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Coffee Call

June 5, 2014

Call me curmudgeonly, but I have developed an innate distrust of food manufacturers and producers. It always seems as if they are trying to work the system providing as much mis- and disinformation on their packaging as allowed by law.

Maybe my scorn should be towards marketers who keep finding new and clever words to dupe consumers into buying their client’s products or the government agencies who think these practices are perfectly fine.

Regardless, over time I’ve been trained to become a close reader of product packaging. You’ll never know what’s lurking in a pint of cream, which butter has added flavor, or where zero calorie sweeteners will turn up when you are least expecting them.

So when I encountered the following message on a bag of supermarket coffee, I was skeptical at best.

Generally I like to buy my coffee at small local roasters. Sometimes that small local roaster is Whole Foods. Other times it’s somebody truly small without any footprint beyond the immediate region. We can debate what small means later.

But I was at the Target in the hell hole on the outskirts of Princeton, and they were having a coffee sale. Buy two bags and get one for free. One of the brands Target stocks is Peet’s.

Peet’s and I go way back to the Bay Area days. Before the third wave hit, Peet’s was the best coffee in the land. Their baristas were amazing. But it was their brewed coffee that was the lifeblood of my professional career. The stuff was thick and potent. It had tons of character. You could occasionally even find me waiting in line for my morning cup.

Even when the brand was a lot smaller, I could never coax the same flavors from their beans out of my home brewing rig as I could get in my morning cup from their shop on Battery street. And I’m under no illusion that as the brand has grown and expanded into national distribution that it hasn’t brought changes to the quality or craft of the roasting.

Still, I felt compelled to get three bags for cold brewing.

As I mentioned before, the bags bore some curious copy. It read, “Our experts are always ready to talk beans, brewing and the perfect cup. 800.999.2132”


Because I love talking coffee. And I was kind of curious about who these coffee experts were anyhow. So, after bringing the bags home, I did the only logical thing. I picked up the phone and followed the phone tree to get to a human being.

The question I wanted to ask demanded an expert opinion. Usually, I grind my own beans for cold brew on the coarsest possible setting. Either that, or I have them ground as coarse as possible and start brewing them as soon as I get home.

Target only had Peet’s ground beans. So I was curious how I should adjust my twenty-four hour brew time in the Filtron to accommodate for the finer grind.

The woman who picked up the phone had no idea. But she put me hold to confer with her colleagues. When she got back, I had my answer: ten to twelve hours.

Lo and behold, I think they were right. I drained that batch as soon as I got off the phone. It had already been going for about fourteen hours, and indeed it tasted a bit overextracted. The next batch I capped at twelve hours and it was fantastic.

Bravo Peet’s. Bravo.

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