Sunday, March 26, 2006

McDonald's Premium Roast Coffee: A Review

McDonald's hit the news recently with the introduction of a new Premium Roast Coffee to their menu lineup.

I recently had the opportunity to pick up a Premium Roast model and check out its performance. This review was mentally composed over the span of 6 hours while monitoring a network drive being restored from tape-backup. (It failed--by the way--and we gave up trying to restore it.)

The Case:

For this review I chose the Small Form Factor (SFF) case version, also known as "small." McDonald's also releases their new roast in a Mid-Tower unit (medium) and a Tower unit (large). I really liked the portability of the the SFF model. It was light and very portable. Colorful graphics splashed on the case proclaiming its features reminded me of the "Intel Inside" label days.

The cover lid had a modern, high-tech design. It used a screwless assembly that made removal a snap. Access to the contents was quick and allowed for easy user modifications and hacks. More on that later. To prevent energy leakage, the designers made a handy swing-away port feature. It is a tiny square that covers the primary port, but can be flipped back and snapped into a recess to keep port access unrestricted. I found the snap to be very pleasing, but easy to disengage. Most of McDonald's competitors do not have this port cover feature. I have only seen it used on one other vendor's product.

Case sides were thin but sturdy with no sharp edges or join-seams. They are slightly textured and the grip was comfortable.I was unable to get the case to leak any contents while using no matter what location the portal was oriented on the case. This is important because I have used Starbucks case model many times and found that if the access port is aligned over the case seam, product leakage often occurs with sometimes bad consequences. Ergo-dynamic design allowed me to sample product with confidence and not worry about being choked with too much output, even when hitting a bumpy section of roadway.

The Contents:

Version 2 of McDonald's Coffee has been promoted as a much richer blend then their version 1 model. Color was much darker. The taste change was notable. It was much stronger and heavier a flavor. But the acidity level seemed mild. I would have to say that it was smoother. Temperature was sufficiently hot. After a number of sips, I decided to do so user-hacks. I went for the two-sugar, two creamer hack. Modifications were quick due to the aforementioned lid design. The hacks brought the flavor in line with a heavier General Foods "International Coffees."


When the system cooled off, I performed a quick "reboot" in the microwave. Performance when re-heated was not too bad. Because the contents were not in an insulated case, performance drops quickly. The caffeine content--although not scientifically benchmarked--seemed sufficient to ward off this coffee drinker's mid-morning headache if the regular morning "cup of joe" wasn't taken.


Overall I was very surprised by McDonald's Premium Roast Coffee. I was not expecting to be as satisfied with my trial unit as I was. The container was comfortable, though somewhat flashy. Taste was much bolder and enjoyable, but not at all bitter. It had "thickness of taste" (not to be confused with viscosity). Too many times I have coffee that looked dark but tasted like watered down black-tea.

I must confess that my coffee-house of choice still remains Starbucks. The quality of the coffees, the varieties, the relaxing atmosphere and the cute baristas all make it a destination place. McDonald's just cannot compete with that (neither in atmosphere nor cute baristas). HOWEVER, I don't think their business model is to directly compete--and if so--it is going to work. If I have the family in tow and we are going to pick up a fast breakfast--I will be much more willing and likely to swing by McDonald's now instead of their other fast-food competitors. And in a pinch, if I can't find a Starbucks before I get dug into for a major project, I won't think twice about picking up a cup of morning coffee from McDonald's now.

While McDonald's new Premium Roast Coffee still will not be my primary choice of morning coffees, it has taken a comfortable lead in the number two spot.

Related Coffee Links:

Man Pursues $3.7 Million in Starbucks Ice Coffee Cold-Burn Lawsuit (yes--I get it...)
The "real" Stella's Case on the McDonald's Hot Coffee lawsuit.
Liebeck v. McDonald's Corp. [Wikipedia]
Mandolux Desktops: Coffee & Beans (triptych), Caffeinated Love (dual)

See you in the skies,

And yes...the picture above was captured directly from their Website--I didn't make it up. They are wholly responsible for that copy.

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