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A reluctant admission, I don't hate Starbucks by Lou Pescarmona
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Ryan
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Joined: 15 May 2002
Posts: 2
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Espresso: Rancilio Silvia
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Posted Wed May 15, 2002, 3:53pm
Subject: Starbucks indirectly supports the "true" coffee industry.
 

No, Starbucks isn’t hardcore enough to please those for whom coffee is a lifestyle.  It is, however, the most visable representative of anything close to the real thing.  Everybody knows what a good steak is and where to get one.  But before Starbucks, few people knew what a good cup of coffee was; it wasn’t mainstream enough.

A lot of people start at Starbucks and stay with it, believing they’ve found perfection.  They’re hooked for life, and will continue their $3/day latte habit, believing with all their heart that Starbucks is the epitome of all things coffee.  But for a few, whose personalities perhaps tend to lead them to extremes, this is just a gateway into something that will have a great impact on their lives.  Their first experience is with Starbucks, but after a while they get the craving for “Starbucks quality” in a home machine.  

Once bitten by this bug, the novice runs out and buys a $60 Krups machine and a $20 grinder.  He makes a quick stop at Starbucks for a bag of beans, feeling very professional as he says “No, don’t grind them.  I’ll take care of that at home.”  He rushes home to make his first shot.  He fills the grinder with beans, and shakes it around while it’s grinding to make sure he gets an even grind.  He carefully pours the ground beans into the filter basket, slaps the portafilter into place and flips the switch.  Much to his surprise, the resulting shot looks and tastes nothing like Starbucks.  Where’s the brown foam?  Where’s the creamy texture?  This stuff is like a tablespoon of instant coffee dissolved in a shot glass full of water!  

Then he remembers seeing those fancy machines on sale at Starbucks, the ones he glanced at occasionally but was afraid to ask about.  It must be the machine!  He goes to www.starbucks.com, and his jaw drops when he sees the price.  Four hundred dollars for a coffee maker???  It’s totally incomprehensible.  I could buy 200 triple espressos at Starbucks for that amount, he thinks.  Add in the cost of beans, and that sucker won’t pay for itself in this lifetime!  But that’s the rational side of his mind thinking.  Over on the other side, a seed has been planted.  He wants one of those fancy machines.  Over the next few days, the seed gradually sprouts, and the idea of a $400 coffee maker doesn’t seem so ludicrous anymore.  But the rational side of his brain still exerts some influence.  If Starbucks is selling these things for $400, can they be obtained cheaper elsewhere?  Or, dare I even think this, could there, just maybe, be something better than Starbucks out there?  

At this point, the real research begins, and the floodgates open.  Five minutes into his search, ten screens are open; he's found coffeegeek.com, coffeekid.com, and a bunch of retailers.  There’s more to this thing than buying a machine, plugging it in and flipping a switch?  Many hours of reading later, he has orders placed for a Rancilio Silvia, a Rocky grinder, a roaster, 10 lbs. of beans and a slew of accessories.  That’s $800 revenue that the online retailers can thank Starbucks for.  It’s also a few more bucks that Rancilio can put into R&D.  So in a couple of years when they come out with the Rocky II, complete with lids that fit and a functioning doser, you can thank Starbucks too.
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MattComsa
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MattComsa
Joined: 19 Jan 2002
Posts: 12
Location: Meridian, ID
Expertise: Intermediate

Espresso: Starbucks Athena
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Posted Mon May 20, 2002, 4:38pm
Subject: In Agreement
 

I really enjoyed your article, it was very well written. I also agree with what you said in its entirety. I know that Starbucks does not provide the very best that can be purchased but they provided something that many of us had experienced in Europe when it was extremely difficult to find here years ago. Two friends of mine from Italy visited a few years ago and I took them to several espresso shops having them try a shot. Most they did not like and found to be bitter and burnt. The only one that they considered to be worth drinking and close to home was at the Starbucks in Sun Valley, Idaho. Maybe it was a good day or someone actually knew what they were doing, I don't know. But Starbucks got a thumbs up that day.
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jajajajava
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Joined: 15 Sep 2002
Posts: 2
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: Intermediate

Posted Sun Sep 15, 2002, 9:41am
Subject: Right On!
 

