Monday, December 13, 2004


a view too awesome to bury in the comments, part iv

yuppers, it's all about pods & pod people. peter r's comments in italics, my responses interspersed and all added links are mine:

Why people like me find the Nespresso pod coffee better than our local coffee shops is a serious issue.

oh i most completely agree. moaning about this fact is a serious part of my life's purpose, and certainly one of the founding reasons for this very site.

I am very sensitive to stale coffee. I remember when Starbucks first came to our area in the 80's. As a recent migrant from the Left Coast, I was looking forward to some decent coffee. Alas, I almost spat out the first cup, it was so stale. I believe they had distribution problems at first. I wouldn't touch their coffee for years. One of our local roasters, La Colombe, seems to be having the same problem, along with inconsistent roasts.

once people realize that the "flattish" bland yeah-it's-coffee-but-i'm-not-attracted-to-it taste is a form of staleness, as well as the completely "why does this taste like wet carboard in my mouth?" sensation, they will be in for a shock as to how much stale coffee they have been drinking.

However, I drink nearly all my coffee and espresso black and without sugar, and that may be significant. I've noticed that people who drink coffee like I do often prefer a sweeter roast and will accept a darker roast for this at the expense of nuance.

forgive me, p.r., but i don't understand this at all. darker roasts, in general, increase a coffee's bitterness. or are you trying to find a way to discuss sugar carmelization at the roast level?

So maybe this is the problem. I expect my sense of taste is poorer, also, and that is why I like it black. I need a stronger coffee sensation to get the same effect as people with more refined tastebuds.

no, almost everyone can learn to taste coffee with practice unless they have some smell impairment. it only requires time and effort, although some people do have more of a knack for it than others. all coffee is cupped black, but at a relatively light roast so the roast products don't hide the beans' inherent flavors.

So maybe I'm unable to taste the defects in the pod coffee.

more likely it's that you are not yet quite aware of what the range of defects are, you know? this is why the scaa has decided to reach out more into consumer education.

there are a few coffee sensations that are non-optimal, and you might not totally be alert to more than a couple of the most obvious. the majority of people aren't -- hopefully we can begin to change that!

I know that isn't true for these commercial pod systems that are popping up everywhere to make "drip" style coffee. Gad! Talk about undrinkable. They start with bad coffee and then brew it poorly.

i think a problem too is that the brew is often too weak, because it seems in some brewers that the machine runs too much water through the pod/capsule, even if the water temperature is in the proper range.

Anyway, back to the coffee house issue. I find that Starbucks often pulls an OK shot, but their coffee is horribly roasted, close to burnt.

since they have largely switched to superautomatic machines, there's little doubt the espresso at the mermaid has greatly improved overall. which is sad in one sense, because they have demeaned the important role of the barista.

Many of my local shops use La Colombe, which has problems.

long-time readers know i am no fan of la colombe, (for just one example, here!) even though i am totally down with the scaa and the roasters guild. but just being a member isn't enough -- ya gotta walk the walk and offer the highest quality coffee.

One of the shops uses Illy, which I find acceptable (the stale thing again?)

a very important thing to understand is that the big brown commercial cans of illy you see teetering as the "head" of so many coffeeshop grinders are often much better than the little silver puppies in the supermarket, due to handling, age, and storage/shipping issues.

long-time readers know i worship dr. illy, although his coffee taste isn't always as exciting as i might like. it has a certain caramel note that can really be delicious and is always uniquely, instantly identifiably illy.

but I have to guide the teenagers who operate the machine in pulling a shot and they still get it wrong.

yes, coffeeshops need to employ and train baristi, not mere people-behind-the-counter. the pbtc know nothing about coffee and might as well be flipping burgers; as such they can rarely deliver a superior beverage service experience in an espresso context.

this is why we scaa consumer members totally support the barista's guild and the wbc!

Plus, nearly all these shops pour the coffee into a paper cup after pulling the shot!

thus wasting all the crema. i hear ya, i hear ya.

I suppose for me, I'll just have to explain to my wife how I'll recover the cost of a $450-on-up machine plus a burr grinder in a year or so.

1 silvia and 1 rocky, for example, are a lifelong investment that, for even the average coffeehouse espresso drinker, pays for itself with surprising rapidity (those US$4 coffee drinks do add up fast!). plus the convenience of just walking into your kitchen to make your own coffee, and the ability to find or create blends to your own taste.

But I will miss the pleasant atmosphere of several of my local coffee houses.

this is surely what a good coffeehouse excels at, no doubt. but what are you paying for at bottom, you as a coffee lover? the company or the coffee? we americans may in fact tend to be a lonely people, for the most part, so i know the answer for many is in fact the company!

heaven knows, i do love an unique coffeehouse with an exciting, stimulating atmosphere -- even if it's a bookish one. but unless it's accompanied by proper beverage service, i'm not going in more than once, i'm afraid!

- Peter Rosenfeld

thanks for writing!

posted by fortune | 9:53 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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