Starbucks Admits Blondes Have More Fun, Will Offer Milder Coffee Starting In January

By now many of you are familiar with the old “tastes burnt” comment offered by people who aren’t fans of Starbucks’ current coffee offerings. And after 40 years of serving up the dark stuff, the java giant announced today it will start brewing up a milder, blonde roast in January.

From the Chicago Tribune:

At a press conference Tuesday in Chicago, Starbucks chief marketing officer Annie Young-Scrivner said that 40 percent of the 130 million coffee drinkers in the U.S. prefer a milder tasting joe, something the coffee giant has not offered.

The blonde roast, which the company says was the result of culling down 80 possible recipes, will also be made available in an instant VIA version.

We want to know if the “tastes burnt” crowd is willing to give this blonde roast a shot.

Starbucks to add blonde roast for milder palates [Chicago Tribune]

Introducing Starbucks® Blonde Roast []


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  1. GMFish says:

    Can someone explain to me why Starbucks sells burnt tasting coffee?! I’m not a coffee drinker, but it makes no sense to me.

    • Wireless Joe says:

      I don’t think it tastes burnt, but I believe it’s “very roasted” so they can produce a consistent product. It’s easier to mask out inconsistencies between bean harvests in the roasting process.

    • scoopie77 says:

      It’s a preference. Some palates can notice the roasting flavor, some don’t.

    • Actionable Mango says:

      Because there is a market for it! I for one happen to like it.

      I also like BBQ meat with burnt crispy bits at the edges instead of just warmed up and slathered in sauce.

      • mauispiderweb says:

        Oooh … burnt BBQ. That and charbroiled steak with burnt fatty edges. And, now I’m hungry.

      • perruptor says:

        Buffalo wings cooked until they’re crisp, that’s the stuff. Burnt coffee, though – that’s awful.

    • MissRed says:

      It tastes burnt because it is burnt.

      like Wireless Joe said, they roast extremely dark because it is very easy to produce a consistent flavor that way. They use a lot of the same principles as McDonalds does for doing business; mainly that their version is far from the best version of that product, but you can go anywhere and it’s always the same.

      Also, strong does not have to mean bitter. Just sayin.

    • tz says:

      Mainly because when they incinerate the beans, they can last for months without losing whatever flavor is left.

      I drink Dunkin Donuts’ coffee. With real coffee cream and a shot of (unsweet) hazelnut flavoring. Ambrosia. Mild, delicious.

      Starbucks would only be palatable if I was delirious from dehydration.

      Perhaps the new blond version might actually taste like coffee instead of something from out of my fireplace.

      • ianmac47 says:

        Dunkin is only palatable with heavy cream and flavor additives because it isn’t coffee, just dark water with a hint of caffeine.

    • Sarahlara says:

      I always thought it was so you would buy it covered up with milk and sugar (Frappacino) instead of buying a cheaper black coffee.

    • poco says:

      It doesn’t. It sells coffee that tastes good. If it didn’t it wouldn’t be the largest coffee company in the world. The whole “Starbuck’s is burnt” meme is largely carried by people who don’t know what real coffee is supposed to taste like. But, hey, Folger’s will always have a market, right?

      • kmw2 says:

        Does McDonalds make the best hamburgers?

      • DH405 says:

        The “Starbucks is burnt” meme exists because Starbucks roasts way beyond the point that a good coffee should be roasted. As a bit of a coffee geek I have learned the differences, and they are drastic.

        That you would think that company size is dictated purely by product quality blows my mind. Shall we look at the “largest” of some other industries? McDonald’s burgers must be good? KFC’s chicken must be good? Taco Bell’s “Mexican” food must be good? No. The size of a restaurant chain is dictated by marketing and supply chain management.

      • KMFDM781 says:

        ” The whole “Starbuck’s is burnt” meme is largely carried by people who don’t know what real coffee is supposed to taste like”

        HAHAHA!!!! ORLY?

    • Jawaka says:

      I think that too many people confuse strong or dark with burnt.

