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Coffee’s New Play For Your Taste Buds

American tastes in coffee. Java. Joe. Dark roast. Light roast. And the battle for American taste buds.

Coffee, Cup and Beans. (JcOlivera.com/Flickr)

Coffee, Cup and Beans. (JcOlivera.com/Flickr)

Back in the day in the USA, coffee was coffee – just pour it.  Maxwell House, Folgers in your cup.  Just give us the joe.  And a whole lot of coffee still runs just that way.  But then came the dark roast revolution.  Starbucks, riding it in a huge way.  Deep, bold dark roast as the hipster hallmark.  The new “must have” coffee.

But American tastes in coffee run wider than that.  A lot of vendors are now pushing light roast again.  Blech to the bold, they say.  Don’t burn the beans.  Light will wake you up just as well, and with more flavors.

This hour, On Point:  What we want in our java.  Our joe.

-Tom Ashbrook


Katy McLaughlin, Special Writer for the Wall Street Journal. Her article, “The Hot Blonde in the Coffee Shop” appeared this week.

Ted Lingle, Executive Director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), a non-profit trade association. He is also co-founder of the Coffee Quality Institute, where he teaches coffee brewers.

Jamie van Schyndel, owner and head roaster at Barismo, an independent coffee roaster in Arlington, Massachusetts.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street Journal “After years of convincing the nation’s coffee drinkers that dark-roasted brews are the classiest thing to fill a mug or takeout cup, Starbucks, Peet’s, and a new wave of high-end chains are rolling out the exact opposite: light-roasted coffee.’”


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  • Ricky

    I’ve always wondered why people go to Starbucks, since it tastes burnt and awful.  It’s not like the coffee in France isn’t full bodied and bold, but that’s different than harsh and ashen.  The only conclusion I can come up with, other than the omnipresent American issue of convincing people they’re smarter and better by selling them something ‘exclusive’, is that most Starbucks customers are configuring their drink to contain so much sugar the base has to be pretty cruel in order to stand up to it.

    • BEEZ

      I go there sometimes only because the “viable” option- Dunkin Donuts- is no good

  • TFRX

    If one thinks Starbucks is expensive, one may shudder at the prices that are called “high end” in the WSJ.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    I’ve been using Dean’s Beans for years – organic fair trade (for real, not the flimflam that many corporations use), roasted in MA (usually the same day they mail it to me :-) They have light roasted and a number of blends (light and dark) which are pretty tasty.

  • Elihu

    When Alfred Peet had one shop in Walnut Square – Berkeley’s “gourmet ghetto” – his Major Dickason’s Blend cost $14/pound. That’s 1970s dollars! Asked why he didn’t open another shop or three, he said that even with many weeks annually of world buying trips, he simply couldn’t obtain more beans of that quality.

    Never had anything quite as good since, even in years of European business. Closest was in your Boston area, the old Cambridge Coffee Tea & Spice House, whose proprietor did his own bean selections and in-house roasting.

    Surely, with all the money flying around on affordable luxuries these days, someone could offer the same quality and character? And what ever happened to Vienna roast, that perfect spot between current half-raw and burned states where all flavors are open but nothing is overdone?

    O tempora o mores.

  • BEEZ

    If you’ve never tried authentic Blue Moutain coffee from Jamaica then you are truly missing out.
    Expensive- I don’t use it every day- but it’s the best I’ve ever tasted.

  • James Hayes-Bohanan

    I look forward to listening to the program later; for now I’ll just thank you for delving into a subject that has become central to my life over the past ten years or so. As an environmental geographer with a background in Latin America, the GEOGRAPHY of coffee has become my passion. I am lucky enough to spend much of my time using geography to teach about coffee and the farmers who make it possible, and using coffee to teach about human and physical geography. The second-most traded commodity on the planet has a lot to teach us about the world we live in, and the people who make our small and large comforts possible.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    Personally I do not drink coffee for taste. It is a morning ritual simply because it wakes me up and helps kill the caffeine migraine that results everytime I wait too long to consume. That said, I want the coffee I drink and potentially pay north of $5 a cup for (it adds up pretty quick when you’re a regular caffeine fiend!) to be fair trade and conflict free. If a company cannot certify this, light, dark, burnt or bold I will not buy it.

    • BEEZ

      How do you pay $5 a cup? Your total cost can add up “pretty quick” but how does your cost/cup vary with consumption?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

        Whether I get a double shot or not.

