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Coffee too Strong?


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#1 SG-

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 12:05 AM

I've been drinking coffee recently from Peets and Starbucks and find that the coffee they serve seems to be brewed super strong.

Is it me or does anyone else find this to be the case? Is this a conspiracy by the coffee chains to get their customer addicted? :hmmm:

#2 Patrick S

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 07:12 AM

That's definitely true for Starbuck's. They use a much higher bean-to-water ratio than I prefer.
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#3 gingerfreak

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 07:24 AM

Starbucks is absolutely stronger than anyone else I've found, and yes, I am an addict :biggrin: .

But then I like my coffee industrial strength...

So which came first - the conspiracy for addiction or the addiction which feeds the conspiracy? :wink:
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#4 jackal10

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 07:52 AM

All the Starbucks I've tried is weak as gnats' pee

#5 TPO

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 08:38 AM

From what I've read, a small coffee at Starbuck's contains about 250 mg caffeine, while home-brewed coffee is more like 110 and Dunkin' Donuts is around 140.
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#6 Hector

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 08:39 AM

" what was worse over there, was their weak tasting coffee, it tasted like nothing, just brownish warm water... not very fun"

That's the most ussual complain over here from Swedish people who has recently visited USA. :laugh:

Edited by Hector, 13 December 2005 - 08:39 AM.


#7 Beanie

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 10:17 AM

I love strong coffee but hate Starbucks. I've heard they buy cheap beans and overroast them to achieve the flavor profile. IMO, many consumers have been brainwashed into thinking that burnt coffee is good coffee. But, hey. with a SB on every corner, they're obviously doing something right. :hmmm:
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#8 eje

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 10:37 AM

Peet's has always been known for having very strong coffee.

It seems like high caffeine content is something they look for in the beans they use. Even if you buy the beans and take them home, they seem to have more of a "jitter factor" than a similar amount of almost any other brand's beans.

Interestingly, one of the founders of Starbucks started out in the coffee industry as a Peet's employee. I also believe, Alfred Peet helped the Starbucks folks get started in the business, even supplying them with beans while they were ramping up their operations.
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#9 Beanie

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 10:43 AM

" what was worse over there, was their weak tasting coffee, it tasted like nothing, just brownish warm water... not very fun"

That's the most ussual complain over here from Swedish people who has recently visited USA.  :laugh:

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IMO, most coffee shops, diners and restaurants in America serve weak coffee. It's like they've been buying coffee from Sysco for the past 30 years and didn't notice there's been a coffee revolution. Whenever I return to NYC I am astonished at the weak coffee served in almost every corner store--the same weak coffee that they served years ago when I lived there. I just don't understand it. In my little country store in rural upstate New York, I get great coffee from my supplier and there are many, many choices available at different price points. Jeez, even McDonald's now serves organic, fair trade coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and it is excellent. It's either weak crap at the corner store, burnt coffee at Starbucks, or a trip to McDonalds. :angry: Sorry for the rant, but this has really been a pet peeve of mine for a long time.
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#10 eje

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 10:55 AM

Oh, yeah, a proper cup of drip coffee is made with 2 Tablespoons of ground beans per 6 oz cup. Dilute with hot water, if you need.

The coffee at Peet's isn't made strong, the coffee in the rest of America is weak, weak, weak. I think my mom uses 1 or 2 Tablespoon per 10 cup pot. Brown water. So sad.
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#11 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 11:11 AM

All the Starbucks I've tried is weak as gnats' pee

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Well, that begs the question-

All things considered, which do you prefer?
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#12 lostmyshape

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 12:13 PM

Oh, yeah, a proper cup of drip coffee is made with 2 Tablespoons of ground beans per 6 oz cup.  Dilute with hot water, if you need.

The coffee at Peet's isn't made strong, the coffee in the rest of America is weak, weak, weak.  I think my mom uses 1 or 2 Tablespoon per 10 cup pot.  Brown water.  So sad.

