Why do coffee store coffees taste different when brewed at home?

by Mark
(Media, PA)



QUESTION:


There are a few different coffee chains I visit, including Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. When I drink coffee at different locations of these chains, it seems to me that the coffees all taste the same.

BUT…if I buy their coffee and make it at home, the result is never quite the same. I can never recreate that same taste as I got in the coffee shop.

Why is this? Do they sell a different coffee than the coffee they use in the stores?

I find this disappointing. I have an expectation that if I pay good dollars for their brand of coffee that I’ll get the same taste at home as in the store. Makes sense. Yes??? No???

Mark


ANSWER:

Mark, hi

Thanks for the question. It’s a good one. And it is a question that has come up in various comment threads on this site. In other words, you’re not alone in your experience, nor in your feeling of disappointment!

Basically, you’re right. Their coffees don’t taste the same when you make them at home.

As far as I can tell, there is no one, single reason for this. But here are a few factors that might singly, or in combination, account for the differences in taste.

1) The coffee they use in their stores may be fresher. The turnover of beans in the store is pretty fast, which means they are probably using coffee that has been roasted just days or even hours before they use it to make your coffee. While the coffee in bags may sit on the shelf for weeks before you get it home and use it. Fresh ground beans do make a difference to taste!

2) They use better equipment than you do. Most home brewers are not very good. (You can learn more about this here.) As a result, even if you are using the same beans, equally fresh, the coffee you brew won’t taste quite the same. Yes, the quality of your brewer can make a huge difference to the taste.

3) They use different cream. Most of these chains don’t use the same cream that you and I can buy at our local store. And sometimes they customize the cream they buy with one or more of their own, secret ingredients.

For example, at the Philz Coffee stores in California it seems they do add something to the cream. From what I have heard, employees don’t know what this ingredient is, but the owners do.

Also, “Manufacturing” cream – which is the cream purchased in bulk by stores, but not available to individual buyers at grocery stores – often has a slightly different taste.

In other words, it’s not surprising that the coffee you make at home doesn’t taste quite the same. There are just too many variables in the roasting, storing and brewing process.

Best wishes,

Nick

Comments for Why do coffee store coffees taste different when brewed at home?

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Oct 27, 2016
Water
by: Anonymous

I 2nd the water comment. That's why McDonald's always haso the best tasting cokes too. They have a special water filtration for their soda and also for the ice. It makes a huge difference!

Aug 06, 2014
It's also the water
by: Anonymous

The taste of the coffee is greatly affected by the mineral content of your water. These chains all filter their water, and some like Starbucks have their filters set up to leave a specific mineral balance in the water for brewing their coffee.

People brewing at home don't have the same expensive filters, although some connoisseurs prefer to use bottled water.

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