Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Most Important Drink of Your Day

excerpt from Oliver Strand's top ten espresso places
published by GQ.

You like coffee. It makes you feel happy in the morning; it isn't illegal. And your relationship with it has evolved since the days when burnt library drip got you through finals. You're a macchiato man now. A devotee of the 4 p.m. barista-made espresso. You're practically Italian in your coffee-drinking habits. So why, every morning, do you pay $4.79 for a watery latte that was lovelessly made on a push-button machine that could be safely operated by a 4-year-old? One probably brewed with beans that were put through a grinder weeks ago? In case you haven't heard, we're living in a Golden Age of Coffee. (Note: Please don't actually go around calling it that.) Thanks to a new generation of purveyors bent on returning craft and artistry to the beverage—like Ninth Street Espresso in New York (the espresso comes only in triple-shot form) and Stumptown in Portland, Oregon (thirty-five different brews; Prouvé chairs in which to enjoy it)—there's now a wealth of coffee in America so rich and flavorful it'll remind you why you originally fell in love with the stuff. Here are the ten best places to get your daily fix.

Oliver Strand explores his choice of the ten best places for espresso in this great article originally published by GQ on October 19, 2009. Citizen Bean subscribers will recognize most of these great roasters.

For the entire article on GQ we encourage you to visit

Friday, August 28, 2009

Not the coffee?

An internal memo from Starbucks about another new unbranded ("stealth" location) surfaced on the internet last night. It is very sad and quite revealing. Their assessment of themselves - a bit weak. We give them a lot of credit for elevating the awareness of specialty coffee. It is a shame they don't see the forest through the trees.

Rubinfeld’s memo follows (in its entirety):
To: All Starbucks Partners
Date: Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Re: Message from Arthur Rubinfeld - Global Store Design Update
Dear Partners,

With the recent announcement of our new global design strategy and the unveiling of our innovative concepts in Seattle and Paris, we’re off to a strong start in transforming the Starbucks store experience. We’re looking forward to building and renovating stores around the world with an amplified focus on coffee heritage, local relevance and sustainability.

In the process, we’re looking to sharpen our focus, challenge our own assumptions and stimulate new ideas — while staying true to Starbucks mission and core values.

The level of energy generated by our 1st Avenue & Pike Street, University Village (both in Seattle) and Paris Disney Village stores has been tremendously exciting. And the global attention and buzz surrounding the opening of 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea in Seattle is truly a reflection of Starbucks iconic cultural significance. It’s also a reminder that we need to be very clear with our intentions.

As part of our plan to further expand upon these new design concepts, we are pleased to announce our next location in Seattle. A new coffeehouse, in the mercantile style of 15th Avenue, will open this fall at 700 Broadway East (in the Capitol Hill neighborhood) and be called “Roy Street Coffee & Tea.”

As you can tell, the naming of these mercantile coffeehouses is based on their respective street or neighborhood name. We openly place a byline — “Inspired by Starbucks” — on the front door and in various interior locations to honor our rich heritage.

By introducing fresh design ideas that celebrate local materials and incorporate reused and recycled elements, we’re bringing a new layer of creativity and design innovation to our business. As customers visit our stores, we hope they’ll feel a deeper connection to coffee, an enhanced sense of community and a greater level of commitment to environmental consciousness. In short, we hope they’ll be inspired.

I’d like to share a video posted on that highlights the collaboration between our design team and local artists and craftsmen. Please check it out and pass it along.

More information on our global design strategy can be found via the links below:

June 25 announcement

Fact sheets and photos for 1st Avenue & Pike Street, University Village and Paris Disney Village

Fact sheet for 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea

Website for 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea

Please take some time to preview our new store designs in person — or virtually — if you haven’t already. Thank you for your support.


