You like the line at your favorite coffee shop? Ok, besides the cute barista, you can do better: start by grinding your own beans, then check back with Gear Patrol for other suggestions for stepping up to the big leagues. The journey from coffee hack to ambrosia connoisseur begins with freshly ground java in your French press, drip, or espresso machine. A quick primer first, and then on to our top 10 picks.
We Don't See Nothin' Wrong With a Little Bump and Grind
Great outdoors, great coffee
Something about sitting atop an unexplored peak to watch the sunrise while enjoying your favorite coffee just feels right. Maybe it’s the sub-freezing temperatures and obligatory wind chill, or it’s the all night trek catching up with you. With that in mind, we’ve got the best tried and true methods for brewing your favorite coffee for you next adventure, be it a weekend of car camping or a full blown backcountry expedition.
A Coffee Roaster’s Memoir
I was in the back room bagging up some breakfast blend when I heard shouting from the café. At that same moment, I smelled smoke and knew that my batch of Sumatran had caught on fire. I dashed to the roaster, flicked off the gas burners and closed the vent. I knew the routine. This had happened before. The cloth and rubber belt had broken, the drum stopped rotating and the beans ignited inside, fanned by the air being sucked in through the vents. Now my hope was that the flames didn’t make it into the chimney and light up the chaff that had no doubt built up inside. If that happened, we’d have to evacuate the café and call the fire department.
These are a few of our favorite things
One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday is roll out of bed at 5:30 a.m., grab a camera and my jacket and drive 48 miles from LA to a business park in Irvine. There, on any given Saturday, hundreds of cars worth millions of dollars gather for Cars and Coffee, a special event where two common denominators create a mood of friendship, relaxation and shared passion.
Watch closely now
If you need proof of coffee practiced as an obsession, art form and science, this quick video — a “how-to” on making a cup of espresso — is exhibit A. Intellegentsia Coffee in Venice, California can come off as a little pretentious at first; but what you’re really seeing is an unabashed expertise in truly great coffee. “We take every single step in the chain, from seed to cup, as seriously as possible”, Kyle Glanville extols. We believe him.
Coffee for the man on the move
Instant coffee belongs to the category of cultural food relics, the type of product introduced at a World’s Fair, perfected with the help of military research, and eventually relegated to the pantries of grandmothers everywhere. It’s a food item for people at the fringes: too old, too tired, too time-strapped, cookies for breakfast, sweatpants all day. Coffee purists will swat it from your hand. But we’ve all got a little stash just in case, don’t we?
Because the beautiful thing about instant coffee is that it’s cheap, fast and the lowest-volume solution for getting a coffee fix on the move. We surveyed the market to find the best instant coffees readily available in grocery stores. We weren’t looking for something that stacks up to a cup of Zambian Ljulu Lipati from Intelligentsia, but we did want a close approximation to freshly brewed coffee.
Unique beans, unique brew
When you’re drinking coffee named after a mesh wire size, you’ve reached that level of serious entanglement that some might call obsession. Stumptown’s Panama Duncan Estate Mesh 15 ($23) embraces its intimate small-batch story in the way that really serious (and expensive) products should.
Hot coffee, un-burned crotch
Life seems to get difficult quick if you can’t bring your coffee with you; but if you spill, your treasured drink can become a mortal enemy. Nobody wants that. The solution is a great travel mug — one that keeps your coffee hot, your sips accessible and your crotch free of searing pain and disappointment. Finding the best mug for your cup holder (or mesh slot on your favorite backpack) isn’t as easy as you’d think, but we’ve gone ahead and done it anyway, because hell, it’s the Fortnight of Coffee. Here’s five great mugs, ranging from 12 to 17 ounces, for the backcountry hippie to the sharply dressed office warrior.
Better your inner barista
Let’s face it: the average North American spends less time contemplating the beans behind his morning motivator than it takes his barista to scowl disapprovingly. To open his eyes and shed a little light into those dark waters, the GP team delves into the differences between single origin and blended coffees. Our goal? To arm you with information on micro-lot farming, blend aging and why that cup tastes the way it does. It’s all about being informed and maximizing enjoyment in your every-morning drink. So put on your scholar cap, pour yourself a cup and read on to explore the methods used to turn those remarkable beans into a masterpiece.
In Search of Higher Grounds
Where did that coffee in your hand come from? We profile the major coffee growing regions of the world, helping you make an informed decision when it comes to Brazilian versus Indonesian, Colombian versus Monsoon beans from India. Grab a cup and study up.
Knowledge, Caffeinated Lore and Tools of the Brew
Down to a tea
Kickstand Black Tea Concentrate ($20) is a Brit’s wet dream. It’s the essence of your
second or third favorite leaf, captured in its bitter, earthy, put-your-feet-up form, ready to be diluted to the desired strength and enjoyed hot or cold, black or with sugar, milk, honey or even some crumpets.
Hop Hop, Hooray
Quick, who do you want to make you the perfect IPA glass? An excellent German glass maker (Spiegelau), a West Coast brewery that was one of the earliest and most influential in craft beer making (Sierra Nevada) and an East Coast maker whose 60 Minute IPA is considered one of the most solid (Dogfish Head)? The resulting IPA Glass ($25 for two) looks awkward but is tailored just so for your drinking pleasure.
The Prohibition Kit by Francesco Morackini is provocative project that’s designed to help home hoochers mitigate the risk of discovery by “camouflaging” a small-scale still as everyday kitchen objects. Specifically, the all-copper setup splits into a watering can, fondue stove, cooking pot and fruit bowl while not in use for home-made lightning.
