July 25, 2008
I’ve written previously about the importance of using the proper amount of coffee (hint – most instructions you see tell you to use too little), the proper temperature and the proper grind to avoid a bitter (or sour or burnt-tasting) cup of coffee. But where do you go when you’re doing it right and it still isn’t good?
The other day I was in Starbucks, and decided to take home a pound of their Pike Place Roast — one of the few brewed coffees from Starbucks that I’ve ever liked. I’d had it brewed in the store many times and enjoyed it, but this time I was out of beans at home and wasn’t in the mood to roast, so I figured I’d try some at home.
To my surprise, my first pot with Pike Place had a very unpleasant bitter, almost metallic note to it. I’d never experienced this in the store, so I knew this wasn’t right.
April 16, 2008
Of course, if he tried this today, “Harvey” would be in the emergency room with 3rd degree hot coffee burns to the groin while being served his divorce papers… On the other hand, if the coffee was so bad that instant was an improvement, maybe ol’ Harv had a point…
(via Boing Boing)
April 11, 2008
Awhile back, Joffery’s Coffee and Tea was looking for bloggers interested in “beta testing” one of their coffees. Since I’m an unrepentant coffee blogger from way back, I naturally signed up.
Their sign up process asked whether I normally drank flavored or unflavored coffees (unflavored), and whether I preferred pre-ground or whole bean coffee (whole bean, naturally).
So of course, I recently found a care package from Joffrey’s in my mail box, containing a packet of their pre-ground “Jamaican Me Crazy” coffee, flavored with caramel, vanilla and coffee liqueur — I guess I needed a change of pace? lol…
April 9, 2008
I had the chance to try Starbucks’ new “Pike Place Roast” tonight.
And considering that I’ve seldom ever had a cup of brewed coffee at Starbucks that was more than marginally drinkable, that’s a tremendous improvement.
April 4, 2008
The BBC reports that a new study in the Journal of Neuroinflammation indicates that caffeine helps prevent high levels of cholesterol from causing dangerous substances to leak across the blood-brain barrier.
March 19, 2008
But still, the news from their annual shareholders meeting actually sounds kind of promising.
They’ve bought the much discussed and semi-mythical Clover, and will be deploying it in all stores. The whole idea behind the Clover is that it can deliver (in 30 – 60 seconds) a full-on properly brewed cup of varietal coffee. Which is pretty great in concept, although early reports were that it took a fair amount of tweaking to get each specific origin brewed correctly — and what are the odds that the baristas-who-can’t-be-trusted-to-grind-and-pull-a-real-shot will learn and take the time to use it properly? Still, it should be a dramatic improvement over what passes for brewed coffee at most Starbucks these days.
As much as I wish they’d also announced that they were buying Reg Barber and would soon be returning to the land of real espresso, they’ve apparently decided that the solution to crappy automated espresso is to turn to even more automation, and to that end they’ve teamed up with Thermoplan AG to produce the next generation of cyborg pushbutton espresso. Hopefully the only way to go from here is “up”.
Other announcements include a new signature roast, new loyalty programs tied to Starbucks Cards and increased ethical sourcing.
All in all, it could have been better, but at least it’s a sign that they know that what has to be done is to improve the coffee & espresso — not a word about rolling out new foods and snacks, new gimmicky confection drinks, or anything of the kind.
That’s good, ‘cuz “it’s the coffee, stupid”.
March 8, 2008
In this day and age, it seems like everything that you enjoy comes complete with a Greek chorus of whiners telling you why you should avoid it.
Coffee is no different. Despite Starbucks opening new stores every 60 yards on any paved road, every wanna-be-self-helper tells you why you should give up caffeine, give up coffee, etc.
That’s what makes it particularly refreshing to see Lifehack have a go at what’s right with coffee.
Their list of coffee’s benefits includes:
- Better health through antioxidants
- Improved alertness
- Resilience to shifting schedules
- Improved socialization
Not bad for the devil’s drink.
March 10, 2007
A fragment of conversation while making a bit of after dinner coffee the other night…
“That’s a grinder, right?”
“And what’s that thing?”
This? It’s a portafilter.
“No, the thing on the front of the grinder, with the handle.”
“And that’s a tamper?”
“So what are you attaching the portafilter to?”
That would be the brew group.
(While pulling the next shot…)
“Let’s see… That’s grinder, doser, portafilter, tamper, and brew group?”
Is the question ‘Name five things you will no longer find at Starbucks?’
February 27, 2007
A leaked Valentine’s Day memo from Howard Shultz, the chairman and founder of Starbucks Corp. suggests that their success may not have been as sweet as your average Pumpkin Spice Latte…
For example, when we went to automatic espresso machines, we solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency. At the same time, we overlooked the fact that we would remove much of the romance and theatre that was in play with the use of the La Marzocca machines. This specific decision became even more damaging when the height of the machines, which are now in thousands of stores, blocked the visual sight line the customer previously had to watch the drink being made, and for the intimate experience with the barista.
(ummm… That’s La Marzocco, Howard…)
For me, this has got to be the ‘Bucks’ number one issue — with a bullet.
No matter how good they are, the full-auto machines just do not produce as good of a shot of espresso as a barista who actually uses a little care, and freshly grinds, hand tamps and pulls a shot on a good semi-auto machine like the La Marzocco.
The training just can’t be that hard. I’ll grant you that it takes a great deal of care and practice to be a world class barista, but that’s miles above “competent”, and frankly competent is good enough.
February 8, 2007
Dear God, this is one of the signs of the apocalypse, isn’t it?
Apparently Consumer Reports picked McDonalds as having the best coffee, at least in comparison to Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks.
God knows, I’ve said enough bad things about Starbucks, but the day you can’t beat out McDonald’s coffee, it’s time to hang it up and admit you know far more about selling milk than brewing coffee.
As for Consumer Reports, I won’t be joining them for a mug of joe anytime soon, but I would be willing to try some of whatever they were smoking that day…