Coffee Talk (and Tea)

In this thread I talk about coffee and all things related, no big whoop. In my experience, coffee is highly nonlinear: the difference between good coffee and bad coffee is enormous, but there are quickly-diminishing returns going from good coffee to (consistently) great coffee. Great coffee has maybe an extra 5-10%, but it’s hard for me to settle for just okay coffee now. In some ways, coffee is like hi-fi audio in terms of mystique, misinformation, bunk theories, and snake oil. I’ll share my thoughts from the time-and-money-consuming process of trying to produce consistently great coffee at home.


Not a coffee snob and I agree. I can tell the difference between bad coffee and good coffee. I absolutely can’t tell the difference between good coffee and great coffee.


Principle #1: It’s the beans.

A few weeks ago I purchased a pound of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe from a local roaster. Roast level was either city or city+ (i.e., light) and the tasting notes were honey and blueberry, the latter being pretty common in high quality Ethiopian coffees. This was a washed coffee as opposed to natural process, so I was a bit skeptical of how much of the flavor I could draw out, but I’ve have good success with this roaster in the past.

First brew is my normal setup and process in the Chemex. The coffee was lifeless. I mean completely dull, flat, no flavor of any kind, and even somewhat bitter. I had been on a recent streak of producing really mediocre coffee which I suspected was due to buying stale beans, but this batch should have been fresh, so I suspected the problem was on my end. I went so far as to completely disassemble and troubleshoot the grinder. I tried store-bought water. I tried about 10 different grind settings, brewed it in the V60, brewed it in the French press, brewed it with a drip machine. Nothing.

So for a sanity check I order 12 oz of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe natural process from HappyMug. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are known for doing good roasts at exceptional prices. This coffee is sweet and interesting, and the very first brew almost tasted like straight-up blueberry juice. It’s really good coffee and could perhaps be great if I was better at brewing.

Conclusion: It’s the beans.
Observation: The beans did not degas much at all in the bloom, whereas these HM beans are bubbling like crazy. It must either be stale or a bad roast I guess.

I think it really just comes down to how clear the good tasting notes are relative to undesirable ones and the balance between them. This Ethiopian, despite having a really good blueberry bite, has some other notes that don’t complement it too well. It has the good stuff but it’s also “dirty” if that makes sense.

You’re in the 'Ville, right? Check out Sunergos if you haven’t before. I’ve never had bad coffee from them. Their Columbians are very sweet and balanced and should palette pretty well to almost anyone I’d think.

I’ve got no problem drinking a mug of Folgers drip at work in the morning, but I agree that the gap between bad coffee and good coffee is enormous.

I’ve tried an aero press, cold brew, standard coffee pot, and a French press at home, and found that I prefer French press out of those options. I use a cheap burr grinder and grind my own beans.

Something that’s helped me get a consistent brew is to weigh out the grounds rather than trust my coffee grinder to give me the correct amount. I printed out a basic “coffee weight to ounces of water” chart from some roaster’s website and adjust to taste. At home I usually add a touch of milk and some brown sugar/cinnamon. I know that’s not pure or whatever, but it’s how I like it.

So far my favorite bag of beans has been a blend called “This Caffeine Kills Fascists” from Dark Matter, but I can’t find a link on their website at the moment.


Oh yes I am in for coffee talk. People who know me probably think I’m a coffee snob but I just really enjoy good coffee and well-made beverages from coffee shops (usually standard lattes). I usually go for dark or medium roasts at home although I’ve found that my tastes have drifted somewhat lighter, which I think is a pretty standard progression (also my favorite roaster of dark beans retired). I know it’s blasphemous but I mostly drink half-caff coffee now - my wife cut back during pregnancy and then decided she wanted to keep her caffeine intake lower. I buy most of my coffee locally and usually keep a couple varieties of regular/decaf at home but will also get coffee from Trader Joe’s, namely their small lot batches or other special roasts (side note: did anyone try their Ethiopian peaberry? I thought it was fantastic and saw some people agreeing with me on the internet but it disappeared super quickly). There are at least two local places that actually roast great decaf so that’s been good because my main issue with decaf had always been lower quality and worse flavor than the good locally roasted stuff.

My usual routine is to grind beans the night before so our coffee is ready in the morning. I agree with catface that French press coffee is the best (unfiltered) but it takes a little more time to make so its only for days that I’m off. I bought a Saeco automatic espresso maker but was not satisfied with the espresso so I returned it; not willing to spend 3K on a better at home machine and not sure I want to mess with manually making my espresso. My mom gave me a milk frothed she got for free so that’s been a nice addition to my coffee bar.

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French press, dark roasts, and cold brew are like the opposite of what I’m going for which is a bright, clean cup. I think it’s really the sweetness and acidity that I’m addicted to. Nothing wrong with decaf or halfcaf as long as it’s done with a good method like Swiss water process.

Biggest thing for me has been trying to get consistency out of my hand pours on the Chemex and V60. I know Scott Rao is controversial in the coffee world but I feel like he’s mostly on point and at least has reasoning behind his claims. His pourover method really improved my coffee considerably after trying a bunch of others that sucked.

