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November 13, 2012 9:23 AM   Subscribe

U.S. Champion Barista Katie Carguilo shares her secrets on making the perfect cup of Joe
posted by Renoroc (129 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very interesting for people like me who never drink coffee and don't have the foggiest about how to make a cup when they have people over. Seems like a pretty basic setup, too.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:36 AM on November 13, 2012


DOERS.

Funny column title aside, I liked this. I get free coffee at work. I don't like it. Keurig coffeemakers cover up poor coffee with flavoring. I'll have to keep these tips in mind when I make my own drinks.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:36 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Asking a barista how to make the perfect cup of coffee is like asking a waiter how to make the perfect risotto.
posted by rusty at 9:39 AM on November 13, 2012


She's using white filters. I stopped reading right there. Give me a blindfold taste test, and I will taste the bleach every time, rinsed filter or not. It wrecks the coffee for me. The brown, unbleached filters are the way to go. Even better than French press, imo. But 90% is the quality of the coffee, then the grind, the water, etc. And you have to taste the coffee black.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:41 AM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


No, it's like asking a chef how to make risotto. You know that "barista" is the term for someone who makes coffee, yes?
posted by gilrain at 9:41 AM on November 13, 2012 [26 favorites]


She places her brewing apparatus on top of a scale so she can see exactly how much water she has poured through the carefully weighed coffee grounds, and she uses a timer to measure how long the process lasts.

Pretty sure everyone uses a timer in the kitchen. Scales are a little less common and kind of redundant when you are working with ingredients of unalterable density, like water and dried beans. A measuring spoon would be simpler.
posted by DU at 9:42 AM on November 13, 2012


DU: " unalterable density, like (...) dried beans"
There's got to be some variation on bean size and density, c'mon.
posted by boo_radley at 9:43 AM on November 13, 2012


DU: unalterable density, like water and dried beans
Er, the density of dry coffee beans varies enormously depending on the origin, variety, crop, processing technique, etc. It's very important to weigh them.
posted by gilrain at 9:43 AM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


No wait, I'm wrong. The beans do have an alterable density, depending on the fineness of the grind. Don't know how that affects the amount of water you want due to surface area change, though.
posted by DU at 9:44 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There we go.
posted by boo_radley at 9:45 AM on November 13, 2012


Beans aren't unalterable in density. Variations in packing efficiencies for any unconsolidated material mean that the only way to quantify is by weight (size, packing pressure, etc...). She's doing this the only way that works.
posted by bonehead at 9:45 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]



Very interesting for people like me who never drink coffee and don't have the foggiest about how to make a cup when they have people over. Seems like a pretty basic setup, too.
posted by Foci for Analysis a


-Cold, fresh water.
-Clean equipment.
-Fresh, recently roasted beans.
-Grind immediately before use.
-Be gentle.

It's all relatively simple and easy. If you want to go spend a bucket of money, spend it on a really nice electric burr grinder that'll do a good espresso or turkish grind, and a good coarse grind, and remember the settings. Not cheap, but that's where you'll get bang for your buck if you're spending money. They say 150 in that article, but I suspect you'd want to double that price tag.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:45 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ground coffee varies wildly in density, depending on the grind. Whole beans vary somewhat too and would vary significantly in packing efficiency depending on the measuring spoon.
posted by ssg at 9:46 AM on November 13, 2012


The grind really affects the density of the coffee. Also, the consolidation of the ground coffee really affects the extraction efficiency.
posted by slogger at 9:48 AM on November 13, 2012


A good cup of coffee is totally worth $5 but that doesn't mean I'm going to start making it that way at home.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:49 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always buy beans and keep them in a good airtight jar. Would love a good burr grinder. French press and stovetop espresso pot FTW.
posted by arcticseal at 9:49 AM on November 13, 2012


Seems like a pretty basic setup, too.

Except for the grinder. You can do it by hand, as the article points out, but I guarantee that's not going to be an attractive option a morning after the night before.

There is a fairly large difference in taste between a $20 blade grinder and a $150 burr grinder too. I didn't believe this was that important until I made the switch either. Consistent grind is key to consistent taste.
posted by bonehead at 9:49 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh wow. THe world champion tells us to use freshly ground beans in a burr grinder, really hot water and a pour-over method. WOWWWWWWW. Earth-shattering! Give her a Nobel Prize.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:50 AM on November 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


gilrain: If you consider "adding hot water to grounds" making coffee, sure. My point is that the "making" happens when the coffee is picked, sorted, and especially roasted. The best a barista can accomplish is not to screw it up. Good baristas certainly should have an admirable depth of knowledge about the characteristics of different coffees, which is well worth exploiting if you know a good barista. But look, making coffee is putting hot water on grounds. All this stuff with scales and timers is a lot of nonsense. If you have good coffee, you have to work to make it bad. If you have bad coffee, nothing you do with hot water and timers and scales will make it good.
posted by rusty at 9:50 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ha, I found this just after making a second cup of pour-over, musing as usual about how I'm eventually someday going to make a video showing my perfect technique. I really enjoy doing pour over, I use a long handled metal 1 ounce measuring cup to ladle the water over the grounds, about a half-ounce at a time. The little metal ladle kept reminding me of something, I couldn't figure out what. Then one day as I was making a cup of coffee for a friend, it struck me. It's like a hishaku, the ladle used in the tea ceremony. My pour over cup of coffee is my little tea ceremony for myself, a meditation. Every day I improve it slightly, after a year I know all the subtle variables that can affect the outcome. This is "kaizen," continuous gradual improvement.

I absolutely concur with almost everything in this OP, but of course there are variations. Aside from her tips, I will offer a few.

