Friday, March 31, 2006

Bean There, Done That

A lovely coffee tasting at Lamill

Here's my latest roundup for Variety Weekend on coffee. I found out that most of these roasters could make me an amazing cup of coffee, but making my own was a bit more challenging. There's life beyond Starbucks, and although Peet's can be good, if you really like coffee it's worthwhile checking out companies like Lamill, Ristretto, Monkey and Son and Graffeo for really top-tier stuff.
Here's a few tips on making drip coffee at home from the coffee experts I interviewed:
  • Buy a week's worth of beans at a time. Some say to freeze the rest if has to be stored longer, others argue that's best just to keep them in an airtight container.
  • Never use a small blade grinder, which beats up thebeans. Get a burr grinder like a Kitchenaid or a SolisMaestro Plus, both under $200.
  • Grind only what you're going to use for one pot.
  • Use water filtered with a small home carbon water filter, if possible. Bottled water doesn't have enough minerals; tap water has too many.
  • For good home-brewed regular coffee, use a French press pot, an electric drip coffeemaker, or a manual drip like a Chemex. If you want to make really great espresso or cappucino, you'll need a machine that approaches commercial quality -- which can get expensive!
  • Experiment with different grinds. The slower the coffee takes to brew, the coarser the grind.
  • Use about two tablespoons of coffee per 6 oz. of water.


Cafn8d said...

The next step is to roast your own. All it takes is a hot-air popcorn popper and the beans. You control the roast and the blend. For instructions, check out

Pat Saperstein said...

Yeah, I asked some of the coffee experts about roasting your own and they were extremely skeptical about home roasting -- I guess it could take a while to get it right. Also, some said it's better to let the beans "rest" a day or two and not use them right out of the roaster. There seem to be a lot of conflicting opinions...

The Dabbler said...

I found Variety's choices of best machines to be a little lacking. Check out the website for a more complete view of what's available beyond Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma. And no, I'm not a WLL booster, just a home-barista coffee snob whose wasted many hours researching this. Sorry Dana Harris, I am not meaning to insult you or your editorial skills! This is just one thing I'm very particular about.

The Dabbler said...

Oh, and Graffeo in Beverly Hills has excellent beans. I don't think they were mentioned.

Pat Saperstein said...

Actually Graffeo was mentioned, it was one of my favorites. And I didn't do the machine article...

Anonymous said...

There's actually a lot more to roasting than just sticking it in an air popper. Roasting is a skill and an art-form much like artisan baking. You have to know what you're working with. Just roasting to color produces a burnt taste and does not develop the inside of the bean. Sourcing is also an important thing. In order to have great coffee, you need to start with great beans. By the way, Alfred Peet was the pioneer of artisan roasted specialty coffee in this country and to this day, Peet's still roasts in small batches by hand (not computer), they have access to some of the best coffee in the world due to relationship Alfred developed 40 years ago, and they are fanatics about freshness. Even though it's a growing company and it's becoming easier to lump them in with other chains, in my book Peet's is the best there is.

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