Café Britt Dark Roast

This is your basic black tie coffee.

You can tell just from the packaging. I mean, look at it. Especially compared to all Café Britt‘s other wild jungle-themed artistic splash, this one looks like a tuxedo. A black dress. Formal wear.

Someone wealthy has either gotten married, or died.

The coffee lives up to the packaging. It’s your standard high quality delicious gourmet dark roast blend. Nice and strong, full bodied, and with a sharp tangy acidity. It means business.

It demands respect.

If the leader of a country is coming over for dinner, serve this coffee. If your future in-laws own three yachts and their own jet aircraft, serve this coffee. If the CEO of a multinational corporation is due in your office for a one-on-one strategy meeting, serve this coffee.


If you want a good cappuccino with a lot of punch, use this coffee!

Hillside Coffee and their Hot Cans of Doom

At a local store I came across something I’d heard about but never seen. Canned coffee in self-heating cans.
Hillside Coffee, which comes in a coffee-mug shaped can with molded plastic lid and everything, has a chemical heating plant built right into the bottom. How cool is that? I had to pick up a couple just to try them.
Well, the next morning, I diligently read the instructions and proceeded to heat one up. It was a Mocha Latte. I had my reservations about the taste, but hey … I’m a guy, and it’s a gadget.
It felt like a new toy. I wanted to play.
How it works is you turn it over, and pull off a metal lid that’s much like popping the top off of canned pudding. Underneath is a plastic membrane with a button in the middle. You push the button down, which breaks an internal seal and mixes the chemicals. Six minutes later your coffee is hot.
Not warm. Hot!
After it’s hot, the directions say to shake it up to make sure the coffee, milk, sugar, etc., is all mixed, and then you pop the top like a soda can. So I shook it up, twisted the molded lid so it was aligned, and opened it. Sure enough the coffee-like substance was indeed hot. It was, I’d say, the perfect temperature.
The taste was far from perfect. The “milk” part of the latte tasted like powdered milk. The sugar was … well, there was too much of it. The coffee had the definite dilution tang that hinted of reconstituted instant. On top of that, you could taste the metal from the can.
I’m not really slamming Hillside, because you know it’s got to be hard to produce “coffee” in quantity and have it even taste somewhat like coffee. I mean, I tried one of the Godiva bottles of “coffee” the day before and it tasted just as bad.
[By the way, Godiva, stick to chocolate. M’kay?]
So, despite all this, it is drinkable after a fashion, especially because it’s in such a cool self-heating can. Not only do I finish this one, but I open the other one I bought, heating it up, etc.
This is where I ran into a problem.
After heating, remember, you’re supposed to shake it before opening the top. So it’s nice and hot, and I decide it’s ready, and I start shaking it. To my dismay I’m suddenly covered in liquid, and … it’s burning me!
That’s right. The bottom had sprung a leak! I was now covered in whatever chemical they were using to heat the can.
I made my way directly to the shower and rinsed myself off, clothes and all. Fortunately I hadn’t gotten any into my eyes — though it did come close — and I didn’t seem to have come to any harm. There were only a few spots — on my cheek, on my right index finger, and on the back of my left hand — that seemed red and irritated. But it was all very minor and at the time of this writing I’m completely fine.
It’s a good thing, though, I was at home and not on some fishing trip. I can see me jumping into a lake because of a chemical accident caused by a self-heating coffee can. You’d better believe the lawsuits would be flying. As it is, I’m willing to forgive but not forget. This article is a public warning, and a notice to Hillside Coffee that they have some quality control issues.