1. Use enough coffee, but not too much. A proper strength should be translucent, you should be able to see through it clearly if you pour it about an inch deep in a white cup. She says 1 oz coffee for each 16 oz water, I use more like 1.5 to 2 oz.
2. Use pure water. Good water will improve the taste of your coffee dramatically. I just use 25 cent filtered, ozonated water from a dispenser at the grocery store.
3. Heat your cup before making the coffee, by filling it with very hot water and letting it sit. This process takes long enough that a cold cup will drain heat from the coffee and it will be cold before you can finish making it. I often take too long and end up having to zap my coffee in the microwave to reheat it. I like hot coffee. I don't bother with rinsing the paper filters, I can't taste any difference.
4. Don't drown the grounds. The grounds should have just enough water to float a bit. When you pour in the water, it should stir up the grounds slightly. This will release some foam, which is the sign you're pouring the water at the right rate.
5. Try not to wash down the sides of the filter cone. This will make the grounds concentrate at the bottom, which will slow down the flow as the coffee gets closer to finishing. This can overextract at the end, when almost everything good is already extracted.
6. Good equipment is important, but not critical. I just use a Melita #4 filter cone, although I did slightly bore out the hole to improve flow.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:51 AM on November 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


A real champion would not only be able to make coffee, but to show us how to dispose of the grounds without dripping coffee-flavored water and/or coating every surface in the kitchen in a fine paste of grounds.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:51 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Or, "what ReeMonster said.")
posted by rusty at 9:51 AM on November 13, 2012


News flash: article describing how to make a good cup of coffee reveals techniques already known to those who know how to make a good cup of coffee. Author judged harshly.
posted by gilrain at 9:53 AM on November 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


Oh wow. THe world champion tells us to use freshly ground beans in a burr grinder, really hot water and a pour-over method. WOWWWWWWW. Earth-shattering! Give her a Nobel Prize.


This comment is really flavorful, really nutty, but it tastes a little bit too bitter in the finish.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:53 AM on November 13, 2012 [43 favorites]


rusty: But look, making coffee is putting hot water on grounds. All this stuff with scales and timers is a lot of nonsense. If you have good coffee, you have to work to make it bad.
This is really not true. Yes, good coffee must start with good coffee. After that: inconsistent grind will give you bad results, too low a temperature will give you bad results, too high will give you bad results, too long an extraction, too short an extraction, and so on and on. I doubt it's a surprise to people here that a seemingly simple process has a lot of depth when examined more closely?
posted by gilrain at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Oh yay, it's like reading a thread of people who used to annoy the shit out of me at my old job! Hey, that's great you know all the perfect techniques for a cup of coffee. May I suggest you do it at home since you're obviously not happy about paying $5 for it?

(I trained pretty hard to be a damn good barista for a few years, working at a shop that consistently won awards for its coffee and coffee drinks. I no longer need that training as I am no longer a barista, but I will defend them to a point.)
posted by Kitteh at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]



Oh wow. THe world champion tells us to use freshly ground beans in a burr grinder, really hot water and a pour-over method. WOWWWWWWW. Earth-shattering!



You must be in Europe or something, here in North America almost nobody has figured out how to make a decent cup of coffee yet. It's not as obvious as it may appear.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought it might be possible to get through a relatively benign thread with out biting/sarcastic/snarky comments--but never fail.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:57 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


But look, making coffee is putting hot water on grounds. All this stuff with scales and timers is a lot of nonsense. If you have good coffee, you have to work to make it bad. If you have bad coffee, nothing you do with hot water and timers and scales will make it good.

As someone who does extractions, trains other people to do extractions, participates in (and runs) inter-lab round-robin testing for extractions, and publishes new methods for improved extractions, I disagree with your statement that precision, technique and materials do not matter for the extracted end-product.
posted by bonehead at 9:57 AM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


show us how to dispose of the grounds without dripping coffee-flavored water and/or coating every surface in the kitchen in a fine paste of grounds

Put your coffee making apparatus closer to your garbage can.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:58 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was really hoping barista was some Olympic gymnastic sport and this article was going to show how to grind coffee beans between your knees.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:01 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


bonehead: If you made coffee using the same process with water that was the optimal temperature, water that was 5 degrees cooler than optimal, and water that was five degrees hotter than optimal, how many people do you think could taste the difference between the three in a blind test?

This is a genuine question, by the way. I've never tried it. My working hypothesis would be "no one" but now I'm curious.
posted by rusty at 10:01 AM on November 13, 2012


I cannot let a "how to make good coffee" thread go by without singing the praises of my Chemex, which uses the so-called pour-over method.

The best thing about the Chemex is that it's all glass, so although you might want to descale it once in a while it is never going to absorb the nasty, bitter, oily, stale flavors that a plastic filter basket or cone will. And you're never going to get the nasty "Someone's been using the unwashed carafe to measure and pour dishwater back into the coffeemaker for the next pot" effect either.

I am not as scientifically rigorous as Gale Boetticher, but I have found that following a few basic principles results in good coffee: posted by usonian at 10:03 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Celsius1414: " This comment is really flavorful, really nutty, but it tastes a little bit too bitter in the finish."

Did you get a note of sour grapes at the end?
posted by boo_radley at 10:03 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I gotta get one of those drippers. I use a Bialetti Moka, I have a whole collection. That dripper looks even easier though.

Thanks for the post.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:04 AM on November 13, 2012


A lot more than you would think, probably. It depends on the beans themselves, because some are much more sensitive to temperature than others which are more forgiving. I've had roasts (I roast my own) where a difference of five degrees was the difference between perfect and almost undrinkably bitter.
posted by gilrain at 10:05 AM on November 13, 2012



Grind them fresh (someday I will splurge and get myself a burr grinder, but I think fresh-ground by blade still trumps burr ground by the coffee house a week ago.)


Agreed. I think freshness trumps grind for the kind of coffee you're making. But it all adds up.

The burr grinder will not allow you to make a proper espresso, I've never been able to get a consistent enough grind for a good espresso or mocha pot from a blade grinder. In the case of pour over or press coffee, it's mostly to keep the silt out of the finished product.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:06 AM on November 13, 2012


You get the best coffee in the cafe where they know your name and the second best in a gas station at 3am. All the rest is well-intended amateurism at best.
posted by deo rei at 10:08 AM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's all about the Quinic acid level.
posted by mullingitover at 10:09 AM on November 13, 2012


Asking a barista how to make the perfect cup of coffee is like asking a waiter how to make the perfect risotto.

No, it's like asking a chef how to make risotto. You know that "barista" is the term for someone who makes coffee, yes?
I think the general problem is that in the US a barista is typically someone who does some stuff with pre-made coffee, and then writes your name on the cup so as not to get your 'custom' cup of joe mixed up with the next snowflake in line.

In that sense, barista:coffee::uncle ben's instant rice:risotto
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:09 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now I want one of those Chemex coffeemakers.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:09 AM on November 13, 2012


I make coffee with a ten-dollar coffee maker I bought at Target. I use el cheapo white filters and I usually buy the pre-ground store brand. I don't do that because I don't like good coffee, I just didn't know any better. That, and I'm broke, most of the time. It's hard to be a coffee snob ( or any kind of snob, really ) when you can't afford the 'right' tools and ingredients.

