Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain Coffee – Caramel Vanilla Cream

It’s been a crazy few weeks for me. Aside from burning through both Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood and XV: Episode Prompto, I’ve also been recovering from the Steam summer sale and putting in some extra hours at work. So, thank God for coffee…

This week, I found myself with another Green Mountain flavored selection, the Caramel Vanilla Cream.  As I’ve mentioned before, artificially flavored coffees can be very hit or miss, so picking up a new box is always a gamble. But, I’ve had some luck lately so I figured I’d roll the dice on this one as well.

First thing I noticed was the aroma during the brew cycle was very strong and pleasant! I figured that with such a powerful aroma, this might end up being a rich medium roast coffee, but I was wrong. It’s not specifically stated anywhere on the packaging that I could find, but to me this actually seems to be a light roast – and it really shows. There’s not much here in the way of actual coffee flavor. Instead, the blend is heavily masked by the artificial flavoring. Now, the flavor is not particularly unpleasant… It a rich, creamy, burnt-caramel flavor. But it does taste VERY artificial. There’s obviously nothing natural about this cup. But again, it’s not terrible.  Many of these flavored coffees don’t fare well hot, so this is an example of one of those coffees that is actually better over ice with lots of milk or creamer.

To me, I don’t really understand why this coffee exists. There are other vanilla/french vanilla flavored coffees out there that manage to nail the taste quite well. The same can be said for caramel flavored coffees. Merging the two flavors into one cup sounds like a good idea, I guess. But in practice, it just falls flat.

Score: 2 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Doubtful.  Not terrible, but not particularly good either. The rich, fake flavoring might appeal to kids and casual coffee drinkers. But people who really enjoy the complexity of a rich blend or even a quality single-origin coffee are likely to be turned off by this.

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain Coffee – Brown Sugar Crumble Donut

As I burn my way through the content of the new Final Fantasy XIV expansion, I find myself turning to my good friend caffeine to help fuel the late nights and early morning play sessions.  This week, I decided to take a trip to the grocery store and pick up a couple of new varieties. The first one that landed in my shopping cart was the “Brown Sugar Crumble Donut” by Green Mountain.

As I’ve mentioned before, I tread a fine line between both shying away from, and being a sucker for flavored coffees. They always look so good sitting there on a shelf. But generally speaking, they usually tend to taste artificial and just… not very good. Of course, there are a few notable exceptions to this. So with that in mind, I decided to bite the bullet and give the Brown Sugar Crumble Donut a shot… and I was pleasantly surprised!

According to the label, this is a medium roast coffee. But, to me it tastes a little on the light side. There’s very little bitterness in this cup. The brown sugar is the prominent taste here. But there’s also a slight artificial cinnamon/cake donut flavor as well. But, it’s really not that bad. I found this to be a pleasant and drinkable coffee. It would go great on a sunny Sunday morning with a nice hearty breakfast.

Despite being a decent coffee, it just doesn’t seem unique enough to stand out against many of the other similar offerings out there. Yes, the main flavor here is brown sugar, but as a whole this coffee is too much like the superior Cinnabon coffee to shine by itself. Perhaps if it was a bit cheaper I’d be more inclined to recommend it over some of the others. Regardless, it’s a solid offering.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Maybe. It’s tasty and certainly has it’s place. But, I feel it too much like many other similar, and superior coffees to really recommend over others. That being said, if if you like brown sugar and cinnamon, and this is the only option at your local store, don’t hesitate.

 

Nerd Fuel: Starbucks – Vanilla Caffe’ Latte

It’s been over a month since I’ve had a coffee review. But, this time I’m back with something a little different.  One of the big features of the Keurig 2.0 machines was the official support of different “artisan” pods. Technically speaking, the machine is supposed to handles brews of various strength and even alternate beverages like hot chocolate and tea. Since the release of K2.0 machines, I’ve noticed an increase in a number of vendors that sell these fancy “cappuccino style” drinks. These usually include, along with the usual K-cup, a flavor/froth packet and sometimes even a drizzle of some sort.  These have always seemed a bit gimmicky to me, but I decided to take the plunge and give one a try.

For my first foray into the world of coffee packets, I picked up a box of Starbuck’s Vanilla Caffe’ Latte. Now, I’ve tried Starbucks coffee in the Keurig machine before and so far the verdict is still out. I really enjoyed their Holiday Blonde Roast, so I decided to give this box a chance and see what the fuss is all about.

The way this works, you open and empty a packet of flavoring/froth powder into your empty mug, then dispense the K-Cup pod normally. Once it’s full, you stir. This is supposed to produce a foam, like one would expect from a desert-type cappuccino. Sadly, there is little to no foam. So, I suspect this packet contains mostly sugar and other flavoring.

The coffee itself is very mild. It has a hint of that classic “gas station grade” cappuccino taste, with a pleasant vanilla underpinning. It’s nothing remarkable, but to be honest, it’s not at all bad. This would make a nice dessert coffee, but it doesn’t really scratch that caffeine itch many drinks will want first thing in the morning.  In my opinion, this seems more like something for the kids than something a really coffee fiend would enjoy.

