5 Things an "Ordinary" Person Should Know When Buying/Drinking Coffee

On top of being a barista, I am also a journalism student. After my classmates find out that I moonlight as a professional coffee geek, I get a lot of responses like, "Ooooh! I love coffee, but I don't know much about it," or, "Isn't coffee just coffee? Like, I'm getting the same thing if I go to (convenience store) as if I went to your cafe."

So.

I decided to write an article, educating the average person on what they should know about buying and drinking coffee. I want the article to give readers some insight into what to look for when they step up to the counter, as well as when they sit down to drink their beverage. My goal is to make specialty coffee less intimidating, and ultimately more enjoyable to people who aren't immersed in it.

My question is this: What are the five most important things you wish everyone knew about coffee?

Views: 317

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

five? can we make a "300 things an ordinary person should know about coffee" list? ;)


i'm not sure how much this will help you, but the things that most surprised me when I got into the coffee industry were:

1) the incredible size of the coffee industry
2) coffee doesn't have to be bitter
3) espresso is an extraction method, not a type of bean.
4) "latte" means "milk", "macchiato" means "marked", and everyone likes to fight about it.
5) you should tip your barista. we don't (usually) get paid enough, and what we do is not easy ;).
A point that i keep coming back to is that covering it up doesn't make bad coffee any better. If you feel as though you have to put cream & sugar in your coffee to cover up the bitter taste, you're just drinking poor quality/badly prepared coffee. It's cool if you like cream & sugar in your coffee, and it's cool if you like 16oz. mochas with caramel, but don't do it because you feel that you have to cover up the coffee flavor.

Another concept that i keep thinking about is quantity. In almost every aspect of coffee making, quantity affects quality. I can't tell you how many times that someone has ordered a "double" and when they recieve it they say "i ordered a double". Coffee isn't like liquer in that 1 shot = 2 fingers worth. I can't just make you a "bigger" shot without affecting the flavor. The same goes for quantity of foam. I sometimes have people order a "dry" cappuccino, and while i don't get into a big conversation with them about it, i do wish that they knew how much more amazing their foam experience would be if i didn't have to inject so much air into the milk to make a large quantity of foam. Things are the proportion that they are because it's what provides the most pleasant taste/texture. You can't modify that proportion without affecting the flavor/texture.

Most importantly, i think that people still look at coffee as a "pick me up" or a fast food item. The most important thing for me is to re-introduce people to coffee as an artisan/boutique/gourmet item. In a lot of cases, we put more time and effort into our work than some chefs who are paid 4 times what we make. More than anything, i would like for the layman to appreciate the amount of love that goes into what i do.
Well said.

Ricky Sutton said:
A point that i keep coming back to is that covering it up doesn't make bad coffee any better. If you feel as though you have to put cream & sugar in your coffee to cover up the bitter taste, you're just drinking poor quality/badly prepared coffee. It's cool if you like cream & sugar in your coffee, and it's cool if you like 16oz. mochas with caramel, but don't do it because you feel that you have to cover up the coffee flavor.

Another concept that i keep thinking about is quantity. In almost every aspect of coffee making, quantity affects quality. I can't tell you how many times that someone has ordered a "double" and when they recieve it they say "i ordered a double". Coffee isn't like liquer in that 1 shot = 2 fingers worth. I can't just make you a "bigger" shot without affecting the flavor. The same goes for quantity of foam. I sometimes have people order a "dry" cappuccino, and while i don't get into a big conversation with them about it, i do wish that they knew how much more amazing their foam experience would be if i didn't have to inject so much air into the milk to make a large quantity of foam. Things are the proportion that they are because it's what provides the most pleasant taste/texture. You can't modify that proportion without affecting the flavor/texture.

Most importantly, i think that people still look at coffee as a "pick me up" or a fast food item. The most important thing for me is to re-introduce people to coffee as an artisan/boutique/gourmet item. In a lot of cases, we put more time and effort into our work than some chefs who are paid 4 times what we make. More than anything, i would like for the layman to appreciate the amount of love that goes into what i do.
Here are a few of the things that I think are unknown or confusing to the common consumer. All pretty basic stuff, but a good start.

