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Thread: Massmarket beans and cafes

  1. #1
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    Massmarket beans and cafes

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    How do the cafes that use mass market coffee (Vittoria etc) get acceptable results from their coffee? One of my favourite cafes (Bar Italia in Leichhardt) uses Vittoria, for example; I started off buying Vittoria beans at the supermarket (years ago) and turned into a snob from there.
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  2. #2
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Have you tried it lately?

    I think you might find your taste has changed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy View Post
    One of my favourite cafes (Bar Italia in Leichhardt) uses Vittoria, for example; I started off buying Vittoria beans at the supermarket (years ago) and turned into a snob from there.
    maybe there ar quite old at the supermarket.. did you try it again at the Bar Italia?

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    Senior Member GrahamK's Avatar
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    They no doubt get fresh beans and a different blend to what you get access to in the supermarket.

    Their equipment and baristas may also be good at maximising their offerings.

    And then as already mentioned, your tastes do change, and as you get used to better coffee you become less tolerant of the mediocre.

    Grahamk
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    TC
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    I (reluctantly) experienced Vittoria about 18 months ago at a place in Launceston. Their baristi are on the money and the product was reasonably fresh. I am certain it has little in common with the supermarket offer.

    While it wasn't brilliant coffee, I was surprised that it was actually ok. My intention was to take a sip and then "forget" about the rest, but I actually drained it.
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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    A place about 50 metres from my office has been in the Vittoria grasp for many years, they use the Vittoria 'cafe' blend. When the previous management had a young lady there who knew her stuff, kept the machine clean etc, they produced a 'decent' enough flat white. Same machine, same coffee, different owners and staff, and I've tried twice but I couldn't finish either drink (and my lord are they slow.....everything done in series). Another place about 20 yards further away switched to fresh beans from a good quality former site sponsor....but their staff care so little that I've not had a drinkable coffee (and I know the beans are good).

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    And now we know how to tell a Barista from someone who is paid to make coffee.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    I (reluctantly) experienced Vittoria about 18 months ago at a place in Launceston. Their baristi are on the money and the product was reasonably fresh. I am certain it has little in common with the supermarket offer.

    While it wasn't brilliant coffee, I was surprised that it was actually ok. My intention was to take a sip and then "forget" about the rest, but I actually drained it.
    Edge coffee, in town near the cinemas? Really thin shopfront?

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    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    Like Hildy, I owe it to Vittoria for turning me into a Coffee Snob.
    The bagged beans I was getting from the supermarket were so awful that I resolved to get a good espresso machine and source good bean.
    For years I refused to enter a cafe that advertised Vittoria, having had many undrinkable cups of the stuff.
    A couple of years back I made the ultimate sacrifice and entered a Vittoria cafe with friends, resolved not to complain about the coffee no matter how bad it was, and surprise - it was great coffee.
    (I imagine it was the exception that proves the rule - I won't be pushing my luck)

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    Vittoria: I agree with Talk_Coffee nothing in common with the supermarket stuff. Oh, and yes, I have directly compared them a few times at friend's cafes. Just another cynical marketing ploy IMHO.

    TampIt

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    To be honest I think if your drinking your coffee with milk and it's been well textured to the right temp most mass market beans will pass. It's when you're an espresso drinker that it becomes u bare able. But I must add that the other day I had to buy supermarket beans as had guests and ran out of the good stuff. I picked up a bag if grinders organic fair trade and squeezed the pack and smelt the valve and it was surprisingly fresh smelling. I put it through the cremina and it was surprisingly drinkable, a bit of tobacco and the slightest nuttiness to it too.
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    I was drinking affogati at bar italia, and still do. There is obvious crema and the barista there knows his job (other than decaf coming out of a preground container because 'it's rubbish anyhow').