  • TFRX

    Roasting one’s own beans is now a thing to do for coffee geeks.

    As an advertising geek, I remember any late-19th century ads about buying coffee beans roasted, so the housewife (and they meant “wife”) didn’t run the risk of burning theirs.

    A part of me gets a kick out of this full-circle thing.

  • Patrik

    I’m a dark roast guy myself, no cream, and I just love the bold flavor.  My favorite blend:  Mahagony by Caribou Coffee.

    Is roasting and grinding your own beans affordable or is it for the higher-end, serious crowd?

  • Observer

    I’ve been roasting green coffee in a popcorn popper. Lets you get the lighter roasts and appreciate the regional flavors.

    Wish I could offer the political blogging haters a cup.

    • Observer


  • James Duguay

    Does the caffeine content go up with a lighter roast? It seems counter-intuitive, but you might think that some of the caffeine could be destroyed with the darker roast. And what of robusta beans versus Arabica?

  • Christine

    I went to Stumptown coffeehouse in NYC, famous for those specialty coffees from special farms, after reading about it in the new yorker.  I got a coffee and blech, it was gross!  I bet if I drank enough of it I would get used to it, but I think for now I will stick with my regular cuppa joe!

  • John

    Yes, the quality of the beans and the way they are roasted is the first step in the process and important. But no one talks about the equally important part of proper grind, proper proportion of beans to water, water temp and the amount of coffee being made at one time. I find places claiming to have great beans but they don;t get any of that other stuff right. I like STRONG, fresh coffee whether its dark roast or light roast. 

  • Jerry

    I drink coffee every day, I tend to stick with regular or flavored beans, freshly ground in a coffee maker, one cup maker or purculator.  No instant k-cup style over priced machines.  Espresso from the stove top, an occaisional “gormet” drink now and then, but mostly we make our own at home and at the office. 

  • Bob Falesch

    Light roasts have higher caffeine content. You want strong flavor in your coffee? Brew it with light roast and use more grounds! Light roasting is nothing new for the premium roasters. Intelligentsia in Chicago, for example, has featured light roasts for nearly two decades. 

    No, the main difference with the supermarket canned coffees is not the lightness of the roast, rather, it’s because they are robusta beans (lower altitude, cheaper, higher yield, etc), and the premium coffees are Arabica. The flavor difference is between the two is *not* subtle.

    Starbuck’s traditional coffee tastes burnt *not* because they are roasting dark. It is because they are over-roasting. There are high quality dark roasts and they are anything but burnt-tasting.

  • Observer

    The challenge with the light roasts in the supermarket is getting them fresh enough for the subtle tastes to not degrade.

    Hence the home-roasting growth.

  • Dcinco

    Starbucks dark roast is gross. I love strong coffee. KONA & Jamaican Blue Mountain are my favorites, but neither of those taste like Starbucks. I may have to try the new blonde roast. I also have a big pet perve about restaurants not offering cream when you order coffee. Milk? Seriously? Up the taste & flavor with a little light cream or half and half.

  • nj

    I have to say, i don’t get the obsession over coffee. Don’t drink it, don’t like it. Seems like a lot of people talk about the stuff like it’s an addiction. Hardly a real necessity.

    Discussions like this remind me of the “foodie” sorts of elitist, time-wasting obsessions about which vintage of extra-virgin olive oil goes best with grilled tomatoes and fresh, imported herbs.

    Half the world’s population lives on less than a dollar a day. About one in seven worldwide is hungry or malnourished. How much attention do these people pay to that?

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Now you want to complain about my coffee?

    • BEEZ

      I don’t disagree with you, per se, but I think that is an indictment on our society as a whole. What about people who have to have the biggest tv screen (I don’t care about THAT..don’t even have cable), or the fanciest car, etc?
      I think most foodies just apprecate fresh ingredients! Having a discerning pallet does not constitute “elitism” give me a break. Sorry I don’t want Mcnuggets. I care about what I ingest in my body.
      Our coffee consumption helps employee people in many impovrished nations.

