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Seattle’s Best “Panorama”

I picked this coffee up on a whim while at a Border’s book store. Why? Attractive packaging, of course. Beautiful lettering, a calming and tranquil color of green, the picture of a sail boat with the inset of someone doing the “I’m king of the world!” stance on the bow.

Obviously this coffee must be something special.

I am happy to tell you that it is not bad at all. Rich medium bold flavor, with high smoky-wood notes and a very pleasant banana bread aftertaste, I’d have to say this is some of the best coffee I’ve had in over a month. The folks at Seattle’s best found some good Tanzanian beans and toasted them to a dark city roast perfection. It’s just right for an early morning coffee, especially if you’re in a happy relaxed mood, and don’t want the top of your head blown off by a harsh French roast caffeine bomb. This carries just enough of a buzz on its river of rich flavor, and the quality definitely justifies the marketing money they spent on the fancy packaging.

Cheers to you, Seattle’s Best. You did this one very right.

I hereby proclaim this to be a Groovy Brew.

"Slutty" Starbucks Logo

starbucks-logo-siren-original So, this is creating a controversy?

Starbucks seems to be under fire from some religious groups who think this new logo design is slutty and against God.

I have a big problem with this.

1) God designed the human body, therefor it is Holy, not slutty.

2) This is freaking mermaid, not a woman, and it’s based on ancient artwork.

3) She’s not engaged in anything pornographic.

4) If God had a problem with boobs, He wouldn’t have put them on people.

5) If Starbucks backs down and changes their logo to accommodate the whining of prudish, off-base, idiotic religious groups, they will lose what little respect I have for them.

Seriously, I could see an uproar if it featured something like the close up of a penis or a woman’s vagina, but this?

Come on, people. Get a life.

Costa Rican Naranjo Caracol Peaberry

This is my last home roasted coffee for a while.
I think I may have saved the best for last.  If not the best, then tied with the best.  It doesn’t surprise me, because there’s something about Costa Rican beans that always sends a low and groovy pulse directly into the pleasure center of my brain.
I roasted this up to a deep, beautiful dark dark brown, what they call a City + roast, and have waited until it’s nearly gone to write about it.  That is because I’m starting to burn out on having to report on the coffee — I just want to enjoy it.
And my coffee loving friends, I have enjoyed this one immensely.  It has a medium bold flavor, well balanced in acidity — just enough to give it a little bite, but not enough to burn a hole in your colon — and features a sweet, wood-smoke flavor with berry and walnut highlights.
And with that, I’m out of green beans to roast, and also my roaster — that air popcorn popper I bought off of eBay — it’s starting to sound like it’s going implode and die.  So, I think I’ll be buying myself a proper roaster, and in the meantime I’ll drink and review pre-roasted beans.

Sweet Maria’s Kenya Kirinyaga-Thimu Peaberry

SweetMariasLogoI blazed these peaberries to a awesome Full City roast amid a glorious storm of flying chaff, floating and drifting off my second story balcony and all over my neighbor’s porch and parked cars.

It’s a bit of a mess.  But good coffee is worth it.

And this is good coffee, though I’m not as impressed with it as I have been with others I’ve gotten from Sweet Maria’s.

The good:  Nice and fresh (of course!) and featuring a natural rustic sweetness.  Rich and tasty.

The bad:  The winey-berry notes are awfully subtle, to the point where after the first blush of flavor this coffee comes off as bland.  No complexity and no character.  My guess is that this bean would best be used in blending, to tone down another coffee, rather than be used as a single-bean brew.

A good thing to remember if you’re into blending.  Which I’m not.  I just want to grind, brew, and drink it. 

Oh, and roast it occasionally.

Sweet Maria’s Brazil Coromandel-Fazenda Sao Joao

SweetMariasLogo"Coromandel-Fazenda Sao Joao?"

I dare you to say that three times, fast.

Yet another home roast, I cooked these up to what they call a "full city" or very dark brown, but not black.  Once again, my $7 eBay air popper turned coffee-roaster did a great job, producing yet another brew that is so good it’s blowing the bell curve for the rest of my non-home-roasted reviews.

Home roasting is the way to go, people.  Seriously.  Buying green beans is much cheaper, they keep for a long long time without you having to worry about them going stale.  It takes less than 15 minutes to roast enough to last you a week.  It tastes better than you can possibly imagine — assuming you’ve never had uber-fresh roasted coffee before.

If you just can’t be bothered with the zen task of home roasting, then I highly recommend you buy from a micro-roaster such as some of the ones I’ve featured here.

Sermon over.  I’m climbing down from the fresh-coffee-smelling podium.

I kind of blew the ending, didn’t I?  I already stated this coffee is awesome.  Well, let me also say that it has a strong, full body without being overwhelming, a very rich taste, with overtones of walnut and dark chocolate.  There’s a good, active zing without being overly acidic.  The aftertaste fades to a warm, comfy wood-smoke glow, leaving you with a sense of peace and well-being.

Or at least it does me, because I’ve got enough to last me a while and I’m so happy I do!  This, my friends, is a bona fide groovy brew.

Sweet Maria’s Colombia Choco


At first sip, I got why they call it "choco."  The taste carries a very strong chocolate current — sweeping, really.  It couldn’t taste more chocolate without actually adding chocolate to it.

And, no, this is not a "flavored" coffee.  It’s pure coffee beans, bought green, roasted by me on my apartment patio in a air popcorn popper yesterday afternoon.

This coffee is so freaking delicious it’s blowing my socks off.

There’s a raisin touch to it, too, a winey fruity note singing sweetly in tune with the chocolate-coffee combo.  This is serious Sunday afternoon jazz coffee.  This is happy wedding reception on the beach coffee.