    • Chester Copperpot says:

      I’m assuming its just a quality control issue. I’ve had cups of coffee from there that obviously tasted burnt. It has nothing to do with the brewing but from over roasting the beans.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I go by Alton Brown’s opinion on this. Even though it seems like a lot of people prefer a dark roast, most dark roasts don’t taste very good because you’re tasting the roast, not the bean. A milder roast would taste less “burnt.”

    • mauispiderweb says:

      And contain more caffeine.

      • angienessyo says:

        This. You would be surprised by how many people think the bolder the coffee, the more caffeine when it’s the opposite. I actually prefer bolder coffees for this very reason, that and they tend to be less acidic than most mild coffees I’ve tried. I’d developed a health problem that has made it hard to drink much caffeine and eat super acidic foods but I can’t seem to give up coffee. The condition isn’t life threatening and is definitely manageable if I only allow myself one caffeinated beverage a day. So for me, the more bold and earthy, the better.

    • scoopie77 says:

      It’s usually smart to go with what Alton Brown says!

      • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

        First waffles, now coffee. Alton Brown is rapidly becoming the expert opinion on my balanced breakfast.

        • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

          Alton Brown is a genius of kitchen science. If there’s one thing I miss about having cable, it is Good Eats. I’ve always been a dabbler in the kitchen, taking recipes, messing around with them, inventing stuff. But a lot of the confidence I’ve developed in recent years is having a groundwork in the kitchen science, imparted by watching his show.

          There’s nothing so nice as being told “You’ve improved my Grandmother’s recipe. Please make it for all of our family gatherings.”

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            I agree. Alton Brown really takes it to fundamental techniques, which are really important for people to learn. If you know the science, you can apply it to multiple things. Most people get frustrated because they know how to cook a burger but can’t figure out how to cook a roast. Same basic principles can apply to both, if you know the science.

    • Snowblind says:

      A lot of it is poor brewing techniques, not cleaning the equipment properly between brewings. The espresso is even worse, over extracted, undertamped, too coarsely ground and temp is usually too hot. This leaves behind a lot of the sugars and emphasizes the bitter/sour notes.

      Even their darker roasts are really just a full city roast. Excepting the French/Espresso roasts, of course.

      If you really want to “taste the roast”, drink Pete’s.

      • Yacko says:

        Well, no. Charbucks is burnt coffee. I’m sure their brewing techniques contribute but I can guarantee you it affects every coffee they sell including ground and whole bean. If you saw the whole bean varieties you would see tiny charcoal briquettes. No shiny oily surface and nearing the lightness of styrofoam. All the volatiles and lignin are gone and what you have is something with which you can draw on paper. Up to now it has been the company philosophy.

        • Snowblind says:

          Lack of oiliness is age, not roast after you hit Full City Roast. The more you roast, the oilier you get.

          But, all those volatiles are on the surface, and will evaporate/go rancid. Given the time from roast to time to brew, (6 weeks or more?)

          I have never seen ash on a Starbucks bean, to be honest.

    • dourdan says:

      would it have the same amount of cafenne?

      • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

        Actually, no, a milder roast doesn’t have the same caffeine that a darker roast does. It has more. Roasting destroys caffeine – the heat causes it to break down. So, the darker the roast, the less caffeine there is. A milder roast leaves more of the caffeine intact, and thus gives a more caffeinated coffee. Of course, it is possible to have a dark roast coffee with a high caffeine content – switch from using the milder-tasting arabica beans to the more bitter robusta beans, which have about twice as much naturally-occurring caffeine.

  3. CubeRat says:

    Hay, maybe I’ll actually start to drink Starbucks by choice.

  4. mauispiderweb says:

    Yeah, if I can get an extra large coffee for $2 or less.

    • frank64 says:

      Yeah, they go for about that. Your in!

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Their Coffee is actually quite cheap – I think a regular is something like 1.35 around here. However, they are popular for their fru-fru fancy ESPRESSO drinks, which are not under $2.

