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The Bitter Starbucks K-Cup Coffee Pod You Shouldn't Bother To Buy

There are a number of well-crafted K-Cups that brew up delicious coffee. Alas, there may be just as many that are hastily slapped together and generate wan or acrid joe. It would seem, though, that a company as globally gargantuan as Starbucks with so much coffee brewing know-how would be able to ensure that its line of K-Cups were quality through and through. However, when Tasting Table put a variety of K-Cups from different producers to the test the results varied wildly, with testers finding some a cut above and others, especially one Starbucks offering in particular, downright off-putting.

There is something to be said for consistency, especially when comparing products a company offers at its own stores with what it sells on other retailers' shelves. But, when that is consistently bad, it may be time to go back to the test kitchen. Starbucks' Pike Place Roast K-Cups are, as tasters noted, similar to the same coffee roast served in the company stores, and that ain't saying much. The coffee — purportedly a medium roast — is redolent of beans that have been heated to the point of being burned and charged with bitterness. While Pike Place Roast does have notes incumbent to coffee, it was hard for tasters to get past the initial assault of bitterness. While not the worst of the bunch — Starbucks' K-Cup landed at number 13 out of 20 — it was indeed a poor showing for the world's dominant coffee chain.

Why does Starbucks roast so dark?

The middling showing from Starbucks is not all that surprising for a chain that seems to prioritize ubiquity over quality, even if it does employ master testers and developers to create its blend. The company fancies itself as a cut above other chains that offer coffee but, judging by how its K-Cups stacked up against those bearing the brands of other national outlets, that isn't the case. Scoring higher were K-Cups from Caribou Coffee, Peet's Coffee, McDonald's, and Dunkin' at the one, two, three, and four slots respectively. Even Canadian favorite Tim Horton's and Southern donut staple Krispy Kreme scored higher.

The burnt, bitter taste of Starbucks' Pike Place Roast K-Cup carries over in reviews of the blend and others when tasted at actual Starbucks locations. With so many customers decrying this seeming oversight, why would the chain continue to offer what some see as burned coffee? It may come down to how Starbucks perceives its coffee to be consumed. With so many people adding sugar, cream, syrups, and foams, an over-roasted coffee may be preferable as it forces the coffee notes to shine through as opposed to the fruitier notes of lighter roasts. In that case, it might be more fair to test this K-Cup through the lens of cream and sugar, but coffee should be able to stand on its own merits, which is why Tasting Table's testers couldn't give this one higher marks.