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real coffee flavour

steinpilz May 28, 2008 07:01 PM

I've been fretting about Starbucks' and Pete's coffees for years now, where is that coffee flavour that I can so readily find in coffee ice cream? I've learned that sugar and cream do help in this regard but I've still been uniformly dissatisfied with the coffees that I buy at Starbucks/Pete's (I've also come to buy Dunkin' Donuts beans in an incrimental effort as I just don't like super-dark roast coffees).

But why is it that I can go to the Au Bon Pain at South Station and get more coffeee flavour in their latte than I get when fresh-grinding my Dunkin' or Petes' beans?! !


  1. Food4Thought May 28, 2008 07:59 PM

    My theory is that most large outlets over-roast their coffee and burn off a good portion of the essential oils. I used to manage a district in Seattle and locally that large chain was referred to as "Charbucks"

    But to keep it local, my answer would be Polcari's in the North End. They have a variety of whole beans and I ask for a blend of beans. The one I'm stuck on lately is a 60/40 mix of Columbian (relatively light roast) and Italian Espresso.

    Certainly your tastes may vary so experiment until you find your ideal coffee flavor. I have always found their beans to be fresh, they do seem to have high turnover of inventory and it's pretty well priced at about 7 dollars a pound.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Food4Thought
      steinpilz May 29, 2008 06:19 PM

      Thanks for the suggestion Food4Thought, sounds like a nice weekend excursion.

    2. StriperGuy May 29, 2008 12:12 AM

      You could be an obsessive maniac like me and roast your own. Pete's and Starbucks do significantly OVER roast their beans. Charbucks precisely. Any serious coffee drinker does not do dark roast.

      The technical term for the optimal roast, without all of the essential flavors burnt off is "City Roast" or "Dark City Roast."

      Way pricey, but local and supremely good coffee can be had here:


      George Howell was the founder of the local Boston chain Coffee Connection he eventually sold to Starbuck's.

      To buy green beans, Polcari's has some decent green columbian beans. I roast 'em cowboy style in a cast iron skillet and quite like the fact that that some of the beans turn out darker, and some a little lighter.

      For some very good info (and way pricey beans) on home roasting:


      For very reasonable prices on superb coffee where you can specify the roast:


      Only catch is you have to buy at least 5 pounds. I think they would also sell green beans if you asked.


      2 Replies
      1. re: StriperGuy
        steinpilz May 29, 2008 06:23 PM

        Very Chowish StriperGuy, roasting your own coffee! I've got one of those iron skillets and this might make for a great, and aromatic, summer project. Thanks very much for the links, esp about home roasting. Do green beans stay fresh at room temperature, should I freeze them if I buy 5lbs?

        1. re: steinpilz
          StriperGuy May 30, 2008 06:55 AM

          The nice thing about green beans is they stay fresh pretty much indefinitely at room temp! Or nearly so. It is only once they are roasted that coffee loses it's flavor over a few weeks.

          People do by all these fancy coffee roasters, but really unnecessary. I love doing it in a cast iron skillet. Takes 20 minutes tops.

          The key piece is that at the end the beans go from perfect roast, to over-roasted pretty quickly. I have learned to take them off a smidge sooner then you would think, because they really do continue to roast once you have taken them off the fire.

          Once you are done, you want to cool them FAST to stop the roast. I go outside and pour them back and forth between an aluminum colander and a big pot. Both of which do a good job of dissipating heat. Added advantage if it is windy is that all the chaff (outer husk of beans which loosens during roasting) can blow away.

          One other tip, this WILL smoke up your kitchen. I set up a box fan in the window blowing out to get the smoke out.

          You won't believe how good the freshly roasted then ground coffee smells and tastes. Also, took a look, Sweet Marias prices are not that bad.

          These guys also have a good selection and better prices:


      2. l
        lycheefloat May 29, 2008 06:47 PM

        The terroir coffee at Crema in Harvard square is very flavorful. Also try vietnamese coffee. When you order it at vietnamese restaurants it's made with condensed milk, so it's usually pretty sweet, but there usually is a lot of complex coffee flavour

        1 Reply
        1. re: lycheefloat
          steinpilz May 29, 2008 07:05 PM

          I like Thai coffee, I'll definitely have to try Vietnamese now. And Crema also.

        2. s
          Scruffy The Cat May 29, 2008 06:50 PM

          Try a bit of coffee syrup (like Autocrat).

          As for coffee-tasting coffee, I have been quite happy with light roast beans from WF as long as they've been roasted that day or the day before. Beware of the tags on the bins that say "Filled on such and such date"-- that means they just poured in a bag of vacuum packed coffee, which will never taste as fresh as freshly roasted. The good stickers say "roasted on" and then the date. Their Guatemalan and Mexican coffees are quite good.
          Then again, we have commercial brewing equipment at home, which gets the most out of the beans.

          We haven't tried roasting our own, though-- would it be cheaper? The WF beans are not a bargain.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Scruffy The Cat
            steinpilz May 29, 2008 07:03 PM

            Could you say more about the "commercial brewing equipment?" What is this and why did you decide to get it? Thanks for the tips for WF, I like their aromatic fresh roasted coffees at the River Street store.

            1. re: steinpilz
              Scruffy The Cat May 29, 2008 08:02 PM

              It's just a full Bunn setup just like they have in coffee places. We ordered it off the 'net years ago because we were sick of our home coffee not tasting as good as the (good) coffee shops. It was $ well spent, imho. But beyond that, you have to have impeccably fresh beans. When we lived in RI, I'd just go straight to the commercial roaster (Mills Coffee) and pick up whatever had been roasted that day.

              I'd be very interested in trying green beans IF roasting them myself saved me some dough. A coffee habit is very spendy.

              As for my coffee syrup comment-- I just meant in regards to what you said about coffee ice cream. I would guess coffee ice cream is made with coffee syrup.

              1. re: Scruffy The Cat
                steinpilz May 29, 2008 08:38 PM

                But I had some quite flavourful latte at that very annoying South Station Au Bon Pain... I don't think that they used coffee syrup, there's some other factor here that's denying me my tasty coffee!

                The comments on this thread do give me hope though,,,,,,,

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