Messing around with some glass cups

Wandered into town today having seen that Starbucks were giving away free coffee between 2pm and 4pm.  Turns out it was part of FairTrade fortnight (let’s not get into ethics or labelling in coffee) and they were giving away a tall cup of their Cafe Estima blend.  I timed it just right for the first cup of a fresh brew.  I wandered out of the store, cup in hand, only to be cornered for a “taste test” which I was happy to partake in.

They were brewing the Estima as both drip and french press and wanted people to taste the difference.  Oddly they seemed more interested in asking me which one tasted stronger.  This isn’t something I usually think about, as I was paying more attention to the coffee itself.  It tasted a bit flat and lacking in character.  I asked what was in the blend.  I was told the coffee was a blend and from Latin America.  “All of Latin America?” I asked, and was greeted with a confident “Yes.”  I asked when it was roasted and was told, quite confusingly, that it was roasted for at least 12 minutes.  Having asked the question again it they didn’t really know, but the bags did have sell by dates.  Turns out french press coffee is stronger too.  Still at least they are trying and the coffee wasn’t that bad.

What captured my imagination a little more today was a nice glass cup I found in Muji.  Snuck some time on a machine this evening just to see how capps looked and then it crossed my mind that making an americano in it might be quite pretty.  Turns out I was right!  If you click the pictures it will take you to a larger image on Flickr.  I took some pictures of the coffee just hitting the water, and it was a lot of fun and I am quite pleased with a few of the pictures:

The very first drop hits:

The coffee starts to mix (I like you can see the drip tray!):

I wish this one had come out a little better – it is quite cool though:

It is also quite nice to see how much foam you are really pouring without having to spoon it around…

9 Comments

  1. Asking any legitimate coffee questions from a Starbucks employee is like asking an EMT to perform heart surgery. They really try, but they haven’t a clue.

    Starbucks doesn’t feel it necessary to specify WHERE in “Latin America” the coffee came from.. .there’s a whole lot of variation that most of them are just unaware of.

    Glass cup Americanos are definitely a lot of fun. Love those cups.

  2. I’ve always been a big fan of glass cups for milk drinks and Americanos. I remember at a previous job how much of a kick I would get out of the first drops of espresso falling into the cup of water. Always wanted a camera capable of preserving the aesthetic…great photos.

  3. Awsome pics of the espresso going in the water.

    I went in to starbucks a few weeks ago promoting the Bristol UKBC regional heat to see if anyone wanted to enter… They all seemed quite up for it, I was then told that it would be unfair if one of them entered as they have months of superiour training! Needless to say no one entered, I guess they found out that they wouldn’t be able to bring along their bean to cup machine!

    Well done in London! Great score too :-)

  4. About the americano’s.
    Maybe you know, but in Belgium and Holland it is more common to drink lungo’s or americano’s than espresso’s. Mostly the blend is different, the grinding different, but the extraction method is equal. It just fills up the cup with, depending on your personal favor, 12 to 18 cl of coffee. The crema is almost always very light/pale, but the taste can be fantastic. I’m sure you’ll all prefer drinking these kind of lungo’s/americano’s in stead of the hot water with espresso most of the barista’s in other country’s brew.
    Actually, i think it would be a good idea to write an article, with photo’s, about this subject, on my Caffènation blog soon.

    Nice pics. Keep up the good work.

  5. It is often easy to attack Starbucks, but don’t forget that they are a huge company. It might not be wrong to say that the coffee you were given was from “Latin America”. With the size of Starbucks I am sure they would not be able to supply all their shops with an origin coffee or one that contains coffee from just a few farms. I would guess that like lots of large roaster they use coffees from all over a region/country that have similar characteristics. Starbucks are not an Artisan roaster and I don’t thing they give the impression of being one. I compare Starbucks coffee to House wine in a restaurant, its drinkable but unlikely to tell you what vineyard it was grown on.
    The larger a company gets the easier it is to criticise it, which gives the smaller companies a point of difference. Having said all this, Starbucks have a lot to learn.

  6. Your Starbucks store partner was pretty close. Your link shows that Cafe’ Estima is a blend of Latin American and East African coffees. I think Alistair hit it on the head, too. To be fair, you could duck into some of your other local shops, pick up a bag of blended coffee and ask the same questions. I think you’ll be surprised at what you hear. It would be even more telling to call that shop’s roaster or green buyer and test if the baristas were right in their assertions.

    As for the simple question they asked you- are you surprised that they began with a lower level of taste differentiation rather than starting off with “do you agree that they press pot method lets more of the coffee oils and colloids through resulting in a syrupy cup, heavier body, and fuller aroma”?

    Love your work, site, and spro-porn. Cheers.

  7. The glass cup photo’s are very nice! Talking to a Starbucks employee and expecting to get good dialogue seems to be a dead issue I’m afraid. They know what their told and get hung up on blank titles that mean nothing. They are what they are. Great site Jim, keep up the good work!

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