Saturday, February 03, 2007

McDonald’s beats Starbucks

McDonald’s beats Starbucks in coffee smackdown - Los Angeles Times: "In the ultimate coffee smackdown, it was yuppie Starbucks vs. Ronald McDonald.

And the clown won.

Consumer Reports magazine said today that in a test conducted at two locations of each emporium, its tasters found McDonald's coffee to be 'decent and moderately strong' with 'no flaws.' On the other hand, the Starbucks brew 'was strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open.'

The March issue of the magazine, due out Monday, thus advises, 'Try McDonald's, which was cheapest and best.'"

Update: Reader Brian Ellis (and when I say "reader" I mean one of a handful) sends me this factoid from Cooks Illustrated (Subscription Only):

"Most surprising, Starbucks came in not first but fifth out of the eight
samples. "Burnt, with a bitter aftertaste," said one taster. "Like gnawing on charcoal," said another. Top honors went instead to Green Mountain Roasters and
Eight O'Clock, which tasters found complex and well balanced.

By no stretch am I a trained coffee expert, but I also wasn't convinced that I've been blithely sucking down "burnt coffee" twice a day. So I devised one more test--a
tasting of coffee with milk. Why? An informal poll revealed that more than
two-thirds of the Cook's staff (including me) add milk to their coffee, and it
seemed only fair to try the brands that way, too. So I brewed up eight more
pots, added 3/4 cup warmed whole milk to each, and summoned 25
soon-to-be-jittery tasters into the test kitchen for another tour.

Sure enough, preferences changed. This time, Green Mountain and Eight O'Clock, the plain-coffee champs, ended up in the lower ranks--bland and insipid, according
to tasters. In contrast, Starbucks landed near the top, along with Millstone and
Seattle's Best, two other fairly assertive coffees. The bitter, burnt notes that
had menaced tasters in the first round were suddenly "robust" and "complex" when
tempered by the milk. Simply watered down? Not quite. Additional research
revealed that the proteins in milk (and cream) bind some of the bitter-tasting
phenolic compounds, reducing the bitterness and intensity of the coffee flavor."

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