Nerd Fuel: Folgers 1850 – Pioneer Blend

Maybe I’ve never come right out and said it. But, generally speaking, I don’t usually enjoy your run-of-the-mill everyday coffee. I’m talking about your standard mass-market grocery store coffee; Folgers, Maxwell House, Hills Bros, etc. To me, most of them taste pretty much the same. They’re not bad, but they’re not particularly good either. They are just not for me. I suppose that seems hypocritical, considering one of my favorite K-Cup coffees is “Donut Shop”, a brew designed to be just that: mediocre. But, even though Donut Shop is a very “safe” coffee, it is still made with quality ingredients.

So yeah, every grocery store coffee just doesn’t appeal to me. With that in mind, I never thought I’d be reviewing a coffee by Folgers. But recently, at the insistence of my wife, I picked up a box of Folgers’ 1850 – Pioneer Blend. In case you are not aware, the 1850 sub-brand is Folgers’ answer to “craft coffee”. They claim that the 1850 label represents their best brews yet. Needless to say, I was skeptical. So, is it really that much better? Or just a clever marketing ploy? Let’s find out.

First of all, I will admit that this Pioneer Blend is indeed much more interesting than plain old Folgers Coffee. It’s a medium roast coffee with a bold and balanced flavor. The flavor is surprisingly complex with a rich, nutty aftertaste. I have to admit, I was shocked that at how enjoyable this coffee was. I didn’t expect anything more than the same old Folgers, but in a fancy new package. This is certainly not the case. There is indeed something happening here.

This coffee is essentially the equivalent to your common “house” or “signature” blend. In fact, I found it to be pretty much on par with many other high-quality house blend coffees. It’s certainly something that I could enjoy on a regular basis. I daresay it ranks right up there with Laughing Man’s 184 Duane Street Blend – one of my favorite house blend coffees. In fact, it’s made me curious enough that I think I’ll try some of the other 1850 offerings by Folgers in the near future.

Score: 4 out of 4

Would buy again?: YES! I can’t believe I’m saying this about a box of Folgers… But this is actually an amazing cup of coffee. This has become a new favorite in our household.

Nerd Fuel: Mystic Monk Coffee – Snickering Monk Candy Bar

In my quest to sample a wide variety of K-Cups, I occasionally come across some rather obscure coffees. A good example would be the Butter Moon variety by Ugly Mug Coffee – I’ve never seen it on the shelf since the fateful day I discovered it. Ugly Mug is a little known company, but one that makes some really incredible coffee. When deciding to branch out a bit for this review, I knew that my first stop was going to have to be Mystic Monk.

Being a Roman Catholic, this is a brand of coffee that’s been on my radar for quite a while. I had seen ads for it in my local Catholic bookstore or occasionally in newsletters that come in the mail. This company is actually ran by a cloister of monks out in Wyoming. Coffee brewing is how they support their monastery. They prepare and roast the beans themselves. The coffee is then sold via mail order or online. I’ve tried a few of their offerings over the years and found them to be pretty tasty. This last Christmas, I was given a box of their Snickering Monk Candy Bar coffee as a gift. So, what other option do I have but to review it here!

Snickering Monk is a medium roast coffee that is flavored to taste like a Snickers candy bar. Of course, it’s not a licensed product so they can’t come right out and say “Snickers”. Nonetheless, the flavor does indeed taste very similar. I’m always a bit weary any time I try a flavored coffee. More often than not, flavored coffees end up tasting very fake or have a funky aftertaste. It’s few and far between to find a flavored coffee that doesn’t suffer from one of these two complaints. Thankfully, Snickering Monk does not have either of these problems. This coffee does not taste like grinds that have been over-saturated in a low quality syrup. In fact, it has a very mild and natural flavor profile. You can taste the quality of the coffee blend itself as well as the balanced flavor of chocolate, caramel, and peanuts. I’m not sure how they managed it, but it’s very well done.

The packaging for the coffee seems a bit amateurish when compared with big companies. The pods themselves are not branded. I’m sure these are some sort of empty “fill-and-seal” pods that they load up and then package. At first, this struck me as a little odd. But then, once you think about it, you come to realize that’s an example of how “boutique” this coffee really is. This is not just some outsourced product with a label slapped on it. This is real craft coffee that was roasted and handled by a person who dedicates themselves to their work. That’s something I find admirable and it really shows in the quality of this product.

This is one of the few flavored coffees that I found to be worthy of raving over. It’s perfect for a chilly winter morning or even for a snuggly night in front of your favorite movie/game.

Score: 4 out of 4

Would buy again?: YES! I cannot rave enough about this coffee. Everything from the quality of the coffee itself to the amazing flavor is top notch. I can’t wait to try some of their other offerings. If you like coffee and Snickers bars, there’s really no reason not to try it.

 

 

Nerd Fuel: Barnie’s – Barnie’s Cafe Blend

The quest for the perfect coffee continues. It seems like one of the biggest problems I have with finding new coffees to try is variety. So, for this Nerd Fuel entry, I decided to take my coffee shopping out of town. Instead of my local Wal-Mart, I hopped one town over to the nearest Publix grocery store. I’m happy to report that the trip was well worth it. There was much a better selection than I expected. In fact, I had a bit of trouble deciding what to go with. But in the end, I chose; Barnie’s Cafe Blend.