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wynton87 View Post
    To be honest I think if your drinking your coffee with milk and it's been well textured to the right temp most mass market beans will pass.
    Nope - I disagree strongly.
    Sub par espresso will give you a sub par latte/capp no matter how good the milk is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wynton87 View Post
    To be honest I think if your drinking your coffee with milk and it's been well textured to the right temp most mass market beans will pass. It's when you're an espresso drinker that it becomes u bare able.
    Snobbery within snobbery. Great! Are you suggesting the people on this forum who happen to prefer a bit of milk with their espresso are wasting their time here? Honestly, I'm so over this nonsense. It may be true if you're drinking Charbucks 600ml mochafrappelattechinos, it may be that certain SO's are better suited to straight espresso than milk, but a mediocre espresso makes a mediocre flat white.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fatboy_1999 View Post
    Sub par espresso will give you a sub par latte/capp no matter how good the milk is.
    Right on the money Fatboy, bit like the myth that cheap wine is OK for cooking, if it ain't good enough to drink it ain't good enough to cook with.

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Right on the money Fatboy, bit like the myth that cheap wine is OK for cooking, if it ain't good enough to drink it ain't good enough to cook with.
    So I shouldn't try Barramundi aux Goon?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    So I shouldn't try Barramundi aux Goon?
    Why not? if it suits your palate go for it.

  18. #18
    TOK
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    I wonder if the point here has been missed?

    Quote "...To be honest I think if your drinking your coffee with milk and it's been well textured to the right temp most mass market beans will pass. It's when you're an espresso drinker that it becomes u bare able...."

    Yes a sub par espresso will not result in a good milk, but that is to do with someone having made a sub par brew (beans irrespective)....so I must go in to bat for wynton on this one because he is not (I don't think) talking about sub par brew, he's talking about making the brew with "commodity" supply beans rather than "specialty" supply. That the brew must be made well with either supply is a given

    Make a good brew with whatever supply is in the grinder, texture the milk well, make the milk coffee well, and it will be perfectly acceptable to the mass market. Handle the beans and milk badly, and there is no specialty supply beans / brand that will save you

  19. #19
    Senior Member fatboy_1999's Avatar
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    In my view, "Most mass market beans" don't cut it.
    So, no I don't think I missed the point

  20. #20
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TOK View Post
    Make a good brew with whatever supply is in the grinder, texture the milk well, make the milk coffee well, and it will be perfectly acceptable to the mass market.
    But then we're hardly the mass market, are we?
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  21. #21
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    My definition of mass market beans = anything bought from a supermarket.

    SWMBO can certainly pick differences in her nightly cappuccino, any of the beans I home roast that are not up to par will be commented on, no way would anything from the local supermarket pass the taste test.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    My definition of mass market beans = anything bought from a supermarket.

    SWMBO can certainly pick differences in her nightly cappuccino, any of the beans I home roast that are not up to par will be commented on, no way would anything from the local supermarket pass the taste test.
    Most supermarkets for sure. I can buy fresh beans from local roasters in my local supermarket(s).

    But in terms of the cafe product, a well run operation has a bit more margin for 'ungodshotliness' in the beans when making a flat white than when making a ristretto.....in my experience anyway. Now that said, if we are talking about beans with excess cheap robusta....then I reckon the coffee gets relatively worse when doused in milk.
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  23. #23
    TOK
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    A good commercial operator (professional cafe operator...they aren't all...) can do wonders with standard product blend in a milk coffee, as long as it isnt one of the poisonous Italian roasted robusta based blends....and some of the larger name commodity roasters in Australia are very good "coffee doctors" in terms of what they can blend to get an acceptable cafe coffee if the equipment operators (call them baristas if you wish) are well trained and know their trade well.

    And as stated elsewhere "we" are not mass market...but the mass market is (mass market), and as long as the coffee has not been destroyed by the "brew-err", it will be quite acceptable. Check Talk Coffee post above #5.

    Honest
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  24. #24
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    Acceptable to who, though? Chris is talking about beans that are (I take it) different from supermarket beans in either blend, freshness or both?

    I agree that cafe Vittoria can be nice. I can't imagine finding any appetite for coffee made from their supermarket offerings, no matter how great the barista is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    Most supermarkets for sure. I can buy fresh beans from local roasters in my local supermarket(s).

    But in terms of the cafe product, a well run operation has a bit more margin for 'ungodshotliness' in the beans when making a flat white than when making a ristretto.....in my experience anyway. Now that said, if we are talking about beans with excess cheap robusta....then I reckon the coffee gets relatively worse when doused in milk.

    Sure but we're not talking relatively are we? An awful ristretto and a merely-unpalatable milk drink are both unacceptable.