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amen to that, brother. i really think starbucks gets it right as far as strength. i've read all of their philosophy about brewing coffee and i totally agree. where i think they get it wrong is their beans. totally over-roasted. part of your objection might be the taste of really darkly roasted beans.

if you can, find a local roaster and try their lightly roasted beans (even starbucks' light roasts are awfully roasty). brewed to correct strength (see above), this coffee won't taste nearly as "strong" and flavors you never knew were in coffee will jump out.

as far as caffeine... from what i've read, with quality beans and the correct brewing ratio, you'll get content more in line with starbucks (200-250 mg) even brewing at home.

#13 JohnL

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 01:38 PM

Starbucks uses a pretty dark roast IMOP.
Full city?
I have found their coffee a bit on the 'strong" side.
also my understanding is the darker the roast the less distinctive or
subtle the flavor notes.

#14 phaelon56

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 03:38 PM

Starbucks uses a pretty dark roast IMOP.
Full city?
I have found their coffee a bit on the 'strong" side.
also my understanding is the darker the roast the less distinctive or
subtle the flavor notes.

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Thus the beauty (for them) of their "signature" roasting style. They can buy lower grade beans (still arabica and yes they are varietals but lower grade in general) and makes any lack of unique flavor notes by dominating the flavor with the smoky undertones of overly dark beans. It also means that their blends and varietals, unlike those of true specialty roasters, will tend to have a consistent flavor profile from year to year.

This is not what one should expect from an agricultrual product of this sort. After all - do cabernet grapes from a particular region taste exactly the same from year to year?

It's okay with me - more growth opportunities exist for good specialty roasters. My gripe is with their expansion model and how the economics works against independent operators but that's fodder for a different thread.

And "Beani" - welcome to the Coffee & Tea forum - whereabouts are you in the Mohawk Valley that you can get such a good selection of beans in your neighborhood store? Syracuse should be so lucky. But then again - I'll take a bag of "Eight O'Clock" coffee over most any Starbucks beans any day of the week.

#15 Beanie

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 08:46 PM

And "Beani" - welcome to the Coffee & Tea forum - whereabouts are you in the Mohawk Valley that you can get such a good selection of beans in your neighborhood store?  Syracuse should be so lucky. But then again - I'll take a bag of "Eight O'Clock" coffee over most any Starbucks beans any day of the week.

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Thanks for the welcome. I am located about 35 miles west of Albany in a township called "Glen." It's in Montgomery County, Exit 28 of the Thruway, about 3 miles south of Fultonville. I can get good coffee from the neighborhood store because I own it. :biggrin: Seriously, I own a country store with a small cafe and take pride in serving good coffee in a rural, agricultural area where you might not expect to find it. Customers appreciate good coffee even if they are not familiar with different varieties or roasts.

I carry only a few varieties of beans in the shop because demand just doesn't warrant a larger selection. But I can fill special orders through a specialty roaster. I am surprised to hear that Syracuse doesn't have a good selection.
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#16 phaelon56

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 08:00 AM

Ahhh... Fultonville. I'm always stil looking for that semi trailer on top of the structure just off the Thrueway and keep forgetting that they had to take it down :sad: - it was sort of a benchmark for me as a distance marker when I was traveling home on Rte 90 from points east.


Yes - peopel everywhere really do seem to appreciate good quality coffee and really recognize it when they taste it - even when they're not real coffee aficionado's. All the big grocery stores around Syracuse like Wegman's carry multiple varietals but most of it is pre-bagged and the freshness (i.e. recent roast dates) of all of it, even the bulk stuff, is suspect to me. There are a few local independent roasters. I do the roasting for one of them but we're the only folks locally who seem to focus on a lighter roasting style that emphasizes the optimal flavor of the bean rather than dark roasting.

#17 Moopheus

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 08:50 AM

From what I've read, a small coffee at Starbuck's contains about 250 mg caffeine, while home-brewed coffee is more like 110 and Dunkin' Donuts is around 140.

