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How to be a Coffee-Snob


You might spot one in the corner of your favorite local cafe- or multinational coffee chain or that matter.  Maybe you find yourself jealous of the cappuccino foam on stuck to his twirly mustache, or wish you had the confidence she asserts when she orders that single origin, triple shot, 2 pump vanilla, soy, 130 degree, and no foam, latte.  Regardless, know that you can achieve the ultimate coffee-snob title at ease.  You just have to know your facts, and have no shame in flaunting your underrated knowledge.

On the real though, coffee is a wonderful beverage, and it comes to you as it is by a variety of means.  Kickstart your calling by learning about the way coffee gets to be the way it is from a previous barista.

Strive for high

There are two main types of coffee, and we, the aspiring coffee-snobs, prefer arabica to robusta.  Arabica coffee grows at high altitudes, and just tastes better.  While it contains less caffeine than robusta, a true coffee snob isn’t in it for the buzz.  But we also don’t condone decaf.  Decaf coffee is just wrong.  Arabica is also composed of higher percentages of sugar and lipids– both of which contribute to the preferred flavor.


Know the origin

The main locations of coffee growing can be grouped into three regions, each with distinct “flavor characteristics” perfectly described by Starbucks’ Coffee Tasting Guide.

Latin America: “Crisp acidity with flavors of nuts, cocoa and soft spice”

Africa: “Lush and juicy, with flavors of floral and citrus to berry and spice”

Asia-Pacific: “Full-bodied and syrupy smooth with herbal, earthy flavors”

Ah, yes.  Whip out these descriptions word for word to truly establish the level of your coffee snobbishness.


Pick a roast

Light.  Medium.  Medium-Dark.  Dark

The lighter the roast, the more acidity, also the more the origin’s flavor characteristics are pronounced.  Inversely, darker roasts can taste more burnt– but we call that “smokey” and it’s not a real burnt.  It’s a delicious undertone.

*A fun fact– lighter roasts actually contain more caffeine than darker.  But we don’t care about caffeine.  No.


Variations in brew method

There are a handful of ways to get the final product from the bag to the mug.  The essentials you should absolutely know are:

  • Drip-brew: a basic, low key, low cost, way to make a decent cup of joe.  Basically hot water is filtered through the coffee grounds and “drip” below into the pot.  The paper filter keeping the grounds out of the final product tend to catch most of the oils.  But, drip-coffee tends to fill a room with the aroma of liquid gold, so, perks.

  • French press: because a press doesn’t use any paper filters, the oils from the beans remain intact and give the coffee more of a full-bodied taste.  Rather, the beans brew in the hot water for about four minutes, then the grounds are filtered by plunging a mesh, metal screen through the coffee, leaving the grounds pressed at the bottom and the wonderful liquid above.

  • Espresso: ahhhh yesssss the sweet, sweet shots of heaven.  Espresso is made by packing coffee grounds tightly together before forcing hot water through it.  The final result is a small amount of strong coffee.  Espresso is the base for most of your basic coffee beverages– lattes= espresso+steamed milk, cappuccinos= espresso+fluffy, foamy steamed milk, etc.

Smell, slurp, sip, sigh.  Repeat.

Barista training with Starbucks is awesome.  They really teach you the right way to taste a coffee, done in four steps:

  1. Smell

  2. Slurp

  3. Locate

  4. Describe

Now, smelling is generally self explanatory, but slurping is more or less particular.  The slurp should be loud– but don’t worry, all true coffee snobs can recognize a genuine slurp.  In all realness though, slurping rather than sipping the coffee allows the sweet nectar of angels to splash across the entire tongue, maximizing taste.  Locate refers to the location of taste in your mouth.  How does it feel?  Where is the taste strongest?  Finally, describe.  If needed, grab the coffee bag for help.  Often, part of the marketing for coffee includes the notes of that roast or blend.  Earthy?  Fruity?  Chocolatey?  I mean it’s not going to taste like chocolate but the subtle undertones should be noticeable when looked for.

Once you taste as a coffee-snob, it’ll never be the same.  Actually, it’ll probably be the same, but it’s good to know where your coffee comes from.  Pinkies up!

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