Jalima H&A Decaffeinated

Sometimes I crave coffee at 11:51 PM. Or 1:07 AM. And most of these times I have to sleep afterwards.
Needless to say, I can’t afford to get buzzed at 11:51 PM.
There are aficionados out there who would rather go without coffee rather than drinking decaffeinated. To each his own, I say. I’ve developed a taste for decaf and I don’t mind it at all.
Starbucks and Gevalia both manage a drinkable decaf, and now, so I’ve found, does Jalima. In fact I would be so bold as to state I find Jalima superior.
Smooth, rich, refined, with low acidity and a quiet, dignified presence, Jalima H&A Decaffeinated edges past every other decaf I’ve tried. Yes, I can still taste the difference, but the flavor is so pleasantly immersive that I don’t really notice unless I’m looking for it. One could even say I only imagine tasting it because I’m expecting it.
Tasting it side by side with the caffeinated version, it’s so close I could be imaging it.
Really, it doesn’t matter. The only reason to drink decaf is so that you don’t get buzzed. So that’s either late at night, or when you have to because your doctor said so. The sad fact is some people just can’t handle caffeine.
Lucky for them, dedicated people like those at Jalima make gourmet decaf. Otherwise life would suck.
I mean it. Life without coffee? The horror.
So to anyone who has been told to switch, I recommend this coffee. That is, only after getting a second opinion from a doctor who is actually up on the current health research about coffee. Also, anyone who thinks they hate all decaf, I urge them to try this one.
Because drinking coffee at 12:23 AM when you have to go to work at 7 AM is not a good idea unless you cut that caffeine.

Café Britt Decaffeinated

To everything, turn, turn, there is a season.
There are times for caffeine, and there are times when you don’t want it in your system. Just like there are times to be awake, and times when you really need to sleep.
Decaffeinated coffee holds an important place in society.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell by the taste that a coffee is decaffeinated. Sometimes it isn’t so hard.
Apologies to Café Britt, but this blend is easy to distinguish. Probably due to the fact that I’ve had some excellent decaf and was spoiled by it, it’s hard for others to impress me.
But you know, this makes me think it’s time for me to have a reality check. When some undoubtedly high quality coffees begin to fail on my palate, I need to adjust my scale.
Sometime within the next month I’m going to switch to regular pre-ground canned coffee and drink it for a week or so. Because when you compare this coffee to Folgers or maybe even some generic decaf, it will probably shine like highly polished silver.
But sadly, no, as much as I’ve enjoyed Café Britt‘s other coffees, this one did not make me dance and sing.

Inland Empire Coffee’s Guatemala Huehuetanango

I’m too busy smacking my lips in pleasure to type.
I could sum up this coffee just by typing yum-yum-yummy-yum but I don’t think I’d get away with it.
This is one of those very rare coffees where its taste gets better and better as you drink it. My first sip was not that impressive. I was struck with its medium citric tones and some meandering coco notes, but after walking from the kitchen and back over to the laptop, and sitting here tasting and contemplating, the flavor began to truly blossom into something spectacular.
I’m glad no one can actually hear me as I drink this coffee. I’m being very vocal about the flavor. Lots of MMMM and such. A listener might compare my noises to one of those orgasmic shampoo commercials.
The body is somewhat heavy and the taste lingers, retro-actively sweet and spiced with a definite cinnamon flavor. Between my yummy lip-smacking noises I’m trying to figure out how to pronounce Huehuetanango. There’s little doubt I’m getting it wrong. It’s the name of a highland area in Guatemala, filled with isolated microclimates that give the coffees from the area distinctive flavors.
Inland Empire roasts their coffees in small batches and sends them out immediately, getting them to you practically still warm from the roaster. To get it any fresher, you’d have to be standing right next to them as they make it. Something which, actually, I’d love to do.
Here’s a big thanks out to them for sending me this Groovy Brew. It is, without a doubt, one of the most yum-yum-yummiest I’ve ever had. Someday I hope to learn to pronounce it correctly.
Make sure to check out Inland Empire’s website and especially their radio show.

Beans Vs. Pre-Ground Coffee

I review both types here. Freshly roasted beans that I grind right before brewing, and coffee that is ground before packaging. The two are really like apples and oranges, so I have decided for the sake of the reviews, I will not compare one to the other directly.
Reason being, freshly roasted and ground coffee is a completely different experience than the alternative. It would be unfair to compare it against packaged ground coffee. Pre-ground coffee cannot compete.
There are some who just don’t want to grind their own coffee. I can respect that. It’s personal choice. I not so long ago was one of those coffee drinkers, mainly because of convenience. I also used to use a standard coffee machine, etc.
So when someone sends me pre-ground coffee I review it in that spirit, for those who enjoy gourmet coffee but don’t enjoy grinding … and so I put it on an entirely different scale.
But, my coffee loving friends, one of these days you’re going to be spoiled by something amazingly fresh and flavorful, and you’ll find it hard to go back.

