A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Starbucks letting me know that their Android app was about to get a refresh.
This was good news, because for months now the iOS app has provided users the ability to tip right from inside the app. Since I never carry cash, I almost never leave tips—something I’d be more than happy to do.
The new version of the app was made available a couple of days ago, but today was the first time I’ve made it to a store to test out the tipping function.
The app has a beautiful new UI, which I checked out right away after updating to the new version.
Onboarding inside the app was easy and intuitive. The email a couple of weeks ago had warned that you’d need your password handy upon updating as login would be required. No problem for me, as I’ve been in the habit of reloading from inside the app, which (thankfully) requires the password anyway.
I immediately looked around for the tipping function, but couldn’t find it. It occurred to me after a few minutes of poking around that perhaps it wouldn’t make sense to “tip” until you “pay.”
So today I visited one of my local stores and checked out with the app as usual. This time, a notification appeared offering several options for a tip: $.50, $1.00, and a third option that equaled the balance I had on the card (I was close to needing to reload, so it was under $2). The notification also prompted me that tipping would be available until a time that worked out to be 2 hours after my transaction.
So, I tapped $1 and saw the following:
As you can see, the app also allows you to modify your tip if you accidentally bumped the wrong amount. Nice touch!
All in all, I’m very happy with the new app, although I was a bit wary of the new permissions required. Thankfully, I’m using cyanogenmod, so I have the ability to block permissions at a much more granular level, thanks to Privacy Guard. I’ll take a closer look at those shortly.
One other pleasant surprise, for the first time, updating the Starbucks app didn’t cause the “Default Card” setting in my account to get goofed up. That was a mildly irritating “feature” of virtually every other previous version of the app.
A while back, my treasured Starbucks “Barista” Burr Grinder suffered a nasty fall. It’s a long story. Not my best day.
The grinder itself was just fine, but the coffee bean hopper that sits atop the grinder didn’t fare so well. The “business end” of the hopper was ruined. I call it the business end because without the hopper installed, the grinder won’t run for safety reasons. It also is used to set the coarseness of your grind.
Locating a New Hopper
This should be no problem, right? I’ll just search Google for “starbucks barista grinder hopper” right?
It turns out that Starbucks has sold a few different private label grinders wearing the “Barista” moniker. There were a number of results in Google that made me think I’d have no problem finding parts for my grinder. Unfortunately, though, it became clear pretty quickly from the photos on the sites that my grinder wasn’t the one they were selling parts for.
In the end, I turned the grinder over and located this sticker, which told me that I have the “EL 60” burr grinder specifically.
While that was nice for informational purposes, it didn’t seem to be much help online when hunting for parts.
Ultimately, I decided that my grinder was manufactured by Solis, a Swiss company which offers this model which appears (from the photo, anyway) to be identical to mine. Other searches revealed that my grinder had been sold as the “Solis 166” at one time.
Nice to know, but no parts.
After a few more rounds of Google searching, I decided that it might be worthwhile to contact Baratza, which appears to make (or at least import) the successor models to the EL 60—both for Starbucks’ “Barista” line and otherwise.
Prior to purchasing the replacement hopper from the Baratza website, I contacted their support department by filling out a form on their website.
I was very impressed with the great service I received—especially since I was only planning to spend $10 on the hopper (or, as it turned out, $14 including the lid). After inquiring as to whether or not they sold the replacement hopper I needed, I received the following via email:
Our hopper does not fit right onto the Barista. However, I did have one crafty customer modify one of our hoppers, he made a guide for doing the job. I have the guide attached- sorry it is in two parts, but the customer sent it to me already in PDF form like this.
Pierce Jens Baratza Email Support
The PDFs that were attached were somewhat helpful, but unclear in some ways, so I decided to create this post as a way to “upgrade” the available information about how to make the Baratza hopper work on the Barista EL60 / Solis 166 grinder.
I ordered the grinder right away, and added the lid as well. I had a suspicion my lid (which was intact) would fit, but I could see that the Baratza hopper was kind-of a “smoke” color, whereas mine was clear. For $4, why not get the matching lid?
Opening the package, I decided the grinders Baratza sells today indeed must share some common ancestry with my grinder, as the hoppers are exactly the same diameter at the point where they come to rest on top of the grinder.
However, the “notches” that allow the hopper to adjust the grind—not to mention get “seated” properly in place—are not where they need to be on the Baratza replacement hopper.