I'm glad someone posted this. I'm probably not going to out and buy a $150 burr grinder, but with this knowledge, I'm pretty sure I can improve my morning cups of joe for me and my wife with some ingenuity, and a splurge on the higher quality beans.

Small luxuries like this are nice to have.
posted by KHAAAN! at 10:10 AM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


She's using white filters. I stopped reading right there. Give me a blindfold taste test, and I will taste the bleach every time, rinsed filter or not. It wrecks the coffee for me. The brown, unbleached gold filters are the way to go.

FTFY.

Seriously, gold (or brass) plated filters let all the oils through and impart no flavor. They seem expensive ($10 or so) but I get five or six years’ use out of one.
posted by axoplasm at 10:12 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


heHe ... since when does real coffee comes out of a drip filter.

Hehe ... what evs.
posted by jannw at 10:13 AM on November 13, 2012


KHAAAN! (or anyone on a limited budget really) -- extensive taste testing earlier in my life when I had less disposable income revealed that 8 O'Clock brand whole-bean Columbian coffee was the best of the lowest-end grocery store coffees, by a very wide margin. It's surprisingly drinkable. Make sure it's the Columbian. Regular 8 O'Clock and all the other varieties are crap.
posted by rusty at 10:13 AM on November 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm sure people will snark in response to my snark, but I suspect that for most people this is overthinking a pot of coffee beans. As a couple of people upthread have pointed out, a good cup of coffee takes a bit of basic care but isn't rocket science. I've used one of these for years, with (presumably) reasonably fresh coffee offered in the grocery store in bean form, ground there, and kept in the fridge; and I'm always amazed at how good it tastes all by itself with no sugar or cream. If I'm making more than one cup, any electric auto-drip maker that uses a cone filter (or indeed a Chemex) runs a close second. And yeah, I like my metal mesh filter.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:14 AM on November 13, 2012


KHAAAN - Me too! One thing I found with the store brands is that if I find the brands that are packed in airtight bags, those tend to be fresher. I'm the annoying guy fondling each bag to make sure that air hasn't escaped. Target, Jewel and the other superstores that carry Starbucks or Peets are really hit and miss. I've gotten bags of coffee that when opened, smelled stale and tasted worse when brewed. The stores are usually pretty cool about me exchanging the bag. I used to grind my own but that wore thin pretty quickly and is just too much of a mess for me.

To the articles credit, at least it wasn't emblazoned with a 72pt font stating "YOU'RE DOING IT ALL WRONG!!"
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:18 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, crap. I came back in to say that 8 O'Clock Bokar Blend is quite good too, but it would appear that they've discontinued it.
posted by usonian at 10:21 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blue_Villain: "I think the general problem is that in the US a barista is typically someone who does some stuff with pre-made coffee, and then writes your name on the cup so as not to get your 'custom' cup of joe mixed up with the next snowflake in line."

What the?!...oh. I see. You're confusing the McStarbucks 'baristas' who push a button on a fully automatic espresso machine with actual Baristas who have skills.
posted by mullingitover at 10:22 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you made coffee using the same process with water that was the optimal temperature, water that was 5 degrees cooler than optimal, and water that was five degrees hotter than optimal, how many people do you think could taste the difference between the three in a blind test

The majority, I would think. It's easy to try: boil one set of beans in a pot for 5 minutes (cowboy coffee), do a proper pour over with water just off the boil, and do a pour over with water that has sat for 10 minutes. They will all taste quite different in my experience.
posted by bonehead at 10:27 AM on November 13, 2012


This comment is really flavorful, really nutty, but it tastes a little bit too bitter in the finish.

Good pop! ...as i sip my coffee made from good beans (although two-weeks old) from a NON-burr grinder (uh-oh) but with nice unbleached filters in a pour-over but eye-balling all the measurements (oh FUCK!) and not really giving two shits about any of it.. even though this coffee will probably make me take two shits in about half an hour.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:27 AM on November 13, 2012


My point is that the "making" happens when the coffee is picked, sorted, and especially roasted. The best a barista can accomplish is not to screw it up. Good baristas certainly should have an admirable depth of knowledge about the characteristics of different coffees, which is well worth exploiting if you know a good barista. But look, making coffee is putting hot water on grounds. All this stuff with scales and timers is a lot of nonsense. If you have good coffee, you have to work to make it bad. If you have bad coffee, nothing you do with hot water and timers and scales will make it good.

Well, and chefs don't grow their own rice, generally speaking. Would you disagree that bartenders 'make' drinks as well, because they don't actually make Scotch?

Look, I've been a barista. It is EXTREMELY EASY to make 'good' coffee taste bad, and making it taste really really good requires knowledge and skill. Not at Starbucks, where they don't even use real espresso machines anymore, but in a high-end coffee shop, yeah. It makes a difference.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:27 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, I wouldn't ask a bartender how to make good scotch. That's another excellent analogy, thanks!
posted by rusty at 10:32 AM on November 13, 2012


You must be in Europe or something, here in North America almost nobody has figured out how to make a decent cup of coffee yet. It's not as obvious as it may appear.

No I totally understand that... we live in the nation of Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts and Keurig machines. I understand most people don't have the time, inclination or interest to obsess over their coffee like we do and I don't think this article will change them. In fact, it may just annoy them. It's not like I'm above that shit (although I try to avoid Starsucks at all costs). When I'm home at my parents, I gleefully "chain-drink" from the Keurig machine. You kinda need the regularity when you're home for Xmas eating so much.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:32 AM on November 13, 2012


I think the best part of this article is that using the drip/pourover method, it's actually CHEAPER than a standard coffee setup. $4 for a plastic melitta cone on Amazon, $8 for 100 unbleached filters. The burr grinder really hits you in the pocket, but I agree that fresh beans on a blade grinder is better than stale pre-ground. And if you can find a local roaster, their basic roasts are pretty much the same price as the higher-end grocery store stuff. Yeah, you can drop a couple hundred dollars on fancy grinders and gooseneck kettles and diamond-plated filters and water gathered from the dewdrops on rare rainforest plants, but even with a $20 initial investment you can make coffee that's leaps and bounds above your office's percolator.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:33 AM on November 13, 2012


It's fine to be totally satusfied with however you happen to make coffee, by the way, for those who seem a little defensive. It's just a bit daft to deny that there is also depth to the process which you may be (quite happy) missing.

Like, just because I am totally happy with using furniture from IKEA, I'm not going to tell a friend who gets his from a local woodworker that there is no difference.
posted by gilrain at 10:36 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, I wouldn't ask a bartender how to make good scotch. That's another excellent analogy, thanks!

