Starbucks vs. Drinkable Coffee at PyCon

Due to the lack of coffee at PyCon that was deemed acceptable to my Seattleite palate, I have attempted to find said coffee at Starbucks the last two days.

And failed miserably.


Yesterday, I went to the Starbucks at ~2100 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC for my normal double short latte. (No, it’s not on the menu. It’s not normally a problem at Starbucks due to their supportive attitude towards people who know what kind of coffee they like. More on that later.) The short was good, although I did get charged for a double tall, which is generally ok so long as the coffee is decent, which this wasn’t. It was flat, stale tasting, and somewhat scalded. I believe that this was due to the 32 oz pitcher of milk that was kept hot and used for the ‘steamed’ milk portion of the latte. I don’t believe that this is an acceptable practice at Starbucks, but I’m not 100% certain of that. I do know that it destroys the mouthfeel and taste of the drink.

So in a burst of optimism, I tried the Starbucks in the ground floor of the 800 J Street, Washington DC building. They had a problem with a short latte, and couldn’t figure out how to add 6 oz of milk to 2 oz of espresso. But that’s not the real problem of why the coffee tasted so bad. As I was standing there, I noticed two shots of espresso just sitting under the outlet of their fully automatic push button espresso machine. And sitting. And sitting. All crema gone. Cooling off. Then she started two more shots on the other side, and emptied the old ones into my drink before the milk was mildly heated up again and added.

Starbucks employees, called partners, were indoctrinated with 25 hours of course work that imprinted company rules. Among them: Thou shalt brew a double espresso shot between 18 and 23 seconds and serve within 10 seconds of brewing it, or throw it out.


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The attendant (can’t call her a barista) was so lazy she had to destroy the coffee rather than spend the time to press the button specifically for me on a fully automatic machine. A machine that would make George Jetson feel at home. No grinding, no loading, no emptying. Self service would have been more effective.

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