So… I reviewed the modifications made by the generous and helpful person who created the PDFs that Baratza sent me, and went for it.
How I Modified the Baratza Hopper to Work in My Barista Grinder
The guides Baratza sent referenced a “rotary tool” which the customer apparently used to grind new notches in the Baratza hopper to make it fit. I’m guessing it was a Dremel tool of some sort, which I don’t have.
So I read and re-read the guides and decided that an super-sharp razor blade just might do the trick.
WARNING: Razor blades are incredibly dangerous. Seriously… use every possible precaution to avoid injury if you try this. Clear the area of any bystanders or spectators, and proceed at your own risk.
I started with 2 vertical cuts on the side that didn’t have anything in the way, as shown below. By cutting straight down, no body parts were in the “line of fire” (so to speak) in the event that the razor blade were to slip.
I was quite pleasantly surprised at how easily my sharp razor blade cut through the plastic hopper. If I got a little stuck, it just took a little forward or backward motion (not enough that I’d refer to it as “sawing”) to make progress.
I took my time, and when I had two nice vertical cuts, I very carefully made a horizontal one to finish out my notch.
Once that first notch was cut, I turned the hopper around and tried to discover what needed to happen on the other side. From what I could see, my hopper was slightly different from the one pictured in the guides I received. In my case, there was a “tab” that ran all the way to the “top” (when sitting upside down as it was when I was working on it) of the hopper rim. After some tinkering, I decided that at least part of it (enough to match the height of my other notch) needed to be removed. I decided not to remove all of it because it seemed like it may have had some purpose. Honestly, I’m not sure.
Again, the razor blade really seemed like the ideal tool for the job. I worked veryslowly and kept body parts out of the way in case of slippage.
Once that was done, I cut a notch in the “rim” of the hopper just like the first one.
With both notches cut, I did a little comparison to even things out a bit, and ultimately cut both notches a bit “taller” than I had done originally. Once they seemed to match, I installed the hopper onto the grinder…
The new hopper now works just as the original one did. By rotating the hopper, the grind can be adjusted from “coarse” (with the little tab above the french press as shown in the photo above) to “fine” just as before.
And… as before, the safety cutoff switch is activated properly only when the hopper is properly installed and rotated far enough to be “locked” into place.
Thank You to Baratza and the Unknown Crafty Customer
I wouldn’t have attempted this mod if it weren’t for the fantastic service from Baratza (thank you, Pierce!) and the anonymous Baratza customer who blazed the trail and wrote up the guide to the modification he or she made.
Hopefully, this guide is helpful to you. If I can answer any questions, I’ll do my best! Just add a comment below.
With this nifty mod, I plan to enjoy my Starbucks Barista EL60 grinder for many more years. It has truly been the best grinder I’ve ever owned! And… next time I need one, I’ll be buying a grinder directly from Baratza.
Is your laptop absolutely crawling? Can you drive to Starbucks, buy coffee beans, come home and grind them, boil water, dump everything in your French press, wait 4 minutes for it to steep, pour your freshly-brewed cup of coffee into a mug and still get back to your desk in the time it takes your machine to reboot?
That’s where I was earlier this week. And tired of it!
So let’s just say I’m not running a high-end laptop here. Mine is squarely in the middle of the road.
It was perfectly usable 2 years ago when I bought it, but I made it out of my local Best Buy with $20 left of my $500 budget at the time. (I decided a long time ago that laptops are almost disposable, so I refuse to pay big bucks for them.)
But 2 years of updates to Windows 7 (which I love, by the way… another reason why I don’t want to buy a new one yet), 2 years of installing various bits of software, a really bad habit of having 50-60 Chrome tabs open at once, and a tendency to run Photoshop or InDesign (or both) all adds up to a really terrible user experience.
I’d already maxed out the RAM… I did that about 6 months after I bought it.
So… what was left to do?
Well… SSD envy set in about a year ago when I bought my wife an HP Ultrabook. She gets a higher laptop budget because she replaces them less often, and she doesn’t subject them to all the abuse of travel nearly as often as I do. Oh… and she likes them light and thin. And boy is hers ever light and thin! But it’s also blazingly fast. I’m talking… Windows 7 reboots completely in under 10 seconds. Forget that cup of coffee and keep working!
