Help a beginner get into coffee
September 7, 2022 3:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to get the "acquired" taste for coffee. I've always loved the smell of coffee; it makes my mouth water. It's the taste that seems to be incongruent. I've tried a few times before to get into it. I have been told by a specific embarrassing type of doctor that it would be a positive alternative to coke zero. It would also be advantageous when drank moderately. What are your thoughts on how to move forward. Bonus points for specificly what to order for Dunkin Donuts, or even Starbucks, though Dunks is more available. Thank you in advance
posted by I_count_crows to Food & Drink (57 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I say pish-posh to the idea of forcing oneself to like something. How do you feel about yerba mate or rooibos or some other tea?
posted by dum spiro spero at 3:32 PM on September 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Is it burnt, bitter or sour taste that bothers you? Or something else?

I’d maybe try the coffee varieties at a nicer gas station. It’s easier to see what’s going on there because all the pots or dispensers are labeled and right in front of you. If you’re comfortable, you could sample a few in the same visit.
posted by michaelh at 3:33 PM on September 7, 2022

Best answer: My entry into coffee was regular brewed coffee with plenty of sugar and cream. From there it was simply the process of me getting tired of all of the sugar and cream, and working my way down to black coffee. Donuts to dip into the black coffee was a big help when I made the final transition.
posted by Stuka at 3:36 PM on September 7, 2022 [17 favorites]

I like a latte, unsweetened, with a dash of cream. It's hot steamed milk with some espresso in it. You can get whatever kind of milk you like (cow, oat, etc). I think it's a way to ease into the taste of coffee by diluting it with something creamy. For starters you can ask for it with a shot of drip coffee instead of espresso (drip coffee has a milder flavour) - some fancy coffeeshops won't have drip coffee, but Starbucks type places do.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:37 PM on September 7, 2022

I'm embarrassed to admit that my gateway to coffee was bottled Starbucks Frappuccinos, which were free in the college dining hall. The milk and sugar (so much sugar) was enough to overcome the bitter tones of actual coffee. I went through so many of those during organic chemistry....

After I graduated and lost my ready supply, I moved to the nearest thing, cafe con leche from the corner cart near my apartment. And then making it at home, gradually less white and less sweet. I now drink black, with two Biscoff, but if I'm feeling indulgent I'll splash in some half-and-half.
posted by basalganglia at 3:40 PM on September 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

Add stevia or whatever sweetener's in coke zero, to which you are already accustomed. Try cream, half&half or milk. Coffee has some health benefits because of caffeine and because it has antioxidants. The starbucks coffee drinks are full of sugar, which at those levels is a bad idea.
posted by theora55 at 3:40 PM on September 7, 2022

I didn't like it until I started adding a couple of teaspoons of sugar to a mug. I then gradually weaned myself off the sugar until I enjoyed the coffee without any at all.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:45 PM on September 7, 2022

You need the association. Have it on a relaxing morning with a nice view.
Do this five times you’ll suddenly like it.
(This is similar method to how I fell in love with blue cheese!)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:47 PM on September 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

What to order: you can hardly go wrong with "a small drip coffee."

At dunkie's they'll ask if you want milk, you can say "just a little" and they'll add half a squirt of milk, which imho is just right.

At starbucks they might ask "room for cream?" and you always say yes, so that there is (obvs.) room for milk, or if you find you like it black, room to prevent the slosh-over.

Don't be distracted/waylaid by the circus around espresso and over-sweetened cold drinks. Drip coffee is perfectly heavenly all by itself.
posted by niicholas at 3:54 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I started by drinking flavored lattes (at dunkin, get a hot or cold latte with your choice of milk and your choice of flavoring). Can be hot or cold - just your personal preference.

From there, I eventually started keeping a bottle of flavored supermarket creamer in the fridge at work and adding that to the free company coffee. (Liquid refrigerated creamer is much better than powdered). This sustained me for a long time until I decided that I wanted to trim back my sugar intake.

