How To Choose Your Brewing Method

As our new normal continues longer than we’ve hoped, we want to give you tailored resources for your quarantine coffee brewing needs. In the last post, we covered how to choose your coffee and what goes into the information you have in front of you as you make your decision. This week, we want to help you decide what method to use when you brew!


In the at-home brewing game, it can feel like a “choose your own adventure” book. What coffee should I brew today? Should I drink it hot or cold? A lot or a little? And, most importantly, how should I brew it?

If you’ve subscribed to us on YouTube and have seen our brewing guides, one thing is pretty clear: there are so many ways to make coffee! Consequently, there’s no wrong way to make coffee. How you choose to make coffee at home is the right way, and we want to help you ask the right questions when figuring out how you want to make your morning (or afternoon) coffee.


TIME

How much time you have to make coffee is a huge factor. Whether you need a quick cup on the way out the door or have time to brew, sit, and sip, you can still make great quality coffee. But, you will have to make some decisions about your methods.

Depending on if you want hot or iced coffee, this could influence how you brew as well. We’ve covered the Iced V60 method on YouTube already, but you can adapt that to your Chemexes and your Ginos/flat bottom brewers as well! (We’ll post more about those methods soon) Or, you can make cold brew, which will take a little more prep work and forethought, since it takes 8-24 hours depending on if you use an immersion method (steeping it) or a percolation method (drips of water go through the coffee grounds at 65 drips a minute, then come out as cold brew).

TEMPERATURE

If you have less time than you’d like, sticking with the V60 method or even an automatic brewer would serve you well for your reusable portable mug. Aeropress also delivers an under 2-minute cup of coffee, and you can even start a French Press’ 4-minute steep as you get ready.

EASE OF USE

Correlating with time, how easy your recipes for the brew methods are can highly influence how often you use them. I personally own 6 different methods but typically stick to using 1 or 2 on a regular basis. When I say ease of use, I’m taking into account a few different factors: time, attention, and prep.

We’ve already discussed time, so no need to rehash that!

Attention entails how much you have to babysit it, for lack of better wording. Do you have to pour all the water in quickly and let it drawdown, or pour a certain amount of water then stop then do it all over again for 4 minutes? Or do you have to apply force in order to get the coffee into your cup? How much effort or movement you have to use in order to get your morning coffee plays into ease of use. But, don’t let a little extra work scare you away! As a rule of thumb, I believe that the amount of attention you have to give to your brew can directly correlate to how vibrant the coffee can be when you drink it. There are definitely exceptions to this, but you can generally get a more flavorful and dynamic cup of coffee from methods and recipes that call for more focused agitation, pulses in your pouring, and/or longer brewing times.

Preparation of the method per the recipe you’re using plays a big part in choosing your brewing method as well. Prep can be defined in this case as both what happens before and after you brew. Typically, before you brew using any given method, you’ll have to rinse your filters, which can be done as your water is heating up and your coffee is grinding. There’s not too much else to do on the front end. But, once you finish brewing, there can be some important factors that can help you make your decision. Can you simply toss your filter in the trash and go about your day, or do you have to wash everything immediately after your finish? Once you clean everything, can you put your method back in its spot or do you have to let it drip dry all day? Being aware of the before and after of brewing is crucial to making your recipe and method choices.


If you’re having trouble deciding on what brew method to purchase, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on something easy like a V60 or an Aeropress. Starting with those two options makes diving further into more complex methods easier and creates a foundation for your brewing knowledge.

Here’s our Brewing Guides Playlist on YouTube for you to see how we brew our coffee in multiple different ways! You can navigate between videos using the menu selection in the top right portion of the video area. Click on the icon and a sidebar menu will appear!

Next week, we’ll talk about brewing method hacks you can use to step up your coffee game without having to buy extra tools or go beyond what we’ve talked about here, on Instagram or Facebook, on the Podcast (available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and literally everywhere else you get your podcasts), or in our videos. Happy brewing!

How To Choose Your Coffee

If you’re reading this close to the time we originally posted this (03/24/20), then you know that we’re in uncharted waters with the Coronavirus and what it’s doing to the hospitality industry as a whole. Shops are closing for a time, businesses are changing their practices, and we’re in a new phase of how we need to operate in the coffee industry.

So, as we transition from talking about how to make coffee at home, it seems fitting for us to shift gears and talk about how you can figure out what kind of coffee you want to make. Each coffee has a different taste, which means you can pretty much find whatever flavors you’re looking for when it comes to what you’re drinking.

So what things should you consider when you’re in the market for a new bag of coffee?

Roaster

In specialty coffee, small businesses fuel the industry. Most cafés also roast their own coffee and will sell what they’re making behind the bar on their retail shelves & online. If you’re fond of the shops you regularly go to, then start your search by looking at their offerings.

