Wake Up & Smell The Coffee Beans

Does Starbucks Recommend Excessive Amount of Ground Coffee for Brewing?

My love for coffee started at an early age. That is, I loved coffee ice cream. With all the flavors in the world, I was consistent and always chose coffee ice cream.

These days I don’t eat much ice cream, though wandering through the hilltop towns of Tuscany I am easily persuaded to indulge in a scoop or two of gelato. Yum.

It wasn’t until many years later did I acquire the taste for a good cup of coffee. And I mean good. You see, my dad loved coffee. But back then, I learned many years later, he had it all wrong. His morning ritual was instant or freeze dried coffee. Sanka. Or was it Nescafe. I can’t really remember. In just a generation the taste buds and expectations of coffee drinkers have changed dramatically. While my dad’s tastes have evolved he still can’t get over the $2.00 cup of coffee. I don’t know, perhaps that was the cost of a whole jar of instant ‘back in the day.’

The first cup of coffee I ever truly indulged in was poured by one of my first bosses once I graduated college and migrated to California. “Here’s your first cup of coffee,” Glenn, a husky built mid-westerner said as he placed the cup on my desk. He assumed I liked coffee and would start my day with a fresh cup. “And that’s the last cup of coffee,” he quickly chirped, “that I’m every going to make for you.”

So my path to addiction began. I discovered espresso and cappuccino before Starbucks opened a store in Orange County. The french bakery store next to the post office where I retrieved mail from my P.O. Box became a regular stop. It was nice too. On my motorcycle I would be forced to simply enjoy the cup of coffee and slowly ease into the day. Those rushing about and eager to jump into traffic would grab their cup to go and head into the wild. I’d sit and watch and learn.

These days I grind fresh beans and use a french press to brew my morning coffee. After a late Tuesday evening (saw ex-Blasters guitarist and legendary songwriter Dave Alvin play at the Belly Up Tavern in Solano beach last night) I woke to an empty canister of coffee. No beans. Uh oh!

A short drive to my local Starbucks and I picked out a pound of the Caffé Verona, a bold blend inspired by the Italian espresso. With the morning line nearly out the door at the Starbucks and my battery dead on my iPhone, I killed the waiting time by reading the small print on the bag of coffee beans. When I noticed that Starbucks recommends “two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.” I wondered how much I used in my daily pot of french press. I do prefer a strong cup of coffee and choose bolder beans or blends over those that are more mild.

My french press holds about 30 ounces of water. If I follow Starbucks recommendations, I would need to use 10 tablespoons of ground coffee in order to come up with what Starbuck’s would agree were acceptable results for a brewed cup of coffee.

With new beans loaded in the grinder, I ground up about the amount of coffee I usually do in the morning and then measured the ground coffee. To be sure, I always eyeball and approximate the time for grinding. I use a grinder that stores beans above the grinding mechanism and uses a timer that winds and spins down and shuts off when the cycle is complete.

Guess what? I seem to use about five (5) tablespoons (maybe sometimes six) of coffee to brew my morning french press pot of coffee. That’s 50% less than Starbuck’s recommends. Believe me, my coffee is not weak. My recent guests here at my cottage commented on the strength of my morning coffee.

I understand that Starbucks needs to sell coffee. I’m not sure what percentage of its business comes from the sale of beans (at its stores and in grocery stores), but I can’t help thinking that this is a tad excessive. I wonder if they use this same measure for brewing standard drip coffee at its stores? Does coffee brewed using a french press require the same amount of ground coffee as a drip coffee maker?

What about you? What kind of coffee do you brew at home and how do you measure beans or ground coffee?