Author Archives: 1stincoffeedb

What is a Barista? A True Story.

A coffee shop I often frequented, well before I became serious and educated about coffee, was owned by an entrepreneur. In this case, the definition of entrepreneur is a person with a type A personality who has enough money to buy a coffee shop. He was energetic and driven with no real knowledge about coffee. The previous owners trained him, and while I do not know about their background or education in the field, I have to assume that they either did not know much, did not pass on much, or the new owner was just not listening.

I mentioned that I was quite early on in my coffee ambitions, just starting to frequent coffee shops. It was just a few weeks after I learned that espresso did not have an “x” in its spelling. On one of my first visits to this shop I asked, “What is the thermometer in the milk for?” He was steaming a pitcher at the time.

He told me, “It is to make sure that the milk gets hot enough to kill the bacteria.” I am not knowledgeable in the field of bacteriology, but that is not why you use a thermometer. And experienced baristas never use a thermometer. A “real” barista will hold their hand on the pitcher. The basic instruction is to add air (the “whoosing” sound early in the process) until the outside of the metal pitcher feels the same temperature as the skin on your hand, then raise the pitcher to allow the steam to swirl the milk. Stop when the pitcher feels just a bit uncomfortably hot to the touch. From there the barista adjusts the timing and technique to the quality of the milk as they gain experience. So:

Thermometer = Amateur barista
Hand on pitcher = Professional barista

As the months went by, and then the years, things got worse at this shop. The espresso degraded as did the cappuccinos and lattes, and the owner/barista actually told a then-new customer who stated that the drink was bitter that he ordered the wrong beverage. The customer was right as we had noticed that all the drinks became bitter as the profits dropped and he was ordering lower grades of coffee beans.

The final straw for me as a customer was when one summer I ordered a mocha smoothie from their new smoothie bar. The female PBTC (person behind the counter – it would be grossly inaccurate to call her a barista) asked me, “What’s that?”

I replied, “What’s mocha? Its coffee and chocolate.”

“That’s not mocha,” I was told.

“Mocha is chocolate and coffee.”

“No it isn’t.”

“So, what is mocha?” I asked her.

“I don’t know, but it isn’t coffee and chocolate.”

I should have waked out right there, but I said, “OK then. Please make me a chocolate smoothie and put a double shot of espresso in it when you blend it.”

mocha smothie

“We will have to charge you extra for the espresso because that comes from that side [she points to the coffee bar] and the smoothie is from here [standing at the smoothie which was ten feet from the coffee bar].”

A couple of lessons here. When you become knowledgeable about your coffee beverages it becomes easier to spot someone who knows what they are doing, and hopefully, easier to find a quality coffee shop. The other lesson is that if you get into situations in a shop that make you feel uncomfortable or force you to give the recipe to the workers as to how to make a beverage, it is definitely time to move on.

There are good coffee shops out there that offer a friendly atmosphere as well as quality beverages. Look for them. They deserve your patronage.

HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICANO

The Americano

As the story goes, when the American fighting forces were in France in WWII, they complained that the coffee was too strong. The cafes added water to the espresso thus creating an Americano, made for the Americans who didn’t like that strong taste of straight espresso. Whether that is myth or not, it makes for an appealing story to add to the legends and myths of coffee history.

Americano

The Americano

Whether fact or fiction, at that time espresso had not made any strong inroads in America, and the young men fighting “over there” were accustomed to either stove-top percolator coffee at home (if they had started drinking coffee at all before being sent overseas) or the instant coffee packets in their rations. While the instant was fast, easy, supplied the much-needed caffeine boost, and was something hot to drink, compared to an espresso, it was quite weak.
But the Americano is not just for those who can’t handle strong coffee. It is also a great way to test your espresso. “Watering” it down a bit can allow you to get a better idea as to the quality of your espresso. It avoids having your palate overwhelmed by the strong flavors of a straight espresso. It is also a great way to enjoy a richer beverage than drip coffee can normally supply.

HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICANO

Pull your espresso as always, either a single or a double, but pull the shot into a cup (coffee cup, cappuccino cup, etc.). Then top off with the desired amount of hot water. You can also do it the other way round- pour the espresso into the desired amount of water (aka: a Long Black). This will tend to retain just a bit more of the crema. The taste will be about the same overall, but the presentation may be more pleasing to the eye.

What you may very well find is that your espresso is not quite a good as you thought. A hot, straight espresso can be so dynamic on the palate that it can be difficult to discern the flavors. This makes the Americano an excellent tool for evaluating your espresso.
On the positive side, when done right, it gives you a beverage to be sipped and enjoyed, and it makes for a nice change of pace.
Give it a shot (or two)!

Coffee Grading and You

“Your Bean Needs to Apply Itself, Ms. Coffee”

No, you do not need to schedule a Teacher-Coffee conference, but some basic knowledge of coffee grading can help you get the best flavor for your dollar. There is no world-standard when it comes to grading coffee. Many countries create their own standards and these can vary. , but there are some basics that can be helpful.

coffee grading joke

Screen Size – Beans can be sorted by their size. Screen of varying sizes can be used to sort a crop by size. Generally, beans that are grown at the highest altitudes larger in size. Since coffee grown at higher altitude is generally recognized as being highest in quality, screen size can be a good basic indicator of quality. But more than that, beans of approximately the same size will roast more evenly. The screen sizes are indicated by 64’s of an inch, so a screen size stated as “17/18,” means that the beans are 17/64’s to 18/64’s of an inch which is about 7mm. A 15/16 screen is about 6mm, etc.

Screen size is widely used as a starting point for classifying coffee but it is only general in nature and does not necessarily translate into a flavor standard. There is a lot more to consider. Let’s take a look at the SCAA’s classification system to further define coffee classifications:

To grade a coffee, the person grading will first take a weighed sample of 300 grams of green coffee (about 1800 beans) to be classified and screen sort the sample for size rating and consistency. The beans are individually examined for defects. Defects can be a wide range of problems such as insect damage, broken beans, foreign matter (sticks, pebbles, etc.), husks, and more.

Specialty Grade Green Coffee (Grade 1): This is the highest grade of coffee. Specialty green coffee beans have no more than 5 full defects in 300 grams of coffee. No primary defects (large or medium stokes or sticks, black beans, beans still in in cherry state, etc.) are allowed. The beans are also rated by flavor after roasting. Specialty Grade must have at least one distinctive attribute in the body, flavor, aroma, or acidity. That is, they must be special. No quakers (beans picked prematurely and thus will roast improperly) are permitted.

Premium Coffee Grade (Grade 2): Premium coffee must have no more than 8 full defects in 300 grams. Primary defects are permitted. A maximum of 5% above or below screen size indicated is tolerated. Must possess at least one distinctive attribute in the body, flavor, aroma, or acidity. Must be free of faults and may contain only 3 quakers.

Following those grades are Exchange Coffee Grade (Grade 3): allows no more than 9-23 full defects in 300 grams. No cup faults are permitted and a maximum of 5 quakers are allowed. Below Standard Coffee Grade (Grade 4) allows 24-86 defects in 300 grams. Finally, Off Grade Coffee (Grade 5) will contain more than 86 defects in 300 gram. For those serious about coffee, these three grades are generally not considered when purchasing coffee.

Coffee and Health

“Coffee will stunt your growth!” We have likely all heard that one. As kids I remember the house filling with the delicious aroma of coffee being boiled in a percolator and watching Dad savor his hot cup of coffee. The truth is that coffee would not have stunted our growth unless you consider that our increased hyperactivity would have caused Mom to beat the life out of us, thus ceasing any possibility of further growth.

Much of the misinformation about coffee being bad came from early studies that only looked at coffee consumption without considering preexisting high-risk factors such as diet, physical activity levels, stress, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Current research has negated
virtually all those early findings and has shown that the benefits of coffee are many.

We are all well aware of the beneficial effects of caffeine, particularly first thing in the morning. Starting the day with a small amount of caffeine can sharpen  focus and aid in concentration.