If you’re interested in expanding your horizons and enjoying what shops across the country are roasting and serving, checking out sites like Trade Coffee and Mistobox, two coffee subscriptions sites that connect you with a wide variety of roasters, is a great start. You can take a quiz with questions like how you prepare your coffee, how you drink it, and/or what flavors you’re looking for, and the services will connect you with a list of roasters to try. You’ll also be able to arrange which coffees you get and when you get them, or just let the teams at the services do the work for you.

My personal favorite roasters are Onyx Coffee Lab, based in Rogers, Arkansas, and Barista Parlor (my current employer), based in Nashville, Tennessee. Both roasters have a great selection, a wide variety, and a quick turnaround to get your coffee to you ASAP.

Country/Region

Moving further into the details of the coffee itself, one of the biggest indicators of what you can expect in your coffee is the country from which it was exported. As we talk about further in our book, you can learn a lot about what you’re going to taste when you take the first sip by the country of origin.

Central/South American coffees typically have more of a traditional flavor lineup, like citrus, chocolate, and stone fruit (cherry, apricot, peach, etc.), whereas African coffees typically have a fruitier and more non-coffee flavor lineup, like berries, floral notes, and sugars. Asian coffees tend to defy expectations; larger commercial roasters have Asian coffees that are earthy and dark, but I’ve found a Sumatran that tastes like pink Starburst.

Process

How the coffee was prepared for export influences how the coffee will taste when you brew it. In order for coffee to be ready for roasting, farmers and producers have to process the coffee fruit (yes, coffee is actually a fruit!) and remove the outer layers so all that remains is the seed. There are three main processing methods that producers will use: washed, honey, and natural.

As an overview (because we also talk more about this in the book), washed processed coffees can have cleaner flavors that are pretty prominent within each roast and subsequent brew. All the skin and pulp get washed off in the process, leaving just the seed. Honey processed coffees can have brighter and sweeter flavors since they take on the flavor qualities of the coffee fruit, but still experience a washing action before being ready to leave the processing floor. Natural processed coffees typically have funkier and more exotic flavors, since the coffee fruit goes straight to drying from being picked (think coffee raisin) and don’t usually go through any sort of washing along the way.

Notes

Probably the most pertinent information about the coffee is the taste notes section. This is where you actually figure out what your coffee will taste like before you brew it. It’s important to remember that taste is purely subjective and these notes should be taken as targets written in pencil, not hard-and-fast rules written in stone.

When you see flavors on the label, think of them as a way to experience the coffee. Sometimes, you’ll see notes like “full-bodied” or “juicy,” or even “light” and “clean.” These are body indicators, telling you what you should experience in the mouthfeel (weird word, I know, but it makes a lot of sense when you experience it). Roasters might even include notes that they experienced as the coffee cooled down, allowing you to know what to expect after you’ve let your coffee sit for a little while.

However roasters list the flavor notes on a coffee label, you can have targets to aim for as you brew and drink your coffee.

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While it may seem like a whole process to choose a bag of coffee, I promise you it’s easier than you would think. Each piece of information involved in describing coffee allows you to know what you’re in for as you brew, and helps you to determine what you do or don’t like when you drink coffee.

Currently, these are the coffees I’m really liking:

Geometry Blend – Onyx Coffee Lab

As an everyday coffee, Onyx has killed it with one of their house blends. It’s a year-round staple that hits all the flavor indicators I enjoy. I’ve gotten all the notes listed through different brewing methods, and even as it cools it improves and gets more complex.

This is certainly a great place to start if you’re looking for something that has great balance and sweet fruit notes.

 

Tropical Weather Blend – Onyx Coffee Lab

With more vibrant notes that you wouldn’t expect in a coffee, Tropical Weather is the perfect blend if you’re missing summertime. It’s a full-bodied, sweet, and juicy coffee that really surprised me the first time I drank it.

 

 

 


Come back next week as we talk more about different brewing methods, including more tutorials and what you can expect as a result!

Making Coffee At Home, Part Four

We’re in the middle of a series on how to make the best coffee you can at home. If this is your first time reading, check out parts one, two, and three here so you can get up to speed.

 


Everything we’ve discussed culminates in this post. Get excited. Get ready. We’re finally getting to the fun part of coffee: making it for yourself. Using all of the science behind coffee making and extraction, we’ll break down the motions, actions, and cues for the V60 method that we recommended in Part One.

Like we mentioned, the V60 is what I consider the Swiss Army Knife of brewing methods. It has the widest margin for error when you’re brewing, it emphasizes balance, and it can handle both hot and iced recipes like a champ.

Watch this quick video on how to make a V60 pour-over, then we’ll break down the motions using the variables we discussed last week.

Pretty simple huh?

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the recipe:

  1. Pour 30-50g water slowly onto the grounds, then start the timer.
  2. At 0:30, begin pouring, washing to the edge of the bed to saturate the outlying grounds, then bring your water stream back to the center of the slurry, pouring nickel-sized circles.
  3. At 1:00/215-225g, make three passes to the edge of the bed, then return to the nickel-sized circles.
  4. At 1:15/315-225g, make three passes to the edge of the bed, then return to the nickel-sized circles.
  5. At 1:30/400g, finish your pour. The slurry should draw down between 2:15 and 2:45.