Forget Jamaican Blue Mountain.  Forget all those Costa Rican coffees that I love.  This one has them beat.

This coffee is seriously rocking my world.

I roasted the beans to a very dark, shiny brown, but not black.  I’m not an experienced coffee roaster — this is maybe my fourth batch in my life — but I’m doing something really right, and the beans that I’m getting from Sweet Maria’s are unbelievably wonderful.

Conclusion:  This coffee is totally groovy.  To the extreme.

California Coffee Roaster’s Guatemala Antigua

I have yet to have a brew made from any of California Coffee Roaster‘s beans that I didn’t love, and this is no exception.
Sharp and bold, it rides high on the palate, dancing a tangy tango across your tongue. It has that Antigua smokiness that I love, with a touch of spiciness. It’s muy bueno.
Like other Guatemala Antiguas I’ve reviewed here, this is a perfect afternoon coffee. Bright, lively, and flavorful, it picks up your PM hours and carries you along until dinnertime.
But for those with tender tummies, be warned: this coffee features a challenging acidity that might set things ablaze, if you are prone to that sort of thing. Even I and my cast iron stomach are feeling it a bit, so I wouldn’t drink more than one. After this I’m switching to tea, and then later … beer.

Sweet Maria’s Cameroon Caplami Java

image This is going to be hard.  I drank my entire mug of coffee already.  Before I actually do the review I’m going to have to go make another.

You’ll be seeing a lot of Sweet Maria coffees reviewed here because I have a big selection of them, all green beans, and as it turns out my popcorn popper / coffee roaster does a wonderful job roasting them to exactly the darkness I like:  deep rich brown with a gleam of oil, but not black.

If you have never tried coffee that has been roasted within a few days of you drinking it, my friends … you have never had coffee.

I’m serious.  I am spoiled.  And you know, I can see a future where you can buy green beans anywhere, and everyone has a home roaster.  It makes sense, because green beans are less expensive, keep a long time without going stale, are easier than you’d think to roast, and taste 5000% better than something that’s been sitting on a store’s shelf for months or years.

Okay.  End of sermon, beginning of review.  I have a freshly brewed mug of this Cameroon Caplami Java in my hand.  The beans were roasted yesterday afternoon.

There’s nothing outstanding or special about the smell.  It smells like fresh coffee, which is good.  But there is no hint to the surprise that awaits.

At first sip, this coffee is light and tangy, the taste crisp and crystalline.  Then unexpectedly the flavor blooms like the swelling music of an orchestra — strings, wind instruments, brass, drums, all exploding into an intense and dramatic aria that makes you tingle and your head swim from pure joy.  Then the flavor fades down in a comfortable warm hug, with nutty tones and a lingering tartness that feels cozy and relaxed.

I could drink this all day long.

If the Queen of England were visiting my house I’d proudly brew her a cup of it.

It’s that good.

Black Mountain Gold’s French Roast

image A good flavor, but alas, also stale.

Let’s ignore the staleness for a moment, though.  It’s pre-ground coffee.  Staleness is the rule, not an exception.

It’s smooth and mild for a French Roast.  Smooth, well-balanced acidity, with a dark velvety texture and a touch of chocolate undertones.

Putting it in perspective, this is a really good coffee for it being pre-ground.

If this is what Black Mountain Gold Coffee tastes like stale, I would love to try it when it’s actually fresh.  Sadly, in combing through their website, I can’t find anywhere that you can order the beans unground.

And, their big thing seems to be flavored coffee.


Home Roasting Experiment: The Beginning

image Someone I met at work told me he roasts coffee beans at home in an old air popcorn popper.  I thought that was extremely interesting, and so looked it up online.

Sure enough, it seems there’s a whole lot of people doing it.  So many, in fact, that it’s driven up the price of a used original West Bend Poppery to $50 or more.  I shared this news to someone close to me, and for Christmas I received a shipment of assorted green coffee beans.

So now I have to get myself a air popper.  No problem, I thought, and went to Walmart and bought one.  But it turned out to be the wrong type, and so back it went.

If you can see a screen in the middle of the bottom of the popper, it’s the wrong type.  If you see a series of vents along the edge of the bottom, it’s the right type.

It’s not easy to find the right type.

I actually started making a little movie of my quest for a air popper to use for roasting coffee beans.  Last night I finally won one on eBay.  I filmed that too.  I also plan on filming me getting it in the mail and setting it up and trying to roast coffee in it.

When it’s done, I’ll post it on YouTube and put a link to it here.

California Coffee Roaster’s Sumatra Mandehling

I am happy to say that I’ve successfully reset my palate. 
I have spent the last few weeks drinking office coffee (sparingly, only when I’m desperate), McDonald’s coffee, 7-Eleven coffee, and the occasional Starbucks.  At the office, though, for the most part I actually avoided coffee and drank various teas.
I keep thinking, Should I start up a GroovyBrew Tea site?  Hmm.  Maybe.  But that’s off the subject.  Anyway…
This morning I decided it’s time for some really good coffee, and I have been saving this because I knew it would be, and I was not disappointed.
California Coffee Roaster‘s Sumatra Mandehling is smooth and smoky rich without being overpowering.  I ground some up and made my single cup, and sat here and savored it for about 11 minutes before I finally started typing.  It has a full, deep flavor, with wonderful pecan and chocolate notes, and only a hint of acidity.
Did I mention that it’s smooth?
It’s very smooth.
This was a perfect brew to welcome me back to the world of gourmet coffee.  Ah yes.  It’s good to be home.

