Part 1 of 3
by: Christine Clutton
Let’s start by saying that today’s blog post is not for everyone. If you are one of those lucky people who make their coffee in the morning, walk out in your robe to get the paper, wave to the mail man, and then watch the rest of the sun rise as you savor each perfect sip of your delicious drink - then I both admire and envy you, but this blog post is not for you.
If you look like this human in the morning, then disregard this blog post all together.
And no. We did not pay for the rights to this photo. But why should we? I'm bitter about how happy he looks. I wish this were me. Because you coffee-perfecting-people are my inspiration. You people are my muse. How I wish I could like the coffee I brew at home every day so easily, so blissfully. If I just described you, or at least the part about enjoying your morning coffee, then continue to make the coffee just like you do, however you do it, every day. You lucky sons of guns, cherish it. Don’t take that paradise for granted.
If you happen to be on the other side of the coin. On the side of the coin where I lay, disenchanted, disillusioned, and distressed by your morning coffee, then this blog...this blog is for you. This blog is for all the geeks and pour over technique freaks out there like me that just HAVE to try every method, every roast, every water source, every grind size, to find the “perfect” cup of coffee.
My old boss used to say, “The best cup of coffee is simply the cup of coffee you like best.” I.e. drink it how you want. Brew it how you want. If you like it, then drink it that way. But what if you DON’T KNOW how to make that “cup of coffee you like best”?
That leaves you in a predicament now doesn’t it? So we decided to create a blog post (actually, a total of three blog posts) to discuss some simple ways to attempt to make that cup of coffee you love best. We thought this blog would really just be a jumping-off point for all other bewildered home baristas to chime in about what they have tried that has helped them perfect (or at least nudged them in perfection’s direction) with their morning cup of coffee.
If you have a tip or trick then PALEASSSSE chime in below in the comments with your advice. For the love of GOD do not keep your coffee secrets to yourself. There are people like us in the world just trying to enjoy our morning coffee and we need as much advice as possible.
Here is what I have found has helped nudge us in the general direction of greatness with morning coffee.
Your coffee might taste like shit because of: your water
Coffee is 99% water (or something like that, haven’t exactly done the math). And therefore, your water quality, and what minerals are in the water (or not in the water) play a huge part in that finished cup of coffee.
If you are SUPER sensitive to the taste of water, then comment below because I think we should create a support group for this or something. I cannot drink unfiltered water. I simply can’t. In Austin, the water quality is so terrible, I would sometimes triple filter my water. And you know - that helps! It really does. Having nice clean water, truly helps.
What else helps? Having a filter that ADDS back minerals that help pull and extract the GOOD parts of coffee, out of the bean. An example would be the BWT which you can buy on amazon for $30 (including three filters). This water filtration system adds back magnesium which is an essential mineral in coffee extraction. Jon and I were not happy with our coffee for about two weeks, we got this bad boy in the mail and BAM, we can drink the coffee again with great joy.
There’s also a new company out there called Third Wave Water that creates little vials of minerals that are perfectly suited to add to one full gallon of filtered water that adds in a precise blend of magnesium, calcium and sodium to bring out your coffee’s natural acidity and sweetness. Jon and I had a sample of this and tried it out recently. We really could tell a difference in the overall cup of coffee. They sell for $15 a 12 pack which gets you a 12 full gallon of filtered and mineral added water ready for brewing.
And if you really want to go on an adventure, you can try making your own water. There are recipes floating all around the internet. For example, THIS. Most just require some baking powder, epsom salt, deionized water, and...beer. Because beer improves all science experiments.
Another little tidbit we’ve read is that most roasters naturally roast to fit the water profile of their city. Example, if you find THE BEST CUP OF COFFEE EVER on your recent vacation to Amsterdam and come back home all excited to brew that last bag here in the states, you may just be disappointed. But it might not have anything to do with you. That roaster may have roasted their beans to taste AMAZING with the water source they use in their city. Your water may just be different, and therefore, make the coffee taste differently.
If we are wanting to get really crazy, we could go into discussions about RO systems, and measuring out TDS levels. BUT, the average home barista doesn’t have that luxury. Even the crazy ones like me. So for now, our advice is to filter, add back some minerals, and try out different local roasts until you find the one you like best. More suggestions? Add in the comments below!
