UCC Shokunin-no Special Blend Drip Coffee Taste Test

By | March 16, 2015

We’ve had a friend give us a Japanese branded coffee single pack sometime ago. I didn’t understand the label and thought it was an instant coffee mix so I didn’t open it for a long timeUCC Single Use Personal Drip Coffee

My girlfriend, in time, saw the pack and we opened it together. Imagine my surprise when I saw that it was actually ground coffee in packs that was meant for dripping!

This coffee pack is called the Shokunin-no blend, which means artisan blend. In Japan, they call it the Fukai Koku (Deep Rich) Blend. It has coffee beans grown in Columbia and Indonesia, so it will tend to have a more bitter taste. And it says so on the packet! More bitter and less acidic (translated as sour). I can’t understand what the last part means, so if anyone can give me a translation, write so on the comment below.UCC Single Use Personal Drip Coffee Taste Profile

The coffee pack is a disposable drip bag, and it  uses a cardboard layout that attaches itself onto your coffee cup. You pour the water over the opening of the paper filter and just like a pour over dripper, your coffee rushes down through the paper filter onto your coffee cup.UCC Single Use Personal Drip Coffee Open

It’s like the Kantan drip made by Kalita, but while that dripper stays on top of your cup, the UCC paper filter goes into your cup.

And paper in coffee can only mean one thing – paper taste! And that’s what exactly happened on my first pour over of this coffee. The paper was literally submerged in the coffee cup that not only did it extract the coffee flavor, it also extracted the paper flavor.

Disgruntled, I put the coffee pack on the sidelines and thought about ways how I could get that rich coffee taste without the paper taste.

The solution got to me after a day or two. It was so simple, yet involved so many steps that I had to make two separate tries so I could see how it really tasted.

When we do the pour over method, we usually pre-wet the paper filter before we dose the coffee grounds into it. I thought of doing the same process here. Here’s my step by step method:

1. Open the packet and pour out the beans into another container. Your urgency starts here because the minute you open that aluminium foil pack, the flavors and aromas of the coffee grounds start going into thin air. You know that because you could smell all that flavor dissipating the very moment you open the packet.UCC Single Use Personal Drip Coffee Separation

2. Place the empty packet on a mug (not a cup) and pre-wet that filter.UCC Single Use Personal Drip Coffee Pre-Wet

3. Once you’ve pre-wetted the filter, dose the coffee back into the filter. Using the packet, cut a small opening in one of the corners and use that as a funnel so you can put all grounds into the filter without spilling the beans.UCC Single Use Personal Drip Coffee Funneling

4. Do your regular pour over method by blooming the beans for 20 seconds, then continue with extraction after that. We always say that we should grind our beans fresh as ground beans will not give good flavor. It’s quite true in this case. During the blooming period, I noticed the water almost head straight through the beans, not allowing it enough time to saturate. I still continued with the pour over as I wanted to see how it tasted.UCC Single Use Personal Drip Coffee Extraction

The Result of Pre-Wetted Paper Filter Before Brewing

The result was a cup that was a whole lot better than the paper tasting cup I made earlier. The coffee, although stale, was still strong and quite bitter. The blend probably contained more Robusta beans than Arabica beans. And the origins of Indonesia and Columbia do produce more bitter tasting coffee. The aftertaste was also bitter and it tends to stay in your tongue for a long while after you finish your cup. There was still a tiny amount of paper taste in the cup though, and that was after taking all the necessary precautions in pre-wetting and using a mug so that the paper filter won’t touch the coffee.

Just for comparison, I decided to go ahead and brew a new batch right away, but used my Kalitta 102 (Melitta type) dripper so see how the coffee tasted.UCC Single Use Personal Drip Coffee on Kalita Dripper

The result was coffee that was a bit better than the one I drank from the pre-wetted paper filter. The coffee was still stale, but there was a hint of acidity in the brew now that I wasn’t able to taste on the coffee before.

My Final Thoughts

First thing, this is the first time I have, or at least think I have tasted what stale coffee is. I can’t properly describe it, but the nearest description would be that it tasted lifeless, that the aromas have been completely subdued already.

That was quite a eye opener because I was this was the first time that I was able to distinguish a stale flavor.

But going back to the coffee. If it were freshly roasted beans, I’d say that it tasted great. The bitter flavor that most of us grew up with was very strong in this blend. There was also a hint of acidity that you could barely taste, but did pop out when I used my Kalita pour over dripper.

At the end of it all though, the coffee still had that stale characteristic, which would probably not be there if you were able to buy it fresh from the factory in Japan. I wouldn’t buy another one unless I bought one fresh in Japan.

Now this coffee doesn’t only come in a single-use personal drip packet, UCC actually sells a 300 gram pack of this coffee. If they sell the beans as whole beans, I’d definitely recommend giving this product a try if you could buy it freshly roasted.

By the way, do take note that this is a blended variety. You might not like this if you exclusively drink single origin or Arabica blends only.

2 thoughts on “UCC Shokunin-no Special Blend Drip Coffee Taste Test

  1. Marie

    This was news to me. I never heard of ground coffee in packs that are meant for dripping. The hardest thing must be not to spill the beans!

    1. Darwin Post author

      Hi there Marie,

      Oh yes I did have quite a hard time transferring the beans. Making the funnel from the wrapper helped a lot though 🙂 Thanks for reading!


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