Caffeine also helps in the treatment of headaches. If you read the labels of many over-the-counter pain relievers you will find that caffeine is one of the active ingredients. It makes pain relievers more effective as well as speeding their delivery. But many people report that just a cup of coffee or two can help relieve a headache or other pain on its own.

But there is a lot of evidence through modern research that indicates that coffee has benefits including:

– The potential effect on type 2 diabetes risk. Type 2 diabetes makes heart disease and stroke more likely. Coffee may counter several risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
– High coffee consumption is associated with decreased risk of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
– Higher consumption of caffeinated coffee is associated with decreased risk of Parkinson’s. Coffee has also been linked to lower risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
– Lower risks for heart rhythm disturbances (a risk factor of heart attack and stroke) in men and women.
– Studies have shown a benefit of coffee on the prevention of diabetes. Evidence indicates that  decaffeinated coffee may have this same benefit as regular coffee.
– Improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression.
Most studies find an association between coffee consumption and
decreased overall mortality.

Consuming multiple pots of coffee every day can lead to serious problems including digestive problems, and in the case of unfiltered coffee, higher cholesterol levels. If you are a heavy caffeinated-coffee drinker (and/or other caffeinated products), and you stop consuming coffee
suddenly, the withdrawal symptoms can include:
– Headache
– Fatigue, drowsiness, or loss of energy
– Irritability
– Anxiety or depression
– Nausea and/or vomiting
– Decreased ability to concentrate or perform mental tasks

Moderate coffee drinkers don’t have to worry about that. So as Mom told you, everything in moderation.

But one thing to keep in mind is to pay attention to what your body tells you. If coffee affects you in some negative way, seek advice from a medical professional.

To Milk or not to Milk… That is the Question

Cow Milk

My basic philosophy as to adding anything to a cup of coffee has always been, “Add it because you want to, not because you have to.” If a cup of coffee is such that you cannot drink it without adding [fill in your amendment here] then it should not be consumed.” But there are times and reasons for adding or not adding to your cup.

One of my favorite coffee treats is Turkish coffee. Adding a little sugar to the ibrik with the finely-ground coffee and water makes for a very special treat. Cardamom or cinnamon added to that makes it even more special. I think of it as a cup of liquid dessert. Not something to do every day, but as a special treat.

By definition, a cappuccino or latte would not be if it were not for milk. Milk is half the definition of those beverages, literally. These beverages are comprised of espresso with steamed milk added. The quality of the milk is important for either. The ratio of fat to protein is what allows a barista to create the micro-foam that enables them to pour latte art. While the various hearts and flower shapes are beautiful to behold, they are an indicator of the quality of the milk as well as the ability and dedication of the barista.

But milk is not for everyone. Depending on the source of information used, anywhere from about sixty to seventy-five percent of the population is lactose intolerant , with figures over ninety percent in East-Asian populations. Lactose intolerance is caused by lactase deficiency. Lactase is an enzyme produced by your body that breaks down lactose (milk sugar). Without going into the clinical details, suffice it to say that lactose-intolerant people suffer various levels and types of gastrointestinal distress from mild to severe a short time after consuming products containing lactose. To the best of my knowledge, humans are the only species who consume milk after being weaned. Theories state that we lose some of the ability to produce lactase after weaning because we do not need it any more. But there are other causes of lactose intolerance. Moving on..

So odds are good that you are lactose intolerant to some extent. If so, what to do? There are alternatives:

There are lactose-free bovine milk products available. An enzyme is added to the milk during processing to break down the lactose for you before consumption. Depending on your location there may be numerous choices. I suggest checking a store that carries natural or organic products since these are often from cows which are usually fed a better diet which can lead to a higher quality protein.

There are also milk-free milks. For numerous reasons, including lactose intolerance, some people do not consume dairy milk. For those folks the most common alternatives are almond and soy “milks.” These are made by grinding the almonds or soy beans, cooking them in water, then filtering the liquid out.