Two things are staying constant as we brew: temperature and water quality. When we post recipes for brewing, the standard temperature is 205° F and water quality is based on Third Wave Water packets that are dissolved into a gallon of distilled water.

Dose

The dose we’re using in this video is 26.0g of coffee and pouring 400g of water. This puts us at a 1:15 ratio of coffee to water. Keeping the water dose as a constant, you can adjust your coffee dose up or down to compensate for unpleasant flavors by increasing or decreasing strength.

Time

This V60 recipe consists of two main time markers: finish pouring at 1:30, and drawdown should occur between 2:15 and 2:45. It’s a shorter pouring and brewing time in comparison to some other methods, but with the continuous addition of water instead of pulses, extraction occurs more aggressively and more readily.

Grind Size

We’re using a medium-fine to medium grind size, which correlates to 17-22 on your Encore grinder. This grind size might seem finer than you would expect, but with shorter contact times, you can achieve appropriate extraction in less time than a Chemex or Gino.

Turbulence/Agitation

The continuous pouring motion, making nickel-sized circles and wide passes at intervals, stirs up the coffee bed substantially and allows for all the grounds to have even contact with water. And since all the water flows through one exit point, as the bed draws down, coffee is still able to contact water with little to no issues.

This outlines only one of the many ways you can brew using your V60. Companies like Counter Culture have great guides with different ratios that have different pour patterns and achieve desirable results.

 


If you liked the video above, make sure to check out our YouTube channel for more guides! This Friday, we’ll be sharing our Aeropress brewing guide, which is always a fun method when you’re on the road or want to experiment more than normal. Happy brewing!

Making Coffee At Home, Part Three

While we took a break last week to highlight relief efforts for the Nashville Tornado over on our Facebook page, we’ve been in the midst of a series where we’re talking about what you need to brew great coffee at home. Check out part one and part two here.

 


 

Coffee-making, as we’ve learned, doesn’t have to be over-complicated. If you don’t own café-grade equipment in your kitchen, you can still achieve café-quality results with products under $150. So, now that you have the tools you need to make your coffee, let’s dig into the science behind making coffee.

Coffee Science

For those of you who didn’t do so well in high school chemistry (like me), it may be intimidating looking at formulas, reactions, and really anything to do with science stuff. When it comes to coffee science, all you really need to understand in your at-home coffee making is that different parts, aka variables, of the equation cause different results. The final product of the combination of variables is what we like to call extraction.

What is extraction exactly? Simply put, extraction is the act of pulling the good stuff out of your coffee grounds using water. In extraction, there are five different variables that you can manipulate in order to influence how your coffee is brewing.

Dose

Dose refers to the physical weight of the ground coffee being used while you’re. Adding more coffee would slow down water as it passes through the coffee, which increases the perceived body and mouthfeel as well as time, but decreases extraction assuming you haven’t changed other variables. The opposite is true if you add less coffee; water spends less time with the coffee, which lowers extraction.

Time

This refers to the total contact time of water and coffee, best understood as contact time. Contact time can be separated into two portions: pour time and dwell time. Pour time refers to the given amount of time that you are adding water to the coffee. Dwell time refers to the amount of time following pour time to when water is no longer in prolonged contact with the coffee. Longer dwell times will equal more extraction, while shorter dwell times will equal less.

Grind Size

Grind size is the most common of the five variables that you will change in our brew bar setups. It refers to how large or how small your coffee grounds are. A finer grind or smaller coffee particle size will increase surface area. Increasing the exposed surface area will increase extraction. Conversely, a coarse grind setting will decrease the exposed surface area of the coffee, thus decreasing extraction.

Temperature

Temperature refers to how hot the water is that you’re using to brew coffee. The ideal coffee brewing temperature range is 202​°F – ​205​°F​. While you can experiment by increasing or decreasing your brewing temperature, you’ll generally find the best results when you use this range.

Turbulence/Agitation

Agitation (turbulence) is exactly what it sounds like: disturbing the coffee by any means. More specifically, it refers to the speed and velocity in which your water is coming in contact with the coffee. As an isolated variable, more intense agitation will result in extracting more. In contrast, a pour that is nearly motionless with a slow flow rate close to the bed would produce very little extraction compared to the aforementioned “intense” pour style.

There are two kinds of agitation you can employ when brewing: natural and manual. Natural agitation is influenced purely by how you’re adding water to the coffee. This includes pouring patterns and how fast or slow you’re pouring water. Manual agitation, however, is the means by which you influence agitation through external methods. This includes swirling the coffee bed before and/or after brewing and stirring using a spoon.

