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Tips For Buying Coffee

Sep 11, 2008
There is nothing like the aroma of a fresh shot of espresso streaming from my espresso maker in the morning. I watch with anticipation as the creamy, frothy, brown beauty fills my shot glass, eagerly awaiting the syrup mixture of the day, this morning it was blueberry and raspberry to bring out the fruity notes in the Ethiopian Yigarchaffe I just purchased. I love coffee, I love coffee as much as I love books. I grew up watching my father and his siblings drink the brown liquid and solve the world matters over a pot of Folgers. I would sit back and watch them and knew that at every home of the elders in our family was a pot of coffee brewing. They loved coffee and in their day, the stuff on the grocery store shelves was the best. They lived and discussed politics, economics, and culture in the times before Starbucks and a coffee shop on ever corner. What am I to do now that I am the grown up sitting at the table solving world peace over a vanilla latte? A trip to the coffee aisle at my Target, Schnucks, Dierbergs, or even Whole Foods Market can leave my head spinning. There are all the varieties of fresh, exotic, organic, or flavorful coffee. Which one should win the right to swirl in my favorite cup and saucer collection?

The best tips for buying coffee are to start local. There are a number of local roasters in almost every town. I have lived in two major cities in Missouri and each suburb has its share of roasters. I believe in supporting small, local, independent roasters over the big giants like Starbucks or store brands like Folgers because the smaller operations really love the bean and what it can produce. The smaller roasters will usually roast the bean in smaller batches which produces a fresher, more aromatic bean. Coffee should be enjoyed and appreciated but never stored as a staple. True #1 tip for buying coffee is to buy fresh followed by the #2 tip for buying coffee is buy in small batches.

Coffee is a lot like chocolate so let that be your guide when purchasing beans. Some people compare it to purchasing wine but since I do not drink wine, I ca not comment on that. I can tell you about milk chocolate with or without almonds, organic, Swiss, European, or the everyday Hershey bar. With chocolate and coffee, you get what you pay for. If you want the hospital-office-church social drip coffee, then simply go to the grocery store and pick up any of the ground blends on the shelf. If you want a coffee experience then go to a small coffee shop and purchase whole beans. They can grind it for you if you do not have a grinder, but every true coffee lover should have a burr grinder at home.

Dark chocolate like the darker roasts of coffee have a stronger, bitter taste that leave an afterbite. These kinds of coffee such as Sumatra are great for desserts because they can balance the sweetness of a key lime pie. Medium roasts are a good balance and hold well in a drip maker, French press, or even an espresso machine. I tend to lean toward African coffee since the beans were originally developed on the continent. Great beans in this category include Kenya AA and Moka Java. Light roasts are good for a French press and are a lot like the sweetness of a good, Swiss chocolate bar. This is a great place to start if you are new to drinking coffee or want the pleasure without thinking too much about acidity or smoothness. Most coffees in the light roasts will have a softly lingering taste on the tongue. The coffee in this category includes Ethiopian Yigarchaffee, one of my favorites and one of the rarest. This coffee is not bitter if you drink it black and leaves a satisfying hint of the fruitiness in the bean.

I have given you a few tips but one of the best I can give you is to visit a small coffee shop and talk to the barista there. They are a wealth of information and can guide you to a satisfying purchase. Ask the barista for a sample. A lot of coffee shops or roasters will experiment with their own blends and you may find a surprise among the choices. The other tip would be to ask the barista if they ever do cupping classes. I learned a lot from my local coffee shop during one of these classes. I decided Sumatra was just too strong for me, Colombian coffee was just too bland for my taste, Hawaiian Kona, Jamican Blue Mountain, and Ethiopian Yigarchaffe were my favorites for the satisfying aftertaste.

My last bit of advice is once you have decided on your purchase, I would suggest you purchase a small, airtight container, I prefer glass, to protect your beans. You should never put your coffee in the refrigerator or freezer because the moisture can damage the bean. Always use filtered or spring water in your coffee maker, espresso machine, or French press. A rule of thumb for how much to purchase is about 1/2 pound per week. I drink 2, 2-oz espresso drinks a day. Espresso machines take less coffee (finer grind) than the French Press (coarse grind) so adjust your purchase accordingly.

I hope you enjoy this centuries-old enjoyment. It is one of my simple pleasures of the day!
About the Author
Before buying a coffee maker,check out the award winning Presso at Presso America. Focusing on the area of coffee makers, and espresso makers, Anthony Sastre writes articles for Presso America
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