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By Wes D. AKA Tex300BLK

Jon Wayne Taylor’s Cabot article struck a particular chord with me when he said, “I’ve killed a lot of men, but never with a coffee cup in my hand.” I’ve never met Jon, but I am fairly confident that while I’ve never killed a man, the probability of it happening diminishes significantly with a hot cup of coffee in my mitts. As a combat veteran-owned company, Counter Strike Coffee understands the business of killing men and the importance of good coffee . . .

About a year ago, after I had spammed one too many of his KeyMod hand guard reviews asking when he would review the BCM KMR, Tyler Kee dropped me a line over email to let me know that he had finally ordered one for review. That line of communication remained open on and off as we both realized we had graduated the same year from college and were both living in TTAG’s HQ city, Austin, Texas.

It was inevitable that our paths would eventually cross, and as it would happen we are both currently signed up to RO this year’s Pecos Run and Gun event. Our talks have since centered mainly on gear, training, and overall preparation for the upcoming event. Naturally, the discussion landed on one of the most important items we would be packing for the weekend – coffee. One does not simply wake up at dawn to run seven miles in the deserts of West Texas without first drinking a cup (or two) of aromatic black goodness.

Like many people my age, I graduated college right in the pit of the economic downturn. Only a handful of the people I went to school with had jobs waiting for them when they graduated. The rest went to graduate school to wait for things to blow over. A select few of my fellow graduates, me included, went home to live with mom and dad.

That’s when I realized there are few things more miserable than being unemployed and living at home. So I rang a good family friend who runs a commercial real estate and construction company in my hometown to see if he had any openings on one of his construction crews. To my surprise, after he read over my resume, he looked up and said, “Wes, I know you are looking for something temporary, but I have a unique problem that I think you can help solve if you are interested.”  Two weeks after that meeting I was on an airplane headed to Nicaragua to start my new job as his technical director for his medium-sized coffee growing and export operation. Coffee very quickly became part of my life. Here is a picture from what was my office down there.

Picture 1

During one of our coffee discussions, Tyler mentioned that the guys at Tactical Shit, one of Counter Strike’s distributors, had offered to send some coffee to review. While Tyler likes his coffee, he figured he would defer to my hands-on experience with the subject matter. So he gave the Counter Strike guys my address, and then told me to expect a package.

American coffee culture is an interesting study in people’s behavior. More often than not I see people gagging as they try and muscle down a nasty cup of swill, believing that if it is darker than the deepest pits hell and tastes strong enough to de-chrome a trailer hitch, it must be good. More is better right? With that in mind, I was a little skeptical after reading about scorched earth and dark shadows in the descriptions of the three varieties offered by the folks over at Counter Strike Coffee.

Fire Watch:

“If you don’t plan on quitting your post until properly relieved, you may need to get yourself a hot cup of Fire Watch in order to keep those little peepers open. This caffeine loaded canteen cup of goodness will get your freedom blood pumping in order to keep always on the alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.”


“What is left over when Napalm is deployed?  Blackness! That is what this coffee is all about.  Napalm  is a Brazilian Arabica that creates the perfect dark roasted coffee.  There is nothing like the smell of Napalm in the morning.  If you miss the manly military mug of awesomeness that was brewed out on post, then you need this in your life.”

Smooth Operator:

“For those of you that want the taste of coffee to resemble the war fighting tactics of a combat hero; Smooth Operator is the coffee for you.  This fine cup of combat juice is as dark as the shadows you stalk in, and as smooth as the movements made on target.  Don’t let the name fool you, for as smooth as the taste is, the stimulating effects is fast and on point.”

Picture 2

My first impressions were quickly changed, though, when I opened the box I received and was greeted by the intoxicating aroma of fresh roasted coffee. Opening the large padded envelope therein revealed the three bags of Counter Strike Coffee that Tyler had promised. Counter Strike Coffee continued to impress when I opened those bags to reveal some beautiful, oily, dark colored beans.