  • Mark Pendergrast

    I am the author of UNCOMMON GROUNDS, the history of coffee, and I write a column about coffee for the WINE SPECTATOR.  I’m listening to your program with great interest, but I’d like to make a few comments.   The big distinction in coffee is, as you mentioned, treating it more like wine.  The U. S. coffee industry essentially ruined this product in the post-war period of the 1950s and 1960s, putting in more and more cheap robusta beans, so that the only way to tolerate the brew was to produce a weak, diluted dishwater coffee.  Starbucks and Peets were only two of the “specialty” pioneers, and not all of these pioneers preferred dark roast — that was a West Coast phenomenon.  People like George Howell in Boston always preferred a moderate roast.  The best roasts fit the particular beans, bringing out their distinct flavor and mouth-feel.  If the roast is TOO light, it is grassy and unpleasant.  So you’re looking for the perfect roast, between the first and second cracks, as the master roasters put it.  I’d be glad to talk about this if you give me a call.  See my website, http://www.markpendergrast.com.  –Mark Pendergrast

  • Amp

    People have to trust their tastebuds.  Burnt coffee does not taste good; plus it is expensive.  I will only go to Dunkin Donuts if absolutely necessary.  I always feel so defeated about my coffee options.  Who wants greasy donuts or plastic-tasting baked goods for breakfast or an afternoon treat?  My own apple pie is divine, but I miss the social aspect of having a nice coffee in a nice setting. 

  • Jeff Miskill

    Dark roast. Nothing added! Why cover that beautiful flavor?
    Love your show.

  • Terrance

    My mother in law loves to go to Starbucks for her lattes, but my father
    in law hates the burned taste of Starbucks coffee. I think the new
    blonde blend might be a good way to bridge that gap in taste. I can see
    it definitely bringing in new customers.

    New York City

  • Greg

    I lived in Boston, MA back in the 80′s and worked at a coffee shop called The Coffee Connection owned by George Howell. He traveled the world and bought beans directly from farmers and brought them back to Boston, were he roasted them twice a week. His roasts were all on the lighter side except for his French roast and espresso roast. Have any of your guests heard of George?

    • Rob Stephen

      I used to work for George too.  He’s still around!  He owns Taste cafe, and sells under the GH Howell roasting co. name.

  • Adks12020

    I love dark roast coffee…I will drink a medium, maybe a light, roast if that’s all that is available but if given a choice I will definitely take the full flavor of a dark roast any day; if offered Maxwell House or Folgers or Dunkin Donuts for that matter I will generally pass.

    I also happen to love stout and porter beer.  I think it’s just a matter of taste, not one is better than the other.  I like the deep, rich flavors in dark beer, dark coffee, dry/peppery red wine.  Just my preference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-J-Pozzebon/100000025295226 Michael J Pozzebon

    I had a late start to coffee…started regularly when I was 35! I love the dark roast coffees, but what I found is that they were hard on my stomach because of acidity. Though I love dark roast, my stomach prefers light such as yergacheffe or Indonesian coffee.

  • Anonymous

    My favorite coffee of all time that I’ve had most of my adult life is Supreme Coffee, mom and pop biz south of Boston. A perfect medium blend (perhaps the 4th wave :). To be honest, I really don’t want to have to think too much about my coffee. I want to know it’s going to be the same every time I order it, just a good cup of Joe.

    I resent the long lines at Starbucks and prefer a more quaint luncheonette atmosphere.

  • Lucas Roasting Company

    We roast the majority of our coffee beans to a light or medium roast, with only a small percentage going to dark.  We do this mostly because all of the subtle flavors and aromatics seem to be released in these ranges of roasting.  The darker the roast goes, the more the “roast” begins to play a factor in the beans and not the origins that the farmers have carefully and painstakingly cultivated.  Brewing correctly is also essential because over or under-extracted coffee leaves the drinker with displeasure.  The industry of coffee is much more complex than most know.  Thanks for your focus on our industry!

  • Adks12020

    My girlfriend always says that she can’t taste the coffee as well with dark roasts.  She says it is too much for her palette and after the first sip or two  she’s overwhelmed. 

    She thinks you can taste the coffee more with the lighter roast…As Tom just mentioned.

  • Brett

    “Burnt” coffee is the result of either the grind being over done or the water being too hot, or both. The amount of roasting time (light=less roasting time) is dependent on the type of bean. A good roaster can tell how long to roast the bean by its inherent qualities. I prefer a dark roast, complex in flavors, with a combination of sweet and bitter finishing notes… 

  • Liz

    I like light roasts but find that many are very acidic.  Is there a bean or brewing method that might be a bit easier on my stomach?

