Coffeemaria’s Java Pancour

This coffee comes from one of my new top ten favorite roasters, Coffeemaria. Just by checking out their website you can see what they concentrate on : coffee. That’s it. They roast coffee.
Good coffee.
They’re so focused on what they do that they don’t even have a logo. At least, not on their website. For the art you see alongside this review, I actually scanned a gold foil sticker that was on the bag of beans.
This is the first of a trilogy of reviews of their coffee, all of which are excellent. Today’s subject … Java Pancour.
This coffee brews up tart, with an edgy, aggressive flavor featuring definite chocolaty notes. This is one of those lean back, close your eyes and smile coffees. It’s like riding your bike on a beautiful crisp fall morning, coming to the top of a long hill, and coasting all the way down with your feet out and the wind in your hair.
I’d classify this as a dessert coffee. The strong flavor and sweet finish lends itself to cookies, cake, ice cream, and pie.
Or be a rebel and drink it in the morning with your donuts.
Why not? Live on the edge!
It will probably not come as a surprise that I officially designate Coffeemaria’s Java Pancour as a Groovy Brew.

Big Black Java Monster

Monster is usually my energy drink of choice — based on effect instead of taste — as on long drives it seems better at keeping me alert. I wasn’t in a Monster mood this morning, though while standing in line at the store, the new can design caught my attention, as did the word “Java.”
My immediate reaction was a very intelligent and articulate, “Huh?”
I picked it up, saw the words “Coffee Energy” and knew I had to try it. My expectations were rather low, especially after some of my other less-than-spectacular run-ins with canned coffee.
I had intended on taking it home to drink and review, but I couldn’t help myself. I was too curious. I popped open the can in the car.
The entire can was gone in less than two miles.
The Big Black Java Monster is extremely smooth and very creamy. I was in shock. I loved it with first gulp, and have found my new favorite energy drink.
My friends, I have a sweet tooth, and this stuff is sweet as candy. It may be too sweet for some people. It’s just right for me.
What surprised me the most was the purity of the coffee flavor. I don’t know where they’re getting their coffee extract from, or if they’re making it themselves, but it suffers from no detectable dilution tang what-so-ever. It has a far better taste than even a Starbucks iced coffee, including those made in-store.
The can states that it has half the caffeine of ordinary coffee, but we all know it makes up for that with all their other infamous added stimulants.
This is the best canned coffee beverage I have ever had. It is hereby officially designated a Groovy Brew.

It’s A Grind: Tanzanian Peaberry

It’s so gentle.

It’s … sensuous.

I have to tell you, this is the last thing I would have expected from a coffee. The way it caresses the palate, it’s like the soft fingers of your lover giving you a slow, thorough body massage, eyes smiling every time you look. Brimming with love. Hot, steamy, and relaxing at the same time.

Okay, this is starting to sound perverted. Let me back up.

Tanzania, where the beans originated, is an African country formed when Tanganyika, its mainland part, joined with the Zanzibar islands off its east coast. After uniting they became the United Republic of Tanzania, who not only kicked Uganda’s invading butt in 1979, but within its borders hold the remains of the earliest humans to walk the Earth.

If that wasn’t enough to make this country cool, they grow the sexiest coffee I have ever tasted.

Smooth and velvety, this It’s A Grind‘s Tanzanian Peaberry is mild but rich in flavor. Naturally sweet tones lace through a touch of almond and warm woody notes. Drinking it is seriously like getting that lover’s massage.

This is excellent coffee and most definitely a groovy brew.

It’s A Grind: Blend 49

It’s ten at night and I’m drinking coffee.

Two reasons: 1) I haven’t posted anything on this side of GroovyBrew since August 10th and that is way too long, and 2) I love coffee. What can I say?

Besides, caffeine doesn’t keep me awake anymore. It just doesn’t. I’m immune.

I discovered It’s A Grind by chance. One of their stores is right across the street from the Chinese restaurant where my writers group meets. After the meetings I usually wander to the Starbucks next door, but one day I realized the place across the street was another coffee shop. I kept meaning to go there, yet, I kept not going.

Then, high on Valium and on my way back from an MRI, I directed my daughters to aim the car at the building and said, “I want to try their coffee!”