Here’s a snapshot of some Napalm next to some unroasted “green” coffee I had in the cupboard

Picture 3

I’ve already shared my opinions about some of the popular trends in American coffee, and I will repeat that a dark roast doesn’t guarantee a good cup of coffee. You can roast coffee beans to within a few seconds of them turning into charcoal and they will still look and smell delicious. I know this because my brother-in-law and I once tried roasting our own. It took us drinking a lot of truly abominable cups of coffee before we got it right.

Dark roasting is a double-edged sword. The longer you roast coffee the more some of the more subtle, earthy and citrus flavors will be overcome by the overall smokiness of the roast which can become overpowering and then bitter as the sugars begin to burn off if the roast is overdone. The tradeoff is that darker roasts tend to be a lot less acidic than the lighter roasts.

I’ve been drinking this coffee for the past week, and so far I have to say it’s pretty damn good. One of my simple pleasures in life is to start the weekend off by enjoying a large mug of very strongly brewed coffee, that has been liberally laced with cream and sugar, accompanied by some sort of savory, flaky breakfast pastry. That’s actually where really strong coffees shines for me. In spite of the milk and sugar, the strong flavors of the coffee are still there. Since I was sitting on a pile of what looked like very dark roasted coffee, I decided the weekend coffee test was an appropriate way to start this review – and I was immediately hooked. The strong smoky flavors of the darker roasts did a good job of complementing the sweetness and creaminess of my brew. Needless to say, the weekend test was passed with flying colors.

Since some people think it’s downright heresy (including myself on some occasions) to spoil perfectly good coffee with milk and sugar, more testing was warranted. So I ground up a few servings of each variety, and carted it off to work with me to try it in my single serving pour-over that I keep in my desk as part of my EDC (every day caffeine-saturation). A pour-over is a good test of a coffee because of the amount of time the coffee stays in contact with the water. It has a tendency to exaggerate some of the less desirable flavors in a bad coffee.

To really get an idea of how the different varieties of Counter Strike fare head to head, I tried all three, back to back on the first morning.  In hindsight that maybe wasn’t the best choice. I was pretty jittery for the rest of the morning, but I learned a lot about this coffee in the process.

Namely, it’s some fine-tasting, smooth-drinking coffee with a nice clean finish to boot. There are some kinds of coffee that I just can’t drink black. That’s mainly due to the unpleasant bitter aftertaste that can linger until you eat something or brush your teeth. Decidedly absent from any of the varieties of Counter Strike was any hint of that bitterness. That tells me that the roast isn’t overdone and the coffee is very well balanced. The pour-over tells no lies.

Picture 4 _Pour-Over_

After an overly caffeinated week here are my thoughts:

Napalm – Counter Strike says this is their darkest roast. Based on the color of the beans I would say this is the equivalent of a French+ or an Italian roast. Especially when I was drinking my weekend coffee, the darker, smokier flavors definitely stuck out in a really good way. Even with the milk and sugar added, it’s nice to know you’re still drinking coffee. I found myself reaching for this bag over the others when I made my morning coffee the past two weekends. For this I would recommend you grab a French press and brew it extra strong, add croissant(s) and enjoy! For summer months I might recommend brewing some and leaving it in the fridge to chill overnight as I bet it would make one hell of an iced coffee.

Smooth Operator – On the other end of the spectrum Counter Strike calls this their lightest and smoothest roast. By my eye it was still pretty dark; the oily sheen on the beans right out of the bag was a little more of a matte finish which makes me think this is on the lighter side of French roast, maybe a Full City or City+. As the name suggests, this stuff is some smooth-drinking goodness that finishes really clean on the palate. There was no bitter aftertaste that I could detect at all.  I recommend you drink this one black any time of day.  It’s already lightly sweet from the natural flavors of the beans, and just doesn’t need anything else. It would probably also make a good espresso to serve as a sort of aperitif with dessert after a heavy meal.