Water Quality

Water quality varies greatly depending on geographical origin, local water treatment, and in-house filtration. Calcium, alkalinity, pH, and sodium impact how readily compounds are extracted from coffee, so it’s important to know what’s in your brewing water. In order to ensure that you have great brewing water at home, one of the easiest solutions is using Third Wave Water. Their mineral packets are specifically designed to dissolve into distilled water to create the most optimal water chemistry for your brewing needs.

Putting It All Together

As you gain control of these variables, you can harness them and adapt them across the different types of brewing methods. Each kind of brewer requires different applications of time, turbulence/agitation, and grind size since each brewer is designed to produce different results based on shape, material, and filter design. There are two kinds of brewer designs that you’ll regularly encounter as you do your research: flat bottom and conical.

Flat Bottom Brewers

Like your standard Mr. Coffee or a commercial-grade batch brewing machine, flat bottom brewers hold coffee at a uniform density/depth throughout the entire brewer/basket, which means that the coffee is evenly distributed. Flat bottom brewers bring out heavy sweetness and substantial body from the coffee, allowing for a higher perception of strength. When brewing with a flat bottom brewer, you do have to increase agitation to make sure that all the coffee has a chance to interact with the water.

Conical Brewers

Conical brewers are much more forgiving when brewing. Methods V60’s and Chemexes allow for water to funnel to one single exit point, giving coffee more of a chance to interact with water as it drains down. Conical brewers typically produce more balanced results, allowing for a structured presentation of the notes associated with the coffee. Depending on your recipe, you may need to reduce agitation as well as use a finer grind size.

 


 

I’ll admit: on paper, there’s a lot that goes into making coffee. But, as we’ll see next week, it’s not all that difficult! We’ll share our favorite ways to brew coffee!

If you haven’t already, make sure you’re connected to us on social media. Follow us on Instagram, like us on Facebook, subscribe on YouTube, and subscribe to the podcast!

Making Coffee At Home, Part Two

Last week, we began a series on making coffee at home. In this series, we’ll cover everything from equipment to brewing guides, products to consider to products to avoid. Our goal in this series is to provide you with resources on how to make the most of your coffee making while at home, especially since written posts and media typically sticks with you (based on most research at least).

In our last post, we primarily looked at the tools you needed, specifically how you can get great equipment for under $150. This week, however, we’re throwing caution (and the budget) to the wind. While the products we discussed and recommended in the last post are more than enough to produce high-quality coffee, there are some of you (like me) who want the latest, most updated pieces of equipment that very well could be on display in the MoMA next season.


Coffee nerds and professionals alike tend to keep up with both the consumer and commercial sides of the industry. Websites like Sprudge, Daily Coffee News, and Perfect Daily Grind provide articles and blurbs about the different products hitting the market that all claim to change the game for coffee making. Specifically, on the consumer-focused end of the spectrum, it seems like once a month I hear about a new product that needs to be on your at-home coffee bar.

Let’s revisit the main tools you’ll need to brew coffee at home: the grinder, the kettle, the scale, the timer, and the brewer. Each performs a basic function and serves a mostly singular purpose, but with feature additions and internal upgrades, you can get café-quality equipment without having to shell out café-level cash.

I geek out over good brewing equipment. If it can save me time, provide consistency, and looks cool, then count me in. So, naturally, I keep a log of what pieces I want to add to my arsenal, even if it takes a couple of months or longer to save up for it.

Grinder

There are two main grinders that I can’t get enough of: the Baratza Encore, and the Fellow Ode.

Baratza Encore

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This is the grinder I currently own and absolutely love. It’s such a workhorse. It produces a consistent grind size time after time and can handle brew after brew. It’s easy to clean, take apart, and put back together again in a short amount of time.

While these bad boys aren’t the cheapest, they’re certainly the most affordable of their class. Baratza has become synonymous with quality and durability, and after working on multiple different models of theirs, I can totally agree with that statement. Having 40 settings and still coming in under $200 makes it an easy choice if you’re looking to upgrade!

Fellow Ode

Image result for fellow odeNow, let me first say this: I haven’t used one of these. No one except for the insiders has used this since it’s officially releasing in July. But, this still piques my interest based solely on what it advertises it will do. Fellow Products is no stranger to having museum-worthy releases, and this grinder is no exception.

Coming in at $300, it won’t be cheap. It’s not for the casual home barista, and also not for the home barista looking for an espresso grinder. Fellow advertises this bad boy purely for filter coffee and has modeled it after the café-standard Mahlkönig EK43. With vertically-aligned burrs (AKA the coffee has more of a chance to be ground into uniform particles), it’s one of the only consumer grinders coming onto the market that boasts the precision of commercial grinders.

Kettle

If you’re looking for a powerful, sleek, and controllable kettle for your at-home set-up, the Fellow Stagg EKG is your new best friend.

Fellow Stagg EKG

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I mean, just look at this thing. The angles, the symmetry, and the overall aesthetics are unmatched. The base has three main buttons/controls: a dial that controls temperature, a hold switch, and a Celcius/Fahrenheit toggle. It has a 1200W power current, meaning that it heats up lightning-fast.

