First order of business young grasshopper is to toss your instant coffee and hide your Keurig. Here are 10 basic things to know to make you seem like a legitimate coffee snob.
1. Attend a “cupping” and learn to evaluate the aroma, flavor, body, and acidity of coffee.
The “cupper” first noses the brew to give an evaluation of the smell. At this point you have poetic freedom to use as many similes and metaphors as possible. Say things like “this coffee smells like a Sunday morning” or “this has such a euphoric earthy aroma” or “if Willy Wonka had a coffee factory, this is what it would smell like.”
To taste, you “break the crust” which is pushing away the grounds of coffee at the top of the cup and “slurp” with a spoon, trying to get as much on your palate as possible. Coffee roasters love to use terms like citrusy, hints of berries, chocolaty, nutty, floral, spicy, etc. For your convenience use this template: At first you get the taste of ____ but it finishes off with a nice _____ taste.
When describing the body of my coffee I describe it like my winter sweaters such as “cashmere in a cup” or things like crisp, bold, etc.
2. Buy a Chemex, ceramic dripper, French press, hand mill, scale (if you’re taking this seriously), timer, pouring kettle, a cupping spoon, and appropriate glassware.
Just please don’t spend the money that you don’t have on a Hario Siphon because now you’re just trying too hard.
3. Know the difference between Arabica vs. Robusta, the most widely cultivated species of coffee.
Arabica coffee tends to be softer, sweeter, fruitier and very acidic (almost like a Two Buck Chuck). Arabica is grown in Latin America, Central and East Africa and in India. All coffee beans from Colombia are Arabica.
Robusta coffee tends to be more bold, strong, and grainy. Robusta comes from lower altitudes, produces larger crops, and is less susceptible to pests and disease. They are grown in Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. Robusta coffees are usually used for instant coffees and have twice as much caffeine.
4. Say no to instant coffee and definitely say no to Starbucks.
5. Know your specialty coffee roasters.
Blue Bottle (Oakland, Ca), Intelligenstia (Chicago, Il), Stumptown (Portland, Or), DOMA (Post Falls, Id), Ritual (San Francisco, Ca), Gimme! (Ithaca, Ny), Counter Culture (Durham, Nc).
Use their labels to increase your snobby vocabulary.
6. Speaking of vocabulary, know the lingo.
Drip coffee: hot water poured over coffee beans contained in a filter.
Direct trade: coffee sourced directly from farmers as an alternative to fair trade.
Single Origin: coffee beans from the same geographical region.
Cortado and macchiato: both are espressos with a teeny bit of warm milk added.
Americano: espresso with added hot water.
Cappuccino: espresso with hot milk and steamed-milk foam.
Caffè Latte: espresso with steamed milk.
Au Lait: coffee with hot milk added in contrast to white coffee which is coffee with room temperature milk.
Red Eye: espresso added to drip coffee.
7. Stop! Don’t add milk to your coffee!
You almost blew your cover, goon!
8. Be the first one of your friends to try cold brew a.k.a. cold pressed coffee.
No, I don’t mean iced coffee. I’m talking coffee brewed over a long period of time with room temperature water than filtered and placed on tap like beer.
9. Ask for water when drinking an espresso.
Your espresso should be served with a cup of water or else ask for one. You’re supposed to sip a little water to cleanse your palate and then your espresso. If the espresso is good than finish the water afterwards.
10. Appropriately judge your cappuccino without tasting it.
The heavy foam on some cappuccinos is an instant giveaway to bad technique; the milk was overheated and you have to fight the thick foam to get to your espresso. You want a silky finish with the milk and espresso complementing one another.
Look at you, you little pretend-coffee snob. You definitely had me fooled! Now all there’s left to do is frequent your local coffee shop until the barista remembers your name.