Back in the days before I made my own coffee, I was fond of visiting Peet’s Coffee locations to get my fix. For those who don’t know, Alfred Peet was the man that trained the founders of Starbucks how to roast beans. Starbucks coffee is generally a bit too darkly roasted for my taste, even back in the days when I liked dark-roasted coffee, but Peet’s seemed better balanced to me than Starbucks. When I started making my own coffee at home, I started out with a Peet’s subscription, getting it shipped from California, because I had warm fuzzy feelings toward the company and my days back in the Golden State. However, as my tastes evolved and I learned more about the third wave of coffee, I gradually stopped buying Peet’s in favor of smaller roasters that roasted their beans more lightly.
I haven’t bought a bag of Peet’s in quite a long time, but I happened to be at the grocery store and noticed that they had bags of their Major Dickason’s blend roasted only 15 days prior. That’s an almost unheard-of level of freshness for grocery-store beans, so I decided it would be an interesting experiment to put this second-wave bag of coffee through the same tests I do all the other coffees I bring into my home these days.
The first thing I noticed when I opened this bag was how incredibly oily the beans were. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I get a bit nervous when I see oily beans. Green (unroasted) coffee beans have coffee oils inside them, but the beans themselves stay quite dry through roasting until they reach a certain level, at which point the oils start coming to the surface. I would classify that level as medium-dark. Why do coffee beans get oily? I think it’s an indicator of the roasting level, similarly to how a piece of meat dries out the longer that it’s cooked. If a steak, for instance, is cooked to medium-well or well done, the juices inside the meat have largely left it and the meat itself is much tougher than the same steak would be if cooked medium-rare.
From a practical matter, I prefer my coffee beans to not be oily. I find that coffee beans that have visible oil on the surface tend to go rancid more quickly than beans that do not have the sheen of oil. Besides, part of the pleasure of drinking coffee (especially in a french press or other unfiltered method) is tasting the rich oils in the cup. I want the oils to be in my cup, and only in my cup. When I measured and ground these Peet’s beans, they left an oil slick in the little measuring bowl I use for dosing, and they left quite an oily residue in my grinder. On the bright side, there wasn’t a static problem when I opened the grinder drawer, but on the down side, that means the entire interior of my grinder (hopper, burrs, bin) was coated with oil. I was a bit grossed out by this and endeavored to clean my grinder immediately after this tasting was done.
Whole bean: Very oily. Strong, brash, acrid smelling. Not rancid in normal terms but if I’m smelling roasted coffee and smell what I smelled from this bag, it’s the first word that comes to mind. Not a good fragrance.
French press: Pleasantly thick mouthfeel and chocolaty flavor, with a bitter edge on the finish that tasted like almond skin.
Chemex: This method made the smoothest cup of the four methods I tried, with a vanilla and almond flavor. It was a bit bland but inoffensive overall.
AeroPress: Drinkable but had a sharp bite of acidity. Quite brash. I would need to temper this with milk.
V60: Similar to the cup from the Chemex but also smelled a bit like dog. A clean dog, but still dog.
Just out of curiosity, I made a french press of this for Shutterbug. He added milk and sugar, as he normally does, and then he took his first sip. I wish I had a picture, or a recording, but this pretty much sums it up:
I haven’t seen him react this violently to a coffee, perhaps ever. He really hated it! It happened to be on his birthday as well, so I felt extra bad. Lesson learned though, I’ve made him into more of a coffee snob than I thought. Yay?
Summary: Like FunDip, Squeeze-Its, and Hi-C Fruit Punch, Peet’s Coffee is something I have fond memories of from my youth, but trying it again in the present day makes me realize I just can’t stomach it anymore. My tastes have changed to the point where it’s just not enjoyable for me. With that said, if you are a dark-roast coffee fan, it certainly is that, and it is pretty widely available. I’m just the wrong demographic for this coffee now! The Chemex would probably be my vote for a brewing method for these beans, as it created the smoothest cup, but I’m not likely to buy these beans again anytime soon.
From the roaster: Rich, smooth, and complex, with a very full body and multi-layered character.
Review conducted 20 days post-roast.