  • Pat

    I am one of the Starbucks hold outs who prefers decaf light roast.  I buy my coffee at Trader Joe’s and make it at home and transport it in a stainless travel mug. Unless Starbuck’s substantially reduces it’s prices, I will not be a customer.  Hell will freeze over before I spend $4/day on a cup of coffee.  I can buy a case of nice wine with the money I save by not frequenting Starbuck’s on a daily basis.  

  • Jill Pellarin

    Like a commenter below, I too am old enough to remember when George Howell brought good coffee to the east coast. Before he sold his company to Starbucks, the Coffee Connection was THE place for coffee in Boston, with a lot of stores around the area. George’s coffees were light roast, and you could TASTE the coffee. Just wondering why he was not one of the panelists today, as he is the preeminent light-roast coffee purveyor.

  • Todd

    Is it true that fresh roasted, fresh ground coffie has less caffine that pre-ground.  Also, I read that coffee is packed with anti-oxidents.

  • alfredo

    What about keurig?

  • Galenmask

    How is instant coffee made and how does it differ from “regular” coffee?

  • Anonymous


    This show and the show on olive oil are fantastic!  Could we also do a “Fear Factor” food show?  A show that show cases all the ‘disgusting’ foods from around the world and from ancient cultures?  It would be a hoot to hear you and your guests squirm.  :)

  • Billbraudis

    Deep cabs and dark roasts…

  • Lisa

    What is the right “dose” of coffee when you are brewing by the drip method? Is it simply a matter of personal preference or is there an optimum ratio? Maybe coffee sellers should make recommendations on the package depending on the type of beans.

    • BEEZ

      Every coffee I’ve ever purchased does have recommendations. I think they usually say 1 tbspn/ 6 oz cold water

  • Joe from Washington DC

    Great show.  This shift from enjoying really dark roasts to lighter brews reminds me of the path of many new craft beer drinkers.  When I started drinking craft beers I started with the big bold IPAs with tons of hops.  They were great because they were so different from traditional Budweiser.  But as my palate has expanded, I have moved towards lighter, blonder, Belgian beers.  The flavors in these Belgian beers are more nuanced, and not as big and bold and in your face.

    Your discussion seems to be tracking a similar path but with coffee.  The big bold dark roast was extremely popular because it was so different from Maxwell House and because the flavors are so bold and right there in your face.  But as our coffee palates have expanded, we are more able to appreciate lighter, more nuanced blends with bright, flavors which are not so “in your face” but require a little more attention. 

    I am going to try out some of these lighter coffees – I am a dark roast guy myself, but look forward to expanding my horizons. 

    Thanks and great show.  

    • Jerrky

      You are right on. Great analogy. I completly agree.

    • Mr. Trees

      I had this same thought.  I love a good IPA not in spite of, but because of the background bitters present in the bouquet.  I believe that is the same reason why I like black coffee and am able to pick out the notes in a good black coffee.  I believe, to a certain extent, that we could have the same conversation about a good rye whiskey as well.

  • nobilitee

    Interesting to have a one hour program about the taste vaiances of a legalized psychoactive addictive drug with serious health issues. I wonder if On Point will soon be hosting a similar discussion about the gourmet aspects of legalized marijuana.

    • Mr. Trees


    • John

      Why does it feel like your next logical step in this topic is to express your desrie to make it illegal?

    • Brett

      We can all hope! Indiga or Sativa strains?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QMDZ3LH5U2B4GAT7J2HS4TCP6E Jim

    You know what i found about many coffee drinkers? They do not necessarily like coffee. They like the large amount of sugar on it. They might as well drink sugar water instead.

    • BEEZ

      True! I usually drink it black.

  • Bob Falesch

    Dunkin’ Donuts: At one time, they were the best choice in “neighborhood” coffees. I could be mistaken, but I *think* in the old days they had a blend with a significant amount of Kona!! I think they still use Arabica, but it’s hard to get fresh beans at their stores.

  • Gary Schultheis

    I’ve been roasting my own coffee for about 7 years. I can roast my beans any way I choose. I find that one of the greatest advantages to home roasting is that I get fresh beans. I never let them get over 4-5 days old. If you by coffee by the pound at home it’s probably going rancid by the time you get to the bottom of the can. Yechh.

