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comment by steve
steve  ·  280 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Pubski: September 13, 2017

    all the coffee is at best mediocre.

Not a coffee drinker here, so pardon my ignorance... but it's comments like this that make me wonder how Starbucks makes SO MUCH MONEY. But maybe it's... like McDonalds. They don't make the best hamburger, but they make the SAME hamburger no matter where you go in the world. Is that it?

and congrats on the suit. I hate wearing them... until I'm wearing one... and yah... it feels good to look one's best once in a while.

cgod  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Starbucks changed coffee for much of America. Before they spread like the plague coffee was mostly worse (depending on your taste, but decidedly better than Folgers there is room to debate the merits of diner style coffee). They ruled the roost for a long time and people got really used to drinking that which they push. What they push is blends that have little distinctive flavor. It's really hard to provide a consistent cup of coffee with distinctive flavor on the scale they operate, probably impossible (Same coffee plant on different sides of a hill will taste different). They blend a bunch of coffee together to make a pretty muddled average tasting coffee and then burn the shit out of it. Brewed charcoal has an amazingly consistent flavor profile! It's less bitter and acidic than the coffee people two generations ago drank and it's probably the best coffee you can easily get your hands on in most the country.

Starbucks doesn't sell a lot of straight drip coffee. They sell a lot of milkshakes with a bit of coffee in it. They sell a caffeine sugar rush with slick marketing. They pay reality show celebrities to hold their cups logo side out on their Instagram accounts. People drink Starbucks because they identify with the brand and like how caffeine and sugar make them feel. Starbucks moved in two blocks from my shop, it made no difference in my business. A few customers probably went to them for their coffee milkshakes and a few new ones checked me out to spite Starbucks. Starbucks is right down the street selling a lifestyle and I'm over here selling coffee.

Most coffee is mediocre because making good coffee is hard work. I do very little of that hard work, my roaster does a lot of it. He tries a shit ton of coffee, he has two buyers who try more at different ports. Most my coffee comes from one family, farm or co-op. Each coffee is a unique product of how and where it was grown and processed. They pick a few they like, buy up what they can, run it for a few months and hunt up some more. My roaster has 5-7 pour over coffees on his menu at any given time, they are all distinct. I guarantee that I'd hate at least one of them and that someone out there loves the one I hate. How he roasts it is a whole other ball game. A coffee can bit brilliant or horrible depending on how it's roasted. The way he roasts for the brewing equipment I have is different from the way he roasts for the equipment in his shop.

AnSionnachRua  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Nice little insight into the business, cgod. I'd prefer to have a coffee at your place.

I guess it's similar to the way beer went - mass-produced flavourless but consistent beers that are easy to drink and that ended up dominating the market until the craft thing kicked off a few years ago.

steve  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Starbucks is right down the street selling a lifestyle and I'm over here selling coffee.


snoodog  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Ive been buying beans from here: They run me around $20 a lb after shipping but always arrive 2-3 days after roasting and are excellent.

It gets a bit expensive but its hard to get anything nearly as good as the home made stuff. Now if only I could figure out how to not get channeling in my espresso... I swear I've tried everything and I've mostly given up. No mater what I do the bottomless portafiler always has at least a spray or 2. cgod any advice?

Using a Oscar Espresso machine and Mazzer grinder. Only thing I can think of is that the Oscar doesn't have a pressure relief valve to stabilize the pressure at 9 psi so that might be contributing to the channeling.

cgod  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

No idea, I've used Astoria espresso machines my whole life and know almost nothing about other machines. Mazer makes good grinders, shouldn't be a grind problem.

snoodog  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Do you dial settings in with a bottomless portafilter? Can you pretty easily get no spray? Or is it pretty finicky and needs perfect dosing and good distribution techniques?

cgod  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I think that bottomless portafilters are a gimmick to reward people for neurosis.

I get a new espresso I pour a shot and adjust tamp and grind until I get a 2.5-3 oz extraction in about 22 seconds. I taste it. If it tastes like shit I try a shorter and longer pulls and try tamping it different. I can usually find a grind that pulls in 22 seconds that tastes decent. I've had espressos that I never did get a pull I was happy with and others that are so forgiving I could pull a five ounce shot in 40 seconds and drink it straight.

If you like your espresso than enjoy it and don't worry that everything about the pull isn't exactly like the snob in the video pulls.

I've had shots pulled from guys that paid big money to go to espresso school that were undrinkable. They weighed that shit, tamped it with a pressure regulated pull arm tamper, got a beautiful zebra strip in the crema, decanted into graduated cylinders for the perfect quantity timed out with a stopwatch and it tasted foul.

You can go by the book or by taste. I think taste is the way to go. People get way to caught up in the details. The details are good, they give you some bounds to work in but in the end are you making a product that you enjoy or are you enjoying torturing yourself?

The owner of one of the more respected shops in town has a $2000 grinder in his kitchen. He grinds that shit up every morning and extracts in a $20 Mr. Coffee machine he bought at the supermarket. It's a fine way to make coffee. I don't really like his coffee because he is into blends but he likes it. I'm sure he gets a lot of pleasure out of the bazillion dollar espresso machine he has in his shop but I think that thing is half for show because the machine at his roastery is nothing special.

