tried 12 different juices to find the best. (Note: this was not a walk in the park for our sour-zapped taste buds.)
We tasted 11 brands that are nationally available from leading grocery chains. We also threw in one of our own: a fresh-squeezed batch made at SEHQ to see how it compared to the store-bought options.
- Whole Foods; 2 varieties (wholefoodsmarket.com)
- Trader Joe's; 2 varieties (traderjoes.com)
- Tropicana; 2 varieties (tropicana.com)
- Natalie's Orchid Island Juice Company (orchidislandjuice.com)
- Simply Juice (simplyorangejuice)
- Ocean Spray (oceanspray.com)
- Florida's Natural (floridasnatural.com)
- Apple and Eve (appleandeve.com)
In this blind tasting, we were looking for a tart, fresh-tasting juice balanced with some natural sweetness. Many of us are pulp fans and think it adds to the fresh-tasting experience, while others (and I've never really understood you people) don't care for the fruit-meat shreds. We included both pulp and non-pulp varieties.
Since we wanted to get a good cross-section of what's available out there in the markets, we included both pasteurized and non-pasteurized juices (though we could only find two that weren't pasteurized: one in the Whole Foods fridge, and Natalie's Orchid Island), and even a couple juice blends (which contained juices other than grapefruit).
Tasters tried the juices fresh from the fridge in different, randomized orders.
As we could have predicted, the non-pasteurized juices tasted fresh on our tongues. Pasteurization heats up the juice in order to kill microorganisms that could spoil it, hence extending the shelf life. Even the flash pasteurized juices (high temperature, short time) found near the produce section or in the refrigerated aisle didn't taste quite as crisp and robust as the raw juices.
We also didn't care for the juice blends, often a mix of grape, apple, and grapefruit juices. They taste like a big tease. When something is labeled "grapefruit," you're expecting a citrusy tang, not Kool-Aid. They have much more sugar (about 50% more), which also extends their shelf life but gives them that cloyingly syrupy sweet taste.
#1. Serious Eats Office-Squeezed (7.75 / 10)
SE Intern Aaron squeezed this himself the morning of our tasting. Nothing extra was added; just whole grapefruits purchased across the street from our office. Tasters noted: "wow, tastes fresh!" (Ha, how accurate of them.)
This "real stuff" was gently tart and naturally sweet-tasting. Very balanced—no one single flavor dominates. It didn't have that artificial pink-lemonade-pink shade either. If you've got the whole grapefruits and the upper body strength, and you genuinely like the taste of grapefruits, the lesson here is SIY (squeeze it yourself).
#2. 365 Whole Foods, Not Pasteurized (7.25 / 10)
After all our grocery shopping, this was the only non-pasteurized, fresh-squeezed juice we could find out there. The "drink-by" date will come sooner than the pasteurized juices, so you won't have as much time to drink it, but if you're planning to gulp it back in the next couple of days, do yourself a favor and buy this. "Yum, even though I hate pulp," said one taster. There are plenty of citrus shreds floating throughout. Smooth, not too puckery, and about as fresh-tasting as the office-squeezed stuff.
#3. Trader Joe's 100% Florida Grapefruit (6.5 / 10)
"Pulpacious," said one taster. Again, you should expect pulpy. It's a little on the sweeter side; we wish it was a tad more bitterness. Doesn't taste quite as robustly just-squeezed as the above two.
#4. Tropicana Pure Premium (6.25 / 10)
"Believably grapefruit," said one taster. It has a smooth bitterness. Pretty sour with a bit of honeyed sweetness in the background.
#5. Natalie's Orchid Island Juice Company (5.375 / 10)
We could only find the itty-bitty bottles (eight ounces, but don't they look smaller?) for this brand. You might recognize Natalie by her bronzed face and exotic-looking flower tucked into her hair? Wherever she is, we want to go there. This one's mild as far as grapefruit juice goes, but very refreshing. Compared to the others, it tastes more orange-like in sweetness without as much of a sour pucker.
#6. Simply (5.125 / 10)
When we polled y'all on Facebook, many of you endorsed Simply. The company was launched by Minute Maid in 2001, so it's under the Coca-Cola umbrella. You might recognize its long giraffe-necked bottle. Pulp haters, take note: this one's pulp-free! Quite bitter, a tad syrupy-sweet on the finish. Overall, pretty balanced.
#7. 365 Whole Foods, Pasteurized (5.0 / 10)
If you're at Whole Foods, you'll find this one in the fridge near our second place winner, but this pasteurized juice is notably not as fresh-tasting as the other. "Tastes like a canned juice." Bitter up front but without much grapefruity flavor.
#8. Ocean Spray (4.13 / 10)
This one is 100% juice but not 100% grapefruit juice. As the label will tell you, it's a blend of three juices: grapefruit juice from concentrate, white grape juice from concentrate, and carrot juice. "Tastes too.. mixed." It has that fakey, too sweet flavor—not citrusy enough, not grapefruity enough. Like what you'd get at a 24-hour diner. If you truly enjoy the pleasures of slurping up real grapefruit, and all its acidic glory, you'd be disappointed with this one.
#9. Florida's Natural (2.63 / 10)
Way too sweet, "like caramel water." There's a slight bitterness, but it's bitter like when a citrus candy wants to be bitter (e.g. lemon Life Savers). Also has a weird, perfume-y aftertaste.
#10. Trader Joe's Rio Red Grapefruit (2.5 / 10)
"I have no idea what this is," said one taster. Definitely not what we expect from something marked "grapefruit." Much more like grape juice (and the first ingredient listed is in fact white grape juice). Stick with Trader Joe's fresh-squeezed, unless you're looking for a fruit punch posing as grapefruit juice. And that pretty ruby color? "Vegetable juice for color" according to the ingredients.
#11. Tropicana (1.78 / 10)
"No, no no," said one taster. Tastes way more like apple than grapefruit juice. And it is actually part AJ. The ingredients read: water, grape juice concentrate, grapefruit juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate. Unlike the bottle of fresh-squeezed Tropicana, which scored fourth place, this one tasted very artificial. "Like I'm drinking pure sugar water." It's more Kool-Aidy than juice should be.
#12. Apple and Eve (1.75 / 10)
This one's labeled "Ruby Red Grapefruit" but it only contains 25% juice. It's a juice cocktail from concentrate. Imagine a kid's juice box—this tastes like that. Translation: SWEET and fruit-punchy. One taster went as far as calling it "vomit-flavored Hi-C." So maybe that was a little extreme and gross, but we really didn't like this one.