Coffee: it is one of the college student’s four basic food groups along with pizza, beer, and microwavable mac and cheese. It is the magic elixir that makes it possible to sit through 8am classes, complete research papers, and pull all-nighters in the library. But not all coffee is created equal. Every caffeine addict on this campus knows that coffee is available from several vendors, but how on earth is the average person supposed to decide where to get their coffee fix? Fear not, for I have done extensive (unscientific) research and (unprofessionally) evaluated all of the major coffee providers so that you can make an informed and intelligent decision.
Throughout this semester I have sampled regular coffee from the following locations: DeNaples POD, Montrone POD, 1st Floor DeNaples, Starbucks, Java City, Einstein’s Bagels, and Dunkin Donuts. Third Floor DeNaples was not included because I think we can all agree that 3rd Floor’s coffee is, as a rule, terrible.
I critiqued each drink on its overall taste and quality, strength, variety, and price (for a medium). I also took into account the hours the vendors were open, as well as additional factors. My roommate and fellow coffee connoisseur, Megan Zimmerman, assisted me in my research by also sampling various coffees and offering her expert (kind of) opinion.
I now present to you our (highly unscientific) findings:
Taste/quality: (Java City coffee) good flavor, not too bitter
Variety: usually 3 options, at least one flavored
Availability: 7 days per week, opens at 9 a.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. on weekends, closes at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.
Additional factors: Java City Express coffee cards (buy 5 drinks and get the 6th free)
Critique: The DeNaples POD is conveniently located in the center of campus, and almost anyone who lives in a residence hall would need to walk near it on their way to the academic buildings. Additionally, lines at the POD are rarely long. Overall, this makes it an excellent option for grabbing a quick cup before class, meetings or the library.
Score: 4.5 out of 5 coffee beans
Taste/quality: (Java City coffee) good flavor
Variety: 2 or 3 options typically
Hours: 7 days per week, not open before 11 a.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends, open until 9 p.m.
Additional factors: Java City Express coffee cards, flavored coffee creamers, iced coffee
Critique: The quality of the coffee at the Montrone POD is relatively equal to the DeNaples POD, but it is not as convenient to get to and it is not open early. Students in off-campus housing between Quincy and Taylor pass by on their morning walks to class, but can not get coffee from there until after 11 a.m. It is a good option if you are in the POD to get lunch or dinner, and you can get your coffee under your meal swipe.
Score: 4.25 out of 5 coffee beans
1st Floor DeNaples
Taste/quality: very watery, burnt, bitter
Variety: regular or decaf
Hours: 7 days per week, opens at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. on weekends, open until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.
Additional factors: compostable coffee cups
Critique: I have never had a good cup of coffee from 1st Floor. Every time I have gone there, my coffee was cold, burnt, and/or full of coffee grounds. I wouldn’t recommend getting your coffee here unless you were absolutely desperate. I do really like that they have compostable cups, though, and 1st Floor does have the best hours of any coffee vendor on campus.
Score: 1 out of 5 coffee beans
Taste/quality: kind of bitter, sometimes a weird aftertaste
Strength: average to strong
Variety: different kinds of roasts, decaf, and flavor syrups
Hours: 7 days per week, opens at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. on weekends, open until 7pm or 9 p.m.
Additional factors: $.50 refills with a travel mug, can use gift cards
Critique: Most people either love or hate Starbucks’s coffee. Personally, I prefer their lattes to their regular coffee. By itself, their coffee isn’t great, but they have plenty of options to mask the bitterness. Plus they have an extensive menu that includes numerous coffee and non-coffee beverages, so Starbucks has a lot to offer in terms of variety. Overall it’s a pretty good option if you’re picky, but for an average cup-o-joe, I would recommend going elsewhere. Their plain coffee isn’t worth waiting for on the long lines that form in between classes.
Score: 4 out of 5 coffee beans
Taste/quality: nice flavor, not too bitter, very hot
Strength: average to strong
Variety: several different roasts, flavor syrups
Hours: Not open on weekends, open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday thru Thursday, closes at 2 p.m. on Friday
Additional factors: $.50 refills with a travel mug, numerous fair trade coffees, coffee cards (buy 10 drinks, get the 11th free)
Critique: To quote my research partner Megan, “You can’t go wrong with Java’s coffee.” Java City always has an array of choices which includes lattes, smoothies, Javalanches (similar to Starbuck Frappuccinos), and seasonal beverages. I personally believe that this is the best place on campus to get coffee; however they have a significant downfall, which is the fact that they are not open on weekends. There have been countless weekends spent in the library where I thought about just going downstairs to get coffee, only to remember that I can’t. Honestly, if Java City were open on weekends, I think a lot of us would have no reason to leave the library, especially during dead week.
Score: 4.75 out of 5 coffee beans
Taste/quality: strong flavor, very hot
Variety: 3 to 5 options, including decaf and at least one flavor
Hours: not open on weekends, open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday thru Thursday, closes at 3 p.m. on Friday
Additional factors: $1.09 refills with a travel mug, iced coffee
Critique: Einstein’s coffee is perfect for people with a high tolerance for caffeine and who enjoys trembling and sweating after finishing their beverage. The coffee is good but it is quite strong. For a less intense experience and not as much sweating, I recommend getting a half and half (regular/decaf). Einstein’s also offers espresso beverages, which can be overly sweet depending on the drink. Overall, Einstein’s coffee is not for everyone, but it is a very convenient option for people who have class in Leahy Hall.
Score: 3.5 out of 5 coffee beans
Taste/quality: sometimes a little watery, good flavor
Strength: weak to average
Variety: Regular and dark roast, decaf, flavor syrups
Hours: 7 days per week, open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Additional factors: Dunkin app for free drinks and deals, can use gift cards
Critique: I know Dunkin isn’t “on campus” but Scranton students have swarmed there ever since it opened in City Market. Lines can get long, but they generally move quickly. Dunkin is a great classic option with lots of beverage choices, plus there are donuts and breakfast sandwiches if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s a bit far from the main part of campus, but this Dunkin is truly a God-sent for anyone who has back-to-back classes in Hyland, McGurrin, or Leahy. Speaking for the current graduate OT class, many of us would not have survived the countless group project meetings and 3 hour classes without a caffeine boost from Dunkin.
Score: 4.5 out of 5 coffee beans
I would like to conclude by emphasizing that these ratings are entirely subjective and biased, as they are purely derived from personal opinion. I do not think there is a definitive “best” place to get coffee. Regardless of where you go, enjoy your drink and keep on caffeinating.