So I started measuring out my flavored creamer, and then one day, I quit cold turkey. I drink coffee black now, and like black americanos as well. Every once in a while, I'll get a latte, but I need it to be half sweet and sometimes with an extra shot of espresso so there's more coffee and less milk.

If a frappuccino or blended beverage sounds good, then go for it. You can also try coffee ice cream to start acclimating to the flavor.
posted by hydra77 at 3:56 PM on September 7, 2022

Oh, and also, if you like black tea (nothing added), you're halfway to enjoying black coffee - I get some of the same bitter notes from both.
posted by hydra77 at 3:57 PM on September 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Do you know if you like coffee-flavored ice cream, or chocolate-covered espresso beans?
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:00 PM on September 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

> If a frappuccino or blended beverage sounds good, then go for it.

With the caveat that, nutritionally, they're milkshakes. I had them daily one summer, and gained some weight.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:00 PM on September 7, 2022

When I was a kid I asked my parents if I could try coffee and they gave me essentially a mug of milk with a splash of coffee in it. I liked it and started gradually increasing the amount and by middle school I was just drinking a cup of coffee with milk every morning. This really weirded diner waitresses out. High school was when all my friends started trying to drink it, hating it, and asking me for advice; I told them to do the same thing.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:01 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OP here, some helpful suggestions. I do like coffee-flavored ice cream, and have never tried chocolate-covered espresso beans. Maybe I'll try it. I'm looking for something that doesn't affect weight so much, as I am working on that too (related to my issues). I think what turns me off from coffee at this point is that I don't taste a lot of flavor that matches the smell and maybe the bitterness too. Thanks and keep 'em coming!
posted by I_count_crows at 4:12 PM on September 7, 2022

Best answer: Oh one thing you might try is cold brewed coffee, which is NOT just cold coffee - it’s made by soaking the grounds in cold water overnight. It’s notably less bitter than normal coffee, and some people will even brew coffee cold and then heat it up to drink.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:20 PM on September 7, 2022 [22 favorites]

Best answer: So perhaps take a step back. There is coffee in its simplest form - drip coffee, americano (espresso topped with hot water), espresso and perhaps cold brew. They should taste pleasant without much added if they were made from good beans that weren’t burnt during roasting. And people absolutely can add a dash of milk/cream and perhaps a bit of sugar or sweetener if they like. These are the drinks you may derive health benefits from.

Then there are all the coffee drinks. These drinks are basically meal replacements. They include copious amounts of milk and/cream and syrups and whatnot. They often taste like deserts. The reason why I call them meal replacement is because that’s what they are, or should be, considering the amount of calories you consume with one. Because they taste like deserts you my find them easy to get used to. But they are most definitely not what your doctor had in mind.

If I wanted the easiest inroad into coffee I’d start with cold brew. Cold water extracts flavour from ground coffee much more slowly than hot water. That results in a very smooth and much less acidic flavour. I like to add a dash of milk or cream. For a hot coffee, a nice drip coffee tends to be quite smooth and not as strong flavoured as anything espresso based. That’s what I started to drink as a child, very weak drip coffee.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:23 PM on September 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

For acclimation, not to kick off your day: affogato (hot coffee with ice cream), Irish coffee, iced coffee cocktails
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:23 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Do you like iced coffee? I find that cold brew without cream or sugar tastes like what I expect coffee to taste like based on its smell. Be warned that Starbucks makes theirs very strong.
posted by phil at 4:24 PM on September 7, 2022

Starbucks doesn't have to be full of sugar. My regular order is a venti iced latte with 4 pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup. The default milk they use is 2% which does not have added sugar. In the winter I will get this drink hot instead of iced.

