What I Can Teach

Blog Every Day In May - Day 2Educate us on something you know a lot about or are good at. Take any approach you'd like (serious and educational or funny and sarcastic).

As someone who is constantly finding new interests and changing I've dabbled in lots of different things, but never felt particularly skilled at or committed to many of them. I tend to gather more theoretical knowledge of how to do something than tangible practice.

As a child I dance ballet for 7 years, but now I'm clumsy and can hardly remember the five positions. I also rode a unicycle for a school team, where we performed choreographed routines with somewhere around 50 unicyclists, but that doesn't mean I can do it now. Cheerleading was my life for 5 years, and I can still remember choreography and yell like no one's business but I don't have the personality for that now. I played electric bass in band for 2 years (odd instrument for a school band, I know...) and was getting pretty good. I taught myself to play before I ever even touched the instrument by making double sided flash cards with the notation on one side and the fingering on the other. I memorized the sheet music so I could play with my heart without using my eyes. Now, I can't play a lick. I've sung in choirs, competed at solo festivals, did harmonies on a worship team, auditioned for American Idol (now that's a short and ridiculous story), recorded a duet with my uncle, and sang karaoke in my parents local bar since I was 14 (another story, small town y'all). Singing is something I'm not theoretically practiced at. I can hardly sight read and I've had no real training. I have a knack for creating recipes entirely out of my head and executing them fairly well, but ask me if I remember how I made something and most of the time the answer is no.

What I'm trying to convey is that I don't feel like I have any wealth of talent or knowledge to educate anyone with. But... I have some coffee knowledge for beginner brewers who want to get more serious, who want to soak up more.

  • Coffee beans peak freshness is from 1-14 days after they were roasted. If you have only ever bought beans from Starbucks or the grocery store you are most definitely missing out. Find a shop or roaster near you that sells their own roast with the roast date clearly marked on the bag. Also, only buy as much coffee as you are going to consume in this period of time.
  • The greatest tool for making really good coffee, as opposed to decent coffee, at home is the grinder. *I'm also implying here that you should buy whole bean coffee, not packaged grounds.* Most a lot of households who grind their own beans use a standard blade grinder. The problem with blade grinders is that they do not grind all of the coffee uniformly (this prevents an even brew which will give you inconsistencies like sourness and bitterness from over or under extraction), and also they heat up a bit while grinding which compromises the careful roasting that went into providing you with quality beans. So, coffee professionals and enthusiasts recommend burr grinders. There is a pretty good selection of grinders with a wide range of prices. While even a Mr. Coffee burr grinder will give you better results than a blade grinder, I suggest investing as much as you can comfortably on this tool. This may sound elitist, but you get what you pay for. We used credit card rewards to get this one, and it was a huge step up for us, but even it has drawbacks. For instance, it doesn't produce a true espresso fine grind, and the coarsest setting isn't as coarse as we'd like for french press. 
  • Branch out from your electric countertop maker! I can't properly convey how eye opening and exciting it is to try new methods of brewing coffee. I will say that if you utilize an auto/timer feature on your maker because you don't have any time to fuss over your coffee, that's fine (at least your getting your coffee), but the experience of being more actively involved in making your morning (or afternoon, or evening, heck late night even!) joe is almost as gratifying as the higher quality result. If you are interested in branching out I would say that a french press is the second at home coffee experience you should have. When we replaced our 4 cup Mr. Coffee maker with a press we lit up, and that's when we really took an interest in the art of coffee.
  • Do it right! With all of the resources we have on the internet these days you can find any information you could possibly want at your fingertips, so use your resources! To name a few: brewmethod.com, coffeeforums.com, and the coffee subreddit. Coffee is more sensitive than people think. Precise measurements, temperatures, and methods go into getting the best cup possible. Coffee is an art and a science.
  • Fun fact: slurping your coffee actually lets you taste all those lovely notes and flavors that the packages describe. Give that a try!

I'd love to answer any burning coffee questions you have. The community and connection making qualities of the magic beans are what excite me the most about it. My husband and I have major passion for coffee culture, so we're always growing our collection of paraphernalia, and filling our minds with new information. We plan on sharing more brew methods pretty soon, hope you're up for it!

P.S. If you've been coming here a while you've already seen this (my apologies for the repeat), but if not I hope you enjoy it.

A Chemex Brew Guide
from Photography by David L Clark on Vimeo.

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