Dale Dietrich
friedman: always supply your comparative advantage
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Category — coffee

The Intertwined History of Peet’s and Starbucks

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Few people realize that the owners of Peet’s once owned Starbucks and that the Starbucks we know today was created when Howard Shultz (Starbucks current Chairman, then a disgruntled executive) bought out the original Starbucks owners (who then purchased Peet’s) after a dispute as to whether or not to include espresso bars in their coffee bean stores.

I fell in love with Peet’s coffee when I lived in Silicon Valley from 1998 to 2002. To this day I have a couple pounds mail ordered to Canada every few weeks.  Over many cups of Peet’s coffee, I took the following notes as I read Howard Shultz’s book – Pour Your Heart Into it: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. It’s quite the interesting, intertwined history.

  • image Alfred Peet (pictured on the right) formed Peet’s in Berkley, California in 1966. (click here for more info on Alfred Peet)
  • Originally Peet’s locations just sold beans – no drip coffee, latte’s etc.
  • While attending college at Berkley, a Starbucks Founder (I forget his name, let’s call him "SF1") strolled by and bought some beans. SF1, a native of Seattle, fell in love with Peet’s beans.
  • SF1 returned home after college and continued to purchase coffee from Peet’s by mail order (as I do today).
  • SF1 enjoyed the beans so much that he decided to open a similar bean selling store, Starbucks, in Seattle with Starbucks Founder II ("SF2"). SF2 had ran a local Seattle Coffee shop prior to that point. [I note from this Wikipedia entry on Starbucks that there were three founders, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel and Gordon Bowker. I’m not sure which of these three were SF1 and SF2]

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Starbuck with Starbuck at Starbucks

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Dirk Benedict (Starbuck from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica) with Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from 2004 ‘reimagined’ series) at Starbucks 1
I thought these pictures of Dirk Benedict (the original Starbuck from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica series), with Katee Sackhoff (the new Starbuck from the 2004 ‘reimagined’ Battlestar Galactica series) at Starbucks were compelling.

I snapped these from the BattleStar Galactica Finale Special that aired on Space TV on March 20, 2009. It looks like they was taken towards the beginning of the ‘reimagined’ series given how young Katee Sackhoff is in them.

Click on the images for larger views.

Dirk Benedict (Starbuck from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica) with Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from 2004 ‘reimagined’ series) at Starbucks 2   Dirk Benedict (Starbuck from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica) with Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from 2004 ‘reimagined’ series) at Starbucks 3   Dirk Benedict (Starbuck from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica) with Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from 2004 ‘reimagined’ series) at Starbucks 4

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Mug-at-a-Time Head to Head: Bodum Chambord vs. Aerobie Aeropress

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Bodum Chambord vs Aerobie Aeropress - Let the Plunging Begin

In my 25 years of coffee drinking, nothing beats the Aerobie Aeropress for making an 8 oz or smaller Americano-style cup of coffee. But, I drink two 12 oz mugs of coffee each day. The Aeropress can be used to brew spectacularly good 12 oz mugs of coffee. I have used it to brew my coffee for some two years now. But, the method is tedious, clumsy and sometimes messy.

This lead me to seek out alternative one-at-a-time brewing methods (details here). After more than a full month of perfecting my Bodum Chambord brewing technique, including two weeks with a nylon fine sediment filterscreen from sweet maria’s (details here), I decided it was time to give my new found Bodum-brewing prowess the ultimate test – a head to head competition against the Aeropress.

[August 1, 2008 Update: I posted my results here on the coffee geek forum. The inventor of the Aeropress, Alan Adler, suggested I up my Aerobie Aeropress bean dosage from 2 scoops to 3.5, pass only about 4 to 5 ounces of water through the press, then top the mug up with hot water. The resulting mug was simply one of the best mugs of coffee I ever had. Details and pictures are in that thread starting here. The downside is that almost doubling the beans is a very expensive proposition. Something I can't afford to do every day. But it does result in one easy to brew, spectacular mug of coffee.]