One of the reasons the thing is so darn fast is because of the Solid State Drive (SSD) that was installed from the factory. SSDs, if you aren’t already aware, are much faster than traditional hard drives because they have no moving parts. That’s right, no motors or spindles… just pure NAND flash memory (usually), and lots and lots of speed.
So… I began scheming back then about when (and how) I could get an SSD into my laptop. But the problem is that I do have much more significant storage needs. My laptop has a 500GB drive, and I keep it nearly full with stuff. Could I be more diligent and picky about what stays on my hard drive? Sure. But that takes time. Plus, I’m always of the opinion that I’d rather have that obscure file with me when I’m traveling because of the one time I get somewhere and need something that other people would’ve left on an external drive back home.
Why is that a problem for SSDs? Well… they don’t tend to do so well with higher capacities. And they’re expensive — quite unreasonably so when it comes to the higher capacities. In fact, had I been looking at a 500GB (or bigger) SSD, I’d have been back in the “that costs more than a new machine” zone.
So a few months ago I ran across this nifty idea. Some manufacturers had begun to produce “SSD Caddies” that take the place of an optical (DVD or CD-ROM) drive in a laptop. The idea is that you yank the DVD drive that came with your laptop and drop an SSD into one of these caddies and stick it in your machine instead.
Hmmmmm…. but I use that DVD drive, don’t I?
I decided to find out. When I’d gone more than 30 days without even opening it, I realized that the idea that I needed one was actually legitimately outdated.
So I waited for the right moment… in my case, it was an afternoon of waiting, waiting, waiting for some file to open while something else was running and my physical memory usage was up over 90% and 10 minutes of staring at the dumb blue blinking LED that represents hard drive activity had passed without the light ever flickering (because it was on solid from activity)… annnnnnnnd, I’d had enough.
I took the plunge, ordered the parts, and began the long, drawn-out process of waiting 2 business days for shipping. (Sad, I know.)
What Do You Need?
Well first, you’ll need an SSD caddy that matches your machine. At first, I searched for one that was clearly advertised as made for my particular laptop (using the manufacturer name and model number of my laptop). That seemed like a good idea. Price? Around $45 from some unknown online vendor.
Hmmmm…. I wonder…. is this laptop really all that unique?
So, I did some more digging around and found SilverStone Technology. They seem to make a handful of these unusual gadgets, and in my research, the TS09 model seemed like a good fit for my laptop (even though no specific laptops were mentioned).
To make sure it would work, I located the proper method for removing my ODD (optical disk drive), just to do some quick measurements.
For my Gateway NV57H44u, the optical drive (DVD writer, in this case) is held in place by a single screw which is located to the right of the Windows 7 COA label and Gateway info sticker.
I few twists with a screwdriver (while the machine was turned off, power supply disconnected and battery removed, of course), and the optical drive came free. I tugged on it to get it out, and checked it with a ruler. It was, in fact, a 12.7mm height drive. This is something of a “standard” size, although you’ll want to confirm with your manufacturer regarding the specs for your device (or just measure like I did).
The next thing I wanted to verify was that the optical drive that shipped with my laptop was using a typical “slimline” SATA connector (shown in photo). This is how the device gets power and how it communicates with your system. It was, so the TS09 looked like it might be the right fit. At less than half the price ($20 from Amazon) of the other caddy I’d looked at, this was feeling more and more like the right way to go.
The next big question: which SSD to get?
Well, this is where I’d done my homework. After lots of research, I had decided on the Samsung 840 series. The problem you may run into is that there are at least 3 different types of drives bearing that moniker: the 840, the 840 EVO, and the 840 PRO.
These drives are significantly different. Sure, they all look nearly identical, and they all have “840” in the name. Frankly, they’re all fairly reputable as well.
The next decision I had to make was about capacity… which, frankly, is all about how much you want to spend. I’d already decided that since my SSD was a new, second hard drive (and I was keeping my original 500GB drive for storage), I could live with having only 128GB on it. This is plenty for me to install Windows 7 and a few core applications that I need to run speedily (Google Chrome, the Adobe Creative Suite apps like Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, etc.) and Microsoft Office. All my data would stay on the traditional hard drive that shipped with my laptop.
