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From Part-Time Barista To Making Coffee At Home: My Homebrewing Coffee Journey (Part Two)

The coffee journey never ends. Anyone who pretends to know all there is about this ancient bean is a liar…and an unsuccessful one, at that.

At-home coffee. Homebrew coffee. Making coffee at home. Whatever you happen to call it, this method has taken a front seat for many in the wake of the coronavirus. Myself included! After many a year deprioritizing this beloved fascination in favor of more immediate concerns, I’ve since purchased a manual coffee grinder, a French press and some decaf beans to start my homebrewing coffee journey. Not content with just a few options on the table, I’ve decided to try out the pourover, as well. You can find the first part of the series here.

How are all these different brew methods faring? Let me count the ways.

I recently got my Hario pourover and Malita filters from Seattle Coffee Gear (as you can likely see, they’re my go-to for online coffee supplies). I bought my French Press off of Amazon, however…and let me say, I do not generally recommend this. It’s best to buy your coffee supplies from either a specialty supplier or the original business, as the site is loaded with fake sellers that either sell knock-offs or used versions that slipped quality control. Fortunately for me, my French Press arrived in mint condition.

My very first personal French Press coffee, though…wasn’t great.

Continue reading “From Part-Time Barista To Making Coffee At Home: My Homebrewing Coffee Journey (Part Two)”
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Not Quite A Latte, Not Quite A Cappuccino: What Is A Macchiato, Exactly?

Being a barista meant a lot of explaining.

“Oh, a frappuccino is an iced drink!”

“A mocha frappuccino just means it has chocolate in it.”

“Do you want a dry or a wet cappuccino? …Oh, you wanted a latte?”

Again and again I found myself spending more time hashing out terminology than making the actual drink (and this was essential, as a dissatisfied coffee customer can take up even more time). It was part of the job, and the coffee industry is rather notorious for its mile-long list of exclusive terminology. For those of you out there wanting to brush up on your coffee vocabulary, take a look at the Perfect Daily Grind’s rundown of the macchiato.

A quick overview: the macchiato is a predominantly espresso based drink, with just a little milk to add texture without overwhelming the subtle flavor notes of the coffee. This differentiates it from the milk-dominant latte and the foam-dominant cappuccino. This won’t stop you from seeing unique takes on the drink, however, as each cafe will still have different techniques (and misnomers) to its name. For those that are counting calories, this is also considered a superior drink to add to your diet. A win-win.

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Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: Counter Culture Coffee’s Slow Motion

Decaf coffee is pretty great. No, really!

It’s a healthy alternative for people with hypertension, high blood pressure or anxiety disorders. It’s useful when you want a cup at night, but need to get to bed at a certain time. For me, it’s the only option: too much caffeine makes me nauseous, gives me a headache and, in one particularly egregious case, gave me a bad panic attack. Fun times. Even caffeine junkies will turn to decaf to wean themselves off their daily limit (which, according to recent studies, shouldn’t be more than three or four cups per day). You name it, there’s a person who benefits from it.

Unfortunately, all these perks don’t stop decaf from being the buttmonkey of modern coffee culture.

When it’s not being denounced as an inferior brew twisting coffee’s good name, it’s being neglected by most American roasters as a side-option with few choices. ‘Death before decaf’ and all that jazz. There are signs, however, that decaf coffee is starting to take priority. More roasters are offering several decaf options in their line-up, with recent decaffeination techniques such as the Swiss Water method finding the perfect balance between effectiveness and quality. Many ongoing health studies are also spreading the good word on the benefits of a less caffeinated lifestyle.

In other words? It’s time to give decaf the shine it deserves.

Which beans are worth a purchase plus shipping? How do they stack up in today’s competitive industry? That’s what we’ll find out together: this is the first review in an ongoing series called Decaf, Decaf Everywhere, exploring the complex origins and flavor notes of all sorts of delicious whole coffee beans. The great equalizer? These are all decaf, without exception.

Let’s take a look at Counter Culture Coffee’s Slow Motion and whether it’s worth a try:

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From Part-Time Barista To Making Coffee At Home: My Homebrewing Coffee Journey

A former barista and longtime coffee lover just now starting a homebrewing coffee journey? It’s more likely than you think.

