My first experience with coffee that wasn’t from a chain was at a local coffee shop run by a church.
I walked into the shop and looked up at the cute chalkboard menu expecting to see your typical coffee shop menu. Vanilla Mocha Latte, Orange Mocha Frappuchino, Pumpkin Spice Peppermint Apple Caffeine Hyper-blast. You know, those sorts of things.
Instead, there were only three items written in flourishing chalk letters. And I had no clue what any of them were. They looked like the names of cities in tropical countries. Guatemala Huehuetenango, Ethiopia Yirga Cheffe, El Salvador Majahual…names like that.
“What can I get for you?” asked the barista behind the counter as I anxiously scanned the menu looking for some sort of key or directions or something familiar. I had no clue what to order.
Obviously I wasn’t about to reveal to the barista that I was a lowly coffee newb so I pretended I knew what I was talking about. Each name had flavors written underneath them so I just went with the one that had chocolate listed as one of its flavors. You can’t go wrong with chocolate.
“Do you want that iced or regular?” she said.
Dang it, I didn’t know this was a two part question. I wish she would quit with the third degree and just hand me a coffee.
It was a balmy 90 degrees outside that day so I went with iced. I then watched in fascination as the barista ground my beans right there, put a triangular filter into some sort of cone contraption, put the grounds in the filter, placed a cup underneath the cone, and started pouring water over the grounds with some shiny teapot thing that looked like it had come straight out of Aladdin.
I’d later learn that this is known as the pour over method and is one of the preferred ways of brewing coffee among coffee connoisseurs.
Finally, what seemed like 20 minutes later, I was handed what would be the cup of coffee that would ruin all other coffee for me.
Until that day I could never really taste a difference between coffees. Yeah, I could tell if one was stronger than the other, if the coffee had been sitting in the pot for a few hours, or if it was just downright bad. But to me, a decent cup of coffee was just a decent cup of coffee that tasted like…well…coffee.
That cup wasn’t just coffee. I could actually taste the flavors listed on the chalkboard. It was sweet without being sweetened. It tasted good even when it was partially watered down from the ice.
After that day, I became slightly obsessed with finding the perfect cup of coffee. I tried to visit every artisan coffee shop within a thirty mile radius. I acquired basically every type of coffee brewing device known to man. A French Press*, an Aeropress*, and as of Christmas, a Hario v60* for pour over coffee.
I started buying my beans from local roasters. Places like Chazzano, Great Lakes Coffee, and Anthology. Only one problem, that stuff is expensive! Compared the the crappy Meijer coffee I was buying before, I was paying four times the price for better beans.
Don’t get me wrong, I will gladly pay more for quality and to support a local company but sometimes….that’s just a lot of money. Especially when you’re cheap like me.
If You Want to Do It Right…
One day, I read online that you can roast your own coffee beans in an air popcorn popper*. Of course, being obsessed with coffee, I had to try it. I immediately added an air popper to my Christmas list (I mentioned I was cheap, right?) and waited anxiously.
Lucky for me, my family is really awesome and I got the popcorn popper for Christmas. I went out as soon as I could to a local store that sells green coffee beans and bought a half pound.
Before I started my roasting experiment, I watched about five YouTube videos on how to do it…just to make sure I didn’t burn my apartment building down. What would I do without YouTube?
After I was confident I could safely roast up the beans, I put them in the popper and turned it on.
My whole apartment started to smell weird. Not like coffee, it never once smelled like coffee. I can’t explain the scent but it’s not a good smell. It’s not horrible, just not pleasant. The coffee beans (mostly) stayed in the popper and some flaky stuff which is apparently called “chaff” came out of the chute where the popcorn normally comes out.
After a couple minutes the beans began to crack as though they were actually popping. From what I had read, I knew that there would be two pops and the beans are usually done cooking some time between the second and first pop. I let the beans get to the second pop just so I knew how long it took between pops. As soon as I started to hear the second pop about three minutes after the first, I dumped the beans into a metal strainer and shook them around to cool them down so they would stop cooking.
Obviously I wanted to grind them up right away but decided to look into it a little bit first because the beans didn’t smell at all like coffee normally smells. Maybe I had done something wrong…or maybe these beans were just funky.
Eventually I read online that you should wait at least four hours after roasting to make coffee from the beans. I guess they need time to sit and do their thing before they turn into full-fledged roasted beans.
I waited. Then waited some more. Looked at the clock about every twenty minutes, until finally it had been four hours.
I ground up the beans in my new hand grinder* which I also got for Christmas (thanks everyone, by the way!!) and brewed up a cup using the pour over method.
OMG IT WAS SO GOOD.
Just kidding, it was pretty bad, actually. Haha. Okay maybe not bad…probably on par with gas station coffee. But, hey…it was my first try! Plus, I let it go past the second pop which probably over-cooked the beans.
Since then, I’ve cooked the rest of the beans and actually managed to get a few cups that didn’t taste like gas station sludge. I don’t think I’ve reached $13 bag of coffee beans level yet…but I’m getting there.
I just ordered a sampler of four different types of beans from Sweet Maria’s and I can’t wait to experiment and hopefully get some even better batches.
In case you’re wondering, the green coffee I ordered was about 46 cents an ounce (including shipping) compared to the coffee I was buying before which was at least 94 cents an ounce, I’m saving about half of my money by roasting my own! I do have to take the time to roast it myself but it’s kind of fun and only takes a few minutes so I’m pretty sure I got the better end of this deal.
Coffee Addicts Anonymous
Are you a coffee drinker? What’s your favorite way to drink coffee? Have you ever even thought about roasting your own coffee beans or brewing with something like an aeropress or pour over? Let me know in the comments!
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