Now… you can find 128GB SSDs for less. I’m guessing that even the 840 EVO (120GB) or standard 840 would be decent choices. I was willing to spend a little more for the PRO because I just don’t like to gamble with hard drives. Any of them can (and do) fail, so there are certainly no guarantees, but I prefer to give myself the best chances right out of the gate. Also, the PRO model’s additional speed was important to me, since speed was the whole reason to take this project on to begin with.
So you need an SSD and a caddy. That’s it!
Well… at least that’s it for hardware.
Unboxing the 840 PRO was a breeze. It dropped into the TS09 caddy, no problem. The trickiest part was deciding which of the screws to use to cinch it down to the caddy, which shipped with a couple of different sets for you to use. You can’t goof this part up, though, since the screws either fit or they don’t.
Once the drive was secured to the caddy, it only remained to insert the caddy into the laptop. One detail that could easily be missed is that the retaining screw (remember the screw that I removed earlier to loosen the optical drive?) has to screw into something. On my optical drive, there was a small metal bracket which received the screw and held it in place. I removed that bracket from the optical drive (it’s obviously a separate piece) and attached it to the same spot on the caddy, which had a hole in just the right place for it.
Once inserted, I fired up the laptop to make sure that everything was working. I saw a very satisfying green and blue color emanating from the new SSD’s LEDs, which shone through the well-placed hole in the caddy.
OK, Everything’s Installed… Now What?
Well… this is where you have some options about how to proceed.
To get the maximum benefit out of your SSD, you’re going to want it to be your primary drive… meaning the one that Windows (or your O/S of choice) is installed on.
There are two major ways to make this happen: migration or clean install.
If you choose to migrate, you’ll essentially be moving your current Windows installation from your existing hard drive over to your SSD. There are a few advantages to this:
It’s easier (in theory, at least)… the 840 PRO series ships with migration software designed to make this happen for you. (Ironically, it ships on a CD. So, if you’re adding the SSD to your system instead of replacing your primary hard drive with it, you’ll need to plug your optical drive back in to use it.)
You keep your current Windows setup completely intact. This means you don’t need to re-install any software, locate drivers, find product keys, installation files, etc. You’ll also keep your all-too familiar configuration… simple things like desktop backgrounds, sound “themes” and even locations of files will (most likely) all stay exactly the same as before.
You may find that you’re up and running faster. Once you complete the migration, you reboot, and you’re in business. No need to install every Windows update since the beginning of time… and so on.
On the down side, migration:
keeps all the crud that’s built up over time in your Windows installation. Software that you install and subsequently uninstall leaves traces behind… clogging up your Windows registry and ultimately slowing things down. Admittedly, I’m a power user, so I’m more prone to this sort of thing, but it’s worth a consideration. If you have only installed a few pieces of software, this is a non-issue. But if you’re like me and you’ve forgotten about more software than you remember, then those small effects can really add up.
may not work! If you’re moving from a 500GB hard drive (that’s nearly full) to a 128GB hard drive, you can do the math. The important things that need to be moved are the boot partition and your O/S itself. However, if you had only one partition on your hard drive—which is how virtually every laptop ships from the manufacturer—and not separate partitions for your O/S and your data, then you’re going to have problems. The migration process may not adequately handle all the details that need to be handled, leaving you with a mess. On the other hand, if you are moving to an SSD with equivalent (or greater) capacity (or if you have a boot partition that’s equivalent or smaller than your new SSD), then you won’t have this consideration to worry about.
Besides migration, your other option is to perform a clean install of Windows. This means that you’ll be starting fresh… possibly even enjoying that OOBE (“out of box experience”) like you did on day 1 with your PC all over again.
Some of the advantages to a clean install are:
You’ll have a clean slate. Only software that you choose to install will be installed. Often, this single factor alone can produce enough of a speed boost that people will do it even without moving to a faster hard drive.
You can map out your new configuration as you see fit. Where will your “My Documents” folder be located? (i.e. Which drive will it live on?) Which programs do you want installed on the SSD (because you particularly need them to run faster) and which ones can stay on your legacy hard drive?
Keeping your SSD clutter-free. I personally don’t want to store data and other static files unnecessarily on the SSD. It’s intended to be lean, fast, and unencumbered. My older hard drive can shoulder the load for storage and so forth.
Disadvantages to a clean install include:
It can be a pain to do. Ever tried installing Windows 7 to a laptop without a Windows 7 installation CD/DVD? Even more fun… without a place to put the CD/DVD (since you yanked your DVD drive out to make room for your SSD)! A little extra effort (and perhaps some downright creativity) is required to pull this off.
