Jimmy Kimmel Thinks Like a Freak

Starbucks recently came out with an ultra-high end cup of coffee. Wondering whether that cup of coffee was really worth $7, Kimmel took to the streets and ran some experiments.  He didn’t however, do what you might expect.  Rather, he pulled a page out of the old wine tasting experiment I ran twenty years ago. It is definitely worth watching. 

(HT: Robb Stokar)


The choice to not include the expensive coffee in the experiment was a good choice for humour, but it means that this isn't really a valid experiment. People prompted to choose between what they are told are two different cups of coffee will be biased towards finding a difference in one of them. Of course, this bias is likely to be exactly what Starbucks is trading on with its $7 cup of coffee, but it is possible that the taste of the more expensive blend is sufficiently noticeable that it would overcome the tasters' preconceived notions.

Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if this experiment had a similar result if the expensive coffee were actually included in it.

Gary Lowe

Actually, it seems like a totally valid experiment to test the thesis that "People prompted to choose between what they are told are two different cups of coffee will be biased towards finding a difference in one of them"

Charles NyanGiti

Sounds like valid experiment - looks like it's all in the experience and not actual taste, and not actual taste. Starbucks charges a premium for the "Starbucks experience". It's great coffee actually

Eric M. Jones.

These people aren't fools:

1) What about those roses in the vase? Don't you think that makes a difference?
2) Every cup of coffee poored from a pot tasted a little different. The top and the dregs?
3) This test table and location and interviewer can affect everything.


Now, the most important question: Which way is going to say that they had a cold and their taste buds were not working properly?


Meant to say: Which one is going to say that they had a cold and their taste buds were not working properly?


Wouldn't there be an inherent bias in this test, when people take a few sips from one cup and immediately another few from the other cup? The tongue and taste buds already have a layer of the previous coffee, which might affect the taste of the next cup (although, in this case the two cups have identical copies). Ideally, there should be some neutraliser given before the person sips coffee from any cup


The best taste test I ever saw was Penn and Teller on their BS show testing organic foods in a frou-frou farmers market. Funny as hell.


Penn & Teller also had a great one with bottled water. The waiter would come out and explain to the guest which far flung preserve or waterfall the different bottle water came from. In reality, they all were filled from the tap in the kitchen. Yet, that did not stop people from telling the waiter that they tasted different flavors in the water and which ones were better than others.


I like the recent line "....or would you like tap water?" I wonder how that raises sales of their bottled brands.


Fascinating! This is one of those tests I would to try on autistics to see if they're susceptible to that kind of suggestion. I might even guess the last guy was autistic.

Steve Nations

The last guy was awesome. A perfect way to finish the segment.

I would love to know what percentage of people said the same thing he did. I would guess less than 20%.


Disclaimer: I don't drink coffee.

Aren't there lots of taste test type studies about which one you taste first having an effect?

If they all drank in A B order, and several do seem to say that A seems stronger -- which would make sense in terms of order -- the first sip or two of coffee are going to taste "more" than the subsequent ones. So, whichever was sipped first would likely be called richer or stronger and the second described as, say, smoother -- that is, less of a jolt to the taste buds.

Scott Foster

Mc Donald's has the best coffee at 1 billion convient locations across the planet. I recall reading a USA Today article years ago that did a taste test and the folks liked Mc Donald's best but Mc Donald's does not have "coffee theater" like Starbucks.


I agree with you, but even if McDonalds doesn’t have a coffee theater it still has convenient locations and some branches are open for 24 hours. So, you can have the best coffee anytime and anywhere. I believe McDonalds is the smartest company ever.


Also, I remember reading somewhere (was it Freakonomics?) about the false perceived need for New Coke because the Pepsi taste test was kicking their butts, and it reflected back in their own testing that they were losing taste tests.

The problem, after the biggest consumer brand mistake in history ran its course, was that people DID prefer the sweeter Pepsi over old Coke -- in little taste test shotglasses. When you had to drink it regularly, old Coke was fine.

Eric M. Jones.

Coke: In Mexico and many other places in the world they make Coke using real cane sugar. It really makes its sweetness a little sharper and quite different from corn-syrup-US-bottled-or-canned Coke. Only drink Coke in glass bottles, too. I'll have my private jet pick a couple cases of Coke in glass bottles from Mazatlan for you next week.

Pepsi Cola: It's likely not accidentally an anagram of Episcopal.


Actually you guy buy "Mexican Coke" here in Connecticut. The Stew Leonard's grocery chain (http://www.stewleonards.com/) sells it in glass bottles. Haven't tried it yet but maybe now I'll have to go get a 6-er