Fire Watch – Counter Strike claims this is a “caffeine packed” roast. I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean, and I’d be curious to know what variety of bean they used and how it’s prepared. As far as taste and appearances are concerned, I couldn’t pick it out of a lineup vs. the Smooth Operator. As for the extra caffeine claims, I’m undecided. I can’t tell if the extra jitters I experienced this week were from the Fire Watch or from the fact that I was drinking 3+ cups of black coffee each morning. There may be some truth to this, but I am unconvinced.


Rating (out of five stars):

Overall: * * * * *
There really isn’t anything not to like about Counter Strike Coffee. It’s very good coffee, but by the same token it’s not what I would call a gourmet coffee. And that’s fine, because it doesn’t cost as much as gourmet coffee. Counter Strike sells each of their varieties by the pound for $13.95 plus shipping. That’s probably on the expensive side for some, but hands down beats the hell out of a lot of chain offerings from the likes of Dunkin and Starbucks on flavor. Counter Strike gets an additional nod considering that, per their website, a portion of their sales go to charitable organizations serving Veterans.

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    • A coffee review for a company that donates to veterans is a stretch for a gun blog, but a worthy one at least.

    • Can’t say, I don’t buy coffee at the store much. We try to visit my wife’s family in Nica once a year and they do the same so between those trips I am usually set for the year on coffee. Austin has quite a few local roasters to supplement when we run low between trips.

      As stated in the review, counter strike tasted (in my opinion) better than anything I have bought off a store shelf which includes different varieties of Dunkin, Starbucks (don’t hate, the grocery near my family ranch has 2 choices, Starbucks and Folgers), and Community Coffee.

    • Peet’s has a corporate anti-gun policy. Shouldn’t be drinking it. At least shouldn’t be paying to drink it.

  1. What is the time from roasting to your door? I.e., was it roasted weeks ago, or even months? Ideally you should drink coffee within one week of roasting.

    • Because when you are trying to get free stuff, and get it, you need to offer some sort of payoff, or you’ll get no more free stuff.

    • If it offends you so much, why did you read it? And if you didn’t read it, what are you bitching about?

  2. … and the next review will be of this faaaaabulous new floor wax that resists the scuffs of combat boots…
    Though seemingly out of scope of this ostensibly named website, I see no harm in the occasional non-firearm review.
    To those freaking out about this review I say, “Lighten up, Francis.”

    • Exactly, it’s a fun review of a firearms friendly enterprise. Chill pills must be dispensed…

      …or maybe they just forgot to drink their morning joe 🙂

    • indeed.

      those needing a direct gun relationship to the article, knowing which brands of coffee might improve or degrade your gun handling is entirely relavent !

      i need to know that when i drink 5-6 cups of joe in the morning i might be too wired to maintain a steady front sight. need to know if i can drink an entire pot without affecting my aim or timing.

      and….oh, yeah, lighten-up francis.

      • I couldnt agree more. I just stumbled across this “counter strike coffee” and I will be ordering some myself. I drink foldgers black silk. nothing in my area is stronger and convenently its only 12.00 for a 1 lb tub of it. its what Ive been drinking for a better part of 6 years or more now.I lose track of time now but I drink roughly around 22 pots a day and can go right to sleep after any of them. But I dont get jitters or anything.Ive been drinking coffee since I was 12 in Europe. My father being in the military before me, he was stationed in Europe.During that time it was either coffee or beer.So I got hooked on coffee and its all I drink even to this day.I cant drink sodas or tea.It has to be coffee from the time I wake up till the time I go to sleep and not once has my hand been shakey where my front sites were ever off.I carry a glock 22 .40 every day.

  3. Excellent review, thanks.
    What does this have to do with guns, one might ask? Well anyone who hunts knows its the little things that make all the difference, and morale is a force multiplier, and a good cuppa joe is right up there. Especially if you need a couple to start your heart, wake your brain, and dump down to take-off weight at oh-dark-thirty to get to your spot by first-shooting-time.

    At risk of violating OPSEC let me reply per my old salt experience, as to coffee learnings, and why I intend to give this brew a try, in my trusty REI french press, which lives in my bugout/hunting pack for light/low footprint 1-3 trips.

