August 30, 2010

Starbucks: Pumpkin Spice Latte is Back

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So rumor has it that the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is back; actually it's not a rumor, I talked to a store manager this weekend and she indicated that they would start serving the Fall milestone drink this week.

Usually ushering in the Fall merchandise reset, the drinks mark the turn of the seasons, and the progression towards another set of favorites the holiday peppermint drinks that are right around the corner.

So if you are the type that enjoys a little spice in the old Latte, don't delay, they are only around for what seems like a short time; enjoy.

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August 27, 2010

Nestle to Invest $487M in Helping Coffee Farmers

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Nestle is detailing a plan to invest over $400Million in coffee farmers by helping them plant newer coffee trees with better disease resistance and better yield. The plan would have them working with Mexican farmers first in a pilot program and then rolling the learnings across other coffee growing regions. Part of the plan has farmers who grow Robusta coffee accept newer seedlings that have been developed by Nestle in the Mexico. This clearly helps Nestle with securing the type of coffee it needs to create its instant coffee. They will also help bring better Arabica seedlings to farmers who could eventually help feed their ever growing Nespresso business.

Nestle is not binding the farmers to a contract to see the coffee to Nestle, and the farmers are open to sell elsewhere. Clearly Nestle feels that the goodwill should help them facilitate the relationships to secure coffee supplies into the future. As the largest coffee buyer in the world, Nestle sees themselves as a leader who needs to help secure the coffee crops looking forward. Critics will claim that they are homogenizing the crop to suit their own needs, but I believe that the criticism would be more fair if they only had the instant coffee business. With their attention on quality and diversity of the crop in the Nespresso business, it looks like they are looking to support the high end of the market while recognizing the value of crop diversity and quality.

More info at Nestle and WSJ

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August 18, 2010

S.Cafe Fleece Jacket - Made with Recycled Coffee Grounds

sCafe_EMS_Jacket.jpgAlways interested in recycling and love to see used coffee grounds put to good use in things like Javalogs or composted to help grow something around the house. The fabric called S.Cafe caught my eye though as it uses recycled coffee grounds to build out a fabric that goes into all kinds of things including the new EMS Gridtech Fleece that will keep me warm this fall.

The fabric isn't made just from coffee grounds, but apparently a mixture of coffee grounds in a low percentage along with polyester, which for this jacket is then spun into a fleece. The maker of S.Cafe claims that the coffee helps to control odors (traps odors just like it once held coffee aroma), is fast drying and reflects UV rays. My hunch is that any fleece will do the later two items pretty well. The company started the development process by collecting grounds from local coffee shops, but now sources the spend coffee from manufacturers diverting the waste from landfill, ultimately to my closet.

You can check out the S.Cafe site yourself to learn more about the fiber.

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August 11, 2010

Lavazza and Green Mountain Team Up - More Espresso for US

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So Lavazza and Green Mountain - makers of the Keurig Machines in the US, are teaming up to co-develop new machines, espresso capsules and let's face it some fun new ideas for sale in the North American market. not only does the deal have Lavazza buying some GMCR stock, but it has a distribution of espresso machines in the US as a part of the deal. While we all like a new design and machine, the better distribution of espresso machines in the US may help leapfrog some adoption barriers in the US.

The agreement hopefully will bring some hybrid machines capable of doing regular and/or espresso coffee, or at least some options to make the K-Cup experience closer to that of a coffee bar; frothing, and finishing with milk.

So, we'll keep our eye on this, as will our sister site SingleServeCoffee.com. We like Lavazza's ESE pods a lot (my favorite ESE pod for hot espresso), and the Keurig machines are a step change in ease of use for drip coffee. Should be a fun marriage to watch.

Via SingleServeCoffee

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The Best Iced Coffee?

I like coffee, and brew a fair amount in the summertime for drinking it iced. This morning the Wall St. Journal had an article talking about the best iced coffee brewing methods, exploring several options. Net, they didn't seem all that impressed with anything, so I have to ask, why are they touting the article as "Making the Perfect Cup of Iced Coffee" (print edition teaser on the front page) - the actual title is "Why Making Iced Coffee at Home is Such a Grind". It can be a grind if you get bad results, but they do discuss several key topics:

Cold Brew - leaves behind some acid, and a lot of flavors. The lower acid can be a good thing for some drinkers who are sensitive to it, but for the most part, acidity in coffee helps to bring out the flavors and brings a certain amount of crispness and brightness to the cup.

Hot Brew & Dilution - While Hot brewing and subsequent chilling can get you a nice flavor profile, dilution with ice can be an issue. Great flavors overly diluted just means a bad glass of iced coffee.

