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5 Crimes Against Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee shops in San Francisco and New York are famous for serving phenomenal house-roasted coffee, prepared using meticulous methods. But founder James Freeman maintains that if home brewers just avoid common mistakes, it doesn’t take much to brew a great cup at home. “People think it’s so hard and difficult, but just a few simple things can really make a big difference,” he says. Here, Freeman explains how to bypass the five worst crimes against coffee. Given his perfectionism, chances are you’re committing several of them.



    “Make sure you choose a coffee with a roast date, not a ‘best by’ date. Preferably, that date should be no longer than a week ago. Then use it up, share it with friends, or buy smaller bags so you move through it quickly. Sometimes lightly roasted coffee can be good for a couple of weeks after opening, but in general, fresher is better.”


    “Buy whole-bean coffee. Ground coffee gets stale really easily. Buying a grinder just isn’t that hard: It’s not that expensive, and doesn’t take that long. If you’re doing the pulse-and-shake method on a cheapo blade grinder, I think you’re still better off than buying pre-ground coffee that’s been sitting in a bag for a week or God knows how long. And there are better options that are getting cheaper—Hario, Porlex, Zassenhaus and Baratza make some good grinders that are not that expensive.”


    “Don’t buy a coffee pot with a plug. If you’re going to make coffee, make it yourself. There’s the symbolic layer: Do you want to entrust something so important to a machine? And then there’s the brass tacks layer, which is that almost every machine doesn’t make very good coffee. I love the shininess, the slipperiness, the cleanness of a good pour-over made with a paper filter or a cloth filter.”


    “Don’t rely on your eye, and don’t rely on volumetric measurements—they’re just not accurate. Buy a gram scale and weigh your coffee, weigh your water. You’re going to be so much more in control of your brewing ratio.”


    “Don’t buy a national brand if you can help it. We’re lucky enough that a lot of people want to have our coffee shipped, but I think more and more, people are opening up little roasteries and doing interesting things. You’ll be less apt to see coffee as a commodity, and more apt to see it as something that’s precious and has been meticulously cared for, from when it’s grown far away to when it arrives in your cup.”

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