    I'll agree with the last sentence though; tastes like bad booze.

  25. #25
    Senior Member GrahamK's Avatar
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    I had the reverse experience wrt milk & lousy coffee in the UK. I found they messed up their milk based coffees that badly, I prefered to drink straight espresso's which was better. That was from one of the UK based coffee chains.

    Grahamk

  26. #26
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamK View Post
    I had the reverse experience wrt milk & lousy coffee in the UK. I found they messed up their milk based coffees that badly, I prefered to drink straight espresso's which was better. That was from one of the UK based coffee chains.

    Grahamk
    Yes, partic. outside London and Bristol for me. In those cities though, there are some excellent small coffee operators (at least half of which are run by Antipodeans of some variety). I ended out offering to make a latte myself at a place in Winchester...to my surprise they let me. Wasn't great but at least the milk wasn't scalded, cooled, scalded, cooled.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragunov21 View Post
    Edge coffee, in town near the cinemas? Really thin shopfront?
    Nope- a bigger place near water. Must preface that they knew me as I was there for a meeting. This may well have influenced the care put into the cup.

    FWIW, I think I'd sooner drink expertly pulled reasonably fresh mass-market than a shot of third wave lemons which curdles the milk stored in fridges 10m away

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    For years I refused to enter a cafe that advertised Vittoria, having had many undrinkable cups of the stuff.
    A couple of years back I made the ultimate sacrifice and entered a Vittoria cafe with friends, resolved not to complain about the coffee no matter how bad it was, and surprise - it was great coffee.
    (I imagine it was the exception that proves the rule - I won't be pushing my luck)
    I don't think it's pushing your luck; it may be that in certain markets, you can't get decent baristas if you tell them that you're going to use Vittoria, and in other markets you can.

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    I'm pretty new to the home coffee world and like the original poster have enjoyed a local vittoria cafe. I found the coffee always had a stronger flavour than most cafes which was to my taste. I've been buying the vittoria supermarket beans while tuning my grinder etc and have had fairly weak results so will be switching to a local roaster with my next purchase.

    I wonder though if it would be possible to source the cafe vittoria beans as fresh as a cafe might get them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by prongs386 View Post
    I wonder though if it would be possible to source the cafe vittoria beans as fresh as a cafe might get them.
    Make sure you get the freshest packs.
    look at the best before date and try to find packs with nearest to 12 months to BEst Before date.
    in a high turnover city supermarket it's possible to find Vittoria beans only a week or so after roast/packing.
    it makes a big difference !

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    There have been a few occasions where my wife has bought a bag of Vittoria home from Coles as we'd run out of beans and had no time in between work to go run over to Bondi Junction or Surry Hills to pickup my usual blend and single O.
    I was rarely able to pull a shot that would be acceptable to the mass. No matter the grind / dose / tamp variations, the coffee was too stale and flowed out of the basket like a fire hose.
    One particular bag of Vittoria also produced a very strange chemically sourness. I've never come across anything like it.

    I wish there were late night shopping for fresh bean suppliers!

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    Quote Originally Posted by prongs386 View Post
    I wonder though if it would be possible to source the cafe vittoria beans as fresh as a cafe might get them.
    I tried that through my work a number of years back and was told they have a range of coffee specifically for businesses - you need a contract with the supplier (or machine usually) to get the catering level of beans.

    But I did the same as you, learning how to make coffee using the cheap stuff from Coles. Got reasonable coffee with it and when i got my first fresh roast the same process made lovely coffee. My coffee now is better than my early fresh roast stuff but the most learning came from finding how to make a drinkable brew from those Vittoria beans.

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    I think that “mass” coffee” businesses would have a profit maximising strategy.
    If the product is “good enough for those pricks” (to quote an employer of mine) as long as a reasonable number of people come back that is good enough.

    If you can get a good price for cheap rubbish why bother wit a slightly better price for the very good stuff?

  34. #34
    TOK
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    Its possible you may be confusing cheap product with stale product. Supermarket coffee may be stale regardless of the original input which may have been quite acceptable for the market it is targeted to, at the time it was originally delivered ex factory. And yes the cafe market will have more or different blends available to it then whatever goes into the supermarket market. But I really think the age of the coffee makes all the difference regardless, and of course we are all then in the hands of whoever is bar-wristering and these good people have the power to either kill great coffee or turn FAQ coffee into an acceptable cuppa.