When Is Coffee Not Really Coffee?

xPICT6714I feel bad for what I’m about to say about this coffee, because it was a gift.
Oh well.  I have to be honest.
If you like Southern Comfort liquor in your coffee, then this stuff is for you.  After you brew it up, it tastes EXACTLY like you’d just dumped two jiggers of the stuff into your coffee.
The flavor emulation is perfect, but alas, without the payoff of an alcoholic kick.
Don’t get me wrong.  I like Southern Comfort.  I just don’t like it in my coffee.
Why?  Because I like the taste of coffee.  No, more than like.  I love it.  I love the taste of coffee.
When you trash mess up destroy change the taste of coffee so much that you really can’t taste a coffee flavor anymore, is it really coffee?
Seriously, I want to know.  Because I don’t think it is.  It may have been once, but like a mad scientist changing an animal’s DNA, what you end up with is a mutant.  Something different.
Even as flavored coffees go, this one makes me … ill.

Berres Brothers Papua New Guinea

This coffee features a very sneaky stealth flavor.
The first third of this cup I was thinking, “Eh. Not very impressive.” It’s smooth, subdued, and pleasant, but not outstanding.
Then I took a long distracted sip, let it blossom on my tongue, and realized an outstanding flavor had snuck right up on me.
This falls into a rare class of coffees which taste better the more you drink it. The flavor builds on itself. Powerfully complex, it simmers out a very loving, rich coffee undertone with sweet fruity notes, tinged with the subtlest hint of pecan.
This is an all-day-long coffee, morning straight through afternoon. This is a coffee that could singlehandedly make a Monday at the office much more pleasant.
From the package: “Papua New Guinea. Deliciously captivating, powerfully flavorful. A dark-roasted aromatic with a hint of wine-like apple flavor.”
Now that they mention it, I can kind of detect a green apple nuance in the flavor.
It’s good. In fact I would go so far to say … it’s Groovy.

Berres Brothers Kenya AA

It’s the first word that popped into my mind upon the first sip of this coffee.
It’s a warm December day here in Texas. The windows are all open and the wind is blowing. My kids and I are all finally recovering from a bug I brought back with me from an airline on Thanksgiving day. And here I am, sitting back and enjoying a bright coffee on a brilliant morning.
Life is good. So is this coffee. The taste is so tangy and alive that it sparkles on the tongue.
The Berres Brothers package reads: “Kenya AA. Refreshingly aromatic, delectably smooth. African beans create a crisp, powerful balance with swirls of sharp.”
Sharp what? I don’t know. That’s literally how it ends. But this coffee is smooth, and the taste is very crisp. The highlights dominate the flavor. It’s sharply sweet with a citrus punch that glides high over the warm roasted nutty flavor of the more umber coffee notes, like a masterful saxophone playing with an aggressive and jazzy base guitar.
This is not morning coffee. This is afternoon coffee, or early-evening-before-the-party coffee.
And, my friends, it is most definitely a very Groovy Brew.

Java Juice

This arrived unexpectedly in the mail. I remember contacting them back when I was writing a two part article called “The Triumphant Return of Instant Coffee?”
Months later, surprise! And a pleasant surprise it is.
I’ve always thought that packaging coffee extract in single serving packets would be a good idea. Especially if you’re backpacking or in some remote location where brewing a cup of coffee is difficult or a bad idea, it’s nice to know you can get something like this Java Juice to take along because … no matter what, coffee is an imperative. Even at the top of a mountain, or in a submarine. Or on the International Space Station.
The coffee must flow.

They sent me four flavors to try:

  • Original
  • French Vanilla
  • Black Gold
  • Swiss Water Decaf

A few minutes ago I opened one of the Original packets and dribbled the uber-black concentrate into 10 ounces of hot filtered water.
Right up front let me tell you it’s good. It has a strong flavor and tastes very fresh. That being said, the flavor of coffee is surprisingly delicate and easy to damage. I’ve tried several top of the line extracts over the years and none of them could be considered a replacement for regular coffee, mainly because of what I call “dilution tang.” Something about adding water to an already brewed suspension of coffee slightly damages the flavor. I mean, you get this even with regular coffee after you add an ice cube to it. So I’m not putting Java Juice down when I say the taste suffers from this dilution tang — it’s just a fact of life. I took a (albeit unnaturally strong) brew of coffee — the extract itself — and added water to it. What I ended up with is a very robust, fresh, flavorful cup of coffee with that tell-tale tang of dilution.
That being said, it tastes VASTLY better than ANY freeze-dried instant coffee, and much better than most pre-ground stale tinned coffees. The dilution tang can be masked by adding a sweetener, and the trade off is that you now have a good coffee that is completely portable. You don’t have to mix it with hot water — cold water works just fine, if you’re into drinking iced coffees — or you could add it to milk to make an instant cappuccino.
On the fly.
That is where Java Juice really shines. Out camping, hiking, fishing or hunting, anywhere away from home — it’s far better than horrid office or hotel coffee.
I’m now drinking the “Black Gold” and it, too, is very tasty and especially fresh. It’s rich, full bodied, and exceptionally smooth.
I hereby make it official. Java Juice is Groovy. Not to mention very portable.

