11/27/2021, 1:58:56 PM
It recently dawned on me just how many variables go into a cup of coffee. The same could probably be said of tea, or audio equipment, or any other hobby that people pursue. After all, if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing, no?
My coffee journey has only really just begun (as of writing, November 2021), mostly as a consequence of staying and working from home, and picking up new hobbies during the COVID-19 pandemic. I don't consider myself a coffee snob, despite what all of my friends and family say, but more like a coffee snob wannabe. I could certainly go whole-hog into getting all the best equipment and single-origin beans, but I am a firm believer that a little effort will get you 90% of the way there, and everything else is chasing after that elusive remaining 10%1.
Since the original post, my Timemore Chestnut C2 and a gooseneck kettle arrived from China. The grinder is in all respects a notable upgrade to my coffee experience. I've distilled the essence of my thoughts in a blog post about whether or not to buy a better coffee grinder.
I've only had the opportunity to use the gooseneck kettle a handful of times. I was expecting it to only be marginally better than my wide-mouth kettle, but the increased level of control is surprisingly helpful, and seems to have led to a cup of coffee with more body. Why, I can't fathom, but additional research (aka more coffee consumption) is required.
Nothing particularly fancy, except for the beans, which were a recent acquisition (as of writing, Nov 2021). Prior to this week, I was drinking Cliffhanger Espresso from Kicking Horse2. Short of going to picking and roasting the beans myself, the next best thing would be minimizing the "days since roast" (see below). I picked up a locally roasted blend from a coffee supplier in my city, which greatly increased the consistency of my daily brews.
There are already some changes that I can make to this setup. My grinder is of moderate quality, and could be upgraded to produce a more consistent grind size, and my kettle can be upgraded to give me a little more control over my water temperature and pour.
I really enjoy making a pourover coffee after grinding the beans myself. It provides some time for introspection amidst the daily hustle and bustle of my family's morning routine.
In my (admittely embarrassingly exhaustive) research into optimizing my coffee, I've noted down the variables that one can adjust.
Do changing these variables up do anything to the resulting cup of coffee? Mostly yes, but not often in a way that one can immediately identify from cup-to-cup. Others do make a big difference. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader as to which ones are worth optimizing for.
Wow! That's a lot of variables, did I miss any?
1 I also have a soft spot for greasy spoon breakfasts, and part of the appeal is that bitter-as-hell brown drink they like to call coffee.
2 This is a referral code. Clicking on it and buying the product helps me maintain this site, but it's perfectly okay if you don't, either :)
3 I was surprised to find that they don't even sell this anymore (or perhaps that just don't list it on their website.) This cheap $10 grinder, despite all its faults, was a great investment!
4 Yes, I was surprised this was even a thing, having purchased all my coffee off the grocery store shelf. By the time coffee is shipped and arrives at the grocery store, it has already aged past the "too fresh" stage, so that's not ever a concern.
5 For the longest time, I drank instant coffee whenever I wanted a change from my daily tea. I also used powdered creamer. You can get out your pitchforks now.