I picked up two of their blends, and tonight I’m trying the one they call “49.”

It’s bold and fruity, with warm chestnut notes, and a smooth but dusky aftertaste. Not fall-off-your-chair outstanding, but very decent and flavorful. I’d classify it as a morning coffee, or a coffee to have with ice cream on a Saturday afternoon. The acidity I’d say is low to medium.

And with that, I’m off to bed.

Coastal Bean’s Jamaican Blue Mountain

The last time I’d tried Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee I had been disappointed. This is infamous coffee, legendary, with a lot of hype behind it. So one day I bit the bullet and splurged, and remember thinking … this is it? This is the legend?

Of course, back then I thought Gevalia was the utopian source of gourmet coffee. I’ve learned a lot since then.

My new friends over at fixed me up with some real Jamaican Blue Mountain. At first sip, though, again I thought this is it? I really didn’t see why people considered it so special.

It wasn’t bad. Not at all — indeed, I found it very tasty. But did it live up to the hype? No.

At least, not at first.

This coffee has what I call “seriously delayed bloom.” You don’t get the full range of the flavor in the first sip. You can’t judge it in the first minute. I daresay you can’t really judge it with the first cup.

As it turns out, this is indeed a marvelous coffee. It starts out as a mild, flavorful brew that reminds me somewhat of Kona but with a hint of something else, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

It’s that “something else” that’s the foreshadowing of a far greater flavor. The more you savor it, the more that “something else” blooms, growing in intensity and enchantment. If this coffee were music it would be Ravel’s Boléro, starting as a simple lilting melody and building seductively to full orchestration.

The taste itself is hard to describe. You first get the initial warm, mild roast flavor, with only a low acidic tang, and as time passes it continues to caress your palate with a nuttiness that hints of macadamia and almond. Soft, smoky tendrils start working their way into the pleasure center of your brain — it’s at this point you realize something special is going on with the coffee. Suddenly it starts hinting of winey notes, some outstanding vintage that you’ve only tasted in your dreams. Your cup by now is empty, and you immediately have to have another one, because the flavor is still going, still pulling your forward. More, it tells you. There’s more to come. We’re not finished yet. So you have that second cup, and then the third, and still you’re discovering new nuances. Chocolaty tones emerge, and a fruity edge.

That’s where I am right now, and the flavor is still giving surprises.

I see what the big deal is. I understand.

According to what I’ve read, what makes this coffee so special is the place where it’s grown. The Blue Mountains of Jamaica have a combination of soil, climate, and thick mountain mist which combine to create one of the most perfect places on Earth for the beans to flourish.

Because of the popularity and demand for this coffee, it’s one of the most expensive. Because it’s expensive, it draws the less scrupulous entrepreneurs, many who will blend a coffee to taste somewhat similar and sell it as the real thing — making a large profit at your expense. That’s why if you’re actually willing to shell out the money for these beans, you need to make sure they’re genuine.

Coastal Bean’s supplier is the Wallenford Estates of Jamaica, which is apparently the most sought-after source of Blue Mountain beans. They come with a certificate of authenticity, much like one you’d get with a signed lithograph from a famous artist.

While this coffee is … well, what it is, a coffee with a serious pedigree … I have to admit I’d hesitate buying it for myself. Maybe as a treat once a year, or to celebrate a special occasion. I mean, it’s freaking expensive. However, if I were looking for a gift for a coffee loving friend, then this is the first thing I’d buy.

Nothing says “I love you” like a diamond, or golden jewelry, or Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.

Irony, Starbucks Style

After my writer’s meeting tonight I stopped by Starbucks for a latte, and noticed the cup was advertising a movie called Arctic Tale. It showed a mother and cub polar bear with the inscription, “The change in their world impacts us all.”
Off to the side is posed the question of what we can do at home to fight global warming. Their answer: “Launder half our clothes in cold water.”
Below that was printed: “Careful, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot.”