Arthur Rubinfeld
president, Global Development

Originally posted by Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle)Starbucks to open second ‘stealth’ coffee shop - by Greg Lamm

Friday, August 21, 2009

7 Good Reasons To Drink Coffee

Do you have a caffeine-hater in your life? You know the type – they’re always telling you what’s bad for your health. Here’s a list of some good reasons to drink coffee. Memorize this list – so the next time you encounter your favorite coffee-hater you can pull out one of these babies. While you’re at it you can add the words “from a peer-reviewed scientific journal” — that’ll really get your pet coffee-hater frothing at the mouth.

1. Cut the Pain
Two cups of coffee can cut post-workout muscle pain by up to 48%. From the Journal of Pain, March 2007 .

2. Increase your fiber intake
A cup of brewed coffee represents a contribution of up to 1.8 grams of fiber of the recommended intake of 20-38 grams. From the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry .

3. Protection against cirrhosis of the liver
Of course you could just cut down on the alcohol intake. From the Archives of Internal Medicine.

4. Lowered risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Those who consumed 6 or more cups per day had a 22% lower risk of diabetes. From the Archives of Internal Medicine .

5. Lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease
There is considerable evidence that caffeine may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. From the European Journal of Neurology.

6. Reduces suicide risk
10 year study of 86,000 female nurses show a reduced risk of suicide in the coffee drinkers. From the Archives of Internal Medicine.

7. Protection against Parkinson’s
People with Parkinson’s disease are less likely to be smokers and coffee drinkers than their healthy siblings. Just make sure you don’t get lung cancer on the way. From the Archives of Neurology.

Recent research has also shown that coffee may boost a woman’s sex drive. The fact that it’s only been tested on rats somehow takes the shine off. UPDATE: Yet another reason: Risk for developing gout (in men) decreases with increasing coffee consumption. This is a large study of over 50,000 men (link). UPDATE: Coffee protects against eyelid spasm (can lead to blindness).

Special thanks to Energy Fiend for this post on April 30, 2007

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Power To The People

By Sharon Festinger


Bringing high quality selections to the general public at reasonable prices was one of the wine industry’s biggest achievements in the 20th century.
Now, coffee lovers can get in on the action too with Citizen Bean, a $20 a month artisanal coffee club based in San Francisco that offers quality brew with character…and conscience. Club members receive a monthly pound of sustainable, artisan-roasted U.S. coffee that’s fair trade, shade grown or organic, if not all three. The socially responsible little bundle is also accompanied by hand-wrapped goodies and unique finds, like complementary food samples to pair with the Joe or coffee accessories to help make it (think organic chocolate or French sugar, brew timers or coffee spoons).

But blasé beanophiles need not apply: the company takes the product seriously, educating members on a different bean varieties and their unique nuances and complexities, and working with small-batch roasters whose priorities are quality and freshness without sacrificing the environment. CB’s roasters go beyond the minimum certification requirement so the growers get at least their due. (you might call this fairer trade.) To add to this mix, beans are shipped within two days of roasting, which means they haven’t been going stale while waiting their fate in the grinder. For information, go to

- Sharon Festinger
(Originally published March 2008)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

doma doing it!

the art of roasting as seen through the eyes of doma roasting co.

A great new website of theirs just launched at

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Iced Coffee? No Sweat

published June 27, 2007
The New York Times
By Cindy Price

BEFORE I go telling everybody that the secret to great iced coffee is already in the kitchen, my friend Keller wants me to confess: I didn’t know from iced coffee until he showed me the light.

It’s important to cop to this now, because not a summer goes by that he does not painstakingly remind me, a rabid iced-coffee drinker, that he’s the one who introduced me to the wonders of cold-brewed iced coffee. The funny thing is, when the subject came up we were holed up in a summer rental with three friends off the coast of Puerto Rico, on a tiny island not exactly swimming in upmarket coffee houses.

Our first morning there I brewed a blend from the local grocery in the coffeepot, laced it with a little half-and-half and sugar, then let it cool. Classy, I thought, carrying the pitcher to the table. “I’ll just take it hot,” he mumbled, while I blinked in disbelief.

Clearly, this boy didn’t know any better. A drink has a time and place. Surely he didn’t subscribe to drinking hot coffee in summer?

