On Sunday, I posted the results of a K-Cup taste test: Starbucks vs. Grove Square. My mother wanted to see if the Starbucks really was worth double the price. I concluded it was, since I couldn’t taste the Grove Square coffee in my mocha.

In the comments, Ordinary Spouse chimed in and said she wanted to participate in the test, as well…

I want to try the Grove Square reject. Maybe the convenience factor, along with my less discriminating taste, would make it a winner, or at least a tie-er.

And since OS doesn’t add as much extra “stuff” to her coffee, this might make for a better comparison. So when I returned home yesterday, I brought two K-Cups along.

Ready to test again
Ready to test again

Now – at my parents’ place, I hadn’t paid close attention to the Grove Square coffee. Mom made me a mocha; I didn’t care for it; and that was the end of that. But since I brought a pod of it home for OS to try, I began to notice things…

  • The Grove Square K-Cup was significantly lighter (7 g vs. 16 g for the Starbucks, when I massed it this morning)
  • The stuff inside rattled around quite a bit more. It sounded like a coarser grind that took up less space.
  • The pod wasn’t pressurized. I don’t know why the Starbucks K-Cup is pressurized, but it’s a difference. (If I had to guess, I’d probably say they seal it under nitrogen to preserve freshness. Only a guess.)

For Ordinary Spouse, I brewed two 6 oz cups of coffee…

Coffee as brewed
Coffee as brewed: Grove Square (L) and Starbucks (R)

…and added 2 tablespoons of 2% milk to each. And the taste test was on!

The result? She knew before she even took a sip:

I like the one that doesn’t smell like BBQ sauce.

It’s a little interesting that OS found the Grove Square taste to be stronger, even if she didn’t have anything positive to say about it. On the other hand, I couldn’t taste it at all in my mocha. In any case, it’s pretty clear this coffee won’t work. But before we look forward, let’s wrap up some loose ends.

When I removed the K-Cups from the brewer, it seemed as if the mass difference was even more pronounced than it had been before brewing. Indeed, the Starbucks pod had added 11 g (up to 27 g), whereas the Grove Square had dropped 3 g (down to 4 g). Suddenly it was clear: we were dealing with instant coffee here. A little digging confirmed what I should have found when I did my initial taste test. In the Starbucks pod, there were wet grounds. In the Grove Square cup, nothing.

What's left after brewing?
What’s left after brewing? Grounds and… nothing.

I asked Ordinary Spouse what advice she’d give to my mom at this point, since Mom is a tea drinker who has three coffee-drinking children.

Buy the Starbucks, because you are rich and you love your children and want to honor them!

Umm… well, uh… ok, but before we go to those extremes, we have one more test to do!

Starbucks vs. Green Mountain!
Starbucks vs. Green Mountain!

Today, I picked up two more K-Cups to try. It’s Sumatran vs. Sumatran; Starbucks vs. Green Mountain. It’s pretty clear the Green Mountain cup doesn’t contain instant coffee, so this might be a closer comparison. And the Keurig brand is a subsidiary of Green Mountain. They have an interest in not being beaten at their own game.

(On the other hand, the prices aren’t as dramatically different now. On their own websites, I could get the Starbucks cups for 75¢ per unit, as opposed to 60¢ for the Green Mountain coffee. Both come in a 24-pack.)

So stay tuned! Blind taste test #2 will be conducted tomorrow morning. Both my mocha and Ordinary Spouse’s coffee with milk will be prepared. And the results will be posted here!

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