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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.

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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.

decaf coffee beans

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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Easy And No Longer Cheap: Why Specialty Instant Coffee Is On The Rise

Coffee is as varied as the people who drink it. Some prefer to take their time on a lazy Sunday crafting delicate home lattes. Others barely have enough time to toss a packet in a mug before rushing to work. I regularly look forward to my home coffee set-up, choosing between decaf beans and brewing methods alike.

That’s what makes coffee so wonderful: it adapts to fit us, in every shape and size.

That doesn’t stop instant coffee from being somewhat of a dirty phrase in the coffee industry, however, conjuring up comparisons to caffeinated dirt and being brushed to the side as only fit for the tasteless among us. Several businesses today are challenging that notion, offering specialty instant with gentler brewing methods and more subtle tasting notes. This piece on Vinepair looks at the history of instant coffee over the decades and how it’s starting to break through its stained reputation. Dalgona, the online coffee craze often made with instant coffee crystals, is just the tip of this iceberg.

I’m definitely going to check some of these out soon. I’ve never had specialty instant before (one step at a time!) and am very curious about some of these flavor notes. Cashew, red wine or toffee with just a stir of the spoon? Sign me up.

coffee equipment and coffee supplies

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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coffee filter and grounds

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.

child coloring

Explore Coffee From The Comfort Of Home: Loring’s Roasting Coloring Book

As an illustrator and a coffee enthusiast, I appreciate this on several levels.

Loring, a coffee roaster manufacturer based in California, recently crafted a coffee roasting coloring book to keep people occupied during the pandemic. Not only is it a good way to keep children occupied when phone time’s up, it’s a neat look into the ins-and-outs of roasting facilities. It’s stuffed with all sorts of lineart illustrations, from the beans to the machines. It’s currently available for download on their website and can be perfect for digital painting or filling in with marker. If you’re in need of a little therapy, look no further.

Painting is one of my most reliable forms of calming down and cooling off. Has been for most of my life. Something I love about this idea is not just the clever way of keeping people in touch with their local coffee businesses, but the unabashed appreciation of fun. Miserable news circulates more consistently than the air we breathe: inviting people’s artistic spirit is a pitch-perfect idea that will leave a positive impact.

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Star Wars And Coffee Go Together Like Java And Jawas

Something that might not be readily apparent with this blog is the fact I’m a huge geek. A raging one. An unapologetic nerd so massive as to simultaneously create and inhabit my own black hole, of which no movie quote or videogame-related TED Talk shall ever escape.

Imagine my delight when I came across this fun list linking Star Wars characters to certain types of coffee. It’s funny, because I’m not even that big a fan of the franchise, having only recently found interest with the new trilogy as well as the stunningly well-crafted The Mandalorian. That said, I’ve seen all the films and know enough to appreciate how spot-on these are. I’m glad I wasn’t drinking my morning brew when I read the Yoda post.

There are spoilers for the new trilogy in this piece, though, so proceed with caution (and the only reason I’m not arguing about how very uninteresting those spoilers are is because this is still a beverage blog). Speaking of which, I’ll have to start thinking which coffee drink personifies me best. I’m thinkiiing…a frothy brown sugar latte in a cup the size of Middle Earth. Maybe a decaf dalgona in the shape of the statue of David.

How to support local cafés and businesses during quarantine — Coffee with the Queen

“A small business is an amazing way to serve and leave an impact on the world you live in.” -Nicole Snow This statement by Nicole Snow is true — but, as a small business owner, I think she only captured half of what it means to be a small business. Small businesses contribute to their […]

How to support local cafés and businesses during quarantine — Coffee with the Queen

A quick little guide on how to support your love of coffee beyond the (increasingly) rare trip to the grocery store.

I recently bought some decaf beans from local roasters (which I’ll be reviewing within the next month), as well as some much needed coffee equipment for my kitchen. With the American economy already showing similar statistics to the Great Depression, though, I’ll also emphasize you don’t need money to show your support. An email or supportive comment on social media will go a long way to show these cafes and roasters you’re thinking of them.

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.