Other coffee extracts I’ve reviewed: X Cafe & CoolBrew

Nine Month Recap

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve taken a break from reviewing. It involves a long business trip and catching a bug. While I’m home now, I’m still not well, and my sense of taste is thoroughly misaligned.
So instead I’m going to make some lists. I mean, why not? Lists are fun … and they might even be useful.
Going back over the last 9 months of reviews, these were my favorite coffees:

I heartily recommend every one of them. These are the crème de la crème, the coffees that have spoiled me rotten for most of this year.
Now that we’ve covered the best, let’s take a look at the worst…

Some of my readers may remember I had challenged a dozen leading coffee maker manufacturers to prove to me their machines could make a better cup of coffee than my little 49¢ cup top filter. These companies were:

  • Black & Decker
  • Braun
  • Bunn
  • Cuisinart
  • DeLonghi
  • Farberware
  • Hamilton Beach
  • KitchenAid
  • Krups
  • Mr. Coffee
  • Sunbeam
  • West Bend

Not a single one of them wanted to answer the challenge. None. Why? Because none wanted their machines to be showed up by a dime store piece of plastic. None of them wanted to admit it’s the coffee, not the coffee maker, that makes good coffee.
That being said, there is one amazing little device I did discover this year: The Java Wand. If there is one coffee maker that could make a better tasting cup of coffee that my little 49¢ wonder, it would be a coffee press. The Java Wand is a coffee press at the end of a straw. And, no, it does not burn your lips off. Check it out.
So my coffee loving friends, that’s my recap. After I get to feeling better, and can taste properly again, I’ve got several yummy looking coffees all lined up and ready to be reviewed.
Thanks for reading! And thanks for coming back!

Thou Shalt Not Twice-Brew Coffee

There’s a guy at work — let’s just call him Bob — yes, Bob is at it again — who likes his coffee strong.

“What’s wrong with that?” you ask. “Is not strong coffee a good thing?”

“Yes,” I reply, “but not the way Bob does it.”

Bob makes a pot of office coffee which, as usual, is far too weak. But instead of trying to remedy this sad situation by making a pot using more coffee, he takes the coffee he just made and…

I hope you’re ready for this. It’s quite shocking. It may make some of my more sensitive readers burst into tears.

Bob takes that pot of too-weak coffee, and he pours it back into the coffee maker to run it through again.

Through the same used grinds, even!

This is like trying to make a better car by forcing it through the factory line twice. This does not work. Instead of producing an improved twice-manufactured car, you end up with a gnarled piece of junk.

It’s the same with coffee. Bob has taken coffee which was bad to begin with, and in an attempt to make it better, has turned it into something utterly vile.

If you see Bob do this, immediately roll up a newspaper and smack him! It’s a sin against coffee!

Thou shalt not twice-brew coffee.

Thou Shalt Not Attempt to Reanimate Dead Coffee

There’s a guy at work — let’s just call him Bob — yes, Bob, the bastard is at it again — who has a frugal streak in him. While in most circumstances this is fine, as generally speaking less is more, but in this case it is not.
Most definitely not.
Bob is conscientious enough to brew a new pot when he discovers the coffee is gone. Points for Bob! However, Bob’s frugal nature tells him to not remove the old grinds from the coffee pot. No. Instead he adds a couple scoops of fresh grinds right on top of the old ones, and then makes the coffee with that.
Frugal conscientious Bob is attempting to reanimate dead coffee.
No, Bob! No! Bad! Bad Bob!
Thou shalt not attempt to reanimate dead coffee!

Is it truly his frugal nature which prompts him to commit this sin? Or laziness? Or just plain ignorance? Does Bob think that coffee tastes so awful anyway that doing this will make no difference? Or are all the taste buds in Bob’s mouth as dead as the coffee he’s trying to reanimate?
Regardless, what he’s doing is a sin against coffee — and the result is horrid, putrid zombie coffee from Hell.
If you see Bob do this, immediately roll up a newspaper and smack him.
Bob must be stopped!

Country Morning Coffee: Columbia

This is an actual scan of the package. Country Morning Coffee – Colombia Roast. It’s such a fresh, small batch roast that each bag is hand labeled with a Sharpie.
Right up front, let me tell you this: It’s wonderful! This is a light-hearted, lovingly roasted bean with a sparkling pure flavor, sprite and sweet, with just enough dark undertones to give it some depth. The aftertaste is pure magic. It’s the most consummate example I have had of a Colombia roast.
I could quite easily drink this coffee all day long, everyday, for 11 days straight.
The woman behind Country Morning Coffee is Elizabeth Wolf. From her website: “I roast my coffees in small 20 lb batches with a gas powered, drum coffee roaster. Small batch roasting and straightforward technology give me more control over the roasting process. Many variables, including the weather can affect how a batch of beans will roast. Small batch roasting allows me to give every roast the meticulous attention they require. After every batch is completed I taste it, guaranteeing our customers the delicious coffee they have come to love.”
Her company motto: “Fresh Coffee is Happy Coffee.”
All I can add to that is: Groovy!

Thou Shalt Not Steal The Heart Of The Coffee

You have a co-worker — let’s just call him Bob — he comes into the office early, and sees someone had just started a pot of coffee maybe two minutes before him. He stands there, waiting a few seconds, then thinks … I’m in a hurry.
Bob pulls the pot out from under the dribbling coffee stream, and fills his coffee cup from what there is in the pot, then puts the pot back under the stream. He walks away, whistling, with an extra strong cup of coffee to start his day.
Bob just stole the heart of the coffee. The rest of it is going to taste like crap.
Don’t do that, Bob! It’s a sin! You have sinned against coffee!
Bad, Bob! Bad! No no!
If you see Bob do this, roll up a newspaper and smack him.

