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Why Do Coffee Lovers Hate Starbucks?
Over the years, Starbucks has become the most successful coffee shop in the world. It has over 32,000 stores worldwide, more than 15,000 in the U.S. alone.
Despite its success, Starbucks doesn’t have the best reputation among the specialty coffee crowd. People who tend to go the extra mile to get the best out of their coffee beans generally don’t like Starbucks coffee.
Why do coffee lovers hate Starbucks coffee? The most important reason is the quality of Starbucks coffee. Starbucks coffee beans are roasted in a way that ensures consistency. A Starbucks coffee should taste the same, no matter where you buy it. The result of this is that Starbucks roasts its coffee beans until they are almost burnt. And this results in a coffee that has a very pronounced bitter flavor.
On the other hand, specialty coffee roasters roast coffee beans to a level that brings out the best in those beans. The purpose is to enhance the flavors that come from the variety, location where it was grown (terroir), and how the coffee beans were processed after harvesting.
That’s the general idea. But there is more to it. So we should dive a bit deeper. And we will, but first this:
This article is in no way meant to guide you away from Starbucks coffee.
If you like Starbucks coffee… More power to you!
I only want to give you the perspective of the specialty coffee crowd. So you can understand where they are coming from.
To me, coffee is like a hamburger. So, of course, I would like to eat the best hamburger in the world whenever I eat one.
Sometimes I just want a decent, tasty burger. And where do I go?
Exactly… Mickey D, Burger King, Wendy’s…
And Starbucks is (in my opinion) precisely that: available and decent.
Starbucks coffee beans are over-roasted for consistency.
But let’s talk about the taste of Starbucks coffee for a bit.
It’s evident once you take a sip from any Starbucks black coffee. It has pronounced bitter flavors.
Depending on your palate, it might even taste burnt to you.
To anyone who knows a bit about coffee and roasting coffee beans, this will indicate that the coffee beans have been roasted for too long. As a result, they are very nearly burnt.
Just like any other big company, quality control is very important for Starbucks. They stick to the same roasting method, so every store in the chain will have coffee that tastes the same. And Starbucks is such a big player; they have to get their coffee beans from all over the world. Coffee beans grown and processed in different parts of the world will taste different when properly roasted. And that is precisely what Starbucks doesn’t want. They want the same flavor from all their beans.
This means they have to roast their beans into oblivion. In the roasting process, there are different stages. In the last stage, when you are close to burning the coffee beans, you burn off most of the flavor compounds that are unique for that kind of coffee bean. So by roasting all their beans close to a burned state, they get a consistent product.
The downside of this method is that this consistent product has lost all its unique characteristics.
That’s why some Barrista’s call Starbucks “Charbucks.”
Starbucks hardly serves real coffee - It's become Frappuccino heaven.
The main attraction of Starbucks isn’t their black coffee or espresso. Instead, it is the endless variety of Frappuccino drinks on their menu.
This may come as a surprise, but a Frappuccino doesn’t contain brewed coffee! And I don’t mean the creme-based Frappuccino’s they offer. Even the coffee-based Frappuccino isn’t made with brewed coffee but with coffee syrup. Add to that the addition of ice cream, whipped cream, and all the other additives, and you see why a burnt coffee bean is easy to hide.
These drinks have very little to do with coffee.
The name Frappuccino has been trademarked since 1995. Starbucks simply took two traditional coffee names and put them together. These were the Frappé and Cappuccino drinks and were merged together.
So, while Starbucks still likes to see itself as a coffee shop, it’s not really about the coffee. It’s about syrups, whipped cream, and Double Smoked Bacon Cheddar and Egg Sandwiches.
And again, there is nothing wrong with this! It just isn’t what the specialty coffee crowd is looking for.
Starbucks is too corporate for the specialty coffee crowd.
s said, Starbucks is huge. In fact, it is the biggest coffeehouse company in the world (source). It ranks among the biggest 100 companies in the world! They have a market capitalization of almost 140 billion U.S. dollars (source).
Trying to maintain an equal level of quality in more than 32,000 stores is no easy task. And thus, Starbucks has become a factory, a corporation.
And this alone is enough to make them less than loved among a large part of the specialty coffee crowd.
The thing is: most of the people you’ll find at the small boutique coffee houses that serve artisanal coffee are looking for exactly that. Small, boutique, and artisanal.
They don’t like mass production, especially not when it comes to coffee.
The specialty coffee crowd and Starbucks are at two ends of the spectrum. So of course they don’t like each other!
Specialty coffee lovers don’t like Starbucks coffee.
Starbucks doesn’t like the critique from the specialty coffee crowd. However, I don’t think Starbucks loses any sleep over it : )
There is a whole history to how Starbucks came to be. A history that might not sit well with some people. The Starbucks name was actually synonymous with quality at some point. But that was way back in the 1970s when Starbucks was still a story where you could buy excellent coffee beans. It was located at the now-famous Pike Place Market in Seattle. Over the next two decades, Starbucks evolved (or devolved depending on your point of view) into what it now is. And it did so by the design of a slick marketing guy from New York, not a specialty coffee lover.
If you’d like to read more about the history of Starbucks, this is an excellent place to start.
What you should do if you dislike Starbucks
If you decided you don’t like Starbucks and their coffee, there are alternatives.
First, look for those small boutique coffee shops in your area. Anywhere that they serve pour-over coffee is a good place to start. Making good pour-over coffee requires at least some knowledge about coffee, where it comes from, and how to properly make it. Taste and decide if it is for you.
But my advice would be to take matters into your own hands. Start brewing great coffee yourself! It is not hard, and it is not expensive. And, of course, I can help you out. Below are some suggestions.
You don’t need expensive coffee gear to make great coffee at home. My advice would be to look into ways of making pour-over coffee. I have written an article on the best pour-over coffee makers for beginners. And if you wonder how you should make pour-over coffee, check out this article.
What you should do if you like Starbucks
If you do like Starbucks coffee, don’t let this article change your mind! I hope you’ve learned why some folks don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean you should stop enjoying it.
Haters gonna hate, right?
If you are happy with your coffee, then let nobody tell you you shouldn’t!
Confessions of a coffee aficionado
I consider myself somewhat of a coffee nerd. I like trying to get my hand on different varieties of coffee as much as possible. And I always buy my coffee at the small independent coffee roaster.
But I also think the specialty coffee world is full of snobbery. And I hate that.
Coffee is a beautiful product, but it is also just another drink. Sometimes you are not looking for the of something. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Or convenient is more desirable than marginally better.
So, here’s the confession: I occasionally drink Starbucks coffee. Black.
Is it the best? No.
But sometimes it is available and convenient.
And sometimes, that is good enough for me. Period
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