    • Brett

      This is something I should get into; it’s all about the distance in time between when a bean is roasted and when it is brewed. The only way to get fresh coffee is to either live close to a roaster or learn to do it yourself.

  • TFRX


    Isn’t that pretty much what we were drinking 50 years ago, ordinary Robusta beans over-extracted to a fare-thee-well?

    (The exceptions were only for Beats, or tourists in Greenwich Village, or at the cafe in Little Italy that our Italian grandparents liked. I read a cool book on coffee’s history ages ago; the name escapes me.)

    Sometimes the gourmeting-up of America gets a bit crazy. But I appreciate where we are now v. then.

  • david

    I was a barista at Starbucks for almost 3 years.  I like most of Starbucks coffees.  The problem while I worked there and seemingly more now is that the coffee is not prepared properly.  Starbucks limits the time the coffee can be held in the coffee pot after it has been brewed. It was 1 hour when I worked there.  Way too often the coffee would be “timed out”…..over the time limit.  Because Starbucks has so complicated their brand and product the baristas have a difficult time keeping up…especially during the rush.  Look at the little red light on the front of the coffee pot at Starbucks…if it’s flashing it’s old and probably tastes burnt.  ……

  • Peter

    Mild Roast all the way.  Properly brewed with an espresso machine, the nuance of flavor with a mild roast is awsome!
    I think inevitably milder roasts will dominate.

  • Anonymous

    Please discuss independent certifications for coffee from the America’s. The Smithsonian’s ‘Bird Friendly(R)’ certification is seen as the ‘platinum’ endorsement for coffee that is sustainably grown, good for birds, farm workers and the environment. No chemicals ever – 100% organic. The trend is toward higher yield ‘sun’ or ersatz shade coffees and roast profiles. Most coffee drinkers in North America are not aware that they can get excellent coffee that is uber sustainable. There is still time to save tropical forest like environments – but coffee drinkers need to vote with their dollars. Confess a vested interest – with colleagues Kenn Kaufman, Bridget Stutchbury and Scott Weidensaul and Canadian partners we started Birds & Beans coffee – the only 100% certified Bird Friendly coffee brand in the US, every bean in every bag – to make it easier for concerned consumers to do the right thing. Other certifications are much less stringent. Highly valued and worthwhile Fair-Trade certification is changing in the US to be more ‘big’ agriculture friendly.

    Roughly same price as Starbucks but leagues ahead in environmental care standards.

    Great tasting coffee from family farms that is absolutely sustainable – The Good Coffee.

    From Bill Wilson, Birds & Beans

  • Mkingreed

    a reminder regarding caffeine content – significantly higher with Robusta vs Arabica

  • Anonymous

    I like intense flavor, but the dark roasts always seem too strong or acidic or something. My solution is to buy medium roast, (sometimes light roast), beans and set my burr grinder to a relatively fine setting. This results in strong, flavorful coffee without the ‘burned’ taste.  

  • Israel Fridman

    Please use the correct pronounciation for Jaime’s last name:  Van SchYndel (“sheendel”)

  • Bobby

    I’m glad that Starbucks came out with their blond blend and I don’t have to rely on some of these expensive and elitist hippy local coffeeshops. I can finally get a good cup of coffee from a larger roaster anywhere I want, whenever I want when I’m out. I’ve had too many bad experiences at local elitists coffeeshops.

  • Andy

    This is so reminiscent of the current state of craft beer, where there is currently a shift away from imperial beers like high alcohol stouts and double IPAs and toward “session” beers with lower alcohol, and more traditional, sometimes lighter styles with more subtle flavors. I’m sure that both will shift back the other way after a time.

  • Lynnette

    My fondest coffee memories were of buying beans at THE COFFEE CONNECTION. The barrels of beans had roast dates on them. The beans were oily and heavy. The bags of ground coffee scented up the old VW all the way home. I have NEVER had better coffee since then! The only dark roasts where vienna style, french style or italian espresso. I am reduced to drinking Starbucks (who bought out The Coffee Connection), and have defiled my taste buds by drinking dark roast. The beans are so dry and have hardly any aroma.

    • Wiley-c

      When I lived in Boston, the Coffee Connection was the best. Charles Street. They even taught me the exact technique to properly brew and I bought a special brewing carafe and these big thick filters. I was sorry to see them get bought out.

    • Jegan

      I still miss The Coffee Connection. They used different roasts for different varieties. Celebes Kalosi in a French press was heavenly. When Starbucks bought them, it was a huge blow to Boston area coffee lovers.

