Today’s Consumerist cited a “myth-busting and money-saving” Starbucks buyers guide from a veteran Starbucks barista named Jesse: Insiders: Confessions Of A Starbucks Barista – Consumerist. His advice? Save money by avoiding the Frappuccino® and some of the ridiculously large “Venti” espresso drinks.

He also cites a number of SCAA beverage standards. But he immediately imperils his credibility when he opens with:

Myth #1: Starbucks coffee tastes burnt.

While it’s true that Starbucks does tend to roast their beans a bit darker than most other coffee places, what you’re tasting isn’t actually ‘burnt.'”

Excuse me? All this time my taste buds have been duped by a myth? Given all the people who likewise say that Starbucks often tastes burnt (myself included), this must be the biggest case of mass hysteria ever orchestrated across the entire globe. Call Mike Wallace!

He then goes on to explain that coffee strength, or potency, is the cause of this “burnt” sensation. What the …?!?

Leave it to a Starbucks barista to confuse potency with “burnt”. A well-made espresso — i.e., those you can’t get at Starbucks — can have an intense, potent body with a consistency that borders on a syrupy reduction. And believe you me, it can be as sweet as candy and not “burnt”. The term “burnt” is more typically associated with ashiness and overextracted bitterness.

So let’s touch on a coffeeresearch.org article for a moment:

Why Does Coffee Taste Bitter?

Various coffee scientists have made the following observations concerning bitter coffee, which were presented in a review article by McCamey et al.:

  • The perceived bitter taste in the mouth from coffee is correlated to the extent of extraction. The extent of extraction is dependent upon the roast, the mineral content of the water, water temperature, time, grind size, and brewing procedure.

Before Starbucks baristas go passing off the “burnt” adjective on the philistine palates of consumers who haven’t had full-strength coffee before, how’s about extracting a proper espresso shot to begin with? What do you mean, “You can’t?” Oh, I forgot … those fancy superautomated Verismo machines with the water/coffee/pressure/timing extraction mix hardwired at the factory prevent you from doing anything of the kind.

No, to avoid “burnt,” don’t roast your beans to the namesake Charbucks level. (When visiting the guys down at Fresh Roast Systems , it was clear that the comparison Starbucks roasts practically flew off the Agtron scale.) And don’t overextract the coffee. Strength has nothing to do with it.

Apparently charcoal only tastes 'burnt' to the degree you add water.