Category Archives: Coffee Reviews

A K-cup Familiar To Our Canadian Friends

In the States, you can pick up a rock and toss it in any direction … and hit a Starbucks.  In Canada, it’s another name and store.

Most Canadians will understand a visit to Timmy's."

Most Canadians will understand a visit to “Timmy’s.”

I spied a new coffee offering in my supermarket K-cup display.  This one is marked with a logo familiar to many who call Canada home. “Tim Horton’s” is very similar to Duncan Donuts here in the US, a nice little store that can be found pretty much everywhere.  They serve lots of good coffee along with some of the most decadent pastries I have ever seen.  Yes, they are mostly donuts and their variants, but I’ve personally never seen a collection of colors, frostings, sprinkles and fillings like I did at a Tim Horton’s in Ontario some years back.  They are everywhere, and they are always, always occupied with hordes of locals tossing back coffee and packing away calories to fight off the cold.

I had a cup of the standard drip, prepared “regular” which means sugar and cream.  It tasted quite satisfying, a dark, full bodied roast that stood up to the add ins.  Maybe it was the cool air, but I recall the smell of the brew to be particularly attractive.  It was full and fresh, just a few minutes old.  I had it with a glazed donut of some design and called it breakfast.  A happy memory which always leaves me wondering why “Timmy’s” as the locals sometime call their stores haven’t tried a legitimate expansion into the United States.  There’s always room for good coffee and donuts in my opinion.

Anyway, I was brought back to this experience when I saw Tim Horton’s cups in the supermarket.  I was only able to snag a decaf box, as all the regular seemed snapped up. (Hmmm…. maybe people DO know about Horton goodness here in the Southern United States).  While I would have preferred the regular for a test drive, I’ve been sampling the decaf over the past few days.

I was wondering if this K version of this memorable cup could live up to my expectations.  Rarely does popular coffee outlets make the jump to the Keurig Universe without bumps and jolts.  Horton’s was not an exception.

The actual cup is a rigid side version, not one with the expanding folds that are filtering into the market.  It worked without issue in my machine, and when set to the large mug size offered a slightly weak looking cup of decaf coffee.

The flavor of the coffee was a bit on the bright side, more of a medium roast than anything taking on a lot of roast characteristics.  It was by no means bold.  This particular K-cup yields better when set to a medium mug setting, and there’s no way to steal a second brew.  I want to say that the decaffeination process steals a good bit of personality from these beans and what you get is a cup that tastes … just okay.  Not horrible and I will finish the box, but not something you make a special trip for.  And it is certainly not in agreement with the robust and heat-giving cups that the real Horton’s serve north of the border.

This is not complete thumbs down.  It is a satisfactory cup of decaf, just nothing to write home about.  Especially if your home is in Canada.  I will keep an eye open for the caffeinated version at my local store and see if that fares any better.

Update: verdict on horton’s regular coffee k-cup

I was able to find and sample Tim Horton’s regular coffee in K-Cup.  Again, it was satisfactory, but not a coffee that you would want to drive across town for.  It is not the cup you’ll get at a Tim Horton’s Bake Shop.  The brewed cup is overly bright and thin, with some grassy aftertastes that I did not find overly pleasing.  Like the decaf version, this cup is simply “okay,” but not a brand you would consider paying a premium for.  Is it the exact same stuff they brew in the restaurants?  Perhaps, but the translation to the Keurig system and the very short brew time may limit how well this brew can match the store brewed cup.

The upshot:  If you have access to Timmy’s, simply drive in and grab a cup, maybe some baked goods.  You’ll spend about the same money as you would on a 12 pack of these cups and have a much better time.

What’s The Best Decaf Coffee Available?

I get asked all the time.

And my response is always cautious.  The question is way too subjective, and there’s about 20 different brewing variables that will impact how any one coffee will behave.  But if you want to know what I think is the best decaf available, I will.  But you need to tell me yours.

What makes a great decaf coffee?  Well, I think some decafs have a processed taste, like the bean has been also sucked dry of flavor as well as caffeine.  I look for a coffee that has a full, complex flavor.  I like something that satisfies not only my tastebuds but SMELLS good too …. in the bag and also in the cup.  I like something that relies on the bean characteristics rather than the sheer darkness of the roast to transmit taste to me.  Again, it’s the quality of the bean and the method of caffeine extraction that makes the difference.

My choice for best decaf coffee that’s widely available is:

Peet’s Coffee,  “Major Dickason’s Blend -Decaf”

My current favorite, Major Dickason's Decaf!