Oh, come on, don't be willfully dense. You'd ask a bartender how to make a Manhattan.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:36 AM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I use a Bialetti Moka, I have a whole collection.

Hell yeah! Don't get rid of them though. They are very different and great for that "once in a while" if you switch to pour-over. The flavor is more intense from a Bialetti. I hope you're never cleaning the inside of your Bialetti except for a warm-water rinse ;)
posted by ReeMonster at 10:37 AM on November 13, 2012


I love my Moka pot. Espresso-ground, with a pinch of cardamom. Or, skip the cardamom and add heated (not scalded or steamed) milk and some demerara sugar.

That, or put brown sugar in with the grounds before brewing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:44 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Scales are a little less common and kind of redundant when you are working with ingredients of unalterable density, like water and dried beans.

Water doesn't have an "unalterable density," it has a density dependent on temperature, and that is wildly different once boiling is achieved. But, more to the point, when poring it over coffee out of a closed kettle, and trying to be precise about it, weighing it would seem to be the only way to know how much you've used. What would be your suggested alternative that also accounts for varying absorption rates in the grounds?
posted by OmieWise at 10:46 AM on November 13, 2012


I've always wanted to try a moka pot but haven't wanted to buy one taste untasted. I do like a lot of body in my morning brew, though, which I understand they impart. I currently use a vacuum pot, most mornings. You can't beat the spectacle, and it makes a great cup of coffee to boot!
posted by gilrain at 10:47 AM on November 13, 2012


Blue_Villain: "I think the general problem is that in the US a barista is typically someone who does some stuff with pre-made coffee"

Years ago, Starbucks baristas actually had to grind and tamp beans for espresso. When they moved to superautomatics, eBay was full of really solid, used gear, and I picked up a fantastic Mazzer Super Jolly burr grinder.
posted by exogenous at 10:48 AM on November 13, 2012


The amount of assholery in response to this article is amazing, although perhaps not surprising. Yes, you already know how to make a great cup of coffee. Good for you. I'd imagine that most people who aren't coffee professionals don't. I certainly didn't.
posted by grouse at 10:51 AM on November 13, 2012


One refinement on the filtered pouring: give a quick initial splash, then wait a moment for the grinds to kind of swell and amalgamate, and then slowly pour the rest through the center of that.

Warming the cup with hot water is properly called scalding the cup, or pot.

Also, dripping into a scalded thermos will keep the coffee warm for hours without reheating.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:51 AM on November 13, 2012


Water doesn't vary that much in density. There's about a 1% difference in specific gravity between 90 C and 100 C.
posted by bonehead at 10:53 AM on November 13, 2012


On second thought, maybe people need more sedatives and less stimulants.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:57 AM on November 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Came to see the expert ply her trade, stayed for the reflexive ennui.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:58 AM on November 13, 2012


I heard that Apple is going to come out with an all-in-one coffee grinder/maker. I don't know if it's going to be any good because I don't drink coffee (or have a TV). But whatever they do release will be better than the Windows copycat version that will follow in a few months.
posted by jeremias at 11:00 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Except for the grinder. You can do it by hand, as the article points out, but I guarantee that's not going to be an attractive option a morning after the night before.
That's exactly the opposite of my experience, actually. Hand grinders are much quieter, less jarring than the thousand decibel call of their electric brethren. I actually have a friend who moved out of his last apartment because he had a roommate who insisted on using her electric grinder at 6am. A hand grinder could have saved that relationship. Sniff.
posted by funkiwan at 11:07 AM on November 13, 2012


Too bad you have to plug it into itunes to get it to work.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 11:09 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


A good burr grinder is yeah the #1 thing to improve your home coffee.

After that probably staying away from full brew methods (eg drip) and heading into brew-then-dilute.

Then getting rigorous about temperature control (e.g. off the boil).

But start with the grinder. $100 for a decent burr grinder is less than you'll pay for beans to run through it in a year probably, so there's no reason at all to cheap out on a grinder if you're buying beans already.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:14 AM on November 13, 2012


Water doesn't vary that much in density. There's about a 1% difference in specific gravity between 90 C and 100 C.

Sure, but calling it "unalterable" in a comment loaded with snark, as if everybody knows this "fact," is incorrect. But really, for most people, they bring the water to a boil first (thereby radically changing part of its density) before pouring it, so the comment is not only imprecise, but incorrect.
posted by OmieWise at 11:14 AM on November 13, 2012


All this supposed talk about "good coffee" and not one mention of whipped cream or caramel sauce? For shame.
posted by anti social order at 11:15 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just love that you can be a champion barista. I want to believe that there are barista duels, with young up-and-comer's challenging the old masters for dominance over the coffee shop.

It puts me in mind of one of my favorite bits of flash fiction around, The Bitter Kiss of the Ronin's Cup. (Story starts 30 seconds into the MP3 file, or you can read it here if you prefer text.)
posted by JDHarper at 11:20 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a bunch of posers, pretending you know how to make good coffee.

I only drink the stuff that comes out of a cat's ass.
posted by gauche at 11:20 AM on November 13, 2012


She's using white filters. I stopped reading right there. Give me a blindfold taste test, and I will taste the bleach every time, rinsed filter or not.

Have you actually tried that blindfolded test? A lot of people are surprised at how differences that appear subjectively to be stark when you actually know what it is you're tasting disappear in a properly controlled double-blinded test.

For example, double-blinded taste tests of frozen vs. fresh coffee beans (a long standing controversy in the coffee world, and one where people are wont to make strong claims about stark taste differences) fail to find any degradation in taste from freezing the beans.

I, for one, think that coffee is an amazingly capricious product for something that seems so simple --and I have huge respect for the skills of a good barista. But I also think that most people's subjective claims about taste are fairly worthless anecdata. We all know that people will rate a wine dramatically more favorably if it is poured from an "expensive label" bottle rather than from a "cheap label" bottle (and this is true of sophisticated oenophiles as well as novices); it is unimaginable that the same effect is not at play in coffee-tasting. Does a $600 coffee grinder make better coffee than a $100 grinder? Maybe; but the only evidence that would persuade me of that would be a blind test where the $600 grinder coffee consistently outranked the $100 grinder coffee.
posted by yoink at 11:20 AM on November 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


TheTingTangTong: "Too bad you have to plug it into itunes to get it to work."

