Every year about this time, I write up a little something about how to drink better coffee in the new year. Previously I had directed posts entirely to how to do it better yourself, and for sure I’ll cover that again. But 2011 was an unprecedented year for us, and as I became busier myself, it became obvious that some days I was NOT going to be making my own coffee, so sourcing it well became a higher priorty. And as I became busier, I let go of a little of the rigidness that’s accompanied my coffee habit in recent years – and I found myself having more fun. So this year’s list is NOT a rehash of previous years.
Without further ado… here are my Top 10 ways to drink better coffee in 2012:
10. Find a good independent coffeehouse, or better yet, a number of them. There are lots of tools out there to help you, especially if you’re an iPhone or iPad user, and the wonderful website http://delocator.net/ is at your disposal. Independent coffee houses are more likely to be in tune with season and quality, and they will help you discover new origins, new prep methods, and more. Ideally, they will do it right for you.
9. Make it a point to patronize your independents regularly, even when you could brew your own. I’m not saying every day, necessarily. But don’t be a stranger. Small independent businesses depend on your patronage to stay alive. If you want them there when you need them, you need to throw them some business even when you don’t need them.
8. Find your local, independent roaster (or several). To get the best beans, you can’t be buying them in the supermarket. Like local, independent coffee houses, they are best equipped to keep you in touch with seasonal coffees, and they are likely to strive for the highest quality. And like your coffee houses, you need to patronize them regularly.
7. Resolve to expand your routine this year. For example, if you always drink Sumatra, try some new origins, things that are like Sumatra, and things that are decidedly DIFFERENT than your old favorite. Try new prep methods. Anything to expand your horizons. Variety is the spice of life.
6. Go low tech at home. Good gear doesn’t have to be fancy gear. For less than $75, a good hand grinder paired with a Hario pour-over cone will give you more joy than the last expensive electric appliance you bought. Simplicity has lots of advantages beyond price – less things to break, easier to use, and more satisfaction from being intimately involved with crafting your coffee.
5. Reduce your consumption. Wow, this is a surprise, I’ll bet – a guy who sells coffee advocating for you to drink less of it. But the less you drink, the more you’ll appreciate what you do consume.
4. MEASURE, MEASURE, MEASURE. Ratios are critical, as are temperatures and extraction times. Get yourself a kitchen scale that measures in 1 gram increments, and use it! Weighing your brewing water isn’t ESSENTIAL, but it helps. Monitor your brew water temps, and your extraction times. Rules of thumb abound, but the important thing is to find what works for you. Once you do, it will be easy for you to maintain or vary at will.
3. Get yourself a notebook, or some notekeeping app. Note what you do, what you like, and what you don’t. Go back a read your notes periodically.
2. Commit to pay for quality. Food is too important to your health and quality of life – skimp somewhere else. And even relatively “expensive” coffee at home translates to less than 50 cents per serving, or about the same as a K-cup.
1. Have Fun! I’m not saying you should drink lousy coffee, but life is too short to get hung up on a single cup. Do it as well as you can, but enjoy the social aspects of the beverage.