April 8, 2013

Review: ECS Coffee Single Cup Fresh Seals

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With Keurig's K-Cup patent having expired, a multitude of soft-bottomed One Cup flavors have been released within the past year. When the first One Cup company (Rogers Family Coffee) started releasing their products, they came packaged within a non-resealable plastic bag inside a cardboard box for outer packaging. The main problem that quickly arose once you'd open the bag would be two-fold... the coffee aromas were so strong, that they'd permeate through the box and into whatever surrounding items you had nearby + you'd quickly lose freshness in the ground coffee since the filter provided no oxygen barrier whatsoever and left the grinds exposed to the elements.

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Other companies (Club Coffee, Melitta) tried resolving this issue with some success by creating cookie bag style foil packaging that had bendable tabs near the top of the bag which allowed you to roll the bag up and secure the tabs in order to prevent the bag from opening again. This still resulted in another problem since it meant you had to keep the entire bag nearby if you wanted to use that particular brand/flavor. Not an ideal solution if you aren't a frequent coffee drinker or like to drink a different flavor on a regular basis.

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March 27, 2013

Review: GMCR Special Reserve Colombia Geisha K-Cups

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Once Marley Coffee decided to release a rare single-origin coffee with their Jamaican Blue Mountain Real Cups, Green Mountain realized they had missed their chance at being the first company/brand to release a rare single-origin coffee in Keurig K-Cup compatible format. It didn't take them long to fix that oversight as they decided to start releasing their Special Reserve series in K-Cup format soon afterwards. The first flavor in the series is what we're reviewing today... GMCR Special Reserve Colombia Geisha K-Cups.

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Hailing from the Cerro Azul region in Valle del Cauca, Colombia Geisha coffee is considered to be amongst the rarest varietals in the World due to it being difficult to grow which makes it produced in specially crafted small batches. It is renowned for its complex flavors which have been described as changing with every sip and it's such a highly-regarded crop that pickers must endure 4 to 12 months of training just to be certified to pick Geisha cherries as such requires a fine touch to preserve all the flavor's subtle notes during the cultivation process. This varietal is also considered to be one of the most sought-after coffees as was evidenced last year by Starbucks when they decided to start selling it in limited runs at an astronomical price of $7 per cup. Thankfully, if you calculate the price per serving of these K-Cups, it works out to a much more reasonable $1.77 instead.

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March 18, 2013

Review: Starbucks Tribute Blend K-Cups

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Each year, one of the fan favorite coffees from Starbucks which most people look forward to would have to be Starbucks Tribute Blend. It was originally released as a limited edition but there was so much demand that Starbucks decided to add it as a regular yearly seasonal coffee much to everyone's delight. Culled from a blend of coffees from several different growing regions, Tribute Blend is a blend of Ethiopian, Sumatran, Colombian & Papua New Guinea coffees which come together to form a balance of fruity, spicy, nutty & herbal notes paired with Starbucks signature smoky taste & aroma. 

Unlike previous seasonal K-Cup flavors, Starbucks decided to move away from flashy foil designs and have gone back to plain painted designs instead. We get the usual silver Starbucks logo paired with this year's angular abstract background design. As with some of their recent seasonal K-Cups, they've also decided to include the "vintage year" of 2013 on the packaging & lid. Something which sort of ads collectability if you're someone who prefers to stockpile your K-Cup stash vs. blowing through them all at once. To be honest, we didn't even think we'd see Tribute Blend K-Cups this year since our local shop only had small half-pound bags of whole beans available for the first week of March and these K-Cups only appeared within the past few days. Needless to say we're glad Starbucks decided to continue releasing their seasonal coffees in K-Cup format and look forward to more releases over the coming month.

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March 14, 2013

Review: Martinson House Blend Real Cups

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We forge ahead in our Martinson Real Cup review series today with a flavor that most coffee companies refer to as their staple flavor, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out. Today we take a look at the Martinson House Blend Real Cups.

Brewing these Real Cups resulted in mild aromas of smoke with a faint earthiness touched by hints of chocolate and the very faintest tinges of molasses underneath. Flavor was a mix of dark chocolate with smoky notes throughout followed by hints of molasses and a bit of an oily taste near the end. Acidity was definitely present as we got some sour notes near the middle of each sip and while it was leaning on the stronger side, it wasn’t off the charts like some of the other flavors we’ve tried in the line-up so far. It wasn’t enough to wash-out the flavors but it could have been slightly toned-down a bit for our liking.

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March 7, 2013

Review: Solofill Cup V1 Gold Vue Pack Filter

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After the first Keurig Vue brewer was released, the first thing most people kept wondering was whether or not Keurig would manufacturer a My Vue Pack re-usable filter for it. We heard rumors that Keurig were in fact working on just such an item, but we could never confirm if this was actually the case and we have yet to see anything materialize on Keurig's website nor anywhere on the market. When Solofill realized there was a demand for a re-usable filter, they decided to make the boffins in their R&D department design the first Solofill filter for Vue brewers and hence the item we're reviewing today... the Solofill Cup V1 Gold Vue Pack Filter.

