How Coffee Professionals Approach Home Office Coffee: A Series - Part 3

PART III: HOW TO BUY COFFEE FOR YOUR HOME OFFICE ON THE INTERNET

For many reasons, coffee is traditionally not a very easy thing to sell or buy on the internet. Unless we're talking about the cheap dark stuff, it seems that people prefer to peruse a nice display of selections at their local boutique cafe while they smell the different bags, chat about their options with the barista at the bar who is either pulling them a shot, or brewing them a cup of filter of one of the options, first. It makes sense, then, that we don’t buy everything online (yet). Similarly to purchasing a nice bottle of wine, it seems that buying a bag of coffee is best experienced in person: it's around the same price point, we love going to the wine shop and chatting with a wine expert before making a decision on a bottle. Especially when they let you taste it first. We love seeing our options laid out in front of us, read labels, and touch things. Coffee was no different. Until Covid. 

Covid has forcefully rearranged our buying habits with certain consumable items like groceries and alcohol. Coffee has been no exception since it's just safer to order things like it online to mitigate our risk / exposure for something that is in between not essential and very essential. But where do we start looking in the largest shopping mall on the planet? The options are endless. You can even buy coffee from roasters located on other continents if you’re willing to pay for the shipping and care enough. There are also endless local options to sift through and try. So where do you start? Who are all these roasting companies and what are the differences? Much as the internet provides, it doesn’t provide a barista with a nose ring to tell you they love this coffee bag. You’re on your own now. 

Covid has forcefully rearranged our buying habits with certain consumable items like groceries and alcohol. Coffee has been no exception since it's just safer to order things like it online to mitigate our risk / exposure for something that is in between not essential and very essential.

While there are a lot of articles on how to buy wine, there aren’t as many on how to buy coffee. So I’m gonna put in my nose ring and give you a hand. 

What drink are you making?

Most people I talk to make the exact same coffee drink everyday. Sometimes several of it throughout the day. By asking, “What drink are you making?”, I’m asking about your chosen brew method. Now you’re probably wondering, “How do you buy coffee for a specific brew method?” And while there are no hard fast rules to this, the exception is when your chosen method is espresso for which you might want to choose the espresso roast profile on your roaster’s menu. 

For those who drink from other brew methods, like say, a French press, you may be wondering why there are espresso profiles but no French press profiles. The main reason is that aside from espresso extraction, roast profiles aren’t particular to brew methods. Espresso profiles are special in that they tend to be a bit more developed in roast, which generally leads to more balanced flavors from an extraction method that yields a very concentrated drink with high intensity flavors (unlike what is produced by other brew methods). 

But if you generally like more development / darkness you can put espresso roasts through your V60 and it’ll taste just fine. 

Our general rule of thumb: the larger the drink, the higher quality coffee / lighter roasted coffee you should use. Why? Because the more diluted it is, the more the inherent quality of the coffee will come through. A light roasted Kenyan or Ethiopian coffee belongs in a nice large cup of filter brew because there are (or should be) a lot of different flavors to enjoy. Conversely, an espresso roast / labelled coffee belongs in espresso because it's probably sourced and roasted to taste balanced at that brew ratio. It will probably taste flat as a large cup of filter (this is not the case with all coffees and is more a general rule of thumb). I suggest emailing the roaster of the coffee you’ve purchased from to ask about roast development level if you are unsure. They will gladly talk about this stuff at length because they think about it a lot. 

Our general rule of thumb: the larger the drink, the higher quality coffee / lighter roasted coffee you should use. 

Equipment

In the next blog post we will delve more into the best and cheapest equipment recommendations. For the purpose of choosing coffee, the better the coffee equipment you have, the more options you also have. A quiet coffee can taste delicate and nuanced from a good home setup, and flat from a bad one. Coffee is not like wine in the sense that we don’t purchase a ready made bottled beverage. We have to make the beverage product, which kinda sucks. Especially at 7am. 

I believe buying higher quality coffee will lead to better tasting drinks at home, period. Most people don’t want overly acidic coffee at home, but also, most people don’t want overly bitter / roasty coffee either. Good equipment gives you stunningly balanced coffee drinks. Not overly anything. Good technique and good equipment will tighten the edges of the quality spectrum even more, placing you more squarely on the nice and balanced, chocolatey, and fruity promised land. 

