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Megan Tan, Special To The Star Tribune

You, too, can be a B+ coffee snob

  • Article by: Seth Colter Walls
  • Slate
  • August 4, 2013 - 2:11 PM

– Mocking people who care about coffee is a proud American tradition dating back approximately to the birth of Starbucks. The same jokes about coffee-dandyism that filled up many a half-hour of the ’90s-era sitcom “Frasier” still work for “The New Girl.” (And “Portlandia.” And “Funny or Die.”)

But if coffee is something you drink every day — perhaps multiple times a day — why shouldn’t you want to learn how grind size affects extraction from a coffee bean? Why should paying attention to such a detail be regarded as any more annoying a habit than having the patience to remember to preheat an oven, peel an onion or perform any of the sundry other preparatory tasks that we endure in order to improve the taste of products we intend to ingest?

What follows is a crash course in being a B+ coffee snob. Or, we could just call this a guide to having better coffee without making your whole life about coffee.

The method of choice for B+ coffee appreciation is pour-over, which is basically putting your coffee in a conical dripper and then gradually pouring boiling water over it; the coffee filters into a vessel beneath the dripper.

The only moderately expensive piece of equipment you will need is a conical burr grinder, which grinds beans finely and evenly (as opposed to a disc grinder, which tends to chop them in half once and call it done). Apart from that, you’ll need a dripper, a server (a glass carafe with measurement lines on it), and a digital kitchen scale.

You really do need this stuff, because you won’t get the full benefits of a coffee’s flavor unless you’re exact about the weight of your beans and the volume of your water. Of course, the best equipment in the world is useless without good beans. Fortunately, there’s a renaissance going on right now with roasters. And the only way to bring these flavors to the fore is to weigh your beans, grind them finely, and add water carefully.

Ready to get started? For a 12-ounce cup made from Stumptown beans:

Boil some water in a kettle.

Measure out 34.5 grams of beans on a kitchen scale, and grind them finely in a conical burr grinder.

Put a No. 4 filter (I use Melitta) in a dripper sitting over a server.

When the water comes to a boil, pour a little into the dripper to wet the filter, then discard the water that collects in the server. (Keep the kettle boiling.) Replace the dripper, and add the ground beans to the filter.

Pour less than ½ cup of just-off-the-boil water over the coffee. Don’t pour so fast that the grounds start rising up the sides of the filter. (The idea is to let the water “wet” the grounds, unlocking flavors, in preparation for the bigger hot-water hit to come.) About 30 seconds later, pour in enough water to let the grounds rise three-quarters of the way up the filter, while breaking up any visible clumps of coffee on the surface by shaking the kettle a little. About 45 seconds later, repeat, letting the grounds rise up no higher than they did on the first pour.

When the coffee hits the 12-ounce mark on the server, remove the dripper, drink your coffee, and get on with your day.

That’s it! After a few test runs, the choreography will become second nature.

The best thing about B+ coffee snobbery is that it is customizable. Maybe underextracting slightly is your thing, or going finer on your grind. (Bitterness and sourness are in the taste buds of the drinker.) But most important, you’ll get dependably better tasting coffee.

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