Thanks for your well-written articles, pleasant enough to offend those whose cerebral cortexes are forever caffeine-stained! And thanks to the Commenters who mentioned Peet's. Isn't it true that Peet's invented the signature taste that made the owners of Starbucks so rich? I was reluctant to post any mention of Peet's because I anticipate a barage of criticism of the way they over-roast their coffee. So with that I admit that I have drunk little else but Peet's Antigua Guatemala, drip brewed for God's sake, for over a dozen years--even taking 10 pounds at a time with me when I was living in an actual coffee producing country. After buying a burr grinder and spending countless hours tweeking the brew temp, nothing has convinced me of the error of my ways. I've done my simplest comparison test: buy two bags of coffee. Which is gone first? Peet's Antigua beats everything else. They have me hooked. Why do I drink coffee anyway? Am I worthy of living? Fire away.
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bobpaule
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bobpaule
Joined: 31 May 2002
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Location: Isolation, OH
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Espresso: Vetrano, Venus, Enrico...
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Posted Thu Jun 12, 2003, 4:30pm
Subject: Darn Good Article
 

You know you got me thinking. I too walked into "Harbucks" (S. Park haha) and marveled at the machines there. Since computer came around i take every new idea to the internet and that was how i learned on yahoo.shopping that there was more, and then one day started started staring wide eyed at the "loonies" on this site, then what do you know? Somehow i got infected too, and now roast my own and grind profi for my Millennium plumbed in.

Yeah, Starbuck has this eye-opener quality for me 2.

Bob
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break
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break
Joined: 7 Apr 2003
Posts: 72
Location: Cincinnati
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Posted Tue Jul 1, 2003, 8:13am
Subject: Thank Starbucks for some things
 

Enjnoyed the Starbucks article. Granted, the coffee is over-roasted, the technique may vary from place to place..........but, they began the business of focusing on a narrow product and getting the public to recognize its potential for quality and satisfaction. I think they've also taken coffee equipment retailing to another level. Their products perform well. Just bought a Barista ezpresso machine..gorgeous in copper. Works like a charm. Same for the burr grinder.

We have a seemingly natural tendency to dislike, resent, perhaps hate the company once it becomes large. Starbucks seems to take its knocks well. They remain undeterred.
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lobito17
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Posted Fri Nov 5, 2004, 8:21am
Subject: Re: A reluctant admission, I don't hate Starbucks by Lou Pescarmona
 

Excellent article.  Thanks for writing this.  I could have written the identical article.  Your path of discovery precisely echoed my own -- down to the 4 year period that it took our Barista, used twice daily like yours, to die.  

The Wall St. Journal did an article about 2 years back that showed that a Starbucks opening a location in an area with an independent coffee house tended to actually INCREASE business to that establishment rather than suck business away from it.  This was attributed precisely to the point that you are making in your article -- that by increasing awareness of coffee's potential, the overall market increases.  The rising sea lifts all boats, so to speak.

I, for one, am grateful to Starbucks.  They opened my eyes, even if I have long ago outgrown them.  And when you are stuck in an airport or a remote hamlet somewhere, it's at least passable.

Finally, for those of you professionals who bemoan people ordering "triple grande caramel double vanillas", I would urge you to take the opportunity to educate these flies who have landed in your web rather than deride them.  ("Sir, would you allow me to prepare for you a latte so exquisite that you will never again set foot in Starbucks, and here's why...")  Just a thought...
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Usagi
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Usagi
Joined: 1 Dec 2004
Posts: 9
Location: Portland, OR
Expertise: Professional

Posted Wed Dec 1, 2004, 8:46pm
Subject: Re: A reluctant admission, I don't hate Starbucks by Lou Pescarmona
 

