When we think of coffee, most people think of their trusty Mr. Coffee or their Starbucks Mobile app, but many in the CB community take their caffeine addiction to a new level. Coffee can be just another part of your morning routine, but you don’t have to be a barista to make a quality cup […]
When we think of coffee, most people think of their trusty Mr. Coffee or their Starbucks Mobile app, but many in the CB community take their caffeine addiction to a new level. Coffee can be just another part of your morning routine, but you don’t have to be a barista to make a quality cup of coffee.
Thaddeus Nazareno (‘19) is one of CB’s finest coffee connoisseurs.
“I slowly entered into the coffee realm,” he says. “I started drinking black coffee during freshman or sophomore year, but I’ve always loved the coffee flavor. Even as a kid, my favorite flavor of ice cream was mocha almond fudge. I guess it was just inevitable that I fell into it.”
Similarly, Ana Riley Portal (‘19) has enjoyed coffee for many years.
“I started drinking coffee freshman year because I really liked the flavor of black coffee for some reason,” she says. “I first had a cup at Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters and I really liked it, so my tastes really progressed from there.”
Coffee can be brewed in many forms, and each method brings a distinct element of a roast. Thaddeus recently began experimenting with his morning cup.
“I started off with a plain coffee machine, then upgraded when my family got a grinder, so we started freshly grinding beans,” the senior says. “From there it just went onto using a Chemex, then a French press. Currently, I’ve been playing around with a Moka Pot, trying to make espressos at home.”
That’s a lot of confusing terminology for people unfamiliar with coffee, so here’s a quick run down of some of the most common brewing methods. There are many different methods of brewing coffee — each brings out unique notes and flavors.
A pour over is similar to a standard drip coffee, but allows for precision and control over the brew. A pour over allows the water to reach the optimal temperature of 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. A manual pour over allows you to ensure that the beans are soaked and extracted evenly.
Pour overs also last much longer than drip coffee makers and are much easier to clean. If you like your coffee stronger, you can add more water at once, but if you like it weaker, you can add the water at a slower pace. In general, a pour over creates a more customizable and higher quality brew to the standard drip machine.
The Chemex is a pour over method that produces a clean, but well-bodied brew with floral notes. It’s a fairly easy method to use, uses approximately the same grind consistency as store bought ground coffee, and is great for multiple cups. In 1941, German Chemist Dr. Peter J. Schlumbohm invented the Chemex, which today is a part of the MOMA’s permanent design collection.
A Moka Pot is an Italian coffee maker that uses steam power to produce a shot similar to espresso, a strong, concentrated form of coffee. It is a great alternative for people who want quality espresso, but aren’t willing to cough up $500 for an espresso machine.
Finally, a french press, or plunger coffee, was patented by Milanese designer Attilio Calimani in 1929. It is my personal favorite brewing technique due to its simplicity and the richer flavors that full bean immersion can offer. It is a very forgiving brew, meaning it does not require any special technique or pour. It is also the most environmentally friendly method due to the lack of paper filters.
Although he originally only drank Starbucks Frappuccinos, Spencer Fitzpatrick (‘20) had an revelatory experience that transformed his views on coffee:
“The summer before my freshman year, my family went coffee tasting on our trip to Hawaii. I learned that coffee is like wine. Each bean produces a unique flavor depending on origin, elevation, and many other factors. I tasted a Kona Peaberry blend in Hawaii, and I’ve been hunting for the same high ever since.”
Peaberry is a highly prized bean, with 16 oz bags retailing around $50. Peaberries occur when one of the two beans in the coffee cherry does not develop, thus creating one large bean instead of two halves of a single bean. This abnormality yields a more intense fruity flavor and ideal levels of acidity.
Although grocery stores have an array of ground coffee, many people prefer purchasing whole bean coffee from local roastaries. This process ensures that beans are fresh, and local businesses are supported, along with farmers in the coffee belt region in the Equator.
