Ever since it was first “invented” in Ancient Arabia in the 9th century, coffee has become a staple of human civilization. Nowadays, people all over the world drink coffee. It’s really quite astonishing how much we consume—estimates are around 150 million bags, or 10 million tons, per year. And this number is only expected to grow.
However, one of the downsides to this explosion in popularity is that the quality of coffee available in places around the world can at times be quite poor. This is because to keep up with global demand, companies have had to install a mass-production model. The result is that a lot of the coffee you buy at coffee shops or supermarkets has been roasted weeks before, which causes it to loses a lot of its nutritional value as well as flavor.
In response to this, a whole market surrounding specialty coffee has sprung up. You can get specific beans for specific brews, special machines to help you make your favorite drink and all sorts of syrups and creams to help you alter the flavor to your liking.
But if you’re new to this world, it can actually be quite overwhelming. There’s so much to choose from that you can easily feel like you’re always missing out. Well, have no fear. We’re here to help. We’re going to go over some ways you can get involved in the specialty coffee scene so that you don’t ever have to drink an old, stale cup of coffee again.
Your tastes will evolve over time, and you’ll likely need to try out lots of things to find out what you like, but follow these steps to get involved with specialty coffee.
Understand what you like
The first, and likely the most important, the thing you need to figure out when you first get into specialty coffee is exactly what you like. Obviously, you won’t be able to say with certainty the exact style or blend you like—this will come much later—but you should have a general idea.
For example, do you like strong black coffee? Or do you prefer it with milk and sugar? Are you someone who prefers just a shot of espresso, or would you rather have a bigger cup that takes you some time to drink? Do you prefer coffee to be hot or cold?
Answering these few questions will set you down a certain path. For example, if you don’t like espresso, then this will conveniently close a lot of doors for you. Or if you aren’t a fan of milk, you’ll know that you need to pursue options that don’t use dairy.
The best way to do this is to go to cafes. Here you can find well-prepared versions of all the different variations. Trying to make things on your own before knowing what you like is risky; you may not like something simply because you didn’t make it right. Leave it to the professionals, and then once you get a better idea of your tastes, you can set up your own operation at home.
Invest in a quality machine
Once you begin venturing into the world of specialty coffee, you’ll quickly realize just how many different options there are. And you’ll also notice how each and every variation has its own equipment. This is why it’s so important to figure out what you like before you start at home; buying equipment just to try something out can get really expensive really fast.
So, whether you decide to make cold brew, Turkish coffee, espresso or French press, know that the machine you use will play a huge role in the quality of the drink you’ll eventually get.
There are hundreds of different brands out there, and some can be really pricey. All will claim to make the best cup of coffee, but not all of them do. Look out for some of the following characteristics to help you get the best coffee machine:
- As little metal as possible. Coffee that sits in a metal tin can take on the taste of whatever material is used, ruining your delicious drink.
- When metal is used, make sure its stainless steel. This will prevent the machine from rusting and is especially important if you have hard water. The minerals in the water can eat away at cheap materials, damaging the taste of your coffee and eventually ruining your machine.
- Brew strength control. Sometimes you want a turbo shot, whereas other times you want something more mellow. Good machines will let you have control over how strong your coffee is.
- Is there a coffee grinder? Some of the fancier models will have features for grinding beans and then immediately make your desired cup of coffee. These are super convenient, but they can also be expensive. Yet buying whole coffee beans is a great way to experience fresh specialty coffee, so if you don’t have a way of grinding, consider getting a model that has this feature.
Find the best beans
Once you’ve figured out the type of coffee you want, and you’ve found a machine that lets you make it, it’s time to move onto the most important part: the coffee itself. All of these other considerations won’t matter one bit if you’re buying bad quality coffee.
First rule: avoid supermarket coffee at all costs. Some specialty supermarkets will have good stuff, but your generic grocery store will likely only have mass-produced coffee that is old and stale and not worth your time.
Instead, look for stores that specialize in selling unique coffees. Ask the people that work there what might be good, telling them what you like and the equipment you have. They will point in the direction of some good blends. Once you begin trying new things, you’ll eventually get a better idea of what you do and don’t like, and this will help narrow your choices.
Consider trying out some single origin blends, as well. Most of the coffee you buy is blended, meaning it is taken from different coffee farms from different parts of the world at different times and is then mixed together to create uniformity of flavor. This isn’t always bad, but it does prevent you from enjoying the uniqueness each batch of coffee beans has. Single origin coffees are never blended and are therefore 100 percent unique. You can get some great single origin coffee, but the bad part is that once it’s gone, you may never find the same one again!
If you don’t have a specialty coffee store near you, or if you’re still overwhelmed by all the different choices, another great option is to sign up for a specialty coffee subscription service. A monthly subscription will bring fresh, unique coffees from all over the world to your door every two to four weeks.
You can decide to have a new coffee sent every time, or once you find one you love, you can make sure you’re always stocked up. This takes out a lot of the guesswork, not to mention it’s also a super convenient way to try out different coffees from all over the world.
Keep trying new things
Once you finally find a coffee you really like, it’s tempting to want to settle down. Try to avoid this. People are constantly coming up with new ways to make coffee, and every batch of single origin coffee is different. Turn coffee drinking into a full-time hobby and never stop trying new things. Pretty soon you’ll be an expert, helping others enter the wonderful world of specialty coffee.
About the author: Cassie is a freelance writer and blogger with a self-proclaimed coffee addiction. Since she works from home, she needed to find ways to make better cups of coffee without having to venture to expensive cafes. Once she discovered coffee subscriptions, there was no turning back. She loves trying new flavors and new ways of drinking coffee. You can almost always find her with a mug nearby.
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