    Being fortunate to have been hammered into clear-headed awareness by a Mustang mentor who saw something in me, beyond the ability to kill myself and all aboard if I didnt learn to fly right, one of those early lessons was listen to The Chiefs Who Run The Navy.

    So I still drink my coffee strong enough to float a spoon.
    Having camped and fished extensively in Baja, I am also fond of that sweetened evaporated milk in instant Nescafe, that is a staple of the local fisherman, That Nescafe used to live in my pack until I discovered Starbux, and which is also supplemented by those little packets of Via, in my emergency kits. Medicinal use only when time is tight.

    The problem is Starbux is burnt too far, to suit the PTA Mommies, and its time to try something a little more mellow, while remaining tactical capable. Giving these folks some cash for drugs when I finish this post.
    OFWG field report to follow when hunting season starts.

    Thanks again, TK and Tex. Learn something new everyday here at TTAG.

  4. I could really use a cup of “Napalm” I woke up this morning with my nose in my wife’s armpit, and was afraid to open my eyes!

  5. Wes,

    Excellent review. I am a dark black coffee addict and will definitely be trying the “Napalm” variety. 100% agreement that many brands just char the crap out of their beans and try to pass it off as “dark roast”.

    I’d like to see more of these relevant-yet-not-directly-firearms-related posts. The more TTAG does to further expand the gun “culture” – which encompasses more than just actual, physical firearms – the more people we potentially turn on to our cause.

  6. Thanks for the review. I have been toying with getting summa this, and now I think I will. Parisian coffee spoiled me, so I am always looking for the American analog. Nothing adds to the campsite more than the aroma of fresh-ground-and-pressed coffee.

  7. “More often than not I see people gagging as they try and muscle down a nasty cup of swill, believing that if it is darker than the deepest pits hell and tastes strong enough to de-chrome a trailer hitch, it must be good.”

    You know it.

    Coffee, no, women, *yes* on that trailer hitch…


    • “Women, trailer hitch ball”, reminds of this guy who said his wife could…………,never mind, that’s for another blog.

  8. You want this about guns? Well…it’s story time b!tcheseses.

    In July of 2009 I was in lovely Zabul Province with about a dozen total guys. Our food resupply convoy from KAF had been attacked, and instead Charlie Miking they turned around and went home. POGs. We also ran very low on fuel for our vehicles and generator, and since we needed the vehicles more, that meant some time without power. No resupply meant we were out of coffee, it was 120 degrees, we were on 24 hour operations in the absolute height of the fighting season, with no sleep, and no food.
    We were eating whatever we could get off the locals and rationing MREs. We were hungry. We were tired. We had no coffee. We had lots of guns. Moral was low. Hate was high.
    Then, the gods smiled on us in the form of Blackwater Air dropping a giant reinforced box of Starbucks coffee down on us. Seriously. Less than a dozen dudes and like 100 bags of coffee. I don’t care if you don’t like Starbucks. I don’t care if it likely took 4 months to get to us and sat out on a tarmac for most of that. It was coffee. And lo, it was good. When dropped out of the airplane some of it broke open. We sat on our haunches chewing the raw beans like the rangy, hungry animals we were.
    There was a problem. It was all whole bean, and we didn’t have regular power, or any way to grind it. However, the Shajoy bazar was only 2km away. The Shajoy bazaar was not welcoming at all, and to just a few guys, 2km deep in Indian country was an absolute MFer.
    So we armored up and rode out. Full kit, full combat mission. M4s, M240s, and two M2s. Rehearsed it, used the intel we had gained in previous mission to decide who had what we needed and the best route to get there unmolested. We actually pulled the mission, in a place we had been in contact before, a place that had blown the hell out plenty of coalition forces before, (and sadly would months later as well), just to get a moca hete (mortar and pestel set) to hand grind coffee back at the FOB/COP/Shanty Town we called home.
    Everyone thought that risking our lives for coffee was foolish and crazy, and yet, I don’t remember anyone saying we shouldn’t do it. No one questioned the necessity.
    I ground that black liquid love by hand every day by myself, and was damn happy to do it.
    I firmly believe that mission saved a lot of innocent Afghan lives over the course of the next months. You are welcome, you ungrateful bastards.