Dunn Bros 20th Anniversary Blend

I’ve gushed several times about the wonderfulness of Dunn Bros and how they roast their beans right there in the stores.
Yesterday morning I met my friend and fellow writer Bill at the Frisco location, something we usually do on weekends when he’s not busy and I’m not out of town for six weeks. We were talking about how remarkably good the Dunn Bros coffee always was, and he said, “I just had a cup at Starbucks before I came here, and this is … it’s far better!”
So it’s not just my imagination. I like Starbucks too, but you have a cup over there, and think to yourself how good it is … then go to a Dunn Bros and have a cup. It’s a shock to the palate when you think you’re drinking something really good and then have something that is another level of better.
Which brings me to the subject of their 20th Anniversary Blend. Just before leaving, I picked up a bit just so I could take it home and review it properly. So here I sit, sipping, smiling, happy, drinking a coffee so remarkably flavorful that I’m blown away.
In blending this coffee, they went for the Great Middle Way. Nice and strong but not too strong. Jump and shout flavorful but with a depth of subtleness, a complex flavor that you have to meditate on and sort out. Toasty nuttiness with chocolate notes, extremely smooth, and a wonderful aftertaste that holds you like a lingering, loving embrace. And yes, love is part of the flavor. They very lovingly crafted this coffee and you can taste that love, you can feel it. It’s part of the recipe.
The only proper word that comes to my mind to describe this coffee is exquisite. That, my coffee loving friends, is not a word I normally use.

Coffee Is Good For You [UPDATED]

I have lots of good news for us coffee drinkers.
For years the coffee industry has been forced into a defensive stance, barraged as it’s been about supposed health risks of the drink. But lately, due to improved study methods and increased focus on the chemicals involved, researches have not only refuted many of the earlier negative claims, but have discovered significant health benefits in the drinking of coffee.
Moderation is the key. Too much of anything — including water — is bad for you. But a moderate amount of coffee, two to four cups a day, can improve your health. We’re not talking decaffeinated here, either, but the pure natural brew.
New research has found:

  • Coffee increases alertness and improves the brain’s thinking power (uh, yeah, we know this one).
  • Coffee contains a significant amount of antioxidants which help prevent cancer. Studies have specifically shown people who drink coffee are 25% less likely of developing colorectal cancer.
  • The combination of coffee and exercise may raise the body’s ability to resist skin cancer by up to 400%.  <- New Finding
  • Women who drink coffee reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by up to 33%.
  • Coffee can help alleviate asthma by 25%.
  • Coffee can diminish the craving for alcoholic beverages.
  • Women who drink coffee are 65% less likely to commit suicide.
  • Men who drink coffee are 40% less likely of developing gallstones.
  • Coffee drinkers show an 80% reduction in risk for cirrhosis of the liver.
  • Drinking coffee reduces the risk for Parkinson’s disease two- to three-fold.
  • Coffee actually improves physical stamina.
  • Coffee helps diminish headaches.
  • Coffee has been shown to reduce tooth decay by slowing the growth of the bacteria that causes it, as well as preventing these bacteria from adhering to tooth enamel.

Also studies have shown that coffee does not, as previously thought, cause or contribute to cardiovascular disease. In fact, these studies have shown that coffee drinkers are 30% less likely to develop it.
Another reversal of popular belief, it’s been shown that coffee has nothing to do with bone loss.
So rejoice! Fire up that coffee pot! Revel in your morning dose of coffee.
It’s good for you.

Cure for Horrid Hotel Coffee

For the life of me I could not figure out why the coffee tasted so awful.

I’m on a long term assignment, and I’m being put up in a nice hotel suite with a little kitchen. I already knew the coffee would suck so I brought my own. To my surprise and horror, it still sucked.

Must be the water, I thought, and went out and got bottled water.

Still sucked.

Must be the coffee pot, I decided, and cleaned it out thoroughly. Made a new pot.

It still sucked.

I cleaned it again, this time using that stuff that goes through and strips out all the lime and sediments. That had to be it, I thought. There was nothing else it could be. I was using some of the best coffee I’ve ever had, and I was using good water, and the filters were fine.

Yet, the coffee was still horrible.

Finally I figured it out by listening. It sounded like the boiler was never quite shutting off, that it kept trying to spit more water through. Upon opening it, though, I found there was no water in the tank. The boiling sound was coming from the coffee pot.

