October 30, 2011

Barista Prima K-Cup Review

I have to be honest. The seemingly relentless drive towards automation turns me off a bit. I feel, despite my age, like the proverbial old man on the porch, lamenting the long-gone good ol' days. Back then, people hand-pulled their own shots, and milked the cow right behind the counter.

But those (purely imagined) days are past. We live in a time obsessed with time - the saving of it, and the profiting from it. We like things now, but we do not want to compromise quality. Knowing that, it's not surprising that the Keurig coffee maker (and similar machines by several other companies) have become staples at homes and offices. They allow for the preparation of a perfectly acceptable cup of coffee, with the push of a button.

But acceptable to who? For that 99% of the coffee drinking population, quality is on the periphery, nudged to the side by chemical dependency. For those, who survived on Folgers for years, this is undoubtedly a godsend. But I am the 1%, the coffee intelligentsia. For me and my ilk, such technology is blasphemy, no more coffee than Wonderbread is bread.

If I can remove my tongue from my cheek for a moment, it's worth noting the degree of hyperbole there. Still, there is some truth to the matter. K-cups are largely created and marketed without an eye on those who might fancy a pour-over produced cup. But that's changing.

Green Mountain Coffee's new Barista Prima K-Cups claim to be "designed for the passionate coffee lover. Each cup reflects the consummate artistry and handcrafted care that only the most skilled baristas can deliver - until now." I'm not the most skilled barista - but I am decent. With that in mind, I took to tasting the Columbian cup. (Which was a review sample, for purposes of full disclosure.)

It's the lightest of the four offerings, and the only one that declares an origin. (The others are House, Italian, and French.) The description is as follows: Accented by wondrously bright, bold fruit notes and a distinctive hint of walnut, this deeply roasted cup elevates satisfaction into a realm all its own.

Obviously, this is confident marketing. And so it was with a hefty dose of cynicism that I sipped the coffee. That cynicism didn't last, however. While the result was not quite up to the lofty claims (really, it had no chance), the claimed flavors were present, with just a nip of acid on the side. The roast was a hair darker than I tend to prefer, but will provide a more hearty, woody flavor to those who want that sort of thing. Most noteworthy (and unlike all other K-Cups I've tried), the coffee didn't seem woefully under-dosed. That is, one K-Cup yields one legitimate cup of coffee, without over-extraction and resulting bitterness.

This will not replace the Hario cone or the French Press in the kitchens of those who don't mind crafting their coffee. But for those who would rather not (or even the lazy or rushed mornings), this is the best thing I've tried. It's as easy as can be, and of sufficient quality that you don't feel you've totally traded taste for convenience.

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