Gilded Good or Gross Coffee? Straight Dope on McDonald's, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Panera
I won't talk about my first attempt to roast my own coffee.
Well, maybe later. The second time I attempted to roast my own coffee, I burnt the beans practically to ashes. I could have written graffiti with them on any surface, maybe that's one step beyond Italian Roast - Graffiti Roast. Among the carbon and oils, I wasn't sure if it was to be thrown away or not. You know why? It was a close match to Starbuck’s and countless other boutique coffee whole bean coffees. So I referred to a site all about home roasting and coffee roasts in general, coffeegeek.com. I learned all those roast names are bogus, anyone can group different levels of roastings into certain categories, but ultimately you have to go by the standard based on caramelization and color to know different levels look like. The roasting is a super complex and interesting chemical reaction, that results in "beans" with level 1 through level 16, where Starbucks would be 17 and my coffee would be 21.
7 Layers of Coffee Seed... No Beans Anywhere.
Powerful UVB Light by Rayminder
Artful Cup or Graffiti Roast?
The third time I roasted I didn't roast them enough, but they resembled roast level 1-12, some roasted more than others. The darkest and best-tasting ones were closer to level 12 a.k.a. "Full-City" or Full French” or level 12-13. My rudimentary roasting process makes uneven batches, so I separate the darkest "Italian roast" 14-16 and reserve them for quasi-espresso cups. You know, when you need something to prevent sleep for the next few hours.
Panera is consistently weak by my tastes.
Dunkin Donuts is really great, maybe a bit weak at times.
McDonalds is just as great, if maybe a bit strong at times.
Burger King a.k.a. Seattle’s Best resembles Starbucks and is consistently strong, and always from a roast that was slightly burned to heavily burned. Almost always drinkable, almost.
If you choose a light roast Starbucks or Seattle’s Best you should expect a Full French Roast leaning a little on the dark side, like Anakin Skywalker in the second prequel. Be prepared, sometimes it's just too dark, like Anakin walking in to dispatch the younglings, you just cannot continue what you've started in good conscious anymore.
Nobody really sells a truly “Light” Cafe roast and for good reason. For the same way nobody really likes Jar Jar Binks or the naïve wide-eyed Luke Skywalker. Everything needs a little bite, otherwise coffee is just hot brown liquid.
I once had a cup of maxwell house that was magic. I don't know what went wrong, but somehow they roasted good coffee just right, and it ended up in my cup within two weeks of the roasting. Thus began my journey. Starbucks and other chain coffee brands had lots of flavor, but bad flavor by comparison. I could no longer get an unburnt or weak cup without getting lucky again, I even tried boutique coffee shops until I gave up and started home roasting my own. Thanks to coffeegeek for helping me get started and quickly found out that roasting is an art, a science, and even a way of life for many people. My best roasts ever were better than anything I could buy retail. My average home roast is equivalent to that magical miracle cup of Maxwell House. I bought green beans from Amazon, not too expensive, extremely high quality beans, by the pound. There are a lot of high quality beans out there. Roasting is a smoky process best done in a garage or outdoors. Trust me on this.
What do I buy when I need a cup out on the town? Dunkin Donuts coffee. 7-11 or anyone using Mother Parker brand coffee is worth a go especially at a buck a cup. $1.00 a cup is still a bargain worth having from McDonalds, which comes in as a close third for flavor. Btw, I've never “flavored” coffee, on the advice of my Dad. It’s already a flavored drink, and all that extra flopping around is a waste of time, plus you will get caught having to drink it without any training wheels, so what are you going to do then? Just man up and drink it black. A true coffee man drinks it black every time. Cream-puff sugary drinkers can't judge a good cup of coffee. They are the ones downing the stale, awful coffee from many of the brands offered you’ve never seen me drinking. The one exception being Maxwell house because their blend can be good, even with chicory, I don't care what anyone says about chicory - it can be really good if done right. Choc full o' nuts is almost as good, and may have chicory.
Arabica is a bit weak for me of the 3 species of plant that are grown to make coffee, Coffea arabica, C. canephora (robusta) and C. liberica. Sumatra is good and Columbian is my favorite for home roasted and brewed coffee. It’s just a matter of preference, in many countries coffee isn't made from arabica simply because robusta (and rarely liberica) by tradition and economics. Good luck going to South America and not having wonderful brews of all three with unbelievable characteristics. Good luck having anything as fresh and delicious from a chain restaurant... but it doesn't have to be that way! Mainly, cutting the time from roasting to brewing below 14 days would make all the difference in the world.