This Caffeine Kills Fascists sounds like a drink best served black.

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My current setup is:

Chemex classic 6-cup
Hario V60 02 ceramic dripper
OXO Barista Brain automatic
Bialetti plastic dripper
Bodum Chambord 8-cup French press

Baratza Encore upgraded to M2 Preciso burr
Hario Skerton

Hario V60 Buono 120

Stelton EM77
Zojirushi Air Pot
Thermoworks Thermopop
OXO Coffee POP container
Genuine Chemex and Hario filters
Digital scale and timer

Those are straight links to the manufacturers, not revenue-generating clickback tricks. The point I want to make is that I’ve produced great coffee using just the very cheapest items ($2 plastic dripper, $15 hand grinder). I was surprised when I heard Scott Rao recommend the plastic Hario V60 claiming it traps the heat in the brew instead of absorbing it. I’ve found some amazing deals on discounted gear, probably because everyone wants to overpay for awful Keurig devices and they put the good stuff on closeout.

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If you’re a person looking to improve your coffee game but don’t want to put in much work or money, I recommend getting an SCA certified home brewing machine and fresh coffee ground for drip from a local roaster (or shipped). I’m not sure what the cheapest machine on the list is right now but you should be able to get the barebones Bonavita for under $100 USD. Like I said before, sometimes you can find deals on these since they don’t look fancy or make K-cups. I got an OXO 12-cup for $80 at some discount home / kitchen store. Just be sure to stick with the ones on the list since they are certified to brew correctly.

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You would probably love single-origin Kenyan coffee. No need to add lemon since that flavor comes from the bean!

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Is that Turkish coffee?


I’m not sure how big third-wave coffee is in Germany but somebody there has to have it. Try to have it made from a coffee shop since I dunno if you could extract the acids properly with your brewer. It’s harder than it seems.

Did a barista stint at the evil empire (Starbucks) back in the early 90s. I was all about Sumatra at first but worked my taste over to Mocca Sanani, Sidamo (Harrar when available), and ultimately Kenya. I dig the quest for a bright, clean cup. Hard to find reasonably prepared coffee / brew that I can’t enjoy (weak or burnt is the exception – fucking middle-of-the-night road-trip stops at convenience stores and truck stops… ugh). My daily grind is paper-filtered drip (Bunn), but so much of coffee is amazing, from varietal shots to breve lattes!

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I think I got started into coffee drinking black Americanos from Starbucks in cold weather for the sole purpose of having a warm beverage. I’m not sure how I got into specialty coffee except, well, I’m into specialty everything. But once I got to interesting, complex coffee I couldn’t go back. I will begrudgingly admit that I was always able to get a fairly good spicy brew out of Pike Place but that’s still in the dark/chocolate/nutty taste zone. Come to think of it, my transition may have started when I ordered a Pike and they had to do a pour over. They say it like it’s a bad thing but then I had it and thought “wow this is a lot better than what they usually serve.”

What better way to start Saturday than with some excellent coffee. I used a grind setting of 24 for the first brew of this Yirgacheffe which was really good. I decided to increase the extraction a bit for the second brew and ground at 22 but it was just a bit over imo. Today I split it and ground at 23, producing the most balanced cup yet.

I’m using 28g of coffee here and pouring ~3x that weight in water for the bloom. I use a spoon to separate the grounds while pouring to get even saturation throughout the bed. Fresh beans contain a lot of CO2 and bubble nicely; I want to remove the CO2 because it can affect extraction. I usually bloom for 30-45 seconds.

For the main pour I’m using a 16:1 ratio so 448g of water. A debated topic for Chemex pouring is whether to pour in pulses or all at once. I think there are pros and cons of each. One thing about the Chemex is that the slurry can get tall when pouring all at once because the drawdown is slow compared to, say, the V60. So the water on top is just sitting there quickly losing heat (extraction is proportional to temperature and we’re trying to get an even extraction). Another con is that the high slurry tends to stick to the sides (you can see the max height from the residue in the above photo that’s about 1/2" from the top of the glass). That said, I’ve had more consistent results pouring all at once and stirring during drawdown to keep the grounds from sticking.

Here you can see I finish with a flat bed. If I don’t stir or spin it then the bed is a V shape with grounds riding all the way up the filter walls. That would result in poor, underextracted coffee. Instead, today I have excellent Ethiopian coffee that is smooth and balanced with a prominent but mellow acidic bite that is strikingly similar to the mouth sensation of fresh blueberry.

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The method of brewing matters significantly, too, imo. You get more desirable flavors of the beans out of a properly done manual pour than a French press.

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Yeah I used to be big into Sumatra and I still like it but generally find it too dark now. I probably drink mostly Central/South American coffees now since that’s what places here in AZ tend to sell. They tend to be less acidic than African coffees but more mellow than Indonesian stuff afaict. I’ve enjoyed Kenyan and Tanzanian coffee in the past but Ethiopian tends to be too light for me.

I’m not too skilled about picking out notes in my coffee but I have noticed that “blueberry” flavor in some roasts and I like it when I get it, as long as the coffee isn’t too acidic.

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I have no idea what is going on in this post except for you appeared to have made a gallon of coffee?