Starbucks Sulawesi

My elder daughter and I stopped by Starbucks this afternoon and this coffee caught my eye. More the name than anything else, which they had to coach me to pronounce … and I’m not sure but I think they were bluffing, and didn’t know how to say it right either. Sulawesi. Sul-a-way-zi. Whatever.

I ordered the twenty ounce, straight up, no cream or sugar.

The first unsweetened taste gave me a metallic tang, the taste made me wonder if it the coffee were burnt. Savoring it for a while, giving it a chance, I did discover a pleasant fruity aftertaste. All in all the Sulawesi is bold but smooth, though a third the way into it I decided it might go better with a sweetener.

Which it did.

Then I thought, this taste would actually lend itself to a creamer. Not in a way that you would use the creamer to mask the flavor of the coffee, but blend with it to a harmonious agreement.

Which it did.

So I give this coffee the GroovyBrew stamp of approval, especially for those who don’t take it straight.

Casa Coffee Blue Mountain

“Casa Coffee. Truly pleasure in a cup.” That’s what it says. It’s made in Taiwan.

I discovered this interesting coffee at the local Chinatown market, and was intrigued more by the packaging than anything else. What you get is a six serving pack, each envelope containing a clever little one cup filter system and a (too small) packet of coffee. You unfold the packet and it hangs at the top of the cup, the top of the filter open, and you aim the water at the opening.

It works exactly like the little cup-top filtration maker I swear by. Works quite well, too. Kudos to the package designers, it’s a neat little gadget.

As for the taste, I wasn’t expecting much, and I was right. Have you ever sprayed bug poison in the air and accidently gotten a bit of it in your mouth?
That’s what the taste of this coffee brought to my mind. Bug spray.
While it didn’t say one way or the other, I suspect 100% Robusta beans. Yeah. That bad.
The concept is great, but they need twice as much coffee for a decent cup, as well as a decent coffee to begin with. What I’m going to do with the five remaining packs is dump their disgusting coffee grinds out and use my own.

Starbucks Decaf Breakfast Blend

After last night writer’s group meeting I stumbled into the Starbucks next door and discovered their new decaffeinated version of their Breakfast Blend. What caught my attention was the sign offering it “for the first time,” and that confused me. I thought you could always get a decaf there?

“No,” said the barista. “Not the Breakfast Blend.”

“Why not?”

“Everyone’s opinion used to be, why make a decaf version of the coffee you’re supposed to wake up with?”

Apparently someone somewhere changed their opinion on that, and I’m glad. It’s delicious. It’s as strong as you’d expect and satisfying as the real thing, though — and I’m not sure it’s my imagination or not, but I detected the twang of a decaf after-taste. Subtle but there, however it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the brew.

Some people drink coffee for the effect. I do too, but also I drink it for the taste. And I love the taste at 10pm … but I also like to sleep at night.

This coffee fits in perfectly with that scenario.

Come to think of it, I also like having breakfast late at night, so that makes the Starbucks Breakfast decaf doubly appropriate. You won’t catch me drinking it in the morning, though.

That would be blasphemy.

Can Coffee Ever Be Too Strong?

I’ve been experimenting a lot with how much coffee to use per cup of water, and have come to a startling conclusion: there is no such thing as coffee that is too strong.

Most of my old fellow co-workers drink their coffee so weak you can see through it. They don’t like strong coffee because to them, they equate stronger coffee to increased bitterness. To make up for lack of flavor, they add powdered creamer and lots of sugar.

That’s very sad. They have no idea what the real taste of coffee is like.

Case in point: an ex in-law of mine used to complain about how strong a coffee I used to make, and that’s after I would make it weaker than I’d like it because I knew she didn’t like it that strong. It turned into a quandary. We both didn’t like it, because to her it was still too strong, and for me it was not strong enough.

Then one day she had a cup of the brew I made for myself and said, “Wow, that’s really strong. The weird thing is I like it.” She went on about how surprised she was, that she never likes strong coffee. She wanted to know what I did to it.

That was years ago, and only now am I learning what is going on. Coffee cannot be too strong. If you think it’s too strong, it’s not strong enough.

What I’ve found through my experiments is that coffee’s flavor changes radically with strength. Make it weak, you get a feeble coffee flavor and little bitterness. Make it somewhat strong, and you get more flavor but much more bitterness. Keep adding coffee, and then the flavor starts catching up to the bitterness until at some point it actually passes it, and the bitterness is just a little note mixed in with all that wonderful coffee flavor.

So if you think it’s too strong because it’s too bitter, you have to add MORE coffee. You can’t make it too strong because at some point the water becomes saturated and can’t hold any more. And that, my friends, is when the coffee tastes the best.

Adding more coffee beyond that will not change the flavor, but it will waste coffee. Heaven forbid you waste precious coffee!

When the coffee manufacturers say use 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per cup, they mean 6 ounce cups, not 8 ounce cups. It really is a good rule of thumb, but I’ve found about 2½ tablespoons works best for me. Any more than that and you’ve started wasting the coffee.

A lot of this depends, of course, on how you’re making the coffee. I’m basing this on a manual cone filter system sitting on top of a coffee cup. I put in very hot pure water and it passes quickly through the grounds, and I drink it immediately. I might add a bit of sweetener depending on the type of coffee.

But I’ll tell you this, I taste the coffee. And I love it.

Dunn Bros Ethiopian and Java

I’d discovered Dunn Bros Coffee by chance, as it just happened to be the convenient place where my fellow SF writer Bill and I meet on weekends. Today — in fact right now — I’m sitting at their Frisco TX location, and thought I’d do the very first coffee review for this site.

I’ve had two coffees today. First was their Ethiopia Oromia, a mild and full flavored brew with light body and yummy earthy notes. Ethiopia is of course, in legend, the place where coffee was discovered — by goats no less — and their herder named Kaldi, who saw the goats acting unusually lively after eating the beans from a strange plant. He tried the beans himself and the rest is history. Thank you Kaldi, and thank you to his goats! It’s unknown if the Ethiopian beans I’m sampling right now have anything to with the ones discovered so long ago, but the taste is perfect, and I daresay it’s some of the best I’ve had.

The second coffee, which Dunn Bros simply calls “Java,” is sharper, stronger, but still smooth and not over powering. This is a good morning kick to the adrenal glands coffee, and one I should have had first. It’s a good brew and I give it my own personal recommendation.

The thing that sets Dunn Bros Coffee apart from the other chains, specifically Starbucks, is that they roast their beans daily — there’s a roaster right here at this location — and you can’t get any fresher than that. With coffee, freshness is everything.

Here’s a shout out to the gang at the Frisco location from a regular customer and a big fan. You guys know how to do it right!