To an even greater extent than bovine milk, the quality of these alternatives varies widely. Some are rich and sweet while others are thin, watery, and almost tasteless. Assuming that most of our readers are in the United States, three brands I have tried that work quite well in a cappuccino or latte:

Kikoman Pearl (either plain or vanilla).
Kirkland Vanilla (Costco brand)
Pacific Foods Soy Blenders

These all will work well for latte art and all are slightly sweetened although unsweetened are also available in some flavors (other than the Kirkland).

My limited experience with almond milk in coffee was not as positive, but tastes vary, so give it a try and find out for yourself. Some of the supermarket house brands of these milk alternatives we have tried were of low quality, but give them a try as they might be to your liking.

But as I stated from the start, if you are adding anything to a coffee beverage, do it because you want to, not because you have to. Quality coffee, whether it be espresso, drip, press, or whatever, should be good on its own. Whatever you add should just make it better.

Ten reasons why you should buy a Jura Automatic Coffee Center

 

Jura Impressa Z9

Jura Impressa Z9

  1. Jura Automatic Coffee Centers make the freshest, most aromatic coffee, espresso, cappuccino, and latte completely automatically. It’s like having a professional coffee Barista in your home!
  2. Each cup of coffee is made on demand. All you have to do is press a button!
  3. Coffee is ground fresh for each cup just before brewing, preserving more aroma than any other brewing system. No expensive pods or capsules!
  4. A high pressure pump easily forces hot water at high pressure through the grounds extracting flavor and aroma in less than 30 seconds, leaving behind all bitter chemicals which are normally extracted during a longer brewing methods. The coffee can’t taste better!
  5. Jura Automatic Coffee Centers have an extra large brewing chamber, which holds up to 16 grams of ground coffee… more than any other system on the market. This design allows you to brew up to 16 oz. of coffee at a time. The choice is all yours: One or two espressos, one or two double shots, two double shots, a 12 oz. mug or any other combination of up to 16 oz. of coffee at a time.
  6. The high-wattage stainless steel lined ThermoBlock heating systems deliver unlimited amounts of steam for frothing and steaming milk for cappuccinos and lattes. Some Jura models even froth the milk and brew the coffee with just one push of the button (look for our One Touch Cappuccino models Z9, Z7, J9 TFT,S9 One Touch, C9 One Touch and GIGA 5).
    Making cappuccino and latte was never this easy!
  7. A hot water dispenser is ideal to quickly pre-warm cold cups or prepare a large cup of tea in seconds. Tea anyone?
  8. All Jura Automatic Coffee Centers can be operated in stand-by mode all day long, ready to make a cup of coffee in seconds. During brewing you can even change the strength and the coffee volume without changing your regular setting. The 60-second cappuccino, anytime you want it!
  9. User friendly and informative alpha-numeric displays inform you when its time to refill water and beans and to clean your machine. It’s as easy to clean as it is to make coffee!
  10. Made in Switzerland: Jura Automatic Coffee Centers are made of high-end quality materials. The built-in commercial conical steel burr grinder with its class leading low-noise design is manually calibrated during assembly to assure highest precision grinding.
    You can’t buy a better, more reliable machine!

Lay the Percolator to Rest

Through the ages all factors related to coffee have advanced. From ground upon a rock to highly-advanced grinders capable of adjustment as small as 0.0005”.  For pan roasting to computer controlled roasters that give precise control over every batch. We new even know now the genetic structure of the coffee plant itself. Much the same can be said of methods of coffee preparation.

Espresso machines can easily be said to be the most advanced form of coffee-making. Some commercial machines have three separate computers inside just to control brew temperature and water delivery. But here in the West, Percolater.