These specialty drinks tend to be a dollar or more per box than the standard K-cup pods. With that being said, I’m not really sure these are worth it. The gimmick doesn’t pan out.

Score: 2 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Doubtful. Not a band drink per se,  but not worth the premium price. You can get the same flavor from a can of instant cappuccino (stir-in) for a fraction of the cost.

Nerd Fuel: The Original Donut Shop – Vanilla Cream Puff

My last Nerd Fuel post saw the unseating of a champion. My long favorite coffee, “Donut Shop” was tossed from it’s top spot and replaced by Community Coffee’s Cafe’ Special.  Despite no longer being my personal favorite, Donut Shop is still an outstanding coffee. To date, I’ve discussed both the Original Flavor as well as their “Dark” variety. But there’s more Donut Shop out there to enjoy, so for this week’s purchase, I decided to go with one of their flavored offerings: Vanilla Cream Puff. Because, who doesn’t like vanilla?

To start, let me say that this coffee smelled absolutely delightful as it was brewing. It filled the kitchen with a delicious, creamy aroma. This carries over very well to the mug. But, as I feared, the flavor is very artificial. It can be improved with a little rich creamer,  but like many flavored coffees – it tastes fake and overdone. That being said, of all the “fake tasting” coffees out there, this is one of the more drinkable that I’ve come across. It’s not unpleasant, and in some ways it is actually enjoyable. But, the biggest gripe here is that the natural flavor of the coffee is drowned out by the over-sweet manufactured flavoring.

This is a good example of a coffee that works better over ice than in a mug. To me, most flavored coffees actually fall into this category, but there have been a few notable exceptions.  In a nutshell, this does not make a good everyday cup of joe. But, it’s not bad as a dessert coffee or if you’re making a shake/iced coffee. This is one for the kids.

Score: 2 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Unlikely. While it’s not the worst flavored coffee I’ve come across, there are other options out there that do it much better.

Nerd Fuel: Community Coffee- Cafe’ Special

It’s been a month since my last Nerd Fuel post, so I figured I better get crackin’! For this review, I decided to stick with a traditional, non-flavored coffee. I wanted to try something unassuming, so when I saw a box of “Community Coffee”, I thought – why not.

Community Coffee is a brand that I’d never tried before, but it’s a longstanding favorite for many coffee drinkers. I picked up a box of the Cafe’ Special, which is essentially Community Coffee’s “house blend”. This is a medium roast blend, that’s right on the line between medium and dark… it’s mild enough to be enjoyed by nearly anyone, but it has just enough roast to it to bring out a hint of that dark, rich flavor. To be quite honest, upon purchasing this coffee, I didn’t expect much. But I’m pleased to say that I was quite impressed with the smooth, balanced and even complex flavor of this coffee. So much so… that I might have to crown this as my new favorite general purpose blend. Yes… I daresay that this coffee rivals my longstanding favorite: Donut Shop.

Cafe’ Special is one of those coffees that is “normal” enough to enjoyed by your grandparents, but also rich and complex enough to satisfy your modern hipster. So, if you’ve just bought your first Keurig machine and you’re still looking for a standard go-to, this might one worth trying.

Score: 4 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Yes. Currently, Community Coffee Cafe’ Special is my new mainstay, general purpose brew.  I know it seems like a generic, everyday brand of coffee…  but as they say: don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain – Peru Cajamarca (Organic)

Daylight Savings hit hard this year. The last week or so has proven to be quite a chore in the mornings, but as always, I was able to turn to my good friend the coffee bean to find the motivation needed.  Recently, I stumbled upon an unfamiliar box in the grocery store, a new organic offering from Green Mountain, the “Peru Cajamarca”.

For those that get into all the details, this is another of Green Mountain’s eco-friendly, organic coffees. As you might have guessed, the beans come from the Cajamarca Region of Peru. Which tends to be famous for their low-yield but high-quality beans. It’s a medium roast, with a complex smokey flavor. I was rather surprised at just how flavorful this coffee actually is. There’s a lot of different things going on here. It’s rich, but smooth. It has a bit of a woody flavor to it, but with a subtle caramel apple finish. It all makes for a rather luxurious cup of coffee.

To get down to it; I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this coffee. The Peru Cajamarca has quickly become one of me new favorites. It’s very drinkable, and it’s plain enough to be enjoyed by most. But there is a subtle complexity to it that will satisfy your average coffee snob as well. This is certainly one of Green Mountain’s top-shelf products. I look forward to seeing more in this line.

Score: 4 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Yes! In fact, I’ve already gone through two boxes of this stuff in the last month. A simply wonderful coffee for nearly anyone.

Nerd Fuel: Eight o’clock Coffee – The Original

I’ve been putting in some late nights lately. As usual, these sessions have been fueled by coffee. I’ve been on a bit of a personal quest to find another “every day coffee” that’s as good as Donut Shop. Recently, the Duane St. Blend by Laughing Man has been the closest contender thus far. But, I won’t stop until I find something that wows me the same way Donut Shop did.