You may be out of commission longer. Nothing will be installed on your laptop until you install it. This means you’ll start with the essentials (Windows, Chrome, and your most-used software), and then you may find yourself discovering another missing item weeks afterward.
Once you’re up and running, additional energy may be required to get everything back to where you like it.
For me, the decision between a migration and a clean install was a complete no-brainer: hands-down, I wanted a clean install. I was looking to squeeze every possible ounce of benefit (read: speed) out of this project. There’s no better way to pull that off than to start fresh with Windows. Being the extremist that I am (at times), I wanted to even be sure I avoided any of the bloatware that Gateway originally installed on my machine. So… I chose to not even bother trying to use the “recovery” partition. Instead, I went on the hunt for an official Microsoft image of Windows 7 to install.
Being a geek, I’ve performed many a clean install of Windows. Even so, it had been a while… so, I made a couple of blunders that cost me a little bit of time. Here are some notes so you can perhaps avoid running into any problems yourself.
Prepare your Windows installer ahead of time. Before you take the big plunge and render your existing setup inoperable, do yourself a favor and get everything ready. It’s a long story, but I ended up needing to use another computer to do this. Chances are, you don’t have a Windows CD or DVD to install from, since most manufacturers quit distributing them long ago. So, you’ll have to work around this dilemma, which means you’re going to need a 4GB or larger USB flash drive, and you’ll also need to…
Understand which version of Windows you have. If you bought your PC at retail, then you have the “OEM” version of Windows. That product key on the colorful COA sticker on the bottom of your laptop won’t work if you try to install the “retail” version of Windows. You also need to know if you’re using the 32-bit or 64-bit version. Once you figure out which one you have (mine worked out to be “Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium OEM”), you’ll need to download an .ISO file (DVD image) for that version. There are lots of places to look for these… some of them legitimate (read: legal) and some of them less so. To save time and energy, I located a version that included SP1 (“Service Pack 1”), which had a huge batch of the earliest Windows 7 updates rolled up into it already.
Create a bootable USB drive with your Windows installer on it. Once you’ve located and downloaded an appropriate .ISO file, you can use Microsoft’s official Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool (more info about this here) to push the Windows 7 installer to your USB flash drive. (Note: I had a little trouble with this tool… in fact, it never did completely finish without an error. But I finally realized that if the tool made it to 98% before the error occurred, then chances are it actually had finished. This turned out to be true.)
Before you get started installing, download all the drivers for your machine. Hit your laptop manufacturer’s website and locate the downloads for your model number. You’re going to need (at least): the chipset driver, video driver, audio driver, and network drivers for both LAN and wireless. You may also need to get drivers for your touchpad, webcam, card reader, bluetooth device and maybe some other peripherals in your system. That last batch can be downloaded from your new, fresh Windows install if necessary. But you’ll want the first batch in a folder on your USB stick so they’ll be handy when Windows comes up for the first time.
Block off some time and be ready to reboot quite a few times. The actual Windows 7 installation went pretty quickly for me… maybe even under an hour. Once you have your basic driver set installed, however, Windows 7 will start pulling down updates. They number into the hundreds… and that’s when you start from SP1! Some of your drivers will even require a reboot upon installation, which is a good idea.
Get your other software installation media ready to go as well. If you need to install other programs (such as Microsoft Office apps) from a CD, it’s a good idea to get those installers onto your USB stick ahead of time also. Many, many programs can be downloaded, so if you aren’t able to locate discs, it may not be the end of the world.
Once you’ve got your tools in place, then plug that USB stick in and go!
My laptop had no problem booting from the USB flash drive, and when the Windows 7 installer came up, it was pretty clear which drive I wanted to target for the installation. Be careful to select the right drive, though, as choosing the wrong option from the installer could end up wiping your existing hard drive. I plan to keep all the data on that drive (eventually I’ll delete the Windows folder, I guess), especially at first, so I made sure that Windows 7 got installed to my brand new SSD.
Once the Windows 7 installer reaches the point where it needs to reboot, you may want to take a look at your BIOS or “Boot Order” settings. My machine’s BIOS didn’t recognize the SSD as a hard drive in the boot sequence options, which led to a moment of panic. It did, however, still show the option of booting from the CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive, which I realized pointed to the SATA channel that the SSD was connected to. So, I set the machine up to boot from that first (once I was finished with the USB flash drive portion of the process), and it worked like a charm.