Don't be reluctant...say it with pride!
Lets face it, there is no other company on earth that can put as much money, man-power, and research into whole-bean coffee as Starbucks.  I'm rather surprised actually to hear so many of you say that the coffee is over-roasted!  Lets look at it from a "money saving" point of view.  Anyone who knows anything about roasting can tell you that the longer you roast a bean the more oil will be released.  This causes the overall volume in the bean to decrease by nearly %28!  Why, then, would they chose to "burn" the batch?  
The Starbucks philosophy for roasting is NOT to burn the hell out of it.  The philosophy is the find the PERFECT roasting time for the particular crop.
As far as the freshness issue goes...its all about technology.  We all know that coffee has 3 enemies:
  1.  Air
  2.  Age
  3.  UV light
    Starbucks has pioneered a way to keep these enemies at bay with their Flavor Lock packaging system.  Next time you're in your neighborhood St. Arbucks, take a look at one of their 1lb bags of coffee.  You will notice that there is a small valve (right under the Siren).  This valve allows air to exit the bag but keeps it from coming in.  This allows roasted coffee to de-gas and gives it a much longer shelf life.  Does it still go bad after a time?  Of course, but that is why there is a sell by date next to the bar code.  

I know that I won't be able to convince all (or possibly any) of you that Starbucks really is the best coffee out there.  After all, its a lot of fun to hate the big guy.  
Remember though, Starbucks was once a little place in Seattle just trying to make a nice cup of coffee for us.  Today, they still want to make a nice cup of coffee for all of us.  They just have over 5000 US locations and over 40,000 people who are eager to do it.
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skisteve
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Joined: 22 Dec 2004
Posts: 1
Location: denver
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Wed Dec 22, 2004, 5:55pm
Subject: Re: Ah, Peet's...
 

yeah they SAVED them. lol. peets was in serious financial need when the founders of starbucks (who learned from peet himself how to roast in the first place-and bought their beans before they started roasting theeir own beans) bought him out in the 80s. when starbucks got bought by schultz the founders took peets with them when they left. the founders gave schultz $100k in seed money and became their first investor for the starbucks you know today. technically starbucks success paid for peets expansion in the form of starbucks stock.
not competing against each other was beneficial to their own stock portfolio. there is plenty of room in the country for both. schultzs sniffs peets jock in his book explaining it all. dave olsen rode his bike a thousand miles to berkley to buy his first machine and beans from alfred peet himself. peets has been around since the 50s in some capacity or another so when people act like they are the new guy around it makes me laugh. they have 20 years on starbucks. i also love the people who think going to peets is some hippie hedge against the mean machine. lol. puh lease.

p.s. i am looking forward to trying cafe novo's beans here in denver. thanks for the tip. just because starbucks was first here doesn't mean they are the best NOW. people make better mouse traps all the time. we could all do alot worse though, we did before.  i am glad they woke me up to real coffee. paris on the platte and st marks are the best cafes around here currently if you are in town sometime. too bad they are not near my house though. also too bad i never have time at home to make coffee before leaving every day. some of us are forced to still go to the empire during the week. there is no need to hate them, if you don't like them just don't go. if i don't like a radio station i turn the channel -to Sirius. think of starbucks as the AOL of coffee. once you know better you move on.
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skrein
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skrein
Joined: 21 Apr 2005
Posts: 1
Location: San Juan Island
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Apr 21, 2005, 9:38am
Subject: I don't hate Starbucks too!
 

Hello-
I was picking up breakfast one morning at the BP/BK combo place and was in a bit of a hurry, didn't think I had time to stop anywhere for a real cup of coffee, so I ordered a cup "to go" with my BK Croissant Breakfast Sandwich. The gal handed me an empty cup and I walked to the “It's Made Fresh” coffee machine, but no dice. The gal hollered for the manager and he came out to “brew” up a fresh batch. He opened up the machine, removed a stained thick plastic bag, inserted a new plastic bag (the tar stain had not yet took) and closed up the machine announcing, “There you go! Fresh brewed coffee!” I drove through Starbucks. Not a perfect cup (of COURSE it’s burned) but better than “Bag-O-Mud”.
Thanks for your columns. They’re GREAT!
-Steve
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abraxas
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abraxas
Joined: 28 Mar 2005
Posts: 31
Location: Bend, Oregon
Expertise: I love coffee

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Posted Thu Apr 21, 2005, 11:10am
Subject: Re: I don't hate Starbucks too!
 

sorry, I can't resist quoting:

"The Verismo is just simply a superior machine."

:-)

I wonder what happens when someone asks for a ristretto at these bucks locations?
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