Barnie’s coffee is not new to me. In fact, there was a Barnie’s Coffee and Tea in the local mall where I grew up. But it has been many years since I’ve enjoyed their products. I remember being fond of their house coffee, so I figured this was the perfect product to start with.

Being a house blend, this is a coffee that’s designed to please just about everyone. It’s a medium roast that’s smooth, with a rich, yet mild flavor. It’s not as aromatic as many other K-Cups I’ve brewed, but this did not seem to be indicative of the flavor at all.

If we’re being honest, most house/signature blend coffees pretty much taste the same. They are typically blends of the same beans just in slightly different measures. Sure, there are some subtle differences, but most casual drinkers are not able to tell the difference between them. As far as flavor goes, this coffee fits the “signature blend” mold pretty well. That being said, one thing that stands out about this coffee is: quality. Many mass-produced coffees (even my favorite Donut Shop brand), often has a “B-grade” feel to it. This was not at all the case with Barnie’s Cafe Blend. The grinds tasted fresh and the roast was perfect to the point where I think even a casual observer would be able to detect the difference. I was quite impressed with what I found in this box.

This coffee comes a premium price, but if you’re a stickler it may very well be worth it. This is a new favorite of mine.

Score: 4 out of 4

Would buy again?:  Yes. A tad pricey, but a coffee of unparalleled quality.

Nerd Fuel – Starbucks – 2018 Holiday Blend

Merry Christmas! I just couldn’t let the Christmas season come and go without sampling some kind of seasonal coffee. Usually, there’s any number of holiday varieties available on the store shelves – gingerbread, peppermint, etc. But this year, I found the options at my local grocer to be rather slim. But at least they did have a good supply of Starbucks’ annual holiday blend. So while it’s somewhat of a shame that I wasn’t able to try a few different coffees this year, there was the old standby.

For the last three years I’ve bought a box of whatever Starbucks is offering and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised. This year is no different. In fact, I actually think the “2018” is quite an improvement over last Winter’s release. To recap for a moment, I found the 2017 Holiday Blend to be just a tad too bold (despite being labeled as a medium roast). This year, I was happy to discover a much more balanced blend.

The coffee has a very pleasant aroma during the brew – one that actually matches the flavor for a change. The taste is quite rich and complex. There is a hint of maple with what I think is a slight cinnamon aftertaste. But neither are very overpowering. It’s a masterful blend. Absolutely perfect for this time of year.

The last few months have found me getting up at three-thirty in the morning for work. To be honest, I don’t think I could have faced the bitter-cold Winter mornings without this hearty blend. Highly recommended

Score: 4 out of 4

Would buy again?:  Yes. This is one of Starbucks’ better holiday offerings since the 2016 Blonde Roast. I highly recommend this one to any “amateur aficionado” like myself.

Nerd Fuel: Donut Shop – Chocolate Glazed Donut

It’s been several months since I sat down and did a new coffee review. To be honest, that’s been mainly due to two reasons. First, I have a new work schedule that’s been highly unusual. Currently, I find myself waking up around three-thirty in the morning and heading to bed around eight in the evening. Second, there’s really not been anything interesting showing up on the shelves of my local grocery store lately. But recently, I noticed a new box sitting among all of the familiar faces! In fact, it was a new variety of Donut Shop; Chocolate Glazed Donut.

As you know, I’m a fairly big fan of the “Donut Shop” brand. The original Donut Shop and Donut Shop Dark are two of my personal favorites. So far, the only real miss I’ve encountered from the brand was from the “Vanilla Cream Puff” variety. To me, most flavored coffees tend to have a very phony taste. This was certainly the case with the other Chocolate Glazed Donut coffee I reviewed a couple of years ago. So needless to say, I purchased this box with the expectation that I might be disappointed.

The first thing I noticed about this coffee was the delightful aroma during the brew. It did indeed smell like the inside of a donut shop. On first taste, the coffee takes on a bit of a “chocolate syrup” sort of flavor, followed by a cocoa-like after taste. It does actually taste very much like a glazed chocolate donut. In many ways, it is very similar to Green Mountain’s “Donut House” Chocolate Glazed Donut coffee, only without the overly-strong artificial flavor.

Personally, I’ve not really a huge fan of chocolate flavored coffee. But out of all the different varieties I’ve tried, this cup was certainly the most enjoyable. So if you’re a really big fan of chocolate donuts and coffee… well, this is probably what you’re looking for.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Maybe. Chocolate coffee is not really my forte. But, this is quality stuff. For a flavored coffee, this is a top-tier offering.

 

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain – Breakfast Blend

It has been a few months since I posted a Nerd Fuel review. So this time, I decided to go back to basics. No fancy foreign coffees, no seasonal blends, etc. I just wanted to try something simple. This morning I took a trip to the local grocery store and picked up one of those small three-pod boxes of Green Mountain’s Breakfast Blend. It doesn’t get an simpler than a “breakfast blend” brew.  “Breakfast Blend” coffees are typically defined as light or medium-light roasts with very balanced taste profile. They are not particularly strong and they go well with most morning meals. Green Mountain’s Breakfast blend is exactly that.

