Nerd Fuel: Laughing Man – Hugh’s Blend

My favorite thing about reviewing coffee is seeking out and trying new flavors and varieties. A while back I reviewed a number of coffees by Hugh Jackman’s Laughing Man coffee company. Well, he’s back with a new offering; Hugh’s Blend. I came across a box a couple weeks ago during a shopping trip with my wife and I snatched it up immediately. With the exception of their Ethiopian brew, Laughing Man has produced some of the best K-Cups I’ve come across yet. I was elated to see something new from them on the shelf.

This brew is a blend of South American coffees done at a medium roast. During the brewing process it gives off a rich and pleasant aroma. The flavor is an odd mix of mild fruitiness – that’s actually a bit tart. But it also has a sweet cookie or graham cracker twist to it. It’s also a bit more bitter than I expected from a medium roast. But this was nothing drastic and was easily tamed with a little bit of extra cream. The flavors in this blend are unique, but they do not stand out very much. Overall it’s a decent everyday blend.

Compared to Laughing Man’s other blends, I feel that this one takes a backseat to the Duane St. Blend. But, I did enjoy it a bit more than Dukale’s Blend. It’s a very drinkable coffee and one of undeniable quality. But, I have a hard recommending it over their other offerings. If you like your coffee with faint sweet and fruity notes, it might be worth picking up a box and judging this one for yourself.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Maybe. This is a decent coffee but it doesn’t offer enough to stand out on its own when compared to so many other options. It’s certainly worth a look, but it’s not one of my favorites.

Nerd Fuel: Cafe’ Bustelo – Espresso Style

Today, I’m going to share my thoughts on a coffee that I’ve been eyeing for some time; Cafe Bustelo. This distinct yellow box caught my eye the very first time I saw it on the grocery store shelf, but I was always a little hesitant to try something so obscure. Finally, I decided to take the plunge and bring the box home.

Cafe Bustelo is an American coffee company based out of New York. The owner was a Cuban immigrant who decided to bring his unique style to the American market. Even though Cafe Bustelo is a regular coffee, it’s traditionally prepared using espresso machines. This helps to give the coffee a very dark, bold flavor. The K-cup presentation preserves this “espresso style” method.

To start, let me be clear that this is a STRONG brew. It’s a dark roast coffee and it’s pretty intense. It ranks right up there with Green Mountain’s Dark Magic in terms of strength. The aroma of the brew is heavy with a hint of char. The taste is not much different. It’s bitter and dark, very burnt tasting. But there is a nice woody/chocolate undertone that’s actually pretty pleasant if you can get past the initial slap in the face. Unless you’re a real coffee grind warrior, you’ll likely be loading this down with a lot of cream. (I certainly did).

The first few sips turned me off, I’ll be honest. But I found that the deeper I got into the cup, the more I started to enjoy it. Personally, I’m a big fan of those skinny “Double Shot” cans that Starbucks sells in the grocery stores, and this coffee could easily match those if prepared correctly.

In a nutshell, this is not a coffee that is for everyone. In fact, nine times out of ten, it’s a little too much for me. But, it’s certainly a quality product. It’s perfect for those early mornings when you just can’t seem to get going and need a little kick. That’s what I’m saving it for anyway. Espresso fans and lovers of dark roasts might find a new favorite here.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would buy again?:  No. While I can appreciate the product for what it is. It’s a little too strong for my personal tastes to be an everyday buy. This is a good quality brew with a rich flavor. But again, this is a bit stronger than I usually enjoy.

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain – Kenya Highlands (Single Origins)

Coming down from the Christmas high when you’re a parent usually consists of some late nights. In my household, the wife and I keep our sanity by staying up late and cuddling on the couch with a favorite movie or TV show. Coffee is a big part of the routine. For this post, I’ll be moving away from some of the flavored varieties and taking a look at another of Green Mountain’s Single Origin coffees.

