Coffee Scoop and Clip

This is one of the smartest little ideas I’ve seen in quite a while.
Yes, I took this picture with my cell phone while at the local market. No, I didn’t buy it, because I already have way too many coffee scoops. But still I found myself impressed enough to want to share it with you.
What better place to keep a coffee scoop than with your coffee, right? How many of you keep it IN the coffee? And how many times have you had to dig for it?
And, how many times have you either lost track of, or didn’t have enough of, or didn’t have at all, a clip to keep your coffee bag shut?
This is a clever combination! Kudos out to who ever came up with it. I’m just guessing, but I bet the idea came from some marketing guru’s mom who was tired of not being able to find the scoop, and was always spilling coffee grinds everywhere because the bag was never properly closed.
I’m not sure where you can get it, other than perhaps hanging from a hook in the coffee isle at your local grocery store.
This one is from Albertsons in McKinney, Texas.

Millstone Organic Nicaraguan Mountain Twilight

Millstone is hitting on all cylinders. They’ve sent me three of their organic coffees to sample and I’ve loved all three of them.

Yes, yes, it has a wonderful name, just like the other two. “Nicaraguan Mountain Twilight.” Their marketing department really needs to win an award. But the fabulous name would be worth squat if the coffee didn’t stand up to it, and my friends … it does.

Something about this coffee directly stimulates the pleasure center of my brain.

The taste starts out with a bit of a kick, dark and edgy, but smooth. There’s high fruity notes and a touch of chocolate undercurrent. It leaves you with a smoky aftertaste full of complex coffee goodness.

I started out this series of reviews on Millstone’s organic coffees poking a little fun at them, being that their parent company is so huge and owns so many other brands (such as Pampers and Duracell batteries). Frankly I was a bit skeptical that they would produce anything other than stale, mediocre mass-produced beans.

Now, after having surfed the web for a bit more background on these coffees, I’ve found quite a number of poor reviews (including for this Mountain Twilight blend) that seem more politically motivated instead of being a fair review of the coffee itself. This puts me in a odd position of feeling the need to stand up for a multinational corporation.

This is not a political website. No, I’m not a huge fan of large corporations, but … I am a fan of coffee. Panning a good coffee just because you don’t like the parent corporation is not honest. It’s misleading and petty.

Yes, I’ve been pissed off at corporations before. Yes, I’ve been tempted to pan a coffee just because they were rude (Boca Java, in particular, were very snotty to me). But the web is a place to share quality information with fellow humans. That is my aim and my pledge. Those out there who do a “review” while having an agenda to damage a perfectly good coffee’s reputation because of underlying political disagreements … I’m sorry, but I’m just ashamed of you. You suck. You’re damaging the Internet with bad information.

These Millstone organic coffees are good, quality coffees, and the wonderful thing is they’re widely available. I stand by them and am proud to give them my seal of approval. And this Nicaraguan Mountain Twilight Blend is no different.

You can get them at Wal-Mart in the coffee section, in their bulk bean dispensers, as well as online at their website.

Now let’s all go drink some good coffee, get buzzed, and create something positive. Dark Costa Rican

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Well, okay, there’s no actual prize, but I will tell you this: This coffee rocks. I mean, it really rock and rolls.

Maybe it’s that I have started to develop a taste for Costa Rican beans, as just the other week I went ga-ga over the Dunn Bros. Costa Rican. That could be it. If so, it’s a discovery I’m very happy to have made.

Coffee Bean Direct‘s Dark Costa Rican hits the same high notes all across the goodness scale. Bold yet smooth. Rich yet not overbearing. Naturally sweet and not too acidic. Dusky and slightly fruity. Chocolaty and wonderfully complex.

It’s just freaking GOOD. It’s so good it’s groovy.

Bravo, Coffee Beans Direct! You have a real winner here. I’ll be coming back for more.

The Triumphant Return of Instant Coffee? (Part 2)

