eight o'clock coffee vs Starbucks? Who was on the cupping panel?

Here' some recent hot news from Consumer Reports:

"Starbucks Takes Another Hit
Remember when Starbucks seemed like an unstoppable force? Those days are gone, kids. The troubled retailer, already suffering from falling profits and a slew of layoffs, was dissed in a recent coffee study from Consumer Reports. The ad-free mag ranked Eight O'Clock Coffee as the best-tasting coffee and noted that Starbucks, which costs considerably more, didn't even merit an honorable mention. Searches on "eight o' clock coffee" and "buy cheap coffee" made jittery jumps."

I am curious to hear about who was on the cupping panel and to what merit they had to decide this. I'm interested because this is a very SUBJECTIVE matter, as far as taste goes.

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I've had several head-scratching moments regarding some CR conclusions for other products. "Best coffee" articles done by mass-market publications almost always frustrate me, usually for their total omission of anyone that I would consider to be a quality roaster. The only exception to this was the recent rundown in Real Simple a month or two ago which gave props to CC and (I believe) Stumptown as "cult favorites". (We're apparently a cult?)

I'm sure it was staff tasting, brewed rather than cupped. They tend to bias toward consumer-oriented test procedures.
I was wondering who their testers were and what their usual coffee habits were.
i think the report was more of a nationwide grocery store coffee study.
These reports are annoying. They more likely highlight the fact that *xxx any coffee company* beats STARBUCKS. They just want to say anything beats Starbucks. It's silly.
Here's a discussion of the article:
http://shopping.yahoo.com/articles/yshoppingarticles/204/consumer-r...

Looks like this was just based on preground Colombians.

Here's my question - why do we find this surprising? How many people in this community would give a bag of preground Sbx from the grocery store honorable mention in a tasting?
Ryan, nice comment.

Ryan Green said:
This report seems to be based on mass market response rather than specialty coffee industry response. I mean, obviously the connoisseur will realize how subjective a "taste test" is, given that most people aren't looking for the product that totally embodies the essence of what coffee SHOULD be, but rather what the "average" person would rather drink. Living in the midwest I can say that people here would much sooner drink $4 a bag coffee over $12 a bag Starbucks because they don't really care about anything but the price. 'round these parts even Starbucks is usually a little to "uppity" for most folks. Consumer Reports doesn't really have any way to measure how this compares with specialty coffee shops...
One cannot knock Starbucks for paving the specialty coffee market road. However, their mega-chain presence has left them exposed to the pressures of a falling economy. Starbucks capitalizes on the sale of brewed coffee not bagged coffee. I go to my local grocery stores and check bagged coffee inventory. What consumers dont understand is that the coffee is old before it is even stocked on shelves. I have placed stickers under coffee bags and gone back months later to only see those stickered bags still there. People who buy coffee at the grocery store buy with the mentality that price is more important than quality. Coffee is still seen as a flavor. Unlike wine, more people read into the nuances and charactaristics through each sip. People also dont add a ton of cream and 10 sugars to their glass. I will never tell my customers that my coffee is the best. I tell them to drink Giacobean coffee because its my personal libation of choice. However my motto has always been--Try before you Buy. Dont believe the hype!
Giaco..... insightful comments, and I appreciate that, in essence, you separate the "art of coffee" from the "business of coffee." Two things that pop out in an article like this; Starbucks being the easy target, and the almost "non-sequitor" joining of "Consumer Reports" and "Coffee Ratings."

I just shake my head when I see an organization like Consumer Reports judging and rating something they know little about. But then, I gave up on Consumer Reports years ago, when they judged cameras, automobiles and motorcycles by criteria that had little or no significance to me.

