Reviews of coffee shops and roasters in Boise, Idaho.

Dutch Bros: The much anticipated review

Hello coffee fans!

First of all, I believe an apology is in order. Life has been more than busy for me as of late, and I’ve really slacked off on the blog. You can expect more frequent posts in the near future, as my schedule is beginning to wind down.

Now, on to the review!

Our commitment is to serve our customers a consistent quality product in a timely manner with a smile.

We roast all of our own coffee ensuring freshness from the farmer to the cup. We take great pride in the ingredients mixed into every cup – utilizing flavor profiles from Torani syrups, our own special blend of Dutch Chocolate milk and Kick Me Mix.

From Dutch Bros.’ wikipedia page:

Dutch Bros. was started in March 1992 by two brothers, Travis and Dane Boersma, former dairy farmers from Grants Pass, Oregon. Their first coffee stand was a temporary structure in downtown Grants Pass. Over the next few years, permanent kiosks opened in other parts of the city, including a coffeehouse a few blocks from the original stand.

I’ve always liked Dutch Bros. In the winter, I pick up a cup of Dutch on the way to snowboarding, and in the summer I enjoy their iced drinks on a hot day. If you’ve ever visited Dutch Bros., you know that they’re all about quality: both in product and in service. They prize themselves in their well-trained, friendly baristas. It also doesn’t hurt that they typically hire college-aged men and women who are pleasant on the eyes: Dutch baristas are all about using sex appeal to get a better tip.

Dutch Bros. has a great company structure, and friendly staff, but what about their coffee? Well, that is a little more tricky to do a review on, and here’s why:
Dutch Bros. coffee is heavy on the sugar. Every single one of the featured drinks on their menu (which was updated recently, by the way) is loaded with syrup and sauce, not to mention some of their best drinks are breve’s, or close. I’m not saying any of this to diss on Dutch Bros. In fact, this emphasis on sugar is perfect for their target customers:  high school and college-aged young men and women. Dutch Bros. has found their audience, and they are working that angle perfectly.

So, what about their actual espresso? Dutch Bros. isn’t just about sugar, although they put emphasis on that. You can order any drink you desire, just as you would at Starbucks (just please, for the love of God, don’t say “venti”. Any baristas that don’t work at Starbucks hate it when people use Starbucks’ sizes to order drinks.) I’ve had many classic drinks, such as their latte and brewed coffee. I’ve gone a little more complex a few times, asking for a doppio with cubano shots. And, to be honest, I’ve never been let down. I’m pleased to say that Dutch Bros. isn’t trying to cover up anything by using sugar: their coffee really is good. Although they won’t tell you what kind of roast they use (it’s a “Dutch secret”) I’ll give my best impression: they brew a medium roast coffee, probably using mixed beans, and their shots are pulled fast, which tend to make them far less acidic and bitter-tasting.

Go to Dutch Bros. if you haven’t yet. It’s an experience worth having, and a taste worth trying. Despite their emphasis on trendy clothing and sugar in coffee, they hold a special place in my heart as being a coffee franchise that really cares about their customers, product, and staff. That alone is enough for me to give Dutch Bros. a positive review.

What’s been your experience?

The Coffee Guy

Part coffeehouse, part gift shop, part art gallery, part hangout: Flying M.

Flying M Coffeehouse!

If you were to ask residents of downtown Boise what the top 10 popular hang out places are, Flying M would make all of their lists.
Flying M has been around since 1992, and brewing their own coffee since ’95. They have two locations: the Flying M Coffeehouse located on West Idaho St. downtown, and the Flying M Coffee Garage located on 2nd Street South in Nampa. I can’t vouch for their Nampa site, as I haven’t made the trek out there yet, but reviews speak for themselves.

This review is based primarily on what I’ve experienced at their downtown location.

When I was but a wee lad I remember Flying M being the “cool place” for my older sister and her friends to hang out. Not much has changed – Flying M remains one of Boise’s most centralized meeting places. The chances of you running into someone you know at Flying M are pretty dang good. Not to mention pre-scheduled meetings: many people spend a couple hours just chatting it up with friends they haven’t seen in a while, or grabbing a quick business meeting with colleagues.

Flying M’s coffee, self described:

Flying M Coffee produces one espresso blend – a full-bodied, medium roasted blend rich with crema.  Flying M Espresso Blend has been served since 1995 at the Boise location and several other locally owned coffee shops and restaurants.  Flying M also roasts a House Blend, consisting of a French roast paired with a medium roast Indonesian producing a powerful, bittersweet cup.

In more descriptive terms, their coffee-art laden brew is smooth and light on the acidity. The mocha I grabbed on my last visit was great; just remember that they’re not big on their shots. While some coffee shops, such as Dawson’s and Dutch Bros. boast as many as three shots to a 16oz – with four if you’re in for the extra kick – Flying M seems to focus more on taste. Their menu is interesting if not a little unusual, their sizes being 8oz, 12oz, 16oz (with one, one, and two shots included, respectively.) Most coffee shops these days have a 12oz, 16oz, 20oz menu while still others go higher. I’m inclined to think, however, that Flying M is inherently not a follower of trends. Rather, they seem to be home to the very people who start trends.

