First off, I hate Starbucks. Their over-priced, over-flavored coffee is a travesty to the coffee connoisseur and to the over-paying, over-flavored masses. Of course, I have little love for the watered-down drip coffee that we’ve grown accustomed to at home. Not one to settle for high prices or poor quality, I became an amateur barista understudy and have since promoted myself to brewmaster.
As a public service announcement to you and yours, I’ve decided that for this month’s off-topic post, I’ll share some of my methods and techniques. Hopefully you will learn something or at least enjoy the post. Either way, here’s what I’ve learned.
Let’s begin with a quote from Nessmuk’s Woodcraft and Camping. “To make perfect coffee, just two ingredients are necessary, and only two. These are water and coffee. It is owing to the bad management of the latter that we drink poor coffee” (44).
Pre-ground coffee, especially cheap pre-ground coffee is devoid of flavor. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to achieve a great cup of coffee without quality ingredients. I’ve experimented with a variety of brands and blends. I’ve found that Kirkland (Costco) brand Guatemalan coffee is by far the best choice. That being said, I’m pretty sure that they are going to quit selling it so I’ve recently purchased a bag of Sumatra. Regardless of the blend you choose, purchase a quality bag of whole beans. You can grind the beans as they are needed. This keeps the coffee much fresher than purchasing it pre-ground. On a side note here, leave the cream and sugar out of “real” coffee. Save it for tea or those times when you are out and have to buy a substandard cup of coffee.
Yes, you’ll have to purchase a grinder. Prices range from relatively inexpensive (20 bucks) to ridiculously over-priced. I’m using one from Target that cost somewhere around twenty dollars and it works just fine. Grind what you expect to use in a day’s time. When it runs low, simply grind more.
The Keurig – Easy, Efficient, Expensive
The first method to consider is the Keurig. It’s quick. It’s simple. And it produces a tolerable cup of coffee. If you just want a good cup of coffee and aren’t concerned about the initial investment (somewhere around $150), Keurig is a decent option. We have one here and my wife uses it frequently; She drinks a lot more coffee than I do. If you do opt for the Keurig method, avoiding the pre-made K-cups can save you a lot of money. Grind your own and use the filters made specifically for Keurig.
The Press – Smooth Coffee at a Reasonable Price
If you’re interested in a smoother coffee, have a bit more patience, and want to be more involved than pressing a button, consider a press. Overall, I’ve found that a home-pressed cup of coffee is hard to beat. However, it takes a bit more involvement on the part of the amateur barista. You’ll have to grind coffee, boil water, measure coffee, pour water, stir, use a timer, plunge, etc. Even so, within a day’s practice, you’ll be making coffee with pride and satisfaction.
Presses come in a variety of sizes and styles. I’m fairly certain that mine cost fewer than twenty five dollars at Target. It’s not the prettiest press I’ve seen, but it makes damn fine coffee.
The Americano – The Best America Has to Offer
If you’re looking for a more robust coffee, consider the Americana. In my opinion, the Americano is the finest cup of coffee made. If you master this technique, you are sure to be sipping daily cups of perfection. An Americano is essentially espresso mixed with hot water. Although there are machines available that make a “proper” espresso, the Bialetti Moka Express 6 Cup Coffee Maker makes a quality substitute. These are also available at Target for around thirty five dollars.
If you’re considering the Americano, understand that it takes a few attempts to get a good mixture of water and coffee. I’ve found that I prefer roughly 1 part espresso to 3 parts water.
I’ve yet to try drinking just the espresso from the Bialetti, but I believe that is going to be my next barista adventure.
Additional Recommended Purchases
If you opt for the press or the espresso maker, I also recommend purchasing a quality tea kettle, a chopstick (works great for stirring), an iPhone (for a 4-minute timer and all of the other amazing technology), and quality coffee cups. As to cups, look for substance – thick, and big enough hold a full cup of coffee. If you can find them at special events or situations, the sentimental value makes them all the better.
Perhaps this is simply a rant about coffee. Or maybe you’ve found enlightenment in this post and you are on your way to Target to pick up your barista accoutrements. Either way, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading. If you have questions, feel free to let me know and I’ll do my best to provide you with quality information.