I was VERY pleased with their Single Origin Costa Rican offering, so this time I decided to take a shot at their “Kenya Highlands” variety. Kenyan coffee is world famous for it’s rich and full flavor. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a single origin coffee from Kenya, so I was very interested to give this a try. Upon popping this pod into my brewer, the kitchen was filled with an bold, earthy aroma. It was very delightful. In the cup, the coffee also keep it’s rich, delicious scent.

The flavor is deep and semi-fruity with a layer of mild bitterness. I found it to be very enjoyable – This is certainly a quality coffee. I can imagine that for many people this could easily become their daily go-to coffee. However, for me, a person who samples such a wide variety, I have personally encountered other options that I enjoy more. Green Mountain’s very own Costa Rica Single Origin coffee beats this one hands down. (At least in my opinion). But, that being said, this is not a bad coffee in any way. It’s a full flavored medium roast and one of superb quality and care.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would buy again?:  Maybe. Without a doubt this is a quality coffee. But I can’t say it’s unique enough to stand against so many other top shelf offerings. A good Colombian or even a quality blended coffee seems to bring a little more to the table in my opinion.

Nerd Fuel: Ugly Mug Coffee – Butter Moon

I know I should be strictly reviewing “Christmas themed” coffees this time of year. But here is a find that was too unique for me to pass up. I found this on aisle of my local grocery store. It was a brand I’ve never heard of before, and after a little research, I learned it’s actually local company. That being said, I’m unsure how widely available it might be. I’m talking about Ugly Mug Coffee. More specifically, their “Butter Moon” flavor. Everything about this box called to me, so I decided to pick it up and give it ago.

First off, this is a medium-light roast. It smells surprisingly like buttered popcorn while brewing – something I was not expecting, even despite the name. The aroma is divine. I couldn’t wait to dive into this cup. The flavor is interesting; It has a velvety butter/caramel flavor with a bit of a nutty finish. This roast is heavily flavored, but it’s nice and smooth. It’s hard to taste the complexity of the blend underneath the flavoring. But, to be honest, this really didn’t bother me at all. The coffee was so good, I hardly cared.

I usually tend to stay away from smaller, more artisan roasters. Simply because it’s often hit or miss when it comes to availability. If I find something I enjoy, I want to be able to acquire it with relative ease. This coffee has me reconsidering. It was hit with my entire family.

I can’t recommend this coffee enough. Of course, if you’re a stalwart flavored-coffee hater, you’ll find little here to change your mind. But if you’re like me and enjoy different variants, this coffee is certainly worth your time. I’m going to be hunting down another box of this VERY soon. It is THAT good.

Score: 4 out of 4

Would buy again?:  YES! A new favorite. I was very pleased with the quality and uniqueness of this coffee. My only concern is being able to find it again, as I discovered it at an out-of-the-way grocer, and their stock changes so rapidly, its hard to find the same thing twice.

 

Nerd Fuel: Starbucks – 2017 Holiday Blend

December is here! Yes, that does mean Star Wars but it also means there’s a plethora of tasty seasonal coffees lining the store shelves. Last year, I sampled and reviewed three different seasonal coffees. This year, the options are not very different. But Starbucks can always be relied on to provide some variation to the theme. Last year, they presented us with a FANTASTIC Holiday Blonde Roast. This year, we have a more traditional holiday-themed blend. So let’s dive right in…

This year’s offering is labeled as a medium roast with “sweet and maple notes”. However, to me, it seemed a tad darker than what I’d expect from a medium roasted coffee. It certainly smells very dark when brewing. Even in the cup it has a hint of bitterness that’d I’d come to expect from a dark roasted coffee. But… it’s not quite as strong. Very interesting.

It’s a very rich and flavorful coffee. But I don’t really detect any maple in the mix. Regardless, it is very satisfying. It’s perfect for a crisp winter morning. It almost has a “hearty” quality about it – very difficult to describe. If you enjoy bold and complex coffees, this will certainly be worth your time. But more casual drinkers might find this blend to be a bit much.

Personally, I found the coffee to be enjoyable and a welcome change of pace. But, I can’t say it’s one that gets me very excited.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would buy again?:  Maybe. This is a quality coffee. But it seemed aimed towards people who enjoy bold roasts or artisan-style coffees. I would not recommend putting this out in the office or at a holiday party. This is not a one-size-fits-all.