Barres Brothers Sumatra Mandheling

It’s noon as I write this. A city disaster siren just went off outside my window, moaning a very loud message of doom. Thumping and crying out of my computer’s speakers is an old Pink Floyd song called Mudmen.
And I’m drinking my second large mug of Barres Brothers Sumatra Mandheling.
Life is so good. There are challenges and sorrows, sure. There are disappointments. Things more often than not go ways other than we’d like them to go.
But if you strive for excellence, you will receive it. Not always in big ways, but definitely in small ones. Like a really excellent cup of coffee that you can savor and let it flood your soul with energy and focus, bringing a sense of both peace and gratitude. Gratitude that you’re actually alive, aware, in this time and place. Right now. Right here.
Berres Brothers says of this coffee that it’s “Intensely powerful, joyfully rejuvenating. Indonesian beans create this strong, earth richness accented with”
With what? I don’t know. It cuts off right there. It must be a printing error.
I will personally vouch for it being “intensely powerful” as that is exactly what it is. This is a powerful coffee, not overbold like a dark roast, but powerful in its brown robustness, its winey notes mixed with earthy toasty beans. There’s a spike of acidity, so I wouldn’t drink this one all day long. A good mid-morning or lunchtime coffee, enough to give you that sharp kick that helps you over the hump of the day, making your afternoon enjoyable and lucid.
Berres Brothers does it again. This coffee is another in their long line of groovy brews.
Oh, and that disaster siren, it was a test, only a test.

Hello Boss Iced Coffee

Oh my God this is horrible.
It’s so horrible it’s like watching a disaster movie. You can’t tear your eyes away. It’s like watching a boulder crushing cars and houses.
I’m having problems controlling my gag reflex.  Seriously.  I can’t drink it.
Yes, it’s that vile.  That is my opinion.  That’s my review, short and sweet.
I cannot finish drinking it.  I’m throwing it away.
Avoid this swill. It’s not groovy, not at all.

California Coffee Roasters Espresso Blend

A quandary. How should I judge an espresso roast against other coffees? By making an espresso?
No. That’s apples to oranges.
So I brewed it up like any coffee, using my cup top filter maker. After all you can use just about any coffee you want in an espresso maker. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an espresso blend.
So that is what I did, and wow, it was good. Really good. California Coffee Roasters Espresso Blend is as smooth as it is aggressive, with a rich smoky taste edged with a touch of coco and hint of nutmeg. It makes a good strong cup of regular coffee.
I wanted to establish that up front, because the next thing I did with it was fire up my machine and made myself a cappuccino of hot frothy goodness.
And now I’m wired up like a house with 10,000 Christmas lights and ready to go take a really long fast walk around the neighborhood. Which is a good thing. I need the exercise.
I am zinging right now. Really. Zinging.
And this Espresso Roast? Rich, fresh, outstanding, and definitely a groovy brew.

Berres Brothers Highlander Grogg

Berres Brothers touts this flavored blend as “Indulgently sweet, richly enticing. Our top seller… an explosion of caramel, butterscotch and hazelnut.”

I’m going to have to come up with a new category on this website, and call it “Candy Coffee” because a lot of the brews I’ve sampled this month fall directly into that niche.

This one is no exception.

I have a sweet tooth. I freely admit that. It’s caused me some problems in the past, too, and I admit that as well.

But this coffee and a bit of non-sugar sweetener will quell any coffee lover’s sweet tooth for about one calorie per cup.

Let’s go through Berres Brothers claims for this coffee one by one:

  • Indulgently sweet? Yes.
  • Richly enticing? I’d say so, as long as you have a sweet tooth.
  • An explosion of caramel? Not quite an explosion but it’s undeniably present.
  • Butterscotch? Present.
  • Hazelnut? Accounted for.

I have no doubt that it’s one of their top sellers. As far as a flavored coffee goes, I’d say it makes it to my top three favorites. It’s smooth, with a creamy texture for the tongue, the flavors riding atop of (but overwhelming) a mild, probably Kona-based blend.

So to the above list I must add:

  • Groovy? Most definitely.


California Coffee Roasters Irish Cream

I think you might consider this is a biased review.
Up front, let me just say that I do not like Irish Cream flavored coffee. Irish Cream itself, yum, and some Irish Cream coffee creamers, yum, but as a flavored coffee, no. Yuck.
So I am not a good one to judge California Coffee Roasters Irish Cream. Just to say I don’t care for it means nothing, really, because it’s not the coffee itself, nor the quality of the roast, that I am putting down.
Some of you out there must love Irish Cream flavored coffee. This has to be a fact. Otherwise no one would make it, because no one would buy it.
To me, the Irish Cream flavoring masks the coffee taste with this unnatural pseudo-cream ick that hints of turned milk and cheap whiskey. But for those whose palates are fond of it, I will say that California Coffee Roasters’ version is strong in flavor, fresh, and very smooth.

Super Coffee Mix Blue Mountain Blend

Another one of the cans of coffee my daughters picked up for me at the Asian market, the actual full name of this is Super Coffee Mix (brand) Blue Mountain Blend Premium Super Gold Coffee.
Made in Malaysia.
Man, you know this has got to be wonderful stuff, just by reading the product title. Not only is it a super coffee mix, and not only have they used the term “blue mountain,” but they have proclaimed it Premium Super Gold Coffee.
They used “super” twice. It’s Super Super Coffee.
I can only thank God it’s a tiny little can. I know this is going to be awful.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t have antifreeze in it.
I pop the top. I take a sniff. It’s amazing.
Yes, amazing. Amazing how stale a tinned coffee can smell. It takes staleness to a new height. It must be super super premium goldenly stale.
I have to admit I’m a little frightened of drinking it. I hope you guys out there appreciate me putting my life on the line like this for your amusement. Here goes nothing.
Okay, I’m surprised, it wasn’t half bad. It was in fact just as good as Godiva’s bottled coffee (yuck) and it went down smooth enough. It was much better than Hello Boss Cappuccino.
But, one thing I really did not like about it, was finding a piece of rice in my mouth afterward.
I hope it was a piece of rice. I looked at it closely under a bright light, and it didn’t appear to be a bug.
Not groovy.