I used to get it with soy milk but then found out that the soy milk they use is sweetened. Probably the almond milk and oat milk is has sugar too.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:25 PM on September 7, 2022

Seconding (thirding?) the cold brew suggestion. It's a LOT less bitter than hot drip coffee and I think it tastes a lot more like the beans smell. I go through about one jug of Lucky Jack cold brew concentrate a week — it's definitely the best concentrate you can buy in store. You can also brew some yourself at home, but it's pretty expensive and takes forever.

(Note that, to my eternal distain, a plain Starbucks coldbrew is garbage and tastes like they just put some ice in standard drip coffee.)
posted by TurnKey at 4:27 PM on September 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Lower-carb options at Starbucks (regional variations) and how to order them. Starbucks and other brands have sugar-free flavored syrups and sugar-free flavored creamers for DIY.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:46 PM on September 7, 2022

In the Deep South (US) kids (like me) are brought up on coffee. They start you with something that's basically milk and sugar with a dash of coffee. As you grow up, there's more coffee, less milk, less sugar. The intention is that eventually you'll become a black-coffee-drinking adult-type person, like God intended.

Sadly, many people (like me) stall out at about 3 parts coffee / 1 part cream and 3 teaspoons of sugar, and never quite "launch," coffee-wise. About half of my coffees still have some amount of sugar in them, though the other half of the time I'm fine with just coffee and half & half. It cuts the bitterness of black coffee beautifully.
posted by invincible summer at 4:50 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you have to go to DD, ask for drip coffee black and add your own cream and sugar. I've found that they really load it up even if you say just a little. It's totally OK to add as much cream or sugar as you want, some coffees want more, some less, and people have different tastes that change over time or with familiarity.

But I think if what you want is something close to the smell, you may want to go the espresso route. You can try a straight espresso from a good place like a small coffee shop — I wouldn't do Starbucks or a big chain because they're not trained to pull shots like that and the roasts/blends aren't made with it in mind either.

If that is a little too strong (though espresso can be sweet and aromatic) then do a cappuccino - this is espresso with foamed milk added but not a lot blended in like a latte. It helps cream it up and make it a little more easily palatable.

If you find that a little too milky, ask for a small americano, as small as they can make it, and add a touch of cream and sugar, to taste. This is just hot water and espresso and it's like a drip coffee but with a different flavor profile, plus you can control the strength. If they ask for ounces, ask for 6-8 ounces with a double shot of espresso. You may be able to get this at DD too.

I hope you enjoy it! I got into coffee by accident (my barista friend poured me a drip coffee instead of a mocha) and I enjoy lots of different kinds now, there isn't one most pure or best type, it's how you find the flavors best complement each other in your own opinion.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:51 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Do you have access to non-chain coffee near you? A local roaster. There is a big difference in experience and taste between mass produced coffee and small batch roasting. There really is a ton of variety in the flavors you can get depending on whether you're drinking a blend or a single origin, the region it comes from. With good coffee I really need very, very little sugar (though I still like milk - not cream) with my coffee.
posted by brookeb at 5:04 PM on September 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

If you pass a local coffee shop (but not a huge chain), go in when it's not crazy busy and tell them what you told us: that you want to get into coffee, and you want to capture that amazing aroma.

You might end up with a small latte or flat white, which should ease you into it.

Don't try to be hard core and drink espresso. Add milk instead of the heavier cream. Don't drink too much at once.

And it's OK not to like things!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:18 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You are so right about the smell of coffee being amazingly different (and better) than the taste!

I'll admit I'm a Starbucks fan, but generally not of any of their frappe stuff, and not even all that often their hot espressos. Brewed coffee with half and half is fine with me. But like others here, it took years of drinking it with sugar before I weaned myself off of it (and off of artificial sweeteners as well). If I get coffee at Starbucks too late in the day I want a decaf, and the quickest way to get that is a decaf Americano, which is just a shot or two of espresso with hot water added. If you insist on brewed decaf you'll get a pour-over, which is good but time-consuming.

I do like their cold brew, and other brands of cold brew as well. At home we sometimes do the Dunkin Donuts cold brew we find at a lot of grocers.