  • Irra

    Your guest’s last name is being mispronounced…should be “Van Sheendel”

  • Jon Markoulis

    I am a dark roast drinker. In fact two years ago I started roasting my own using a drum roaster. I’ve roasted light and dark. Different people have different tastes. The one BIG point to coffee is grind beans that are not too old. It seems the peak of flavor is 3 to 4 days after roasting. By the 3 week the flavor is going downhill. 

  • John from QC

    The Keurig machines have made a huge number of different roasts available. I have 4-5 cups a day of the Green Mountain bold roasts. Best gift I ever received!

    • http://www.facebook.com/jonathantaft Jonathan Taft

      I can’t get by the taste of plastic I usually taste when brewing, do you drink it black

  • Jerrky

    Its worth noting that light roasts are a Northern Italian phenomenon.  I prefer a nice light roast. A light roast like Illy Coffee tastes, not just like coffee, but has hints of chocolate and caramel.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CRTBVXTQSOPGLVECV6HA3NYJZA MoniqueDC

      Love Illy – very pricey in the US, though

  • Sue B

    As other people have said, I find Starbuck’s coffee to be very bitter and I think it is the way they brew it.  When I by the Starbuck’s coffee beans and brew it myself, I really like it.  By the way I drink decaf

  • BHA in Vermont

    I don’t know about the response to ‘more people used to drink it black’. Guess I grew up in an area other than the guest. I grew up on the west coast where Regular meant unadulterated black NOT decaf coffee. Decaf meant black decaf. You put your own sugar and cream in it if you wanted. When I moved to Vermont it was a shock to see non black coffee when I asked for regular.

    The only people I knew growing up that had milk/cream in their coffee were my sisters and me … at my grandparents’ house and it was 95% milk, the rest coffee. My mother gauged the quality of service on whether the server kept her coffee topped off and therefore hot. That wouldn’t work well for those who put in sugar and cream.

    And I work with a lady who ALWAYS dumps 3 packages of sugar in every cup (restaurant cups, not large takeout!)  without even trying it first.

    • Tuna

      This is why the word “regular” is useless, especially in the food service industry. Which size coffee would you like? Regular. What kind of bread would you like that on? Regular. What does that even mean? It’s a request that lacks any information at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathantaft Jonathan Taft

    Would love to hear about organic vs non.  I have heard a lot about the process in which the chemical that is used to remove the flesh is an important part in the process.  When I made the switch to organic, I tasted an immediate difference.  Who does this process? The Farmer?

  • James Hayes-Bohanan

    Keurig is both a blessing and a curse — greater convenience and variety, but at huge costs, both obvious and less obvious. I still love GMCR, but much prefer to buy it whole-bean, so that a greater proportion of the money goes to the farmers, and so that it tastes much better!


    • Wiley-c

      If you have one of these, you can use whatever coffee you like: Keurig My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter  

    • Lnier001

      I find them terribly wasteful.  Why do we need the individual packaging?  As a culture, knowing what we know now, shouldn’t we be rejecting products that produce this much waste?

    • Slipstream

      Unfan of the increasingly ubiquitous Keurig here.  It makes harsh coffee, probably involves ingesting some boiled plastic.  I actually prefer Folger’s Instant.

  • DrJeffIbbotson

    As chemist I think the quality of the water is very important. For example : Hard versus Soft and Distilled Water.



    • Wiley-c

      I know in my bread-making and beer-brewing the water plays a big part. Wouldn’t use distilled, but bottled, I prefer Poland Springs. If I fill a glass from our home tap town water, I get a big nose of chlorine, unappetizing!

    • TFRX

      I enjoy brewery and distillery tours. Every time they have mentioned the mineral profile of the water and how it affects the beer or spirits.

      And distilled water? I can’t imagine that’s good for brewing coffee or tea, or drinking. But filtering gets the chlorine out of H20 nicely, a must when one is in, say, Phoenix or Philly.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CRTBVXTQSOPGLVECV6HA3NYJZA MoniqueDC

      Doc, we only use filtered water for coffee or tea.   It is critical to the taste (and, by the way, only filtered for cooking and baking as well).

    • Cchap

       Great water is the first step of great coffee… its a chemistry thing…right on DrJ

  • TFRX

    Bitterness: Does anyone add a pinch of salt to their coffee while brewing? Is that an old gourmet wives’ tale or does it really work?

