Why do some people sneer at Starbucks coffee?

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2

Business practices aside, Starbucks coffee seems to get a lot of derision from people who consider themselves coffee aficionados. Why is this? I can understand why one might not like the idea of an enormous creamy, iced, syrup-filled beverage, but is there anything wrong with their actual espresso?

An example of this common mindset is presented on Time.com:

[...] no coffee snob I know would be caught dead drinking a latte, especially the Starbucks latte they implied.

fredley

Posted 2015-01-28T09:56:25.303

Reputation: 4 258

Because their beans are burnt to hell. :) – keithjgrant – 2015-04-07T13:02:57.937

2This is a bit subjective and opinionated isn't it? Is this type of question considered on topic here? – EdChum – 2015-01-28T10:07:44.993

1@EdChum Kinda my point in asking it. Shall we discuss it on meta? – fredley – 2015-01-28T10:12:26.943

I think so, leave it here to gauge community responses but I think we should clarify what the rules are – EdChum – 2015-01-28T10:14:33.680

1I think it's mostly the high price, at least in my region people who go there are considered snobs. – Danubian Sailor – 2015-01-28T10:18:26.190

4'coffee snobbery' is part of the topic domain (for better or for worse). "That's not single-source hand-picked by a verifiable descendant of Issac Newton" sort of stuff. I would recommend substantiating claims made as the premise of the question hinges on them, but that's easy enough to do with a simple blog search. – Tim Post – 2015-01-28T12:52:11.623

1flagging as opinion based. Honestly, this cannot be anything other than that. – Joshua Aslan Smith – 2015-01-28T12:58:44.117

I've posted a meta question about whether this is on topic or not

– EdChum – 2015-01-28T13:02:59.380

@TimPost I've found a suitable quote that should suffice! – fredley – 2015-01-28T13:06:27.897

1the question lends itself to discussing coffee drinking and what the coffee community considers to be quality coffee. I find it different than the question: Do you like Starbucks. – Mayo – 2015-01-28T16:04:30.020

It's opinion based, but so is coffee in general. I think the answer is a list of reasons for the opinion. It's a very reasonable question for someone "getting into" specialty coffee who has friends who are already home roasting or the like. – Chris_in_AK – 2015-02-06T15:51:36.940

Answers

34

In order to maintain consistency, Starbucks roasts their coffee a tad bit longer than many might prefer. The espresso you get in New York is going to taste exactly like the one you got in Hong Kong, or New Delhi - that's actually kind of impressive. Still, if you're someone that likes their beans just past the second 'crack' - you might find their espresso a bit too dark, a bit too bitter and a bit too expensive to be accepting of a disappointment.

Now, the coffee that they sell in bags gives you plenty of options - you can still get a nice blonde-roasted bag of single source Arabica at many locations. If you're there to order something with milk in it, then you're probably not going to notice just how dark the beans really taste - you'll probably just enjoy your coffee.

However, if you tend to take espresso straight, or a drink that is basically espresso cut with water or very little milk, you might thumb your nose in the air a bit. Then again, I'd take a bitter-ish espresso over a cup of bland-ish drip any day.

People love to complain if given the opportunity. If you like their espresso, enjoy it - if not, well, drink other espresso :)

Tim Post

Posted 2015-01-28T09:56:25.303

Reputation: 2 348

@ChrisinAK It ensures it never reaches espresso drinking consumers, I tend to agree. To their credit, they do have some creative blends and options in the drip department, but well, that's .. drip :) I think it's a problem that any major chain would face, having that many roast and bean options available for grind in so many locations would result in an awful lot of 'shrink' and waste, and why smaller shops will always have a market. – Tim Post – 2015-07-31T04:18:15.610

Their blends suffer from the same supply chain problems their espresso beans have. They are generally past their freshness date. I drink far more drip than I do espresso and I have to say I'd rather drink an amazing cup of drip I roasted three days ago than drink a over roasted and stale shot of espresso. – Chris_in_AK – 2015-07-31T04:33:11.800

4I think that consistency is exactly why "coffee snobs" don't like it. It all tastes like roast (part of the reason for the darker roasting) and the origin taste of the bean is gone. Part of the fun of coffee is the different taste between different lots of beans. Starbucks ensures that never gets to the consumer and convinces people who don't know better that their taste is the way it's supposed to be. – Chris_in_AK – 2015-01-28T18:11:56.757

12

Starbucks is a coffee-chain, but "It's not about the coffee". Their main focus is actually the personal experience of going there. They train their employees to remember regular's names (and not only that; the get loads of training on handling people, conversation tactics, and personal skills), they have that "your name on the cup" thing, and generally, their focus is actually the reception you get and how you feel going to Starbucks.

So while their coffee might be good, if one goes there and ignores all the other factors and solely focuses on the taste, one might find that there are better places in town.

Ludwik

Posted 2015-01-28T09:56:25.303

Reputation: 669

1your name on the cup? Try again. Something laughably similar, yet insanely dissimilar (my record is "Keith") on the cup – Kate Gregory – 2015-09-16T17:51:39.337

I actually remember reading somewhere that they did that on purpose. Don't remember why tho. – Ludwik – 2015-09-18T20:04:15.933

6

I like the answers already here, but want to add on a bit.

Coffee freshness is an extremely important variable when selecting coffee. There are roughly 800 volatile molecular components found in coffee and much of it evaporates within several days of resting and/or minutes after grinding. A true coffee snob is very interested in a "roast date" rather than a "best by date" because it gives you a read on freshness rather than the fabricated "expiration" that the roaster arbitrarily puts on the bag. Imagine selecting bread at a bakery and they won't tell you the day it's baked, it is rather mind boggling!

Since starbucks is an international chain, coffee freshness does not become a economical priority when servicing thousands of stores and millions of customers. Roasted coffee sits in warehouses until it is finally delivered and used by the barista or bought off the shelf by the consumer. It appears that Starbucks shelf-life is 12 months according to their Standards for Food Suppliers.

rwyland

Posted 2015-01-28T09:56:25.303

Reputation: 355

Starbucks standard is 6 months for unopened, vacuum-sealed coffee with a CO2 escape valve. The "12 months" mentioned in the linked document is for holding records on a product, not the product itself. – luser droog – 2015-08-25T09:34:22.620

@luserdroog Ah good catch! Do you have a reference for the 6 months? I can make that change, thanks – rwyland – 2015-08-25T18:37:43.423

I know it just from working there. I'll try to find a public document that confirms it. – luser droog – 2015-08-26T03:52:27.260