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Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
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MikeFerguson
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Posted Fri Feb 20, 2009, 1:00am
Subject: Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
 

Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?
Professionally Speaking article by Mike Ferguson

Starbucks introduces an instant coffee, hoping to bolster lagging fortunes and sagging market shares. Is history in coffee development bound to repeat itself? Mike Ferguson presents some history and viewpoints.
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syscrusher
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Posted Fri Feb 20, 2009, 3:01am
Subject: Re: Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
 

Interesting read, but to some degree we must defer to "the proof of the pudding is in the eating". And I suspect there might be some "eating" involved with the "microground" coffee added to the instant (at least that's what I understood the process to be).

Am I skeptical about their claims? Yes.
Are most people who appreciate "speciality coffee"? Yes.
Do Starbucks care? No.

Although it smacks of desperation to me, we will have to wait and see if they do indeed create an incrementally better instant coffee.
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vernonbishop
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Posted Fri Feb 20, 2009, 1:55pm
Subject: Re: Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
 

Starbucks is expensive and gross!!  :-(

Why would anyone drink this stuff is beyond me.....  :-P

VB
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MarkPrince
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Posted Fri Feb 20, 2009, 3:04pm
Subject: Re: Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
 

Via Instant Brew by Starbucks gets a review in UK's The Guardian by a self-admitted (via description) commodity coffee drinker, and the review ain't pretty.

Mark

 
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baristaboy
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Posted Sat Feb 21, 2009, 10:04am
Subject: Re: Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
 

I remember Starbucks saying they would never sell an instant coffee. Starbucks' business has plateaued and the recession has them desperate. It's seems sad and pathetic that they would use gimmicks; Starbucks Entertainment, closing stores in the middle of operating hours for 'training' was obviously for publicity; switching to super-autos in every store for a supposedly better product; now introducing a 'quality' instant coffee. In my opinion they peaked in 2003, then the started a slow declined towards their desperation. Starbucks has left a bitter taste in my mouth and I grow more disappointed with them each month. I can only be glad that they introduced me to better coffee and eventually the specialty coffee industry. I'll always remember them for better days.
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roastaroma
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Posted Sat Feb 21, 2009, 9:56pm
Subject: Re: Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
 

Man, that review in The Guardian was brutal! Anyone feel like volunteering for a taste test now? Sounds like Via is not even in the realm of "good enough"! (Excellent article, Mike, in any case.)

From my POV, Starbucks' strategy has been just flinging noodles at the wall to see which one sticks: the Sirena machine, the Pike's Place blend, the Clover experiment, the new super-autos, the cheap drip coffee, and now (gag) instant coffee. SB is a classic empire in decline, wasting money & energy in a vain attempt to return to its glory days.

For my part, I have no schadenfreude, esp. when people lose their jobs or have their hours cut back. In these difficult days, to me the most efficient path of quality is the one we pursue at home, brewing coffee ourselves. I suspect that more & more people are doing the math and reaching that conclusion. Does it not seem we are receiving more visits from such people nowadays?

Buona Fortuna,
Wayne

 
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KevinK
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Posted Sun Feb 22, 2009, 9:22am
Subject: Re: Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
 

I was the Coffee Specialist (in charge of everything that happened to coffee at Starbucks from the time it left the roasting plant until the time it was brewed) from 1987-1993. The technology to produce instant coffee of superior quality began to be researched at that time, and certainly the success the company has had with ice cream and ready-to-drink bottled products owes a lot to that research. The current product choices (Colombian and Italian Roast) are just plain stupid, but I distinctly recall tasting instant Sumatra that was a dead-ringer for fresh-brewed.

There is no question that the overall quality of the coffees being offered at SBUX has declined dramatically over the years, but they certainly have the ability to buy, roast and deliver superb stuff when they choose to. Sadly the roast style has on the whole drifted even darker while coffees that can come through that roast with acidity and nuance intact are far harder to come by than they were in the good old days. How great it would be if state-of-the-art instant coffee technology could be used for coffees worth drinking (for example, the superb origin coffees from roasters such as Terroir, Paradise, Allegro, Intelligentsia).
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MarkPrince
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Posted Sun Feb 22, 2009, 5:32pm
Subject: Re: Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
 

Kevin; thanks for chiming in.

I took a tour of a big east coast instant coffee factory / plant back in 2003, and learned first hand how the process of making instant coffee took place. It is what turned me off instant coffee, well, forever.

There's been speculation that Starbucks' process uses the standard freeze-dried method, but with the addition of actual ground whole bean coffee particles, ground down to >50 microns, to "boost" the flavour quotient of the brewed and dehydrated (and post-flavoured) instant.

Even so, I'm intrigued by your comment on the Sumatra - if it were early in the dev stage, I'd assume they didn't stray too far off the instant formula... what made it different?

Mark
PS. Guessing it broke your heart when they ditched the traditional machines for the super autos.

 
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BoldJava
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Posted Sun Feb 22, 2009, 5:42pm
Subject: Re: Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
 

roastaroma Said:

Man, that review in The Guardian was brutal! Anyone feel like volunteering for a taste test now? ...
Buona Fortuna,
Wayne

Posted February 21, 2009 link

I ordered a free sample off the SBux site.  While everyone has slammed it, I would prefer to taste it and come to my own conclusion:

http://www.starbucksstore.com/products/via/freesampleout.asp

B|Java

 
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Dave Borton
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MarkPrince
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Posted Sun Feb 22, 2009, 5:48pm
Subject: Re: Instant Convenience, Mermaids, Good Enough?, Professionally Speaking
 

Let's face it. Instant coffee is an easy, no brainer target to slam.

And if you've actually seen the process used to make instant coffee, you'd slam it too. :)

This may be a poor analogy, but we all know not to eat feces, right? What if someone came along and said 'we just spent 20 years reformulating and developing feces so that it no longer tastes like feces! Give it a try!!!' would you then think hmmmm.... ?

I know it's a poor comparison, but maybe an echo of how I feel about some instant coffees. Perhaps a better comparison would be Mad Dog 20/20...

That said, yes, I'll be trying it too. One little known fact about my tasting experience (though I did podcast about this once) Every year for the last 9 years now, I go through a two week session where I buy and taste pretty much every coffee product I can get my hands on, from 7-11 brew, to japanese canned coffees, to a range of instants (those tiny jars are expensive!) Did the last round about 11 months ago so I'm getting due again. Probably the best of the  worst for me is Taster's Choice 100% Colombian, but even that tastes worse, as the years go by.

Mark

 
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