Gonna jailbreak that bitch. I want to get something other than iCafe from a store of my choice, instead of the DrinkStore.
posted by Samizdata at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2012


Does a $600 coffee grinder make better coffee than a $100 grinder? Maybe; but the only evidence that would persuade me of that would be a blind test where the $600 grinder coffee consistently outranked the $100 grinder coffee.

The difference between a 100$ grinder and a 600$ seems to be things like how often you need to clean it, consistency of grind, noise levels, durability, likelihood of clogs,etc.

Going from blade to conical burr will be a noticeable difference in the texture and quality of your coffee, going from a cheap burr to an expensive burr is for durability and useability more than for the coffee itself.

At this point we're quantifying things that you might not notice in a taste test, but things you'd probably notice in your daily use of the appliance.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:27 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


gauche: "I only drink the stuff that comes out of a cat's ass."

Kopi Luwak is SO 2011. Everyone who knows ANYTHING about coffee demands that their beans be shat from the rear of an elephant.
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:29 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


"You need a cup of my java." -- Rigby Reardon
posted by kirkaracha at 11:41 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does a $600 coffee grinder make better coffee than a $100 grinder?

For drip or bodum-style coffee, I really doubt it. For espresso drinks, where a much finer grind is needed? I could be convinced.

The other big factor that she only touches on in the article is making certain that everything is clean. Rancid coffee oils can be really unpleasant. Running a few ounces of rice through your grinder every once in a while really makes a difference to the coffee you make.
posted by bonehead at 11:42 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


A couple folks have mentioned Chemex makers. I got one several months ago and I just can't seem to make great coffee with it. I can make okay coffee, but not great coffee. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I've tried all sorts of water temperatures, coarse, medium, fine grinds, amounts of coffee, etc. I have yet to use super freshly roasted beans, though; I think that may be the key to unlocking its potential. I've been meaning to post an AskMe question about it.

We normally use an Aeropress, which makes even pretty stale beans good, and the 190°F water straight out of our hot water dispenser on its default setting is perfect. The only problem is that making more than one or two cups is tedious.
posted by zsazsa at 11:47 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point is that the "making" happens when the coffee is picked, sorted, and especially roasted.

I have visited a coffee plantation in the mountains of Colombia, and I regret to inform you that you should abandon any idealized vision of coffee bean production. This "making" of coffee beans largely consists of a barefoot peasant walking through the beans using a wooden rake to spread them out to dry on an outdoors concrete pad that resembles a parking lot. Your coffee beans have been between the grubby toes of some Colombian peasant, and pooped on by birds.

I saw an episode of Cooking Secrets of the CIA that extensively tested national whole bean coffee brands. They said there was a close correlation between coffee quality and dud beans that would not roast. I think they called them "dead parsons" or something. You can sort through a pound of beans and sometimes find a shriveled, light colored bean, that's a dead parson. The fewer of these beans, the higher quality of source beans, and the better the roasting process. They declared that of national brands, pure Colombian beans were the best quality, and the best brands were Starbucks and Millstone bulk coffee. I personally like Millstone Columbian best, but sometimes Starbuck's is on special so for $7/pound it's a bargain compared to $12 for Millstone. I have inspected pounds and pounds of these brands and rarely ever find a dead parson. Now this CIA test was a few years back, there are newer brands on the market, but for non-artisanal beans, these brands are pretty good to me, although any bulk coffee beans require careful brewing. The upside is that since you can buy them in bulk, you can test and improve on a big batch until you home in on the optimal brew, as the OP suggests.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:49 AM on November 13, 2012


On second thought, maybe people need more sedatives and less stimulants.

Thank god there's no such thing as artisanal, small-batch cocaine. We'd never fucking hear the end of it.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:49 AM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


The difference between a 100$ grinder and a 600$ seems to be things like how often you need to clean it, consistency of grind, noise levels, durability, likelihood of clogs,etc.

This may well be the case. It is trivially easy, however, to find strong claims in reviews of dramatically significant taste differences between coffee made from beans ground by consumer-level conical burr grinders and pro-level conical burr grinders. That is, the $600 grinders (which we might call the "prosumer" level) are not sold simply on "reliability" and "ease of operation." They are sold for purported improvements in the taste of the finished product. These strike me as claims that are potentially true (grind is certainly a crucial aspect of coffee quality), but which need to be established by blind taste tests.
posted by yoink at 11:54 AM on November 13, 2012


Thank god there's no such thing as artisanal, small-batch cocaine. We'd never fucking hear the end of it.
I'm waiting for legalization to bring us "heirloom weed".
posted by Karmakaze at 11:55 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf: They said there was a close correlation between coffee quality and dud beans that would not roast. I think they called them "dead parsons" or something. You can sort through a pound of beans and sometimes find a shriveled, light colored bean, that's a dead parson.
Amongst roasters at least, those are called "quakers". And they aren't really correlated with quality. In fact, a lot of us really like dry processed beans, which necessarily have more quakers that wet processed but preserve some excellent flavors that are lost during wet processing. The processing is what sorts ripe from unripe, small stones from coffee beans, and all of that. It's most efficiently done with water, but the water effects the flavor of the resulting beans.

You do need to weed quakers and whatnot out of your roasted coffee before you grind, however. The quakers themselves are not good, but their presence doesn't necessarily mean a bad source.

I roast mostly wet processed, but the dry process beans have a really appealing flavor of their own. I'd roast them more if they didn't carry a premium price!
posted by gilrain at 12:05 PM on November 13, 2012


They are sold for purported improvements in the taste of the finished product. These strike me as claims that are potentially true (grind is certainly a crucial aspect of coffee quality), but which need to be established by blind taste tests.
posted by yoink at 11:54 AM on November 13 [+] [!]


There is a lot of talk of static and heat produced during the grinding, and how it prematurely releases flavour. That's something that I honestly don't know how to comment on, maybe someone has done a blind taste test on it like you suggested earlier, but I haven't done enough research to find out. I love good coffee, but that might be pushing the envelope of discernment even for me.

The factors I listed though are definitely quantifiable, and they're what makes the difference to me. I like reliable appliances that can be expected to last and produce quality results.

