Green Mountain Coffee Family of Brands Blog

Ask the Coffee Lab: What does 'Q-Grader' mean?

A Licensed Q grader is the name of someone who has been certified by the Coffee Quality Institute, based in  Long Beach, CA. These cuppers must pass a rigorous 3 day exam, made up of 22 sections on coffee related subjects like green coffee grading, roast color identification, coffee cupping, sensory skills and sensory triangulation.

If that sounds confusing, just know this: A Q grader is someone really good at tasting, cupping and evaluating coffee. There are now over 1,000 Licensed Q Graders in the world and 9 of them work for GMCR. (Including me!) One of the consequences of standardizing coffee evaluation has been that the playing field between consuming countries and origin is a lot more level than it has ever been. Farmers and cooperatives are able to better evaluate the quality of their coffee and knowing the value of one’s product is crucial in any marketplace.

Not only have we been busy getting our staff certified as Licensed Q Graders, we have been actively promoting the program in our own supply chain. In particular, we help fund some of the Q Grader classes in a large portion of our Fair Trade Organic supply chain in Peru. We’re already getting better coffee from Peru and that means we’re able to buy more coffee in Peru.

If you’d like to see a short video of the most recent Q Grader Certification class we held here in Waterbury, Vermont, go here: All of the “students” in the video are employees and it was filmed and photographed in our brand new coffee lab.



Getting Ready for a Potluck – Big Summer Style

Who doesn’t love a potluck?

It’s the trifecta of good things: Friends, mingling, and great food – the signature items that you bring plus a slew of dishes you’d have never thought to make yourself.  A buffet of creativity that you get to enjoy with your best buds.  Win, win, win all around.

Those are just some of the reasons why we’re excitedly packing our bags for this weekend’s Big Summer Potluck, an annual gathering of food lovers put on by The Ivory Hut and Three Many Cooks.  It’s three days jam-packed with schmoozing with old and new friends, workshops galore, and of course, dishes from some of the best cooks around – the hosts and attendees!  Some of our very own K-Cup® Ambassadors will even be on the ground, taking the weekend in for all its foodie worth and sharing the K-Cup® love.    

So, what does a coffee company bring to a potluck?  We do have a lot of spectacular recipes using Green Mountain Coffee® varieties thanks to Bluebonnets & Brownies, so we have some options. 

But let’s be honest: when it’s 8 AM on Saturday and you’re in need of a revelation, what do you want?  Coffee – hot and caffeinated.  When it’s 3 PM in the summer after a full day of inspiring workshops, what do you need? Coffee – cool and creamy.  Iced, hot, and creatively mixed (we’re talking to you, K-Cup®  Mixologists!) we’ll be bringing a pallet of Green Mountain Coffee® K-Cup® packs for Big Summer Potluck guests to enjoy throughout the day.     

If you can’t make it to Big Summer Potluck, don’t worry!  Follow the weekend activity on Twitter with hasttag #bsp3 and have your own potluck at home! What’s your go-to potluck dish?  Wild Mountain Blueberry™ Pound Cake is a showstopper with crowds!


Employees Hit the Streets for Local Food Bank

It’s July and I’m feeling the craziness of summer. Every weekend is booked with weddings, a family reunion, or just necessary beach time. Among this busyness of summer, it can be difficult to remember that there are many individuals and families that are experiencing food insecurity. 

Food banks and Food shelves need volunteers and donations all year – even during the dog days of summer. Employees at our Sumner, WA facility volunteer almost every week for the Puyallup Food Bank. They prep for clients, organize donations, and, recently, were asked to hit the streets and help with two special events for the Food Bank.

GMCR Employees Volunteer Puyallup

At the Meeker Days Festival employees helped promote the food bank during this popular summer festival.  The event raised awareness and enough money to provide 4,392 meals! And at a week-long grocery store food drive employees helped all the week, with the Food bank receiving twice as many donations than normal!   

So as we move through summer, maybe you’ve got some time to volunteer or to donate food? Find your local food bank through Feeding America.


Three Steps to Caffeinated Beauty

If only looking sleeker was as easy as sitting and drinking your beloved morning cup of coffee, right?

Well…it is! Maybe. Kind of. Intrigued? Our friends at Van Houtte® pointed out this exciting benefit of caffeine’s ability to decrease the appearance of cellulite through a DIY coffee scrub. Since we can definitely get behind incorporating caffeine into our beauty regimen, here are some more of our favorite ways you can use your beloved blend to beautify. At-home spa treatments are an easy, inexpensive way to feel luxurious without dropping crazy cash on overpriced treatments or products; plus, you can even put your old K-Cup® packs to good use. So, get to it!


Caffeine Facial Mask

Caffeine is a bonafide blessing for your face: according to studies, it contains antioxidant, dehydrating, and other properties, which basically equal up to the fact that it makes you look better all around. Between tightening and de-puffing, reducing dark circles, let your favorite morning cup go to work on more than just your energy level.

2 Tbs. fresh coffee grounds
1 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. brown sugar
3 Tbs. whole milk, heavy cream, or plain yogurt

Wisk ingredients together until you achieve the desired, creamy consistency. Apply evenly over your face and let dry for 10-20 minutes. Once hardened, rinse off with warm water and enjoy your freshly-awakened face.