Stone Creek Coffee’s Naturally Spiced Cinnamon Blend

I was prepared not to like this coffee. That made me sad, too, because just by thumbing through Stone Creek‘s catalog I fell in love with the company. Seriously, it looks like one of the coolest places to work — everyone there seems to be part of a big friendly family.

The problem I anticipated is one of the ingredients in this blend is clove. Readers of the other side of will know I don’t believe clove has any business being in beer. Now here it is in coffee.

The other ingredients are cracked Cassia cinnamon, dark roast coffee, and sugar. I have no problem with those ingredients — they sound yummy. But clove?

So I brewed some up and tasted it cautiously. Several sips into it I didn’t know what to think. On one hand I loved it — it’s exotic to say the least. It almost tastes like a chai tea concoction. But then the clove aftertaste kicked in, and that’s something I just don’t like.

With the first cup done, I was still sad, because all in all I didn’t care for it. Then I realized something … I bet it would taste incredible as a cappuccino! So I loaded up my espresso maker and gave it a try.

My friends — oh my friends! I was right! This Natural Spiced blend makes the most incredible, most exotic cappuccino I have ever had. The toasty sweet cinnamon, the frothy milk, the delicious hard-edged undercurrent of coffee, it all came together. Either the clove blended in well or was masked, though I think it was the former. It worked.

Boy did it. I had to have another. And then another.

Man am I wired right now!

For those of you who like the taste of clove, then this makes a wonderfully exotic cup of coffee. For those of you like myself who don’t care for the clove, it makes an awesome cappuccino. Either way this is a unique coffee I recommend you try, especially if you’re looking for something earthy and different.

Best Coffee Maker

This is the very best drip coffee maker I’ve ever had, and I bought it for 49¢.
That’s it, the red thing you see sitting atop my coffee cup. I found it at a thrift store, and purchased it on a whim. I thought it would be perfect for making my own coffee at the office.
It’s nothing but a piece of plastic that holds a filter cone. It takes a size two filter but I use a size four, which works just fine. Swear to God, it makes the best tasting coffee.
I think I figured out why. It’s in the way I make and drink the coffee.
I grind the beans. I put them directly in the filter. I put the hot (but not boiling) purified water in. Three minutes or so later the cup of coffee is ready.
And… I drink it immediately.
It doesn’t sit in the pot, simmering. There’s no delay between when the coffee is brewed and when I drink it. I don’t set the coffee maker to go then walk away, forgetting about it. When I want a second cup, I’m forced to brew it up fresh — just like I did the last.
The secret is that coffee tastes the best within the first 20 minutes of brewing. After that, the coffee begins to break down, as does the flavor. This is why this little 49¢ wonder makes the best coffee.
Recently my old 12 cup maker went to the great coffee grinder in the sky, and I decided not to replace it. If I have friends over and want to make more than one cup at a time, I have a four-cup coffee press which, just like this, forces you to drink the coffee immediately. The only electric maker I have left is an espresso machine, and … well, I’ll not be giving that up anytime soon.
Funny, I now see these little coffee makers in stores for $10 and up. Outrageous! If you’re interested in getting one, check your local dollar store first.
UPDATE: I actually went out looking for more of these, but alas, the thrift store where I got mine has either moved or gone out of business. However, I did find that Melitta makes a whole line of little one cup coffee makers. I found these at various local grocery stores, all for under $10:

And I found them here online: Melitta USA

Rogue Mocha Porter

I love chocolate. I love beer. And I love coffee.
Well guess what.
I may have found the only thing I have to drink from now on. We have all three ingredients in one bottle. It was a foregone conclusion I would think it’s wonderful.
You can smell the chocolate and the coffee the moment you pop the top. You can taste them, too, mixed with the rich malts and bubbling hops. The coffee edge is even more pronounced than the chocolate. In fact, the coffee taste blends in and piggybacks so closely with the beer malts that my tongue is thoroughly confused.
Am I drinking coffee with a bit of beer in it? Or am I drinking beer with a bit of coffee in it?
It can’t tell one way or the other.
On the finish, the coffee and the hops battle each other for the control of the bitterness. It’s interesting, kind of like watching a back alley fight.
There are some requirements for liking this beer. You have to enjoy a dark, strong ale. And you have to enjoy drinking coffee black with no sugar. I’m not sure if that’s a problem for some people or not, but I can tell you one thing, as good as this stuff is I’m not going to put cream and sugar in it.
The folks at Rogue really are rogues. So far I’ve liked everything of theirs I’ve tried. And I’m serious, I want to move to Oregon. Perhaps when my love and I make it there, we’ll start up a combination brewery, coffee roasting, and chocolate company?
I can dream, right? Anyway…
This stuff is good. It doesn’t quite make the Holy Grail scale, but I wouldn’t have a problem drinking it every day. The coolest thing about Rogue’s Mocha Porter is that I can actually cross post it on both sides of