“No, I only drink iced coffee if it’s cold-brewed,” he said.

For five days we watched him sullenly sip his hot coffee on a broiling Caribbean island in the dead of summer. We chided him for his pretensions, ridiculed him, tried valiantly to break him, but he patiently waited us out. Once we tried it we would understand, he explained. Like friends disputing a baseball stat in a bar with no access to Google, we had no way to settle the argument.

Two weeks later, back in Brooklyn, I saw a sign: “Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee Served Here.” Fine, then. I threw down two bucks and took a sip. Though it pains me to admit, the difference was considerable. Without the bitterness produced by hot water, the cold-brewed coffee had hints of chocolate, even caramel. I dropped my sugar packet — no need for it. The best brews hardly need cream. It really is the kind of thing a gentleman might spend five days in hot-coffee solitary confinement for.

Most days I’m too lazy to hunt down the elusive cold-brewed cup. But recently I discovered an interesting little fact. Cold-brewed coffee is actually dirt simple to make at home. Online, you’ll find a wealth of forums arguing for this bean or that, bottled water over tap, the 24-hour versus the 12-hour soak. You can even buy the Toddy cold-brew coffee system for about $30.

But you can also bang it out with a Mason jar and a sieve. You just add water to coffee, stir, cover it and leave it out on the counter overnight. A quick two-step filtering the next day (strain the grounds through a sieve, and use a coffee filter to pick up silt), a dilution of the brew one-to-one with water, and you’re done. Except for the time it sits on the kitchen counter, the whole process takes about five minutes.

I was curious to see how it would taste without all the trappings. The answer is, Fantastic. My friend Carter, something of a cold-brewing savant, turned me onto another homegrown trick: freeze some of the concentrate into cubes. Matched with regular ice cubes, they melt into the same ratio as the final blend.

Very fancy. Can’t wait to tell Keller.


Thank you to our friends at the New York Times for looking the other way while we print a copy of this wonderful article for all our subscribers. If any one asks, you received it by email:)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Magic Wand for Espresso

By Oliver Schwaner-Albright
New York Times

Earlier this week I had a sneak peek at a device that might forever change how you make espresso in your home. Or at your desk. Or in your car.

The Twist, from the startup Mypressi, doesn’t look like much: a handle with an orb, it resembles a personal massager. There’s a double spout familiar from most espresso machines, and a trigger on the handle, but there’s no cord, because there’s no need for power. Instead, the Twist uses a standard carbon dioxide cartridge to force water through the filter basket – the 9 bar pressure comes entirely from the cartridge, which is regulated by a sophisticated mechanism hidden in the handle. Squeeze the trigger and a perfectly dosed espresso streams out of the spouts, a 30-second extraction with a rich crema.

A gimmick? I don’t think so. The shot I tasted was sophisticated and balanced. It was a delicious espresso.

More to the point, it did not taste like it came out of a handheld machine smaller and lighter than an immersion blender.

Best of all, the Twist uses coffee grounds, not pods (though I’m told there will be a pod option in the future), which means you can use this with your Hairbender or Black Cat blend – it makes real espresso.

I also like the clean design, how easy it is to operate and how well it fits in the hand. As for energy use, one carbon dioxide cartridge will make about eight shots of espresso.

The one flaw is that it’s awkward to fill with water: you unscrew the top of the orb, untwist a gasket and pour in hot water (ideally at about 210 degrees, just below boiling). Which brings up another issue, namely that you need to add water that’s already been heated on a stovetop or in an electric kettle. Or on a campfire, if you want to be exotic about it.

But these are quibbles. All espresso machines require a little manipulating, and even if the Twist doesn’t match the espresso from professional-level machines it easily outperforms every home espresso machine this side of Rancilio’s Silvia. I would take the Twist over anything made by FrancisFrancis!, Krups, or other similar model made for the kitchen countertop.

And it’s not just because of cost, even though most of those retail for $300 and up, while the Twist will sell for a reasonable $129. It’s because the Twist makes better espresso.