      For example:
      Latte: Espresso + Milk
      Cappuccino: Espresso + Milk + Froth on top
      Macchiato: Milk + Espreso (yes the order apparently matters)

      Their coffee they give you in a cup and you add cream as you see fit.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        A grande here is $2.15 (this includes DC tax). It’s not an extra large coffee, but it’s pretty much all I need for a normal day.

        • angienessyo says:

          Guess it depends on the market. Here the prices are

          tall coffee:1.50
          grande coffee:1.95
          venti coffee:2.25

          I go to Chicago every year and the prices are way more than that.

      • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

        The order matters in tea, why not in coffee? There is a huge controversy in the tea world, which boils down to whether tea is better when hot tea is poured into cold milk, or cold milk is poured into hot tea.

        Rapidly heating the proteins in milk changes some of their properties, whereas heating them more slowly produces a different effect.

        It is a similar principle to making a custard, but less dramatic–if you pour your cold eggs into the hot milk, no matter how you stir, you end up with scrambled eggs. But if you pour the hot milk into the eggs gradually, you get the creamy custardy goodness. Then there’s the idea of mixing them both chilled, and then heating them together, which requires a great deal of constant stirring. But let’s not get into that here, I think I have tangented enough.

        • mauispiderweb says:

          I never thought about that, and I’ve made custard many times. I do prefer my plain iced tea with milk and sweetener, which has grossed out a lot of people.

          • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

            I have no one way that I drink tea, but I do enjoy an iced milk tea from time to time — a small cup of black tea, brewed extra strong, sweetened with honey, and cooled, then poured over a cup of milk and ice. Or, if I’m feeling especially bad, a cup of milk, ice, and a generous “splosh” of half/half or heavy whipping cream.

            It is in my Top 10.

            I need to get some more of this Darjeeling blend I found once, because it was the best when prepared this way. Iced millk tea is amazing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

        • chiieddy says:

          Get an iced Americano where they don’t make it in this order… shots + water + ice and you’ll have an unpleasant surprise. A hot Americano should be shots + water. If they brew the shots into the water (which I’ve forced baristas to rebrew) the shots never get the chance to develop and will taste bitter. The order is very important.

          • gerald.saul says:

            Which is why I always coach my baristas to make an Americano in the proper order. There’s a reason they have a different name for the drink if you make it backward. (It’s called a Long Black, then.)

    • powdered beefmeat says:

      $2 or less? name any coffee shop that sells an extra large coffee for $2 or less. Truck Stop Battery Acid is more than two bucks!

      • mauispiderweb says:

        I get a 20 oz. coffee every day for exactly $2 … sometimes a large iced coffee for $2.72 (UWS NYC).

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I believe the largest coffee at Sheetz runs $1.49 if they swipe your card (the 10th one is free).

  5. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Their COFFEE is fine, but considering most people get their ESPRESSO drinks, its no surprise that the SUPER STRONG BREW COFFEE tastes burnt.

  6. mauispiderweb says:

    Seriously, all this time I thought it was me. I hated Starbucks coffee from the get go, and I thought it was because I wasn’t a coffee connoisseur. No matter what coffee I bought or added to it, it was totally strong and bitter and I just couldn’t stand the taste of it.

    I’ve always preferred what I call “diner coffee,” which is like Dunkin Donuts coffee. You know, like coffee candy tasting coffee. The coffee my Nanny used to drink. That’s good coffee, to me.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      What did you order? Unless you asked for a “coffee” you more than likely received an Espresso drink, which is much stronger / more bitter.

      • Doubting thomas says:

        No the actual coffee at Starbucks is a very dark roast and does taste burnt. The espresso actually tastes like espresso should taste.

        • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

          Usually they have more than one type available, the standard “burnt” and a daily difference that can range anywhere from dark to mild. I’ve never experienced the burnt coffee taste, though that may also just be old coffee, too.

        • frank64 says:

          Actually their espresso is still burnt and bitter. Espresso doesn’t have to be burnt beans and fresh is actually more important. Also, they use an automatic machine with normally doesn’t get to the same quality.

        • Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

          I got a regular coffee and yes, to me it tasted burnt — and I drink LOTS of coffee so it’s not that I don’t know what I like.

