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Apr 22, 2007 10:12 AM

where's the coffee?

I've been lamenting the lack of flavour in coffee that I buy from Starbucks and Pete's for a few years now. Where's the coffee flavour? I buy the biggest boldest I can find, and mainly get grassy coffee. Coffee Ice cream has more coffee flavour than anything I've bought in a long time. Is it me, my tastebuds have fled, or the fact that I use a french press? I'd appreciate any advice you Chowhounders might have.

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  1. Did you used to think that Starbucks' coffee was any good?

    The simplest explanation I can think of, is that the coffee sold by those two companies is not very good. Sure, we can thank Starbucks for introducing a formerly uncomprehending American population that coffee has more uses than moistening a cheap doughnut. Yes, the coffee that Starbucks sells is of higher quality than McDonald's, Texico's or perhaps your neighborhood greasy-spoon. However, Starbuck's coffee is far from top of the line.

    Sadly, I can't really recommend alternative brands, unless you live in the Seattle area, as (I know this whole sentance sounds unbelieveably snooty - sorry) in general, I only buy coffee that's roasted and sold locally.

    I'm sure you know of some non-franchise coffee shops in your area that sell coffee of higher quality than Starbucks. It's not untypical for those independent shops to sell the same beans that they serve. Ask them for some beans. Don't buy the hype. Starbucks is not the pinacle of coffee excellence.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Michael Juhasz

      i dont know...i think starbux coffee is actually quite good. their beans especially. their brew at the shop itself is very subject to who is brewing it, like anything. sometimes i get really stellar brews and other times its just that burnt sbux flavor. kind of lame. they have great quality beans i think tho. really. now, that being said, i pretty much think FAIRTRADE coffee and JIMS coffee have better roasted beans but...

      1. re: Michael Juhasz

        I agree with Michael Juhasz....find a local roastery, or at least a locally-owned coffee store that buys beans from a small, custom roaster. Also, remember that coffee beans lose flavor as they age, so look for beans that are just two weeks or so from roast. Try a varietal bean, rather than a blend. I'm no expert, but my husband and I owned a coffee shop a few years back, and my brother is one of those small, custom roasters. Good luck! There's nothing like a great cup of coffee!

        "Afraid of butter? Add more cream." -Julia Child

        1. re: cookingschool

          I will now go and research local roasters, thanks for the guidance!

        2. re: Michael Juhasz

          post at and prepare for a whole new life as a coffee connoissieur.

          1. re: John Manzo

            Thanks very much for the link, looking forward to reading and posting there.

        3. I think the biggest reason is that most Americans just don't make it strong enough. And related to that is that if you try to make it stronger while using inadequate equipment (perk or Mr Coffee, anyone?) it just gets nasty, not stronger/better flavored. After taking care of these two major problems, you can worry about how you grind the beans, where are you getting your water, paper or metal filter and on and on. But first, take care of the two biggest wrinkles. Just my opinion.

          1. If you like coffee ice cream, I'd almost bet that you'd benefit from a nicely done medium roast rather than a darker roast like the coffee places tend to serve. Three nice ones are Illy medium roast in a can, LaVazza medium roast in a can, and Dunkin Donuts house blend! Those all have that 'coffee' flavor that Starbucks and Pete's seem to me to lack. (I like Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf better, though if you've got something up in your neck of the woods that they used to have in Connecticut, called Coffee Tree, that's gorgeous.)

            After that, I'd seriously go to Folgers. There are way too many weird blends out there that are not what I'm looking for at all... all the things I mentioned are (to me) kind of right down the middle ''traditional, mellow, coffee-ish coffee."

            3 Replies
            1. re: Cinnamon

              It's really very simple. There is plenty of good coffee out there. With a little research you can find roasters in your area or close enough to order over the internet.

              However, unless you invest in a decent burr grinder you will never experience coffee nirvana. Once you get your grinder look around for a brewing device. You like drip? The Technivorm is one you should look at. You just make coffee for yourself? A simple Melitta pour over or the new and ingenious Aeropress work great. Espresso? Never mind, you've already gone to the darkside!

              Just remember, freshness is everything when you want good coffee. Without that a 25,000 dollar espresso machine ain't going to make good espresso.

              1. re: Cinnamon

                Those are also very helpful suggestions, it sounds like we have similar tastes, I don't really know the difference between medium and dark roast I think. I have had Illy espresso and it was very good.

                1. re: steinpilz

                  Illy espresso we love, but they make the medium roast for drip coffeemakers and that's more of a mellow morning pick-me-up. It's still a beautiful, fine coffee... also I think it helps that both Illy and LaVazza vacuum-pack (in a can with a pull tab) their beans or grounds. We used to be beans-only buyers (and here in L.A. preferred the higher-end supermarket Gelson's mocha java). After trying the Illy and LaVazza, we backed off buying beans only. The ground is so fresh (and we use a can awfully fast) that it ends up being better than our prior ground-fresh beans.

                  Illy has the medium-roast-for-drip in both a beans and a ground version. That gets a little pricey, so as a compromise (and not much of one) we buy LaVazza medium roast, which is ground only, in a red can at Cost Plus World Market.