For the time being the Twist is just a prototype, and won’t be on the market until early this fall. (I wish I had one two weeks ago, when I was driving through West Virginia, a state with a bounty of ramps and not much in the way of coffee.) But the coffee community is taking note. The Twist won an award at the Specialty Coffee Association of America conference in Atlanta last week.

Originally published on-line with the New York Times blog on April 30th 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Super-specialty coffees are worth the search -- and the cost

Thursday, March 26, 2009
By China Millman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Andy Starnes/Post-Gazette

Nicholas Coffee Company in Market Square, Downtown, carries several specialty coffee choices, which are displayed in the store's original bins from 1919.

Americans like good coffee. Specialty coffee -- loosely defined as high-quality, geographically distinct beans -- has a 20 to 30 percent market share. We also care about the living and working conditions of people who pick our coffee beans and the environmental effect of coffee production. Certified coffees, such as organic coffee, fair trade coffee and Rainforest Alliance coffee are increasingly popular -- even Wal-Mart introduced a line of certified coffees in 2008.

But these numbers represent the coffee market that existed before the global financial crisis. Historically, when consumers are concerned about price, our dedication to quality and to reasonable wages are more expendable.

If you care about the quality of available coffee, you should be worried about this trend. The solution? Don't spend less, spend more. Coffee is one of those rare products in which we can have our cake and eat it, too. We can increase the pleasure of drinking better coffee and improve the lives of the coffee workers by paying them more. While many consumers think that they're doing the right thing by purchasing fair trade coffee, which guarantees that workers' co-operatives are receiving a minimum price per pound, we can do better -- for ourselves and for the workers.

Specialty coffee is relatively easy to find, thanks in part to Starbucks Coffee Company, which has played a substantial role in setting quality standards and educating the public, and which still dominates the specialty market. But the very best coffees, super-specialty coffees, are found at a smaller, more select list of cafes and roasters. There's no straightforward rule for identifying these places by sight, but if you look for businesses that offer a menu of single origin coffees (see The Buzz), provide lots of detail about those coffees and emphasize the unique flavor profile of each coffee they sell, you'll be on the right track.

The most famous (and largest) of the super-specialty roasters include Intelligentsia in Chicago, Stumptown in Portland, Ore., Batdorf & Bronson in Olympia, Wash., and Counter Culture in Durham, N.C. These companies and others like them are creating a market for super-premium coffees by buying directly from origin and paying substantially more for the beans that produce the best coffee. They form long-term relationships with farms and, when their standards are met, contract to buy beans at a premium price.

Intelligentsia Direct Trade, for example, sets a price that's at least 25 percent above fair trade prices. Companies also may buy coffee at auctions such as Cups of Excellence, where they compete to buy the coffees that score the highest in quality.

Larger audiences for these coffees means greater incentives for exporters and producers and more money flowing into developing economies.

While these companies have done an excellent job in sourcing and roasting incredible coffees, they need to do more to educate consumers about their overall value. It's easy to tell the difference between a bad cup of coffee and a decent cup of coffee. But appreciating the differences at the higher end of the quality spectrum takes more attention and experience.

The focus should be on developing a framework for personal preferences. Sometimes learning how to describe a taste goes hand in hand with actually experiencing the taste. And once you know how to describe what you like or don't like about a coffee, you're much more likely to be able to find the coffees that you'll enjoy the most.

These super-specialty coffees come in far more varieties than "bold" or "mild," "city roast" or "French roast." Key tasting terms include acidity (positively described as a brightness or liveliness in the taste), body (the brewed coffee's weight or feel in the mouth) and balance (whether a coffee has a good mix of acidity, sweetness, aroma and body). Specialty coffee has a specialized language, just like wine, and learning the basics of this language makes a coffee menu immediately more accessible. Keep in mind that reading descriptions will only get you so far. The best way to develop opinions about coffee is to taste, taste, taste.


