Alibi V.28 No.17 • April 25-May 1, 2019 

Know Your Ingredients

Make Office Coffee Taste Great Again

Up your game and brew less crappy coffee

Dan Dan has had enough of these low-grade office coffees. Time to take matters into his own hands.
Dan Dan has had enough of these low-grade office coffees. Time to take matters into his own hands.
Kittie Blackwell

Let’s face it: no one enjoys office coffee. It’s the darkest of sludge and dredge that we shuffle our way to every morning in order to keep our poor souls motivated in our slog to 5pm. Of course you could buy your own, but knowing budgets, it’s just not a reality. One single cup for a whole day at over $4? I’m a millennial, and I can tell you that just isn’t gonna fly. Fret not, a solution is here, with the help of local coffee professional Amanda Turpin, whom you can find headquartered at Spur Line Supply Company’s new espresso bar (soon to be announced officially) and daylighting at Rust Is Gold Coffee. Through her extensive knowledge of the brewing process, we’ve found a way to turn your office cup of coffee into something worth drinking.

“I love the phrase ‘A good measure of intelligence is your capacity to change,” Turpin tells me. This of course is in reference to people who have been brewing the same coffee the same way for years but complain about the quality. By the end of this article, we aim to give you the capacity to change your bad habits and brew magic.

•Change Your Water – Turpin’s first piece of advice is changing the water. While (usually) good for drinking, city water is full of all sorts of things that just don’t work well with the brewing process. Most baristas tend to use filtered water, avoiding distilled or reverse osmosis water. “When it comes to distilled or reverse osmosis, so many vital things have been removed from the water, the coffee will taste flat, and it’ll have the wind taken out of its sails. Those coffee molecules need something to latch onto!” Any normal filtration system should be a significant upgrade.

•Cleanliness – When was the last you cleaned your coffee maker? Not just a wipe down, but a real deep interior cleaning? We wash our pots and cookware after every use, but we leave our coffee makers to the dogs when it comes to proper upkeep. Turpin says, “If it's a communal office coffee brewer, chances are that poor little device needs some TLC! Deep clean the pot itself, but also think of the things that don't normally get attention. Brew a few rounds of diluted vinegar water through the machine to break up any deposits. Wash the brew basket. Speak words of kindness to it.”

•Grinding – Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. While convenient, pre-ground coffee doesn’t fit the mold for quality. “Air is the enemy of coffee. When it’s pre-ground, there’s more exposure to air, and pushes it to tasting stale and drying out. Don’t put it in the freezer but, if you’re looking to save some for later, sealing it will keep it fresher,” remarks Turpin. Not to mention that pre-ground is a one-size-fits-all method, whereas each brewer has different needs. Even the filter will work for or against you, with a cone-shaped filter letting gravity do the work for you. As for cleaning your grinder, Turpin recommends plain rice, as it’s nontoxic and will remove any oily buildup. Turpin also recommends the free app Single Origin, which is a nifty guide tool for all coffee brewing needs.

•Extraction – The big daddy of brewing, extraction, might be one of the most quintessential pieces. Turpin quips about extraction, mentioning, “I use the example of getting to know someone. If something is under-extracted, maybe you made somewhat meaningful contact, but you don’t know their name. If coarse, water passed through too quickly, but we didn’t get the chance to pull the important bits out. A well extracted coffee is like a deep understanding of a person, the grind size is perfect for the brew method and you’re getting a really good understanding of what this coffee is about. With over-extraction, the water stayed with the coffee too long, maybe the grind was too fine, and you’re getting all the worst parts of the coffee.”

The most interesting part is brewing temperatures. At 145 degrees, the organic acids dissolve, while at 175, you start to dissolve the organic salts. The magic number is 195, which is where the sugars dissolve and you get those delicious and rich coffee flavors coming through. But beware, once you hit 200 to 205 degrees, the cellulose walls and tannins start breaking down, making it bitter. Most home coffee makers, especially Keurig machines, can’t hit 195, so if possible, adjust the machine’s temperature through settings to make a large difference in quality.

And there you go! With a little bit of effort, you can make your office coffee extravagant and wonderful and be declared the hero of the workplace. Worst case scenario, you can always visit Amanda or your favorite local shop, and let the experts take care of you. Don’t worry, we won’t judge.