    After that who knows......however the staleness factor reduces everyone on the supermarket shelf to the same low common denominator albeit that some really do put rubbish in their packets....but I don't think the big vee necessarily does that and some respondents here may be confusing the issues. There is a big difference between "rubbish" and then "acceptable" product and "good" product. "Acceptable" and "good" are far closer together than "acceptable" is to "rubbish".

    It would be instructive for the forum to also note, that the big vee introduced good coffee to this country and was a big stepping stone from instant after the war, to where some of us are now in really good coffee. While some of us don't have much cause to "like" the company for reasons that don't need discussing here, that doesn't mean their product is somehow to be reviled.

    It has grown into a very large and successful company and has its place in commodity coffee....it may well be one of the best stale commodity coffees on the shelves. Try some of the other commodity labels, and see what you think , and check post # 5 above because that really is the truth of the matter.
    Last edited by TOK; 2nd May 2014 at 04:36 PM.

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    Cracked into a 1kg emergency bag of V today. 1st time supermarket/ old coffee for about 4 months.

    My tastes have changed hugely over this time, owing to an opening up to lighter roasted more complexly(!) flavoured beans, an exposure to fresh coffee and its benefits, an understanding of what my gear should be capable of, and the ensuing journey of discovery. I expected the V, B.B. Feb 2015, to taste worse than dodgy bakery coffee... But it didn't, really.

    Acceptable, yes;
    Bland, yes;
    stale, yes;
    good, no;
    As good as fresh coffee? not on your nelly.

    Emergency coffee which may never again be required after my trip out first thing in the morning. Except that I will use it a la Journeyman (experimental purposes) when my new Pavoni arrives in the next week or so!


    Oh, by the way. $10 / kg from A**I . I knew what to expect, and , you know, you can do worse.
    Last edited by shortblackman; 2nd May 2014 at 07:05 PM. Reason: by the way

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    The only supermarket coffee I've found to give decent results is Illy, and at their price you would want to buy from a local roaster anyway! Interestingly, a friend at work accidently bought a tin of preground Illy once, I tried it in my gaggia and the grind was spot on! A medium tamp gave a proper shot. Obviously the flavour wasn't right anymore, but I was impressed a preground 'espresso' grind, was actually espresso grind!

  37. #37
    TOK
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    Quote Originally Posted by burr View Post
    The only supermarket coffee I've found to give decent results is Illy, .....
    The technology goes into keeping the product in such condition that when the can is opened, it is still half reasonable so appears to be a better quality product for the price (market positioning to justify the exorbitant premium paid). Once the can is opened, the product deteriorates at warp speed to a point where it can even be worse than other brand products that haven't had as much money spent on the confection. ie it doesn't give "decent results" for very long at all, after which.......

    Incidentally pre ground "espresso grind" found in supermarket packs is in fact "espresso grind", and is usually ground for stove top espresso which is more coarse than what should be used in pump driven machines. Many packs have a small picture of a moka pot on the back or in the gusset. Moka pots can be used with an average kind of grind and don't have the same requirement as pump driven machines to have the grind adjusted for different type machines, beans and conditions. Ergo, roasters can do a "one grind suits all" stove top espresso (moka) pot grind, whereas people with pump machines should buy beans and grind their own to suit because "one grind will not or cannot suit all".

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    Senior Member Erimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TOK View Post
    I wonder if the point here has been missed?

    Quote "...To be honest I think if your drinking your coffee with milk and it's been well textured to the right temp most mass market beans will pass. It's when you're an espresso drinker that it becomes u bare able...."

    Yes a sub par espresso will not result in a good milk, but that is to do with someone having made a sub par brew (beans irrespective)....so I must go in to bat for wynton on this one because he is not (I don't think) talking about sub par brew, he's talking about making the brew with "commodity" supply beans rather than "specialty" supply. That the brew must be made well with either supply is a given

    Make a good brew with whatever supply is in the grinder, texture the milk well, make the milk coffee well, and it will be perfectly acceptable to the mass market. Handle the beans and milk badly, and there is no specialty supply beans / brand that will save you
    You've made some very good points here. And let's not forget a lot of people also add sugar to their coffee which like good milk hides a multitude of sins.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brevillista View Post
    And let's not forget a lot of people also add sugar to their coffee which like good milk hides a multitude of sins.
    It's interesting that you say this. I must be an outlier, but for me, bitter coffee is bitter. Bitter coffee with sugar added tastes like it's been poured over half a cup of nasty vodka.

