We know: coffee just tastes better when you’re drinking it at a cafe instead of just after you’ve rolled out of bed in the morning. Paying attention to the finer details of coffee brewing or anything else may be the last thing you’re inclined to do when you’re jonesing for your caffeine fix. And if your coffee comes from a can, it likely won’t make a ding of difference.
But if you live in Bend or Eugene, we’re here to tell you, there is a better way. This is the promised land of coffee–don’t settle for a subpar cup of joe again, even if it’s early and you’re cranky. It may actually be that you’re cranky because your coffee sucks.
“Artisanal” has become a trendy word of late, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. It’s used to describe everything from pet food to dungarees and everything in between. But the word does describe something of what makes our region special. People care about what they make and how they make it. (If you want to find out more about what makes Eugene special, take a look at Why People Across the Country are Moving to Eugene, Oregon.)
We aren’t necessarily advocating for a lifestyle revolution on a mass scale, but maybe your own life could be a little more, well, you know, artisanal. So let’s start with how you brew coffee. We’re not exaggerating when we say that these five simple tips can and will change your life.
(Indifferent to coffee but keen on cannabis? Then check out our Guide to the Best and Worst Neighborhoods for Cannabis, Bend and Eugene.)
Tip One: Use beans from local coffee roasters.
You know this already, but local means fresh, and fresh means better. And with such superb local coffee roasters, there’s really no excuse to buy preground Starbucks or (shudder) Folgers beans from a supermarket. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to get your own coffee grinder.
The real star of the show here is the coffee–Wandering Goat has been around for a while, and they know what they’re doing. Their commitment to shade-grown, organic, fair-trade coffees makes for a cup that satisfies in more ways than one. Try the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Goti, with notes of passionfruit, mango, jasmine and lemon, or Hair of the Goat, a blend of Latin American and Indonesian beans.
Full City Coffee Roasters in the West University neighborhood is another Eugene standby, founded way back in the heady and extremely groovy days of the late 1970s. All Full City beans have a roasted age of no more than 24 hours, and they limit their inventory to just a small selection of some of the world’s most delicious Arabicas. Try the bright and tangy Guatemalan or go for the roaster’s signature Full City Blend, a combo of Columbian, Guatemalan, and Sumatran beans.
When it comes to local coffee roasters in Bend, definitely hit up Thump. This is a business that couldn’t be more Bend if they tried, partnering with a number of the area’s most renowned outdoorsfolk and artists to help bring their unique coffees to the people. Head to their roastery in the Summit West neighborhood, and find out for yourself exactly how the magic happens.
Just opened in 2018, the roastery is open for tours, conversation, and most importantly tastings. Try North Fork, a decidedly local blend with notes of vanilla, citrus, and milk chocolate, and Storm King, an espresso blend with notes of berries and dark chocolate.
Tip Two: Go light or medium roast.
This brings us to an, ahem, dark secret of coffee roasting: many dark-roasted beans are over-roasted, one might even say burnt, in order to disguise subpar source material.
That doesn’t apply, of course, to the roasters above, most of whom do carry darker roasts like French or Italian. These are great for espresso. But if you’re using other extraction methods, dark-roasting sacrifices some of the subtlety that makes makes a well-prepared cup of coffee truly special. We know that this is a controversial point, but we’re sticking to it.
Tip Three: Ditch the drip.
Let’s talk about the automatic drip machine that has been sitting in your kitchen since the 1990s, accumulating decades of coffee residue. In the intervening years, your poor tastebuds may have become numb to the mold and mildew that are likely living it up in your coffee maker’s nether regions. But trust us: you can improve your home coffee experience exponentially by switching to a different method.
