February 28, 2013

Review: Martinson Donut Shop Blend Real Cups

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First there were One Cups, the soft-bottomed open filter style K-Cup knock-offs and now the latest trend that seems to be picking-up steam is yet another K-Cup knock-off which goes by the name of Real Cups. What are Real Cups you ask? Simple... they're similar to a One Cup that has the plastic K-Cup shell re-attached to the bottom. If you cut one open, you'll notice it uses the same filter style as a One Cup. As a result, you get a fusion of both a One Cup's soft-bottomed filter and a K-Cup's plastic shell all into one. We actually like this approach since this ensures the coffee won't go stale and can be stored for long periods of time in carousels or storage racks without any worries.

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When our friends at ECS Coffee told us they'd be sending us samples of the Martinson Real Cups for review after they toured the manufacturing facilities, we thought ok... we'll just get the single Real Cups in a Ziploc bag when we open the shipping box. Well, color us pleasantly surprised when we got the shipment. Nothing could have prepared us for what we received once we opened everything.

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ECS Coffee really outdid themselves... not only did we get the Real Cups, but they came housed inside a nicely designed gift box. The fact that ECS Coffee took the time & funding to develop these boxes is just amazing since most coffee retailers wouldn't normally take this extra step. The gift box was made from a sturdy cardboard with full color print everywhere. The ECS Coffee logo was prominently displayed on the outside cover and sides of the box, a company statement and place for a business card was setup inside the inner lid, the Real Cups were housed inside custom cut-outs within the box which was blacked-out in order to emphasize the artwork on the Real Cup lids and the company's website and social media contact info was printed underneath the box.

Just... wow... awesome presentation all-around. Now THAT folks, is how you do a gift box! Ok, enough gushing and running around the room doing happy dances... let's get on with the main review, shall we?

Brewing these Real Cups resulted in bright sour notes which seemed mostly composed of molasses aromas with light smoke underneath. Flavor was again a bit on the sour side with citrus notes up front, followed by molasses underneath, some faint notes of cocoa and some smoky notes on the finish. Acidity was a bit on the strong side which lent to the citrusy notes in the flavor and while we can see some people being put off by this, we think we understand what Martinson were trying to do here... since donuts have an obviously sweet taste, they wanted to pair something sour with that to give a sweet & sour effect.

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While we're not exactly in the habit of chowing-down on Boston Cremes or Honey Crullers while we do our reviews, we can see how this would probably balance things out. On its own though, it is a somewhat shocking sour bite if you're not expecting it at first sip. Body was medium brown in color with shades of orange & red when held in front of a light source. Mouth feel was smooth despite the sour punch of the acidity and wasn't watery at all, so that made up for a few points. Finish was a bit dry with more smoky notes floating around in the aftertaste.

  • Aroma - 6 - Bright sour notes throughout with molasses taking the main aroma profile and some light smoky aromas underneath. At least this gave us somewhat of a warning that the acidity would be rather strong.
  • Acidity - 6 - A bit on the stronger side of things and on its own, is a somewhat shocking jolt to the taste buds upon first sip. Paired with the sweetness of donuts as its namesake would seem to imply, we can see how things would likely balance out more evenly, but hey... this site is named Single Serve Coffee, not Single Serve Donuts (although Dunkins are more than welcome to send us sampler boxes if they wish).
  • Body - 8 - Medium brown with notes of orange & red when held to a light source.
  • Flavor - 9 - A bit more going on here than we'd expect. Things kick off with sour citrus notes up front, followed by molasses underneath, some faint notes of cocoa and some smoky notes on the finish. Not too shabby.
  • Mouth Feel - 10 - Despite the sour punch from the flavor, mouth feel was surprisingly smooth throughout without any hint of being watery whatsoever. Color us impressed.
  • Coffee Drinker - If you like citrusy or acidic coffees, this will suit you fine. If you're on the opposite side of that spectrum, then you'd best look elsewhere. We still think some people could find a way to balance this coffee out with the additional pairing of donuts or maybe adding some cream & sugar to tame the acidity a bit.

Overall Rating: 89 - Good

To be honest, after some hits & misses with the One Cup knock-offs, we weren't setting our hopes too high with the Real Cup series. We kept hearing about how they were different and of superior quality to One Cups but we weren't expecting things to be what they turned out to be. We have to admit that we like the fact that Real Cups won't go stale the moment you take them out of the box and we like how the use of a soft-bottomed fiber filter manages to reduce costs (albeit slightly) vs. conventional paper filter K-Cups. This means you can get K-Cup quality at a reduced price and still come out on top in the end. This Donut Shop Blend from Martinson may not be for everyone, but we still think it's an outstanding intro for our first Real Cup experience. Quality all around just seems to be right on-par with anything Keurig would produce.

We also haven't experienced any exploding coffee issues when brewing any One Cups or Real Cups to date, so we have to question theKeurig Brewed Seal marketing approach which Keurig have been taking lately as these competing products perform just as well as any K-Cup on the market and appear to be of similar build quality. While some people would argue that you're paying a premium to get better quality coffee such as the recently released Columbia Geisha K-Cups, let's not forget that Real Cups beat Keurig to the punch by releasing their own super-premium single origin coffee first with the Marley Coffee Talkin Blues Real Cups which contain 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee... a coffee varietal that Keurig has yet to source.

As for the implications of Real Cups and what they pose to Keurig's K-Cups, well... if quality can remain the same as it is now, we think Keurig should be concerned and can only hope this means they'll be further motivated to continue creating quality products. Consumers on the other hand should be very, very happy to see new coffees and brands exploding on the market quicker than we can keep up with them. It may make it difficult for us to keep track of all the new flavors we need to review, but it ultimately gives everyone the #1 thing they want most... choice.

Martinson Donut Shop Blend Real Cups work in all Keurig K-Cup Brewers and are available in Canada in 24-packs for $15.75 CAD or can be purchased individually for $0.89 CAD each at ECSCoffee.com. These Real Cups are also available in 24-packs for $13.99 USD at CoffeeTitan.com in USA. Please also note that Real Cups will NOT work with Keurig Vue brewers.

A special thanks to SH for providing this Single Serve Coffee staff review. We would also like to note that these Real Cups were supplied by ECS Coffee for the purpose of this review.

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Posted by Jay Brewer at February 28, 2013 5:52 AM

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