There's nothing wrong with setting out to develop a taste for something you don't like right now. My mom always drank her coffee black, but it's rare that I've enjoyed coffee without at least some milk or cream in it. Though there was that time a local Starbucks scored a shipment of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, and people were lined up out the door to get some. Heaven in a bean, but most of it goes to Japan, I understand.
posted by lhauser at 5:26 PM on September 7, 2022

As someone else who likes the smell of coffee but not the taste, the only drinkable (not ice cream) coffee that I’ve come to remotely (occasionally) like is a cold brew with lots of sugar and cream. Weirdly with coffee you can cut out a lot of the sugar for more milk/cream instead. My recommendation would be a cold brew with some sugar and lots of milk/cream and then slowly reduce the amount of milk over time.

That being said, probably doesn’t check your “healthy” category so much that way.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:28 PM on September 7, 2022

I was you and taught myself to like coffee in order to give up the Dew. In terms of coffee shops, I agree with the cold brew suggestion - it's much less bitter.

The other thing that really worked for me is making my own from a light roast, using a Aeropress. This reduces the bitterness significantly, making the coffee taste much more like it smells. It also only takes me about 3 minutes including putting water in the microwave. Now, having acclimated to genuinely enjoy what I make, I can even grin and bear bitter coffee elsewhere.
posted by past unusual at 5:28 PM on September 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

For me, high-quality coffee with whipping cream is the dessert I start my day with (just a pour over, with the same kind of Melita my parents used - though I do have an electric kettle, which is awesome). If your area has any “third wave” coffee shops, the coffee there I may be likelier to be rewarding for its basic coffee-tastes than mass-produced coffees - it’s also a great way to support local (and international!) businesspeople who love what they do! I also agree, as many have said above, that if after some experimentation you still find that coffee isn’t your bag, toss it! There are so many delicious things in the world.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 5:53 PM on September 7, 2022

Best answer: Try a latte or cappuccino in a sit-down coffee shop, not Dunkin or Starbucks. You may or may not need to add a little sugar. Bonus if they serve it in an actual mug and not a paper cup. Work towards a to-go latte. Then a coffee with milk and/or sugar, depending on taste preference.
posted by at 6:01 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Seconding that there's no need to acquire a taste for something so addicting and environmentally questionable. Sure, there's responsibly produced coffee, just like there are rescue pugs -- but another person consuming coffee and pugs, even from a responsible source, ups the demand generally, and that includes demand for less responsibly produced coffee.

I am not dissing on coffee lovers! The cost for an individual cup is probably vanishingly small, and enjoyment -- love and happiness -- are valuable, and give us emotional fuel to fight for good!

But if you don't already like it, find something you _do_ love; give yourself joy without that cost. MeMail me if you want the secret to incredibly wonderful green tea.
posted by amtho at 6:18 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dunks is the best. It's still warm enough for iced coffee. Start with that, iced coffee with milk. They have oat milk now, too! You could also ask for a half sugar (1 sugar will be a generous amount you might want to avoid if this is for health reasons) then wean yourself off the sugar as you start to enjoy the coffee flavor. Come winter, switch to hot coffee if you please, although there are definitely New Englanders who drink DD iced year round. I'd avoid Starbucks - it's coffee is strong and has a burnt undertone I find unpleasant.
posted by emd3737 at 6:43 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

As an Australian, and from Melbourne to boot, I am a massive coffee snob. Every time I visit the US I am shocked at how awful the coffee is. My best advice if you want to enjoy coffee is to under no circumstances get it from Dunkin' or ANYWHERE that has it sitting in one of those awful pots on a hot plate. I think that's what people mean by drip coffee. It is somehow weak on the taste of actual coffee and strong on a nasty bitterness which is no incentive to drink the stuff ever. Cold brew is definitely safer because it won't be burnt (unless they burnt the beans during the roasting process).