Let’s take a few steps back. My priorities were already being shuffled around long before the pandemic stepped in and shook us for all our loose change. From moving to a new apartment to figuring out a career shift, my desire to have an omnipresent home cafe in the corner of my kitchen was a lovely dream, but just that. A distant dream of making coffee at home, constantly pushed onto the back burner and growing ever loftier with every new excuse. If I wanted to enjoy a good cup, there was always a great cafe (or three) just a walk away. I live in the heart of Washington: throw a stone.

These days it’s too risky to even go to the low-activity cafes or roasteries, on top of everyone’s wallets being burned out. Now that things are both more stable and entirely unstable for me, my love for coffee has been resuscitated beyond said coffeehouse trips (and endless poring through coffee industry reports). It’s time to save money in the long run and create a homebrewing coffee set-up, at my own pace and with my preferences front and center.

While living with my mother I’d bounced between using her little red Keurig and her French Press (buying specialty beans had also been low-priority). After I moved, my roommate also happened to have a Keurig on standby. One collecting dust, at that. I’d proceed to use it a few times a week with grocery store coffee staples like Peet’s and Signature Select, giving me another coveted taste of the homebrewing experience (as well as a reminder of why I don’t want to rely on unsustainable coffee pods in the future).

One day my roommate was cleaning up the place and asked if I wanted to sell her Keurig, flicking on the lightbulb in my head that I have a prime opportunity to finally, at long last, upgrade.

Don’t let my procrastination turn you away: putting together your own coffee corner is a ton of fun. I’m going to share my homebrewing coffee journey in this ongoing series, from the equipment I’ve bought to the beans I’m grinding. I’ll also share recipes I’m trying out, homebrewing coffee resources and my thoughts on coffee culture. If you have a coffee set-up you’ve been thinking of starting, or just enjoy the thrill of the journey, read on.

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To Filter Or Not To Filter: Why Pourover Might Be Healthier Than French Press

As a passionate French Press user, this breaks my heart. Almost literally, in this case.

There are more coffee health studies than you can shake a stick at these days. You have studies on whether or not coffee’s antioxidant count is significant enough to matter in the long-term (most fingers point to yes, as long as you’re a regular drinker). Studies on the long-term impact of caffeine on your body (an actual addiction that is not taken seriously). Studies on the additional benefits of using coffee for skincare (still need to try this out myself). Throw a penny, you’ll hit a coffee study.

This piece, however, caught my eye. Newspressnow sources a recent Swedish study on the matter of coffee health: while the French Press uses a filtering method, it’s not considered strong enough to keep your cholesterol count low. Pourovers, by comparison, are considered a safer long-term option due to trapping more of the harmful chemicals. Overall, you get the benefits of a fresh brew and a reduction in heart disease, particularly if you’re a daily coffee drinker. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this, and it likely won’t be the last.

I’ve been considering purchasing a pourover as well as a Moka pot (the espresso machine remains a distant dream). There are just so many different ways to brew coffee and explore each origin’s unique flavor notes. Chalk this study up to yet another reason to diversify my coffee drinking efforts.

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A Wealth Of History In Each Bean: The Depth Of Central America’s Coffee

The more I read about coffee, the more I need to learn. It’s not a pain point for me, but rather, a joy.

With every single country having a unique relationship with coffee, it only makes sense getting to the bottom of this bean is like trying to reach the deep ocean with the tips of your fingers. If you’re in the mood for an informative-yet-brisk read, this piece over on Vinepair takes a brief look at each coffee variety throughout Central America. This guide sheds light on the incredibly subtle flavor notes that can be cultivated (such as brown sugar and honey) to the astronomically high prices-per-pound, quite literally, only found in high places.

The sheer depth of detail that goes into cultivation is a lesson in patience. Some coffee varieties found mean competition in the mass market not even for their flavor notes, but for the fact they were more resistant to destructive rust. The Robusta variety, as such, might see more popularity in the future for being less delicate than the more coveted Arabica. You’ll never find me wagging a finger at someone for lacking cultural or technical coffee knowledge, because the very nature of this widespread and ancient drink means there’s always something new to discover.

And what fun it is.

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Not All Is So Gray: The Myriad Of Ways The World Brews Their Coffee

A world of nearly nine billion people can only beg the question…just how many ways can coffee be brewed?

