As fall brings about a new season of brain-stuffing, all night cramming and foggy early mornings, I sometimes feel a bit melancholy that I will not be going back to school this year. Being a recent graduate this past May, I can easily identify with the importance of being able to manage time, form good habits and make friends to help you through all the crazy and usually stressful weeks throughout the semester. The best friend to make during this time?
Coffee will always be there for you, coffee won't let you down. It will make you more alert, happier, smarter. Coffee is your study buddy, your early morning and late night companion, your cozy sweater on a cool autumn day and a cool fan on a warm spring afternoon. I sometimes miss the early mornings after a few hours sleep when I would somehow slosh together a cup in the morning as I struggled to keep my eyelids open. By my senior year I was a heavy user of coffee, and I had built up quite a collection of paraphernalia to fill my kitchen with, including three grinders, two sizes of pour over cones, a moka pot, a variety of french presses in multiple sizes, an aeropress, a few different kettles, Chemex, a cold brew system and even an espresso maker and stovetop milk steamer. I had every tool for every occasion, and I had learned versatility and technique that allowed me to utilize my limited time and space the best I could. To any new students or current students new to coffee, I have a few things to offer you as you venture into the realms of college and coffee.
Get an electric kettle
Before anything else, get an electric kettle. Most freshmen and sophomores are living in dorms without kithens, and even those students with acces to a stovetop will heat water slower than if you put in in a kettle that plugs into the wall. This versatile tool provides you with boiling water in a few minutes that you can not only use for coffee, but you can pour for tea oatmeal and the endless cups of ramen you will consume over the next few years. An electric kettle allows
Aeropress, French Press
While a coffee addict will somehow find space for any and every method of brewing in impossible spaces, these three tools are my recommended weapons of choice for quick and clean brewing to get you through the day.
The Aeropress is by far the most clever and quickest way to brew incredible coffee in a fast paced and tightly packed dorm room. Essentiall a plastic tube, a plunger and a paper filter, this little guy can brew a single cup of coffee in just a few quick moments better than the student union's cafe can and a whole lot better than your roommate's Keurig. This was my go-to tool in the early morning, it's incredibly difficult to screw up and next to brainless to operate. Add coffee, water, wait a little bit and press the plunger down into a cup. Cleanup includes popping the spent coffee puck into the trash and a quick rinse. Easy peasy.
The French press is basically the Aeropress's bigger brother. Insert coffee, water, wait a little bit and push the plunger. This method is quick and easy and can make a lot of coffee at once, whether it's for a long solo study sesh or you're brewing for a group of friends, this is a great tool that brews a great, full-bodied pot of coffee that will keep your eyes open very wide. Cleanup includes disposal of grinds and a quick soapy wash of all the parts.
Find time to grind fresh. Yes, it makes a difference and you won't regret it. There are many options, but i would especially recommend a small hand grinder. We carry the Hario Skerton in our shop, it's a simple machine that proves a little elbow grease can pay off big time. The ceramic burrs will last a long time and create a consistent grind that will extract beautifully with whatever brew method you choose. It is a relatively quiet grinder, and what sound it does make will attract sleepy friends from their rooms into yours like moths to a candle.
School is a lot of fun, and it's a great opportunity to find a lot of new interesting hobbies and to build a sense of taste. Coffee was my rabbit hole to fall down, and it was something I fell for completely. Take these few years to find a passion, and fall head over heels for it. Coffee will be there to help you find your way.
Hayden Kaye is our Master Roaster and head of the Say Interesting Stuff department.