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The filter is the size of a travel mug Vue Pack and is made up of 2 components... the outer plastic shell and an inner filter basket which is completely removable. The plastic shell has a hole in the center of the lid for the intake needle and a hole near the bottom of the shell's spout for the output needle. The design/shape of the Vue system's brew chamber ensures that the filter will be inserted properly each time and again, there's no need to disassemble anything... just fill the filter with coffee, pop it in the brewer like any other Vue Pack and you're good to go. The one major difference is obviously the customization factor of the Vue brewer. You will need to experiment to see which settings on the machine produce the best results.

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March 6, 2013

Review: Solofill Cup K3 Chrome K-Cup Filter

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Back when Keurig first introduced their K-Cup brewers, one of the first accessories to get introduced was the My K-Cup filter. It consisted of a steel mesh filter housed inside a plastic assembly that fit inside the brew chamber once you had removed the lower assembly that contained the bottom piercing needle and was created with the sole purpose of letting users use their own ground coffee instead of having to buy pre-packaged K-Cups should their favorite flavor not be available in K-Cup format. There were many issues that most users encountered with the first generation models which ranged from poor extraction to clogged filters and leaking coffee grinds being dumped into the bottom of their mugs.

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We're not sure if the latest generation of My K-Cup filters have solved those issues since we were among the majority who decided to wait things out and see what the competition had to offer. Many 3rd-party companies tried various attempts and creating their own filters over the years but the one which stood out as being the best designed with best overall performance was the Solofill K-Cup filter. It was an all-in-one filter that had a rubber gasket around the lid which solved the coffee grind overflow problem (or so we thought) and the mesh filter was molded right into the outer plastic. The size was similar to a K-Cup which meant you didn't need to go through the extra hassle of taking apart your brewer's brew chamber... just fill the Solofill and pop it in like any other K-Cup. We've included a photo of this 1st-generation model for comparison.

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March 4, 2013

Review: Martinson Hazelnut Real Cups

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We continue our Martinson Real Cup review series today with their first flavored variety... Martinson Hazelnut Real Cups. It would appear that hazelnut is a staple flavor in the single serve coffee world as just about every company that gets into the market usually goes with either that particular flavor or vanilla as one of their initial flavored coffee varieties. It remains to be seen if this will be like most hazelnut coffees or if anything in particular will set it apart from the masses.

Brewing these Real Cups resulted in light hazelnut aromas with hints of vanilla floating around underneath. We also detected very faint smoky notes buried below as well. They were barely noticeable, but still present nonetheless. Flavor was a bit on the sour side as you first notice the acidity's sour bite then a mild blend of hazelnut & vanilla appears underneath. The main flavor was a lot weaker than what we were expecting. We also noticed some smoky notes that appeared near the finish, while you'd think smoky hazelnut would be a unique flavor, we didn't really care for it all that much.

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March 1, 2013

Review: Martinson Breakfast Blend Real Cups

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When we first heard of the Martinson Coffee brand, we were left scratching our heads since we hadn't even been aware of the brand to begin with. You can only imagine our surprise once we did our research and found out that the brand has been around since 1898. According to their company history page on their website, Martinson Coffee was the brainchild of Joe Martinson who came to New York City in the late 1800s. He would apparently select beans right from the docking ships and roast them himself in his mother's kitchen.

He would sell fresh roasted whole beans from a pushcart in his neighborhood and as news grew, his coffee became more and more popular amongst the locals to the point where people from all areas started seeking what he had to offer. As time went on, Joe eventually bought a small factory and sold his premium coffee to hotels and restaurants. What shocked us even more was that the term Cup of Joe is rumored to have evolved from Joe's reputation and popularity of his coffee (although we've also heard stories about how it evolved from military officers' consumption of coffee since they were often referred to as G.I. Joes back in the 50s & 60s).

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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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February 12, 2013

Review: Wal-Mart Our Finest Canadian Blend T-Discs

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Once in a while, something which can only be described as an oddity comes along and makes you do a double-take while your brain tries to comprehend what your eyes are seeing. It can be something slightly normal that just doesn't seem quite right... like a lime green Lamborghini sporting pink alloy wheels or it can be something completely absurd and off the wall which defies reality... like Gary Busey.

Well folks, we introduce to you today the Gary Busey of T-Discs, something which appears to be a Canadian exclusive sold only in Canadian Wal-Marts under the in-store brand known simply as Our Finest. It's also the most recent officially-licensed Tassimo product to hit Canadian shelves. Today we check out Wal-Mart's Our Finest Canadian Blend T-Discs.

Brewing these T-Discs resulted in very mild dark chocolate aromas with a faint note of smoke, but once the coffee sat in our mug for a few minutes, the aroma virtually disappeared with only the faintest hint of cocoa. Not exactly the strongest or most unique aroma we've ever experienced out of a T-Disc, so things weren't getting off to a good start.

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