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How to best learn about coffee? Any good books or courses?

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  • How to best learn about coffee? Any good books or courses?

    For most of my life I'd never been a coffee drinker...then studying for STEP 1 in med school happened... and coffee became a "thing" in my life. Throughout residency I did drink a decent, though not obsessive amount (compared to residency standards). However, it was typically K-cups or whatever was available in the hospital/office. Now, since graduating residency my coffee intake has certainly tapered off considerably but I still do have one cup most mornings. With a little more time and disposable income I bought an upgrade coffee maker on the recommendation of one of my colleagues (nothing too fancy but better than what I had before - Cuisinart CPO 850). The next step is trying to learn a little bit more about coffee so that I can make a better cup simply for my own enjoyment. A few things...

    -I have NO intent of being a barista or getting too crazy with things.

    -My time is limited in the morning so no fancy brewing (hence my purchase above). I'm looking for a good cup of black coffee with minimal work. At this point, manual pour overs and French Press are options at a later time.

    -I know many people have said that trial and error is part of the fun. I certainly plan on doing a lot of experimentation, but I'm also interested in learning a little more up front.

    -Essentially, I'm looking for any good resources to get a good understanding of coffee - we're talking middle to moderate knowledge. Water to bean ratios, ideal temperatures, best methods for grinding your own beans, etc...

    With all that being said...

    -Any good book recommendations to get me going? I heard "Coffee Obsession" was good.

    -Any inexpensive courses that may be worth it?

    -Are there any solid websites that may teach this information?

    -Finally, any bean recommendations that strike a good balance between quality and cost. I "think" I'm a medium roast kind of guy. I do have a Costco membership if there are good options there.



  • #2
    Burr grinder.
    Filter your water.
    Buy beans from local shops every now and then.
    This will make your drip coffee great!


    • #3
      Several years ago I read this article from the NYT (or more likely the one that preceded it):

      I purchased the recommended Baratza grinder and the recommended Bonavita brewer and with trial and error, learned to make an excellent, consistent cup of coffee, one that my wife and children prefer to what you get at the fancy coffee shops.

      Few hacks:

      1. Dry coffee beans are less messy than moist beans. I allot about 5 mins in the morning to make coffee and do not like to spend part of that time cleaning up messes. Dry beans are cleaner for the grinder; less coffee gets stuck in the receptacle.

      2. With the Bonavita brewer (and likely others), you can add more water after the brewing process has started to increase your yield. When it was just my wife and myself, the 8-cup brew was more than enough (my wife fills a thermos for work for later). As the kids aged into older teens, they started to drink coffee and the 8-cup capacity became inadequate.

      3. We also have a Nespresso as a back up. If it’s only just me, if the coffee gets used up and someone wants some, or someone just wants a quick hit, it’s an excellent (albeit expensive) alternative.

      Edit: Basically, what @Peds said.


      • #4
        Take your next vacation to Quindio, Colombia. I love this place.  And you can stay at a finca (like a little bed and breakfast on a coffee farm) for like 15 bucks a night.

        Kona is also fun but of course a bit more pricey.

        Short of that several of the coffee shops in my city put on "learn about coffee" events.  If you ask around your city there's a good chance you'll find something similar.  I went to one a few years ago and they made a big deal about getting the water to bean ratio and water temperature exactly right, using a gooseneck kettle to do pour overs, only using a burr grinder, etc.  it was too much detail for me to put into action but was fun to learn about.


        • #5
          Do you have kids?
          I went through all that and now I have kids and I am back to a Keurig. Ain't nobody got time for that.


          • #6
            Also have a conical grinder, not too spendy and an 8 cup bonavita (awesome).

            A little trial and error with size and time of grind and you can make amazing coffee. It makes regular Starbucks beans amazing and great local ones top notch.

            It's not that hard to learn, just a few tries and you'll have it.


            • #7
              Now I want some coffee....ugh. guess I can just go to bed.


              • #8

                Do you have kids?
                I went through all that and now I have kids and I am back to a Keurig. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
                Click to expand...

                Boo! Step up your game!


                • #9
                  Yeah, 3 and one on the way. You just wake up before they do. My grind time is 15 secs and brew takee about 6 min. I water plants in that time. Quick and simple.

                  Perfect ratio isnt set for your particular tastes, but is a good starting point.


                  • #10
                    Oh, I have studied coffee for many years. After a lot of trial and error, I've come to realize machines only go so far. It's the cleaning of the machines over time which is not the same as when bought brand new. I've been through a lot of machines both for coffee and espresso. Have even done the pods. It's just not the same.

                    Now, I do both french press and moka pot. If you're into cappuccinos, you can brew coffee in a moka pot on the stove. Then I take some milk and sugar, shake it up in a mason jar, and then heat in the microwave for 30 seconds with the lid off. Then I shake it up once again with the lid on for extra frothing. I pour half the coffee and half the milk with sugar mixture into a cup.

                    Depending on your preference, you could put less coffee and more milk. I prefer half and half. Honestly, I cannot tell the difference between the cappuccino I make at home versus what I buy at the coffee shop. Seems just like a lot of milk and sugar added to coffee. Oh and I buy locally roasted coffee beans and have a Capresso burr grinder.

                    Hope that helps!


                    • #11
                      DW and I were at at fancy restaurant and had coffee. My wife commented how good the coffee was and the waiter said it was Community Coffee which has been around 100 years. So now we are happy with that brand brewed in a Mr. Coffee.


                      • #12
                        Trial and error with machine.  I like a manual espresso machine.  French press delicious but messy.  Burr grinder.

                        Travel for tasting/tours, Kona as mentioned above.  Pomarrosa in Puerto Rico also recommended as a destination; not sure what their status is post-hurricanes.  If I'm in a coffee place, I try to partake as close to the cherry as possible.

                        I buy locally roasted beans.  George Howell sells some fun stuff, really stretches your mind about coffee.

                        I've thought about opening a coffee shop, but I don't want another job...even with the deductions from market research.


                        • #13
                          Lots of good advice so far in this thread.  For a forum that goes way off the deep end about coffee, try

                          If you want to get into the science and chemistry of espresso, Espresso Coffee: The Science of Quality by Andrea Illy is the standard text.  (This book previously was called Espresso Coffee: The Chemistry of Quality.  Yes, Andrea Illy is from the Illy coffee family in Italy.)


                          • #14
                            I don't have an answer for your original question, but I highly recommend Bonavita coffee maker for drip coffee. It is expensive (~200$), but totally worth the price.

                            That along with purchasing coffee beans from your favorite coffeeshop/brewer, and a simple spice grinder, will go a long way towards having high-quality, freshly ground and brewed coffee every day.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Zaphod View Post
                              Yeah, 3 and one on the way. You just wake up before they do. My grind time is 15 secs and brew takes about 6 min. I water plants in that time. Quick and simple.

                              Perfect ratio isn't set for your particular tastes, but is a good starting point.
                              Recently stopped at Circle K during a long drive and needed a coffee while filling up gas. Normally I dread those coffee stops since it is usually burnt 1 hour old coffee that is overpriced and you cannot drink more than a few sips.

                              Imagine my surprise when the 12 oz coffee was only a dollar and it was a machine that freshly ground and brewed the coffee in just a minute. Beats Starbucks unpronounceable named coffees by a mile in quality and price. In the future when we travel we will stop in Circle K for a pit stop and coffee.