October 8, 2014

Coffee Snobery

I’ve been drinking coffee for the better part of 14 years, but it has only been within the last year that I have gone down the rabbit hole. I went from throwing pre-ground beans into a drip coffee maker to home-roasting green coffee beans, grinding them with a hand burr grinder, and brewing them in an Aeropress. It all kinda happened without me even realizing it, and now I am making the best, allbeit fussiest, coffee of my life.

I’m not sure how you draw a distinction between being a coffee fan and being a coffee snob. I like good coffee that I roast and brew on my own . However, I drink coffee from a Keurig brewer all the time, and won’t turn my nose up to a cup from Starbucks or even McDonalds. I’ll drink all sorts of coffee as long as it is black. I don’t do the sugar and cream garbage.[1]

The bottom line is that coffee is awesome. I really like drinking the stuff. If you like coffee and have never had fresh roasted coffee I think you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. I knew I wanted to try it, but didn’t even think roasting it myself was an option. I was wrong. My setup is surprisingly simple, and comes out to be much cheaper than buying “good” packaged coffee at a store.

Raw Materials

The most important ingredient to a good cup o’ coffee is the beans. I’m sure there are several places where you can get green coffee beans. I have only every purchased them from Sweet Maria’s, and have been extremely happy. They have these awesome sampler packs where you can get coffee beans from several different continents and regions and see which ones you like best. A one pound bag is enough to try roasing to a few different darkness levels and see how the flavor changes. The best part is that these single-sourced green coffee beans are less than half the price of buying similar pre-roasted beans at a coffee shop.


Roasting coffee sounds daunting, but is actually quite simple. I use an air popcorn popper. Sweet Maria’s describes the process on their website. I actually bought the Westbend Air Crazy that they sell. I started out with an even cheaper one that worked well for a few weeks and then inexplicably died. I’m not sure if it was because I was roasting coffee beans in it, or if was just crappy.

Roasting is very easy and only takes a few minutes. It takes a little practice to get a feel for when to take the beans out for certain darkness levels and I am definitely still learning. I typically roast about 1/3 - 1/2 cups of beans in each batch, which gives enough to make 3–4 cups of coffee. I will roast a batch every couple days so I always have freshly roasted beans to use.

The Coffee

It is hard to describe why fresh roasted coffee is better. I think the beans are inherently better quality than what you could buy at most coffee shops. You often will get blends, or a mix of beans from several different places. Sweet Maria’s sells you a whole pound from the exact same location. You really get a sense for the flavors of that specific coffee type. So far my favorites have been beans from India, though the Coasta Rican beans are a close second. My favorite ones from India are not available anymore. They seem to rotate what type they have in stock giving you an always changing selection.

The flavor is also greatly improved by the fact that the beans have just been roasted and still retain most of the oils and compounds that provide the flavor. Here is a good Ted x video about the benefits of drinking fresh roasted coffee.

Fresh roasted coffee is still coffee. It doesn’t taste fundamentally different than the beverage genre we refer to as “coffee”… it is just better coffee. Before I always drank medium or dark roasts, but since I’ve been roasting my own I’ve found that I actually prefer the flavors you can get from a light roasted coffee. Light roasted coffee also has more caffine, so it is a win-win.

I’m a novice in this whole coffee experience. I’ve read quite a bit online, and listened to Marco Arment talk about coffee on an episode of The Pragmatic podcast, which is worth listening to if you have the time. I look forward to continuing my journey down the rabbit hole, and continuing to drink great home-roasted coffee. If you like coffee it is worth giving it a try.

  1. Okay. Maybe once a year I will consume something containing pumpkin spice.  ↩

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