But if you are willing to invest in some coffee-making equipment, why not get a small French press and make it yourself? You have more control over how much coffee you put in, how long you let it brew and at what temperature, how much milk you add, etc. My top tip with a French press is to wet the coffee grounds with cold/room temperature water before adding boiling water so that they don't get burnt.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:51 PM on September 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

As someone who tries to keep the carbs down, has never really understood black coffee fandom, is ehh about Starbucks and frequents a nearby Dunkin, I'd say start with an iced coffee with full cream, the sweetener you prefer (I hate stevia in coffee, YMMV), and maybe, if it sounds good, a flavor shot of almond or hazelnut. Flavor shots at Dunkin are sugar free, flavor swirls are not.

(Also, as much as I am ehhh about black coffee and Starbucks, those pumpkin cream cold brew things they do this time of year are somehow absolutely delicious and might also be a suitable gateway.)
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:52 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I tried and failed to like coffee for years, except the occasional mocha latte. I was out an Ethiopian restaurant with a friend who knew the owners, and they sent us tiny cups of black coffee (espresso maybe). It was so good. And that's how I discovered I hate sugar in coffee, not coffee.
posted by sepviva at 7:52 PM on September 7, 2022

I’m a tea drinker and an occasional coffee enjoyer. I get you entirely about the smell and taste disconnect. When my friend was a barista I asked her to help me figure out my standard coffeeshop order, because they always fuck up tea. She suggested I ask for a cappuccino, and explained that the dry/wet preference is one of ratio. A standard (american) cappuccino has equal parts espresso, hot milk, and milk foam. Wet has more milk and less foam, dry has more foam and less milk. I like mine right in the middle because texturally it makes the best drink for me, but also because the mixture of foam and milk at the right ratio seems to aerate the espresso in a way that makes it so the flavor actually tastes the way coffee smells.

Depending on your choices a cappuccino can be pretty healthy-ish. Oat milk these days has come a long way and makes a good foam. You don’t need to put sugar in a cappuccino at all if the espresso is good and the milk isn’t scalded, but you can garnish it with some spices if you like (cardamom is the best.) Because foam is mostly air if you find you prefer a more dry cappuccino you’d be having less of it. And, normally, a cappuccino is a smaller drink and not one of those whipped cream sprinkled monstrosities.

As an in between step or just as a way to enjoy a morning, a coffeeshop that makes a good cappuccino might be a useful thing to find, even if your end intention is to be a black coffee drinker.
posted by Mizu at 8:05 PM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I just want to add a dissenting voice about sweeteners, creamers, and other additives. I thought I hated coffee for years because whenever someone tried to get me to drink it they would stuff it full of not-coffee. A coffee snob friend one day told me to just try it black and and that did turn out to be the secret for me. I love black coffee, but do not love old, stale, or burnt black coffee.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 9:30 PM on September 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Former coffee snob here and I love Dunkin coffee. If you're going for plain coffee go Dunkin. I can see why people don't like it because it is a little... bland, but I find it very well balanced. Not too bitter, not too acidic, no in your face flavors. It's the only retail coffee that I'll drink black. I'd say start out with cream and sugar and then reduce the amount as you become accustomed. I believe for a large the standard is 4 cream and 4 sugar. I'd say forgo any flavors because they end up being harder to break away from if your goal is to drink it black.
posted by simplethings at 12:24 AM on September 8, 2022

Best answer: I'm you! I didn't drink coffee for the first 38 years of my life. I loved the smell but had no interest in the taste. Then I made a conscious decision to start drinking it for its health benefits.

I'm going to respectfully disagree with everybody who suggests adding lots of sweetener. Why force yourself to get used to something and then force yourself to get used to not having it? If you start with unsweetened coffee, you only have to go through the process once.

A few things that helped me:

• I got a good quality home coffee maker. This was obviously an upfront investment but it gave me complete control over the coffee making process so I could more easily experiment. And in the long run, it ended up being a big cost savings over store-bought coffee.