The stupid freaking hotel coffee maker was boiling my coffee! The pot warmer was set way too hot.

Well, that was it. I was finished dinking with this coffee machine. I decided to simply go and buy a little cup-top manual coffee maker like the one I use at home.

I gave up on that, as well, after days of searching. No one here carries them.

It came down to two choices … buy a coffee maker, or make my own coffee maker. Well, I certainly wasn’t going to buy one. I came close a few times — I was that desperate — but in the end I decided it wasn’t rocket science, I could construct my own.

I started with a travel mug that had its own lid. It was perfect because I already had an idea of what I would do, and needed the lid for support.











Next I took a Styrofoam coffee cup that the hotel provided and poked holes in the bottom with a plastic fork. This became the holder for my coffee filters.






After that it was a simple matter of stuffing a filter into the Styrofoam cup and measuring coffee into it.









I set the ad-hoc coffee maker onto the open lid on the travel mug and poured the hot (but not boiling) water into it.

The coffee steeped as it should, trickled down fresh into the mug, and guess what?

It tasted awesome.

Now, I know what some of you are going to say. I should have simply called down to the front desk and demanded another coffee machine. I have to admit the thought did occur to me more than once, but I didn’t because I figured they’d just bring another one of their horrid coffee makers. Besides, this was a challenge and I wanted to solve it myself.

And, truth be known, I thought it would be fun to write about.

This is a good example of how there really is nothing to brewing good coffee. You don’t need a $400 machine with its own cybernetic brain, or four dials and 37 valves.

All you need is good coffee, good water, and to brew it at an appropriate temperature.

That, and an unwillingness to settle for coffee that sucks.

Café Britt Tarrazu Montecielo

Standing up at the top of a mountain in the early morning, walking right up to the edge, and yelling out, “Hello!”

After several heartbeats it echoes distantly back. “Hello…”

You grin and take a sip of coffee. Ah, this is the life. After breakfast you might grab your fly rod and go down to the stream. But for now, you’ve got a coffee to finish, and Café Britt‘s Tarrazu Montecielo is its name.

All of this is going on in my mind. Feet up on my desk, leaning back, eyes closed. A mental vacation. The coffee is real, though.

This Costa Rican treasure is very bold and dusky, with delicious wood smoke notes. Bit of a sharp edge to it … it could be smoother. Still, the taste is outstanding, and a far cry better than other Tarrazu roasts I’ve had (including Gevalia’s).

I find it goes especially good with chocolate.

(Which I’m not supposed to be eating.)

Stone Creek French Roast

This isn’t just French Roast, this is amazing French Roast.

It’s amazing that they could take a coffee that is, by its very nature, a harsh kick-in-the-paints wake-up-and-go coffee, and make it taste so refined and elegant — and, at the same time, still retain its urgent zoom pow blam quality.

I mean, face it, one does not drink a French Roast when they want to relax. This is an action coffee. It’s like rocket fuel for the brain.

So, in essence, Stone Creek has managed to roast and blend an elegant rocket fuel. And that, my coffee loving friends, is amazing.

The flavor definitely features that dark, strong French Roast edge. Once brewed, it’s as black as deep space between stars. We’re talking devoid-of-all-color opaque black. It has the French Roast bitterness but somehow reined in and mellowed just enough. You can taste the buzz that you’re about to get. And when you get the buzz, you feel it.

I’m feeling it right now. Can you tell? Can you? Huh? Huh?

It’s just freaking amazing. I love it. It’s good as a drip, and it also makes a great espresso. It goes without saying it would be outstanding in a French press.

As far as a French Roast goes, Stone Creek’s is definitely one elegant strong black buzzing delicious Groovy Brew!

Café Britt Tres Rios Valdivia

Wake up and smell the coffee. Yes. That is one of the pleasures in life.

This is a sunrise coffee. Not a rushed, the alarm didn’t go off, I haven’t had enough sleep type of sunrise — this is more like, oh, I woke up early, it’s a beautiful morning, let’s make some coffee.

Let’s make some Tres Rios Valdivia.

Café Britt‘s Valdivia is plucked out of cool volcanic mountains of the Tres Rios region, and the coffees from this area are considered “the Bordeaux” of Costa Rica.