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    It's interesting that you say this. I must be an outlier, but for me, bitter coffee is bitter. Bitter coffee with sugar added tastes like it's been poured over half a cup of nasty vodka.



    Outlier = Polemic

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    Quote Originally Posted by shortblackman View Post
    . I expected the V, B.B. Feb 2015, to taste worse than dodgy bakery coffee... But it didn't, really.

    Acceptable, yes;
    Bland, yes;
    stale, yes;
    good, no;
    As good as fresh coffee? not on your nelly..
    I assume you realize that was still ~~ 3 months post roasting ?? ..so no way could you expect a "fresh coffee" from it.
    As i said earlier, careful inspection of bags in a "busy " supermarket can turn up "V" that is less than 2 weeks past roasting, and is consequently noticeably better in the cup.

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    Sure. As I said:

    Quote Originally Posted by shortblackman View Post

    Oh, by the way. $10 / kg from A**I . I knew what to expect, and , you know, you can do worse.
    It was bought as emergency coffee because it was cheap. Fresh = Better I understand. I would say that my tastes have changed such that I would only occasionally opt for a V coffee. Fresh or otherwise.

  43. #43
    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    Whilst my very first experience with coffee beans was Vittoria from a supermarket, I would have to say that barring the one instance I mentioned, all my other cafe experiences with it have been equally bad.
    I guess I figured that it was just the 'market' or price-point that they were aiming at and/or the characteristics of the blend of bean favoured by the company that simply didn't match with my preferences.
    Kind of 'throws' you when some people CAN make a good cup out of it but most can't. It does suggest that perhaps it is harder to make good coffee with than many other brands.(?)

  44. #44
    TOK
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    Not really.

    EVERYONE, be they purveyors of rubbish, acceptable or better than acceptable coffee beans, is subject to the same problem at the cafe end....and that is, the people that operate the equipment.

    Trust me, it is a never ending problem.

    The difference between wine makers and coffee roasters, is that wine makers have a fair probability that when their bottle is opened (assuming proper transport and storage) the client will get what the wine maker intended. Coffee roasters on the other hand have to contend with one extra step before their product gets to the client, and that is that it is re manufactured by espresso machine operators before being sampled by the client.
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    Quote Originally Posted by shortblackman View Post
    Cracked into a 1kg emergency bag of V today. 1st time supermarket/ old coffee for about 4 months.

    My tastes have changed hugely over this time, owing to an opening up to lighter roasted more complexly(!) flavoured beans, an exposure to fresh coffee and its benefits, an understanding of what my gear should be capable of, and the ensuing journey of discovery. I expected the V, B.B. Feb 2015, to taste worse than dodgy bakery coffee... But it didn't, really.

    Acceptable, yes;
    Bland, yes;
    stale, yes;
    good, no;
    As good as fresh coffee? not on your nelly.

    Emergency coffee which may never again be required after my trip out first thing in the morning. Except that I will use it a la Journeyman (experimental purposes) when my new Pavoni arrives in the next week or so!


    Oh, by the way. $10 / kg from A**I . I knew what to expect, and , you know, you can do worse.
    In the '90s I lived just a block from the V. factory (which was in the north end of Smith St, Clifton Hill in Melbourne and may still be there for all I know). On days when they were roasting, the smell was sensational. I used to buy their pre-ground coffee to use in my Bialetti, before I was a coffee snob, when I ran out of my preferred fresh roast from the old Grinders shop in Lygon St which was as good a local roaster as you could want in those days. I was always surprised at how lifeless the V. coffee was yet I knew that it was roasted and packed just down the road. I now know it's because coffee begins to deteriorates immediately it is roasted, just like any fresh produce. I still keep a packet of V. for emergencies but I hope not to have to use it! Whenever I have to it becomes a #1 priority to get fresh beans as soon as possible.



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