• I tried lots of different coffees from a decent quality independent coffee company. It's amazing how much the taste varies among different coffee varieties and different roasting processes. This let me find specific coffees that I liked the taste of. (Also, once I had made the upfront investment in a coffee maker, this was much cheaper than buying individual cups at Starbucks, and I suspect is a little cheaper even than Dunkin.)

• I added a TON of milk. I've found that milk doesn't just dilute the coffee flavor; it modifies it, making it less bitter and more like the smell. Even now, two years into my coffee-drinking adventure, there is probably more milk in my cup than coffee. This is another reason to make it myself-- baristas just do not understand how much milk I want. (Side note: I think skim milk works just as well as cream for changing the flavor. Cream adds a nice fatty mouthfeel, but I've found that high quality coffee has a nice round mouthfeel even with skim milk. So it might be worth starting with skim or semi-skim rather than cream; as with sugar, there's no point in forcing yourself to get used to something and then forcing yourself to do without it.)

• I got a fancy frother to warm up my milk but you could just as easily warm it up in the microwave.

• Broadly, I treated it like a series of experiments. If one particular combination of coffee and milk didn't work for me, I'd try a different one.
posted by yankeefog at 12:55 AM on September 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

The more fat you add, the more it smooths out the bitterness: cream>half-and-half>whole milk>skim milk. I prefer heavy cream, but I’d say try at least light cream or half-and-half if you’ve previously had just milk.
posted by songs about trains at 4:19 AM on September 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

I love Dunkin coffee and extra love the flavored ones. (Not a fancy coffee drink, but the blueberry flavored coffee, or hazelnut or whatever). I feel like a flavored coffee with milk could be a nice option for you.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:15 AM on September 8, 2022

Best answer: Whatever you do, don't be shamed into thinking you're not drinking "real" coffee if you do find you like it best with cream, sweetener, or flavoring. It's been around four hundred years and there's no way to do it wrong.

Can you get Cafe du Monde on a local specialty store's shelves? It's mixed with chicory, which gives the flavor a little body that's very pleasant and, I think, brings it closer to the scent of the coffee. You may also see other brands mixed with chicory to try. I make mine as a cold brew and mix it with milk with Splenda for a fancy drink that's not as expensive as the store, at 1:4 to 1:2 ratio depending on how strong I want the drink to be.

There's a Cajun saying that you should take coffee "black as the devil and sweet as love," which is how I learned to like black coffee as a teen -- dumping sugar into it. YMMV. It certainly won't transform gas station coffee, but it's a habit. (Also, you personally probably won't care for the basic drip coffee at Starbucks because it is roasted to bitterness.)
posted by Countess Elena at 6:30 AM on September 8, 2022

Best answer: At Starbucks, I'd suggest trying Cold Brew coffee or Iced Coffee.

Cold Brew is prepared by steeping the grounds in cold water.

Iced Coffee is regular coffee (brewed hot), then refregerated. It will be more bitter than Cold Brew and is less expensive. You could order it sweetened, with simple syrup (tastes better, adds some calories).

Iced tea could also be an alternative to diet soda.
posted by bruinfan at 7:41 AM on September 8, 2022

Best answer: Surprised that there aren't many, many more answers here--everyone on the planet has a coffee opinion.

I do coffee at home several different ways, and have tried several more. I'll limit this down to one suggestion that would involve minimum cost/time commitment, to make it more easy to experiment.

Look for one of those Melitta pour-over cones, and buy a little pack of paper filters to fit it. You can buy them mug-size or carafe-sized, for our purposes mug-sized is fine.

Get coffee. Don't go too cheap, okay to go to a local indie coffee shop and buy some, or buy some from the grocery store. (Avoid Starbucks.) Consider buying whole bean and having it ground right there in the coffee shop or in the store, but it's okay just to buy pre-ground, too.