I’ve never had a more consistent flow rate than what I get in this kettle. With the gooseneck being slightly higher on this kettle than others and with a flow restrictor, it makes for smooth operation with any brew method.

If you want even more control, the Stagg EKG+ provides connectivity with other products and applications. (More on that in a second)

Scale/Timer

Part of the brewing process means collecting and recording data, which comes as a result of scales and timers. There are dozens of scales on the market that boast how great they are, how their features are superior to others, and how in-depth you can go through connected apps. This scale, however, tops them all (in my opinion).

Acaia Pearl S

Image result for acaia pearl model s

Now becoming industry-standard on both espresso and brew bars across the world, Acaia products have taken the café by storm within the past few years. Their smart scales connect to apps that record brews, measure flow rates, and connect to other products. They released the second model of their popular Pearl scale, which is geared towards filter coffee use.

This is where the Stagg EKG+ comes in. With their innovative Brewmaster and Brewguide apps, Acaia allows users to connect via Bluetooth the EKG+, the Pearl Model S, and the Baratza Sette 270wi for a seamless data-collection experience. So basically, you can record weight, temperature, grind size, and time, compiling it into one “brewprint” (what they’re calling the brewing recipe you follow) to save for future use.

Brewer

Being one of the least expensive pieces of the puzzle, the actual brewer is still pretty key. It determines how you employ your variables appropriately. If you want to step up your brewing game, this is the next move for sure.

notNeutral Gino

Image result for notneutral ginoBest known for its porcelain and mugs, notNeutral knows how to create a gorgeous product. The Gino is a flat-bottom dripper, which requires a little more attention when you’re brewing. The result is a clean, clear, and bold cup that has marked sweetness and brightness. The possibilities are endless with the Gino; you can experiment with different pour patterns, brew ratios, grind sizes, and brew times to change the flavor profile completely.

The Gino is also the perfect centerpiece for any modern coffee bar. The glass design with its tapered walls fits right in with the other pieces of equipment listed above.

 


Coffee gear this beautiful is worth geeking out, gracing the Insta-feeds of the well-known coffee influencers and personalities across the industry. As you continue in your coffee journey and strive to go deeper, I hope this helps you see what’s out there for you if/when you want to upgrade your equipment.

Come back next week as we dive into the science of brewing, now that we’ve solidified our equipment. Happy brewing!

 

Making Coffee At Home, Part One

When I started Coffee For Everyday Use, the focus and premise of everything I planned on sharing centered around giving people the tools & resources they needed in order to make coffee at home. While it’s incredibly easy to run to the local coffee shop, place an order, and be on your way, there’s something both therapeutic (and cost-effective) about not having to leave the comfort of your own home to get good quality coffee. But, making good coffee isn’t a thing of chance. It happens with conscious effort and attention as you brew. I believe that begins with choosing good equipment.

Before we get into what you’ll need to brew coffee at home, I want to make something very clear: good brewing equipment doesn’t have to come at a high cost. While most of the high-dollar options on the market truly do produce great results, if you aren’t looking to get into coffee vocationally or even as a high-level hobby, you don’t have to break the bank with your setup. As you’ll see, my goal here isn’t necessarily to point you towards what the pros have; it’s to provide you with the most cost-effective options to get you started on your coffee-making journey.

Tools For The Job

If you don’t have the tools you need to do a job, then you can’t really get the job done appropriately and effectively. So it is with making coffee in your home. At the heart of every at-home coffee corner, there lies a few main pieces of equipment: a grinder, a kettle, a scale, a timer, and a brewer. Each of these devices serves a specific purpose, and quite frankly, a necessary one as you seek to make coffee. Let’s look at their uses before we recommend anything.

The Grinder

It’s no secret that fresher products create fresher and more vibrant results. Choosing to grind your coffee on-demand at home over purchasing pre-ground coffee will both ensure that what you’re using to brew will be at the most optimal state and your whole bean coffee will have a longer life.

The Kettle

Brewing coffee requires hot water, and in order to get water up to the optimal temperature safely, you need a device designed for that purpose: the kettle. Now, while a regular stovetop tea kettle can work for some brewing methods, you don’t necessarily have great control over the water flowrate. So, the best design for brewing coffee is the gooseneck kettle. Gooseneck kettles produce a steady water flow, can be restricted by the tilt of the device, and keep water at the most desired temperature while brewing.

The Scale

You can have all the best equipment, the best beans, and the best water, but when it comes to brewing great coffee, everything is for naught if you aren’t regulating each component. We regulate how much water and coffee are going into the equation by weight, which means you need a scale. Using a scale is a simple way to measure what you’re doing so that you can replicate the good actions and make notes to avoid the bad ones.

The Timer

Logging data helps you reproduce results. Just like keeping track of your weights going into your brewing equation, measuring time gives you a correlation between how long or how short portions of your brewing take and the other variables at play within brewing. There’s nothing complicated about using a timer; it performs a super simple function to give you a point of reference.

