Food Liquids

Review: Kirkland House Blend “Roasted by Starbucks” coffee

Kirkland House Blend “Roasted by Starbucks” coffee
A large quantity of Kirkland Signature House Blend coffee at a Costco location in Calgary. Note the lack of official Starbucks livery.

Unless you have a reasonably tuned palate, a very large number of Starbucks coffees taste pretty much the same.

It’s not the fault of the beans, no sir. It’s all about the Starbucks roasting process, which, in the traditional Starbucks method, required every bean to be roasted to a dark, oily char – hence the derisive moniker Charbucks bestowed upon the company by hardcore coffee types sick of losing subtle floral notes, ripe fruit flavours or hints of spice to over-roasting.

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the standard Starbucks roast profile; I like the burnt, smoky character of their signature roast, even though I know it drowns out any nuance in the beans. If I want to taste a light touch of orange blossoms with a splash of lime and berry fruit in my cuppa, I’ll pick up a bag of beans from a less heavy-handed roaster.

With that in mind, if you’re looking for that Starbucks taste without paying the Starbucks premium for beans you can’t even taste due to the dominant roast, you need to check out the Kirkland Signature House Blend coffee available at Costco.

Savvy coffee shoppers have long known of this semi-secret path to Starbucks flavour at a fraction of the Starbucks retail price. If you like the darker range of Starbucks roasts, this is a cheap alternative to buying beans by the pound at the local Starbucks shop. You’d pay more than double the price for the same quantity of the cheapest beans at the café. At less than $6 per pound, it’s a steal of a deal.

The Pitch: From the package: “With a perfect balance of flavour, body and liveliness, House Blend is something you’ll want to enjoy throughout the day and the week. It’s bright yet surprisingly smooth, cup after cup.” “Roasted by Starbucks Coffee Co.” Also, it’s Fair Trade Certified. Did I mention it’s less than $12 for two pounds? That’s half the sales pitch right there.

The Look: It’s changed over the years. When I started drinking it, the beans came in clear plastic bags with the logo and info printed on it. I don’t think it was even called Kirkland back then, though I could be wrong. Now, it’s in a more standard foil-plastic bag with an air-lock gizmo and all that. It doesn’t conform to Starbucks brand standards, so don’t expect to see The Siren on it.

The Taste: Open the bag and the aroma of an old-school Starbucks coffee shop greets you. Dark, charcoal notes waft out of the bag. In the mouth, the flavour is burnt and smoky, with a bit of dirty earth. Not a heavy coffee, yet the flavour fills the mouth. Nothing fancy here. No notes of apricot, lime or sun-drenched something-or-other.

Kirkland House Blend “Roasted by Starbucks” coffee
Dark, oily and intense, just like what you’d expect out of a traditional Starbucks blend. Love it or hate it, that’s what you’re getting.


Cost: $11.79 for two pounds (907 g) at Costco in Calgary.

Value for cash money: Insanely good. How is this price even possible? And for a Fair Trade coffee, to boot!

Availability: Costco. Kirkland is their house brand.

Nutrition?: It’s coffee. Almost no calories, but plenty of caffeine. Go easy, jittery fella.

The verdict: If you like Starbucks, it’s a perfectly decent everyday coffee, especially for the price.



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