So while the WSJ tried out a few cold brewers including the Coffee Toddy , the new Bodum Cold Press, and the Hourglass Coffee Maker System, they did not try out an espresso diluted to iced coffee strength.

Here are a couple of tips that I would offer anyone seeking the best iced coffee brew:

  1. Brew a shot to three shots of espresso and then dilute with ice and milk adding sugar when still chilling to get the right blend of flavor, sweetness and strength for your taste.
  2. Choose an all Arabica blend - the "traditional" blends of espresso include Robusta coffee, which while I love that full bodied dark flavor in hot espresso, it comes across as a bit of rank pungency in an iced coffee. So if you are using ground coffee, make sure you find a 100% Arabica blend, preferably a little more full bodied than your usual hot espresso choice, but it needn't be an italian roast to make a good iced espresso. If you are using ESE Pods find a good 100% Arabica blend - I like the Espressione Pods.
  3. Brew into iced cubes in a glass or cup that can handle the heat and cold; I use the larger Bodum Pavina glasses for this. If you can't fit a glass under the brew head, brew into a shot glass or espresso cup and pour over the ice.
  4. Go ahead, brew an extra shot - iced coffee made with an espresso shot is really a great drink, you'll want to have a larger glass than you'd expect.

You can also brew iced coffee through Keurig K-Cup makers on the iced coffee setting in their B-70 model. Check out more information about their recent iced coffee K-cups at our sister site SingleServeCoffee.com.

Cheers - here's to a hot August and a lot of cool coffee this month.

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August 9, 2010

Illy Issimo Ready to Drink (RTD) Coffee Review

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Illy rolled out their canned coffee in three flavors (distributed by none other than Coca Cola) and currently have it distributed in Whole Foods as well as a number of other outlets. Being keenly interested in all things coffee I had to grab a set to try them out. At a little over $2 in Whole Foods, these aren't as economical as you might hope, but overall not a bad thing compared to an iced coffee at the coffee shop.

The line comes in three varieties; Caffe, Latte Macchiato and a Cappuccino. All have sugar, with the Latte having a bit of milk, and the Cappuccino with added cocoa and milk. So how did they taste? Are they worth it and worth hunting down?

For the daily regular coffee drinker, the Illy Issimo products are going to be quite good, and the convenience of having a few in the fridge is great. The three cover a broad enough flavor space that most people can find one that they like. If you are a coffee snob, who only appreciates the subtle nuances of aroma and associated roast differences, with bitterness dancing alongside acidity of a fine shot of espresso, these aren't for you.

Issimo Caffe - "Italian Espresso Style Coffee Drink" - It is a black coffee drink with sugar. Because it is chilled, it really lacks much coffee aroma at all, and comes across in a medium roast, with slight acidity and a moderately well balanced flavor profile; not too bitter nor acidic. no real high notes, flavor-wise.


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Issimo Latte Macchiato - "Italian Espresso Style Coffee Drink with Milk" - this drink has added milk and some mouthfeel agents like cellulose gel, gum and carrageenan to give you a surprisingly sweet drink with a caramelized creamy flavor and finish. It is not overly indulgent and rich like the Starbucks DoubleShot espresso drink. Given that the Issimo has half the fat of the Starbucks DoubleShot, I can understand why.


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Issimo Cappuccino - "Italian Espresso Style Coffee Drink with Lowfat Milk and Cocoa" - the added cocoa here is a good boost of flavor to make this the most full flavored product of the three, and the best in my mind. It has hints of cocoa, not an overly sweet chocolate shake flavor to it.


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If you like cold coffee drinks, I would recommend starting with the Cappuccino; I think it's the best. The flavors are more complex, and while the sweetness is definite, it's a welcome amount when it comes in with its trailer hitched to the cocoa.

Find Illy Issimo near you at their location finder, or just head over to Illy Issimo's micro site for more information or to hook into their Tweets of Facebook page.

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July 21, 2010

The Best Iced Coffee/Espresso Glasses


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OK - I drink a lot of coffee, hot, cold, good and bad and I use a variety of cups and glasses to enjoy that coffee, everything from paper cups (hate them) to large mugs, to diminutive espresso glasses and cups. Long time readers won't be surprised to hear that I still love the Bodum Pavina espresso glasses for enjoying my espresso, especially in the wintertime when the insulated glass keeps the shot warmer. It shouldn't be surprising then to to hear that the Bodum Pavina 15-ounce glasses are some of the best iced coffee/espresso glasses I have come across.