I found it to be fruity, medium bold, with a nice sweetness and edge. They suggest you might find hints of plum and allspice, but I didn’t get that. I did get a clear pure coffee flavor that could have been a bit fresher and more smooth, yet at the same time, it was satisfying enough.

I wouldn’t consider this an outstanding jump up and down oh my God this is incredible coffee, but it is very good, and especially makes a good choice for that relaxed sunrise breakfast.

Stone Creek Fair Trade Blend

Milwaukee has got to be a cool place to live for it to have such a cool coffee company. I have never been there, but I’ll get there eventually, and when I do I’m going to pay these people a visit and thank them personally.
They roast and blend some fantastic coffee. This one is no exception.
Stone Creek‘s Fair Trade Blend starts off with a nice strong bite, then settles into a toasty complex flavor that mixes a hint of fruitiness in with walnut and pecan notes. It finishes clean on the palate and leaves you wanting more. It’s not too bold and it’s not too mild. It’s perfect for a rainy weekend afternoon, when you’re kicking around relaxing, or working on some fun project.
Their company motto is, simply, “Sip slowly.” They know what they’re talking about. Coffee this good needs to be savored.
The fact that it’s Fair Trade and Organic is just icing on the cake.
At the heart of Stone Creek, their mission is to roast “Amazing Coffee.” That’s their actual, official term for it. They look for amazing beans, they roast them to amazing perfection, and they mix it into amazing blends. If it doesn’t have that quality of being amazing, they’re not interested in it.
I love companies like this. I love unpretentious people who actually commit to quality, and not just in business, but to life itself. I think I’ve said this before but it bears repeating … a good portion of our world runs on coffee, almost literally. Imagine how much better it would run if we all enjoyed better coffee.

Café Britt Organic Shade Grown

Orgasmic shade grown … oh, pardon me. Where’s my mind?

I meant organic.

But it’s a justified Freudian slip. I’ve sampled several of Café Britt‘s coffees lately and this is by far my favorite. It’s rich, full bodied, naturally sweet, dusky, with a hint of wood smoke and hints of nuttiness.

Costa Rican coffees are just plain yummy. The fact that this one is orgasmic … I mean, organic, is a bonus. Organic, Fair Trade, yadda yadda yadda…

It’s good.

This is an all day drinking coffee. This is a coffee to serve at a party instead of alcohol. This is a coffee to drink in between dances with your sweetheart.

It’s lick the bottom of the coffee cup delicious. I mean it.

It’s truly organic … I mean orgasmic.

And legal to drink in public!

Toulouse Caffe

They started with some good beans.
It seems to me everything went downhill from there.
I did everything I could to brew this coffee so that the flavor would come out. I think I succeeded to some extent. You can taste underlying quality, and the ghost of a pleasant, full bodied roast.
Sadly this taste is veiled behind curtains of staleness. To me it tastes not only stale but somewhat sour. Not sour as in it’s gone bad and is going to kill me, but the taste itself has soured. It’s an aluminum can taste, mixed with shredded old socks and perhaps a pinch of vacuum bag dirt.
Seriously, this stuff is turning my stomach. I can’t even finish it. I’m dumping the rest down the sink.
You may see this in your hotel room. You may see it in on a bottom shelf at your supermarket. You may find it in the garbage.
If you do, leave it there.

Stone Creek Cream City Blend

This coffee is already gone.

From the very first sip, I completely lost interest in writing a review. I didn’t want the distraction. The taste is so smooth, so dramatic, that I wanted to simply enjoy it.

It struck me that so many coffee drinkers out there are happy with what they have. Ignorance is bliss. Because once you find out something is better, then what you have will no longer keep you happy.

That’s human nature.

If I were to take this coffee down to the corporate offices, make a fresh pot with some good water, at proper strength, I would ruin the sedated and complacent palates of a couple hundred people. Is this liberation or cruelty? To know something out there is so much better is good for the spirit, but then having to settle for something you now recognize as horrible would be … well, horrible.

A blend of Ethiopian, Guatemalan and French Roast coffees, this Cream City is the smoothest coffee I’ve ever had. The taste is rich and full bodied, and yet mellow. It would mix well with anything. Black, or sweetener, or with cream, or with ice cream, or as a cappuccino … this is the perfect all-around coffee.

