Wednesday, April 30, 2008


It's my No. 1 vice. Sometimes I think I'd rather give up chocolate than good coffee, and you know I am a chocolate fiend.

Even bad coffee can be enjoyable, but I go out of my way to avoid bad coffee. Starbucks may be ubiquitous but it isn't good; this is fact. I haven't had coffee *at* Peet's, but I have had their beans, and they're good, but I've had better.

Right now my "better" is Barefoot Coffee Roasters. Oh, sure, the cafe itself is a hell of a place to hang out, and the baristas are skilled and knowledgeable and always busting out with wine tasting-esque descriptions of the beans (an ability I totally covet), but the place has "Roasters" in its name for a reason. They don't sell shiny black pellets of evil, they specialize in beans purchased from farms they know and love, roasted to aromatic perfection and intended to be sold that day and brewed within the month.

For awhile I was mail ordering Blue Bottle, but it got too cumbersome (and kind of expensive). Barefoot is still super local, super good, and super convenient. (They even sell it at Whole Foods, but I prefer buying it at the cafe.)

I love that coffee has such complex flavors, that depending on the method of preparation, the grind, the temperature of the water, and the temperature changes as it sits, it can taste completely different, leaving room for error even with a perfectly roasted bean. I like this level of difficulty; it adds a sense of skill to my ritual.

My equipment: a burr grinder, #2 cone, #2 brown paper filters, electric kettle, Brita filter, large mug.
Ingredients: Good goddamn fresh coffee beans.

First I fill my mug to the brim with filtered water and pour it in the kettle. Then I measure out two and a half heaping soup spoons of whole beans and put them in the grinder. The machine is set to grind at level 3, which is fine but still gritty. I turn it on and tap it periodically to ensure all the beans go down through the whirring discs. While it's grinding, I fold the edges of a paper filter and put it in the cone and put that on top of my mug, then plug in the kettle (it won't take long to simmer). After the grinder is done, I have to tap it several more times to get all the powdery beans into their container, then take it out and dump the grounds into my filter cone. I eagerly anticipate the hissing sound of liquid water turning to steam, and when it's bubbling a little but not boiling, I unplug the kettle and inundate the grounds with hot liquid. It takes two to three pours to get all the water through, and it needs to sit for a few minutes before it's at a drinkable temperature.

But when it is, oh man. Intense. The world stops for a minute when I'm drinking a good cup of coffee. Only a minute, though, because the caffeine kicks in and it's back to work for me.

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