For your best friend, meaning you
In celebration of the 50-year career of malt master David Stewart, who is the longest tenured master in all of Scotland, The Balvenie Distillery has released an extremely limited run of their half-century old single malt, aptly named The Balvenie 50 Year Old. Stewart, who started the long journey of becoming a malt master back in 1962, himself marvels at the uniqueness of Cask 5576.
Tequila's lunatic cousin
It’s been a while since we rode the mezcal train, so let’s begin with a brief primer. Actually, let’s begin with a shot. Good. Now, on to the primer. Mezcal and tequila are sort of like langoustines and prawns: we’d bet a shiny nickel they’re different, but if pressed for an explanation we’d have to say they both basically taste like shrimp. Sombra Mezcal ($40) is made by baking the agave hearts in a conical pit lined with rocks that have been heated with an oak fire — and its earthy, spicy taste is a great one to throw back.
Hop to it
Stan Hieronymus’s tome, For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops ($11), looks to be the required reading for a college course. An awesome college course, with pints, flights of adult beverages and a professor that’s eternally tipsy. This isn’t light reading. And that’s why it’s fantastic.
A future king?
Budweiser Black Crown isn’t another ploy from “the King of Beers” to rally the fratty faithful with higher alcohol content (though its 6% ABV is technically higher) or pointless packaging gimmicks (It turns red when you’re hammered!). Instead, it’s the result of a year-long skunky works initiative, dubbed “Project 12” in which the company asked…
Tasty, tasty patriotism
In recent years, London Dry gin hasn’t done so hot. Looming in the shadows of vodka and whiskey, the juniper-tinged spirit has been cast aside as a singular-tasting alcohol of choice for a generation past its prime — dry gin is your father’s and grandfather’s drink, not yours. But with a new class of excellent brands in an “American” dry style — boasting a more balanced and widely ranging flavor profile — blossoming as we speak, you’d be wise to reconsider. We found 5 of the best on the market.
Know the password
Not much is secret anymore. We probe the strange, glorious depths of the world, wherever they be. Then we post them to Facebook. Secret Society: Modern Speakeasy Style and Design ($125) divulges with a bit more class. The hulking book bulges with the descendants of ’20s speakeasies — secret clubs that no longer hide illegal…
Reload your bar
Bulleit Bourbon has long been an affordable favorite for lovers of the smokey libation. Bulleit 10 Year ($45) adds some age and flavor distinctions, at a price. The fine gentlemen over at Bourbon Blog have had the first crack at the new whiskey, and from what we can tell, it’s definitely worth a try. This…
Go on Walkerabout
How did one make his whisky known around the world in a time before big branding and Super Bowl commercials? Johnnie Walker and his associates walked. The Spice Road ($43) is the first release in JW’s Explorers’ Club Collection (followed soon by The Gold Route and The Royal Route), a series made with the traveler…
Gardening was never so much fun
Art in the Age’s craft spirits line focuses on “remakes” of historical libations. Though we’re still waiting for the Spanish Fly-type beverage Benjamin Franklin fed to his ravenous young French groupies, Sage ($30), a take on classic backyard garden gin, strikes our fancy quite nicely in the meantime. Thomas Jefferson’s favorite botanist, Bernard McMahon, chronicled…
Das Ist Different
Can gimmickry was so two years ago. Today, it’s all about getting a better buzz from your brew. Beck’s Sapphire is the latest entry into the field, boasting 6 percent ABV and a sleek black glass bottle designed to blend seamlessly into the background of happening nightclubs, bars and restaurants — while also protecting the suds from light.
Fill 'er up
It can be emitted by your stomach, your dog or your angry in-law, but the best form of the low rumble is the growler, beer drinkers’ response to the doggy bag. Portland Growler Co. knows their way around these 32- and 64-ounce jugs o’ joy better than just about anybody. The (you guessed it) Portland company proudly designs a range of growlers, which are then slip cast, trimmed and made to order by Mudshark Studios (also of Portland, of course).
The green fairy, delivered
The mystery and mayhem surrounding absinthe’s sordid past have long been quashed. Heady hallucinations and impromptu surgical procedures were less likely caused by the green fairy than the timeless pen and brush strokes to come out of the Bohemian movement. The truth is that this delectable distillate is complex, varied and packs a punch —…
You’ve heard it before, but here’s another shot: Rye whiskey is on the comeback. We’ve long contented ourselves with corn-based bourbon, and we’re not ready (in the least) to change that habit — but to be sure, rye deserves some serious sipping. Long handcuffed to mixed drinks like the Manhattan, rye’s extra boldness and spice in comparison to corn-heavy whiskey is particularly pertinent after a long day of work. It’s simple, like good things should be, served straight up or over ice, and of course still works beautifully in cocktails.
Bootlegger? What bootlegger?
If you like tasty water, or “Copperhead Road” is right up your alley, the EasyStill Distiller ($200) may be the perfect unit for you. This stainless steel electric water distillation unit, slightly tweaked with a different heating element, increased cooling and the removal of the chlorine release valve, works on both water and, ahem, more…
Do Go Tipsy Into that Good Night
There are a number of different ways to use your final hours on this earth: You could scramble for last-minute supplies, or put the finishing touches on that
coffin bunker in the backyard. Pack up and bug out to hopefully greener pastures, perhaps; visit with family and friends for some final goodbyes, if you’re the sentimental type. The way we figure, though, this final Friday affords you the perfect excuse to settle down, put your feet up and enjoy one last drink (or five) and enjoy the show.
Worth jigging over
Handmade retailing specialist Makers & Brothers teamed up with Jameson on a limited edition-packaging worthy of the whiskey brand’s Select Reserve blend. Since the spirit itself is a combination of pot stilled whiskey and small batch grain whiskey matured in charred oak barrels, creating Irish oak tumblers with charred interiors designed by Irish wood turner…