Berres Brothers Kona Blend

Jaded? Me? No way.

But I’m sorry, Kona coffee is boring. There’s not much going on with it. It’s not bad, it’s… well, it’s just not spectacular. And there are a lot of spectacular coffees out there.

But if you like Kona, then Berres Brothers is a good choice.

It’s smooth, has a delicate flavor, and the edge of boredom worn is off by mixing in some excellent Costa Rican beans. It features a lightweight coffee flavor that is far more laid back than aggressive, with low acidity and a slight nutty aftertaste that hints of pecan.

It’s pretty good. In fact, I would even say it’s groovy, though not as groovy as their other blends.

I think of coffee as a sort of intense, in your face type of drink. Kona, on the other hand, is a lot like the place it comes from. Hawaii is a lazy, balmy paradise, where the weather is eternally nice, and you can always count on a beautiful day to relax in the shade — in a hammock, no doubt, strung between two palm trees.

If that is what you want in a coffee, then Kona is for you.

California Coffee Roasters Costa Rican Tres Rios

I love coffee. Obviously. The fact is, I’m obsessed with it.
Even though I’m so obsessed with it, it’s rare that I taste one and, upon first sip, I’m startled and exclaim, “Oh my God, that’s good!”
This Costa Rican Tres Rios is one of those rare coffees. It is silky smooth, featuring a warm and embracing medium roast flavor, naturally sweet, with delicious berry and wood-smoke notes. It is so good that it makes my tongue happy.
I really shouldn’t be surprised, because looking back over this growing collection of reviews, I find there’s a pattern of enjoying Costa Rican beans. But the truth is, you can take the best beans in the world and ruin them by not knowing what you’re doing. They have to be roasted just right, they have to be delivered immediately, and they have to be enjoyed soon thereafter.
That is what small batch roasters are all about, and that’s why (according to Business Week) large coffee manufacturers are steadily losing market share to these much smaller gourmet coffee companies. It’s literally a case of “Wake up and smell the coffee!”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … once you’ve had truly fresh, lovingly roasted coffee produced by people passionate about what they do, you will NEVER GO BACK.
California Coffee Roasters is a family run business, and every employee — from bookkeeper to customer service rep — is taught to roast coffee, cup coffee, and how to select beans.
That, my friends, is passion for coffee.
I am so happy to have a whole selection of their coffees to try that I’m literally like a kid facing a pile of Christmas presents. This Costa Rican Tres Rios, which I pulled out at random, is just one of a number of incredible coffees they offer.
Check back later, because I’ll be featuring more of these coffees soon.

Berres Brothers Organic Peruvian Decaf

I know some of you would rather go without, than to drink decaf.

I don’t go without. I can’t. The coffee must flow.

There are good decaf coffees available if you look for them. They’re perfectly drinkable and they don’t keep you awake all night.

So, when you want coffee at 10:54 PM, you can have it.

Berres Brothers Organic Peruvian Decaf is one of these good decafs. I’m drinking it now, straight up black. It’s got a medium acidity, with hints of toasted nut, bittersweet chocolate, and a mellow finish.

The flavor stands up well even when cold, so it works as an iced coffee too. What I like to do at night is brew up a good decaf like this one, let it cool, add some sweetener and ice, and occasionally a flavored creamer.

In fact … I think that’s what I’ll go do right now.

California Coffee Roasters French Vanilla

I’m delving once again into the world of flavored coffees, and today I’m sampling California Coffee Roasters French Vanilla. Let me tell you, when these guys say “French Vanilla,” they mean it. When I opened the package the vanilla scent was so strong you could almost see it.

I brewed myself up a cup, drank it down so quickly that I didn’t even get a chance to take notes, and then brewed another one. This is quite an admission for me, but I’m starting to change my mind about flavored coffees. Once a big fan of them, they fell out of favor with me for a while, but now I’m learning to like them again.

You see, you can’t really put them in the same category as a pure coffee. This is more in realm of a desert, bordering on the neighborhood of cappuccinos and lattes. When you’re in the mood for a pure roast coffee, don’t reach for a flavored one. When you’re in the mood for something sweeter, shun a soda pop in favor of one of these.

As far as this brew goes, actually taking a sip, it’s the vanilla — not the coffee — that you taste. You have to let the vanilla fade before the coffee flavor comes to the fore.

I am a huge vanilla fan so this is not a problem to me. Especially if I’m in the mood for it. Which, lately, I have been.

The coffee underneath is very smooth and mellow, with a subdued gentle base that allows the flavoring to shine. There’s a warm toastiness, with slight winey notes. Nothing really outstanding about it, but that makes sense.

You don’t drink this for the coffee flavor. You drink it for the vanilla.

And that is what this blend delivers, in abundance.


Hello Boss Cappuccino

A long time ago, in a town far, far away, deep within the strange recesses of a damaged food warehouse, I discovered my first canned coffee drink.

It was “Hello Boss” coffee, a product of Taiwan. I had to buy it out of pure curiosity. I remember liking it more for the novelty than the taste.

Now you’ll find canned and bottled coffee everywhere, most of it pretty awfulbut occasionally excellent — and there is no novelty involved.

Still, deep within the recesses of an Asian market, my daughters found for me cans of coffee they’d never seen before. And, thus, Hello Boss coffee reentered my life.

Let’s not mince words, here. It’s awful. Hello Boss Cappuccino tastes of cold instant coffee left overnight, mixed with the cheapest powdered creamer available to man, and leaves you with a taste that warns of the coffee itself having dissolved part of the can it came in … and you just drank it.

Not groovy. Not in the least.

Café Brazil Holiday Blend

Candy is what immediately came to mind after my first sip.

