So now that you've subjected yourself to our good coffee propaganda, learned the basics of brewing, and explored some of the popular brew methods, we'll cut through much of the online clutter and leave you with some selected resources that can continue your path to full-on coffee nerdity.
Further Brewing ResourcesThe internet is full of esoteric guidance about every conceivable coffee brewing method. Almost any public forum post on coffee will bring out a handful of folks claiming to have figured out the one essential secret to a perfect cup. Well, in spite of the title our editors chose for this Morning School series (way to set the bar high for me guys, thanks!) perfection is an ideal we can always get closer to but perhaps never quite touch.
But for the idealists, perfectionists, and compulsive optimizers a great resource to explore is Brewmethods.com. Organized by brewing device, this is a handy compendium of links to brew tutorials from around the internet, from the simple to the complex to the completely confounding.
And You Thought Gram Scales Were Nerdy?For the most serious of optimizers, a refractometer is the tool that leads all the way to the bottom of the rabbit hole, giving you precise data about how much you're extracting from your beans. Gizmodo ran a very good piece on Vince Fedele, creator of the ExtractMojo system that some coffee nerds have come to trust more than their own tongues.
More on EspressoAs we discussed in the previous lesson, home espresso has a tendency to metastasize quickly into a full blown hobby and is difficult to approach casually. Expect to do a healthy amount of research before taking the plunge and purchasing expensive gear. Some additional resources for those who feel the call:
Scott Rao's The Professional Barista's Handbook is a great guide to get started with and will introduce you to some of the conceits and concepts you'll see argued about in coffee geek forums. His second book Everything But Espresso is one of the best guides to precision coffee brewing and stirs many coffee nerd debates.
Seattle espresso pioneer David Schomer sits deep in the lineage of many current "third wave" coffee bars and his books and videos are a classic resource on the topic of espresso preparation.
Home-Barista.com is an excellent resource for equipment reviews and discussion. The forums there are full of folks who are ready to indoctrinate you into the espresso cult and help you solve your shot pulling riddles.
Home RoastingThe only coffee hobby with a deeper rabbit hole than mastering espresso preparation is roasting your own beans, though the basic gear for getting started doesn't have to cost a small fortune. Many people roast on simple electric popcorn poppers with often decent results, and aside from some smoke and mess, getting started isn't too difficult.
Even if you lack the inclination to dive deep into the requisite trial and error explorations or the time to regularly roast yourself up a fresh supply, there is something really great about experiencing close up the sights and smells of the roasting process and the rapid transformations that occur with the coffee. One online resource stands above all the rest in catering to the needs of home roasters from supplies to tutorials, Sweet Marias.
History of Coffee and General Coffee KnowledgeThere are too few books on coffee and a really good, comprehensive guide to approaching the bean remains unwritten. But here are a few of the books I like from my collection that are worth your time.
Mark Pendergrast's Uncommon Grounds contains a good overview of the early history of coffee, the first coffee shops, and the beginnings of the modern coffee era.
Two books that look at the contemporary "third wave" coffee culture worth noting are Hanna Neuschwander's Left Coast Roast, and Alon Halevy's The Infinite Emotions of Coffee.
A good, concise resource to the formal art of tasting coffee, the SCAA's Coffee Cupper's Handbook , is a good introduction to classifying coffee flavors and recognizing common flavor defects. Contains an excellent glossary.
On the many issues of sustainability, I highly recommend Michael Sheridan's CRS Coffeelands Blog which does an excellent job of giving producer perspectives on the evolving state of the global coffee market from commodity to high end specialty.
Showing up to coffee industry events like barista competitions or conferences as a civilian can be a little overwhelming but provides a great opportunity to pick up some knowledge and experience some of the scale and chaos of the trade. Ultimately, getting out there and tasting coffee from many regions and many roasters is the best way to build your understanding of the bean. And brewing at home is a great and economical way to explore. More quality focused roasters are cropping up in more towns and most of the well regarded roasters have mail order options (I might be slightly biased toward one of them in particular.
Thanks to everyone who gave comments, notes, and critiques on this series. Happy drinking!
Tony Konecny likes his coffee like he likes his (insert your own punchline). As a founder of Tonx he crusades for better coffee in the kitchen by offering a hassle-free subscription program of fresh roasted coffees sourced from top farmers. He lives in Los Angeles with his lovely Chemex and a collection of hand-cranked grinders.
Top image remixed from etraveler, Subbotina Anna, and Oros Gabor (Shutterstock).
All other images via Tonx.