With plenty of respect for their expendable income, and as far as I'm concerned, the panel of judges could have been high school kids. Their criteria might have been "Buzz factor" and "Total Deliciousity-ness." At least then I'd know the parameters for the ratings and could somewhat appreciate the results.

giacobean said:
One cannot knock Starbucks for paving the specialty coffee market road. However, their mega-chain presence has left them exposed to the pressures of a falling economy. Starbucks capitalizes on the sale of brewed coffee not bagged coffee. I go to my local grocery stores and check bagged coffee inventory. What consumers dont understand is that the coffee is old before it is even stocked on shelves. I have placed stickers under coffee bags and gone back months later to only see those stickered bags still there. People who buy coffee at the grocery store buy with the mentality that price is more important than quality. Coffee is still seen as a flavor. Unlike wine, more people read into the nuances and charactaristics through each sip. People also dont add a ton of cream and 10 sugars to their glass. I will never tell my customers that my coffee is the best. I tell them to drink Giacobean coffee because its my personal libation of choice. However my motto has always been--Try before you Buy. Dont believe the hype!
I agree with Chase. I don't get it anyway, what coffees were tasted? Because there are definitely coffees better than 8 O'Clock so if that was deemed "best tasting" I don't know that i would trust them anyway...
I wonder if they were tasting the new starbucks "instant" coffee. Can I get a "packet" of Colombia, please?
I like this thread, and echo others, not in defense of Starbucks, necessarily, rather coffee in general. Did the testers taste the full Starbucks catalog of coffees? Again I'm not defending Starbucks here, that's not the action in question (to meat least), rather the professionalism with which this tasting was done, if it was a true cupping or tasting or even using a drip method. One can not blanket an entire company's product name by the testing one product that has multiple other equal products and counterpoint them with the single product of another company, simply because it is unparalleled, and undoubtedly unscientific. This is the same action as saying that x Honda vehicle is better than the entire line of Toyota vehicles simply because it [x Honda] out performed the one it was tested against.

I just read the article posted by Brady, thanks for that Brady, and it's worth the read, simply because it brings to light the inconclusive structure with which it, the article at least, was written. With such little depth, anyone of us that cares, has to wonder to what level correctness the tastings were handled. It does state again, and again that the beans tasted (mind you, only which beans of Eight O'Clock) and it was their 100% Colombian; not once is the origin of the bean from Starbucks, Caribou, and Kickapoo listed, again unscientific.

This whole article is a couple of things to me, though, both being a bit of light to keep striving for:

1. an obvious account of the lack of knowledge that the world outside of coffee has

2. that being said, it is also a great eye opener to the level of knowledge that we have and still, even as professional and habitual coffee lovers, have to learn; reminding us that we are so far from the end to this exciting thing that we have deemed "our love".......COFFEE

p.s. I'm sorry to have written all of this and not truly answered the topic of this discussion (apologies cultiva_guy). Either way did anyone ever find out who the tasters were. and has the thought of them simply being random consumers been considered? the reason I ask is that this even further biases the "conclusion" of this "study"......of course, as the consumer, I will prefer my favorite to your suggestion as to what I should try. And, assuming this to be a possibility, the term that they use"coffee experts" bears flaws in and of itself.

Finally, Eight O'clock coffee is also a Consumer Reports Best Buy.....come on.
I think a quote from Uncommon Grounds, (a fabulous book by the way) pretty much sums up this report and other similar reports on this scale.
"Take a carefully blended, full-bodied, highly aromatic coffee and brew it carefully..., obtaining a heavy, delicate, enjoyable beverage. Give it to the average coffee-drinker and he will say, 'This is no good.' Then take the same coffee, boil it until all of its delicate characteristics have disappeared and a lye-like drink has been produced and give it to the same man, who will accept it joyfully, exclaiming 'Ah! that is coffee!".
-Charles Trigg, coffee researcher, 1917

Its truly interesting to see this issue being brought up on the exchange, as it was a hot topic of debate for a while amongst our employees during Boston's unusually cold winter. There's a fine line between pushing quality and casting pearls before swine, at least up here in a market so desolate and void of true quality that its rivaled only by the equally harsh winter. There have been lots of "studies" produced lately that exalt certain commercial brands and companies to the top of the chain; this is a dangerous game, as customer education in all gourmet industries is slowed by the misinformed ego. These results effectively shape the consensus of the money spending demographic, who happen to be Boston's most "cup o' commercial Joe" spenders. Getting customers excited about innovation rarely registers beyond the nominal value of xyz product. I don't speak for all Boston coffee shops, but certainly a large number of them. Not to hijack the discussion, but do any of you have similar difficulties? Keeping employees eager to uphold quality for disinterested customers is a daily struggle.

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