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Those numbers refer to different cup sizes; Starbuck's "tall" is 12 oz., and the caffeine figures for the home brew are for a "standard" 6 or 7 oz. serving. A DD small is 10 oz. And caffeine content in coffee is variable, depending on roast and variety, so it doesn't seem like anything really abnormal is going on there. If anything, the number for DD seems lower than it should be.
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#18 scubadoo97

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 01:02 PM

Agreed, Starbucks just over roasts their beans. What you think is strong is burnt

#19 Megan Blocker

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 01:30 PM

Exactly - strong is delicious (at least to me), but Starbucks is just...burnt. It may be strong as well, but the thing I don't like about it is the scorched taste, not the coffee flavor or the caffeine content. They purposely over-roast their beans - it's their "thing," and plenty of people like it. Just not this one! :wink:
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#20 phaelon56

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 01:58 PM

Agreed, Starbucks just over roasts their beans.  What you think is strong is burnt

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Not just burnt - too strong. Consumer Reports Magazine assessed and tested a number of the major coffee chains last year or the year before - including Peet's, Caribou, Dunkin Donuts and others.

Starbucks had a significantly higher percentage of caffeine per fluid ounce of drip coffee and came in at 250 milligrams per 8 oz cup. Most home brewed Arabica coffee comes in at 135 to 175 per 8 oz cup with the average chain coming in towards the higher end. Home brewed Robusta coffee (i.e. all the major "big four" brands including Maxwell House and Folger's) would tend towards the higher end because Robusta beans have more caffeine than Arabica.

I think many Dunkin Donuts (perhaps all?) have coffee that tastes (to me) a bit on the weak side because they don't use enough grounds per ounce of water. I was never a fan of their blend but have tried it many times over the past 20 - 25 years and find it to be far less robust and full bodied than it used to be.

IIRC Consumer Reports indicated that Starbucks publicly admits using a coffee to water ratio that has more coffee per ounce of water than the SCAA recommended levels or what other chains use. I've had their coffee brewed in people's homes when made with the standard two tbsp per 5 - 6 oz of water. It's still not a roasting style I care for but I assure you it tasted far better than it does in their shops.

Interesting fact is the figure for Starbucks espresso: 70 milligrams per 2 oz double shot. The SCAA notes the average for a double shot as about 100 milligrams. Why less for Starbucks? I think the use of super-auto machines (typically slightly less weight of beans used per shot than manual machines) is one factor and reduced pull time is the other.

Their "efficiency experts" have determined that a shorter pull time per shot saves time and therefore money. By reducing shot time to around 18 - 20 seconds (I believe that's about the duration they use) they save a few seconds off every transaction. Yet years and years of diligent research by Dr. Illy and countless others in the field have repeatedly found 23 - 28 seconds (most folks settle for around 25 - 26) to deliver optimal quality when all other things are equal.

But I keep forgetting - that was an efficiency expert they hired - not a quality expert :laugh: :rolleyes:

#21 phaelon56

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 11:24 AM

Well... well... well.... look what I just stumbled across...

a recent post in this forum

The mystery of the elusive "short" cappuccino

took me to an article at Slate magazine that referenced one of their previous pieces

Starbucks vs. Its Addicts

that had this to say

The Wall Street Journal earlier this year sent samples of coffee from Starbucks, 7-Eleven, and Dunkin' Donuts to Central Analytical Laboratories. The lab reported that a 16-ounce Starbucks house blend coffee contained 223 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 174 and 141 milligrams in comparable amounts of Dunkin' Donuts and 7-Eleven coffee, respectively. According to the Journal, the average Starbucks coffee drink contains 320 milligrams of caffeine.