Put the Melitta cone and filter on the mug (or carafe). Put coffee in it. Boil water. Let the water cool just slightly. Pour the water on the coffee. Let the water pool up a bit so that the coffee gets soaked and has a little time to "brew".

Once it drips through, try the black coffee.

If you like it, congratulations, welcome to coffee world. If you don't like it, that's fine, no problem, you didn't spend a lot of time and money finding out.

Or, keep trying with new varieties of coffee if you want to keep experimenting.
posted by gimonca at 7:56 AM on September 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Maybe start with half-caf, too—it’s a lot of caffeine to be taking in if you’re not used to it. More than the cola, I think.
posted by Edna Million at 8:21 AM on September 8, 2022

I would definitely seek out coffee from a local coffee roaster/shop if you can. It will be fresher and the people will be more likely to be able to advise you based on what you say about various kinds of coffee they offer. I would look for something described as "smooth" and/or "rich" accompanied by "full-bodied" to get you that match between coffee aroma and flavor. Maybe add some half-and-half? For me, half-and-half or cream adds richness and makes coffee easier on my stomach without masking flavor. Good luck!
posted by epj at 9:03 AM on September 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

+1 on the recommendation to try a local roaster (at least an independent coffee shop, even if you don't know about their bean roasting.) The coffee will taste appreciably better than any of the focus-grouped brown water at Dunkin' (the name now mentions neither donuts nor coffee, which is important information) or Starbucks.
posted by emelenjr at 9:04 AM on September 8, 2022

You might enjoy this video: "I don't like coffee - can James Hoffman change that?" - it walks the presenter through several different styles/preparation methods and asks him to identify different flavours in the drinks rather than simple like/dislike, and by the end (spoiler) he has found several preparations he enjoys.
posted by parm at 9:33 AM on September 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I used to drink drip coffee, then it started bothering my stomach. I came across a recipe (if you want to call it that) for cold brew in a mason jar and decided to try that. Coffee no longer bothers my stomach. I make mine half caf using a 1:1 mix of regular and decaf grounds. I also found a cold brew maker at a thrift store for a few buck and use that instead of the mason jar.

I drink mine with skim milk and splenda.
posted by kathrynm at 9:43 AM on September 8, 2022

The fact that you like the smell of coffee as well as coffee-flavored ice cream tells me this is not a lost cause. Here is my coffee story:

So, I consider myself a coffee lover and I drink it every morning, but I am fairly picky about what coffee I like. The only regular coffee I like from Starbucks is their blonde roast. Their normal Pike's Peak or whatever tastes burnt to me. I also like their cappuccinos (with their cinnamon and nutmeg and whatever powder sprinkled onto it). I generally prefer the taste of light roasts very much over dark roasts. A lot of coffee shops seem to specialize in dark roasts, to my dismay.

I think most gas station and fast food coffee tastes terrible, with the exception of Wawa's light roast, whatever they call it. That is pretty good.

Also, my coffee must have at least half & half or light cream in it. I don't enjoy black coffee or coffee with some sort of light milk. And I don't like sweetened coffee.

From Starbucks, I'd recommend a cold brew. If you want something hot, try a tall latte or a cappuccino. You could try easing into it with a flavored latte, although that will likely contain a lot of sugar and the flavor syrups completely mask the coffee taste.

From Dunkin, you could order a regular coffee with cream and either 1 or no sugar. I don't love Dunkin's coffee; I find it bland and uninspiring. But if I have to get coffee from there, like I'm on the road or something, I might get that.

The coffee I buy all the time at home is Caribou's Daybreak blend. I drink this with half & half and don't find it bitter or burnt tasting. I think this is the tastiest pre-ground coffee I can find at the grocery store.