Inland Empire Coffee’s Ethiopia Harrar

I saved this coffee for Sunday morning, knowing it would be a treat.
My kids are gone to California to be with their mother for a few months. I have the place to myself. It’s just me and Huni Bunny, my older daughter’s rabbit (which I got stuck with).
It’s quiet. Peaceful. Relaxed. The only sound I hear is the whir of the ceiling fan… oh, and also the distant hum of the air conditioner. And someone’s car. And a helicopter passing overhead.
I’ve been looking forward to brewing this coffee since I received it.
I made a 16 oz. mug, as usual, using my little cup-top drip maker. The coffee smells sharp, fruity.
I take that first sip… It’s different. Tangy. Fruity. I’m told to expect blueberry-like notes, but I’m not getting that. I’m getting a hint of dates, maybe, just a ghost of it. The coffee flavor itself is kind of inside-out, light on what is usually heavy, heavy on what is usually light. There’s a soft acidity that gives it a pleasant bite. The aftertaste definitely weighs in on the chocolate side.
It’s very smooth. This is a coffee to sip and savor. You definitely want to pay attention to it.
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, and the only place where you’ll find coffee trees growing naturally in the wild. This coffee is processed the old, traditional way … the way it’s been done for millennia. The fruit is allowed to dry on the bean. So, if you think about it, this is what coffee is originally supposed to taste like. This is the original coffee taste.
And this taste is the reason people fell in love with coffee all those years ago.
Inland Empire roasts this coffee (actually, all their coffees) in small batches and sends them out immediately. They do this to make sure you get it as fresh as possible. With coffee, the fresher it is, the better. They built their business on this and they do a fantastic job of it.
My hats off to them. Thank you guys for this coffee. It is most definitely a Groovy Brew.
Make sure to check out Inland Empire’s website and especially their radio show.
I’m off to make another cup.

Marques de Paiva French Roast

Marques de Paiva Fair Trade Certified Whole Bean coffee is made from “rigorously selected 100% Arabica beans that are grown on small family farms.”
Then, apparently, it’s stored in huge warehouses to be properly aged to a fine, robust staleness, then put on millions of pallets to be stacked at Sam’s Clubs all over the nation.
My coffee loving friends, this before you is a perfect example of a poser. It’s all dressed up in “Fair Trade” and given an impressively European sounding name, stuffed into overlarge but very pretty bags, and presented as something it is definitely NOT.
What it isn’t, is gourmet coffee. To me it tastes like over-roasted, stale coffee.
What it is, though, is dirt cheap. At least it is at Sam’s Club. You get this huge two and a half pound bag of beans for under $10. What a deal, I thought.
But the deal is that you end up with a whole lot of stale coffee that’s going to sit around forever because you hesitate to drink it, but you’re also hesitant to throw it out because:

  • You just bought it
  • You got a good “deal”
  • It’s not quite as bad as pre-ground canned coffee
  • It doesn’t make a bad mocha cappuccino as long as you use plenty of chocolate and sugar.

Okay, so you don’t want to toss it. If you still have your receipt, you can take it back — Sam’s Club will take anything back. Or, you could simply grind it all up and mix it with potting soil.
Flowers will love it.

The Java Wand

You’re looking at the Java Wand.

It’s simple, clever, and definitely a groovy little gizmo.

Invented by Nancy Raimondo and marketed via Wisdom Wands, this is — literally — a tiny coffee maker at the end of a glass straw. And before you scoff, trust me, I had some doubts as well. The first thing I thought was that sucking hot coffee through a straw would lead directly to a seared tongue and a ruined day. So I want to state right up front that this is not the case.