  9. I don’t understand why this is on TTAG, but I love coffee and this was a much more pleasant read then half of Farago’s editorial stuff.

  10. Aw geez people, its coffee! Drink it black, drink it strong and keep all of the over attentive namby-pamby out of it. Bunch of slack jawed…around here, and in the services by the sound of it. In my day all the morale boost one needed was the promise of killing the gawd damned enemy.

  11. +1 jw-I wish I could afford this stuff. Coffee is (maybe) my only habit(it ain’t bad). Honestly for the $ Aldi’s has great coffee in bags-half or less of starbucks and just as good(or better). THIS is better than the freaking murderer coverage of the last day…

  12. Great review. I drink a LOT of coffee. The stronger the better.
    Even dry or rough camping, I will have the best coffee around.
    It’s usually what I pack first inside the titanium cup that sits next to my snow peak Gita power butane cooker.

    When shooting my big fifty, for the first time, the muzzle blast knocked my fresh cup o’ Joe over. I was so pissed.
    Now I keep the fixings in my truck at all times.

    Might just have to order up some of this.

  13. step one, climb out of tent and piss.
    step two, place percolator on last nights glowing coal embers.

  14. I don’t mind this review on this site at all. And JWTaylor, good story. I am a coffee addict; strong and black. A bad habit of mine like Former Water Walker. Not my only, but I won’t go into my other one. That is from my 23 years in the USN. Learned how to drink the sludge at the bottom of the pot. Although, I do prefer a “good’ cup o joe. And a review of good coffee, made by a Veteran owned company that donates a percentage to different veterans orgs., well…this is as good a place as any. Lets the rest of us know where we can go to buy and support. As for the detractors on here; I agree…take a chill pill. I can say that before heading out of hunting camp in the early hours I gotta have a cup. I usually make a pot the night before and put it in my old Thermos with the glass liner. That’s the only thing I know of that keeps that coffee hot until the morning. Then I haul the rest to my stand. Assuming any is left after my partners get their hands on it. Man there is nothing like sitting in the woods as the sun is coming up drinking a cup of really good coffee. SO if that doesn’t tie guns and coffee together for you, and JW’s story doesn’t, then I just can’t help you.

  15. Just arrived about 20min ago. Brewed immediately. The review is right on ! Picked Smooth Operator (because i am more interested in looking good drinking coffee, than being able to boast I can drink coffee that will hold up a spoon), and it is just as the review reports. Smoky flavor in front, no aftertaste. Really is smooth. Drank my initiation cups while cleaning my favorite launchers. No shaking hands, no blurred vision, no injuries to fingers. (there, made the connection between firearms and coffee). Taking it black, there is no question you are drinking coffee (and waiting for the bitter bite at the end…which never arrives), yet it is pleasant. Scuttled my earlier choice for tomorrow morning (something with a fancy name). Still pondering over trying the other two blends.

    Worth the try, even just once.

  16. Good review and great story. After drinking army “sourdough” coffee for 7 years, I guess I can drink anything, but fresh roasted (dark but not charred) is a real pleasure.

    Give me a nice Nicaraguan roast any day.

  17. Second order arrived yesterday; Napalm

    Good as the first order (Smooth Operator). Don’t have any idea who Counter Strike used to purchase or roast the beans, but two out of there blends have been terrific. Coffee should taste as good as it smells, and Operator and Napalm are 10-ring. Robust coffee taste slides over the taste buds, satisfies like coffee should, departs with no, I mean no, lingering flavor. Arrives with a flash-bang, quietly egresses leaving you with a feeling you need “just one more” cup. After drinking coffee through the day, you just enjoy the experience.

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