October 29, 2007

Bad coffee day

I have a favorite coffee. It is an espresso roast Fair Trade house brand from Sam's Club. It's not Starbucks, but it's pretty good. Good enough for me to drink everyday and enjoy. I buy a bag for about $14.00, grind it at the store, and it usually lasts me about a month. That's about 50 cents a day and I'll take the small difference in taste for the big difference in price over Starbucks. In fact, by the time I add sugar, milk and a touch of Irish Creme creamer there is not much difference.

Occasionally I run out, though, and it's not worth the 45 minute round trip to Sam's for just a bag of coffee. I have found a really inexpensive dark roasted pre-ground generic brand carried at my local store that is pretty fresh (vacuum packed) and decent tasting. It costs about $2.00 for a brick that will last me a couple of weeks in a pinch. It's not good but it's decent and I'll live with it when I have to.

Yesterday, my wife was making a run for bread, eggs, milk, etc. and I asked her to get me some coffee. I'd been out for a couple of days and I knew that I couldn't make it through Monday morning without it. She came back with a generic store brand that I had never tried before. It wasn't dark roasted which was an instant red flag for me. When I opened the can there was no instant rush of coffee smell to fill the room. In fact, I had to stick my nose right down into the can to smell it at all. Needless to say, this coffee sucks. I'd rather drink a pot of coffee that was created from my already used grounds from last Thursday. Bleh.

My wife's comment, "Well, it was cheap." Her assumption was that because my other substitute generic is cheap that any generic cheap coffee will suffice. This is not the case, of course! My wife does not drink coffee (she will drink a decaf iced whipped cream something or other from Starbucks every once in a while, though) so to her it is a commodity good. She understands that Starbucks and other coffee stores sell top notch and that I get the "good stuff" from Sam's, but below that everything is the same to her.

Not everyone can be a top tier brand. And there's plenty of market for second tier and generics. If you choose to market a 2nd tier brand how do you tell prospective customers that your product is better than the rest of the pack? In my chosen generic coffee's case the packaging is bright blue and red in color and it states on the package "Special Dark Roast". To me that's enough to make a distinction between it and the plain white can that simply says "Coffee". It was enough for me to give it a try and decide that it is an acceptable emergency substitute for my regular brand. Admittedly, it is my mistake for sending my wife for coffee, something she knows and cares little about. But is there something that a 2nd tier brand should do to distinguish itself to the uninformed shopper. Should it have a label that says "Not as good as the stuff on the top shelf, but much better than the stuff on the bottom shelf."? Or should I just tell my wife not to buy the stuff on the bottom shelf ever again.

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  1. Ouch.  That sounds just wrong.  Those generic coffees can be really really bad.  In general, if it comes in a tin, I don't get it.  I usually stick to Starbucks brand... my sister works at Starbucks and always gives me info on their latest brews.  Haven't been making much at home though... need to clean out my brewer, but should soon.

  2.  avatar Dave Burke says:

    Hey, Cuz!  Welcome to the club where the wife doesn't drink coffee.  $14 a pound???  Wow, you'd think your wife would use a CoffeePropertyValueComparison.cs property evaluation between her purchase and your default brand.  I'm a $9.99 a pound man myself. Same ball park though.

    Dang, now Ken is making me guilty for not having cleaned out my brewer in a while.  Looks like I'll have a psychologically bad coffee day tomorrow now thanks to him.

  3.  avatar says:

    Ken, I agree. I stay away from the tins as much as possible. I can't tell you the last time I bought coffee in a tin. Probably the last time I decided that I drank too much coffee and was trying the half decaf mix. That was a bad time in my life.

    Dave, my wife felt bad and bought a better kind while at the store today and even ground it! Unfortunately it turned out to be decaf! We laughed about it a bit, but I told her that I'll never ask her to buy me coffee again. I guess I'll mix it with the other and hope for the best. I can't wait until my monthly visit to Sam's this weekend!

    I'm looking at the 12 oz bag that this new stuff came in and it is much smaller than the bag I get from Sam's. My guess is that the coffee from Sam's is probably 2 lbs. That would be $14 for 2 pounds. So I guess I'm a $7/lb man! I'll confirm after this weekend.

  4.  avatar Terri Morton says:

    We get our coffee from Sam's...Member's Mark® Marques de Paiva® French Roast.  It comes in a 2.5 pound bag for about $12 (and it's strong enough to remove the enamel from your teeth).  So it looks like I'm a $4.80/lb girl.

    I'm drinking some right now...and typing at 200 words/minute. ;-)

  5.  avatar says:

    That is it! I get the same stuff, except I get expresso roast. Good stuff.

  6.  avatar Dave Burke says:

    Funny about the decaf!  That's something my wife would do, too. :-)  Oookay.  $7 a pound if purchased from Sam's sounds about right.  I thought of you yesterday when I was at Costco and saw that the Starbucks French Roasted whole bean was $19.99 for a 2 pounder.  I would have grabbed it but I love my Vermont Coffee Company dark roast at, gulp, $9.99 a pound.

  7.  avatar says:

    By the time I mixed in the horrible coffee with the decaf coffee it wasn't terrible. A couple of days later I was able to make it to Sam's to pick up the usual. It seems like a made it through the ordeal okay, though I have picked up a strange twitch :)

  8.  avatar Julian Lopez says:

    I just went to my local Super Walmart last nite and saw for the first time "Sam's Club" brand fair trade coffee. So i decided to get a pound each of whole bean "Espresso" and "Breakfast Blend". To my surprise they are pretty damn good coffee. At just $5 a pound i think i will be rarely getting anymore Starbucks at double the cost.

  9. Julian, the Espresso stuff is what I drink. It is pretty good stuff!

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