There has never been a better time to be a coffee drinker. From neighborhood bodegas selling bottled cold-brew to pour-over bars popping around the country, the diversity and availability of good coffee is at an all time high. But what is “good” coffee, anyway? Like beer, coffee has a way of eliciting knee-jerk populist reactions—for every Aeropress-toting coffee geek, there are legions of folks happily running on Dunkin’ and expressing righteous indignation at the proliferation of $5 lattes.
As with all things, though, you shouldn’t knock so-called “speciality” coffee until you’ve not only tried it, but also learned about what really makes it different from the hot black muck we all used to slurp down with half and half.
With resurgence in the craft of making coffee, a hierarchy has emerged among consumers in how they order or brew their routine cups. To find out what separates a Blue Bottle pour-over from a $1 cup of gas-station sludge, we hollered at brew pro Erin Meister to debunk common myths and decode the buzzwords that have taken over the coffee-shop experience. Now, when you opt for one or the other, at least you’ll be making a fully informed choice.
The expert: Erin Meister had her first cup of coffee at age nine. Despite the half-cup of milk and sugar mixed in, Meister says it became an instant Sunday ritual until she was old enough to understand why drinking coffee was more than just something adults do. After working for years as a barista and a journalist who specialized in coffee and food, Meister became a member of customer support and a coffee educator at Counter Culture. “I just want people to have better coffee always,” she says as she waxes poetic about her current fix, Haru from Yirgacheffe, a citrusy Ethiopian coffee that is just coming into season. Meister insists that she is not a coffee snob—her least favorite thing, in fact, is to isolate consumers with the notion that you must be a coffee nerd to truly enjoy it. Still, to be intelligent coffee drinkers, aren’t we supposed to be able to detect its nuances, like those in wine?
Let’s find out…