Talk is cheap, good coffee costs money

March 19, 2008

Source: WikipediaYeah, I know I love to kick Starbucks, but hey — they make an inviting target. It’d be almost impolite to not abuse them.

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”.

I’ll take “Grande Latte” for $100, Alex

March 10, 2007

A fragment of conversation while making a bit of after dinner coffee the other night…

“That’s a grinder, right?”

um hmmm.

“And what’s that thing?”

This? It’s a portafilter.

“No, the thing on the front of the grinder, with the handle.”

Oh. Doser.

“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?’

Consumer Reports Hearts Mickey Dee’s

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…

(Via Slashfood)

Espresso Jello Shots – Cubed Coffee

December 3, 2005

Delicious:Days has posted a recipe for “Cubed Coffee” — essentially little gelatine cubes made with coffee, with a coconut sauce.

Looks tasty, and probably better for you than your average jello shot…

Pity the fool that don’t like espresso…

November 4, 2005

Over on “Words For My Enjoyment”, Paul Davidson happens to run into Mr. T standing on line at Starbucks…

Well� Mr. T was standing right in front of me in line.

It was then that I tuned my eavesdropping ears into the conversation in front of me, in which Mr. T picked out two chocolate covered graham crackers (for dipping) and ordered a double-shot espresso. Yes, that’s right – Mr. T, a guy with more energy and moxie than the entire city of Los Angeles, was ordering up additional adrenaline in the form of a dark, thick liquid. It was awesome.

And I had to say something or else I’d regret it.

Mr. T obviously still has nerves of steel — you’d have to hold a gun to my head to get me to try a straight espresso shot at Starbucks…

Head on over to Paul’s site for the rest of the story

Mirage – Espressonistic Espresso

October 21, 2005

Kees van der Westen Espressonistic Works BV designs and produces this line of visually stunning espresso machines.

More than a little too big for home use, these things are absolutely beautiful sculptures of chrome and stainless steel… There is also a section on the site with pictures of custom one-off units and earlier designs.

I don’t know how good an espresso these things produce (actually, looking at the pictures and the specs, I expect that they probably can produce damn fine espresso), but how ever good it is, it has to be at least 10% better just from watching it come out of such a magnificent machine…

(via BoingBoing)

Pamela Anderson owes it all to coffee

October 13, 2005

Just when I think I’ve heard everything, someone goes and sends me this.

Apparently in a recent interview for a British publication, Pamela Anderson mentioned that she owes her… Ummm… “Perky Breasts” to a steady intake of espresso and cappucino, and that she thinks that all other “anti-aging” products are worthless…

Honest, I don’t make this stuff up — details here.

Clean that nasty machine!

October 11, 2005

Coffee Machine CleanerThere’s nothing worse than a funky coffee maker.

Coffee is filled with essential oils. While these are superb in the cup, when they’re left to dry on equipment, they turn into nasty, rancid, bitter oils that can render even the most finely ground, sublime bean into a hidious tasting cup of hot nastiness.

Sure, you wash out your carafe, and all of the other removable pieces, but there are still places lurking in your coffee maker where the crud builds up, and awaits its opportunity to spoil your morning cuppa.

What to do? Clean that nasty machine!
Read more

Isomac Tea Heat Problem (Solved)

October 8, 2005

I had a brief panic yesterday when my Isomac Tea decided to quit heating. The pilot and heater light were on, but the group head was cold, and there was no pressure on the steam or hot water wands. The brew lever would activate the pump, but only pump cold water.

Doing some googling around, I found some posts on that suggested the thermal fuse (aka “thermo fuse” aka “thermal cut off”) that is mounted next to the boiler. After soliciting some additional advice from the good folks at CoffeeGeek, I tested the fuse, and sure enough, it was blown.

I was able to find a replacement at Radio Shack, and am now back to having a machine that heats properly. Unfortunately, the replacement is rated for a little too high a temp (which means it won’t protect the heating element properly), so I’ve got a new proper temp one on order…

On the bright side, it could have been much more expensive or difficult (replacing the heating element, for instance) and I did get the opportunity to see what all was going on under the covers of the Tea, which was quite interesting… There is sure a whole lot of plumbing and wiring to make these things work…

Isomac Tea Espresso Machine Review

October 2, 2005

Isomac Tea“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” — perhaps, but if they called them “stink weeds” it might be more difficult to sell them by the dozen on St. Valentine’s Day.

We’ve all heard various funny stories about companies marketing products with unfortunate names in other languages.

The Isomac Tea is one of the better examples. The story as I have it is that it’s intended to be pronounced “Tey-uh”, in the venerable Italian habit of giving neat pieces of gear women’s names. Unfortunately, when they brought it out here, a lot of people apparently went “Tea? I want coffee, not tea!” and didn’t give it another look.

Which is a shame…
Read more

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