That statement will likely rankle some, and the reasons are simple. The percolator began its life in around 1814 or a bit earlier. The first US patent for what we now know as the “modern” percolator was granted in 1889. These were designed to be placed on a stove or other similar heating source. After W.W.II the electric percolator came into vogue as the movement to “modernize” the American home took hold. But some modern conveniences have their drawbacks. Let’s take a look at why:

The percolator is just a pot with a spout. Usually it is taller than it is wide. Placed on a heating source , the water inside begins to heat and rise. It flows up the center tube (1) where it splashes against a clear dome (2). There are variations to that, but this is what most people think of as a stereotypical percolator. After the splash, the water trickles into a basket suspended in the pot. This basket contains the ground coffee. It flows through the grounds (4) and dribbles back down to the bottom of the pot to begin its journey again. It does this over and over. As the coffee brews the wonderful aroma of the beverage fills the home as vapors and steam are emitted through the pouring spout (6).

It is that last fact that makes the percolator a favorite method in some households to this day but is also one of the reasons that this method is best put to rest. That wonderful aroma makes an excellent “air freshener” for the home, but that aroma is, to a great extent, the flavor of the coffee being boiled off. Brewed coffee should normally not get over about 202 to 203F. degrees, and that as a maximum. Depending on many factors, coffee brewed at around 196 to 198 can be fantastic. The heat from the stove will cause the liquid in the pot to approach the boiling point as the brewing process progresses. While it may not actually reach 212 F., it certainly has great potential of  surpassing 205F.

The other problem is the nature of the process itself. As the coffee is passed through the grounds, over and over, the potential for over-extraction is multiplied. Anyone who has ever had a bitter cup of perc’d coffee knows this as a fact.

There is also the difficulty of knowing when to stop the brewing process by taking the pot off the burner. A timer can be used or the color of the coffee splashing in the glass dome on top can be used as an indicator. Being that so much of the flavor has the potential of being boiled off throughout the process, precision is a minor factor in brewing time here.

But that aroma, the evidence we use to show what is bad about a percolator is also a big reason why it is still used today. That aroma is more than enough to get most folks out of bed in the morning. The aroma says “good morning.” The device is also simple to use and easy to clean.

So the basics are there but there have been improvements. The drip coffee maker combines the convenience of  this simple brewing method and has the potential to control over the process. The biggest improvement over the percolator is that the water is heated and then released through the ground coffee just one time. That gives the potential of  alleviating over-extraction, but the majority of drip makers create another by having a brew temperature that is too low. As mentioned earlier, brew temperature is critical for the best cup of coffee. Whether this low temperature is due to design flaws, cost-saving measures in design and production, or lawyers attempting to avoid having their clients sued is unimportant. The taste of the coffee is important. No home drip brewers had true adjustable brewing temperature until now.

The most advanced drip coffee maker ever offered for home use is now in its second generation. Invented by Joe Behm, the Behmor “Brazen Plus” eliminates all the problems of the percolator and has advanced drip brewing into the realm of science. It has even earned European and American certification by the SCAA and the SCAE. Brew water is held above the coffee in a stainless steel reservoir where it is heated to a preselected temperature chosen by the user, controlled by electronics using a sensor that is in the water itself. Once the water reaches that selected temperature, only then is it released through the coffee held directly below. If desired, the Brazen can pre-soak the grounds, allowing them to become pre-saturated which eliminates uneven extraction. When the brewing begins, the water is released in a slow, on-off cycle, which allows the water to drain through the coffee and not flood and disrupt the bed of grounds. Water is distributed evenly over the coffee by an advanced shower head with many moles instead of just one small nozzle over the coffee. The machine can even be set for your altitude and the boiling point calibrated to compensate for that. This also compensates for electronic drift over time.

This does not mean that older methods of coffee preparation are obsolete. Turkish coffee is one of my very favorite methods, and that way method of coffee preparation is the oldest in the world still in use today.  Even cowboy coffee has greater potential of making a better cup than a percolator. But the majority of households use drip brewers today and there is no more advanced home drip brewer than the Behmor Brazen.