Homemade Coffee Hair Treatment

On the quest to aesthetic self-betterment, don’t overlook your hair!  Hair follicles can directly absorb caffeine through the use of a simple coffee rinse, which will promote a glossy shine. While it’s true that this treatment requires fresh coffee rather than used grounds, fret not: suppose you’re not in the mood for more coffee on any given day…why not let your luscious locks reap its benefits instead?

Fresh cup of extra strong coffee—try using a French or Italian roast

Once cooled, simply pour the coffee over clean, dry hair. Let it soak in for 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with cool water. Recommended usage: once a week for shiny tresses.


Abby's Super Simple Scrub

This is my favorite of the bunch - so easy and great for exfoliating (or battling cellulite).  The aroma wakes up your senses, and the scrub wakes up your body!

3 parts warm, used coffee grounds
1 part sugar or salt
Essential oil

1. Experiment with your favorite coffees to find a particularly decadent aroma to feature in your at-home spa concoction. Considering the season, I personally think Island Coconut® coffee would be a great base for a scrub.

2. Continuing with the tropical theme, try adding coconut oil to the mix. If that’s not your cup of tea (sorry, coffee), other options include jojoba oil (about one tablespoon), rosemary essential oil (12 drops or so), or even virgin olive oil (try three tablespoons).

3. The granular crystals in sugar help to exfoliate and smooth out skin by sloughing off the dead stuff. Try sugar in the raw for texture; sea salt is another great option, as it also exfoliates but replaces minerals in the process.

4. Mix all of your chosen ingredients together into a paste and store in your fridge (it should last about a month). Scrub onto problem areas in circular motions for 3 minutes before rinsing off. Do it twice a week, and if you see results…thank us later. 


Refreshing Times Ahead with homemade French Vanilla Coffee Gelato

With summer now in full swing I must admit I have found myself struggling to keep my cool when it is 95 ̊degrees outside. Add to that 80-90% humidity and you have all the ingredients for a sweaty afternoon. This past weekend I developed a recipe of my own to add some refreshment to these seemingly endless days of heat of humidity. Drum roll please! Introducing the French Vanilla Coffee Gelato!  Please see the recipe below and let me know what you think! 

French Vanilla Coffee Gelato

1- Green Mountain Coffee® French Vanilla Iced Coffee K-Cup® pack on 4 oz. setting
1/2 C sugar
2 2/3 C milk - 2% or whole is best
2/3C heavy cream

  • Brew K-Cup® pack on 4 oz setting.
  • Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  • Measure out milk and cream and add cooled coffee to mixture. Mix well.
  • Add mixture to ice cream maker. Prepare according to directions provided with your ice cream maker.




Reaching Beyond Coffee to Support Yakima, WA Apple Pickers

For years, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) has awarded grants to improve the quality of life in coffee-growing communities around the world. Now, for the first time in the history of our philanthropic giving, we’ve chosen to fund a supply chain project within the United States related to our growing portfolio of non-coffee products, with a $125,000 grant to the Madison House Youth and Community Center of Yakima, WA.

Madison House Youth and Community Center provides educationally based programs to families who are employed in the orchards and warehouses of the surrounding apple industry. GMCR buys apples for its Green Mountain Naturals® Hot Apple Cider K-Cup® packs from the same fertile area of Yakima Valley.

“It was a natural fit,” said Rick Peyser, Director of Social Advocacy and Supply Chain Community Outreach for GMCR. “We are pleased to be able to support Madison House because the organization provides much-needed services to the people who pick and process our apples.”

GMCR supports Apple Pickers through Madison House GrantThis $125,000 grant will fund adult education at Madison House, including scholarships, program materials and supplies, a full-time adult education coordinator, GED testing fees, and childcare.

“This partnership represents an exciting opportunity for both organizations to expand efforts to reduce generational poverty,” said Sara Holtzinger, Madison House Development Director. “To change the culture of our communities, we must work to change the culture of our homes. That’s why adult education, and the childcare that’s necessary to support it, are so important.”

We were introduced to Madison House by representatives of Tree Top, a grower-owned cooperative that operates eight fruit processing facilities in Washington, Oregon, and California. “Good things happen when people work together to care for communities within the supply chain,” said Sharon Miracle, Corporate Communications Director for Tree Top, Inc.

We’re excited to continue our supply-chain outreach through grants to organizations like the Madison House Youth and Community Center. 


You Like Us, You Really Like Us!

Today, I’m thrilled to report that Green Mountain Coffee® has been named Coffee Brand of the Year in the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend study*. The study is conducted to measure which American beverage brands reign supreme among consumers. This year, Green Mountain Coffee led the poll among thirteen well-known coffee brands!

This may be the data geek in me, but the cool thing about the Harris Poll EquiTrend study is that it measures brand value rather than just brand recognition. So while we might not be as widely known as other coffee brands (yet), your loyalty showed that those who do know us really dig us…we’re looking at you, Pumpkin Spice fans!