Differences between Specialty Coffee vs "just plain ole coffee"
arabica vs robusta
Freshness
espresso vs. brewed
latte vs cappuccino
Great points. Also I feel that the average person should understand just a little bit about roast. A darker roast does not mean that the coffee is "stronger" or that it even has a defined flavor profile. More so that the coffee has a certain flavor profile because of the origin or processing method. And that the strength is based on the brew method and coffee to water ration.

Or just that...
Dark roast DOES NOT EQUAL stronger coffee.
Good point, definitely. I don't know if this fact is worthy of the "top five", but sometimes I feel like 3/4 of my customer base thinks that dark roasts have more caffeine.

maybe one of the top five things should be "a cup of brewed coffee has more caffeine than a standard latte, and light roast has more caffeine than dark roast."



Logan Demmy said:
Great points. Also I feel that the average person should understand just a little bit about roast. A darker roast does not mean that the coffee is "stronger" or that it even has a defined flavor profile. More so that the coffee has a certain flavor profile because of the origin or processing method. And that the strength is based on the brew method and coffee to water ration.

Or just that...
Dark roast DOES NOT EQUAL stronger coffee.
There is no 'x' in espresso. ;)
Yes! well said Ricky!

To Me coffee is a reflective drink!! and for so many reasons!
But it is so hard to get people to stop & become aware of what they are drinking.

Ricky Sutton said:

Most importantly, i think that people still look at coffee as a "pick me up" or a fast food item. The most important thing for me is to re-introduce people to coffee as an artisan/boutique/gourmet item. In a lot of cases, we put more time and effort into our work than some chefs who are paid 4 times what we make. More than anything, i would like for the layman to appreciate the amount of love that goes into what i do.
I would want to know which shop or which kind of shop a friend was going to before deciding what advice to give him/her. I almost feel there should be three lists:
1. Clues that a shop is serving great coffee and that you will want to order something.
2. Things you should know when you order in a good shop.
3. Self-preservation strategies when your are in a place where your options are limited (and none of them are good).
Good feedback so far I think on what things would be excellent to let someone know!

Have you thought of maybe prefacing your half-Letterman top 5 with some general info about the picking/ roasting of coffee?? This will answer a lot of unasked questions that many customers never knew they had! You could explain the coffee bean's beginnings as a berry seed, and follow it from the stage of green bean to roasted deliciousness. This then could lead into the "stronger" coffee debacle and you can address the issue of a darker roast having less caffeine all the while explaining that at first crack the bean begins to caramelize and at second crack, it carbonizes. This is why the darker roasts taste burnt. Thus opening the factoid that coffee doesn't have to be bitter if it is roasted light enough (yum yum yum!) This is a chance to explain arabica v robusta beans as well. By going into all this as a preface, it could really open up people to the world of coffee!

As far as my own top 5 surprises when I started learning about coffee:
1. Espresso is an extraction method that can be used with many different kinds of coffee ( and deliciously explored with S.O. 'spro!)
2. The darker roasts do not mean more caffeinated (I still get the surprised "REALLY!??!?!?!" whenever I explain this to a customer/ friend)
3. Enjoying a lighter roast coffee allows you to experience the true flavors of the region the coffee is grown in, and exploring this has become one of my favorite aspects of this wonder-bean!
4. Different brew methods of coffee will result in very different coffee experiences (french press v. chem-x v. drip, etc)
5. The specialty coffee industry is not cut and dry. It is a lifelong pursuit to explore/ experiment in the wonderful world of coffee. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know! Coffee CAN BE a career and not just a job to get you through school.

That is my mini-spiel! Good luck with your article! :D
1. Coffee from different regions have different characteristics, try different regions and different roasts to better determine your favorite coffee
2. There are many variables that determine the taste of coffee, try something different or attend a cupping at least once in your life.( I love my Chemex)
3. Don't think the macchiato you got at Sbux is remotely close to the one you will receive when you order one in a INDY shop
4. Espresso is addicting,(thought i would add that in)
5. WHY AREN'T THE COFFEE SHOPS EDUCATING THEIR CUSTOMERS?
LOL....I love it!

Terika said:
There is no 'x' in espresso. ;)

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Barista Exchange Partners

Barista Exchange Friends

Keep Barista Exchange Free

Are you enjoying Barista Exchange? Is it helping you promote your business and helping you network in this great industry? Donate today to keep it free to all members. Supporters can join the "Supporters Group" with a donation. Thanks!

Clicky Web Analytics

© 2021   Created by Matt Milletto.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service