As the installation process completes and a reboot is necessary, you may see an option to select from a couple of different Windows 7 installations at boot-up. The “top” option will be your new one. In my case, I can still boot to the previous Windows 7 install (from my legacy hard drive) using the 2nd option. This is nice for when you need to locate that one setting (piece of software, etc.) you forgot about. Later, you can remove the 2nd entry if you want to eliminate this step in the boot process.
I’ve now had a couple of days to enjoy using my machine since installing the SSD and getting a clean install of Windows 7 going. Wow, what a difference! I’m certainly seeing all the speed benefits I was hoping for. All the waiting from hard drive lag is gone. Reads and writes to the drive are pretty much invisible to me now. The machine boots up in a fraction of the time that it used to take. Some of the more hard-drive heavy software tools I use regularly (Photoshop, etc.) are faster than I’ve ever seen them on my own hardware.
An unexpected benefit that I’m seeing is a reduction in both heat and noise. The machine is quieter than ever… partly because the 2nd hard drive (meaning my legacy hard drive, which is now exclusively for storage) doesn’t have the constant read/write activity that made it noisy and caused it to get hot. In turn, with less heat in the chassis, the fan is running a lot less often. Those two combine to make this the quietest laptop I’ve ever owned.
Regarding battery life, I had expected it might suffer with the two hard drives. However, the power consumption of my SSD is virtually nil when compared to the legacy hard drive. Since the SSD is my boot drive (and my Windows drive), the reads and writes to the legacy drive are cut by 90% or more. Thus, I’m expecting to see a nice bump in battery life. I haven’t done any actual measurement of this yet, so I lack the evidence to make this claim unequivocally, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this bears out after some real testing.
In short, this is the best ~$150 I’ve ever spent upgrading a laptop. There is truly no comparison between the “after” and the “before.” I highly recommend it.
Even factoring in all the time I’ve spent… whether checking prices and doing my pre-planning or actually installing the gear and/or Windows and the accompanying joys of getting everything back up and running, this is well worth the effort. My payoff in terms of speed, responsiveness, and overall usability are beyond my wildest expectations.
In short: if you’re suffering from a slow laptop, add an SSD via a caddy and get yourself a major speed boost!
Those who know me well — and shoot… even those who read this blog! — know that I’m a Starbucks fan. I carry the Gold card, I’ve unlocked the Foursquare “Barista Badge,” and I’ve had Starbucks almond cappuccinos on multiple continents.
However… in the famous revamping of 2008, Starbucks ditched a few of my favorite things. Some of them hit a little closer to home than others. The loss of the Bearista left me with one less source for cute little stuffed animals to bring home to my wife and daughter. That hurt. Thankfully, the Bearista is back this fall.
What hurt even worse, however, and what is not back… is Starbucks almond syrup. My eulogy to this personal favorite continues to bring visitors from all over the world to this site.
Starbucks has a consistent product… all over the world. That makes it worth counting on… no matter where you are.
However, since the demise of their almond syrup, I’ve taken to checking out local, independent coffee shops to see what treasures I might discover — especially here in Sarasota, Florida. Consequently, I’ve found that there are some places around town that produce some fantastic products. LeLu Coffee Lounge on Siesta Key is one such place. In fact, they make a mocha using genuine Ghirardelli syrup that makes my wife melt. +1 for LeLu!
But just yesterday I believe I may have discovered Nirvana. No… not the Kurt Cobain-fronted grunge band from the 90s. But the real deal… the ultimate almond Cappuccino. And it doesn’t smell like Teen Spirit!
Locals here in Sarasota may recall the name, “The Beanz Man.” We knew it as a dealer of a wide variety of personal and professional espresso machines. When their shop disappeared from North Washington Boulevard, I thought perhaps it was another casualty of the economic times, so to speak.
Turns out, they suffered a devastating fire. I don’t know the details, but apparently it forced them to relocate and start over. Imagine my surprise when I spotted their vans parked in the parking lot next door to my office on Bee Ridge Road a few months ago!
Well… not only did they move… but last week they opened a full-fledged cafe! They serve a variety of sandwiches and soups. I walked over to it for lunch yesterday with my wonderful wife, Jill, and had a prosciutto and fontina sandwich that was spectacular.