While researching my article on X Café, I ran across the website of CoolBrew.
Here is an instant coffee to blow away the perceived notions about instant coffee.
For one thing, it’s perfectly drinkable. I made black, unsweetened cups with this extract from three of their different flavors. It suffers from slight “dilution tang” but you can easily hide that with sugar. However, the flavor of the coffee is wonderful. Strong, full bodied, and very smooth.
Would I use this to replace ground coffee? No.
The folks at CoolBrew know this. They’re not marketing it as such. While you can mix it with hot water and get yourself an instant cup of coffee, you can also mix it with other things and enjoy an endless array of coffee-flavored drinks, deserts, and dishes.
It’s very smart of them. They don’t push you to mix it with water. They suggest, up front, you mix it with milk. Or milk and ice. Or vodka and sugar (which gives you instant Kahlua). Or put it on ice cream as a zero calorie syrup — very yummy!
The packaging is smart … and funny, to someone who’s seen the same type of self-measuring bottle used for other kinds of products (I won’t go into details, but some of you will know what I mean). You keep the main cap closed, and open the cap on the measuring side. When you squeeze the bottle, the measuring side fills, and then you dump the measured amount into your cup. Very simple and easy.
CoolBrew gets its name from the way the coffee flavor is extracted, as opposed to them suggesting you drink it iced. Then again, it works in both ways, so it’s a very smart branding. They use no heat in the process, brewing the coffee very slowly using only cold water. From their website: “With cold water brewing, the most flavorful oils are extracted leaving behind the bitter acids.” I will personally vouch for that. My palate detected no bitterness or acidity — only a smooth, even coffee goodness.
What they produce is pure coffee with no additives or preservatives. This means that if you’re to look for it at your local grocery store, you’ll find it in the refrigerated section instead of over on the coffee aisle. If you get it directly from CoolBrew via their website, they ship it in an insulated package with a label stating to refrigerate immediately upon delivery.
Oh, and get this. This is cool. They partner with a company called JavaFlow, which makes a water cooler that dispenses cold water, hot water, and COFFEE. Hot fresh coffee directly from the water cooler! You can see the device here:
Now that’s what I call a groovy brew.

McDonald’s Coffee

What, are they trying to compete with Starbucks or something? What’s going on? What did McDonalds do to their perfectly fine ordinary everyday coffee?

I think it was my dad who years ago pointed out to me, and correctly so, that McDonald’s had consistently good coffee. You could count on it. It was always nice and strong, bold, fresh, and … most importantly … omnipresent.

You couldn’t exactly call it a gourmet coffee, but it was a good standard and one of which they could be proud.

Then they went and changed it. Now it’s McDonald’s “Premium Roast” and it’s nowhere near as good as it used to be. It’s like they went to a darker roast but they don’t use enough of it. They Starbuckified it, but botched the job.

It doesn’t suck, but still, they messed up.

McDonald’s you should know better. Do what you usually do. Change the packaging so that it looks new, but not actually change the product.

The Triumphant Return of Instant Coffee? (Part 1)

X Café is everywhere, even if you can’t see it … even if you’ve never heard of it before.

If you have had coffee in the military, on a cruise ship, in a corporate cafeteria, at college, at a sports arena, a casino, a convention center, or a hospital … you’ve probably had X Café.

If you eat or drink coffee flavored ice cream, gelato, bottled or canned drinks, liquors, or desserts, you’ve probably had X Café. If you drink iced coffee from a machine, like those ones at some large convenience store / gas station places … including truck stops … you’ve probably had X Café.

I didn’t even know what it was until I saw a Google Ad for it right here on this page.

X Café is in the business of creating coffee extracts, using special (and secret) methods to brew very strong coffee in a way that you can dilute it back to normal strength and have it taste like fresh brewed gourmet coffee.

Years ago, I used to buy a very strong coffee extract — but not for making coffee. It was for making Kahlua style coffee-flavored liqueur, which I did, and it was good … but that extract was not for making regular everyday drinking coffee.

X Café makes extracts expressly for drinking coffee.

I’ve sampled three of their blends: 100% Sumatra, 100% Columbian Dark Roast, and a 100% Columbian Medium Roast. All of them, when properly measured into hot water (I had some trial and error that was no fault of X Café) tasted very close to freshly brewed coffee.

Not exactly, but close.

If you’ve ever made coffee that was a bit too strong, and you added water to it … or if it was too hot so you added a few ice cubes, because you had to drink it down in a hurry … you’ll get the taste that I describe as “dilution tang.” It slightly damages the taste of the coffee. As good as they are, the X Café extracts still suffer from a hint of this tang. You’ll only notice it, though, if you drink it straight up black with no sweetener.

However, it’s vastly superior to that old freeze-dried crud my mom used to make. It’s also just as good if not better than most of the pre-ground mass produced coffee on the market. I’ll also say this: it is much better than the horrid coffee I used to get at the office.

X Café extracts are not meant to replace your home bean grinder and coffee maker. This is more for those places and products (listed at the beginning of this article) that require a flow of consistently high quality coffee. The key word is consistently. Think of it like Coca-Cola flavored syrup that’s used worldwide to make Coke taste the same no matter where you go. That need for consistency is the driving force behind X Café.