I've been reading a lot of reviews, but this seems to be a good overview.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:05 PM on November 13, 2012


Although when you're looking at beans for/from a large, commercial roaster that requires consistancy above intriguing flavor profiles, I can see how quakers would be a mark of trouble. So it makes sense they said that from that perspective.
posted by gilrain at 12:06 PM on November 13, 2012




Thank god there's no such thing as artisanal, small-batch cocaine. We'd never fucking hear the end of it.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault


You don't get the nice finish unless you snort through a metal straw, plastic muddies the taste and hides the delicate floral notes left from the blood of Andean peasant workers.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:08 PM on November 13, 2012


Ah yes, quakers, that sounds familiar. I thought they were "dead quakers" or something like that. Obviously their presence is an indication of poor processing. The CIA did assert that the lower quality of brand, the higher the presence of quakers, but I have no way to verify this other than by searching through the brands I buy (which I do fairly often).

I will also note that coffee processing with water is an incredibly poor use of natural resources in very impoverished mountain communities.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:10 PM on November 13, 2012


Yeah, that makes a lot of sense from their perspective. They wouldn't even be considering dry processed beans due to the lack of consistency, and a good wet process will only result in a quaker once in a blue moon. I was looking at it from a small batch perspective.
posted by gilrain at 12:15 PM on November 13, 2012


gauche: "I only drink the stuff that comes out of a cat's ass."

I use an imported household cleaner that's made the same way: Civet Bang.
posted by boo_radley at 12:30 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was once a competition barista. I went to nationals in LA a few years ago, and ended up on the food network. This is how I brewed coffee at home, honest to god:

I ground up the coffee real coarse, like french press style, and then put it in a fine mesh pasta strainer. I had a bowl in which the pasta strainer fits perfectly, and I would put the strainer in the bowl and pour the water over all of it. Start timer, stir with my one lone chopstick. At 45 seconds, exactly, pick up the strainer, pull it out of the bowl. Throw away the spent grinds, rinse the strainer, and then carefully decant your bowl of coffee.

This method is basically how roasters taste coffee: it's called "cupping". I'm cupping, but instead of breaking the crust and spooning it out, I'm just removing the whole crust quickly via the pasta strainer.

There is one very important thing happening here. A short brew time. 45 seconds is the longest that coffee should ever brew; past that, bitter shit starts happening. Yes, Carguilo says 4 minutes is too long, and she is correct. 3 minutes is also too long. 45 seconds, I swear to god.

I've done side by side analysis of brew times with french press, vac pot, and cupping brew methods. In a blind taste test with multiple test subjects 45 seconds has won by a landslide each and every time.

Also bonus: your coffee brews faster. With an electric tea kettle I can make a cup of joe, from the time I hit the on button to the moment it's in my hands, in about 2.5 minutes.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 12:34 PM on November 13, 2012 [16 favorites]


"I only drink the stuff that comes out of a cat's ass."

This is a thread about coffee, not American beer.
posted by horsewithnoname at 12:40 PM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is one very important thing happening here. A short brew time. 45 seconds is the longest that coffee should ever brew; past that, bitter shit starts happening. Yes, Carguilo says 4 minutes is too long, and she is correct. 3 minutes is also too long. 45 seconds, I swear to god.

Sounds like about the average brewing time on an Aeropress, and it always opens eyes when I bring it into the office and make a few extra cups.

I should be getting a commission from them based on how many I've sold to co-workers.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:50 PM on November 13, 2012


A good cup of coffee is totally worth $5

No, it's worth about 20-25 cents.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:02 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a midrange burr grinder and an espresso machine and I store my beans in airtight containers. I don't know that I would have bought these things myself - they were wedding gifts. It's not hard to make good coffee with that stuff - grind fine and don't tamp too hard, and make sure the coffee is level in the cup. Grind fresh. For Americanos, boil water on the stove rather than filling the cup with the tepid water from the steam wand.

It's not so much that I just love the coffee that comes out of it. I have a 2 year old and a newborn at home, and a cranky wife on top of that. So, it's the fact that it's kind of an all-powerful god sitting on top of the counter that is probably the last thing that I'd dispose of in the house, with the possible exception of my Martin guitar.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:16 PM on November 13, 2012


OmieWise: Water doesn't have an "unalterable density," it has a density dependent on temperature, and that is wildly different once boiling is achieved.
Water varies by less than a percent in density from boiling to 170F, a huge temperature range in extraction terms. You almost certainly can't detect a sub-1% dilution - that's less than 1 teaspoon of extra water in a pint of coffee.
What would be your suggested alternative that also accounts for varying absorption rates in the grounds
Now this is a good question. And the answer is simplicity itself: a known measuring line on the receiving container. Done.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:20 PM on November 13, 2012


I just use a french press and a kettle.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:22 PM on November 13, 2012


I ground up the coffee real coarse, like french press style, and then put it in a fine mesh pasta strainer. I had a bowl in which the pasta strainer fits perfectly, and I would put the strainer in the bowl and pour the water over all of it. Start timer, stir with my one lone chopstick. At 45 seconds, exactly, pick up the strainer, pull it out of the bowl. Throw away the spent grinds, rinse the strainer, and then carefully decant your bowl of coffee.

I just tried this technique, wasting an incredible amount of coffee beans testing this, enough to make a dozen cups of coffee. You owe me a good cup of coffee or twelve.

My burr grinder, like almost every grinder, is incapable of making a completely uniform grind. My particular Braun grinder makes some coffee dust along with the grounds. I used a commercial metal pasta strainer made of metal screen that was fine enough to hold the regular size grains, and I sieved out the smallest particles, which lost about 1/3 of the coffee grounds. This particular test was a failure, almost no extraction, so I tried again without sifting. That method produced a murky mix of grounds so full of silt that I decanted it through a paper filter cone, resulting in about 1/2 oz of sludge. My opinion: smooth, but underextracted and nearly flavorless. This is the same reason I ditched a gold foil filter, it lets all the silt through and doesn't hold the water long enough for decent extraction. Silt and grounds in the coffee is a dealbreaker for me.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:30 PM on November 13, 2012


A couple folks have mentioned Chemex makers. I got one several months ago and I just can't seem to make great coffee with it. I can make okay coffee, but not great coffee.

The lack of fresh roasted coffee is the culprit here. The chemex relies on a preinfusion of water to brew a good cup (45 g coffee, 100 g water to proof/preinfuse the grounds, then another 610g of water to finish, assuming you're using the 8 cup model). Using older beans, even if properly stored in vaccum, have completely released their co2 and will seem a bit lackluster in your chemex. Coffee further away from its roast date has a tendency to taste a bit flat in a chemex.

Also, the chemex filters promote sweetness at the sacrifice of body. So if you're used to a really viscous cup of coffee, expectations may need to be adjusted a little bit.