Grinding beans fresh can dramatically alter the chemistry of a cup. Within minutes of grinding, beans lose much of their potency and flavor, justifying the extra time many coffee aficionados spend grinding their beans just before they pour their cups. Ground coffee goes stale after just three months, but whole coffee beans last twice as long, ensuring that your cup will be fresh every time.
Thaddeus is a huge supporter of fair trade coffee, in part due to exposure given to him by the Christian Brothers Ven-a-Ver program.
“My favorite roaster is a place based in Mexico called Café Justo. I learned about them through Ven-A-Ver, and we visited their roastery. You order their coffee beans online. They directly help local coffee farmers in South America. A lot of these family farms are being ripped off by middlemen, so Café Justo cuts off the middleman, creating an ultra- fairly traded coffee. The beans are extremely rich and glossy, and the Robusta and Arabica mix have an intense aroma that’s so satisfying.”
Fair trade coffee refers to the production and sale of beans that benefit small farmers. Any Fair trade certified product must meet rigorous ethical, environmental, and economic standards. Fair trade coffee has a minimum price safety net, so if prices drop, farmers still make the same profits that cover the cost of production. Fair trade coffee is on the rise because it reduces immigration by incentivizing families to stay in their home countries, instead of fleeing poverty and moving north.
When Thaddeus goes out for coffee, he orders a pour over or a cortado (espresso with a small amount of steamed milk) from a well known Sacramento coffee roaster:
“Even though it’s basic, I love Temple Coffee because they have excellent coffee, nice people, and fair trading practices that help support the coffee farms and the communities surrounding them.”
Ana enjoys Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters in East Sacramento, Land Park, and Downtown, but she insists that the best blend is the rimmed espresso from Old Soul.
“It has dark tones and robust flavors but lacks the overpowering bitterness seen all too often in low quality blends,” she claims.
My personal favorite roastary is Naked Coffee here in Oak Park because of the low prices for high quality coffee. They have great coffee beans for your everyday cup that won’t break the bank. 18 Grams, a café in Elk Grove, uses Naked beans to make great Vietnamese-inspired coffee along with standard drinks.
But why not another drink? Thaddeus points to the deep, earthy tones in coffee.
“Coffee has a more wholesome body than tea,” he says.
Coffee “body” refers to the heaviness and texture of various types of coffee. A lighter bodied coffee is on the watery side, while a full bodied coffee is more oily or grainy. Different brewing methods can change the body of a cup. French presses and Moka pots create a full bodied cup, while pour overs and drip machines produce a lighter body due to the paper filters that remove oils and other solids. Beans from Mexico, Brazil, and Jamaica are naturally lighter-bodied, while highly elevated, shade grown beans in volcanic soil are naturally heavy-bodied.
This information can be overwhelming to any newcomer to coffee culture, so Thaddeus and I have some final words of advice to those who are looking into expanding their coffee tastes.
Flavored creamers are a common sight in any American household. But in reality, creamers are sold by coffee companies in order to mask their low quality or burnt roasts. Instead of pouring in sugar and cream, try purchasing a bean with a lighter roast and lower acidic flavors to warm your palate. Creamers are a great way to start drinking coffee, but are best as avenues toward black coffee.
“If you’re just starting out, don’t get too caught up in buying the big, expensive coffees,” Thaddeus advises. “You need to get your palate warmed. When you’re first starting off, everything tastes the same. It’s hard to find the fruitier tones in light roasts or the chocolatey tones in dark roasts. Avoid flavored creamers. But that is still a guilty pleasure for me sometimes.”
Why do people go through the laborious process of finding the right bean, grind size, brewer, and water temperature? At the start of the day, there’s nothing better than the moment you take your first sip.
Coffee is also a great conversation starter and has led to many friendships for me. The best part of my weekend is often talking with my friends for hours over a cup of coffee. I’ve found that learning about the complexities of coffee has helped me appreciate the labor that goes into my morning cup.