How the Java Wand works is simple. It’s a straw with a French press type filter at the end. You put coffee in your mug, add hot water (and whatever else you’d like), put the straw in and stir for a bit, then let it set a few minutes.

Letting it set does two things. One, it lets the coffee steep, and two, it lets it cool a bit.

Here’s a good place to mention that, even when making coffee the normal way, you don’t want to use boiling water. You want it hot, and perhaps close to boiling, but not actually bubbling. With the Java Wand this is doubly true.

So you let the coffee steep a bit, and then you take a careful, experimental sip from the Java Wand. Keep in mind this is exactly how you’d approach a hot cup of coffee. Sip carefully until it cools. The Java Wand works the same way.

That’s all there is to it. You’re drinking coffee.

Take a moment to think about that. What does a coffee maker do, anyway? It mixes hot water with coffee then filters the grounds.

It’s not complicated. It’s not rocket science. The Java Wand is a wonderful reminder of this fact — a return to the basics. People spend hundreds of dollars for machines that do nothing more, really, than this little filtered straw does.

Like I said, even I was skeptical at first. I thought I’d burn my tongue right up front. But no, this is thick quality glass, and it has the same heat-handling properties as a coffee mug. I made my first cup using Dark Costa Rican (as pictured to the left — that’s the actual first cup I made) and was able to sip on it without any burning of lips or tongue at all. It was delicious, but I’d ground it too fine. So I had to try again.

Wisdom Wands recommends medium ground coffee, about two tablespoons per cup. For the second try that’s what I used.

The next cup turned out perfect. I was impressed and happy with it, and even though it seemed odd to be drinking hot coffee through a straw it didn’t take long to adjust. Especially after cooling a few minutes, you’ll be sucking coffee down without even thinking about it.

Here’s an unexpected side effect, though. I’m one of those people who can drink two large strong cups of coffee and still go to sleep. I have over the years developed a high caffeine tolerance.

But two cups of coffee sucked through the Java Wand had me so wired I was bouncing around like the Energizer Bunny. It took me by surprise. What I figure is that since you’re drinking the whole cup of coffee through the grounds, you must end up with an extra dose of caffeine. In effect, the Java Wand becomes a coffee supercharger.

The next day I took the Java Wand down to the corporate offices to see if it could be used in the fight against horrible office coffee. It seemed perfect for this because you make your own coffee one cup at a time, and it’s so quick it’s like you’re making instant coffee. Also — and this is the key point — you’re free to make your coffee however you like. Stronger, bolder, with your own coffee or theirs. It puts you in control.

I gave it the ultimate test: could it, in fact, improve the taste of plain old Folgers pre-ground canned coffee?

It did! I can’t say it was good, but it was better than before. It was significantly better than the Folgers made in the old rusty Bunn office machine, especially considering most other office denizens think it only takes two tablespoons to produce 12 cups of coffee.

This morning I’m using it as I write this, having made a delicious cup of’s New York New York. This afternoon I plan on trying it with some loose tea leaves. (Yes, tea lovers can use this too.)

I’m thoroughly charmed with this little gizmo. It’s not going to replace my little one cup filter maker at home, but it will be something I use every day at the office. In its own little way, I can honestly say the Java Wand has improved the quality of my life.

Jalima Organic

“Enjoy life, give your best and surround yourself with good quality in all that matters.”

That is Jalima Coffee‘s motto. It’s not just something a marketing company stamped on their package — it’s what they truly believe. It’s the heart and soul of the company.

Enjoy life, that’s a given. We all want to enjoy life. If not, then what is the point? Why do we have an enjoyment nodule in our brain if it’s not meant to be used?

To truly enjoy life, you need to find your calling. For some, it’s making wonderful coffee. So you find your calling, and you start doing it … and you do it well, which will cause quality. Quality in what you do, how you live. You give your best and you get the best in return.

Guess what happens when you do that? You enjoy life. The more you enjoy life, the more you give your best. The more you give your best, the more quality will surround you.

It’s what I call a self-sustaining loop of goodness. It’s also an excellent way to run a coffee company. This is evident the moment you taste Jalima’s Organic blend.

I brewed my first cup a little too weak — it was still good but not as good as it could be. So I very carefully brewed my second, and it came out perfect.