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this blog!
By: Jon Clutton
Never did I think I’d be writing a blog about coffee. Three years ago I didn’t even like coffee. And I still don’t really like blogs. I thought coffee was just that stuff served in towering silver cylinders at church. I think blogs can be too agenda-pushing. Too sale-sy. Too fake. Yet here I am, drinking coffee and writing a blog.
What. On. Earth. Happened.
What could have prompted me to drink coffee and write a blog about it? As most things go… it was a girl. A girl I have a crush on. This girl to be exact.
She force fed me coffee, made me a world-shattering pour-over, and I was hooked. Both on the girl and on this whole coffee thing. I married this girl two years ago, and we’ve been saving to start our own coffee shop ever since. Now I sit watching her plan our first coffee shop endeavor while I start the endeavor of writing this blog.
So, that answers the coffee part. What about the blog part?
Well, It turns out that coffee is this incredible medium through which to explore Life. Let me delve into this a bit more.
I’m a science guy. And coffee is basically just a mix of acid/base equilibria, organic chemistry, and physics, so ya...science.
Coffee creates a lot of friendships. And marriages apparently. But it doesn’t just create new friendships and strengthen existing ones in the cafe-customer setting alone, but also behind the bar, behind the roaster, behind the tiny bean itself. Relationships between barista and customer, between owner and lead barista, between coffee shop and coffee roaster, and between coffee roaster and coffee farmer. I got to see this first hand as I watched my wife lead a team of ten incredible people at Cuvee Coffee. Those baristas turned into family. When done well, coffee creates more than a caffeine buzz, it can create an incredible community.
Sustainability and ethics. Coffee is a global business with challenges facing it, many of which we deal with every day. Global warming, fair wages, sustainable farming practices, and creating a work environment people actually like showing up to.
Coffee sums up some of the things that are pretty dear to me and that I’d like to spend more time researching, thinking through, and discussing with a community of people. This is what led me to the blog.
So every week we will be posting a blog pertaining to one of these three discussions:
Coffee Science: experimentation and innovation to create bomb drinks
Friendships: aspiring to be good humans to each other in all aspects of the coffee industry
Sustainability: discussing how to do mother earth a solid and giving all humans fair wages
Given Christine’s background in both ethical business and in coffee shop management, she will primarily be blogging about the friendship & sustainability topics. Whereas, I will lean into the science topics. Our hope is this blog will be a place to explore these areas with an inclusive online community with whom we can dialog, discuss, and act together.
In case you are like my wife, who self admittedly tunes out 40% of what I am saying when I start speaking “science”, this disclaimer is for you.
Coffee is pretty straightforward. It’s just beans and water. And we plan to keep it that simple. Christine proof reads all my blogs (and I, hers) in order to make sure everyone can understand, AND enjoy them. There is this great Einstein quote my organic chemistry professor use to say, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
This is our hope for the science topic on the blog. We want to make coffee as simple as possible, but no simpler. We want to dive into the science of coffee without sounding like 80-year-old-tenured-professors. Science is sometimes an unapproachable topic for baristas and home brewers, but our intent is to make it as simple as possible, without doing the injustice of dumbing it down.
When it comes to amazing science-based coffee communities, there are already many people who do this well: baristahustle.com
and KC's very own kccoffeegeek.com.
We hope that we can bring this level of passion and inclusivity too.
By day, I work in Alzheimer’s research at KU Med. Recently, there has been a lot of innovation in the field. Scientists have been able to look at the data in new ways. There is a lot of evidence hinting that Alzheimer’s is a metabolic issue (i.e. our ability to use and store energy). This is a novel idea because for 30 years they thought it was caused by proteins called Amyloid and Tau. This fresh look at age-old diseases isn’t just confined to Alzheimer’s. It’s endemic in the science community, especially among ordinary people sifting through the literature in new ways completely on their own. From sugar, to fats, to cancer, autoimmune issues, and cardiovascular health. There is a revival in the evidence-based approach to science. My hope is that we can do something similar in coffee.
This is what I hope to do with the science aspect to this blog. Provide evidence-based research behind coffee and let YOU ALL, be my peer-reviewers.
Christine and I look forward to writing about topics that puzzle, excite, and challenge us and to hear your responses.