Now, just because this isn’t an elaborate, exotic-origin coffee doesn’t mean it is not a quality product. As soon as I started the brew, I could tell from the rich aroma that this was actually going to be a pretty decent cup of coffee. It had a very silky and rich aroma, not the dank “wet paper” smell some brands give you. Being a light roast, I was surprised at how aromatic it was. I was equally as pleased with my first sip. The coffee itself has a very mild, but well balanced flavor. It’s smooth, with a bright – almost sweet/woody essence to it. To be honest, it was much better than I expected.

I usually prefer bold and flavorful coffees. But I really wanted to try something outside of my comfort zone. Regardless, I honestly went in to this review expecting to find a bland, boring cup of joe. I have to admit, I was proven wrong. In fact, I think this might end up in my top ten list. If you’re a K-Cup addict, you owe it to yourself to try this. Don’t let the boring name fool you.

Score: 4 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Yes! This is a quality product. The blend borders on perfection for a “general purpose” coffee. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. A must try!

Nerd Fuel: Tim Horton’s – Original Blend

It has been a few months since I made a Nerd Fuel post. To be honest, my post frequency on the site has been down considerably since the start of the year. I’ve been spending every last free minute grinding away at Xenogears. (A behemoth of a game.) I finally completed the title today (a review will be coming shortly), and I don’t think it would have been possible without the help of my good friend caffeine. As always, my quest for the perfect cup of joe continues. This time, I found myself back in the “donut shop” with a box of Tim Horton’s Original Blend.

So far on this site I’ve reviewed a number of “Donut-Shop”-style coffee. But Tim Horton’s is one variety that has eluded me until now. Some people swear by it. But for those American readers who, like me, live in the southern part of the country – the name Tim Horton’s may not ring any bells. It is not a brand that has a foothold in this part of country. But up north and especially in Canada, it is a household name. Tim Horton’s is a popular restaurant/bakery and, as you might have guessed, they are also famous for their coffee. I’ve personally never been to a Tim Horton’s so when this box arrived in the mail I was very eager to see if it lived up to the hype.

I went in expecting a pretty mild, run-of-the-mill flavor. That is exactly what I got. In both aroma and in taste, there was absolutely nothing spectacular about this cup. It is very mild and smooth and like most “donut shop” offerings, it is designed to please nearly everyone. It is enjoyable, but not particularly compelling. When compared against other coffees of the same type, I feel like it beats Dunkin Donut on richness. But it doesn’t hold a candle to Krispy Kreme or The Coffee People’s “Donut Shop”. That being said, I can easily imagine it to be the favorite of many coffee-drinkers. With this type of brew, a lot of it boils down to region. If you grew up on the stuff, you’re likely to favor it over a competitor. But in reality, if we are being honest with ourselves, they are all pretty much the same (save for some minor nuances).  For me personally, “Donut Shop” is still the reigning champion in the category.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Maybe. It’s not bad. It should be acceptable to nearly anyone, but there are some better options out there.

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: Krispy Kreme – Smooth

The first Nerd Fuel post of 2018 is here! As you know, one of my favorite types of coffee is what is known as “Donut Shop” coffee. Donut Shop style coffee is a basic, middle-of-the-road brew. It’s designed to please everybody. There’s nothing particularly special about it… But, it’s a bit a comfort food for many. In the US, coffee served at Dunkin Donuts is often the first brand to come to mind, plus its actually origin of the name “Donut Shop”. On this site, I’ve reviewed a number of “Donut Shop” style coffees and recently I was given a box of Krispy Kreme pods. This is a brand I’ve never sampled before. So let’s see how it holds up.

Of course, who in the US hasn’t had a Krispy Kreme donut? I’ve certainly had my share, but I’ve actually never bothered with their coffee before. My wife and I were given a box for Christmas, and one of the first things I did was tear into it. Right away I noticed that unlike most other Donut Shop style coffees, Krispy Kreme serves up a light roast instead of the standard medium roast. Or at least they claim to. To me, the coffee both looks and tastes like a medium roast. But, it doesn’t smell particularly strong. So, who knows.

Despite not having a powerful aroma, the coffee does have a nice fresh scent. The grounds certainly seem to be of a high quality. As far as taste goes, the name of this coffee is spot-on. It has a very pleasant and smooth quality to it. It’s flavorful and it has a surprisingly rich body to it. It was a pleasure to drink.

I honestly didn’t expect much from this brand, but it turned out to be a pretty solid brew. As far as Donut Shop coffees go, I actually like it a bit more than Dunkin Donut’s house blend. But, it still doesn’t beat out the champion Donut Shop Brand coffee in my opinion.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would buy again?:  Maybe. To me, Donut Shop is the still king for this genre of brew. But if there’s none to be found, Krispy Kreme will certainly work a very solid second choice.