My road to coffee pretension was a long, windy one. I did not just suddenly wake up a purveyor of fine roasts and quality beans. The rules to being coffee snob have come to me over many years with trial and error and one too many cups at mediocre coffee shops.
I began my love affair with coffee as a 5 year old when my grandmother first gave me a cup of coffee, topped it off with milk and let me have it with as many spoonfuls of sugar as I wanted.
When Starbucks entered the mainstream, I would spend my Friday nights in small artsy towns with my friends drinking my 1100 calorie “coffee” (Frappuccino) thinking about how I was exactly Like Rachel from Friends (in reality, I’m totally a Monica).
But it wasn’t until I was a few years into my career when I started drinking coffee as a morning ritual. In my mid-twenties, I worked for my dad’s company and every morning our financial manager would head the kitchen across from my office, open the freezer, unscrew the big bulk Folger’s canister that was six months old (takes a long time for 1 guy to go through 30 ounces of ground coffee) and make a pot. I started joining him in the kitchen to catch up on his weekend or ask about his kids. Then I started helping myself to a mug of steamin’ six month old Folgers, adding a flavored creamer and a little bit of sugar. It wasn’t five-years-old-at-my-grandmothers level of sugar, but its was pretty close.
Eventually, I got more creative. We replaced the Folgers with bags of whole bean coffee from “Green Mountain” at the office. I bought a coffee grinder because I heard grinding your own beans made the coffee more robust. When I realized my adult acne was probably brought on my dairy, I stopped using flavored creamer. When I turned 27 and could no longer eat or drink whatever I wanted, I stopped using “that many” packets of sugar and switched to one, raw sugar packet.
I started making French Press Coffee at home. My friends started a coffee roasting company and I got lots of free samples. Suddenly drinking Green Mountain or Starbucks brand beans tasted like a different product than the small, select varietals roasted from One Village Coffee. They sourced the beans from small villages in Africa and Central America. They were sustainably harvested and the farmers were paid a fair wage.
And then my best friend moved to Brooklyn, and it was all over. I learned the proper way to brew coffee (42 grams of it, to be exact) was with 205 degree water, 30 seconds off the boil and the grinds better f*cking bloom first! And you never add anything to the final product. Black coffee only.
And that brings us to today.
This past weekend my boyfriend and I were driving around the city of Philadelphia looking for a place to get my morning coffee. We weren’t in a neighborhood we were familiar with and I only *really* knew of that one place 1.2 miles south but we needed to go north and were kinda in a rush. I suggested a neighborhood we’d be driving through when he mentioned the coffee shops he knew of, and I stopped him to make this declaration:
“I’m not sure you’re aware of the 6 stages of Bekah approved Coffee”
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I knew of the 6 stages of Bekah-approved coffee, but right then and there, I rattled them off and informed him it would be a good idea to remember them for the future.
So here they are, My 6 Important Rules to being a coffee snob:
1. Pour over is best
So when looking for a coffee shop, if they offer a pour over (also called a hand pour), that will be your first option.
2. Drip from a Pour over Place is okay in a pinch
Pour overs take time- at least 4 minutes, assuming no one is ahead of you in line. So if you’re in a rush, your second option will be to get a drip coffee (or ready-to-go coffee) from a place who could have provided you a pour over, were you to have had time.
3. Drip Coffee from a Local Coffee Shop is okay
There are coffee shops in every town. Hopefully they serve whatever small batch roaster is closest to them, but often they don’t. If you can’t get a pour over or there’s no pour over place serving to-go- coffee, get a drip coffee from a local coffee shop. Bonus points if they bring in coffee from a roaster in a city like Raleigh, Grand Rapids or Minneapolis.
4. Starbucks will have to do, sometimes.
I am NOT a Starbucks fan, though I’m grateful that they brought the coffee shop into the mainstream. But their coffee tastes burnt, their espresso is weak, and sometimes it’s your only option. But while at Starbucks, don’t go for something fancy. You’re not 16 thinking you’re Rachel from Friends anymore, so keep it simple: I get a non-fat Latte with ONE pump of Vanilla (it’s way too sweet otherwise). Pro: It’s not their coffee. Con: It’s at Starbucks.
5. Wawa Coffee …?
Wawa is a gas station and convenience store concept that people in the Philly, MD, South Jersey and two cities in Florida LOVE. I appreciate their cheap gas prices. I like that they’ve added healthy to-go salads to their food selection. I’ve been grateful for their snacks on one too many hungover car rides, but their coffee? It’s not good. But if there are no other options… it’s still coffee. (Barely.)
6. McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts
You know the moment it happens. It’s 5:30 am and you’re 3 hours into your 12 hour car trip to family vacation and you’re about to go through the McDonald’s Drive-Thru because what else can you eat at this hour? Or you’re at a corporate event and they’re serving donuts and a box of Dunkin Coffee. It’s a dire situation. And dire situation = diarrhea. But you’re so tired and have hours to go in a car with toddlers. And you have to network with a room full of business-men.. and it’s coffee, right..?
You may notice I’ve left one option out- the one that started my coffee journey (not your house, grandma!) – The home-brewed Maxwells House or that big tub of Costco-sized Folgers. We could call it #7 on this list, but honestly, I’m probably asking for a tea bag when that’s the only option.
So there you have it, the simple list to having coffee with a coffee snob. Next time we’re hanging out, when you see me on Yelp for 15 minutes trying to find a coffee shop when there are literally 3 across the street from where we are standing, now you understand why. I’d apologize but…. I just can’t. Perfectly brewed, 42 grams of small batch roasted coffee with 700 grams of 250 degree water, poured in a circular motion from a copper, gooseneck kettle tastes too damn good.