You can find this in many supermarkets or gourmet markets.  You can buy it directly from Alfred Peet’s company for 15.95 a pound.  It has what it takes to be considered an all-world cup of decaf joe:  full and rich, not a whole lot of unwanted roast characteristics, works for the nose as well as the tongue, and doesn’t have that nasty “I’ve-been-messed-with” over-processed quality that cheaper decafs have (think -“Sanka”).

That’s what I think.   I’ll always like this particular blend, but I can be convinced that the crown should go elsewhere.  Tell me what your favorite is and I’ll give it a spin here on the blog.

The Ekobrew Reusable K-Cup Review

The Keurig coffee maker can make good coffee.  It can make it neatly and quickly.  What it can’t do is make a good, cheap cup of coffee.

The problem is simple:  to make it easy and quick, the K-Cup manufacturers have to do a lot of processing to get it ready for you before you buy.  They have to grind, dose and seal each of those little cups.  All that processing equals greater cost for you, the end user.

But what if you’re willing to take on that processing yourself?  Buying your own coffee, grinding and packing it into a cup would certainly trim down the overall costs.  Keurig has a solution of its own:  The “My K-Cup” kit.  But at 17.99 at Amazon it is not the cheapest nor simplest solution out there.  This kit also requires you to pop out the cup holster for use, which is a bit more hassle.

But Keurig is not the only game in town when it comes to reusable cup solutions.  There’s the Ekobrew reusable cup.  It’s 10.99 at Amazon.

The Ekobrew jumps out ahead of the My K Cup on design and ease of use.  Instead of several individual parts, the Ekobrew is one single piece, including a hinged top that swings completely clear of the basket for easy filling.  There’s nothing to lose, and more importantly, nothing to remove from the coffee maker as the My K Cup requires.  Once loaded, it acts just like a regular pre-packed cup.

It is easy to load as well.  The My K Cup’s mesh basket is very lightweight on it’s own and needs a couple of stabilizing fingers to keep it from tipping while filling with coffee.  The Ekobrew has a bit more heft and stayed in place for me.  This isn’t a big deal, but I found that balancing the coffee bag, filter and spoon required one more hand than I came equipped with.  The Ekobrew scored points for me here.

Once loaded, just snap the hinged top closed and drop it into your coffee machine.  Unlike manufactured cups, there IS a specific orientation for the cup to sit … the writing on the cap must be toward you.  This positioning allows the exit needle at the bottom of the holster to fit into a recess molded into the cup.  Otherwise you’d punch a hole in the hard plastic bottom and probably ruin the holster.  It would be hard to make such a mistake, as the cup won’t “feel” right as you set it down in your machine… it would wiggle and rattle and I found myself rotating the cup looking for the correct “fit,” which I found inside a half turn.

Just run the Keurig as you would normally do.  Remember, there is a bit of exploration to be done here as you find the right amount of coffee and right serving size to best work for your tastes.  As with the My K Cup, it is advisable to stay with a drip grind for the cup.  Any finer and you risk clogging the mesh and making the brewing cycle too long.

Once done, I suggest rinsing out the cup pretty quickly, even while the cup is still warm from brewing.  This makes for easy removal of the wet grounds simply with a running tap.  Let the grounds dry and you’re in for some scraping and washing.  Do it, it only takes a minute while the grounds are still wet.

How’s the coffee?
I made some tests with the same batch I used for the My K Cup tests, Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend decaf.  I found it to be quite pleasing and robust, not too bitter or oily, which is something I worried about when using a non-paper filter system.  The only downside is there’s a good bit of silt left over at the bottom of the cup, a sign that some smaller particles slipped by the mesh and wound up in my cup.  This is not a big deal, ask anyone who uses a french press…. but be aware that you won’t want to see if this cup is good till the last drop.  You’ll wind up with a small taste of coffee silt if you do.

Who wins???

For my money, the Ekobrew takes it between these two “roll your own” solutions.  It preserves the Keurig’s simple use mandate, it is easier to load and pops out of the machine without an issue.  It is also about 7 bucks cheaper at Amazon and can be found elsewhere on the web for less.  Grab one and give it a try.

But what if you want to take the “green” thing even a bit further?  I mean, the Ekobrew doesn’t really recycle the old plastic cups, it just replaces it.  What about a system that really live up to the “save the mama” doctrine and puts those old cups back into service?  We’ll look at the “K-Kap” system next time.