The first thing that struck me about this coffee is that it’s velvety smooth. It doesn’t just glide over the palate, it caresses it. The taste that blossomed surprised me with vivid fruity notes, underpinned with a touch of caramel. Delicious. Not bold, not too mellow, just right down the center, and only mildly acidic.

As you keep drinking, the caramel notes build and the fruitiness wanes. By the time you’re at the bottom of the cup it actually starts to get chocolaty. I was genuinely sad that I didn’t have any more to drink.

And this struck me as I finished the second cup … this coffee is pampered. You can tell. You can taste it. They pamper the coffee and then in turn it pampers you.

Which leads right back into that self-sustaining loop of goodness thing I was talking about.

Once again it’s official: Jalima’s coffees are definitely groovy brews. The fact that this one is organic is just icing on the cake.

Taking a deep breath, and then smiling again…

From my last couple of posts you can tell I was venting some frustrations, and yes, I’ve been spending time in a new office with bad coffee, and living in hotel rooms with bad coffee.
What’s worse than bad coffee?  Having to drink it after being spoiled by remarkably good coffee (see several posts previous to the two negative ones).   Which brings me to a concern of mine: if I drink only superb coffee, is it going to skew my view of what a coffee should be?  In other words, if all I wear is gold, will I ever be happy with copper again?
I don’t know.  I guess we’ll see?  After all, what’s wrong with only liking the best?
If everyone insisted on the best, would that not force all coffee growers, roasters, and marketers to improve or perish?
Speaking of which, I’m a bit nervous.  Inland Empire Coffee is sending me some of their beans to review.  These guys are legendary … am I going to be spoiled rotten?  Even beyond what I already am?
We’ll see…
A big shout out to Cliff and Ralph for mentioning on their IE Coffee Radio Show this weekend.  I’m honored!  Thanks guys!

Hotel Coffee from Hell

Riding along on the tail of Office Coffee from Hell is its twin brother, hotel room coffee.
Usually this is slightly better than the office coffee, but suffers from the same problems.
It’s a questionable blend, often including Robusta beans. It’s usually quite old and stale, having set in a warehouse for years. And, they never provide enough to make a decent pot of coffee.
Once upon a time, some hotel somewhere had this great idea of putting a coffee pot into every room, and the idea was such a hit that all the other hotels cursed and kicked the dirt and grudgingly did the same. Painful as it was to them — as it no doubt cut into their profit margin — they had no choice because customers are a fickle lot. They for some reason like the idea that someone might actually care about them, and want to cater to their needs.
So all the other hotels said, “Okay! Fine! We’ll put a stupid coffee pot in the rooms.” And they did, but then searched far and wide for the cheapest possible coffee on the planet to go with them. That coffee, of course, sucks. It tastes like hot muddy water with ground up porcelain and a dash of mold.
Yet, if you go down to the lobby, these very same hotels usually serve very good coffee during their free continental breakfast — which they were forced to provide because some hotel, somewhere, started the trend. And you know all these hotels curse that fact as well.
Unless you want to actually bring your own coffee, my suggestion is to take your empty pot down to the continental breakfast and fill it up and take it back to your room.
And take that nasty bag of so-called “coffee” they provided, write NO THANK YOU on it with a large permanent marker, and leave it at the front desk as a reminder that people really don’t appreciate crap.

Office Coffee from Hell

What’s wrong with this picture?
This, my friends, is a sack of old, stale ground coffee. Lord knows how old, and no one knows what’s in it. There is no list of ingredients. My guess by the taste is that it’s at least 50% Robusta beans, maybe more.
Robusta beans suck even if they’re fresh.
If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s about 1/3 of what it takes to make a pot of coffee in this bag, but the instructions say to use this one bag to make 12 cups of coffee.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the reason corporate office coffee tastes so awful. Most corporations only grudgingly provide free coffee to the employees, and in doing so, want to spend as little as they can. Their solution is to hire a coffee service, such as this one, to provide this coffee.
This company, themselves, want to make as much profit as humanly possible from this so-called service.
What do you end up with? Something that in my opinion tastes like dirt mixed with crushed bugs.
I’ve tried to improve the taste. I’ve tried brewing it stronger. It didn’t help — this coffee is a lost cause. The only way to make it drinkable is to add a significant amount of sweetener, and flavorings, and creamer.
This is American corporate office coffee from Hell.