#22 eje

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 11:41 AM

Starbucks vs. Its Addicts

that had this to say

The Wall Street Journal earlier this year sent samples of coffee from Starbucks, 7-Eleven, and Dunkin' Donuts to Central Analytical Laboratories. The lab reported that a 16-ounce Starbucks house blend coffee contained 223 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 174 and 141 milligrams in comparable amounts of Dunkin' Donuts and 7-Eleven coffee, respectively. According to the Journal, the average Starbucks coffee drink contains 320 milligrams of caffeine.

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223 milligrams per 16 oz is quite a bit different from the "250 milligrams per 8 oz cup" that consumer reports came up with, and certainly not at all unreasonable.

Very large portion, though.
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#23 lostmyshape

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 11:45 AM

aha! that's the article i was trying to quote (and got wrong), yet was too lazy to look up. good job, owen!

anyway, caffeine aside, i think the big taste issue has to do more with how starbucks roasts its coffee than brew times. being a big chain, i'm sure that caribou coffee's brewing practices are comparible to starbuck's, but i rarely think that caribou's coffee suffers from the same "over-doneness." i almost always get a mild, flavorful and spicy cup of coffee there. no starbucks-like charred-ness.

#24 lostmyshape

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 11:48 AM

223 milligrams per 16 oz is quite a bit different from the "250 milligrams per 8 oz cup" that consumer reports came up with, and certainly not at all unreasonable.

Very large portion, though.

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no doubt, but the point is that starbucks brewing practices result in a more caffinated beverage.

i certainly can tell the difference. my wife calls it the starbuck's jitters. although i'm sure that it doesn't help that i often get that "very large portion."

#25 SL28ave

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 04:25 AM

"Strength" should be approached from multiple angles; especially by people who really want to understand coffee.

Ask yourself: What's strong? Strong sweetness? Strong astringency? Pungent "leather"? Strong bitterness? Acidity? Too high richness?

Should strength be the "be all"? Or should strength be a tertiary factor in, but not exclusive to quality? I prefer the latter.

I'm drinking a very "light" roasted Colombian micro-lot right now. I drip brewed it to a translucent amber color. Many would describe it as "weak", especially if it's their first time trying this style of coffee. But if I were to increase the "strength" of this coffee, it would somewhat "close" and become harsh, like bitter resinous hops. Every coffee has a strength limit. But at this "amber" strength this is one of the best coffees I've ever had, with a ripe richness, soft acidity, cranberry and pomegranate flavors, smoothness, and persistence.

Also, I'd someday like to hear less people state that their cups of coffee are merely "strong cups", and "caffeine kicks"? There's more to coffee than that.

Edited by SL28ave, 10 January 2006 - 04:28 AM.


#26 Becca Porter

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 06:07 AM

I am so glad to find I am doing it right. I have a 2 tablespoon coffee scoop. I usually make 12 oz. at a time, with 2 heaping 2 T scoops. Delicious.

Has anyone tried Costco in-store roasted coffee? I have ordered from the best named roasters across the country and none compete.

Its just so fresh. Their house blend is amazing.

I prefer darker roasts, but even for me Starbucks is overroasted.
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#27 lostmyshape

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 02:33 PM

"Strength" should be approached from multiple angles; especially by people who really want to understand coffee...

Also, I'd someday like to hear less people state that their cups of coffee are merely "strong cups", and "caffeine kicks"? There's more to coffee than that.

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ahh... too right, SL28ave. perhaps we should have asked the original poster what was it that made them feel the coffee was "too strong."

SG-? still out there?

#28 Jukim

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 11:07 AM

Just interesting fact:

Whether Starbucks coffee is strong or not, the brand has been going strong even in Korea.

Last year when I visited Korea, I was surprised by numerous Starbucks chains all over Seoul. It took over most of traditional coffee shops there already. Many Koreans used to drink coffee like tea (i.e., make very light coffee so that you can see the bottom of the cup and add no sugar/milk) or make coffee with ample sugar and cream. Now, Koreans consider Starbucks coffee as A rate coffee. Power of marketing can change people's taste...