Thursday, December 2, 2021

Ranking your pick-me-up: State News staffers review the iced coffees of East Lansing

October 22, 2021
<p>An employee pouring coffee at Foster Coffee Company in East Lansing on Sept. 30, 2021. </p>

An employee pouring coffee at Foster Coffee Company in East Lansing on Sept. 30, 2021.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

On a gloomy day in October, four State News staff members decided to taste a college student’s holy grail to surviving classes, homework and exams: iced coffee.

The State News had coffees from seven local and chain shops around Michigan State’s campus. We kept it simple — iced with whole milk and sugar — and let the coffee do the  talking.

We took into account overall taste, milk-to-coffee ratio and price. As a disclaimer, Brueggers and Biggby did not offer whole milk, so we had to use two creams for each. Starbucks didn’t have sugar, so instead we had simple syrup.

As a staff, we preferred sweet coffee to acidic coffee, which is a main reason why the rankings fell the way they did. We also acknowledge that many of these restaurants have better specialty drinks, and encourage everyone to try each of these shops before making a judgement.

From sour acidic tastes to sweet smooth flavor, here’s what the staff thought of the drinks.

The bottom of the barrel

Sixth place (tie) — Blue Owl and Brueggers

Blue Owl’s coffee was the biggest letdown. With only three locations, this local coffee shop is typically bustling with students. The decor and vibes of the place definitely make up for the poor-tasting iced coffee. 

The coffee had an acidic taste which left a bad flavor in our mouths. The milk-to-coffee ratio was less than any other coffee we tasted. More sugar could’ve assisted the flavor profile.

If you do end up going to Blue Owl, we recommend a specialty drink — lattes, mochas, etc. — for better luck. 

Bruegger's is known for its deli bagels, egg sandwiches and breakfast treats. What they, fortunately, aren’t known for is their coffee. 

Bruegger's coffee was plain. That’s it. They didn’t offer milk which also may have hindered the taste, but the coffee itself was overly acidic and stuck to the back of your throat long after the first sip. 

Certainly a great place if you like your coffee hearty, but for our staff, it was too bold.

Price: $2.02 for Blue Owls, $2.69 for Brueggers

Final Rating: 1.75/10

Fifth place — Foster Coffee Company

Foster Coffee Company is perfect for college students with plenty of areas for studying right on Albert Street. However, their coffee didn’t live up to the hype.

Foster wasn’t bad per se. The coffee was just the right amount of bold, and it had the best color from the whole milk and sugar. However, the coffee was … bland. It lacked the flavor that the four coffees below seem to hold. 

Foster was obviously a step ahead of our bottom two, but paled in comparison to our top four.

Price: $2.39

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Final Ranking: 2.25/10


Not the best, but not the worst

Fourth place — Campbell’s

We had high hopes for Campbell’s — from their cute houseplant display to their convenient sandwich bar, their market often serves as an escape from the hustle and bustle of East Lansing’s downtown area. 

But their iced coffee just didn’t live up to our expectations. 

Somewhat bland and fairly acidic, this certainly wasn’t the worst of the local picks — but it’s likely not something that we would actively seek out unless we were already on that side of Division Street or were looking to save some money compared to the nearby Starbucks.

However, this somewhat poor coffee showing won’t stop us from frequenting the kombucha-carrying corner store for their other offerings.

Price: $2.64

Final Rating: 2.75/10

Third place — Starbucks

Starbucks’ coffee itself was very average.

With the cost of an iced coffee being as expensive as it is, it definitely is not worth the price; Our top two are a better and cheaper option. The wait was also longer than any other shop due to staffing shortages. 

Nothing too shocking about the coffee. It had a good ratio of milk, sugar and coffee. The coffee wasn’t bitter or sweet but instead neutral. You can finish this coffee, no problem, but you may not go out of your way to buy it again.

Price: $3.45

Final Rating: 5.5/10


The Top Two

Second place — Biggby

Biggby coffee has long been a comfort pick for students. With great pastries and specialty drinks for any season, we had high hopes for their basic iced coffee — and our expectations were pretty much met. 

As fans of sweeter, less bitter coffee, we were more than happy with the simplicity of this order — and at that price, it’s tough to beat.

It’s important to note that Biggby lost to our top coffee by only .25 points, so this chain shop is truly reliable for coffee needs.

Price: $2.22

Final Rating: 7.75/10

First place — Dunkin

We hate that a chain coffee shop won. We acknowledge that our top three are all chain coffee shops, and we deliberated for a while to make sure this was how we felt. 

But Dunkin’s coffee outranked all other coffees we tasted.

Dunkin’s coffee was less on the bold side, with a sweeter, smoother taste that was light on the tongue. The milk-to-coffee ratio was perfect, the price was reasonable for the amount of coffee we received and Dunkin’s coffee was refreshing.

Dunkin had everything we wanted in a coffee: reliable, cost-efficient and perfect for that midterm pick-me-up.

Price: $2.50

Final Rating: 8/10

This story is a part of our Fall Housing Guide. View the full issue here.


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