Café Brazil’s Holiday Blend is a jumble of well mixed flavors, all of them good, and so swirled together it’s hard to sort them out. Mint is one of them, with maybe a pumpkin spice thrown in, as well as caramel or vanilla (or both). After that my ability to dissect them into their component parts fails me.

Especially considering it’s a flavored brew, the underlying coffee itself is excellent. It’s a good base to build the flavors on — it would be delicious even without them. Rich and bold without being aggressive, it’s smooth with sweet Kona-esq highlights.

I have to say this is perfect for a Christmas coffee, and it’s definitely a groovy brew.

Groovy Coffee Factoid #3

091707-0245-groovycoffe1.pngBefore coffee was coffee, it was a tea.
When first discovered, the ancient Ethiopians boiled the leaves and berries of the coffee plant to make a tea.
They also used the berries to make a wine.
It wasn’t until the 16th century that someone figured out how to make the infusion from the roasted beans that we know today as coffee.

California Coffee Roasters Caramel Nut

The wonderful folks at California Coffee Roasters provided me with a very wide range of samples, and today I picked one at random.

Caramel Nut. I like caramel, I like nuts, and I love coffee. This has potential. I’m going to go brew a cup of it now.

(time passes)

I’m back, coffee mug in hand. It smells like candy, which to me is not bad because I’m notorious for my sweet tooth. The taste … is flavored coffee. Well, yes. Of course. What did I expect, it to be magically not-flavored?

I’ll not judge a flavored coffee against non-flavored coffees, just like I wouldn’t compare a flavored malt beverage to a beer. They are two different animals. So…

This Caramel Nut is very good. The caramel taste rides high on the palate, surfing over the top of a smooth, well balanced coffee blend. As the taste fades, the last thing to bloom is a toasty harvest grain flavor, with maybe a hint of almond. So the coffee itself is sandwiched in a way, between caramel on one side and the nut on the other.

One thing I have noticed, is that if you are going to drink a flavored coffee, enjoy it while it’s hot. As it cools the flavor deteriorates rapidly, much faster than a non-flavored coffee. The sweetness breaks down and a unpleasant bitterness begins to bloom. That’s not just for this Caramel Nut. I’m making a broad, generalized sweeping comment covering flavors A-Z from any coffee roaster you’d care to name.

As for this one in particular, I’d have to say for a flavored coffee, it’s pretty darn groovy.

Groovy Coffee Factoid #2

091707-0245-groovycoffe1.pngGenerally speaking, the people who harvest the coffee beans in the various nations where it’s grown, make barely enough money with a day’s labor to buy one cup of coffee in the USA.
On the upside, though, they get all their coffee for free.  Now that’s what I call a perk!
(No pun intended.)

Great Value 100% Arabica

I didn’t go into this one automatically thinking it’s crap.
Wal-Mart’s “Great Value” generic products are usually high quality. Their bottled water is perfectly good, and their cereals, breads, and canned goods sometimes equal or surpass the name brands. So I thought, let’s give one of their coffees a shot. Who knows, I may be surprised.
So early this morning, before the kids were awake, I brewed a cup.
Notice it says 100% Arabica? That should count for something, right? They also had a French Roast that said it was 100% Arabica, but then they had a can of “100% Columbian” that stated nothing of the sort. Which means, of course, it’s not 100% Arabica. Which means it’s cut with Robusta beans.
Robusta beans are evil. EVIL.
So I take my first sip of Great Value 100% Arabica and taste … what?
Um. Oh my. Um.
Flashback to childhood. I’m a little kid, and the bad girl next door has taught me a new word. “Fart.” I remember playing with my dog Pepper, and he let off a stink bomb, and I exclaimed, “Pepper let a fart!”
My mom was for some reason quite upset at the word fart coming out of her little boy’s mouth, and proceeded to drag me into the bathroom where she washed my mouth out with a blue bar of Zest soap.
That’s what this coffee tastes like to me. Soap. And, no I checked, my cup was not contaminated nor was my Hotshot water boiler, nor was my little cup-top filter.
This coffee, which is not really that bad in any other way, has a distinctly soapy tang to it.
And that, my friends, is not groovy.

Café Valet Columbian Supremo

Let’s be honest. I’m coming into this with low expectations.

Here I am at a hotel again, facing another in-room coffee maker. This one is different though. It brews directly into a little 8 ounce Sweetheart Styrofoam cup using a disposable “Filter Pack and Brew Basket” that, to me, looks like a tea bag in a little plastic coffin.

The device itself is kind of neat. It’s designed to make a single small cup of coffee with no mess. In that one aspect, it works flawlessly.

The coffee is not that bad. Notice I’m not saying it’s good. It’s weak, but it doesn’t seem overly stale. There is a hint of a good coffee flavor, but ruined by a unpleasant bitter aftertaste that I suspect comes from some Robusta beans cut into the blend.

In other words, this is a last resort coffee source. Better than nothing, but not much.

