As a kid, I thought coffee was disgusting. As an adult, I learned that drip coffee made from ground beans so old they’ve been in the metal can longer than most wine is aged, that’s disgusting. Good coffee? Mmmm, I love coffee.

This month, I’m giving a jolt of caffeine to the But First Coffee blogger linkup: every month, we start with coffee. No April foolin’, just posts about coffee. (If you’re a blogger and want to join, just reach out.)

53x11 direct to me!
53×11 direct to me!

Last year, while I was researching the impact of caffeine consumption on distance athletes, I learned that Hammer Nutrition has their own line of USDA certified organic and Fair Trade coffee, called 53×11. (Based on the graphics, I assume 53×11 is some super-secret cycling reference intended to taunt me into doing a triathlon. Nice try, but still NO.) According to Hammer, “Originally created by cyclists, for cyclists, 53×11 Coffee today is dedicated purely to delivering the best cup of organic, fair-trade coffee in the world. We utilize only sustainable organic, pesticide-free farms, and support trade wages and direct purchasing to give more to those growing the beans.” That, plus if you join the coffee club (2 bags/month on autoship) you get some freebies and perks (pun intended).

There are four blends in the Hammer coffee line-up: Chain Breaker, Big Ring, Early Break, and Downshift (which is decaff, so why would I bother??). All blends come in the standard 12 oz. bag–word to the wise, nobody seems to sell coffee by the pound anymore–and in whole bean or ground. Personally, I think the money I invested in my coffee grinder has paid dividends in better-tasting brews, and I recommend doing the same. (I bought mine at Target for about $15; Hammer sells a fancier model for just under $30.)  I ordered the obvious three and here are my thoughts.

IMG_3171Chain Breaker: Our signature espresso blend is the perfect choice for those who favor a darker roast. This rich, nutty blend is equally extraordinary for espresso or drip use. The Chain Breaker consists of beans from Africa, Indonesia, and the Americas which results in a complex, yet smooth cup. Available in 12 oz. bags of ground or whole bean.

Much to my surprise, this is the coffee I liked the least out of the three–and I expected it to be my favorite! I usually make dark roast coffee like an espresso blend, quite strong, and then add some form of milk and a little cocoa to it. (Exceptions for exceptionally smooth, low-acid coffee, like the Jamaican coffee I had while actually in Jamaica.) Generally speaking, the darker the better. This is definitely DARK coffee. It isn’t as acidic as most of the dark roasts I like, and I suspect that threw off the flavor profile at least as far as my taste buds were concerned. Don’t misinterpret that–this coffee was just fine. If you like strong coffee before a run (or ride or whatever) but the acidity messes with your stomach, this is a great choice.


Big Ring: Our 100% organic Sumatra single origin coffee, medium roasted and shade grown under a canopy of diverse species of trees that provide a viable habitat for migratory birds. The Big Ring represents the classic Sumatran flavor profile with low acidity and full body. Available in 12 oz. bags of ground or whole bean.

This coffee is delicious! It is definitely my favorite of the three…so much so that when I switch to two bags a month, I might make them both The Big Ring. If I made this coffee at Midwestern strength, I could probably drink it without anything added. Life on the Left Coast has led me to prefer my coffee made just strong enough to start to dissolve the spoon (kidding!), so that’s unlikely.

What I liked most about The Big Ring is that it delivered exactly what it promised: a full-bodied flavor with low acidity. If you’re only going to try one of Hammer’s coffees, THIS is the one.

IMG_3170Early Break: A morning staple at the 53×11 office. This medium-roasted blend of Central, South American, and Sumatran beans represents a well-rounded, mildly acidic cup with a clean finish. The Early Break is a great “everyday” coffee. Available in 12 oz. bags of ground or whole bean.

Again, this one promised what it delivered: balanced body, rich flavor. (That’s on the label, but if you’re a Runner of a Certain Age like I am, you might not be able to read it.) It’s also low in acidity. When I brew this one I up the amount of coffee in the coffee-to-milk ratio. I like this one with some Califia almond milk and a small splash of quality vanilla extract. (Feeling daring? Try a dash of cinnamon too.) I like this one for the weekends, when I want to sit down and get to work while drinking more than one giant mug of coffee. (That would be a a BAD idea with the Chain Breaker, at least for me…I might get more done, but I’m pretty sure the typo level would increase dramatically!)

As I mentioned previously, I didn’t try the decaff blend. Seriously, what is the point of unleaded coffee? In case you’re curious, here’s how Hammer describes it: Down Shift: A decaffeinated version of our beloved Chain Breaker signature espresso blend. No shortcuts were taken here. This blend represents the four major coffee growing regions as well, resulting in a remarkable decaf. Available in 12 oz. bags of ground or whole bean. Based on the other three, I’m sure it is lovely, but I don’t see the point.

In addition to the four coffees, Hammer can also hook you up with an electric kettle (great for making drip coffee at the office), a refillable Keurig cup (because seriously K-cups are the most wasteful, non-recyclable, non-compostable thing on the planet), a french press pot, and pretty much anything else you might need to partake of the coffees. Join the coffee club for a free mug, coffee filters, and drip-into-that-mug maker, plus lower prices.