The folks at Bodum have made these glasses from Borosilicate Glass - yes laboratory glass to be tough and handle both cold and hot. I end up dropping ice cubes right into the glass, brew two shots of espresso right in on top of the ice, and top of with a bit of sugar and milk. When I brew, I usually use a Nespresso capsule (Livanto is my preferred regular flavor for iced and hot), on the Nespresso Citiz brewer so I can flip up the shelf that I use for shots so I can in fact brew right into the Bodum Pavina glass. Easy and fast to brew up a double with room for two shots, plenty of ice and a splash of milk if you desire.

In the summertime around here, the humidity makes for a lot of condensation on the side of a regular glass which usually means a coaster to keep the pool of water at the bottom of the glass. Not true with the Bodum Pavina glasses because of the double walled construction. The outside layer stays at room temperature and doesn't make that pool...... while also keeping your drink cooler longer.

Clean up? I put it right in the dishwasher and that's it.

At Amazon - Bodum Pavina Double-Wall Thermo Glasses- 15-ounces

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July 19, 2010

Starbucks Via Iced Coffee Review

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Starbucks recently announced a new Starbucks Via variety for iced coffee - just in time for the warm summer weather. Starbucks Via - for hot coffee was launched last year with fanfare offering it as the way to have high quality Starbucks coffee away from home. The idea behind Starbucks Via is that when you combine instant coffee and microground coffee beans you get a better tasting drink. Starbucks up-versioned the Via product by adding sugar to make it "Lightly Sweetened".

So while most people (including me) thought that the Via for hot coffee was fairy mediocre, the Starbucks Via for Iced Coffee looks promising. I recently grabbed a pack at a Starbucks store on the way to our beach vacation where I had plenty of time to enjoy cool coffee and hot weather. See below for our thoughts and suggestions...... I was on my way to vacation and picked up a package of these in the airport Starbucks - someone had grabbed one of the packets out of mine - sadly only got 4 for the price of five.

ArrowContinue reading: "Starbucks Via Iced Coffee Review"

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July 16, 2010

Betacup Challenge - Solutions Abound to Disposable Coffee Cup Waste

We all know that the empty cups from the trips to the coffee shop pile up somewhere and add a lot of volume to the waste stream; 58 billion waste coffee cups go into landfills a year globally to give you an idea of the magnitude according to Betacup. Betacup is working to reduce that number, and they recently ran a contest to figure out how to best reduce that number. Offering solutions is easy, changing habits is hard. Here's what the winning entry offered as a solution:

Karma Cup - Simple to implement and just as cheap; place a blackboard at the head of the line where each person who brings in a reusable cup gets to check off a box. The 10th person to check off that box, gets their beverage for free. The incentive becomes a community based solution and brings a community together to solve the issue. My hunch is that there is a tipping point after which the community exerts subtle pressure on others to join in.

I liken this to reusable bags at the grocery stores. While we are not to 100% use, I leave mine at home way too much, the prevalence has made a big jump. No laws had to be enacted to eliminate plastic bags in general, numerous shoppers show up with their bundles of bags and stores have gotten behind it. It's not nirvana yet, but the US has made a surprising jump without drastic measures in my mind. A social program like the winning idea above could just tip the scales for coffee cups too.

The Betacup challenge was sponsored in part by Starbucks. The winning team got a $10,000 prize.

Read about the winning entry, and the other great entries at The Betacup

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July 15, 2010

Caffeine and Its Effects on You, Your Brain and how to "Unwire" Yourself

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If you are reading this blog, odds are that you love coffee and you are pretty comfortable with caffeine intake. Call me crazy, but it's just a wild guess. Lifehacker has a great post on caffeine and its effects on you, what it really does, and what it doesn't really do.

It seems that caffeine actually blocks adenosine receptors that in part help determine when you are tired and need a little rest. With that receptor blocked, you can then go ahead and work or party late into the night without seeming so tired. The caffeine addiction is a downside for some and your body can scream out when you don't get that daily fix. Those headaches can show up in as little as 12-24 hours without the drug. Darn convenient for those cuppa-joe drinkers every morning.

Lifehacker's round-up also suggests that those caffeine fueled late night work sessions will help you power through tasks better than hard thinking work. Some work suggests that caffeine fired work is better at low-thought task work than heavy lifting brainiac thought processing. Something I can vouch for; I am useless late night even with a full tank of espressos on board trying to apply any critical thinking. Partying, great. Solving for world peace, not so good.

If you are into caffeine's effects on your brain, or want to learn about how to get a little more out of life on caffeine, check out Lifehacker's post; well worth a read.

ReadMore at Lifehacker

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