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wine ratings vs coffee ratings - which are more reliable?

October 18, 2011

Who should we trust more – a wine rating company (or individual) or a coffee rating company (or individual)?  


It is funny most wine drinkers I know profess to not trust ratings, but the market place shows that the world does trust the wine raters.  If Robert Parker says a wine is great, it either sells out or its price goes up.  I confess I even fall into the camp of hypocrites who claim not to trust wine ratings, but who falls back to use them when all else fails.  My perspective is that the rater has personal taste that leads him or her to have a favorite and this is essentially a bias and if his or her tastes match mine that bias is good for me and if they do not it is bad for me to follow his or her advice.  The problem is that for a big occasion I have not tried enough wines to know which expensive (for me) bottle to buy.  I have to trust someone.  Where I live there is one wine shop where I do trust an employee to have fairly good taste (read – similar to mine) and many where I do not.  If I am not near that one employee I know  I do not trust the clerk so the option is to roll the dice or trust the ratings.  It seems the odds are better to go with ratings although not nearly as good as going with someone whose taste I trust and know who does not do professional ratings.


Now there are also coffee ratings out there.  I think people are much quicker to admit that they will try a coffee based on its ratings than a wine.  If it is rated according to a cupping at least there is a science behind it and it makes some sense, but if it is done for espresso I would argue it is far less reliable than a wine rating. Why?  Well, first you have the same failings of taste being important, but second you have the issue that espresso tastes differently with different machines, grinders, and baristas.  If the rater’s equipment is different enough or his technique is different enough the result will be a different drink.  This is not the case for wine.  I figure if the rater has good taste and rates a coffee as great, it probably can be great, but if he or she rates it as not so great it might be the fact that he or she pulled it the wrong way.  So I guess I trust positive ratings on some level, but do not tend to trust a coffee rated 96 to be better than one rated 91.  


None the less I am likely to buy a highly rated coffee because it is more likely for a good coffee to get a bad rating than a bad coffee to get a good rating, and unlike wine most good coffee is cheap so taking a chance on something that works out to 25 cents a drink is not as crazy as doing it for something that comes out at 5 dollars per drink.






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