Dear reader,

How do you take your coffee? 

Iced oat milk latte. Americano. Flat white. Instant. Drip. French press: There are an endless amount of ways to enjoy coffee, and Americans certainly do just that. While statistics vary, some 66% of the population drinks coffee every day, making it the country’s most popular beverage. The Escape Home’s Danielle Hyams chatted with coffee aficionados Katie Hagberg, a manager at Edda Coffee Roasters in Cleveland, Ohio, who previously worked at Starbucks for 13 years and Chris Burrell, a partner in a coffee roaster and a coffee shop in San Antonio, Texas, called Estate Coffee Co., about everything from how to make the best cup of coffee possible to why a grinder is the most important equipment. Here’s what she learned:

It all starts with water. And no, you shouldn’t be using tap. 

OK be honest, how many of you have been making your coffee with tap water?  It turns out filtered water — preferably reverse osmosis or triple filtered — is the way to go, not only in terms of taste, but for taking care of your equipment. 

“You should make sure that your water quality is excellent. So you would never want to use tap water because you’re going to have calcium buildup. And calcium buildup is never good for anything, especially a heating element, because then it can’t heat the machine well enough and it just causes a lot of problems,” Burrell says. “If you use really good quality water, you will save the life of your equipment and also make your coffee taste better.” 

Tip: Ask your local coffee shop if it can fill up water jugs for you. Burrell says Estate Coffee does that for customers since it has a reverse osmosis system. 

Photo: Katy Tomei

But grind size is just as important

“As you understand coffee it’s all about an extraction process. How do we get stuff from the coffee ground into your cup? When you brew coffee, you have like all this stuff left and the water passes through. And now you have coffee and then you drink it and enjoy the different flavors and fatty acids and all sorts of things. So if you have a good grinder, all of that coffee extraction happens at the same pace. If you don’t, the particles will be  different sizes and each one is extracted differently, which is sometimes unfavorable to your coffee cup,” says Burrell, adding that a grinder is probably the most important piece of equipment you can get. “If you’re not going to spend at least $500 on a grinder you should probably just have your coffee ground by your local roaster.” (He recommends the Baratza Vario for something high-quality, yet “entry level.”) 

Photo: Tim Mossholder 

There are two types of coffee beans that dominate the market, Arabica and Robusta 

According to Hagberg, Robusta beans are easier to grow and cheaper to buy, and you will often find them in mass-produced coffee such as Folgers. Arabica beans on the other hand are grown at a higher elevation and are higher quality with a better flavor. That’s what you’ll often find used at chains like Starbucks, as well as your local coffee shop. Much of the difference in taste, Hagberg says, comes from the roast profile. 

“I can’t necessarily speak for Starbucks, but what I do know is that they roast their beans at a darker roast profile to fit all of their beverages across the line including those with extra syrups added And that way that espresso really stands out,” they said. “Whereas local coffee shops typically obtain beans that are roasted based on a roast profile that really highlights the origin of the coffee so that you’re able to get all these different nuanced flavors from the bean.”

The Coffee Belt region

The Coffee Belt

The majority of the world’s coffee comes from the Coffee Belt region, of which the major players are Latin America, Africa and Indonesia. The birthplace of coffee is Ethiopia, and while there are several legends regarding its exact origin story, the most prevalent is that it started with a goat herder named Kaldi who noticed that his goats become so energetic after eating berries from a particular tree that they didn’t want to sleep at night. Kaldi shared his findings with the abbot of the local monastery who made a drink with the berries that kept him awake through a long night of prayers. He shared it with the other monks at the monastery and the rest is history. 

Have an Airbnb? Here are Hagberg and Burrell’s tips for impressing coffee-loving guests.

  • Write down the exact recipe for brewing coffee, i.e.“five scoops and water up to a certain line.”
  • Have both a sampler of local coffees they can make but also a guide to local coffee shops that they can visit.
  • Buy mugs from a local ceramist.
  • Purchase quality gear — see below.
The Moccamaster. Photo: @moccamasterusa

The gear 

Burrell (whose go-to coffee is a natural process from Veracruz, Mexico, black) recommends a Moccamaster for brewing (“you know, if I showed up to an Airbnb and I saw that, I would say, ‘oh shit, they know what they’re talking about.’), a double-walled coffee mug for drinking and Crystal Geyser mineral water if you don’t have your own filtration system. 

Hagberg (whose go-to is either a double shot of espresso or a pourover, black) recommends the Breville Barista Pro if you’re splurging, or a V60 pourover set.

That’s all to say, you don’t have to be a coffee snob

“I think that, you know, growing up with a grandmother who drank Folgers classic roast, which I do not like, I think it’s a generation thing. And going through the motions of understanding good coffee and having skin in the game with the coffee shop and really pushing my friends and family to drink good coffee, I realized that at the end of the day, coffee is a large percentage about nostalgia,” Burrell says. “And if you like good coffee and it just so happens to be like a specialty coffee, great. And if you love drinking Folgers classic roast, then that’s totally great too. So it’s, it’s really just about enjoying that hot cup of coffee in the morning, I think is what I like most about coffee now.”

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