Would you try fresh drip coffee poured over cheese? How about local beans mixed with pepper for an extra kick? Coffee is a popular drink just as much for its inspiring of community as it is for flavor, and nowhere is this more clear than Newsweek’s round-up of interesting coffee brewing methods around the world. They hop from the cold reaches of Finland to the birthplace of coffee in Ethiopia, taking a look at all the ways this drink can be shaped.

The Ethiopian coffee brewing ceremony has always been the most fascinating to me: it’s an in-depth process that lasts for hours and involves washing, roasting and steeping in one sitting. That said, I would be a very poor liar if I wasn’t also craving a fluffy Japanese latte (on my bucket list for when I visit the country in 2022). When the news is oversaturated with fresh doomsday theories and depressing statistics, it helps to be faced with the world’s parallel brilliance, community and creativity.

The pandemic has closed down several coffee chains and seen a resulting spike in home brewing equipment. Now’s a great time to get reacquainted with coffee and what it means to you, even if it’s the world’s cheapest instant package with a splash of grocery store creamer. We all got to get our comfort, any way we can. As for me, I’ve been turning to chai tea and hot chocolate until I find home brewing equipment in my budget. When I finally make coffee at home again, it’ll be glorious (and topped with brown sugar).

How do you like to brew your coffee?

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Miss Going Out To Cafes? Perfect Your Inner Barista With This Useful Home Brewing List

Being a coffee lover can be expensive. When you’re not trying to find the best beans, you’re carving out space in your kitchen for all the short-term and long-term equipment you’ll need to make a cup that sparkles.

I’m still on the search for a burr grinder and an espresso maker (that can also do drip), but until I find that elusive perfect deal, I’m reading up on other people’s home brewing habits. The Daily Beast just published a short-and-sweet piece on how to get started becoming a home coffee brewing master. They simplify the complex process by looking at affordable French Presses, waxing philosophical about the benefits of weighing your grounds and even showing off a reusable Keurig brand.

Not all of these equipment combinations will drill holes into your wallet, either, and you might just stick with them once the coronavirus has slowed down enough to open cafes back up. Remember: coffee is all about what suits your tastes, lifestyle and budget. Not what some self-proclaimed espresso guru with a ten-inch beard thinks is more ‘real’.

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What Makes Mexican Coffee So Special?

Stepping into the coffee world is a lesson in multiculturism.

Variety doesn’t end at whether you prefer lattes or cold brew, but rather, where the coffee comes from and how it’s made. Are we talking about hearty robusta from Vietnamese coffee farms or floral Arabica from Ethiopia? Are we doing wash processes or a honey method? If you need something to read while stuck at home, this in-depth piece from Daily Coffee Grind will catch you up on the magic of Mexican coffee. I was fascinated reading about the subtle flavors found in the region, with some coffee tasting like jasmine and bergamot.

As a long-time tea lover, that’s music to my ears. Mexican beer is also seeing some interesting developments for their unique approaches to craft brewing and flavor varieties. If you’re thinking of expanding your horizons a little, don’t miss this piece.

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Wandering With Purpose: Visiting Wanderlust Delicato For A Taste Of Local Culture

Props to my roommate for inviting me to places. I’d probably never leave the apartment otherwise.

My city — and Washington state in general — is well-known for its wine and coffee production. I chose a good spot in my life to bolster my business writing focus, as my location is more than ready to meet me halfway. According to the Washington State Wine Commission, there are around nine hundred wineries in the state of Washington alone: that’s the second highest in the country and an impressive number right after California’s chokehold. As such, I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone and giving some of these locations a try these past few months, all in favor of a (slightly) more adventurous 2020.

(slightly being the keyword here, I’m still a full-time introvert with a PhD in curmudgeonly isolation and now the coronavirus has given me even more ample reason not to step foot outside)

When we swung by Wanderlust Delicato back in February I was taken aback by its lovely decor, greeting me with shiny wooden floors, box crate walls and countless rows of wine varieties. A quintessential and classic choice for wine shops, sure, but with a homeliness that hearkens to the organized chaos of an attic or storage shed (if it were far cleaner). It’s a proverbial repurposed forest, inviting in a cozy atmosphere and rewarding the wandering eye.

And wander I did.

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