Robusta: This species grows more quickly and has a higher yield, but produces beans with inferior flavors. However, a little robusta in an espresso blend, especially a carefully cultivated and processed robusta, can enhance body and crema, the dense, flavorful foam layer at the top of a properly pulled espresso shot.

Arabica: A species with hundreds of cultivar varieties, many of which have the potential to produce incredible coffee. Arabica coffee plants grow best at high altitudes in the shade of other trees, which allows their cherries to ripen slowly and evenly.

Cultivars: Some of the oldest Arabica cultivars are typica, bourbon and kent. But there are hundreds, many of which have the potential to be turned into incredible coffee. Some, such as SL28 and SL34, are less poetically named, but equally respected in the coffee world. Some coffees will include cultivars in the name, but super-specialty roasters will always include it in more detailed information available on a Web site.


The flavor of coffee beans is substantially influenced by the environmental conditions where it is grown such as soil type and rainfall. Just as for wine, the conditions of different regions and farms affect the characteristics of the bean. Super-specialty coffee will identify very specific lots of specific farms or regions, rather than just selling coffee as a Costa Rica or a Kenya. Of course, the presence of a specific farm on the label doesn't guarantee a higher level of quality; it's just one sign that a coffee might be top quality.

Coffee beans are the seeds of a fruit called a coffee cherry. After ripe cherries are picked, the skin and pulp of the fruit, and the parchment "skin" around the coffee must be removed.

Countries with access to a lot of water typically wet process their coffee, which allows the skin and pulp to be removed quickly, often producing a cleaner, brighter, lighter bodied coffee.

Countries without as much access to water traditionally use a dry or natural processing method, which involves allowing the skin and pulp to dry so they can be peeled off, which usually takes about a week. With this method, it is more likely the coffee will be tainted by the flavors of fermentation, but it also produces a fuller bodied, sweeter coffee and can enhance the aromas and flavors of the finished product. In general, more labor-intensive methods of processing result in better coffee.

Many growing regions are experimenting with both methods to see which works best for different varieties under different conditions. There are also semi-dry and semi-wet processing methods.


Most super-specialty coffee roasters prefer to profile-roast, tasting the coffee at various degrees until they find the right roast for that bean, typically a lighter roast. But darker roast coffees still have quite a following and careful roasting will allow the aromas of the bean to have an influence. Recently super-specialty roasters have begun to focus on the freshness of green beans, and new standards are being set to use green beans within at most a year of harvest and to make sure that those beans are properly stored to maximize freshness.


Almost every brewing method, from drip coffee to chemex pots to espresso machines, can produce excellent coffee; but no matter how excellent the bean, if brewed improperly, the coffee won't reach its full potential. The same beans may exhibit different characteristics when brewed differently, for example a coffee may exhibit more brightness (acidity) in a French press than a chemex, while the chemex may produce a smoother, cleaner body.

Next month, I'll take a look at the many variables baristas must control to produce great coffee, and how we can learn from them to take home coffee brewing to a new level of quality.

Friday, February 27, 2009


The New York Times Blog
February 26, 2009, 2:01 pm

Milan Fashion Week | The Caffeine Guide
By J.J. Martin

There’s more to Milan coffee than just Cova. In fact, a handful of grand old-school bars have been cranking out flawless cappuccinos on buttercup damask tablecloths for nearly a century. Even the Neapolitans (big-time coffee snobs), who practically get a nosebleed when they come North, agree that Milan boasts some highly decent crushed beans. These traditional bars are the best places to ingest coffee in the city, but they are also great places to pop in for a quick lunch or preshow aperitivo. Here, the coffee is as smooth as silk, and a glass of spumante costs less than a Coca-Cola.

* Please, no cappuccinos after noon. It’s strictly a breakfast drink.
* If you take your coffee and brioche standing at the bar, get your receipt first. It will cost you a 1/4 of the table service prices.
* It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for your coffee da portare via, or “to go.” The barmen will enjoy the novelty.
* From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., stop by for an aperitivo and you’ll be showered in decadent, free food with your drink.
* Skim milk is for sadists.
* Canines welcome at all times; computers, less so.