I didn't enjoy coffee right off the bat. I started drinking it out of necessity to stay awake at a job, and then I continued drinking it because I began to like it.
posted by bananana at 10:14 AM on September 8, 2022

I should add that I haven't tried Dunkin's unflavored latte or cappuccino, so it's possible those might do. If you're concerned about the fat content and you think you might be drinking these very frequently, you can try them with a lighter milk.
posted by bananana at 10:35 AM on September 8, 2022

I've always liked coffee, so perhaps an outlier in terms of recommendations, but one of the things that took my experience of coffee into the next level was roasting my own. Started with a popcorn popper and a wooden spoon, but taking a couple of different types of green beans and exploring them at different levels of roast showed me things about the various different flavors you can get out of coffee, from citrusy to grassy and everything in between.

(And this isn't even getting into brewing technique, I just use pour-over with a 3 minute steep time assuming a 1 minute filter flow time.)

And buying green beans from my local roaster and talking with them about roasts was a way to make another human connection with people who have cool interesting passions.
posted by straw at 11:37 AM on September 8, 2022

This is deeply unsophisticated and will send shivers up any coffee person's spine, but I've never been into black coffee and to me the best way to get coffee that (1) tastes like coffee smells and like coffee ice cream tastes, and (2) doesn't break the caloric bank is Coffee Mate Sugar Free Vanilla creamer. I know it's probably just liquid microplastics blended with fake sugar but my philosophy is that everything will kill me someday, and it tastes good to me.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 12:00 PM on September 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

If you don't want to just add sweeteners or fake sweeteners similar to those found in Coke Zero to your drink, I recommend getting an iced oat milk latte at Dunkin. The oat milk has a faintly sweet flavor and smoothes the more bitter notes of the coffee.

I personally make much better coffee at home than I can find at Dunkin or Starbucks with a cheap Oxo burr grinder, a scale accurate to tenths of grams, a variable temperature electric kettle, and a piece of plastic called the Clever dripper. Grinding my own beans at home reveals all those ridiculous sounding tasting notes on the fronts of coffee bags. I ground up some very unsophisticated grocery store beans (Counter Culture Hologram, if anyone is curious) using my cheap setup that tasted so sweet I could have sworn it had sugar in it.

If you end up making yourself into a coffee drinker via Dunkin iced lattes or similar, I highly recommend getting a burr grinder and some cheap and easy coffee setup, like mason jar cold brew, the Clever dripper, or a French press. Brewing at home is cheaper and you can make truly excellent coffee without turning into a fanatic with a bean mister and a manual espresso machine.
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 1:34 PM on September 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

If your coffee is good quality and fresh, it will taste good even when bought pre-ground and brewed with a cheap automatic drip coffee maker.

Counter Culture's Hologram is fantastic and tastes good through my automatic drip pot too. (My coffee grinder is SUPER LOUD, so I tend to buy pre-ground coffee anyway so I don't have to bother with it. I do wish more boutique roasters would sell pre-ground coffee for those of us who don't value making coffee from beans that were just ground a few minutes ago.)

If you think coffee will end up being a daily habit once you have a taste for it, I would recommend making it at home and getting yourself a nice insulated mug that keeps it hot all morning. You'll save a ton of money over buying it every day at Dunkin or Starbucks.
posted by bananana at 2:41 PM on September 8, 2022

Best answer: To me, american versions of chai tea tastes like coffee smells, or at least how good coffee smells. You can get chai hot or iced at most chains but it will be preloaded with lots of sugar. My solution is to buy the concentrate at the grocery store where they carry a slightly sweet or sugar free version. I have to look in the organic section at one place, but usually it is near the other teas in the coffee aisle. Costco only seems to carry the full sugar version.

You mix it with milk and can heat it up if you prefer. Again, watch the sugar if you are going with one of the alternative milks. I never heat it up, but if you do, watch it so you don't start drinking hotter and hotter versions. If you are replacing a soda with this, you will probably be happy with the cold version. You might branch out to other tea lattes, like Earl Grey - which is called a London Fog if they add milk and vanilla.
posted by soelo at 11:13 AM on September 9, 2022

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