The Bean Counters

beethoven coffeeThis is not about chartered accountancy or the standard bookkeeping practices employed therein. It is about coffee. In a “competing” blog entry entitled “Coffee!!!” By Mason Currey

(and also found all around the Internet in some 118,000 thousand other places according to Google),

Beethoven had a cup of coffee for his breakfast each morning. To make it he would count out 60 coffee beans. As a fellow musician, although not up to Ludwig’s standards of creativity, I decided to investigate. Yes, I counted out 60 coffee beans… twice. The first time was from a random scoop of beans. The second time I choose only “full size” beans (no peaberries). I found a mass of 7.2 and 8 grams respectively.

Next step was to research what the recommended ratio of coffee to water should be. I found the following recommendations:

30 grams : 16 ounces (63 grams:liter)

1.63 grams : 1 ounce (55grams:liter)

7 grams : 125ml (56 grams:liter)

30 grams : 420 grams of water (71 grams:liter)

65 grams : liter (self explanatory)

After going through a few pages like that I felt like searching for how many inches in an hour. But as you can see, there is a range that is generally agreed upon that if you are making coffee using one liter of water (which is approximately 33.81402 liquid ounces, if you care) you should use between 55 and 70 grams of coffee. That is scientific accuracy that an art major can appreciate because it decreases the science and increases the art. But the science gets more confusing.

Beethoven was not making a liter of coffee, he was making a cup of coffee. The volume of his cup was what? Students? Anyone? It’s a trick question because I don’t know the answer, and even if I had access to his actual cup as authenticated by the Franklin Mint, we don’t know how much water he used. He could have been using a six ounce cup which he filled to 80% of its capacity. Anyone? That would be approximately 0.1420 of a liter. ENOUGH ALREADY with this!

We could keep going, but it is becoming less humorous and more pointless as it continues on. There are a few useful coffee bean counting tips that can assist you in making a better cup of coffee, and they can be simplified:
Weighing your coffee is a better method than using a scoop. Weight is more consistent than volume. The roast level and the age of the coffee affect its density (pound of Styrofoam vs. a pound of lead). So weigh the beans before grinding (beans will likely be easier to handle than ground coffee).
Measure the water accurately using a good measuring cup. Even better, weigh the water. The metric system was created as a true system. 1cc = 1ml = 1gram of water.
How much coffee to how much water? Begin with a ratio of 6 grams of coffee : 100grams of water, or about 1:17 in weight (yes, I could have started this article with that statement, and no, I do not get paid by the word).

The art is that if the coffee is thin, or tasteless, or bland to you, use more coffee, or a finer grind, or both. If the coffee is overpowering and “in your face,” causing you to  hold onto the edge of the table like it’s a safety bar on a roller coaster,  use less coffee or grind a bit more coarse, or both. And once again, yes, I could also have started with that statement. The point is that coffee is food, and the food you like the best is the food you like the best. Whether you like a cup that looks like thin broth or coffee that pours like molasses, taste is subjective.

The science of this is that unless you control the variables as closely as is reasonably possible, when you get a great cup of coffee, how will you be able to reproduce it unless you know how much coffee and how much water you used?

So we can guess that Beethoven’s 60 beans to an 8 ounce cup of coffee, was a ratio of 1:26 (beans to water by mass). If it was 6 ounces of water, the ratio would be 1:22 Compared to the recommended ratio of 1:17, his coffee actually seems a little weak compared to today’s standards. Maybe he liked it that way. He was an artist, after all.

Coffee Education By The Cup

At one time or another, we have all likely spent time searching for a good, independent coffee shop which prides itself on serving a quality product. It can be difficult to find in some communities, but they are out there! But these shops very often offer more than just a clean cup, a drinkable beverage, and friendly service. They can be a good source of coffee education.
An independent coffee shop is very often operated by someone who is passionate about coffee. Some even roast their own coffee to be able to create a taste that is just their own. The passion is there and it shows in the product as well as in the employees. Time is spent training baristas in order to ensure that the product meets the shop’s standards. The employees areas educated and you can be as well.

coffee shops

When I go into a coffee shop I try to get there in the off-hours, avoiding the morning and lunch rushes. I always start by ordering a straight espresso. If a shop has put enough effort and training into making good espresso then the rest of their offerings will usually fall into line. Additionally, few people ever order an espresso straight and so it often make you stand out from the rank-and-file crowds.

