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 – Pumpkin Spice Caffe’ Latte

For this Nerd Fuel post, I’m going to break my tradition of reviewing standard coffee pods and take a look at one of those gimmicky “cafe latte combo packs”. Being very much a purist, I’ve been hesitant to pay much attention to these things. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, aside from just standard K-Cups, some companies like to bundle coffee pods with special flavor or “froth” packets. The idea is to combine the contents of the packet with the brewed coffee from your Keurig machine and stir them together – resulting in a more “gourmet experience”. This sounds pretty cool in theory, but in practice the results are usually subpar. Due to the lack of fall seasonal coffees available in my area, I decided to bite the bullet and pick up one of these kits.

The box in questions is a Pumpkin Spice Caffe’ Latte from Starbucks. Now, let me be up front and state that I’m not really a fan of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice lattes. If I find myself on the go and it’s the right time of year, McDonald’s is actually my go-to. Their McCafe line is surprisingly good. I know that some Starbucks fanatics would crucify me over this – but I daresay they are better than Starbucks… So with that in mind, I didn’t really expect much here. But, I did REALLY enjoy the Starbucks Fall Blend. So, I decided to see what their other K-Cup seasonal was like.

So here we go. The way this works is simple. First, you empty the contents of the flavoring packet into the bottom of your mug. Then, you brew K-Cup just like any other coffee. Once it’s finished, you stir and enjoy. Being a cappuccino style beverage, there’s no need to add sugar or cream.

The smell of this mixture is very nice. It has a creamy, spicy smell to it. I was actually cautiously optimistic after giving my cup the nose test.

The coffee itself isn’t terrible. But it’s not all that good either. It had a watered-down, bitter taste that seemed be overloaded with nutmeg and other seasonal spices. There is a faint pumpkin aftertaste, but it’s not the dominant flavor in my opinion. It’s a very hard flavor to nail down. But, it’s not what I think of when I think of “pumpkin spice”.

The coffee is very drinkable, but I can’t say that I found it all that enjoyable. Being a specialty coffee, it costs a few dollars more than a standard box of K-cups. With this in mind, I can’t really claim it is worth either the trouble or the price tag. Fans of Pumpkin Spice would probably do better with a regular pumpkin spice coffee and an extra dose of cream.

So, the quest for the perfect “Pumpkin Spice” home solution continues…

Score: 2 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: No.  A little pricey for something that tastes like lukewarm pumpkin and a cinnamon dishwater. I’ve had worse, but I’ve also certainly had much, much better, for less.

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 – Sunrise Summer Blend

Summer 2017 is finally winding to a close. In a just over a week it will be October and that means it’s time to fuel up on caffeine and stay up late playing horror games! But before we take the first official step into fall and all of the pumpkin spice variations we are sure to discover, let’s take a look at an actual Summer seasonal. A month or so ago, I saw an interesting seasonal coffee that caught my eye… Green Mountain’s “Summer Sunrise Blend”.  Most of the summer coffees that you’ll find are usually some variation of coconut so I was very curious to try a non-flavored variety.

First off, this coffee is labeled as a medium roast. This is true, but it’s certainly a very light medium roast. It’s not dark at all. It is actually very bright with a sort of citrus-sweet earthiness to it. It’s certainly a morning coffee. One that smells stronger during the brew than during tasting, which for hot summer days is actually quite OK.

I found this coffee to be very enjoyable. It’s a very nice blend with a mild, but complex flavor. It is perfect for warm summer mornings. Green Mountain certainly nailed it with this seasonal brew. I like seeing unflavored seasonal blends, and this is a prime example of how to do it. However, like most seasonal selections, this coffee will only be available for a limited time and summer is over… so if you want a box you’d better go hunt one down while you still can.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Yes.  Light-Medium roast with a unique flavor. Perfect blend of citrus and earth. Great for summer mornings.

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.

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain Coffee – Caramel Vanilla Cream

It’s been a crazy few weeks for me. Aside from burning through both Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood and XV: Episode Prompto, I’ve also been recovering from the Steam summer sale and putting in some extra hours at work. So, thank God for coffee…

This week, I found myself with another Green Mountain flavored selection, the Caramel Vanilla Cream.  As I’ve mentioned before, artificially flavored coffees can be very hit or miss, so picking up a new box is always a gamble. But, I’ve had some luck lately so I figured I’d roll the dice on this one as well.

