Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020 | 2 a.m.
Difficult as it might be to believe, there was a time before Starbucks. Coffee was something you drank from drip coffeemakers, and the coffee that went into those machines was pre-roasted, pre-ground, freeze-dried. To get “real” coffee, you needed to go to small African, European and South American-inspired coffeehouses, or to Africa, Europe or South America. If you knew anyone who ground their own beans, you put them at the center of a neighborhood whisper campaign: “They grind beans for coffee.”
• A thermometer. The temperature of your water is key; you want to hit a sweet spot between 196 and 205 degrees. Water at the boiling point can make the coffee bitter; go too cool and you risk a flavorless cup.
• A grinder. There are two types: blade and burr. Blade grinders basically chop the beans into pieces, and they often produce uneven grinds; for some varieties of coffee that rely on an even grind, like espresso, that’s a nonstarter. Burr grinders are more expensive, and for good reason; they pulverize the beans into consistently sized grounds.
• A digital scale. It’s best to measure beans by weight instead of by volume, because not all beans are the same size, and those slight differences can affect the taste. “One of the best things that you can do for your coffee is to buy a scale,” Watts says. Be sure to get one with a “tare” function; that way, you can subtract the weight of the container the beans are in when you weigh them.
But those days are, thankfully, gone forever. Freeze-dried, pre-ground coffee remains in markets, but it sits next to coffee beans roasted by Starbucks, Peet’s and Dunkin’. Las Vegas itself has a number of local roasters, including Vesta, Mothership, Desert Wind, Yaw Farm, Sambalatte and more. Plus, the tools you need to make these locally roasted beans into amazing coffee are available most everywhere coffee is sold. (And beans should always be freshly ground, to preserve as much of their aroma as possible. It all ends up in the cup.)
It’s frankly impossible to list all the tools and techniques you’ll need to make your ideal java. That’ll take research, a bit of math and lots of trial and error. But if you’d like to experience a world beyond drip coffee and Keurig, read on.
Here are some quick-and-dirty definitions of a few coffeemaking methods.
• French press: “For people who are just getting into coffee, I always recommend getting a French press,” says Michelle Watts, who created the coffee program at the Writer’s Block and recently launched a boutique roasting operation, Zephyr (Instagram @zephyrcoffeeroasters). It’s easy on its face: Mix the grounds and hot water in the carafe, let it brew for a bit and push the plunger down. See “Advice from a Barista” for Watts’ tips on a good French press brew.
• Pour-over: If you’ve been to Makers & Finders or other local cafés,…