If it is not busy I like to hang around the counter and watch my shot being pulled. While I am no master barista, I know enough about espresso to be able to examine the process as well as the product as it issues froth from the machine and be able to make a friendly comment or two; a conversation starter. A word or two usually is enough to know if the conversation should continue. Something as simple as, “That flow looks good,” or possibly, “It looks like the grind could benefit from being a little finer.” That might lead to commenting on the taste of the espresso. The response I receive dictates where I go from there.

While it will not always happen, in most of these shops with a dedicated staff you will find employees who are more than willing to share some of what they know. That is the whole point of starting the conversation. I go in assuming that I might learn something that can make my home espresso production better, or more efficient, or just different. I once befriended a commercial roaster who has since moved on, but I learned a lot about coffee roasting from him. Learning about coffee, like any other knowledge, is cumulative. A small tip here, an idea there, and eventually it comes together for you. I started out as a home enthusiasts and now work in the coffee industry. You just never know where the road may lead. But back to the coffee shop..
If the espresso is good the rest of the visit is easy, particularly if the opening conversation was friendly. I usually then order something to eat and a cappuccino. But what to do if the espresso is not good? What do you say? What do you do? A friend who worked as a professional waitress once told me never to upset your server (to put it politely). It is good advice to not be rude to people who are preparing food for you. If the espresso was close then I might go back again. Sometimes my comments, with some thinly veiled advice, are taken to heart and the barista will try again. But if not, if the conversation is curt or unfriendly, then next time in town I try a different shop.

There are small towns may only have two or three coffee shops so your choices are limited if you are avoiding the chains (which I generally do). If that happens, you can always fall back on your home barista knowledge and your ever-improving coffee making skills.

Making Coffee At Home Is Bad For You

First it was aluminum and Alzheimer’s, then it was too much fat, and then too much protein, and then mushrooms that could help you lose weight, and now coffee? But this is not a health article unless you consider attitude a health issue (my wife does).Making Coffee

Making good coffee comes from perseverance and practice. Apply the scientific method of controlling variables to the best of your ability and make use of the as much of the potential of your equipment, all in the hopes of coaxing from the bean all it has to offer. Days, months, and then years pass. If you keep at it, all your friends discover where the best coffee is in the neighborhood. Some may even ask why you don’t open a coffee shop.

So you have created a foundation of what good coffee should taste like. Your know the difference between a wet and a natural processed bean just by the smell. You can taste whether there really is any Yigcheffe in that blend. Well, maybe not, but you certainly have made enough coffee to know the difference between a drinkable delight and swill.

So you head into town with a friend and drop into a coffee shop. What is your brain telling you? What mass of thoughts haunt your imagination?

  • The aroma in here is more disinfectant than coffee
  • Do I really have to drink a cup of coffee here?
  • That tattoo on her face must have really hurt

Or is it more like

  • Should I get a cup of the house blend or a cappuccino?
  • If I find something I like I hope they sell the beans.
  • Are the “roasted on” dates posted?

Two very different attitudes. If you are serious at all about your coffee and have visited enough coffee shops you likely have had more mediocre and bad experiences than good. It has a lot to do with personal standards. If you have been using pre-ground, canned coffee in big red jugs from the supermarket and brewing in a $12, plastic drip brewer, then just about anything at any coffee shop will taste as good, and likely better. But if you have been using freshly-roasted beans, ground per use (and you should be), then your reticence to enter a coffee shop is understandable.

But my advice is overcome the fear and try to find a shop that is worth visiting. Like finding a life’s mate, it takes time. Ladies know, you have to kiss some frogs to find a prince. There are good shops around. The best bet is usually the independent shops. Competing against the national chains with their centralized roasting facilities and massive advertising and marketing budgets, the small-shop owner has to offer more to compete, and that means offering better coffee.

So my advice is grab the phone book, look up coffee shops, and try one you haven’t tried before. You just might find better a place making coffee and get an education as well.