    And did we touch on the particular bitterness of caffeine, when it comes to decaffeination? It’s an alkaloid. When it’s removed from coffee, it can change the flavor profile a great deal.

  • BEEZ

    Japanese are “better tasters” due to the cultural concept of perception, based on the figure and ground theory of the German Gestalt psychologists.
    They pay more attention to the overall context and relationship between figure and ground, while Westerners tend to focus mostly on the figure. So, in general, “we” lack the sophistication to interpret the flavors.

  • Anonymous

    Not once was the critical role of the farmer clearly spoken about.  Specialty has been until recently all about the roaster and blends, while farmers were kept in the shadows.  They had zero incentive to develop their craftsmanship since they existed in a buyer’s market.  When prices dropped below the cost of production farmers streamed over our border in droves, not just from Mexico but all the way from South America! Lighter roasts are the vehicle by which quality motivated farmers who prepare their harvested beans – so important to the final results! – get to shine.  Nuance and layers of flavor are allowed to come to the fore, rather than being steamrolled by the “strong” saucy flavors of generic caramel achieved through over-roasting.  Single estate coffee are hopefully here to stay sustained by the transparency of lighter roasting.  The non-profit Cup of Excellence, founded in 1999, was a major game-changer, empowering farmers and roasters alike to discover a rainbow world of what great coffees can truly taste like.

  • Margarita Assael

    Another scam!  Something else to buy that you probably can’t afford–Just like bottle water—-how did we live 20 years ago?

  • Muffy D.

    Your topics are varied, today’s coffee show was a thoroughly enjoyable break from the current news topics.

  • Ron Gaykema

    Coming from Europe it was amazing to me how poor quality the coffee was in the USA and how diluted the brews were – lighter colored than tea. Much has improved with independent local coffee houses with excellent espresso bars. The only brew I can tolerate is a solid fresh shot of intense espresso straight or mixed with steamed milk to generate a strong latte (3 shots at least in a 12 ox cup!!). This brings out the good flavors and avoid the bittternes (the latter is the usual problem with drip coffee). Needless to say I got an espresso machine at home.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CRTBVXTQSOPGLVECV6HA3NYJZA MoniqueDC

      Ron, I lived in Europe for many years and STILL import my favorite French coffee.  I find the Starbucks roast to be burnt and they should not call it French roast.   French Roast is robust, but still very flavorable.

  • Kclayton

    I own a specialty wine and coffee shop.  We are having our 7th anniversary. I have been involved with wine for over 25 years, and as much as I see the trend of origin and specialty coffee, coffee is still the drug to get us going and is not in the same league as wine, which has a very different and revered place at our tables.  I have never ever had a customer plan a meal around a specific taste of coffee…don’t get me wrong, as I love the origin coffees, but the trend of treating them as specifically as wines, I feel is misplaced. They need their own place, and not mentioned in the same sentence. There is something not mentioned in your article, and that is the growers are still not being paid enough for their green beans, and living in hunger for some months of the year, while we are enjoying our fancy coffees

  • Mark

    With the volume of money increasing, can Tom please host a show that is focused upon the recipients of the money?  With ad dollars in the Billions, who eventually benefits from this Super PAC spending?  Obvious recipients are swing state local news affiliates and cable providers who sell the ad space.  How does this temporary blip in revenue impact us as consumers of media from those outlets?  Does it come back to us in the form of improved local news reporting, additional local political correspondents, more advanced technology for local hurricane or bad weather alerts, lower ad costs for the rest of the year for local businesses, lower cable bills?  How many stations use this billion dollar windfall to off-set otherwise poor ad spending from the recession, and how many stations are enjoying surplus profits this year? 

  • Tatsu Ikeda

    I can’t listen to the episode it says denied or not found.

    • Slipstream

       Try using another web browser.

  • Bin

    Nobody mentioned Kona coffee – the king of coffees… It’s like a program on wine without Bordeaux…

  • Els4pond

    Nice extended plug you made for the ubiquitous Starbucks–they don’t deserve it.  I buy dark roasted beans and grind them myself and the result is not bitter and does not taste burnt.  Starbucks is either over-roasting or over-grinding the beans.  “Dark roast” does NOT equal “burnt.”  It is such a shame that indie coffee purveyors such as the Coffee Connection in Boston  have been destroyed by Starbucks, who don’t even make have  a good product!

