Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are merely "just for fun" and in no way to be taken too seriously. Mostly. Just relax. We're talking about coffee here, not the end of the world... if you need to have a cup of coffee first fine, I'll wait... better now? Okay....
America, stop it! Please!! Stop it with the downgrading of our national beverage. Stop it with the instant convenience of a cup of coffee without the careful discipline of brewing that cup of coffee. Enough of the Kuerig systems, pre-ground, instant, press-a-button-and-presto forms of coffee you drink. Repent of your mass consumption of coffee at the expense of enjoying the slow, thoughtful ritual of making and savoring coffee. Trade in your expensive, fancy-pantsy, technological marvels for the simplicity of a french press, freshly roasted beans, water, and time. It's time to learn how to make a real cup of coffee.
Ah, but you might think it's too hard to make a good cup of coffee. Some of you might complain it takes too much time. A few might object and say, "I don't have the proper material to make a great cup of coffee" or "great coffee is too expensive." To each of these objections I say, "Nonsense." Your grandparents knew how to make a great cup of coffee. You should too!
A Few Words About Coffee Beans
Great coffee really is about three things; beans, water, and time. Today I'll share some thoughts about coffee beans and tomorrow I'll write about brewing technique and technology. On Friday I'll share my ritual for the perfect of cup of coffee.
So... about those beans:
First, let's avoid the pre-ground, instant coffee. This stuff has already released the complex and beautiful flavors of the coffee. Coffee beans are a seed of flavor. Once it is ground or crushed the freshness of that flavor is gone. Honestly, if you are buying this stuff you're pretty much drinking ground up dirt. The best practice is to buy the most recently roasted, whole bean coffee you can get. The flavor is still locked in, and it's ready to be ground, brewed and enjoyed. If you cannot find recently roasted beans then be sure to at least get whole beans. But do whatever you can to avoid pre-ground or instant coffee. The taste itself of whole beans is worth it all.
Secondly, some of you stockpile coffee beans like we have a shortage of coffee about to befall the universe and you need some for Y2K. And then you've been told that putting it in cryogenic freeze for 30 years will keep it as good as the day it came out of the roaster. NO! It won't. Stop it. Buy what you need for a week or so and put it in an airtight container. Putting it in the freezer kills the natural moisture in the bean itself and when your bring it out to brew the beans are actually freezer burnt, not fresh. Don't freeze or refrigerate your beans. Store them in an room-temperature, airtight container of some sort for a few weeks. Let's end the cryogenic coffee stockpile and just buy half a pound each week, grind it right before you brew it and drink it. It'll be the best coffee you've had.
Third, and I need to speak with much grace because Gloria Jeans taught many of you poorly. The fact is however that flavored coffee is of the devil. It's a chemical mutation that isn't natural. The best coffee is the naturally roasted coffee. If you want a blueberry sunrise then get up at 4am, make a blueberry muffin and then pour a cup of coffee. But for goodness sakes don't drink blueberry sunrise coffee. That's gross. Coffee has its own beautiful and glorious flavor. If you want to find and enjoy different flavors of coffee then find the natural distinctions that already exist. Or try a blend of distinctly roasted blends. Coffee from India doesn't taste the same as coffee from South America. Dark roasts are different than medium body roasts. Blends are unique from single-origin roasts. You don't need flavored coffee for diversity, you just need different beans.
Find those flavors and develop a palette for them. It may take some time but it will enhance your enjoyment of coffee all the more. If you want to complement your coffee with a flavored creamer or syrup from time to time that's okay. I won't judge you. But please don't think that flavored coffee beans are a good idea. You wouldn't add blueberry sunrise to bacon. Why do it to coffee?
The Best Beans
I am not, admittedly, an expert in the best roasters but I have a few preferences and recommendations. Here's a few of my choice favorites when it comes to coffee roasters:
- Storyville Coffee - Great stuff. They roast their private reserve beans on a Tuesday, mail them that day and you get them generally within two days. It's well worth it and fairly inexpensive given the shipping.
- Ritual Coffee - one of my favorite Bay Area roasters. They have a coffee club that can be personalized with a lot of options and variety. I always enjoy going to Ritual Coffee at the Oxbow Market in Napa.
- Flying Goat Coffee - Sonoma County is known for it's wine but you'd be silly to pass up the coffee that it offers too. My favorite blend of all time is Mrs. Garland's. Fantastic stuff. Someone, please send me some!
Kaldi's Coffee - Kaldi's is a Missouri-based roaster that I've recently been introduced to. We were given a half-pound for Christmas and I've really enjoyed it. They seem to have a good handle on roasting quality coffee. I'd come back for another cup here.
Tomorrow we'll talk about coffee brewing tech. If you can take that Keruig you got for Christmas back and use the money you got in return for the real machinery and better beans. Plus you'll probably have enough left over to buy a years worth of beans.
Bonus points today if you can identify the coffee contraption in the picture above. Hipster friends in California are not eligible to win the prize.