My Coffee Story
This is the part where I tell my story about how I got to this point in my coffee obsession. Predictably, it is a tale of repeated cycles of:
1. Notice flaw in coffee experience
2. Attempt to correct flaw
3. That's better
I sometimes wonder why I never read the equivalent among all the coffee blogs I've seen. Sure, you see lots of stuff in your average post on some forum, to the tune of:
I can't get any crema...
coffee fanatic 4/21/2011
My coffee tastes better ever since I inverted my aeropress...
coffee snob 5/4/2011
I burnt myself trying to invert my aeropress according to coffee fanatic's instructions...
But not so much among the coffee mavens, pundits, and professional baristas. It tends to give one the impression that these people know how to brew the perfect cup. You think? Of course, coffee is more of an ongoing experimental process. And you'll see the coffee journalists write about that process from time to time, just so you know they're human.
I'm no coffee journalist or professional barista, but I write about my experimental process, too. Mostly about the mistakes. 'Cause, you know, I'm human.
The Dark Ages
The never-ending coffee perfectionist cycle starts with that one really good cup--the one you'll never duplicate. Never mind that you just finished eating a savory meal that set the perfect stage for your taste buds to max out on that sweet, dark, delicious brew. Never mind you assumed it was simply a very fine brewed cup and had no idea it was an americano (you didn't even know what an americano was at the time). From that point on, every cup you tried to brew at home for the next five years would never measure up.
My first equipment was a drip coffee maker and a blade grinder. I already knew to buy good tasting whole beans, so I spent a day at Starbucks sampling their roasts prior to having some friends over. I must have tried six different coffees, all of them tasting horribly burnt, before I selected a Sumatra because someone told me to try it. I really couldn't tell--they all tasted equally bad. In any case, it didn't matter because I was so jittery on the unaccustomed massive dosage of caffeine that the social event was a bust.
But I learned something that day: Don't do that.
Eventually, I bought an Eva Solo CafeSolo and was shocked at how well it controlled the bitterness. I then bought a Kitchenaid Pro Line burr grinder, and started seeking out the better coffees. I started checking the roast dates and only chose coffees that were less than a month old. I even went to a supposed local roaster, Peets, who let me sample their coffee using a pour-over at their coffee bar. Yes, that's right, Peets. The other Starbucks. A familiar wave of revulsion hit me as I drank... don't do that.
Life in coffeeland pretty much sucked until I found a true local roaster: Portola Coffee. I saw the owner, Jeff Dugan, roasting up some Bali beans in his small roaster he had set up at Layer Cake Bakery in Irvine. He and I got to talking, I bought his beans, and found... nirvana.
With the beans so freshly roasted (I had to wait a few days because they were too fresh), and not burnt, and with the single origin lot so carefully chosen by Jeff and his team, I could now taste something complex, and flavorful, and very, very good. This ended the dark ages.