Able Brewing sells a magnificent metal filter for the chemex, and it allows a touch of sediment through, as well as all the oils that a chemex filter holds back. This allows for a much bigger bodied cup. A burr grinder that produces uniform grinds will help both the paper and metal filter chemex.

(I say this after lots of double blind tastings at several micro-roasteries I used to work at, and as someone who uses his chemex everyday)
posted by furnace.heart at 1:32 PM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another Aeropress user here. I think the burr grind is less essential, especially compared to a French Press that absolutely requires consistent particle sizes. I use paper filters because the coffee is still rich as hell, it keeps better if you want to refrigerate, and my understanding is that filters produce a less carcinogenic product.
posted by lordaych at 1:33 PM on November 13, 2012


Oh, and just to nitpick, most of the cheap $100ish dollar burr grinders out there are blade grinders in disguise. Take a look at your burrs; if it's plastic and has little fangs of metal on the outside, you have a very expensive blade grinder. If you have conical or flat metal burrs and nothing else, you have a real burr grinder.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:36 PM on November 13, 2012


lordaych: my understanding is that filters produce a less carcinogenic product
I'm curious if you can remember why this is? The only difference in paper-filtered coffee that I know of is that it removes most of the cafestol, which can raise cholesterol by a little bit, but also may be anti-carcinogenic, rather than carcinogenic.
posted by gilrain at 1:38 PM on November 13, 2012


Also Aeropress coffee should only be exposed for 30 seconds or so and I think this combined with paper filters obviates the burr grinder, though I'm not super picky. I think a French Press is a waste without a burr grinder but I'm happy with my $50 grinder+brewing setup.
posted by lordaych at 1:40 PM on November 13, 2012


I roast my own (Behmor -- expensive but good), grind it with a burr grinder, and make it in an Aeropress with water at 175 F. I don't think burr vs. blade grinding is significant for Aeropress preparation; it's just convenient. I've tried a bunch of methods (including a Melitta cone and pour-over with a gold filter, but not a Chemex) but keep coming back to the Aeropress
posted by Zed at 1:45 PM on November 13, 2012


That method produced a murky mix of grounds so full of silt that I decanted it through a paper filter cone, resulting in about 1/2 oz of sludge.

The technical terms for these are "oils and colloids". Most people don't like them, they want their coffee to be about the same consistency as water. French press drinkers are more the target market here; you've got to enjoy oily coffee with mouthfeel, and the occasional bit of grit.

Colloids will generally settle to the bottom of the cup, and yes, it will always result in a silt-y last few drops. Don't drink em; when I decant the bowl I leave the last ounce or so of coffee in there with the silt.

This is sometimes called cowboy coffee, and it is a variant of cupping.

I love this method, but I get that it definitely isn't for everyone. Sorry charlie don't surf!
posted by special agent conrad uno at 1:48 PM on November 13, 2012


You snobs should see how they serve coffee in the Toraja region (known for its coffee). So gritty.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:49 PM on November 13, 2012


My understanding is that the cupping technique is really only used by most tasters for really intensive tasting (such as for reviewing a coffee or choosing beans for a blend) rather than for enjoyment. It's meant to maximize and separate the various flavors for easier identification, but that's at the expense of accessibility.
posted by gilrain at 1:54 PM on November 13, 2012


You put some water on to boil in the kettle and in a saucepan. You shake some grounds out of the coffee can in the freezer into the bottom of the french press until it looks about right. When the kettle starts to squeal you pour about a mug's worth of hot water into the french press and you put some oatmeal in the saucepan. You give the oatmeal a stir and turn the heat down on it. After a few minutes (during which you unstack the dishwasher, feed the pets, etc) you push down the plunger on the french press and pour the coffee into a mug. You put your oatmeal in a bowl, you put some maple syrup in your oatmeal, and that's breakfast.

The coffee tastes great, no problem.
posted by Scientist at 1:56 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And if that's not sacreligious enough, I drink my coffee with chicory.)
posted by Scientist at 1:58 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The technical terms for these are "oils and colloids".

My pour over is plenty thick and oily, but no suspended particles. Oil will penetrate a paper filter, at least it will on the Melita micropore filters. That's the reason why I think this cup is too weak and flavorless, very little of the oil will extract in 45 seconds. Oh well, de gustibus non est disputandum.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:06 PM on November 13, 2012


@ special agent conrad uno - When you say "fine mesh pasta strainer", do you mean something like this? How fine are we talking?
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:19 PM on November 13, 2012


I'm waiting for legalization to bring us "heirloom weed".

Oh man. I know we're joking around here, but in all seriousness, I think that after the smoking bans get to be a couple dozen years old, we are going to start seeing small-batch, heirloom, organic, local, sustainably-farmed tobacco. And the hipsters of the time are going to smoke the shit out of it, going on ad nauseam about the fine chicory notes, the hints of leather, and whatever else.

Think about it. Tobacco grows like a weed in substantial portions of the US, so it will be easy for small batch producers to pick up. There is a long history of tobacco snobbery for them to latch onto in the form of cigar aficionados. And, while you might think that the health effects would hold them back, look what's happening with bacon and rendered duckfat and everything. Not that long ago the surgeon general was saying how cholesterol and fat might as well be poison; now we're entirely over it and back at the trough.

Seriously. I'm going to go look into prices for fallow farm land in the eastern Carolinas right now.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:23 PM on November 13, 2012


I pretty much make coffee like this, though I eyeball the bean level in my hand grinder (it's fairly consistent).

What I want to know is where can I get one of that steel pourover cone? Beautiful little object! My ceramic ones are just fine but I like having an object I can love as well as use.

Blows my mind that no one has mentioned a Kone metal filter. I haven't tried one but I hear they're great.

Also: Joey Buttafoucault, I'm totally with you. I will smoke the hell out of some local tobacco.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2012


Welcome to pipe (or cigar) smoking, Joey! I'm smoking Bullseye Flake as I type this, actually. Let's see here:
A blend of ripe Virginia tobacco spiced with pure Louisiana Perique. The distinctive aroma of Perique combined with the natural sweetness of Virginia tobaccos provides a wonderful characteristic taste. The center of mellow, fermented Black Cavendish serves to smooth the general impression and round the taste. It is all a handcrafted process from selecting the best tobacco, blending, rolling, cutting, and packing. The result is an unparalleled smoking experience.
There are nuances in literally every human activity.
posted by gilrain at 2:27 PM on November 13, 2012


Has anyone else noticed that over the past few years (perhaps decades), the Melitta filter holders have changed? In particular, I think they've increased the size of the drip hole in the bottom, so that the water flows through the grounds faster and stays in contact with them for less time.

