How To Be a Coffee Snob

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To a vast number of people worldwide, and for those of us here in the great U.S. of A who will punch a bitch without it, coffee starts our days like a warm, unassuming, comforting lover. Coffee doesn’t judge, it doesn’t question why we stumbled home at three in the morning reeking of booze and sex, it doesn’t point fingers and make us feel like human garbage because we continually mess up, and it sure as hell doesn’t stare us down with accusing eyes as we attempt to subvert any and all blame and responsibilities. No, coffee is a friend, confidant, cheerleader, and partner. We love coffee and coffee loves us right back.

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From that oh so necessary early morning cup, to that lunchtime pick-me-up, to that late afternoon drive home Latte, coffee runs our days. But let’s face the jarring and horrible truth here, kids: coffee, in general (when purchased outside of the home or someplace other than a place that really knows what it’s doing) sucks. It sucks really badly, but, unfortunately, most people don’t know that yet because they are too used to swinging by McDonald’s or the gas station for that speedy Pick-Me-Up before getting on with the day. Look, we understand that. We’ve all done it, and sometimes (truth be told) we still do because it’s convenient. Well, we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but convenience rarely equals quality or deliciousness, especially when it comes to our cups of Joe.

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Right off the bat, you might as well understand the fact that coffee is never going to live up to its fullest potential or taste quite as good as it will when you make it at home. All it takes is three simple, relatively inexpensive, and readily available things to make the best coffee at home. Well, unless you count a decent traveling decanter like a Thermos, then maybe four things. Anyway, it all starts with your coffee. Literally, the most important part of this venture without which any of this wouldn’t matter anyway. So let’s start with the coffee.

Coffee Beans

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Three words kids, it’s as easy as that: Buy Whole Bean. Seriously. We know, we know, you need a grinder to break those fellas down, and yes, we’ll get to that in a minute, but first: Whole Bean coffee. Some stores and larger shopping establishments even have grinders right there by the whole bean coffee options with which you can set the grind (from mere powder all the way to barely split) and others have people hanging about who are more than happy to grind it right in front of you. So, whole bean.

But how do we know which beans to get? Well, let’s start with the type of bean. What you are going to see more often than not is a type called the Arabica. Follow that link for a full, lovely description, but what you really need to know is the beans are more balanced in flavor and taste like the coffee you’re used to drinking. The other is Robusta. This style is the bastard step child of tasty coffee. We’re gonna ignore this guy.

Roast Styles

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Anyway, now that you’ve got that down, take a peek at the roast styles. This flavor comes from which step in the roasting procedure the beans are removed from the heat and ultimately sold to you. French, Italian, Espresso, and the like are all roasts and each one will tell you which ‘color’ brew they will make from light to dark. Light and mediums are you Breakfast Blends and House Blends and the dark tends to be your City blends and your Midnight styles. It’s up to you, but keep in mind, despite popular belief, the lighter the blend, the higher the caffeine content. That’s because roasting longer removes more of the caffeine. So, darker is not stronger, just more bitter. Got it? Okay, so maybe it’s only slightly more caffeinated, but darker does make more bitter coffee and everything hinges on how you measure your coffee to your water amount, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Coffee Maker

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So, now that you have your whole beans picked out, and at this stage probably ground at the place from which you bought them. We’re begging you: do not buy pre-ground beans. Seriously begging you. Ok, so now you need some kind of amazing thing with which to brew your beautiful beverage. Sure, you could shell out a couple hundred bucks on a countertop professional machine that makes cappuccino, steams milk, regulates pressure, controls weather, and doubles as an Uber hub, but you really don’t need all that nonsense.

Fine, if you want to be a semi-pro Barista and host Coffee-themed Shindigs out of your Lake House then knock yourself out. Literally. Because no one actually does that. No, what you need is a decent, fifty-dollar coffee maker with a timer and that’s it. It’s also not a bad idea to get one that has a stop feature built into the filter basket so you can get to your coffee while it’s still brewing. This is a nice feature because no one is that patient at 6:30 in the morning. Now that you’ve gotten that far, let’s get at that sweet, black nectar.

Water & Coffee Beans = Coffee!

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First, you’re gonna need some water. Unless your sink has a built-in purifying filter, buy water. Believe it. Nothing adversely affects the flavor and even smell of delicious coffee beans like water, so make sure it’s good. Now before you go just pouring water in willy nilly, it’s a good idea to figure out just how much coffee you want to have. There is no point in brewing a while pot if you’re only going to take half with you on your way and leave the other to get tepid and gross.

Typically what you want to stick to (based on taste preferences, obviously) is 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. This is sometimes called the “Golden Ratio” and can be adjusted to your own desires since some of us want stronger coffee. What? That’s right, kids, the strength of your brew can be completely adjusted by the amount of coffee to the amount of water. Think of it this way: you take two piles of dry sand, say 1/2 cup for one and 1/4 cup the other. Then you take the same amount of water for each, say 2 cups, pour the water on the sand and you’ll see that the pile of sand with the least amount gets more completely wet than the other. Now equate that to coffee grounds: fewer grounds gets more saturated and equals better flavor whereas the more grounds takes longer to extract fully but has more to extract which equals a more bitter brew. Make sense? So measure accordingly and you will have the perfect cup for you.

Grind Your Own Beans

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So let’s back up a step. Let’s assume you’d like to grind beans in your home, too. This is a great idea because not only does this give you the ability to completely control your own grind, but also most grinders are even quite affordable, too. There are two basic grinder types: burr and blade. Blade grinders are like mini blenders and use spinning blades to basically chop the beans to irregular-sized bits. Burr grinders, on the other hand, use two burred bits that fit into one another like gears and more or less smash the beans into slightly more even bits. The type is up to you, but keep in mind burr grinders are pricier, but you get what you pay for in far more precise adjustability. And for the record, drip coffee makers take a specific grind for maximum extraction, and most decent grinders have that setting.

Well, folks, that’s about it. It’s time we all learned how to stop handing over upwards of fifty bucks a week for coffee that’s no better that what we could just as easily brew at home. So take control, save some money, and truly learn how to enjoy coffee from your own kitchen. Yum!