The Perfect Pick-Me-Up: 5 Steps to Better Coffee

This piece comes from Tenth and Hickory, an artisanal subscription box service I had the opportunity to work with as a contributing editor. They needed a piece about good coffee, and I was happy to provide. You can find the original here.

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There are two great pick-me-ups in the morning before work. One is coffee. The other is good coffee. But brewing a great batch isn’t always easy. Between the beans, the grinding, and the temptation of instant gratification, it’s no surprise coffee quickly turns into a chore. But if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to have one more reason to jump out of bed in the morning.

On top of all that, it’s a great leisurely Sunday activity that fully encompasses the human aspect of experimentation and play. Let’s get brewing:

  1. Get up 5 minutes earlier. This point was originally Ditch Folgers, but what would allow you to do that? The extra five minutes is the crucial difference between resorting to an instant brand and having the time to brew your own coffee.

    Or, you could prepare the night before. Grind those beans before bedtime (as long as the smell itself doesn’t keep you up), even prepare your French press beforehand so you can simply pour, press, and go.

  2. Speaking of which, get the right equipment. If you’re brewing coffee beans, get your hands on a French press. If you’re using espresso beans, make sure to get an espresso pot — there is a difference.

    There are a number of other interesting options out there too. The only drip method I would ever recommend is a beautiful, alchemy-engine looking machine called a Yama. But since these usually cost around $200, if you’re looking for something a little different, maybe try an Ibrik.

    Experimenting with all of these methods is a great way of finding what brew is right for you. Just ditch the drip. It’s very difficult to control the quality of coffee coming from a drip because you can’t control the important variables.
     
  3. Experiment with different coffees. This is another luxury you don’t have with instant coffee — even those that claim to be a different flavor mostly tend to fall into a very bland, vaguely coffeelike medium of taste. If you really want to find out what your flavor profile is, experiment with beans!

    This can be really fun. Do you like the full bodied acidity of Small World espresso, or maybe the balanced flavor of Stumptown Coffee? Get yourself a nice baseline coffee to test your palate, and then go experimenting!
     
  4. Go local. The big box dealers can be a good, cost-effective way to find your rough flavor profile, but when you want high quality, robust coffee, ya gotta go local, and ya gotta go fresh. Using fresh grounds to brew coffee brings out far more flavor than prepackaged coffee, and generally you’ll only find high-quality, fresh grounds if you go local.

    Not only that, but you’ll be supporting your local community! Everyone wins.
     
  5. Don’t shoehorn yourself. Now you know how to brew YOUR favorite cup. But once you develop a taste for great coffee, don’t be afraid to go outside of your flavor profile. As you enjoy your coffee more, you’ll naturally want to expand your palate and — who knows — you might have two — or ten! — different favorites. One for Monday, one for Sunday, one for rainy days…

And now we’re miles away from that instant cup you brewed yesterday. Go forth and enjoy your mornings!

-Daniel Vagnoni, Contributing Editor