I haven't any scientific evidence for this — my old, seemingly smaller-holed Melitta is in New England and the bigger-holed, newer one is down in Virginia, and never the twain shall meet — but if I make coffee the same way it certainly seems to pour through the new one faster. And the only thing different about either setup is the filter holder (same filters, same coffee, roughly the same amounts, etc.).

It could just be sloppy quality control, but it seems like it could also be intentional. Unfortunately it's not easy to make the 'big hole' one smaller, short of sealing the hole up with some sort of food-grade resin and then re-drilling a smaller hole. This is something I've actually considered, but I'm not sure what to use that won't influence the flavor of the coffee.

Or I could just use a Chemex instead, I suppose.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:41 PM on November 13, 2012


> I will smoke the hell out of some local tobacco.

Depending on where you live, you can totally do this. It's definitely a "thing" in parts of Virginia, and I'd suspect other tobacco-belt states as well. I assume that you'll get a different product depending on where it comes from, but you can get it mail order from Pennsylvania (warning: awesomely low-budget webpage) at least.

It's probably not cool anymore though, because the NYT is already all over it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:54 PM on November 13, 2012


I've been really in to preparing BulletProof Coffee lately. My favorite is the look people at work give me when I put several tablespoons of butter in the blender with my coffee.
posted by hellphish at 3:17 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, it's worth about 20-25 cents.

In Los Angeles, Phillipe's (one of two local claimants as originator of the French Dip sandwich, the other being Cole's - see Snopes) earlier this year raised their coffee price from 10 cents (9 cents plus 1 cent tax) a cup after a few decades at that price. The new price? 50 cents (45 + 5 cents). Customer reaction, as this LA Times article relates, was "what took so long?"
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:11 PM on November 13, 2012


Except for the grinder. You can do it by hand, as the article points out, but I guarantee that's not going to be an attractive option a morning after the night before.

We use a Zassenhaus hand grinder. It works fine with the Silvia and doesn't make an outrageous racket in the morning. Plus people tend to keep beans in the hopper of their electric grinders which means they are stale by the next day.

This is something I've actually considered, but I'm not sure what to use that won't influence the flavor of the coffee.

There are two things you can do that will change the rate at which the coffee infuses and pours through the hole: use a finer grind, and a kettle that gives you more control over the pour. Baristas use a pour-over kettle. Here's an electric one that happens to be cheaper.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:07 PM on November 13, 2012


What a bunch of posers, pretending you know how to make good coffee.
posted by gauche

Eponystarkical!



This is sometimes called cowboy coffee...
Burhanistan, cowboy coffee is made by putting a gallon of water into a pot or a blackened pan, bringing it to a boil, then adding several cups of canned coffee. Toss in an eggshell and boil the hell out of it. Pull it off the stove and add a sprinkle of salt. Let sit 3-4 minutes prior to drinking to settle the grounds. Reheat as necessary, or it can stay on the back burner all day. The dregs are thrown out the back door, preferably in the direction of a hen that will squawk and jump.

It's pretty darn good in the winter after feeding heifers in a snowstorm. I'm a wuss--I put 2% milk in mine--or a squirt from a laid-back cow.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:37 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I see there are burr grinders for less than 50 bucks. Are these cheap burr grinders better than blade grinders?
posted by professor plum with a rope at 3:15 AM on November 14, 2012


I see there are burr grinders for less than 50 bucks. Are these cheap burr grinders better than blade grinders?

Upthread, I think somebody mentions those aren't cheap burr grinders so much as expensive blade grinders.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:33 AM on November 14, 2012


In Los Angeles, Phillipe's (one of two local claimants as originator of the French Dip sandwich, the other being Cole's - see Snopes) earlier this year raised their coffee price from 10 cents (9 cents plus 1 cent tax) a cup after a few decades at that price. The new price? 50 cents (45 + 5 cents). Customer reaction, as this LA Times article relates, was "what took so long?"

LOL I used to live about 4 blocks from Phillipes. I'd go in there and order a French Dip, and a cup of coffee. But the 10 cent cups are just tiny, they were big cups with thick walls so there was almost no volume left for coffee. So I'd go back for a refill, 10 cents. And then another, 10 cents. It took about 4 cups to get the strength and volume of one serious cup. And you'd spend half an hour going through line again and again.

So one day, I came in and ordered a French Dip and 4 cups of coffee. They flatly refused. One cup per customer. Come back for refills. I tried to bargain, how about 2 cups? No, they wouldn't allow it.

Eventually I found a better place in my neighborhood, Vickman's. It was a breakfast place that opened at 4AM and mostly fed the local produce truck drivers. My favorite feature was that if you ordered coffee, you got a 1950s style glass carafe exactly like this holding at least 2 cups worth. But alas, Vickman's closed shortly after I left LA.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:43 AM on November 14, 2012


We are too lazy to do all the manual steps in the morning. Our method is probably bad but:

* beans are from a local roaster and generally pretty fresh when we get them. They go into an airtight container on the counter when they get home.
* At night before bed (uh-oh) we pour the water into the machine (Mr. Coffee 12 cup) and grind the beans and put them in the filter.
* We don't use the timer due to variable wake times. Whoever wakes first stumbles downstairs and pushes the button then goes back into bed till it's ready, then goes back down and makes two cups which are brought back into bed.

After reading this yesterday, we decided to change one thing for this morning: we left the whole beans in the grinder last night and ground them in the morning. I realize we have other sub-optimal steps, but we *think* it tasted better this morning. My wife also thinks it was a bit more irritating to her stomach - maybe due to more oils in the final product?

We looked at burr grinders, etc. last night but for now are very happy with how the coffee tastes compared to something like a cup from a Starbucks or other chain. We talked about the Bonavita machine ($149 with thermal carafe) but are holding off.

Any other suggestions? I found boiled water/french press to be annoying in the past. Requirements:

- minimal work in the morning.
- makes 8-12 cups at a time so we can drink a bit in bed and top off on the way out the door.
posted by freecellwizard at 8:47 AM on November 14, 2012


freecellwizard: probably the only thing that'd make that process easier would be a coffee maker with a built-in grinder. They run the range from inexpensive to expensive, complete with conical burr grinder.
posted by zsazsa at 9:00 AM on November 14, 2012


The Baratza family of grinders get good reviews and sometimes can be found for under $100. We have an older Virtuoso model and are fairly happy with it.
posted by bonehead at 12:43 PM on November 14, 2012


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