      • mauispiderweb says:

        You know, it was so long ago … I’m sure it was just a venti coffee of the day. After adding 2 S&L packets and a generous amount of half and half, I still couldn’t drink it.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Do you even like the taste of coffee? I have a friend who doesn’t like the taste of coffee but likes certain espresso drinks because she says she can’t taste the espresso in them. I like the taste of coffee so I won’t use a ton of half and half but people who don’t like the taste tend to use a lot of creamer, so it looks more like milk.

          • mauispiderweb says:

            I do love the taste of coffee. I used to buy Coffee Time to add to my milk, years ago, and I used to buy bags of Coffee Rio candy. Hmmm … why don’t I get those anymore? And coffee ice cream is my favorite flavor next to vanilla. Believe me, I do like the taste of coffee. I just don’t like coffee that’s so bitter, no amount of sweetener/cream can make it drinkable.

      • frank64 says:

        He is right, even their normal coffee is strong and bitter and burnt tasting. Most coffee connoisseurs like the coffee lightly roasted and roasted within about a week. Their coffee is still going to be fairly old, but i will give it a shot.

  7. libgeek says:

    My cousin works for a large company importing coffee. He works with growers and importers that won’t let their beans be sold to Starbucks because they burn their coffee. I like strong coffee, but there’s a difference between strong and over-roasted. I generally brew my own coffee, but I’ll probably give the new blonde roast a shot.

    • CubeRat says:

      I agree with you. I drink very strong coffee, but I like it with the mild or medium roasts. When I’ve said I don’t like Starbucks, people will say that I just don’t like strong coffee. I’ve had people tell me to add water so it will be weaker, then add cream/milk & sugar. I like a little cream, but when you have to add WATER and SUGAR(sweetener) to make a drink palatable, it’s time to find a different drink.

  8. SkokieGuy says:

    Or could this be tied to rising coffee bean prices? Maybe the “blond roast” is marketingspeak for “Our insane profits might be reduced a bit, so we are watering down our coffee and calling it new and improved.

    OMG – It’s the Shrinkray!

  9. 24gotham says:

    Yet another tribute to the mediocrity of American taste…. Now I will have to pay for a third added shot to my Grande coffee to give it enough flavor to make it drinkable.

    • PunditGuy says:

      Or, you can continue drinking the darker stuff, which isn’t going away. I’ll go blonde every time because my coffee is first and foremost a caffeine delivery device, and the lighter roasts have more caffeine.

    • GrayMatter says:

      Not Fair! Here in Chicago we have Intelligentsia. Their coffee is strong! I drink a fair amount of coffee, and theirs gives me a buzz. And, it tastes strong. But not burnt.

      I have traveled to Scandinavia and Germany. They drink strong (really, really strong) coffee. And it doesn’t taste burnt.

      Starbucks tastes burnt. Read into that what you will about Seattle.

      • Juneva_Spragg says:

        I miss Intelligentsia! Here in South Dakota, everyone drinks their coffee blonde (e.g., you can see the bottom of your cup). *woe*

  10. Ilovegnomes says:

    The answer for me is no. The reason being is that I do like dark roasts, just not from Starbucks. I’m not entirely familiar with the roasting process but comparing what I get from a local roaster versus Starbucks, it’s a world of difference. It’s like comparing gourmet food to fast food. One is just made with more care and tastes better. I’m not sure what Starbucks is doing wrong but if I have to add a whole bunch of cream and sugar to make it taste okay, it isn’t worth my time, money or the extra calories.

    The other complaint I have about their coffee is the acidity level in it. I’m sensitive to acidic coffee and Starbucks seems to be some of the worst I’ve ever had. I’m pretty sure the lighter roasts will have even more acid in them which I’m not a fan of.

    • repeater says:

      I feel the same way, and I still have people try and roll their eyes at me and say it’s just because I “can’t handle strong/dark coffee”.

      I drink nothing but french/italian roats, no sugar, no cream. I love strong coffee, especially if it’s from a french press and is a bit more bitter and gritty than usual.

