There are two major varieties of coffee beans: arabica and robusta. Robusta coffees are easier and cheaper to grow, but they taste harsher and more bitter. Arabica coffees, from Mocha, to Java, to a dozen other varieties of more costly “gourmet” beans, have a range of subtle and rich flavors. However, there is more to coffee’s taste than the type of bean used. The way the coffee is roasted ultimately determines how it will taste to the drinker.
Coffee is generally either medium roasted, dark roasted, or burned. (“Light roast” properly refers to a special German and Viennese roast that has little currency.) When coffee beans are medium roasted, the full range of their abundant and satisfying flavors is brought out. When coffee beans are dark roasted, they lose much of their subtle flavor but attain a deep richness that some enjoy, for example, in espresso. When coffee beans are burned, their refined flavor is destroyed. What remains is bitter and unpleasant.
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Most fine coffee beans should be medium roasted. Junk beans are often burned, because, once you burn the beans, you can no longer tell what sort of quality they might have had if they had been properly roasted. The fact is, all burned beans taste the same: burned and bitter. Starbucks coffee is burned and bitter. You can tell when beans are burned because they take on a black color. We can only assume that Starbucks starts with the worst possible beans. After all, burning better beans is just a waste of money. Unfortunately, through the vagaries of marketing, not only has Starbucks become virtually omnipresent, but nearly every other coffee roaster has jumped on the burned bean band wagon. That is why, when you visit a shop selling a variety of whole coffee beans, most, if not all, of the beans have been burned black as hell.
In the ultimate coffee smackdown, it was yuppie Starbucks vs. Ronald McDonald and the Dunkin’ Kid. And the clown and the kid won!
Consumer Reports magazine said that in a test conducted at two locations of each emporium, its tasters found McDonald’s coffee to be “decent and moderately strong” with “no flaws.” On the other hand, the Starbucks brew “was strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open.” The March, 2007 issue of the magazine, advises, “Try McDonald’s, which was cheapest and best.” Several other more recent blind taste tests have consistently rated Dunkin’ Donuts and MacDonald’s as the best tasting and Starbucks as the worst tasting coffee sampled.
So, if you want to find decent arabica coffee that is properly roasted and that therefore boasts subtle and satisfying flavor, you should shun Starbucks and try Dunkin’ Donuts and MacDonald’s. And, by the way, blind taste tests, for example, those conducted by Consumer Reports, consistently rate Dunkin’ Donuts and MacDonald’s as the best tasting and Starbucks as the worst tasting coffee sampled.
To see the valiant efforts of coffee lovers to debunk the myth of Starbucks Coffee, check out The Great Starbucks Coffee Mystery -The Starbucks Free Speech Campaign, a web site in which people who love good coffee explain and discuss the inferiority of the Starbucks product.
In case anybody needs any more proof that Starbucks uses cheap junk robusta beans, you can be sure just because their coffee has twice the caffeine of McDonald’s. The CSPI study showed that Starbucks coffee has 20mg of caffeine per ounce, compared with McDonald’s that has only 8mg per ounce! See http://www.foodbeast.com/news/coffee-visuals/