The Brewer

While it may seem elementary to mention that you need a brewing method in order to brew coffee, it actually is the foundation of everything you do in the process. It determines how much coffee you can actually brew, what recipe you need to use, and if you need further equipment beyond the device itself.

Equipment You Can Afford

Now that we have the explanations out of the way, we get to get into the nitty-gritty of why we’re here: how can I purchase good and affordable equipment? I believe that if you budget $150 in total for your coffee set-up at home, you can get everything you need to last you for years to come. Here’s what I recommend. I’ve included links to the tools for you to add to your Amazon cart right now! All prices are accurate as of 02/18/20.

Grinder: Capresso Infinity, $72

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This is the grinder with which I started my at-home coffee brewing journey. It’s fairly adjustable, allows you to have varying grind sizes within the overarching categories, and is easy to get your hands on.

Kettle: Bonavita Gooseneck Kettle, $45

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Bonavita is one of the most trusted affordable brands for at-home brewing. I’ve used this variable temperature model for years and only sold mine because I received another kettle as a gift. It holds your temperature steady on the base for right around an hour and allows you to set your temperature right to the degree.

Scale: Kitchen Scale, $12

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While there are many smart scales that allow you to track all portions of your brewing, if you’re not a coffee professional and/or are making less than five pour-overs a day, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a scale.

Timer: Your Phone

I didn’t really need to include this as an option, but for real: your phone serves as a great stopwatch that you don’t have to shell out any extra money to use. If you want to spend $5 on a kitchen timer, be my guest, but it’s not necessary.

Brewer: Hario V60 Bundle, $20

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This one is an all-in-one bundle, which saves you even more money! It comes with the V60 conical brewer, a decanter, and filters. The V60 is one of the easiest brewing methods to use, so it’s a great first step in at-home brewing.

So, before shipping and taxes, that brings you to roughly a total of $149. Use that extra dollar to buy yourself a candy bar to treat yourself for coming in under budget. With these affordable tools, you can make good coffee at home.

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Next week, we’ll continue talking about Making Coffee At Home with a continuation of this post: brewing tools that I love using. We focused solely on the reasonably priced equipment this week, but next week we’ll dive deep into the nerd-dom of coffee gear where money won’t restrict our conversation.

Happy brewing!

Coffee For Everyday Use

As a wordsmith, whether through speaking or writing, it can be easy to let thoughts really slip through the cracks and go from a fledgling idea to something filed away in the vault. This is even truer when you get to be a part of an organization where you get to employ these ideas day in and day out.

If you follow along through my other social media outlets, you know that I did a little bit of hopping around in summer 2019. I went from working in coffee to running a specialty dessert shop, co-owned by a well-known (and fantastic) influencer and his innovative wife. But, something was missing. The opportunity was there, but my passion was truly for coffee. So I left. I went to a small coffee company to help develop roasting operations, and along the way, I noticed something: people didn’t know about coffee, and didn’t know where to start learning about it.

Out of that came an idea that had been lying dormant for years. I realized that I wanted to write a book about this widely consumed product, but gear it more towards people who had little or no access to the story and journey behind coffee. People rolled through our space daily who had no clue what happened with coffee before it entering the grinders, and I learned through more conversation that they knew little about how to make coffee at home.

If you search for coffee books on Amazon, you’ll see the likes of James Hoffmann, Scott Rao, Jonathan Morris, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, and Mark Pendergrast. All have fantastic writings on the science, history, and mathematics behind coffee and its needed components, but their main audience is primarily coffee-educated individuals who either work professionally in the industry or have a passion for being informed about coffee. And the books that coffee companies publish are hybrids between internal training manuals and sales pitches for their products. Somewhere in between lies the books like Brew and Craft Coffee: A Manual, which is almost exclusively how to make the coffee you’ve already purchased, still geared towards coffee-informed people. Where are the books that start you from point A instead of point J?

In July 2019, over the two weeks following July 4th, I sought out to write that kind of book. Taking everything I learned from working in the sourcing, roasting, training, and on-bar areas of coffee, I compiled what I knew and put pen to paper to create Coffee For Everyday Use, a book that makes coffee more accessible for the everyday drinker. From there, a social media community came forth through Instagram and Facebook, and I started building out a place where people can learn about coffee in simplified, understandable terms.

While I’m no longer at the small coffee company and I’m currently back where I started at Barista Parlor, the community has exploded. I’ve introduced a podcast, a YouTube channel, and even a (small) consulting arm with community- and business-focused initiatives.

And it’s only just beginning.

Soon, I’ll start sharing weekly blog posts continuing some of the conversations we’ve started on the podcast and on YouTube. Some things are more easily expressed when written, so it only makes sense to use this already-existent resource for that purpose.

I’ll be posting these written articles from a separate blog category, just to keep things organized properly. I’ll see you soon!

