alex arocha

How to be a Coffee Snob, and Talk Shit Like One by Alex Arocha

Being a true coffee snob is a full time job. If you want to be a real snob you have to start by doing your  homework. Go and look up every coffee shop that you can drive to and start sticking your head in. Ask some loaded questions like “How’s the espresso today?” or maybe “Do you have regular coffee?”. If they do know, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two; if their glazed look puts you in the past then you can now add a new shop to the “coffee shitlist”. When you finally get around to ordering something, ponder for a long time as if you’re imagining the perfect delivery method of that coffee to your unimpressed pallet, and try one of these: “Traditional espresso” obviously it’s traditional and now everyone knows you know, “Double macchiato” most hip shops serve a double anyways and it lets everyone know that you know what a ‘real’ macchiato is, “What size is your cappuccino/ latte?” if it’s larger that eight ounces just look confused and pass, it’s also noteworthy that you only consume coffee in ceramic or served as dine in.  

Now that you have your list of cafes that you hate and some that you hate less, you need to start becoming opinionated (really opinionated). This is easy because you only need to be educated enough to talk about whatever it is you’re claiming is the ‘right way’.

Starting with pour over methods is the easiest to sum up, so here’s the summary.
• V60 - The V60 by Hario from Japan is very popular in the specialty coffee scene and most baristas will know it. You can identify it by it’s glass cone shape and collar on bottom. The reasons to like it are that it provides a coffee that is often floral and acidic, qualities that are prized in specialty coffee. The reasons you’d hate it is that it often produces a thin coffee, that is a lot of the time sour.
• Chemex - The Chemex brewer is probably as popular in specialty coffee as it is popular in random places. It’s easily identified because it looks like an hourglass with either a glass handle or wooden collar. They’re typically used to make larger quantities of coffee but fuck practicality. The reasons to like it are that it produces a cup similar to the V60 but usually less complex, you can get coffee for two people, also it looks really damn cool. You might hate the Chemex because it takes forever and really often you get a boring cup.
• Wave / GINO - Kalita makes the Wave, and NotNeutral makes the GINO, I’m clumping them together because the information is relevant to both. The Wave looks like a short metal cone with ripples with a handle, and the GINO looks like a glass collar. You’d like these because most cafes that use them have someone at some point who probably knew a thing or two about coffee. The coffee that comes out can be full bodied and complex. You might hate these because they can produce a dry coffee that tastes like a campfire.

The next thing you need to have an opinion about is origins of coffee. This can get really complicated so here is the dumbed down version.
• Ethiopia - This is where coffee comes from, it is the origin. You have to like, or pretend to like Ethiopian coffees. They often taste very citrusy and fruity and can be delicate and floral. The reason you’d pass is that they can be sour and thin.
• Colombia - Colombia has the best coffee for boring people. Dads that used to be coffee snobs will claim that Colombia produces the best coffee. You’d like Colombian coffee because it’s nutty, full bodied, and it tastes like coffee. You’ll talk copious amounts of shit on Colombian coffee because it’s boring, lacking acidity, and is so out of style. When you do have a great cup of Colombian make sure to point out that it’s surprising.
• Guatemala - Guatemala is very interesting because lots of people like Guatemalan coffees. Normal people tend to like Guatemalans because they can have a lot of flavors that people expect from coffee like chocolate and nuts, with low acidity. Coffee people like Guatemalan coffees because they have an interesting complexity with flavors of dried fruits, and unique vegetal qualities.
• Typical Central/South American coffees - American coffees are popular for a reason. They almost all have either a nuttiness or chocolate flavor to them with low acidity. Each country and region will have their own nuances with their own fruit flavors. Costa Rica has a lot of citrus flavors. Panama carries a lot of coffee with berry flavors. Nicaragua often showcases orange and bergamot flavors. El Salvador has a lot of coffees with sweet lemon.
• Kenya and Tanzania - These countries produce coffees that tend to be less popular with normal people. These coffees carry a signature tomato flavor and vegetable soup body that can be a shock. They can also carry some of the most fantastic fruit flavors including a ton of berries and cherries.
• Sumatra, Java, Indonesia - Coffees from this region are often called 'dark’ because of how many idiots roast them too dark. When roasted properly these countries produce flavors that are often earthy, woodsy, vegetal, and nutty.

Now you need to know what the hell coffee actually is. Coffee is a fruit, a stone fruit to be exact. The cherry ripens to a deep red and is sent to processing. The seed inside the cherry is what ends up being the roasted coffee bean. There is three types of typical processing: washed, honey, and natural. Washed coffee is where the cherry and mucilage is washed completely off the bean, this is the most popular process and many claim that it produces the cleanest cup. Honey process is where the cherry is washed off but the mucilage is left on and left to dry, producing a coffee that can be sweeter. Natural process is where the whole cherry is left on to dry, leaving a coffee that is extremely sweet but can be funky.  

Part 2 in the works