Jalima H&A Coffee

This is a story of some very groovy coffee mojo.
It starts in Mexico, where Marcela celebrated a special birthday along with her recovery from a battle with breast cancer. She and her two good friends, Janet and Libe, were savoring some exceptionally good locally grown coffee, and a conversation came up which planted the seed of an idea. Months later the seed blossomed to a business: to promote and sell the little known and underappreciated organic Arabica beans grown in the high altitude cloud forests of Mexico.
Thus was born Jalima Coffee, the “Jalima” made up from Janet, Libe, and Marcela.
I’m drinking some right now, their H&A blend. The taste is fruity and naturally sweet, with an aggressive and complex flavor. There’s some wonderful wood-smoke notes, and an aftertaste akin to … well, you know when you have a really good breakfast, and you finish off that last piece of yummy bacon with a satisfying cup of coffee? That’s the aftertaste I’m getting, even without having had the bacon. It’s unique and interesting. I’ve never had anything like it.
I wish they’d sent more. I could drink it all day long.
There’s a lot of love in this coffee. You can taste it. These women have a passion for it and they give it loving care all the way through. It doesn’t just stop there, though.
Even if they don’t realize it, Jalima coffee practices the wonderful game theory economic model discovered by John Nash: Do what is good for yourself and everyone else. They give back, they share. They partner with organic farmers who are giving back to the land and the ecology. They donate a portion of their proceeds to a biosphere reserve and conservation fund in the areas they farm. They specifically employ handicapped workers in both Mexico and the US, helping them to acquire skills and become autonomous.
And they bring to us, the coffee drinkers of the world, an amazing coffee you can’t get anywhere else.
So it’s official. Jalima H&A has a lot of good karma and is most definitely a Groovy Brew.

GroovyBrew Coffee Maker Challenge!

To all coffee maker manufacturers out there, I put you on notice.

You are hereby officially challenged!

Prove to me that your coffee maker makes better coffee than my cheap little dollar store drip filter. Not “as good” but better.

The coffee must be made in my home, using my coffee and my bottled water. My contention is that you don’t have to pay high dollars to make excellent coffee, and that no drip maker at any price can make coffee that tastes better than this Zen little cup-top drip filter.

All challengers will be featured here on the site. Each will have its merits reviewed. The first manufacturer who proves me wrong will get free advertising for the life of this publication.

Those manufactures who turn down or ignore this challenge will also be listed.

Manufacturers Challenged So Far:

  • Black & Decker
  • Braun
  • Bunn
  • Cuisinart
  • DeLonghi
  • Farberware
  • Hamilton Beach
  • KitchenAid
  • Krups
  • Mr. Coffee
  • Sunbeam
  • West Bend

Berres Brothers Organic El Salvador

My love picked up this for me to review. “I know,” she said, “you’ll probably hate it.”

The outlook wasn’t good for two reasons. One, it was a pre-ground bag, and two, the bag reminded me of those horrid office and hotel coffees. Same size, same recommendation (good for 8 to 10 cups).

I knew nothing about Berres Brothers, except that the package read Organic. That doesn’t mean too much anymore. Marketing firms seem to be able to twist anything into an organic knot, and besides, just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s not going to be stale as tomb dirt.

One morning before work we brewed up a pot. I took my first sip out of a small cup that was black without any sweetener, just to give it a chance to impress me.

Shock me, is what it did. Surprise me. It was good!

Since then I’ve visited their website and inquired about their other coffees. I also learned why the packaging looked so much like the dreaded office coffee packets — that’s how Barres Brothers started out. The company originated as a vending service by their father, and when the sons took over they expanded their services to include coffee. Not someone else’s old moldy discount coffee, but their own, roasted by them in small batches and delivered to stores and offices around Watertown, Wisconsin.

Imagine that. Quality coffee from a corporate coffee service. A sign that there is good in this world.

In 1997 they dumped the vending service and concentrated on coffee roasting.

Their Organic El Salvador brews up rich and smooth, with a nice chocolate nut nuance and a fruity overtone. I can imagine drinking it in an office all day long, and being happy and productive. I can also imagine drinking it on a beach with my feet up, with the early morning fog still swirling around the shore.

Thanks go out to my love for picking this up for me. It’s a groovy brew to be sure!

Coffeemaria’s Maragogype Guatemala

Elephant Beans!
Excuse me. I seem to be developing Tourette symptoms. The phrase has been stuck in my mind ever since I began studying Maragogype coffee beans. Some call them “elephant” beans because of their unnatural size.
They looked a little bit bigger to me, but not enough to refer to them as—
Elephant Beans!

Excuse me again. But, you know, I think I’ve discovered a new swear word. Or phrase, rather. Drop something on your toe, accidently hit a tree, fall over backwards because there’s a spider on your arm … what do you scream?
Elephant Beans!

It feels like a good swear, but yet, it won’t offend the local church lady.
The taste won’t offend her, either. A delicate citrus tang highlights Coffeemaria‘s Maragogype Guatemala. It’s light bodied yet rich in flavor, mixing a light chocolaty touch with a winey base. Exceptionally smooth, it goes down easy.
This is an all day drinking coffee, and would work nicely as a dessert coffee as well. It’s over the top delicious and hereby officially designated a Groovy Brew.
Even if they are Elephant Beans.

Coffeemaria’s Antigua Guatemala

This, the second in a trilogy of reviews featuring beans from Coffeemaria, comes at you from the sleepiness of an early afternoon.
Does that ever happen to you, too? You have a busy morning, there’s a lot to do, you rush off and have lunch and come back to dive in, pick up where you left off, and after about an hour or so you … you start to … lose focus, mind starts drifting, eyelids get heavy. A yawn or three erupt spontaneously from a suddenly dopey face.
Is this all too familiar? Well, my friends, what you’re suffering from is a common malady called Mid-Afternoon Low Caffeine Syndrome, or MALCS. There is an easy cure: brew up some coffee.
Afternoon coffee.
Coffeemaria’s Antigua Guatemala is a perfect afternoon coffee. Sharp, tangy and medium bodied, this brew rides high on the palate, founded on a delicate wood-smoke flavor tinged with a daring spiciness. If you’re especially well equipped, it’s also tasty as a light espresso.
That’s right, my coffee loving friends. It’s a perfect cure for MALCS.
It cured mine! I’m now wide awake. And so, it’s time to get back to work.
By the way, this coffee gets my official designation of Groovy Brew.