Wednesday, July 15

An Accidental Coffee Snob

When I was in college, I had a little tiny Mr. Coffee machine that made four cups of coffee. (As they measure anyway. It usually worked out to a neat two servings.) It was perfect, and we continued to use it very happily for the first five plus years of married life. I might have kept using it forever, except that all of the stores in our region abruptly and inexplicably stopped carrying the filters. It took a unique size, and I was not about to spend a fortune or a ton of time either special ordering the correct filters or modifying/fussing with improperly sized ones.

We were planning to buy a house with a wood stove anyway, so we took it as a sign that it was time to switch to a French Press. (Now have and love this indestructible treasure from REI.) Being non-electric, this would ensure that we would be able to enjoy our daily coffee even if we were without power for extended periods of time. (A real possibility, given that we wouldn’t be high on anyone’s list if winter storms brought power lines down.) It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but it had a big impact on our perceptions and expectations – French Press coffee was so much better than what we’d been making! We didn’t know it at the time, but this seemingly innocent event marked the beginning of our descent into coffee snobbery.

Fast forward to maybe a year ago, when my sister came to visit. Sweet girl that she is, she bought us coffee – the kind of glorious, small-batch flavored roasts that are readily available near her but that have long eluded us out here. We were delighted. Until we realized she’d accidentally grabbed whole bean instead of pre-ground!  For all my kitchen toys, believe it or not, I didn’t have anything to grind coffee beans with. We remedied that promptly with this gem from Amazon.  (Note: it’s fabulous, and I highly recommend it.)

We quickly realized we’d had no idea what we were missing – freshly ground coffee is notably different than the pre-ground stuff! Admittedly, I’d known that at an academic level from my years of working in a coffee shop. But I’ve never made the translation to home brewed coffee, and so never really thought about it. Now happy owners of a grinder, we switched completely to buying whole bean coffee and grinding our own as needed every couple days. (This takes almost no time, and is super easy.)

Somewhere in there, we saw thisvideo, which piqued our interest in home roasting of our beans. Though I haven’t had a chance to do as much additional research as I’d like, the concepts totally line up with what we know to be true about other foods and made a lot of sense. So, on a whim, we bought a bag of unroasted (green) coffee beans to experiment with.

Then we got crazy busy with school and work and life, and the bags sat neglected on the shelf until this spring. As I was working through my annual Spring Rotation (wherein I try diligently to clear the cabinets of any foods, condiments, etc. that need to be eaten or tossed in preparation for the coming spring/summer/fall bounty), I came across the beans and decided to give home roasting a go. No fancy roaster, techniques, or tools – just coffee beans, the stove top and a cast iron skillet. I eyeballed the end result and called it good. And oh, was it good!

Having done the math (and a little more research), I’m somewhat miffed to have been paying more for pre-roasted coffee made with unspecified “natural flavors” (which typically are NOT natural or good for you) when I can so easily buy green beans in bulk, roast them myself as needed, and get a better (and cleaner) result!  

And then I realize that this officially makes us horrible – and completely unintentional - coffee snobs.
So if we go out to do coffee with you, have no fear – our coffee snobbery is not intentional, and we are not looking down on anyone else’s coffee. Just marveling at having found yet another thing that we had no idea we could do so easily or rewardingly ourselves. 

Coming soon…. Accidental salt snobbery.  Where is this trend coming from?

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