I'd assume that most home machines are going to be fussier than a big ass espresso machine that cost a few grand at the low end. My machine is old and HOT. It's not optimal but with a bit of care I can generally pull a pretty decent shot. I've got a roaster that knows my equipment and is roasting with it's problems in mind, I think it probably helps.

kleinbl00  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Starbucks doesn't sell a lot of straight drip coffee. They sell a lot of milkshakes with a bit of coffee in it.

I can find no data but I have long hypothesized that the rise of Starbuck's coincides nicely with the fall of Baskin Robbins.

    Most coffee is mediocre because making good coffee is hard work. I do very little of that hard work, my roaster does a lot of it. He tries a shit ton of coffee, he has two buyers who try more at different ports. Most my coffee comes from one family, farm or co-op. Each coffee is a unique product of how and where it was grown and processed.

I think this gets missed by nearly everyone: coffee is an agricultural crop subject to delicate chemical processing that then decreases in quality over time. Starbuck's spends a lot more effort on supply chain consistency than Dunkin' Donuts does, and hella more than Yuban (for example). All the bullshit people do to coffee beyond brewing it has more to do with the bullshit than the coffee which is why most Starbuck's orders are "coffee with seven modifiers" - supply chain consistency or no, you're absolutely right: "What they push is blends that have little distinctive flavor."

I think this:

Comes from a consumer inability to acknowledge that the majority of the flavor they experience comes from a chain they know about as well as they know the winemakers of the Zinfandel they drink (and red wines are orders of magnitude more stable than coffee).

cgod  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I don't like their coffee but when I think about how hard it must be to make that much coffee taste the same everywhere I have to admire them.

I like McDonalds coffee better than Starbucks. It's blend of south American arabica's and they don't burn the living shit out of it. It isn't great but it isn't all that bad in a pinch. It's better than the coffee at the fancy hotel I stayed at this weekend for sure.

ButterflyEffect  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It's pretty difficult to ensure consistency in a product that is being supplied by numerous farms across the world, roast and ground on numerous machines with potentially different manufacturers and certainly different serials across the United States in house and/or by co-manufacturers, and then drank by millions of people worldwide. Oh also having to take into aged inventory/product shelf life, blah blah blah. The industrial coffee supply chain is an amazing thing. I always want to contribute more than I do to these discussions.

goobster  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I don't like Starbucks coffee, yet I get one almost every morning, for two reasons:

1. They have protein-rich items for breakfast. Not just sugary pastries.

2. It's easy.

Starbucks coffee tastes burned. I have no less than 5 locally-owned, small-business coffee shops available to me on the way to work, and they all have incredible coffee. (Stumptown, Herkimer, Verace.) I love each of these boutique coffee shops.

But: They don't have a drive-thru. They don't have protein items for breakfast.

I know. I am shallow and weak and useless, and hurting small business and helping a big corporate behemoth (that, incidentally, was the first major employer in WA State to provide Domestic Partner benefits, and have successfully created safe public gathering spaces (their "third space") for every gender, race, color, and creed, in almost every country in the world) , but the truth is that it is 6:00 in the morning, and I just want a fucking coffee and something to eat that isn't going to spike my blood sugar and leave me crashing by 10:AM.

On the weekends, with my wife, with friends, etc, I would never touch a Starbucks, and often introduce people to my favorite little coffee shops.

Driving to work in the morning? It's talk radio and the Starbucks drive-thru.

And yes, I am ashamed. Ashamed and caffeinated.

AnSionnachRua  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I remember having Italian students who were obsessed with coffee, and obsessed with Starbucks. They'd complain about how the coffee in Ireland is terrible - "too much water!" they'd say, being used to espressos rather than americanos, and it always fell on deaf ears when I pointed out that they could just order an espresso. But I digress. I remember their obsession with Starbucks and their excitement to visit it, which just about made sense to me until I discovered that they'd never even been there before. As in, Starbucks doesn't exist in Italy. Their love for this place they'd never been that served coffee they didn't like was based entirely on social media, it seemed - on American Instagram and Twitter accounts that they followed.

I wouldn't knock Starbucks. I don't really go there, but their coffee is coffee. It's okay; it does the job. The way they label their sizes is annoying because saying "cappucino grande" makes me feel like an idiot, but other than that they're just a big coffee chain like any of the others. I have no feelings toward them one way or the other.

But I agree that I don't really know why they're popular.

kleinbl00  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    The prediction came true: Each new Starbucks store created a local buzz, drawing new converts to the latte-drinking fold. When the lines at Starbucks grew beyond the point of reason, these converts started venturing out—and, Look! There was another coffeehouse right next-door! Hyman's new neighbor boosted his sales so much that he decided to turn the tactic around and start targeting Starbucks. "We bought a Chinese restaurant right next to one of their stores and converted it, and by God, it was doing $1 million a year right away," he said.