Coffee is a multi-billion dollar industry, with its own savants and fanatics in all reaches of the world drinking over 2 billion cups of it everyday. I am but one casual coffee drinker, very new to the game. I know coffee connoisseurs out there who can taste differences in roast, grind, and bean that my rookie palette is yet unable to detect or label. Just last year, I put a heaping tablespoon of Folgers Instant in my Ravenclaw mug and called it a morning. (This is not a Folgers Instant diss, I sincerely loved that stuff.) This small habit provided a nice structure to my day, in which I could enjoy each slow sip with the sunrise, some “me-time” before getting started on my daily tasks. There is a fog of mysticism around certain goods I consume daily; as I began enjoying my daily cuppa joe more and more, I decided coffee was one of those products to uncover.
Is it good for me? Is it bad for me? What’s the difference between each roast? Where does my coffee come from? Freshly ground or pre-ground? French press or pour over? Iced coffee or cold brew? Blade grinder or burr grinder? What even is a burr grinder? These are just a few of the questions I had.
My coffee-fication was a staged process, one in which I learned a few of these answers. Here are three tips I have to offer the casual coffee drinker to up their coffee game, as I find myself one year into this journey:
Tip #1: Grind Fresh
I began with an espresso pot and pre-ground espresso packs. It tasted different – delicious enough to make me put in the extra effort that instant coffee had previously spared me. The pot was quite small though, and wasn’t good for making more than one cup at a time, which was inconvenient as I usually enjoyed two. The next step was buying a French press (more cups per batch) and a blade grinder, grinding my beans fresh each morning. It was delicious, and so aromatic (my apartment smelled better than any scented candle I’ve ever tried). Thus, I decided to finally kick my beloved instant coffee for good.
Tip #2: Get Ethical
I then began buying local and fair trade beans, for the most part. There are so many local and quality-focused roasteries now, ensuring ethical farming and trade practices. Fair trade is a nonprofit commercial trading partnership and certification program, ensuring that producers in developing countries are justly compensated, protecting growers from fluctuating market prices, and cultivating sustainable business practices for all parties. Certified Fair Trade ensures transparent and respectful trading partnerships, though industry confidence in the quality control of this certification is questioned. Alternatively, some roasteries independently partner with farmers, occasionally visiting them, and transparently offering the conditions of their partnerships to customers; this is called Direct Trade. This is all especially important to note when selecting coffee, as most coffee is farmed in developing countries. Though coffee is a lovely, warm treat to start the day with, it is also the product of hard work by farmers and roasters globally.
Tip #3: Make it Personal
Eventually, I did get a burr grinder for an absolute steal, but those bargains aren’t easy to come by and coffee can become an expensive interest. And so, my last tip is to enjoy coffee the way that fits with your lifestyle and curiosity. It can be a comforting experience, “an aid to our inter-connection”, as Jeff Goldblum has put it, or even a practice of creativity. I enjoy mine with oat or macadamia nut milk and some honey. Sometimes I use my French press to froth the milk for a latte. There are so many recipes to try, so much room to experiment and no “right way” to have your coffee.