Product Review: Onyx Holiday Origins

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen (or scrolled through) some of my coffee product reviews, where I’ve talked about new coffees, brewing methods, and schools of thought within the industry. What better way to revive the blog than with a special holiday edition, starring my favorite coffee roaster (outside of my own company, of course).

Behind The Bean

Onyx Coffee Labs, based out of Northwest Arkansas, has been operating since 2012. Their full story is on their website, so I won’t spend too much time on their history. But, my history with Onyx goes back to 2014. While working in south Atlanta, my good friends began talking about this killer shop in their hometown that was making really good coffee. We got some samples in at the church café, and my mind was blown by how tasty their coffee was. We had been regulars at Octane in downtown Atlanta, since that really was the closest high-quality spot, but this coffee was a game-changer.

Fast forward to 2017, and I’m working in a shop here in Nashville. I struck up a conversation with a customer who was passing through about good coffee spots, and she mentioned a shop that was in her hometown in Arkansas. “You mean Onyx?” I asked her. She was shocked that I knew about it, since Onyx hadn’t opened a partner shop in town yet. I hadn’t had any of their coffee in a few years, so of course I was reminiscing about how delicious it was.

The next week, someone walked into the shop and said, “Hey are you Jacob? My friend who you were talking to had me pick this up for you before I came to Nashville.” She handed me a bag of the Sugar Skull blend, and the rest is history.

Naughty Or Nice?

Onyx’s holiday origins are some of my favorite coffees of the year. Among the larger specialty coffee roasters that produce a limited edition release, Onyx does it the best. Not only do their coffees taste the best, they also have some of the best branding for their releases.

Within roasting and flavor profiles, roasters like Onyx categorize each coffee as more traditional or more modern. Traditional flavor profiles include more robust and “coffee like,” with notes of Early Grey, baker’s chocolate, and cacao. Modern flavor profiles, however, are fruitier and unexpected, with notes of strawberry jam, watermelon, and floral.

Onyx switches up their categorization for the holidays with a whimsical, child-like distinction: is it naughty, or nice? Will it get presents from Santa, or a lump of coal?

 

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On the naughty side is Krampus, a Kenyan that’s been roasted more traditionally.

With notes of burnt sugar, black currant, cinnamon, and dark chocolate, these intense flavors marry together to create a darker, bolder cup. Think diner coffee, but with depth and tastes good at all temperatures.

As you brew it, it’s really hard to mess it up. If you accidentally grind it too fine, it’s not going to be ridiculously roasty or bitter, and it’ll bring out more of the caramelly notes you’d expect in the burnt sugar description. If you accidentally grind it too coarse, you’ll find some hidden citrus flavors that are quite pleasant. Grind it just right, and the deep spice notes extend throughout every sip.

 

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On the nice side is Framily, an Ethiopian that’s been roasted to a more modern profile.

Full disclosure: I’m a sucker for Ethiopian coffees. As the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia has some of the most diverse and complex varieties of plants, some that have yet to be named (see Ethiopian Heirloom Varieties). After serving a naturally processed coffee from the same region at my shop, I’ve gained a huge respect for Guji and the beans that come from there.

While more modern-roasted coffees have fruitier profiles, the flavors inherent of the coffee bean always end up showing themselves in the roast. The Early Grey and dark chocolate round out the berries and sweet cream, giving this coffee a smooth taste all the way from first sip to lingering aftertaste. But beware: while it tastes deliciously warm and sweet, it can be unforgiving if over- or under-extracted. It may take a few tries to get it dialed in just right, but it’s worth the work.

The Final Verdict

Whether you’re spending time with your family this holiday season, or grinding hard to get year-end deadlines met, this holiday release set is the perfect choice for your at-home brewbar. For the times when you have a million things going on, as the family is trying to pull your attention in all different directions, Krampus doesn’t require that much focus and will taste great. And for the times when you just need a moment of zen and a silent night (or morning), Framily will warm your heart and soul with homey flavors and love.

Buy your own holiday cheer right here:

Framily
Krampus
Holiday Box Set

Trust The Process

Washing my car is both one of the most therapeutic and rewarding things as well as one of the most tedious and cumbersome things that comes with car ownership.

I own a 2000 Nissan Xterra, and I love everything about it. It’s got enough room on the inside to fit all my stuff, top racks to strap gear to, and if I put a hitch on the back, it could tow up to 6,000 pounds. It’s the quintessential adventure vehicle (in addition to my fiancé’s Subaru Outback). So, I want to keep it extra clean and looking like new, or as close to new as an 18 year old vehicle can look.

A few nights ago, when we were washing our cars, I paid extra attention to the process involved in getting them clean.

First, you give it an initial rinse.

Second, you put soap on it and scrub it down.

Third, you rinse off the soap.

Last, you towel dry the car.

Voila. You’re done. It sounds pretty easy, right?

Not so fast there. While the steps look simple on paper, they are far from easy.