      Starbucks always tastes burnt, sour and acidic to me. But yea, it’s probably just that I don’t like “strong” coffee…

  11. stillkarenann says:

    Yeah. Isn’t that called “tea”?

  12. MDSasquatch says:

    I walk right past Starbucks and buy my coffee at 7-11; not only is it 80% cheaper, it tastes much better. I see no reason to try something when I already have something that is working.

  13. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Personally, if you’re filling your cup with coffe mixed with sugar, falvoring, and milk, you need a nice strong blend.

  14. SquidNoMo says:

    Occupy Starbucks !

  15. Kahlidan says:

    It would be nice if they could simply offer a medium option-if you use a 5 point scale of roasting levels like many do, where 1 is a light breakfast roast and 5 is a dark espresso/french roast, I like mine at a 3 or 4. I don’t usually buy coffeehouse drinks anyway since 2 drinks from Starbucks cost about the same as a month’s worth of my regular brand I make myself does (and yes, it’s good coffee, not Folgers).

  16. GB2GBS says:

    I work for a small southern coffee shop chain and I get complaints like this every day about Starbucks. I also get the added adjective “metallic”… Seems like Pike’s Place is the worst offender of the lot.
    I make my own non-burnt coffee and espresso at home :3

  17. RobinB says:

    I heard they over-roast their beans to hide the fact that they are old or inferior quality.

  18. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    I used to go to Starbucks until I moved to Minneapolis. Then I switched to Caribou Coffee. Yum.

  19. krom says:

    I don’t know why they had to whittle down 80 recipes. They could have just gone to Target and grabbed one of those little orange bags, with the pink and orange logo on white. :)

    • drjayphd says:

      Except Dunkin Donuts coffee tastes like watered-down crap. I’ve had to send back iced coffee on more than one occasion because it tasted like tea, only to discover that no, that WAS their iced coffee. (Or maybe they just gave me iced tea the second time because they like driving business away.)

      • fibrowitch says:

        I can’t stand Starbucks as it is. Still tastes like burnt sugar water to me. I’ll just stick with my Dunkin’s – Hot as Heck, black as sin and extra turbo!

        • drjayphd says:

          Well, there’s your problem. I just don’t get sugar in mine. (Also, black Starbucks coffee? INCREDIBLY effective as a cure for male pattern chest baldness.)

  20. CrazyEyed says:

    With Tim Hortons and Duncan selling their mild blends, I could see starbucks slightly benefiting from this. Starbucks coffee is usually complex dark roasts that appeal to coffee aficionados but if the want to get a piece of the pie that TImmy Hos and Duncan gets they should offer a cheaper milder blend. Most people who don’t care about complex flavors and aromas just want a decent cup of joe. Disclaimer: I use to work at Starbucks and I DO drink Tim Hortons and Duncan coffee equally.

  21. rdclark says:

    The bland Pike was bad enough. That some ‘bucks refused to brew anything else in the afternoon and evening was enough to generate angry emails to their CS. One of those emails elicited the response that they now will brew the stronger version “on demand” any time of the day. I find that some outlets are reluctant to comply, but a promise to note their behavior to CS is usually enough to get them to reconsider.

    I like Starbucks coffee. I like the flavor some characterize as “burnt.” I don’t care what else they sell as long as they continue to offer the coffee that made me give them my coffee business (which is considerable, for one guy) in the first place.

    Are golden-haired people insulted?

  22. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Starbuck’s coffee is pretty burnt tasting. We make our own at home from a local roaster and it always tastes far better than Starbucks. We occasionally get candy coffee espresso type drinks there though.

    We went in after a long walk last week and there was this lady explaining to the manager how and why their decaf tastes burnt. My first thought was, “Have you never been to Starbucks before lady?” Then, the manager told the customer in a polite and roundabout way that all of their coffee tastes burnt. It was great to hear the manager say that.

  23. CJ SIege says:

    I love Starbucks. Isn’t the roasty flavor sort of the point of roasted coffee? I personally prefer the darker roasts, but you can get the ligher roasts, like breakfast blend, and have a lot less of that if it’s not your bag.