You can’t rush out and buy this coffee, at least not with their brand on it. They’re in the business of selling it to other companies for repackaging, remarketing, etc. Portion Pac, a division of H.J. Heinz Company, tried repackaging X Café extract into little one-serving bags (looking like fast-food ketchup bags) which I thought was a brilliant idea. Apparently it didn’t work out too well, as when I inquired about it Portion Pac simply stated they no longer carry it and wouldn’t go into details.

I still have one of their sample bottles I haven’t yet opened. It’s labeled, simply, “Sumatra Blend.” I’m saving it for making a batch of a Kahlua style vodka/brandy coffee liquor … the recipe for which I’ll post here after I’ve made it.

Millstone Organic Deep Peruvian Forest

On top of everything else, Millstone really knows how to name a coffee.
Deep Peruvian Forest. Wow. Say it out loud … you can feel it. A high, thick canopy, dark green light, misting rain, your boots crunching through the undergrowth.
And you’ve got a cup of rich, strong coffee in your hand.
The Millstone folks have impressed me. The same company that brings you Folgers canned coffee also brings you this? An organic, Fair Trade Certified bean roasted to near perfection, with a dusky rich taste and a sharp, dark edge. The flavor is so complex it has a smoky quality to it, bold and slightly acidic, but 100% delicious.
This is one of those dark coffees where you can actually taste the buzz you’re about to get from the caffeine. It’s a true early morning kick-in-the-pants cup of java. The fact that it’s organic is just a extra gold star on its chart of goodness.
You can buy it directly from their site online or, as I discovered to my delight, you can also find it at your local Wal-Mart. Or at least I found it at mine. It’s a little less expensive there, too.

Dunn Bros. Costa Rican

My friend Bill and I are out at our favorite coffee shop right now, so this is an equivalent of a “live report.”
I’m drinking their Costa Rican and it’s so delicious I can’t wait to finish it so I can get another.
Dunn Bros. is fabulous because they roast the beans right there in the store. What they serve has been roasted only hours, sometimes minutes, before.
Fresh coffee is the best.
They keep advertising for people to open their own Dunn Bros. shop and I find myself sorely tempted every single time. If I ever decided to buy into a franchise, it would be this one.
And, no, they are not paying me or giving me free coffee. This is straight from my heart. Dark House Blend

When I first saw the label on the sample package, I thought it read “Dark Horse” instead of Dark House. Oh cool, I thought. A coffee tribute to George Harrison?

No. It’s a tribute to the fact that I need reading glasses.

The second of three coffees that sent me to review, this one falls a bit short of the first, but it’s still good. The beans, while dark, had only a mild aroma, and my trusty Cuisinart grinder turned them into dark brown — not black — grinds.

Brewing produced a coffee with very nice body and delicious almond-like flavor.

It was however a touch on the bitter side, and alas, it could have been a bit smoother. I made my second cup stronger, and that made a noticeable improvement. I also tried it in the espresso machine but that was not an outstanding success.

I’m not complaining. It is good. I’m starting to wonder, however, that tasting all these wonderful coffees is … um … spoiling me?

I will say this for their Dark Horse … I mean House … it leaves a pleasant aftertaste that lingers for a long while. I’d label this a good medium-dark coffee for those who want something stronger than a Kona but not as aggressive as a really dark roast.

Millstone Organic Mayan Black Onyx

Check it out… coffee, by the maker of Pampers.
I’ve seen Millstone beans in stores, and I’ve had some over the years. I’d never been overly impressed. Today, however, I sampled some of their new Organic Mayan Black Onyx blend, and it’s very good.
First of all, just the name is cool. Mayan Black Onyx. Sounds like something you’d wear as a necklace. The coffee is beautiful enough to justify the name — the darkest of their Organic blends, the beans are shiny black jewels, glistening with oil. The bag of them smelled wonderful. I couldn’t wait to grind and brew.
The first sip gives some surprisingly fruity overtones for such a dark, rich coffee. It’s smooth, dusky, and bittersweet. Would make an excellent breakfast wake-me-up and also a flavorful espresso. It’s a savoring, sipping coffee.
Here’s the thing that cracks me up, though. Millstone coffee is brought to you by the same people who make Pampers diapers, Tide detergent, Always tampons, Pantene hair products, Mach3 razors, Bounty and Dawn, Pringles potato chips, Charmin toilet paper, Iams pet food, Crest tooth paste, Oral-B toothbrushes, Oil of Olay, Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo, and none other than Duracell batteries! (There’s even more brands in the Proctor & Gamble family but this list is already too long.)
Think about this, though. I mean, really. Think about it. They’re missing a huge cross-marketing possibility here.
Strong coffee … and Duracell batteries.
Hmm… what does that bring to mind?
A coffee that keeps you going, and going, and going…?