Bastianello- Via Borgogna 5

Since: 1950
Vibe: A slightly snobby staff and a local clientele boasting furs and face-lifts.
Home to: Milan’s creamiest, largest cappuccino, and latte macchiatos hand-blended at your table.
Without fail: Order an apricot kipfer at breakfast, and don’t miss the exceptional aperitivo spread.
Pencil in: Any time you’re headed in/out of the Quadrilateral, it’s just off Piazza San Babila.
Gattullo- Piazzale di Porta Lodovica 2

Since: 1961
Vibe: Lots of activity, not much room to sit. So come early if you want to breakfast properly.
Home to: Divine panini (try the carciofini/prosciutto).
Without fail: Order the mouthwatering “toast” — it’s the best in all of Milan.
Pencil in: To/from the Naviglio (Armani, Hogan, Piazza Sempione).
Sissi- Piazza Risorgimento 6

Since: The 1950s
Vibe: The only Milan bar run by an African staff in pink and white uniforms.
Home to: Milan’s best-known pasticceria. Truly heavenly brioche and desserts, especially the fruit tart with whipped cream.
Without fail: Come during the springtime and enjoy your coffee under the wisteria in the back garden.
Pencil in: After your Dolce & Gabbana re-see in Via Goldoni.
Marchesi- Via Meravigli

Since: Brewing cafes since the turn of the 19th century.
Vibe: A crumbling jewel of a space. The staff is as ancient as the 1824 edifice.
Home to: Milan’s only fast-caffeine joint: no tables, bar service is required.
Without fail: Pick up the house-made chocolates or (during Christmas only) a puffed-up panettone.
Pencil in: Before Ferragamo’s show in the Piazza dei Affari.
St. Ambroeus- Corso Matteotti 7

Since: 1936
Vibe: The locals — lawyers and heavy-hitting businessmen — have ignored the bad interior remodel, and so should you.
Home to: A chic, shrub-enclosed outdoor eating area. Perfect for a civilized lunch.
Without fail: Great tramezzini and Milan’s best chocolates.
Pencil in: After shopping at the Jil Sander store.
Cucchi- Corso Genova 1

Since: 1936
Vibe: That’s Mr. Cucchi behind the register in his tailor-made suit, surveying young fashion designers as they mingle with the bar’s loyal octogenarian set.
Home to: The city’s best homemade tortelli, the donut-hole-like confection that is made only during the Carnival season (January and February).
Without fail: Order the sfoglia alla mela at breakfast. Santo cielo!!
Pencil in: To/from the Versace theater.

Since: 1909
Vibe: A recent makeover means the chandeliers are from-the-box shiny, but old-school Italians still frequent the place.
Home to: Very good coffee, but skip the brioches. (They died with the old décor.)
Without fail: Come for lunch or aperitivo: there’s never a wait, and the food is simple and lovely.
Pencil in: On your way to/from Fendi or Moschino.

Cappuccino Chiaro: More milk, less coffee.
Cappuccino scuro: More coffee, less milk.
Latte macchiatto: The largest coffee drink available — most similar to an American latte.
Café marocchino: A miniature mocha served in an elegant shot glass.
Brioche: The linchpin of the traditional Italian breakfast. Often looks like a croissant but is sweet, not savory. Filled with cream, jams or is vuoto (plain)
Toast: This is the classic bar snack, not the U.S. breakfast accessory: toasted bread with ham and cheese.
Tramezzino: A divinely stacked sandwich with the crusts neatly chopped off.

photo credit: Ferdinando Scianna/Magnum Photos
original post can viewed on

Monday, February 09, 2009

Coffee talk at the Burke Museum

photo by flirkr

The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, located on the University of Washington Seattle campus, is hosting Coffee: The World in Your Cup. This new touring exhibit allows the public to take a peek behind the curtain at the inner workings of the coffee industry and the powerful effects of coffee production on environments, societies and economies worldwide.