    • RedOryx says:

      I prefer the darker roasts, too. The day I discovered Starbucks Italian Roast was the most amazing day ever. I make it strong, too, and only add a little bit of sugar.

  24. duncanblackthorne says:

    Wow, I didn’t know that there were so many people in the world that like wimpy tasteless brown water. Glad I switched over to Peet’s a while back.

  25. xjeyne says:

    I’m fortunate enough to have a Dilettante very close to my workplace, so I’ve been drinking their coffee for around four years. Recently, I had a very early meeting and wouldn’t be in the vicinity of Dilettante, so I was forced to get Starbucks. My usual drink is a Shot in the Dark, which is a brewed coffee with two shots of espresso in it. I don’t add milk, just a couple packets of Splenda. The one I got from Starbucks was almost undrinkable. It even smelled burnt when I took the lid off.

  26. JaySherman says:

    I used to hate Starbucks coffee but have acquired a taste for it over the years. They have a variety of blends and don’t just sell one type.

    I usually set up shop there because of the free internet and here’s what I have observed when there as a customer.

    If you are looking for hot coffee, they usually have two varieties already brewed but many times will make you a cup of whatever they have if you ask.

    They grind the beans right there and brew single cups using a pour over method. Many of their stores are using that for decaf due to lack of consistent demand for it. There are time restrictions for how frequently coffee needs to be brewed and many times they found they had to throw out most of the decaf.

    The coffee used can either be specifically asked for or you can tell them your taste preference and they usually will advise of a selection that might appeal to you. They grade their own coffees from “Mild” and up (which is also on the labels).

    I used to add stuff to my coffee but now drink it black.

  27. JaySherman says:

    I used to hate Starbucks coffee but have acquired a taste for it over the years. They have a variety of blends and don’t just sell one type.

    I usually set up shop there because of the free internet and here’s what I have observed when there as a customer.

    If you are looking for hot coffee, they usually have two varieties already brewed but many times will make you a cup of whatever they have if you ask.

    They grind the beans right there and brew single cups using a pour over method. Many of their stores are using that for decaf due to lack of consistent demand for it. There are time restrictions for how frequently coffee needs to be brewed and many times they found they had to throw out most of the decaf.

    The coffee used can either be specifically asked for or you can tell them your taste preference and they usually will advise of a selection that might appeal to you. They grade their own coffees from “Mild” and up (which is also on the labels).

    I used to add stuff to my coffee but now drink it black.

  28. KMFDM781 says:

    Tasting burnt != strong coffee….I love coffee as strong as you can get it, but hate Starbucks because of the burnt taste, I think Starbucks gives the coffee the burnt flavor on purpose to make their coffee seem stronger without using any extra product to keep the costs down….most people don’t know the difference. The “blonde roast” will just water it down further.

  29. dave731 says:

    Didn’t they already do this with Pukes Place roast

  30. cluongo says:

    I used to work at Dunkin Donuts when I was in high-school. Been drinking coffee since I was 10. I don’t MIND starbucks but I don’t prefer it. Their Iced Coffee is actually really good and potent. The regular coffee doesn’t have a “burnt” taste, it just doesn’t taste that good. Lots of places can physically BURN coffee and give it a burnt taste.

    With that being said, Dunkin Donuts is more of a “candy” ish type of taste (if you add cream and sugar) – Starbucks is more…”mature”….Though I’ll take a coffee from a local coffee shop in the city any day.

  31. blueman says:

    Starbucks makes its coffee very strong (I won’t get into the burnt argument with idiots who know nothing about coffee) because the vast majority of its drinks are diluted in milk and syrup: lattes, mochas, etc. Most of its fans aren’t coffee lovers — they love their sweet, coffee-based concoctions, which is fine.

    Similarly; those extolling the virtues of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee are, frankly, a joke. It is rare that I see anyone ordering black coffee at DD’s. It’s virtually always a 50-50 mix with cream, along with a few scoops of sugar.