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain – Costa Rica Paraiso (Single Origins)

Lately, I’ve noticed a few new additions to the coffee isle on my local store. In the last few weeks, they’ve started stocking several new coffees from Green Mountain’s “Single Origin” series. So, I decided to pick up a box of the Costa Rica Paraiso pods. Single Origin coffees are usually hit or miss for me. I tend to enjoy true Colombian coffee regardless of who makes it, but I’ve never had a single origin Costa Rican coffee.

The first thing I noticed was the earthy, nutty smell of the brew. But, earthy is a good way. The aroma was rich and complex, not burnt or dirty smelling like some coffees tend to be. I was intrigued from the scent alone.  That’s usually a good sign.

Upon sipping the coffee, I was surprised by the creamy, complex flavor. It was not something I was expecting after such a deep aroma during brewing. I found this coffee to be a near-perfect medium roast. It contained just the right amount of bitterness, but you can still taste the natural flavor of the beans. This is something that many coffees seem to have a problem with. Thankfully, this was not the case here.

The more I drank this, the more I found myself enjoying it. In fact, I’ve decided that it’s a darn near perfect cup of coffee. It’s excellent as an early morning kickstarter or even for a mid-day pick-me-up. This might just be one of my new favorites. I urge anyone with a Keurig machine to give this pod a spin. High marks for the Costa Rica Paraiso.

 

Score: 4 out of 4

Would buy again?:  Yes! One of my new favorites. I can’t say enough good things about this coffee. This is right up there with the fine coffees offered by Laughing Man and some of Green Mountain’s other top shelf offerings.

 

Nerd Fuel: Kahlua Coffee – Original

For this Nerd Fuel post, I’m going to review a classic. In fact, I’m a bit surprised it took me this long to share my thoughts on one of the most popular flavored coffees out there: Kahlua.

Now, I will be up front and say that I’m not the biggest fan of Kahlua liquor. I enjoy it occasionally in mixed drinks. But to me, its flavor is so pungent that it can easily overpower a drink. I’ve known people to spike their coffee with it, and when doing so, a little goes a long way. So, I wasn’t sure just how well a Kahlua-flavored coffee would pan out. Let’s see.

The unique smell of Kahlua is very noticeable when brewing one of these pods. It’s strong, but pleasant. The coffee itself is mostly dominated by the Kahlua flavoring, but it’s not so strong as be a turn off. Interestingly enough, the coffee itself is a light roasted coffee. I suppose this was done to allow the Kahlua flavoring to take center-stage here. But in my opinion a darker coffee would have been a better compliment. In a nutshell, the flavor is nice. But dominating. It’s hard to taste the coffee.

This is one of the few K-Cups that I feel is better prepared as an iced coffee instead of being served hot. The flavor seems better chilled. When served warm, it just doesn’t have the same magic. Perhaps that’s simply because most Kahlua-based drinks are usually served cold, and that’s just what I’ve come to expect.

All in all, this is a decent flavored coffee. It’s a great representation of the Kahlua brand. But it’s not going to be for everyone.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would buy again?:  Maybe. Either you like Kahlua or you don’t. If the flavor of Kahlua is something you tend to enjoy in other drinks, then a good iced coffee made with this pod is certianly worth your attention. I don’t really recommend this as a standard warm cup.

Nerd Fuel: Starbuck’s – Toasted Graham

Ok. I’m going to give Starbucks’ a chance to redeem themselves. While I was not a big  fan of their Pumpkin Spice Cafe Latte, I did enjoy their 2017 Fall Blend, and  last year’s Holiday Blonde Roast was simply amazing. For this review, I picked up a box of their new Toasted Graham coffee. Let’s see how it turned out.

First of all, this is a medium roast with natural flavors. It smells absolutely divine as it brews. The aroma of graham cracker and coffee beans together are simply out of this world. I immediately had high hopes for this coffee. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. This coffee has a rich, delicious flavor. The graham cracker taste is front and center, complimented by a nice honey/cinnamon finish. There’s no phony aftertaste. I was shocked by how good this coffee was, to be honest. Usually, when I pick up a flavored coffee, I go in expecting a chemical or overly syrupy taste. That’s not the case with this coffee at all. This is a clean brew. Not too acidic and not too bitter.