So, this week I decided to try one of America’s oldest, original coffees; the fabled Eight o’clock coffee.  Some used to call this “the coffee your grandparents drank”  but these days, it’s more likely that your great-grandparents drank filled their cups with this. Eight o’clock coffee has been an American staple since the mid-1800s and it hasn’t change much since. It’s a very basic, middle of the road blend. Sure to impress few, but offend even fewer. Until I bought this box, I admittedly never bothered to sample any of it.

Upon first tasting this, I was surprised at how good it actually was. It’s certainly a quality coffee and not some cheap factory floor sweepings. I had no issues drinking it as my daily brew for as long as it lasted. But, it didn’t really have any special spark that stood out to me. Eight o’clock is a simple, generic run of the mill coffee blend.  It’s a good decent coffee, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Unlikely. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with this coffee, there’s really nothing special to note either. This is a basic, every man’s cup of joe. But, there are others that seem to do it better.

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain – Sumatran Reserve

Today, I’m going back to basics and checking out one of Green Mountain’s organic offerings; the “Fair Trade Certified Organic Sumatran Reserve” – whew what a mouthful! For consumers who are focused on things like fair trade when it comes to coffee purchases, Green Mountain has you covered as they always label their fair trade coffees as such.

Sumatran coffee is popular for it’s earthy, dark chocolaty taste. This cup certainly embodies both of those features. Green Mountain markets this as an “Extra Bold” cup, which means the K-Cup itself is actually packed with more grinds, this gives the coffee a darker, bolder taste. However, despite the extra bold brew, the coffee is not over-bitter. Instead, I found it to be quite smooth, with a dark and complex flavor. As it brews, it releases a rich, woody aroma that I find to be very pleasant. This aroma comes through in the flavors as well. To me, a sip of this coffee starts off with a crisp, burnt wood taste. Followed by an earthy/chocolate aftertaste. It’s very unusual, but quite enjoyable.

This coffee certainly packs a punch. It makes for a great early morning kickstarter. I think that some people might be turned off by how dark and bold this coffee seems to be, it’s certainly not for everyone, but I’ve had much darker brews (and ones that have had less flavor as well). But, if you enjoy dark, complex roasts, this might a keeper for you.

Score: 4 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Maybe. This is a fine quality coffee in my opinion. But, I do tend to prefer more medium roasts for my day to day drinking. When the occasion strikes that I want a dark coffee, as of now this might be my go-to. I do enjoy it a bit more than the Donut Shop Dark, so the Sumatran Reserve does take the crown as my favorite dark coffee thus far.

Nerd Fuel: Laughing Man – Ethiopia Sidama

For this Nerd Fuel post, I’ll be taking a look at the last of Laughing Man’s K-Cup pods; Ethiopia Sidama.  This coffee is Laughing Man’s light roast offering, but unlike most “light roast” coffees, this is not a blend but rather a single-origin.

As you might has guessed from the name, these beans are sourced from the Sidama region of Ethiopia. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Ethiopian coffee on it’s own. To me, most Ethiopian single origins that I’ve experienced tend to be too earthy and also somehow manage to be semi-acidic. I do tend to like blends that contain Ethiopian beans, but on their own I’m just not a fan. This coffee is no exception to that rule.

That being said, the quality of this coffee is obvious. It’s rich and flavorful. It smells absolutely delicious as it brews. So, this is really a matter of personal preference for me.  If you tend to enjoy coffees that contain a deep, earthy taste. You would likely find this to be a coffee of interest.  Despite my own personal distaste for it, I can fully recognize the quality to be found in this cup and have no problem drinking and even enjoying it. But, for me – there’s other coffees I’d rather be drinking.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Doubtful. While this is an undeniably quality coffee, I’m neither a fan of light roasts or straight-Ethiopian coffees. That doesn’t mean that might not enjoy it, so don’t hesitate to give it try. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Nerd Fuel: Laughing Man – Dukale’s Blend

For my next Nerd Fuel review, I’m taking a look at another Laughing Man coffee, the Dukale’s Blend. This coffee is named after the farmer that Hugh Jackman met on his trip to the coffee farms of Ethiopia.  If “184 Duane St.” is to be considered Laughing Man’s house blend, “Dukale’s” could be called their signature offering.

This is a medium roast coffee. It has a deep, earthy flavor to it. Despite being a medium roast, it has a pretty full flavor. But to me, it’s a bit too “muddy”. I cannot say for sure, but I’m pretty certain that a good portion of this blend is made with Ethiopian beans. Ethiopian coffees have a very distinct flavor, and I taste quite a lot of it in this cup. – So your personal preference will play a big part here.

The quality of this coffee cannot be denied. I find it to be much better than many others out there. But, I don’t feel it compares to some of the other options Laughing Man brings to the table. Overall, it’s going to be largely a matter of personal taste.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Maybe. When compared to Laughing Man’s Colombian or Duane St. Blend, I find this one to be a distant 2nd. Regardless, it is a very good cup of coffee. Fans of Ethiopian coffees might find a real treat here.