The Playing Field

  • Peets Arabian Mocha Sanani Identically measured (20 g – two Aerobie scoops), freshly roasted, freshly ground Peets Arabian Mocha Sanani beans (my favourite).
  • Identically filtered water, boiled to the same temperature at the same time in the same pot.
  • Identical steep times.
  • Identical Peets mugs for tasting. :)
  • Identically measured creme (30 ml – 2 Tbsp).
  • All utensils, mugs and equipment freshly run through the dishwasher.

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Perfecting My Bodum Chambord Brewing Technique

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Coffee Geek: Bodum Chambord Reviews | How to Use a Press Pot
More than a month of testing has passed since I wrote my “Bodum Chambord – Not What I was Expecting” post. I have experimented with different grinds and techniques every day since that post.

The changes discussed below have resulted in much better coffee.I am now quite satisfied with the results I’m getting with the 16 oz (4 cup*) Bodum Chambord.

1. Slow Plunging:

Plunging Bodum Chambord French Press When doing my original tests, I had meticulously followed Mark Prince’s “How to Use a Press Pot” instructions. His instructions emphasized plunging in an ‘even, controlled manner”. He didn’t mention anything about the plunging rate.

Having used the Aerobie Aeropress for years (which provides quite stiff resistance while plunging), during my initial Chambord tests I was applying considerable pressure resulting in fast plunges (5 seconds or less).

While searching the coffee geek forums for french press brewing tips, I came across several posts like this one emphasizing the need to plunge slowly to minimize coffee bean sediment leakage around the edges of the screen.

I use a significantly finer grind than most to bring out the boldness in my coffee. It made sense then that my finer grinds could be slipping around the edges of the screen by pushing too hard and too fast. It also made sense that Mark wouldn’t have emphasized this point given that he uses a substantially coarser grind than I.

By slowing my plunge (taking up to 30 seconds), I was able to brew noticeably smoother (less cloudy/grainy) cups of coffee with finer grinds – even without the fine sediment nylon filter discussed below. But the tinny taste was still there somewhat.

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Bodum Chambord – Not What I Was Expecting

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Coffee Geek: Bodum Chambord Reviews | How to Use a Press Pot

[July 28, 2008 Update: I have had much better results with the Chambord since writing this original post. See my "Perfecting My Bodum Chambord Brewing Technique" post for details.]

After a couple years of immense satisfaction with my Aerobie Aeropress, I decided to give press pots another chance. After all, my last use of press pots (with dismal results) preceded my discovery of Mark Prince’s coffee geek website and podcast by many years. Perhaps my new-found knowledge of proper grinds, beans and brewing techniques would yield better results.

The Problem with the Aeropress

aerobie aeropress

I’ve been an Aerobie Aeropress evangelist since I first discovered it. But, I’ve become annoyed by the fact that the Aeropress is designed primarily for espresso shots and 80z Americano cups of coffee. I drink two 12 to 14 oz cups of coffee each day.

The Aeropress brews THE-best 12 – 14 oz cup of coffee I have ever had – period! But the process I use is a kludge. The Aeropress’ water chamber holds only 8 oz of hot water. After pouring the first 8 oz’s into the chamber I wait and stir and wait and stir as gravity pulls the first 4 to 6 ounces through the beans and the filter. As I wait and stir, I slowly pour, ounce by ounce, the final 4 to 6 ounces of my desired 12 to 14 oz cup into the chamber. Only then can I press the final 8 ounces through. This is tedious. And with newly roasted beans, I have to proceed even slower as the new bean bloom can result in overflow and clean-up issues.

Despite requests by Aeropress lovers, Aerobe has not yet created a larger version of its product.

Onward to the Bodum Chambord

So, with this post on the coffee geek forums I set out to explore the press pot as an alternative method to brew my one-at-at-time 12 oz cups of coffee. Since it seems that most quality French Presses are the same, I settled on the 16 oz (4 cup*) Bodum Chambord. (Thanks for the recommendation JVBorella)

While this Bodum Chambord is available to Americans for ($20ish) at Amazon.com, the best price I could find in Toronto for it was $39 at the Shaper Edge in Toronto’s Eaton’s Center. Everywhere else (Sears, the Bay, Second Cup) was charging $49.

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