Guest Post: Exceptional Coffee at Home

We invited Holly, our friend and author of the popular food blog Feast or Fallow, to give us her perspective on coffee. Sometimes we overcomplicate it, so here's a welcome reminder that the thing that seems simple and even humdrum is often the difference between good and great--in food and in coffee.


There is only one rule that governs my kitchen: start with simple, exceptional ingredients. Real food needs little help to become something delicious, almost always resulting in remarkable food and drink. An heirloom tomato picked ripe from the ground needs only a sharp knife and a bit of salt to make your eyes roll back in your head (just me?).

Real food needs little help to become
something delicious.

Coffee is no different. Careful intention on the front end—in coffee fields and in roasteries—leads to a truly exceptional cup. And fellow homebodies: you don’t have to traverse the wild coffee shops to get one. Start with an exceptional bean, and transform your coffee at home. What is an exceptional bean? CREMA covered that here.

Most of us drink coffee every day. Where do our beans come from? What are they like in their raw form? What are the different varieties, and how does roasting bring out the unique flavor of that region's beans? For something that permeates our daily lives, we know very few of these answers. Maybe you agree that knowing your farmer is a life-giving experience, but unless you live in a rain forest, you won’t see your coffee farmer at the farmer's market.

Knowing a coffee roaster who knows their farmer is the next best thing. Thankfully for us, roasters like CREMA truly know their coffee farmers. They’ve been to their farms, their houses, their kitchen tables. They know and respect the land and the people who pour their lives into growing the coffee. This attention to relationships and terroir can only lead to exceptional coffee. Farm-to-cup coffee isn't a new term, but it’s one of those simple, maybe mundane things that makes or breaks the coffee experience.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

One of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard, said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I know this: I spend every morning drinking coffee, and I have to remind myself often that there is purpose in small things, in details. Waiting quietly for the water to boil, slowing pouring hot water over fragrant coffee grinds, taking the first sip. This is the story of my morning, every day of my life. These things that fill our lives should be lovely, delicious, exceptional--and there is no better way to begin the day than with a cup of coffee that turns our minds to such lovely things.

Simple and exceptional.

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I'm inspired by minimalist kitchens and cooks who don't rely on fancy tools to make exceptional food and drink (Alice Waters doesn't even have a food processor in her home kitchen!), but if you love the daily ritual of brewing coffee, there are a few tools that are worth seeking out. Plus, I’ll say it…they will look pretty on your shelf.

1. A pour-over tool, like a Chemex. We have this one and work it like a dog, but I’m pining after this white ceramic dripper.

2. A burr grinder. Burr grinders evenly crush coffee beans rather than finely chopping them which releases all their fruity oils. We have a hand-cranked Hario one.

3. A kitchen scale. Weighing your beans and water is the sure-fire way to ensure you strike the perfect ratio for the most exceptional cup. I like this bamboo one because it looks pretty on the counter. CREMA carries the venerable Jennings CJ4000--also a great pick.

4. A kettle with a swan neck spout. I’ll be candid and say we don’t have one of these, but I sure wish we did. This one to be exact.