coffee, national coffee dayToday is National Coffee Day. For me, every day is coffee day. I down at least a couple of big, hot, black, steaming cups before I feel ready to face the world, then another pot in the afternoon, and sometimes a third in the evening when my husband wants a cup, too.

I make my coffee from the house-brand beans at Costco - $12.99 for 3 pounds. I grind 12 six-ounce cups worth on the medium fine setting of the burr grinder and brew it in a 12-cup Mr. Coffee that is several years old and only cost $19.99 to begin with. It's not very exotic, but the coffee is delicious and it only costs me about 27 cents a pot.

In honor of, National Coffee Day, I decided to expand my horizons. I went out and bought coffee at six of the local hot spots that claim to have great coffee: Biggby, Caribou, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Tim Horton and McDonald's. Reportedly, some of these coffee emporiums are giving away a free cup in honor of National Coffee Day, but not at the stores around here. From most to least expensive, here is my assessment of the java offerings on the market today:

Biggby Coffee (10 ounces for $1.69 - 16.9 cents/ounce). This is the new kid on the coffee shop block. If you don't like Starbucks because you think it's bitter, you'll probably like this. I think it tastes weak, and it's pricey.

Caribou (12 ounces for $1.69 - 14 cents/ounce). You pay a little for the ambiance here, but you can drink your coffee in front of the (real) fireplace, sitting on a comfy sofa or working at a small desk using free WiFi. When my kids were in high school, this was one of their favorite hangouts. However, the coffee is so bitter it makes Starbucks taste mellow.

Dunkin' Donuts (10 ounces for $1.29 - 12.9 cents/ounce) A friend of mine is in charge of operations for all of the Dunkin' Donut franchises in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and a couple of other states. He's 6-foot-7 and about 300 pounds. My guess is that if he told you to scrub the grease out of the fryers, you'd say "yes sir." Which I suppose is part of the reason that the stores around here are clean and bright and the coffee is really good -- strong but not bitter -- and the price is modest.

Starbucks (12 ounces for $1.50 - 12.5 cents/ounce) The Starbucks nearest my house was dark and had a big sign on the window: "Closed for remodeling." Here, in economically troubled suburban Detroit that's a synonym for "closed forever." Fortunately, there's another shop not far down the street. Consistency is Starbucks' strength. If you like Starbucks in Seattle, you'll like it just as well in Detroit and Florida and wherever else you go. Some people say it has a burnt taste. Personally, I think that's a green, raw taste and I like it.

Tim Horton
(10 ounces for $1.18 - 11.8 cents/ounce) I've never been here before even though it's about two blocks from my house and open 24 hours. It's a Canadian-based chain that people around here call Timmy's. Besides doughnuts, bagels and coffee, it also sells soups and sandwiches. It has live plants hanging from the ceiling and a cozy feel. The coffee is weaker than Dunkin's, but not bad.

McDonald's (12 ounces for $1.09 or .59 cents for seniors - 9.1 cents/ounce or 4.9 cents/ounce) Over the years, I've drunk gallons of Mickey D's coffee and it used to be swill -- hot but still horrible. In the last year, they've been advertising that they've upgraded the coffee and the paper cup says McCafe on it. Sure enough it's pretty good. It tastes a lot like Starbucks. If you like Starbucks, you'll like McDonald's and for much less money. I was ready to pay full price, but the young man behind the counter charged me the senior rate without even asking. If I weren't cheap, I'd be insulted.


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