2/26/2013 02:00:00 PM

Barista Taste Test: Blind Tasting Stumptown, Starbucks, Burger King and Dunkin'

With big-chain eateries making all kinds of strides to improve their coffees (or at least the marketing of them anyway) - think Burger King's coffee revamp and Starbucks' new blonde roast - we got to wondering about how these new beans would stack up against tried-and-true favorites like Stumptown and Dunkin' Donuts. How would we put them all to the test? In honor of Coffee Week, we rounded up three NYC-based baristas to blind taste four cups of joe. The baristas/judges are Toby's Estate Coffee educator Allie Caran, Slayer master and Atera barista/bartender Brandon Duff, and Crave Fishbar barista (and Counter Culture-trained) Emily Blackman. In front of them we placed four cups of coffee in blank cups marked A (Stumptown), B (Burger King), C (Dunkin') and D (Starbucks' Blonde Roast). Here's what went down.

Note: in no way does this taste test reflect endorsements of any kind for any brand from our three baristas.

Zagat: Objectively, which one tastes the best?

Brandon: A and C I like a little better than the other ones. 

Emily. I think I like C and D. B is like flat and round, watery.

Allie: B has too much water - their coffee/water ratio is a little off. It’s got the most detectable sweetness. C is probably the most balanced out of all of them. D probably has the driest finish, there’s a very kind of tannic feeling to it. A is seemingly poor quality. If the idea is to focus on commercial versus specialty coffee or how we grade and taste coffee - there are certain things that are intrinsically lacking in the cup, one of which is brightness. When we talk about brightness, it’s a pleasing acidity in coffee, it’s one of the most important things in a premium coffee, detectable fruit and sugars. None of these have them. Not knowing how this is prepared, I can’t necessarily tell you which one is the most expensive one because the ratio is off on all of them.

Zagat: If you had to guess which one is which - what would you say?

Emily: I would say B would be from Burger King, just because it almost has a chocolate-covered cherry essence to it. If I was just serving to people who eat at fast-food restaurants, that’s probably the kind of taste they would want - sweet, round.

Brandon: Maybe A was Dunkin’ Donuts. I would say C is probably Stumptown.

Allie: C is the one that is holding up the best.

Emily: I would say D is Dunkin’ Donuts, because I like Dunkin’ more than I like Starbucks.

Allie: You can have great coffee, you can have bad coffee, but if it’s made badly, it’s very difficult as a taster. Your company is on the line and your name is on the line, I have an apprehensive feeling picking out which one is which.

Zagat: If you were stranded in Indiana and had to drink it, what's your favorite commercial coffee?

Emily: Good question. Actually if I'm on the street and can't get to a good place, I go to Dunkin' Donuts.

Allie: For most coffee people, there has to be a line that's made, because people are always offering you coffee. You never say no, even though you know it's bad.

Brandon: Most of the time I won't drink it if I don't know where it's from. I won't even try it.  I'd drink sh*tty tea or something.

So what's the consensus? Putting aside the fact that all of these coffees were prepared differently (and all somewhat poorly) Dunkin' Donuts seems to be scoring the highest marks.

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  1. Why bother having a taste test if the coffee is not prepared the same way?

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.