January 31, 2015

The 2015 Super Coffee Bowl

There's nothing quite like a good Super Bowl-themed food face-off, and this year's big game is perfect for a java joust.

Two of the country's biggest coffee brands come from the cities that are squaring off in this year's football game to beat all football games. Seattle and its Seahawks have their Starbucks. Meanwhile New England and its Patriots have their Dunkin' Donuts, a company based in Canton just outside of Boston.

I don't pretend to be impartial when it comes to these coffees. Starbucks is one of my favorite food brands, while I swore that Dunkin' Donuts was dead to me back in July. One unfortunate franchise ignored my order of a bagel with cream cheese, opting instead to only serve me a plain toasted whole-grain bagel. I discovered the error when I was five miles down the road in the car and had no other option than to lament the dryness of it all.

Who orders a plain toasted bagel? Who serves one?

Dunkin' climbed back toward my good graces by finally deciding to serve their dark roast hot, however. For years now you've been able to get it iced or bagged to brew at home yourself, but the restaurants refused to go beyond that. It was infuriating, since Dunkin's regular blend is basically watered-down Folgers  coffee for people who don't like coffee.

All things considered, I decided to bite the bullet and order cups of Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts dark roasts on my way into work over back-to-back days this week. Which one was tastier? Which one provided the better buzz? Read on to find out.

Dunkin' Dark

If I'm doing a drink competition involving Dunkin' Donuts and anyone, you can count on Dunkin' being a dark horse at best. But the place's dark roast is a truly enjoyable experience.

To start, the scent is much richer than what you'd expect. It screams full body and depth of flavor. Sipping the drink is much the same thing, with a ton of toasted caramel coming out before a smooth finish. 

I'm not a big fan of Dunkin's foam cups and bulbous to-go tops, though. It's like drinking from a sippy cup that's bad for the planet. We can do better.

Starbucks Espresso Roast

Starbucks rotates their dark roasts regularly, so my goal was to sample whatever the flavor of the day proved to be. On Friday at my local outpost, it was Espresso Roast  not as good as the complex Christmas Blend or the deeply infatuating Gold Coast Blend in my opinion, but still a solid drink.

The scent wasn't nearly as noticeable with this cup as it was with the one from Dunkin', a fact I found very surprising. But there's a lot of caramel here, so it's probably a good option to face off against the Boston-area brew. Espresso Roast is very sweet, but it has a lot of roasted tones to balance it out. This is rich coffee.

And Starbucks cups are just heads and tails above Dunkin's. Not only do I feel like an adult drinking out of them, but they're tapered at a more comfortable angle, too. Yes, some people sneer at you for being elitist when they see the Starbucks logo, but it's better than being sneered at for not really liking coffee when you're holding a cup of Dunkin'.

As far as other factors go, Dunkin' was a few dimes cheaper than Starbucks, but there's not a huge price difference going on here. Both coffees were served adequately hot. If you're looking for a better caffeine boost, the Espresso Roast probably did the trick a tad better.

At the end of the day, Dunkin' Donuts made a surprisingly good run of it. I'm awarding Dunkin' Dark a very impressive four sporks out of five. It was just edged by Starbucks Esspresso Roast, which I'm giving a quarter of a spork more due to a combination of its better cup, deeper flavor and my better past experiences with the brand. 

Really, though, you can't go wrong with either of these coffees on Super Bowl Sunday  or any other day, for that matter.

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