Re: Getting a good cup of coffee?
There was a story I heard on NPR (great source of podcasts!!!) about an entomologist who was a researcher into cockroaches (The Fascinating World Of The Dung Beetle). They were doing field research in some remote locations and his supervisor always insisted on getting whole bean coffee. Eventually he discovered his supervisor was not picky but actually allergic to cockroach droppings, and the FDA permits a certain amount in ground coffee. I too buy whole bean coffee consistently after hearing this...!!
The machines need to be clean - coffee is normally too strong a flavour but in tea it is immediately evident. I had to teach a barrista at a hotel in Italy how to get rid of the problem. Espresso is named because it is fast - high pressure but NOT so hot water, produces a really concentrated output. I suspect that in order to increase throughput mega-corps turn up the pressure to reduce time. It is the volatile oils in coffee that make it smell/taste as it does - heat will evaporate them.
Of course the coffee really matters too - Starbucks always tastes "burnt" to me. Cafe Nero is better, but a bit weak. Illy if you can get it is devine - Lavazza too. But I use a cafetiere (Italian method - Bialetti) and 12 oz fits nicely into a cup.
And on my last trip to Seattle (SC11), I managed to go the entire week without having Starbucks once - some awesome cafes.