I am so completely spoiled. I don’t think it’s a curse. I think the search for excellence is the high road and I recommend it to everyone. The answer is to not settle.

So here’s a shout out to the folks at Stone Creek. You people are awesome. This coffee is world class outstanding, and it is most definitely a Groovy Brew.

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.

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…?

World Market Chocolate Turtle

My well-meaning daughter picked this up whilst out shopping: World Market Chocolate Turtle Coffee. It’s pre-ground flavored coffee.
I like many of World Market’s products, and while I’m not a huge fan of flavored coffees, I do like some of them. However, you would think that they would know that turtles don’t taste good, and not put them into coffee.
This actually tastes like they ground up a turtle’s shell and mixed it right in. Seriously. There’s this odd aftertaste of old ground-up bone, which is probably just a tang of staleness picked up by the coffee as it sat in a warehouse for seven years.
I’ve had canned coffee that tastes better than this stuff. I’ve had instant coffee that tastes better. The hint of coco that makes the “chocolate” in the “chocolate turtle,” even that tastes stale.
It could be that this was just a bad lot. It could be that this usually tastes fine. But unfortunately this one didn’t.
If World Market wants to send me a fresh batch to try, and I like it better, I’ll revise my opinion. Until then I have no choice but to advise people to avoid it.

Says the coffee machine: “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t brew that for you now”

JL Hufford Coffee and Tea recently issued a press release stating they were designing coffee machines that use Artificial Intelligence to learn what people want and to make it for them before they even ask.
What will it be like to use such a machine? “For the first several weeks, the machine learns the drinking patterns of its users. Then it adapts. Every Sunday afternoon, it’s French vanilla cappuccino time. Each weekday morning, it starts brewing a triple espresso at 7:00 am. After dinner, it does up a creamy decaf café au lait.” How does it know where you are or at exactly which moment you’ll be ready for your drink? Product Manager James Pappas is tight-lipped about this aspect, but he hints at GPS tracking or existing RFID technology. What is certain is that some machines, like the Jura-Capresso Impressa F9 already have ports which could be connected to a computer. Once the computer is networked, the possibilities are many.”
Okay, the science fiction reader/writer in me loves this idea. But as fun as it sounds, sorry, it’s actually ludicrous.
I probably wouldn’t have said that 5 years ago. I used to be one of those people who went by the saying, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” A divorce, the liquidation of nearly all my worldly possessions, and a bit of philosophical and spiritual learning have taught me otherwise.
Hand brewing coffee with a little 49¢ maker is very Zen. Having a computer controlled machine make it for you … even decide what it is you want … is not.
The pleasure in life is in the things you do. I’m sorry if I’m coming off preachy here, but I believe this with all my heart. The more we relegate our thinking and decision making to machines, the less human we become ourselves. Sure, a coffee maker that decides what and when to make something for us is in itself harmless … and in fact, probably fun … but it’s another step down that path that will eventually lead to a dark place.
Or hasn’t anyone remembered lessons we’ve learned from John Conner?
I have nothing against a well designed tool that does a good job. However, I am critical of a tool — no matter how well designed and built — that over-complicates a simple job.
So you want to built a autonomous device? Build something that will disarm a bomb, or explore the oceans of Europa looking for extraterrestrial life. Don’t waste your time and talent designing a machine that does a simple job already done perfectly well by an ordinary person.
It doesn’t take a computer scientist to make a good cup of coffee. Nor does it take a very expensive piece of hardware controlled by an Artificial Intelligence. So if on Sunday afternoon you really do want a French vanilla cappuccino, go make yourself one. A little $30 machine available at your local big box store does a perfectly fine job. Colombian Supremo