So how do you buy coffee based on the equipment you have? Since each roaster has 10 items on their menus, where do you even start? There's no hard fast rule here: experimenting can help you find what works best for what you have. If you aren’t in the mood to do the leg work, email the people you buy / want to buy coffee from and ask for their recommendations based on your setup. We can assure you: they are more than happy to help.

If you aren’t in the mood to do the leg work, email the people you buy / want to buy coffee from and ask for their recommendations based on your setup. We can assure you: they are more than happy to help.

It’s rare that people reach out and we’re not entirely sure why. Even if you have a blade grinder or no grinder and filter your coffee with paper towels, or whatever, and want better coffee experiences, help from your local roaster along with better quality coffee will actually deliver something to your shitty set up. It really will. 

BUT, and I need to go on a bit of a rant here due to the years of fielding questions irl from people who don’t actually want to change anything: If you drink roasty, bitter, bad quality coffee and have little interest in achieving better coffee at home. I need to ask: Wtf is your deal? Seriously, why even drink coffee that tastes like charcoal? Just buy caffeine tablets, put one in a glass of something that actually tastes like something, like an orange juice or smoothie, and get yer buzz on. Wtf is the point of drinking flat brown roast water? You’re the worst.

It’s all About the Format. (How many cups are you drinking per day?)

These days, roasting companies are offering a lot of different bag sizes, mostly in the 225g to 340g range. This is a big swing. If you don’t drink more than one cup of coffee per day and buy a 340g bag of coffee you don’t like, you could be stuck with that bag for well over two weeks. If you are a two-person household with a 3-4 coffee drinks per day load, you start to have options. Below is a handy set of calculations to help you decide your buying frequency, which is all that “format” really comes down to.

Based on 22g of roasted coffee per drink:

 

  • For 1 coffee per day: a 250g bag will last you 11 days. A 340g bag, 16 days. A 1 lb bag, 20 days.
  • For 2 coffees per day: a 250g bag will last you 4 days. A 340g bag, 5 days. A 1lb bag, 7 days.
  • For 3 coffees per day: 2 x 250g bags will last you 8 days. 2 x 340g bags will last you 10 days. 1 lb will last you 14 days.
  • For 4 coffees per day: 2 x 250g bags will last 6 days. 2 x 340g bags will last you 8 days. 1 lb will last you 10 days.

 

You can refer to our freezer post here if you really hate the process of buying coffee and also don’t want to let what you buy go bad.

Preferences

I'm not here to tell you what to like. But I do think preferences change over time and that this is a good thing. I think that skipping out on coffees you think won't taste good because of whatever opinion you have on the origin it comes from, or how it was processed, is a mistake. The more experimenting you do, the more you will be surprised and learn about your preferences. What you will end up looking for in a cup of coffee will become more nuanced. 

The more experimenting you do, the more you will be surprised and learn about your preferences. What you will end up looking for in a cup of coffee will become more nuanced. 

Luckily, experimenting with coffee is cheap and fun. Again, freezing coffee will lead to less waste and more opportunities for experimenting with different options and varieties. We think it’s good practice to always buy a ‘safe bag’ you know you will like and also buy a ‘gamble bag’. This buying practice will hedge a bit of the risk while opening you up to new and fun coffee flavors.

Milk / cream and sugar. Or black.

Condiments! There is better coffee suited for any of the above, so why not buy the right coffee that pairs well with your preference on condiments? If your preference is to add cream and sugar, Go with a more developed, and / or a natural processed coffee.

If your preference is to add cream and sugar, go with a more developed, and / or a natural processed coffee. 

“Heavier” coffees will stand a better chance of not being drowned out by the milk / cream, or sugar. Natural processed coffees have a heavier mouthfeel and body composition due to the added mucilage (coffee cherry skin and fruit) and fermentation time. 

If your preference is to drink your coffee black, you have more options because the coffee isn’t forced to “hold its ground” against the flavors and body of the cream and sugar.

 


 

That's it! Feel free to e-mail us your questions, concerns, comments, feelings etc. we are here to help.

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