We’ve been receiving a fair amount of feedback that customers are frustrated tying to find a bold, strong brew at Starbucks since the introduction of the milder Pike Place Roast as the everyday coffee. We wrote about the introduction of Pike Place Roast last month.
My expectation when Starbucks first announced Pike Place Roast was that the classic bold, strong brew that customers have identified with Starbucks for years would still be available. Pike Place Roast seemed like a reasonable addition to the everyday drip offering. A milder coffee that would appeal to a segment of the market looking for something with a little less edge. And the strong, bold offering would remain available for the millions of loyal Starbucks customers that would like to see that continue.
We’ve been receiving consistent feedback at the Gourmet Coffee Zone that customers are having a hard time finding Starbucks stores that still serve the stronger coffee. So I visited a Starbucks today to check it out. Sure enough, it’s pretty much only Pike Place Roast. This is a mistake and will drive away loyal Starbucks customers looking for the strong daily coffee fix to which they’ve been accustomed.
Admittedly, the store we visited here in Southern California was certainly busy enough. Business didn’t seem to be suffering with the Pike Place Roast front and center. However, as is usually the case, most of the customers were walking out the door with the standard coffee milk shake fare.
We did noticed the “French Press” option, something we haven’t tried yet at Starbucks. On the menu, below the Pike Place Roast was something called “Share a Coffee” (or something similar). Your choice of any of the Starbucks whole bean coffees prepared in a French press for $3.50.
The coffee press is a Bodum 8-cup model designed for Starbucks, I believe the same model sold in the stores. So roughly two “talls” or about 24 ounces worth of coffee prepared fresh for you while you wait.
It must not be a commonly ordered item. The girl taking care of us seemed a bit flustered, and we had to point to the description on the menu behind her. And when we asked which whole bean coffees we could choose from, she explained “only the French Roast and the Italian Roast”. And I’m reminded I’m in a Starbucks. OK, let’s give it a shot, and we ordered the “French Roast”.
The “French press” takes about 5 minutes to prepare. I noticed they used a timer, which is probably a good idea. In the busy store, with the line practically out the door, it would be easy to lose track of the brewing time with the coffee press. As we watched from our table, the timer went off, and she rushed over to push the plunger. We stepped up to the counter and she handed us the French press along with two nice big ceramic coffee mugs.
We poured our own cups at the table. Unfortunately, it was downhill from there. The aroma in the cup was flat, with the Starbucks burnt roast mostly prominent. The brew was just a tad over-extracted, so it was pushing a little too much bitterness.
It was a nice touch, and could work if done right. We might have enjoyed the Guatemala Antiqua, Sulawesi or Sumatra prepared in the press if the beans were available. As mentioned, the menu did indicate “any of the whole bean coffees”. And I think the stores generally honor this policy.
If you’re not in a hurry, and have the time to wait for a French press preparation, this might be an option if you’re looking for that stronger brew at Starbucks.
But the days of the quick and convenient strong and bold daily drip appear to be gone!