If only office coffee tasted like this.‘s Colombian Supremo is a regular, everyday good coffee. It’s got a warm, toasty flavor with nice body and a natural sweetness. In fact I’m drinking it straight right now, no sugar, nothing, just pure coffee, and I could drink it all day long.
Like I said, it would be perfect as an office coffee. It’s what office coffee should aspire to be. Yet, no, it usually isn’t.
As CoffeeBeanDirect’s Floyd Wallace told me, it’s their closest blend to a “regular coffee.” And looking at it on their website right now, man, the price is definitely right.
I urge all the businesses out there to replace their disgusting office coffee with this one. Just do it. Just go buy a 25lb bag of it and start brewing it up Monday morning, not saying anything to your employees, and watch all the faces light up and say, “Wow, what happened?!” It will be the happiest Monday your office has ever seen, and moral will shoot upward, followed by productivity.
Just do it. Do it for yourself and for them. Do it for mankind. Be the hero.
Coffee makes the world go ’round, and good coffee makes it go around happy. “New York New York”

I just had some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. Ever.
Coffee and the Internet have always gone hand-in-hand, usually at Internet cafés that let you surf while you get wired. Most of the time it’s free, unless you’re at Starbucks who for some reason feel you need to pay for ‘net access (never figured that one out). But, I digress, because this is about the Internet/coffee partnership turned upside-down.
I recently discovered, a place where you surf to and buy coffee, instead of buying coffee and then surf. Their stated mission is to import the world’s finest coffee beans, personally fresh roast each order, and deliver it to your door as fast as possible.
Is that cool or what?
They sent me their best seller, which they call New York New York, and I ground some up and brewed it.
Oh my. I mean, OH MY. I actually said that out loud. Then I said, “Oh my God this is good coffee!”
Here’s how they describe it on their site (I’m quoting because it’s very accurate): “A fantastic, rich, aromatic, full-bodied, smooth, low-acidic blend. We combine a SHB Central American, a South American and a select Indonesian to create a truly unique, high impact cup. Striking!”
And it is. Smooth, dark and rich with nutty notes, strong but not overwhelming. The taste itself is good up front but does this amazing bit where it gets better and better as you drink it. This coffee gives your palate a long, luxurious java massage, and tickles the taste buds long after the coffee is gone.
Better than good, it’s fantastic, but I do have to add a warning:
Coffee this good is most likely addictive.

Starbucks Café Verona

Starbucks Starbuckaroos may sing to you if you ask them.
After dinner last Saturday I knew I’d be up writing, and since we were out and about my elder daughter and I swung by Starbucks so I could get caffeinated. Their coffee of the day was their standard Café Verona, which I hadn’t had in a while.
But, oh my God, they didn’t have any brewed. Usually when I catch them with a daily coffee not ready to serve they offer me a free cup. These Starbuckaroos weren’t privy to this custom, however, and simply told me it would be about five minutes before the coffee would be ready.
“Five minutes?” I tried to sound disappointed, hoping for that free cup. Hey, $2 is $2, you know?
“Yes,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
“Well, what am I going to do for five minutes?”
Starbucks Inc. had not taught them how to answer that. She looked stricken and I felt bad. Usually Starbuckaroos have some social skills, but alas, this was not the case.
“Tell you what,” I said, “I’ll ignore the five minute wait if you sing me a song about Café Verona.”
She and her compatriot were up for that challenge, and they made up a song for me on the spot. Now remember this is Texas, so here “Verona” rhymes “Loner” … somehow the “a” is replace with an invisible “er”.

Café Verona
A drink for the loner
Who sits like a stoner
Talking on their phoner!

It dissolved into giggles at that point.
Their Café Verona is bold yet smooth, good straight or with sweetener. Not something I’d like with cream but that’s just me. A good wake-me-up blend if you’re in the mood for something more than a mild breakfast coffee but not quite up for an in-your-face French roast.
According to the singing Starbuckaroos, it’s a Starbucks internal favorite.

Dunn Bros Sumatra

When a coffee is really good, it’s hard to write a review about it. I mean, how many ways can you say “good”?

Dunn Bros Sumatra is mild, smooth, with an excellent flavor … this is an all day drinking coffee.

Cup after cup, keep it coming.

Being that it’s Dunn Bros, it’s always fresh because they roast the beans right there at the store.

No, they don’t pay me. No I don’t get free coffee there.

It is, quite simply, one of my favorite coffees at my favorite local café. Starbucks doesn’t hold a candle to this place.

Sorry Starbucks, but that’s my opinion.

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.