The French press is an old standby, and if you take the right steps, it can produce a fairly decent cup of coffee. Step one: grind your beans at the coarsest setting (you have invested in your own coffee grinder, right?) Pour hot, not quite boiling water over the ground beans, and stir. Wait two minutes, then stir again. Wait another two minutes, then press and enjoy. In addition to the waiting time involved, the downside to a French press is that smaller particles of coffee inevitably seep through the filter, and with them a somewhat bitter taste and, toward the bottom of the cup, a chalky texture.
Then there’s the pourover. Several area coffee shops have started offering this as a premium alternative to standard drip coffee, for an extra fee. The Sisters Coffee Company in Sisters, near Bend, has perfected this process. Water is heated to an exact temperature, and both cup and filter are steamed. Coffee is measured precisely and ground to a fine, espresso-grade grain. A machine then pours the water onto the coffee at specific intervals.
The technology you have available at your home is most likely not up to that standard, but even a ceramic cone and a paper or metal mesh filter can do wonders. Go for a fine, near-espresso grind and pour near-boiling water steadily but not continuously over the grounds. Knowing just when to stop is a matter of experimentation.
Want a decent cup of espresso in the comfort of your own home? Then you’ll likely need to invest a significant amount of cash on equipment. Espresso-brewing methods are beyond the scope of this article, as is the trendy cold-extraction method. We’re personally not big fans; chalk it up to taste. But if you want some of the smoothness of a cold-extract along with the morning ritual of pouring hot water over freshly-ground beans, well, read on a bit further.
Tip Four: Consider buying an Aeropress and following these instructions.
We agree that there’s something about the Aeropress that’s just weird. This tube of plastic with its rubber stopper is supposed to brew a perfect cup of coffee? But that’s exactly what it does: we think Aeropress is the only way to go if you’re brewing at home and want to enjoy your fresh, local coffee beans to their very fullest.
The key to the Aeropress is that the pressure created by steam, an airtight seal, and your own muscle-power results in a much quicker extraction than other methods. That means coffee that is noticeably less acidic and bitter than, say, a french press. It’s also hotter and more concentrated.
That, we think is pretty exciting. But if you’re looking to get the most out of your Aeropress experience, there are a few steps you’re going to want to follow. People have their different homespun methods. But we think the following instructions, gleaned from one of Thump’s baristas, produces the most satisfying result.
- Go for a coarse espresso grind. That means pretty fine, but not so fine that particles might sneak through the filter.
- The Aeropress’s quicker extraction means you need to use a bit more coffee than you would for a french press. We use 3.5 tablespoons, ground, for a 16 ounce cup.
- The ideal water temperature is 190 degrees. That’s a fair bit below boiling (210 degrees). If you don’t have a hotpot with a temperature setting, maybe just let your water sit around for 5 minutes after you’ve boiled it.
- Pour hot water onto the grounds, leaving about 2 inches of room toward the top.
- Stir for ten seconds.
- Press immediately afterward. Apply steady pressure, without using unnatural force. Stop just before you get to the very bottom, rather than squeezing every last bit of juice from your grounds. That helps leave the bitterness and acidity out.
- Add cream and hot water to the desired volume. Or drink it as-is, if you’re looking for something more like a shot of espresso.
Tip five: Relax.
None of this information is meant to add unnecessary stress and complication to your life. A cup of coffee should, of course, be exactly the opposite of stressful. It’s a way to get your juices flowing for the day, to savor the first rays of morning sun through your window. And it’s a way to carve out space during the day, taking a pause to put your troubles in perspective and, for a few minutes, to enjoy one of life’s simplest yet most sublime pleasures.
And that’s really why we drink coffee. It reminds us of the way that things are meant to be; it puts us in touch, in a small way, with the cosmic order of things. We may be infinitesimal specks in a vast, seemingly indifferent universe, yet somehow we have access to very, very good coffee. That is something to celebrate, and we can do that by preparing it with love. We’re just sayin’.
(Psst: if you’re thinking of moving to Bend or moving to Eugene and tasting the life for yourself, we’d love to help you out. Fill out our free property search form, and we’ll get started right away on finding you your home.)