This coffee is wonderful as a classic morning mug or even when prepped as an iced coffee. Starbucks’ really hit it out of the park with this release. I simply can’t say enough good things about this coffee. Plus, the flavor actually ends up being quite a compliment to this time of year. If you see this in your local store, you’d do well to treat yourself to a box.

This is one of my new favorites.

Score: 4 out of 4

Would buy again?:  YES! This coffee exceeded all my expectations. Rich, well balanced flavor. Quality flavored coffee. Everything is just right about this cup.

Nerd Fuel: Starbucks – Fall Blend (2017)

Fall is here! For me, that means pumpkin scented candles and spooky video games. Last year, I reviewed a couple different Pumpkin flavored coffees so I’ve decided to change things up this time and focus on a simple Autumn blend. It just so happens I found exactly what I was looking for as soon as I hit the grocery store. Starbucks is offering a “Fall Blend” for 2017, and it seemed like the perfect fit.

Now, as you may know, I have a very hit and miss relationship with Starbucks coffee. I don’t count myself as a fan, but occasionally they will drop a really good K-cup on store shelves. Other times, their home products are just as icky as what they peddle in their stores.  (An unpopular opinion, I know. But it’s how I feel.)

In the case of this Fall Blend, I’m happy to report a solid quality coffee. This pod has that signature Starbucks “burnt bean” smell as it brews. This alarmed me at first, but thankfully this does not equate to a burnt taste. In fact, this cup of coffee actually has quite a smooth flavor. It’s a medium roast, with a complex earthy/spice taste. It’s actually quite good!

Most fall blends tend to lean a little too heavily on artificial pumpkin flavoring, even when they don’t market the product as a pumpkin coffee. Starbucks did not fall into this trap and the end result is a very solid coffee. If you enjoy everyday coffees in lieu of the trendy flavors, this is a coffee that I recommend. The earthy notes and mild spice taste is perfect for this time of year, without drenching you with tons of artificial flavoring.

 

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Yes.  This is a medium roast coffee with a solid flavor. It really is the perfect compliment to a brisk Autumn morning. Starbucks managed to deliver with this year’s fall blend.

 

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain Coffee – Golden French Toast

My first post since my month-long hiatus and…. it’s about coffee. For those of you that enjoy my gaming content more, I apologize. But for those who actually enjoy the coffee reviews (and I do here from some of you), here we go!

For this post, I’m going to be talking about a coffee that I’ve spent the last six months or so scouring stores for. I first caught wind of this flavor while browsing the Keurig site, but no one ever seemed to have it in stock. I’m talking about the elusive “Golden French Toast” flavored coffee.  This is one of Green Mountain’s seasonal selections – which season, I’m not really sure… because it seems to be out of circulation.  But as soon as I learned of a “french toast” flavored K-cup, I knew I had to have it. After many months of searching, a reseller finally listed a box on Amazon.

Once it arrived, I eagerly popped a cup into my brewer. I was immediately delighted with the strong aroma of maple syrup and roasted beans. It was a delightful mix. Once the brew was complete, I took my first sip.  This is a light roasted coffee, with a very heavy artificial flavoring. But, thankfully it’s a good flavor. It doesn’t taste “fake”. The coffee itself is somewhat weak. The first thing in the taste profile that stands out is the maple. But the coffee also has a smooth butter and cinnamon finish. The taste balance is very well done.

I admit that despite being excited to try this coffee, I didn’t have very high expectations. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. The Golden French Toast was actually quite enjoyable.

I feel that this coffee is best suited for early mornings, or as an after-dinner desert coffee. The flavoring is strong is could easily clash with a meal. But all in all, I was quite impressed. I hope to see this returned to shelves before too long.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Yes.  Smooth and silky. Light, enjoyable roast, but with a strong maple flavoring. Great for early mornings.