But… what do you get when you take an espresso machine dealer… one who probably knows the ins and outs of making espresso-based drinks as well as anyone else… and put him in his very own cafe?
You get the handmade cappuccino of your life… with the perfect amount of almond syrup to boot! (At least… that’s what you get if you’re me! You might order something else… that, I recognize. But that would be your loss.)
Actually… I’m sure that any espresso-based drink you could possibly dream up would be amazing at The Beanz Man Espresso Bar Cafe. Here’s a sure thing: I’ll be walking next door more often… a lot more often. Check out the cafe page on their website to download yourself a coupon, then head on over there yourself. Enjoy something to munch on at one of their nifty little cafe tables, or sink down into the cozy couch and fire up your favorite wi-fi device to do some surfing.
**Latest Update** It looks like Starbucks Almond Syrup is truly gone for good. The Fontana choice was good for a while, but it’s no longer on the market either. I’ve tried the Torani Orgeat Syrup, and it’s pretty good…. plus it’s in Amazon Prime, so… free shipping, right?!
**Update #3** Thanks to our reader Joyce, I did a little checking around and it looks like this Fontana Almond Syrup is the very stuff that Starbucks uses (Fontana is evidently manufactured for Starbucks) You can still purchase the Almond variety in a 4-pack.
The Torani syrup we mentioned in a previous update is also delicious, but not quite the same flavor as the Starbucks / Fontana syrup. Even the bottle on the Fontana syrup is an exact match!
**Update #2** All my Sarasota readers: you can get almond cappuccino and syrup fromThe Beanz ManEspresso Bar Cafe on Bee Ridge Road (just west of Shade). Tell ’em I sent ya! sells and services fantastic coffee equipment (especially for commercial purposes), but no longer has a coffee shop. 🙁
*Update 1* I’ve been told that this Torani Orgeat Syrupis the exact product that Starbucks used to sell with its own label (turns out the Fontana syrups are manufactured for Starbucks… see the update above). You can grab it up inexpensively from Amazon and use it in your homemade beverages. Alas, since I don’t make espresso-based drinks at home, this doesn’t help me.
Those who know me know that I’m an enormous fan of coffee. In fact, I have a book project that I’ve been dabbling with for a while that deals with coffee as a source of inspiration. It will eventually be finished. Watch for it. 🙂
As a true coffee connoisseur, I drink my daily brew black, freshly ground (in a burr grinder for consistency), and brewed (by the cup) in my french press. OK, I admit it. I’m a bit of a coffee snob. I certainly don’t mean that I look down on those who drink, say, robusta beans. It’s just that I personally have a well-developed palette where it comes to fine coffees.
OK, back to my point: I have one guilty pleasure, as it were, where it comes to flavored coffee beverages. I know, I know… real connoisseurs don’t use any flavoring. But, years ago an astute barista who was a personal friend of mine made me an almond cappuccino.
Now, I’m not going to say that the skies parted, light shone, angels sang, and that I was enraptured by a glorious ecstasy as I partook… but it was close. Thanks, Mike, wherever you are.
Since then, I’ve been an addict. When Starbucks finally entered the Florida market, I quickly made the Grande Almond Cappuccino my beverage of choice… when in the mood for something other than a bold drip or a doppio.
I’ve partaken of this particular beverage all over the United States in Starbucks locations and even as far away as Singapore. I love it. It is truly a pleasurable experience that I enjoy.
So, imagine my dismay when the baristas at my local Starbucks announced that the almond syrup was being phased out. First, their ability to ring the drink up properly was taken away by a software update to their POS system. Now, they’ve actually told me that the syrup is gone. Some locations still have some, but almond—as a flavoring syrup at Starbucks—is basically dead.
I don’t spend enough at Starbucks to have the clout to pressure them to bring it back (despite whatever my wife may think about my Starbucks budget), so I’m not planning to mount any major campaign to boycott or ask people to join me. However, I am truly saddened by the loss. Most people stick with vanilla or hazelnut or one of the more popular syrups, I know. But they simply don’t know what they’re missing.
So… I bid the Starbucks almond syrup a fond farewell. And yes, every time I’m in a small private coffee shop (which I’ll admit I’ll be on the lookout for now more than ever), I’ll be forced to inquire… just in case they have some.