I feel like this post had to happen at some point, so to all of the tea purists who read this I apologize, but coffee can be amazing. And if you’re going to drink coffee you might as well put as much though into it as you do your tea. I used to hate coffee, but that was because I had never had really good coffee, and I don’t mean a double tall, soy, blah, blah, blah. Coffee always tasted burnt and bitter, and this was probably why I ended up being a tea drinker.
There are coffee shops like the Stumptown in Brooklyn’s Redhook neighborhood, or the Blue Bottle in Williamsburg where you can get truly superior coffee. If you live in a city, I recommend you visit a place like this where they really care about brewing culinary coffee. You might start drinking coffee black because it’s so good. If you drink foo foo latte’s from Starbucks I absolutely mean to be judgmental when I say “Stahp!!!! That’s so gross!”.
A good online resource is coffeegeek.com.
Being a coffee novice I did quite a bit of research into how to make coffee as well as what I had had in a few of those shops. I tried a few different methods and discovered that using an Aeropress consistently made the best brew, and was by far the most forgiving. You can make a sort of espresso with it, as well as a great cup of regular coffee. The next best method for me was using a ceramic drip cone. I purchased this one (Bon Mac Ceramic Dripper) from Blue Bottle, and after trying plain old, cheap white, bleached filters, and unbleached filters I came to the sad conclusion that the bleached filters actually made better coffee.
It turns out that the grinder is important, and you want to make sure you are using a burr grinder, rather than one of those blade grinders. Apparently, the way the burr grinder does it’s thing creates a more consistent grind and therefore a better cup of coffee. I wish I could explain it better but I’m no expert. Almost all of the reading I did on coffee stressed the importance of the grinder over almost everything else. I have been using this inexpensive hand grinder (Hario Skerton Hand Mill) and getting good results.
Figuring out the right coffee beans was a bit of a task. I brewed every bean that I tried with the Aeropress and in the ceramic dripper. What I was looking for was flavor, consistency, and forgiveness. What I mean by forgiveness is that I needed the coffee to come out good in spite of my marginal technique. The ceramic dripper requires technique that I had to practice, but the Aeropress pretty much worked for me immediately. I tried some local roasters and then went with some single origin beans (all Ethiopian) from both Intelligentsia out of Chicago, and Blue Bottle from San Francisco. Although I would say that Intelligentsia barely edged out the Blue Bottle in all three of my categories, they both beat the pants off all of the local roasters.
Two of the factors that I had to play with were water temperature and grind size. I found that a medium grind size and water around 180°F (higher temps lead to more bitterness) worked best to create a smooth, flavorful coffee, free of that harsh bitterness that I dislike so much.
There is a lot of easy to find information on just how to use the Aeropress, and the ceramic drip filter all over the internet so I won’t get into that here. The coffeegeeks.com forum is a great place to ask questions.
One little point about single origin coffee’s and blends: Although I found that I prefer single origin coffee over blends, there might be a health benefit to it as well. This site (bulletproofexec.com) asserts that blends tend to harbor molds due to the mixing of beans from all over the place where-as single origin beans have a significantly lower incidence. If you have ever felt sluggish after drinking coffee, this mold thing is probably why.
So get onto Yelp.com and find out who makes the absolute best coffee in your area, ask for a cup of single origin and drink it black. It should be complex, flavorful and smooth. Then go try to recreate that it home. It will take a few tries, but good coffee can be nice break from tea every once in a while. And seriously, put that pink, bedazzled iPhone back in your pocket, and drink your coffee black.