First thing I noticed was the aroma during the brew cycle was very strong and pleasant! I figured that with such a powerful aroma, this might end up being a rich medium roast coffee, but I was wrong. It’s not specifically stated anywhere on the packaging that I could find, but to me this actually seems to be a light roast – and it really shows. There’s not much here in the way of actual coffee flavor. Instead, the blend is heavily masked by the artificial flavoring. Now, the flavor is not particularly unpleasant… It a rich, creamy, burnt-caramel flavor. But it does taste VERY artificial. There’s obviously nothing natural about this cup. But again, it’s not terrible.  Many of these flavored coffees don’t fare well hot, so this is an example of one of those coffees that is actually better over ice with lots of milk or creamer.

To me, I don’t really understand why this coffee exists. There are other vanilla/french vanilla flavored coffees out there that manage to nail the taste quite well. The same can be said for caramel flavored coffees. Merging the two flavors into one cup sounds like a good idea, I guess. But in practice, it just falls flat.

Score: 2 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Doubtful.  Not terrible, but not particularly good either. The rich, fake flavoring might appeal to kids and casual coffee drinkers. But people who really enjoy the complexity of a rich blend or even a quality single-origin coffee are likely to be turned off by this.

Nerd Fuel: Green Mountain Coffee – Brown Sugar Crumble Donut

As I burn my way through the content of the new Final Fantasy XIV expansion, I find myself turning to my good friend caffeine to help fuel the late nights and early morning play sessions.  This week, I decided to take a trip to the grocery store and pick up a couple of new varieties. The first one that landed in my shopping cart was the “Brown Sugar Crumble Donut” by Green Mountain.

As I’ve mentioned before, I tread a fine line between both shying away from, and being a sucker for flavored coffees. They always look so good sitting there on a shelf. But generally speaking, they usually tend to taste artificial and just… not very good. Of course, there are a few notable exceptions to this. So with that in mind, I decided to bite the bullet and give the Brown Sugar Crumble Donut a shot… and I was pleasantly surprised!

According to the label, this is a medium roast coffee. But, to me it tastes a little on the light side. There’s very little bitterness in this cup. The brown sugar is the prominent taste here. But there’s also a slight artificial cinnamon/cake donut flavor as well. But, it’s really not that bad. I found this to be a pleasant and drinkable coffee. It would go great on a sunny Sunday morning with a nice hearty breakfast.

Despite being a decent coffee, it just doesn’t seem unique enough to stand out against many of the other similar offerings out there. Yes, the main flavor here is brown sugar, but as a whole this coffee is too much like the superior Cinnabon coffee to shine by itself. Perhaps if it was a bit cheaper I’d be more inclined to recommend it over some of the others. Regardless, it’s a solid offering.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Maybe. It’s tasty and certainly has it’s place. But, I feel it too much like many other similar, and superior coffees to really recommend over others. That being said, if if you like brown sugar and cinnamon, and this is the only option at your local store, don’t hesitate.

 

Nerd Fuel: Starbucks – Vanilla Caffe’ Latte

It’s been over a month since I’ve had a coffee review. But, this time I’m back with something a little different.  One of the big features of the Keurig 2.0 machines was the official support of different “artisan” pods. Technically speaking, the machine is supposed to handles brews of various strength and even alternate beverages like hot chocolate and tea. Since the release of K2.0 machines, I’ve noticed an increase in a number of vendors that sell these fancy “cappuccino style” drinks. These usually include, along with the usual K-cup, a flavor/froth packet and sometimes even a drizzle of some sort.  These have always seemed a bit gimmicky to me, but I decided to take the plunge and give one a try.

For my first foray into the world of coffee packets, I picked up a box of Starbuck’s Vanilla Caffe’ Latte. Now, I’ve tried Starbucks coffee in the Keurig machine before and so far the verdict is still out. I really enjoyed their Holiday Blonde Roast, so I decided to give this box a chance and see what the fuss is all about.

The way this works, you open and empty a packet of flavoring/froth powder into your empty mug, then dispense the K-Cup pod normally. Once it’s full, you stir. This is supposed to produce a foam, like one would expect from a desert-type cappuccino. Sadly, there is little to no foam. So, I suspect this packet contains mostly sugar and other flavoring.

The coffee itself is very mild. It has a hint of that classic “gas station grade” cappuccino taste, with a pleasant vanilla underpinning. It’s nothing remarkable, but to be honest, it’s not at all bad. This would make a nice dessert coffee, but it doesn’t really scratch that caffeine itch many drinks will want first thing in the morning.  In my opinion, this seems more like something for the kids than something a really coffee fiend would enjoy.

These specialty drinks tend to be a dollar or more per box than the standard K-cup pods. With that being said, I’m not really sure these are worth it. The gimmick doesn’t pan out.

Score: 2 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Doubtful. Not a band drink per se,  but not worth the premium price. You can get the same flavor from a can of instant cappuccino (stir-in) for a fraction of the cost.