  • Els4pond

    P.S. — very happy that the Coffee Exchange is exists in Providence and I go there whenever I can.  

  • Tanya

    This show was great!  Thanks for the insight!

  • Modavations

    Mexico has good coffee these days,but way back when ,it was so weak we’d call it agua pintada

  • KMannPhoto

    Suspicious of light roasts?  I’ve always been suspicous of dark roasts, that like one major seller seem to cover the lacking taste of bad beans!

  • Lnier001

    I have always thought Starbucks tasted horrible but I love other dark roasts.  I don’t think the burned taste comes from the dark roast but from actually burning the beans and probably having low quality beans to begin with.  I’ve worked with lots of coffee farmers and everything I’ve experienced is better than Starbucks!  I will say, I’ve always preferred lighter roasts if for no other reason because they have more caffeine!  

  • guest

    Several people have mentioned the farmers.  I have long been a believer that coffee can save the world.  If people would spend more money on better quality coffee and care more about where it comes from, farmers can have fair wages and consistent wages.  Supporting organic and, more importantly, shade grown coffee will also promote biodiversity.  Coffee growing regions overlap with Conservation International’s biodiversity hotspots.  Traditional shade coffee plantations can have over 60% the biodiversity of virgin forest and provide important habitat for animal movements between patches of forest.  You should do a show about the importance of coffee choices on environment and livelihoods in coffee growing regions.  

  • Pingback: A few words on coffee « Svenonia Blog

  • Frostbytes57

    I live down the street from Barismo and go whenever I can.  It’s definitely all about the coffee.  I’m surprised On Point didn’t provide a link to their website.  www.barismo.com

  • Cchap

    This has been a great discussion, it’s well past time we get past the hype… and smell the coffee. If the beans smell like burned tobacco, to me it takes a lot mental gymnastics to drink them down even with  a ton of cream and say ah great coffee!
    If bitter oils are gracing the outside of the beans…lighten-up the roast! What smells good is good when brewed to the strength that suits you.
    Sweat the small stuff (not the beans)and don’t dark roast the premium beans…its a whole new world when beans are roasted light!

  • Jrabbitt86

    Loved this show!! Although I am not much  of a coffee drinker, (one per day), I enjoy waking to the smells of coffee being roasted for coffee syrup by the autocrat co. just up the street from me. I think now i”ll go get a cup of “joe”. 

  • Slipstream

    I have to say I have observed with some amusement the growing coffee culture in America, but especially in places like Boston and Greenwich Village and SF, Portland, etc.  I recently dropped by such a place and watched the hip young people sipping at $5 cups of Chemex filtered (or whatever) coffee that were just a notch or two (if any) better than what you get at Starbuck’s.  I enjoy a cup of coffee for sure, drink one every day, but coffee is not wine.  It is not even tea, in terms of the range of flavors and styles on the market.  If you really want to see a product with a wide range of tastes and styles that were unthinkable even 10 years ago, check out the craft beer movement.  That is where some real creativity has been happening.

    And hey, how about a show on tea?  Some of us prefer it to the more harsh, less healthy brew made from coffee beans, and there is a bit of a trend happening as well, with tea shops opening and more interesting types becoming available, sometimes at premium prices.

    • RoastMonkey

      Coffee isn’t wine, it’s actually far more complex. Coffee beans have more than 400 flavor constituents, while wine has only around one hundred. The problem is that the vast majority of coffee is handled so poorly that it’s volatile flavor compounds are either burned off during the roasting process or allowed to oxidize before it ever reaches the consumer.

  • Slipstream

    Just to add to my previous comment – I do like good coffee and appreciate the greater range of coffees now on the market.  I am not a cafe philistine and would not want to drink only Maxwell House or whatever.  I am happy that more dark, flavorful coffees are now a lot easier to find.  And allow me to put in a plug for Porto Rico Coffee in NYC, which has been selling high quality coffees at reasonable prices to long lines of customers for decades now.

  • mikediggity

    this is the stupidest post in the world.
    especially this.”Deep, bold dark roast as the hipster hallmark.”
    light roasting isn’t a new trend.. it’s only new to starbucks and if you take your social cues from the starbucks line you’re out of touch, old, and ignorant.

  • Michiganjf

    … to himself

  • Modavations

    Look for reply above

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