By the way, Hammer makes all manner of other nutrition products for athletes. I’m working my way through the ones that are appropriate for me–and they have actual, real, live people to talk on the phone or chat online if you need help deciding what is best for your personal goals. So far, customer service has been GREAT. Before every coffee club shipment, I get an email reminding me that it’s about to ship, and have the option to delay or modify the order. The Hammer website also has loads of information on nutrition and endurance sports. If you’re thinking about making your first order, might I suggest you use my referral code? If you do, you’ll get 15% off your first order and a special packet of goodies including samples of some of the most popular Hammer products. Just place your order, and in the “referred by” section: Elizabeth Bain, email address bananafishie AT gmail, and code 252426. Voila!

Want to try before you buy?

Enter to win a bag of Hammer 53×11 coffee from Train With Bain! Just follow along on the Rafflecopter widget below. Please note the following: (1) This giveaway is in no way sponsored by Hammer Nutrition (or any other company or person or animal or alien), it’s 100% Train With Bain, baby. (2) I will happily ship to you for free within the US and Canada. If you’re in another country, I’ll have to look at postage…if it is extreme, I might ask you to help pay for it (or donate to a charity in lieu of paying postage). (3) Winners have to contact me with their shipping details within a reasonable amount of time–if I haven’t heard from you in a week, I’ll assume you are not interested.

Prizes: one bag of Hammer 53×11 coffee (new, unopened, fresh). The first winner to get back to me gets first pick of the blends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Like coffee? Why not take a spin around the April But First Coffee loop? It’s a short one this month! Next in line is Endure, Run Conquer



  1. How fun! Hopping over from Tricia’s blog….nice to meet you.

    I am not really a coffee drinker by the cup but I do brew it for my protein shake.

    I have never really noticed the difference in the different kinds of coffees but your descriptions sound interesting.

    I would love some more information about joining the hop. Please let me know. Thanks. [email address deleted for privacy reasons–Admin.]

    • admin Reply

      Thanks for letting me know, Tamieka. This month I was…let’s just say a bit less organized on my end than I had planned. May will be better!

  2. I feel like such a coffee newbie after reading your post. I think I just need to try more coffee. I think I like dark but who knows what else I may like if I would only try more! I think the only valid point really is I like coffee! 🙂
    Glad I could join the blogger loop! Thanks for hosting!

  3. Pingback: Coffee Fun - MissSippiPiddlin

  4. I love the sound of Big Ring! I prefer bolder, stronger coffees and Sumatras are usually bold!

  5. The early break would my preferred coffee of the three. Would love to try it!

    • admin Reply

      That’s what I thought…but it turns out it’s not my favorite. (It’s great, don’t get me wrong!) Do you drink your coffee plain, or with “stuff” in it?

  6. I love coffee! when I worked at Starbucks support center in Amsterdam I was a Coffee Master, a trainer on the Coffee Education team AND I even went to Rwanda to see for myself what coffee farms look like and experience for myself what it was like to actually harvest the coffee cherries. We even helped build a community health clinic while we were there. amazing experience. so yeah. coffee me! I’d be happy with anything but decaf. I tend to like a darker roast or a stronger blend. But honestly, I just love to try new (to me) coffees 🙂

    as I’m out of the country I’d be happy to help pay postage or donate just let me know.

    • admin Reply

      It must have been amazing to get to go to Rwanda and see good works happening! I was lucky to be able to see coffee (the cherries, and growing on the bushes) in both Nicaragua and Jamaica, but I didn’t get to visit any larger-scale farms or co-ops. In Jamaica I literally saw coffee growing by the side of the road, and in Nicaragua it was a small crop for the village where I was helping to build stoves. I’m trying to support coffee roasters who forge relationships with their farmers, want to ensure sustainability and living wages, etc.

    • admin Reply

      I’m the same way, Lorraine. One of the great things about coffee is that you don’t have to spend a bunch of money to enjoy quality. I love that I can use my $10 coffee pot and a bag of beans to make cafe-like drinks. Usually I put some milk (right now I’m loving Califia almond milk) and some cocoa powder in the mix. The Califia is about $4.50/bottle and lasts a week, and the cocoa is usually around $10-15 (depends on how fancy I get!) and can last a month. Don’t get me wrong, I love a coffee shop drink, but I can save so much money if I DIY it!

  7. Hi Elizabeth 🙂
    Brittani, Hammer Nutrition’s Social Media Manager here 🙂 I LOVE your post!! Any chance you’d be interested in allowing me to use this on our website?
    feel free to email me at [email removed so Brittani doesn’t get spammed!]

    Also, 53×11 is not some super top secret way to get people to ride haha I also thought this was some sort of secret thing Brian, owner of Hammer Nutrition, came up with. It actually is something so simple, so simple any bike rider should have known 🙂 53X11, signifies a gear ratio on a road bike. The front chain ring has 53 teeth and the back chain ring of 11 teeth. It is also the heaviest gear for normal road use.

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    Brittani Marquand

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