Here at Green Mountain, we’re honored to have been named the Highest Ranked Brand in our category. We’re so appreciative of everyone involved in the study and anyone who has made our coffee a part of their lives. Thank you!

*Green Mountain Coffee received the highest numerical Equity Score among coffee brands included in the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study, which is based on opinions of 38,529 U.S. consumers ages 15 and over surveyed online between January 31 and February 20, 2012. Your opinion may differ (but we hope not!). “Highest Ranked” was determined by a pure ranking of a sample of coffee brands.

Tanzanian Food Gardens: Almost Ready to Plant!

We recently received an update on a drip irrigation project we’re funding with Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers. In 2010, we supported a project with Sustainable Harvest in Tanzania focused on food security. The main project component was planting family gardens. Shortly into the start of the project, it was realized that the garden could not thrive, let alone survive, without a water irrigation system. In 2011, we agreed to support a drip irrigation component added on to the family garden project. While the drip irrigation system does allow for easier access to clean drinking water, it also allows for easy access to water for participants’ food gardens, allowing the original goal to be achieved: food security for coffee farmers and the community.

Sustainable Harvest Drip Irrigation project in Tanzania

Here is the update from Rocio, who is working on the ground in Tanzania:

“This year the project will have around 315 new participants, bringing the total of direct beneficiaries to 385. The project is being implemented in 4 new sites. The water is already flowing to the plots in 3 of them and the last water system should be finished next week. The seedling nurseries are ready and we have started with the installation of the drip kits. 

What made us really happy yesterday was to see how committed the farmers of Nyakabanda are to the project. We have 65 new participants there, each one with a plot of 15x15m2, and yesterday we could see that they have already prepared ALL the plots and they have them almost ready for the transplanting of the vegetables - amazing work!”




New Vitamin Burst

That’s right Brew Over Ice fans! It’s time to take your Keurig® brewer experience to an entirely new level of refreshment. We are very excited to announce the addition of naturally sweetened, caffeine free Vitamin Burst® K-Cup® packs to our Brew Over Ice family of beverages. Check out both of our unique fruit flavors Strawberry Pomegranate and Acai Berry . Let us know what you think!

(Pssst. Save $1 on Vitamin Burst K-Cup® packs. Valid until July 24th)




Barista Prima Team Wins Graphic Design Award

The Creative Department in our specialty coffee team is not only “creative”, they are some of the most innovative and fun people here, putting together the exciting visual side of our Family of Brands. Recently, one of our creative teams got special recognition for their efforts as one of the Graphic Design USA Magazine’s 2012 Inhouse Design Award Winners!

Ryan Dreimiller, Art Director, Carolyn Brown, designer and Rick Slade, creative director, each won for their work on this elegant Barista Prima direct mail piece. The mailer, a small booklet highlighting the different luxury blends of the Barista Prima collection, spoke to the brands history of creating European coffee artistry and caught the attention of Graphic Design USA. The Graphic Design USA competition has been held annually since 1963, and aims to assure that the outstanding work of Creative teams – like ours – is fully recognized by work colleagues, the creative world, and the community.

We’re so proud of our Barista Prima team. Doesn’t their award-winning piece just inspire you to brew a deep, rich, European inspired cup?


3rd Annual Tennessee River Rescue with Ijams Nature Center

Volunteerism is an integral part of our Corporate Social Responsibility programs. Every full-time employee can take up to 52-hours of paid time-off to volunteer for an non-profit organization they are passionate about (learn more on how we support local communities).

A company tradition in Vermont has been to cleanup one of the nearby rivers as part of American River’s National River Cleanup. In Vermont, we’ve been organizing a River Cleanup on the Winooski River since 2005. As our volunteerism program has expanded to other employee locations, so has the tradition of an annual River Cleanup.

GMCR Employees Volunteer Tennessee RiverKnoxville River Rescue

In early April, employees from our Knoxville, TN facility, with help from Ijams Nature Center (also a Green Mountain Coffee Roasters grant recipient) participated in their 3rd annual River Rescue cleanup event on the Tennessee River. In total, 149 volunteers over the course of two days collected 452 bags of trash, 20 tires, 6 shopping carts, a conveyor belt, a bicycle, a gas tank, a metal “man” cut-out, rugs, ropes and numerous other items. The approximate weight of the bagged trash was approximately 8,100 lbs!


Our Newest Calibrated Cuppers

Congratulations to our newest calibrated cuppers Fred Gillen and Pat Donnelly of the Coffee Department in our Waterbury, Vermont cupping lab!  When a new member of the cupping team starts cupping we ensure they are calibrated to the team before their scores are used to approve or reject coffee.  The process to be calibrated to the team takes months of practice cupping every day.  It also involves talking and learning about the coffees we buy, why we buy them, when we buy them, and how we use them.  

After studiously apprentice cupping for months, it became obvious that Fred and Pat were calibrated to the team.  At that point Lindsey Bolger invited everyone into the lab for the 'official' ceremony.  She put the official shawl on Fred and Pat, bonked each one on the shoulder with her cupping spoon, and declared them "Calibrated."  Now their scores will be included with the teams’ for approving or rejecting coffee.  Congrats Fred and Pat!