The exhibition began in late January and will continue through June 7, 2009. Each weekend visitors can congregate at the in-gallery “Café” setting for tasting and demonstrations, then wander the exhibit to view live coffee plants, color photos of coffee farms from around the world, displays on how coffee affects human health and much more.

Professional coffee drinkers owe it to our continually connected world to become informed and responsible coffee drinkers. For the rest who are just starting out on the road to becoming a coffee connoisseur, the exhibit is a great introduction to new and exciting coffees as well as a mine of interesting information that can be pulled out at parties, as needed, to sound more worldly. Join in on the stimulating coffee talk sure to arise from such an event any day of the week during museum hours and don’t forget the free coffee tasting every weekend.

Except courtesy of Coffee talk at the Burke Museum by Nadine Bedford, Seattle Events Examiner February 8, 2:41 PM

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coffee Steeps in Value Marketing

Even Pricey Espresso Makers Are Touted as Cheap Starbucks Alternatives
Wall Street Journal
January 15th, 2009

As the economic slump puts the brakes on discretionary spending, kitchenware retailers and coffee-machine manufacturers are plugging everything from coffee beans to gleaming, $3,000 café-style espresso makers as ways to save money.

"Did you know cutting just one of those typical 'tall' lattes a day and replacing it with a delicious premium organic coffee you brew at home can save more than $1,200 a year?" goes a recent pitch in a news release from New Jersey coffee roaster Good Earth Coffee.

Reduced consumer spending has spelled trouble for the big coffee chains. Among the Starbucks customers who plan to spend less at the chain, 43% say they plan to brew coffee at home more often, according to research by Larry Miller, a restaurant analyst at RBC Capital Markets. That spells opportunity for the home-coffee-brewing sector.

Bodum, which makes French-press coffee makers and accessories like milk frothers, recently sent out a pitch saying users could save more than $1,000 a year making their coffee at home. Sales rose about 10% in 2008, says Bodum USA President Thomas Perez.
Philips Electronics, meanwhile, is touting its single-serve Senseo machine, which makes coffee from capsules, as an alternative to takeout coffee. It says the Senseo could, over five years, produce enough savings for a car down payment or a chunk of college tuition.

Even those who sell coffee machines costing $1,000 or more are stressing value. Sur La Table, a gourmet kitchenware chain, says its employees strive to help customers find the machine that best meets their needs. The chain has drip machines that sell for $100. But it specializes in fully automated coffee centers starting at around $1,000. The staff is told that "it's OK to let a customer know that if they're buying coffee every day at a Starbucks on their way to work, that that can quickly add up," says Jacob Maurer, a Sur La Table buyer.

"Value" advertising has typically flourished in downturns, says David Court, leader of the global marketing and sales practice at McKinsey & Co., but it can be a tricky sell. "Advertising works best when the message is incredibly simple," Mr. Court says. "The concept of value is a more difficult thing for the consumer to understand than 'Get a brand I know on sale.' "

Sales of coffee machines fell in 2008, but retailers say they are a relative bright spot amid sluggish consumer spending, and some say they are seeing only growth in the area. At, sales of single-serve machines, like the Keurig and Nespresso, as well as espresso machines, were up last year and outpaced the overall growth of Amazon's home and garden store, says Chris Nielsen, vice president of the category.
And some retailers are discounting heavily. Shoppers can find some coffee machines 25% to 50% off at Macy's and 20% to 35% off at Bloomingdale's.

Bloomingdale's saw a "double-digit-plus increase" in sales of single-serve machines and espresso machines last year, says Joe Laneve, senior vice president of home furnishings. At in-store demonstrations, the pitch focuses on how easy it is to brew a perfect cup of coffee, Mr. Laneve says. But he says the follow-up is, "By the way, if you're going to drink two or three Starbucks a day, this is a good way to save."
New investment in home coffee-brewing machines could have a lasting impact on $3-a-day latte habits, says Mr. Miller, the analyst. "I think you're going to see some of these folks not return to buying coffee outside the home."

