Thursday, April 14, 2011

Peet's Coffee WTF?!

I just went to Peet's Coffee for the very first time. I read a lot about coffee, go to a lot of cafes, and drink more than his healthy. I can say pretty definitively that Starbucks is the target of buttloads of animosity and is referenced derisively as Charbucks more often than not, while the other major chain, Peet's, is always spoken of in not-so-quiet reverence. The phrasing of this criticism is usually how only idiots go to Starbucks, and those who really know coffee will always go to Peet's instead.

Well all I can say to that is WTFUCK?! Their food selection was quite good. Better than Starbucks' currently is, even though the selection at the 'Bucks is a bit wider. If Peet's food has always been this good, then yes, their food was much better than Starbucks before they changed all of their recipes and food selections.

But it's the coffee that matters at a coffee shop, and it's here that had me shocked. For one, I was blown away, literally blown away! It was Boston. I was shot while waiting in line. But after getting out of the hospital a couple of months later, I returned and picked up the latte that I had ordered. It was a bit old, so I ordered a new one.

First off, Starbucks is lampooned by those in the know for using what are known as super-auto machines. These are the machines that grind, tamp, espress, and almost automatically steam milk. The problem with these machines is that while they can be operated by a trained chimp, the espresso is never as good as from a traditional grinder/machine setup, and the milk foam is never anywhere close. So color me surprised when I walked up to the counter and saw two super-auto machines pumping away behind the counter.

It was a Schaerer, a brand of which I know, but have never seen one in actual use. At least it's not the Frankes that Panera Breads use. Panera has some truly awful espresso. The espresso itself tasted alright. The machine was obviously well-calibrated and clean. The problem, though, is that a latte from Starbucks, when (...when) their machines are well-calibrated, they taste just as good. Worse still, just like Starbucks rather frequently, the milk foam was atrocious. Look at it!

That's terrible foam! I don't get commercial super-auto machines. I owned a Jura Capresso Z5 for years, and while it took a little tweaking, I was able to squeeze out some really good milk foam and espresso. These are commercial machines that frequently cost eight times as much and the product is either only comparable or inferior. Just compare that Peet's latte to this one, made with the $3,000 Jura Capresso Z5, and the next one, which was made with a $2,000 semi-auto espresso machine.

Peet's coffee is so far behind those two examples as to be akin to putting Jessie Owens in the Special Olympics. If Peet's Coffee is like this at every location, then I can safely say that those who mock Starbucks and espouse Peet's are the ones who actually know nothing about coffee. You can work yourself into a self-important, anti-corporate rage all you want; Starbucks isn't too bad.


hannerish said...

I've gotta say, Peet's on the East Coast is WAY different than Peet's on the west coast (where it originated). We use different machines, our lattes almost NEVER look like that, and the training to operate a machine is extensive. I've been working for Peet's for a while, and I' still not bar certified. I've heard people back east don't like us much, you should try some west coast Peet's.

Aaron Martin-Colby said...

If I ever find myself out in Cali -- an event that is probably inevitable -- I will make it a point to check out a Peet's location.

To be fair to East Coast rappers, I mean Peet's coffee locations, this was in a large annex to a university. These sorts of shopping centers are, for whatever reason, usually the dreggs of the culinary world. Almost as bad as the overpriced area of an airport that's past the security check.

sha loo said...

A couple of things you may not know about Peets coffee.

For me I have a great understanding of peets coffee and the steps they take to get the best quality and freshness that the average coffee consumer looks for. As for the auto espresso machines only license partners use those kinds of machines. All retail stores use the real espresso machines. The reason for that is the fact peets can’t always be there to make sure the team is using the machine correctly. As for the west coast to the east coast the roasting plant is in California and ships there coffee to the east coast so you get a bit fresher coffee on the west coast. Peets coffee Prides them self on the freshness of their product. Peets only roast to order UN like Starbucks. Starbucks roasts there product lets it sit for 4 days open air to de gas (this is called per stalling) then packages their product and lets it sit in a ware house it is ordered. Peets on the other hand roast to order and packages their product no more the 2 hours after roasting. Peets has a special valve that lets the gases out but no air back in. I strongly suggest you order peets coffee from them on line and try it at home trust me you will be impressed.

Aaron Martin-Colby said...

I have had Peet's beans and liked them. I had their standard breakfast blend and was quite happy with it. I've taken to roasting my own coffee, but if I had to buy a bag from the grocery store, Peet's would be near the top of my list.

Most of the bags that I have had, Starbucks included, have the little one-way valve for de-gassing. Of course, for many of the bean brands, this is more a gesture than anything else.

I wish that a genuine Peet's location were more easily accessible. Then I could comment on that instead of the little Boston annex.