If you don’t give it an initial rinse, the soap won’t pick up all the dirt well. If you let the soap sit too long, it gets all scummy and gross. If you don’t dry off your car, it gets all streaky and looks almost as bad as it did beforehand.

There’s a detailed, specific, and perfectly timed process behind washing your car, and there’s a detailed, specific, and perfectly timed process at work behind the scenes in your everyday life.

We are all in the middle of a process. Whether you realize it or not, you’re in the middle of some kind of situation. You might be just starting a new season of life in a new city, celebrating 5 years at the same job, or getting out of some kind of toxic situation. In different areas of your life, you very well could be experiencing beginnings, middles, and ends. This is what I’d like to call a step. Each process has many different steps, and your life is one big process. It’s a process of getting you from start to finish. And, where you are now is smack dab in the middle of the two points.

Without getting too preachy and pastoral on you, let me put forth a few thoughts.

Each step has a lifespan of potential.

Just like when we put together furniture or refer to a recipe, each step is only applicable for a certain amount of time. In other words, each step has a specific lifespan of potential. You cannot get the maximum amount of output if you try to speed up or slow down a certain step in the process; you’ll pervert the purpose of the step if you try to do so.

So it is in our lives. The step you’re on in life has a lifespan. It’s only potent and relevant for the lifespan of the step. If you try to get out of the situation where you find yourself too early, or try to relive the glory days too long, you’ll miss your window of potential both in that step and the steps to come.

Each step has a purpose.

The minute details within the instructions manual seem pointless sometimes. They seem more cumbersome and boring than essential to the final product. In time, if you dwell too much on the tedious nature of it, you get so frustrated that you start to question whether or not it’s worth it anymore. But, then you finish the last step in the manual and you see that without the small things, the larger picture couldn’t come into view.

This frustrating, annoying, and downright enervating step that you seem to think has no point really does, somehow, some way, have a purpose. The purpose may be solely to get your mind off of what’s coming next and prepare your heart and mind for something better, but no matter what there’s a purpose behind every step of the way.


In closing, I leave you with this idea:

Without the process, there is no product.

If you have a goal in mind for your life, or you believe like I do that a Higher Power has something in store for you, then you must remember that you cannot get where you’re going without passing through where you are right now.

If you want results, you have to do the work. Sometimes the work drags you down. Sometimes the work makes you rethink why you’re on this path in the first place. But, you cannot get to where you want to go without going through where you are right now.

Be aware: in the process, you have to discern whether or not you’re trying to rush the step, or prolong the inevitable. Sometimes in order for the next step to come, you must put an end to the step where you are.

But, at the end of the day, there is no product without a process.

And each little step matters just as much as the big ones.

The Best News I Could Ever Share

I love good news. I love hearing about special occurrences in people’s lives, the updates that come with them, and what that means next for them as they take next steps.

Well, today I come to you with my own set of good news. I’m engaged. Yes, you read that right!

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On Saturday, May 5th, I popped the question, and now Alley & I are in full-fledged planning mode to get everything in order for our wedding. This is so exciting, so much fun, and so crazy all at the same time.

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that this is super special for me. I’ve written so many times about my singleness, my frustrations with it, and my overall understanding that God has this under control. And, thanks to God’s provision and perfect timing, that singleness was officially over when Alley & I started dating. Now, as we pursue marriage in this time of preparation, we know that God is good and has been over all the details thus far.

HOW I ASKED

Alley & I have had one of the most unconventional relationships. We’ve only been dating for 5 months, but we knew early on that this is what we wanted. We didn’t have a second thought about what we were doing. So, in order to continue the non-traditional nature, my proposal had to follow suit.

We were getting ready to walk out of the door to go to a graduation party, so as we were in the kitchen at her house, I said, “Hey let me ask you a question real quick.” Then, I got down on one knee, opened up the ring box, and said, “Will you marry me?”

Thankfully, she quickly said yes.

THE STORY BEHIND THE RING

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This is a really special ring to me. This was the ring that my dad, who passed away in 2005, gave to my mom when they got married. It’s actually two separate pieces that he gave her: the diamond itself, and a wrap that came later on.

Alley loved the way they looked together, so I had them soldered into one ring. It’s really exciting and sentimental to carry the memory of my dad into my marriage, and I’m honored that Alley feels the same way.

 


We’re so thankful for all the people who have reached out via text, commented on social media, and congratulated us as we take the next step in our relationship. We really couldn’t do any of this without you guys!

This next step also plays into why we named our blog Chasing Rays.

IMG_C7931C77C4CC-1As we go on this crazy adventure called life together, we wanted to document it through our eyes as a couple. And, since my last name is Ray (and Alley’s will be in September), it’s only fitting that as we travel under the sun as the Rays, we have a brand that reflects that hunger for adventure.

As we take this new adventure, keep up with our tales and travels here and on the other website. We’ll be posting soon about my love of coffee, and how you can better understand what your coffee goes through to get to you.

-J