Deb Trevino, a spokeswoman for Starbucks, which sells coffee machines and prepackaged coffee in its stores, says the chain recognizes that making coffee at home is an attractive option for customers. But, she adds, "our customers find value in coming to Starbucks" for the convenience and ambience. Even so, Starbucks has rolled out a loyalty card and other promotions that offer customers cheaper drinks.

Those who make coffee at home say they like the savings. Caroline Kauffman of Denver traded her daily grande chai tea latte for a Keurig machine that makes single cups of coffee and other drinks from capsules. With coupons, she pays about 40 cents a cup for coffee. "I don't go at all to Starbucks now," she says.

Not everyone is sold. New Yorker Marco Barontini indulges in an espresso out every day. Mr. Barontini, an independent money manager, says he thinks buying an espresso machine would save him money in the long run, but isn't interested in making a purchase. "It's just easier to stop in and pick up a cup," he said recently while visiting a Starbucks. "I like my convenience."

Originally printed in
Write to Juliet Chung at

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hot Water

By Oliver Schwaner-Albright
New York Times - Times Topics
January 12, 2009

I recently came across a new product useful for those of us who brew coffee with a press pot, cone filter or Chemex: Breville’s variable temperature kettle [] ($149.95 at ). It heats water to a number of pre-programmed temperatures, including 200˚ Fahrenheit, which is ideal for coffee.

While not exactly a breakthrough, it’s an improvement over how most coffee is brewed. Water temperature is one of the four technical variables that shape a good cup of coffee (the other three are: amount, grind and time), and the rule of thumb is that coffee should be extracted at 200˚ Fahrenheit, or just below water’s boiling point. More often, water hits the grounds at a much lower temperature, and many standard home brewing machines are set by the manufacturer to a tepid 165˚ or 185˚. (A notable exception is the Technivorm [].) The drop makes a big difference. Unfortunately, you might not be getting the most out of your coffee.

For years I’ve made press pot coffee with water from a basic Breville electric kettle []. It was left behind by a houseguest as a thank-you, for which I’m forever grateful. The Australian-made appliance has proven to be a workhorse, and quickly heats water to a rolling boil, which means a little bit of winging it to get it to the correct temperature.

But now there’s no need for guesswork. Press the 200˚ button and water temperature is no longer a variable.

Again, Oliver's original post can be seen at today's New York Times Times Topics entry (January 12, 2009).

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A perk for coffee lovers: java may lower oral cancer risk

Katherine Harmon
Published in Scientific American January 7, 2009

Raise high the coffee bean! Good news, coffee-drinkers: a new study shows your beverage of choice may lower your chances of getting oral, esophageal and pharyngeal (back-of-the-throat) cancer.

Japanese researchers report in the American Journal of Epidemiology this week that people they studied who drank a cup or more of Joe daily had about a 50 percent less chance than non-imbibers of developing these cancers. The scientists based their findings on 13 years of data of some 38,000 people ages 40 to 64 with no history of cancer.

According to the study, coffee drinking lowered the odds of these types of cancer even in people with high-risk behaviors (read: smoking and boozing).

"Caffeine has been suggested to suppress the progression of tumor cells," senior study author Toru Naganuma, an epidemiological researcher at Japan's Tohoku University, told in an email. He noted that other studies have also linked moderate coffee drinking to reduced risk of liver cancer.

"The evidence is pretty strong" in this research, says Ann Gillenwater, a professor of head and neck surgery at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who was not involved in this study.

But that doesn't mean you should start downing double espressos hourly. Recent research suggests that too much caffeine can lead to insomnia, anxiety and might up the risk of miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy.

Besides, the study authors point out, caffeine alone is not the answer, noting that "high-level consumption of fresh vegetables and fruit" have also been linked to lower cancer rates.

The upshot, says Gillenwater: to lower your risk of oral cancers, "you want to have good dental hygiene and eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and maybe [drink] coffee. Who knew?"

To visit Scientific American its original post:

Tuesday, January 06, 2009