Recently, while searching for a less expensive alternative to my favorite locally roasted coffee, I came upon some very favorable reviews for the brand Eight O’Clock. At $5.99 for a 12oz bag it is the least expensive whole been coffee available at my local grocer and claims to be 100% Arabica Coffee. At about $.20/ounce cheaper than my usual brand it offers pretty good value price wise, but how does it taste?
To find out, I’ve brought a bag of Eight O’Clock Original whole bean coffee home with me and fired up the kettle. Here are my findings.
Right off the bat I’ve encountered a problem with the bag. At first, it seems like any ordinary vacuum sealed coffee bag but there is one glaring difference: It’s not heat sealed. The manufacturer has used glue to seal the top of the bag. A good vacuum valve coffee bag has a heat sealed strip that one must cut off. This is necessary to keep coffee beans fresh when they may be sitting on the grocer’s shelf for weeks. This glued bag pulled apart a little too easily and didn’t appear to make a complete seal. Though the date on the bag states “BEST WHEN USED BY 01/23/13″ I wasn’t confident about what I’d find when I when I opened it. Turns out my worries were not unfounded.
The beans appeared slightly chalky with only the slightest oily sheen to the surface. The aroma emanating from the beans was also underwhelming. Dull, weak, and one-note. Just what you’d expect from a bag of beans opened several weeks ago, not a newly opened bag. At this point I wasn’t expecting miracles from the brew but went on ahead anyway.
- French press
- Filtered water heated to 204F
- Ground medium-fine right before steeping
- Steeped for just under 4 minutes
At first sip mouth feel takes notice. Thin and watery. The aroma, again, is dull and lacks complexity. Same goes for flavor. This coffee is highly acidic, leaving a tang along with a stale, slightly rancid aftertaste. The overall flavor profile reminds me quite a lot of a light to medium roast Folgers coffee, but Eight O’Clock Original is more aggressively acidic.
So, what’s the deal? Why the favorable reviews, the “better than Starbucks” claims, of this rancid, acidic coffee? Well, I went hunting for reviews again and found something interesting over at CoffeeReview.com. The host’s review (from 2002) states “Low-toned but complex. A floral sweetness is supported by a slightly roasty pungency and a touch of mustiness, the agreeable kind that gives weight and character to the cup and hints at dry chocolate.” Completely incongruent with my findings, and rightly so as more recent user reviews reveal.
One of the user reviews states:
“I have used Eight O’Clock coffee beans for years and believe it WAS the best coffee going for the price. I recently purchased a bag with their “new look with the same great taste”. Don’t believe it. It was the worst cup of coffee I have ever brewed and the first cup I have not been able to drink.”
Other reviews are much the same. So, as it turns out my gripes about the bag were apt, but not for the same reasons. It seems that in recent years the people at Eight O’Clock have let the quality of their beans slip.
I would grade this coffee a D+ and would not purchase it again. I’ll likely be calling the 800 number on the bag to request a refund.
Thanks for reading. Tell me about your favorite bargain coffee brands in the comments!
In 2005 the Eight O’Clock Coffee brand was purchased by Indian coffee company Tata Coffee. We can safely assume that this is the cause for the drastic drop in quality. Previously, Eight O’Clock coffee was a house brand of A&P Supermarkets, a subsidiary of The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company – Wikipedia