Besides coffee, Flying M hosts a gift shop, an art gallery (see pics), free wi-fi, music events, their own bakery, and an atmosphere that makes your extrovert come out.

If you haven’t tried Flying M yet, come see what you’re missing. It’s 100% Boise, and 100% worth it.

The Coffee Guy

The drive thru

To Bean or Not to Bean?

The Human Bean opened its first store in Ashland, Oregon, in 1998. Early success and positive customer reception encouraged us to open additional locations throughout Southern Oregon during the next five years. We now own and operate twelve corporate stores with plans for modest corporate store growth in the Pacific Northwest. The most significant growth of the brand has occurred through franchising.

The Human Bean is the one drive thru I’ve really wanted to do a review about. I’ve heard great things about their coffee and their franchise, and thought it was time to give them a try and write an analysis about my experience.

As I pulled up to the coffee shop I gave the stand a look over. Visually appealing, clever logo, even cleverer name. Their menu didn’t shout anything too spectacular, but it covered the basics and added a couple specialty drinks- not uncommon. Giving it a quick scan, I decided on a 16oz double shot mocha. Beginning to pull forward I glanced at the ordering window. Laden with stickers of brands, it showed that they are proud of their sponsors and product producers. The barista stepped forward, opened the window, and asked me what I wanted.

That’s when it started going downhill.

In my experience, more then half of the coffee experience is the environment. I could get the best brew on earth, but if the staff serving it is rude and impolite, the coffee is probably going to taste weak and dusty.
Drive thru coffee shops are unique in that they have only minutes to set the atmosphere, make the coffee, and give the customer a good experience. Typically drive thru coffee shops, whether they be locally owned or a corporately managed, will only employ baristas who are full of energy and exploding with happiness. Hopefully this barista will influence the customer in such a way that will turn them into a returning customer, then a regular.

The drive thruI noticed several things shortly after ordering my drink. First, the barista (a college-aged female) didn’t look very excited. Granted, it’s a Sunday, it’s cold outside, and the booth looked pretty crammed. I probably wouldn’t want to be in her place. That being said, she was already putting a bad taste in my mouth (pun intended).
To make things worse, she didn’t talk to me while making my drink. Again, giving her the benefit of the doubt, she may have been focusing on making a good coffee. After a couple moments of awkward silence, I attempted to strike up some small talk.
“So, what kind of coffee do you guys use?”
“Coffee…like, regular coffee or espresso?” she said.
“Espresso.” I replied
“Farm Friendly Direct.” is what I think she said. It was a little hard to hear her above the whir of the steaming milk.
“Oh, ok. Cool.” I replied.

After a couple more moments of silence:
“So, what kind of roast is that?” I asked.
She paused,
“Is it like a medium roast?” I asked, prompting her.
“Yeah, I think it’s a medium roast.” She replied, after some hesitation.

At that point it became clear that the barista really wasn’t sure what kind of coffee she was serving me.

Now, please don’t misread what I’m trying to say. This one barista may not be the standard that The Human Bean normally employs. In fact, she may have simply been having an off day.
The fact of the matter is that I really wasn’t impressed with the service.

So, those are the cons. What are the pros?

My coffee was made quickly, and served with a chocolate covered coffee bean. If nothing else, I left with a sweet present to snack on. I didn’t get a chance to try the coffee until I got home, but here’s my review:

Not entirely strong. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if The Human Bean does use a medium espresso blend. In fact, here’s what their website says:

Our signature blend combines Indonesian, Central American, and African beans to create espresso that is smooth with a hint of berries and a bright finish.  It’s great for mocha’s and flavored lattes.

Well, it really was pretty good in a mocha. I’m not a huge fan of weak coffee, but I did enjoy this particular drink. The mocha was well made: smooth beginning, hints of the espresso with a strong chocolate note to accompany. Both notes rang clear through the end of the sip, and as they hit my palette the orchestra erupted into the climax of the song. The finish was smooth, like the beginning, with the classic mocha aftertaste: bittersweet, with thick saliva containing leftovers as if to remind me of what I’m drinking. Truthfully, I did enjoy my mocha.

Will I visit The Human Bean again? Probably, if only to give it a second chance.
I wasn’t impressed with the service, and the coffee was ok, but in all honesty I think the real problem of The Human Bean for me boils down to one thing: it’s a franchise. Their website says that their real growth started when they franchised. Fiscally, I understand this. But relationally? My first impression was negative. The barista didn’t talk to me, and what questions I did ask were responded to with hesitation and slight ignorance. To me, this equation has a couple variables that are off. My call is that somewhere in the franchising of the “local” Human Bean, something vital was lost. The customer care. Now, while it’s true that franchises can get their mojo back, I always am sad to see such great potential lost at the hands of untrained baristas, automatic espresso machines, and fancy logos.

My hope is that next time I visit The Human Bean, they’ll prove me wrong.

What’s been your experience with coffee franchises? Do you like The Human Bean? Comment and let me know!

The Coffee Guy