Becoming a coffee connoisseur takes time. It’s equal to becoming a wine or a whiskey sommelier. Meaning it takes passion, love for the drink, and the desire to know everything there is to know about the beverage.
And with so many different types of coffee in the world, this is no easy feat.
Okay, so you may never be able to quit your day job to become a high-paid coffee connoisseur. But you can learn the steps to becoming one and start working your way toward that goal, one step at a time.
Ready to become the “coffee snob” in your friend group?
If you’re a coffee lover at heart, here’s our guide to becoming a coffee connoisseur.
A coffee connoisseur is someone who knows everything about the drink.
You know the different roasts. You know the different types of beans (and where they come from). You know the various flavor profiles of said beans, you know the different ways to brew a cup, and you know all the specialty coffee drinks that exist.
And you’re also on top of every new coffee trend as it comes your way.
But if you already know the beans, flavor, and brew method you prefer, what’s the point?
The point is that until you actually become a coffee connoisseur, the cup you think you love might not even be cutting it close. Coffee connoisseurs have sampled it all. They know what they like, and they also know how to make what it is they like.
You can’t make excellent coffee or pretend to know all about it if you don’t understand your beans. There are four main types of coffee beans, and if you want to be an expert on the subject, you’ll need to know what each one tastes like and where they come from.
Arabica beans have a softer, sweeter taste than other bean species. It’s the least acidic of the beans, and it grows in high elevations that get a lot of rain, such as Brazil.
As the name suggests, Robusta beans are strong and robust. They have a reputation for sometimes tasting burnt, and they are often used in combination with Arabica beans. Robusta beans are grown mostly in Africa and Indonesia.
Liberica beans are somewhat rare, and they’re known to be a bit bitter with a slightly woodsy flavor. They are not very popular in America or Europe, but they are prevalent in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, where they grow.
Grown mostly in Southeast Asia, Excelsa beans are an even rarer commodity, with a somewhat tart yet fruity flavor profile. Excelsa beans account for a small fraction of the world’s coffee consumption. But they’re worth seeking out if you want to become a true coffee connoisseur.
Once you have a handle on the beans, it’s time to learn about the various roasts. There are four main types, and each one has a different look, flavor, and level of caffeine.
Okay, so maybe you already know that you prefer a dark roast cold brew. That’s commendable. But if you want to be a coffee expert, you’ll need to experience every type of drink and blend that exists. The only way to be an authority is to have sampled every drink and know which ones you love (and which ones you don’t).
Espresso is a single shot, usually blended from different roasts to create a bold, intense flavor. It’s also the basis for many other coffee drinks.
The Americano is a combination of hot water and a shot of espresso. You can make it at different strengths, with one, two, or three espresso shots.
The macchiato is nothing more than a simple espresso shot, topped with foam.
The cappuccino includes equal parts espresso, hot milk, and foamed milk, usually topped with chocolate or cocoa powder.
Served in a glass rather than a mug, a latte includes one or two shots of espresso with steamed milk and a bit of foam.
Chocolate fans love a mocha for its combination of espresso, chocolate, and steamed milk.
With a literal translation of “coffee with milk,” the Café au Lait originated in France as equal parts brewed coffee and steamed (or warmed) milk.
If you’ve ever been in any somewhat decent coffee shop, you probably already know that there are a least a dozen other coffee drinks out there.
If you’re serious about becoming a coffee connoisseur, be sure to try these drinks as well:
While the coffee beans you grind are vital in the flavor profile of your cup, how you brew it is just as important. To call yourself a coffee connoisseur, you’ll need to know all the different brewing methods and how they affect the taste.
Plus, once you learn how to brew your own coffee, you’ll have a newfound respect for your local barista.
Pour over coffee is handmade, without machines. Some people use the Chemex method while others use the coffee cone method. Either way, the brewing process is almost the same. You add coffee grinds to a Chemex filter or cone, hand pour hot water over those grinds, and let it drip naturally into your cup or carafe.
Unlike an automatic drip coffee machine, the pour over method requires a bit of effort. But the result is a much more flavorful cup of Joe.
Both are immersion brewers that have you combine both coffee grounds and hot water into a glass carafe. Rather than pour the water over the coffee grinds, you submerge them and then use a filter to plunge and pour the coffee out.
You can also brew a delicious cup of coffee over an open flame. You can use a Moka Pot or use a cezve pot for Turkish coffee — both are stovetop methods where you boil the water first, add the coffee grinds, and reboil.
The vacuum (or siphon) brew method involves the use of a dual-chambered vacuum pot.
Fill the bottom chamber with water and the top chamber with coffee grinds. The hot vapor from the water circles through the upper chamber to brew the coffee.
When you remove the pot from the heat, and the lower chamber starts to cool, the coffee gets sucked back down into the carafe.
A percolator requires the use of a stove, but it’s different from the other stovetop methods.
It starts with boiling water. Then, you add your coffee grinds in a metal filter basket. The water gets drawn up from the bottom of the pot as it heats, covering your coffee grinds and completing the brewing process.
With coarsely-ground coffee beans, a jar or a glass pitcher, and some patience, you can make an incredible cold brew.
Simply add your ground coffee to a jar of cold water, mix it up, and steep it in the refrigerator overnight.
The espresso method involves the use of pressure. Unlike drip brewers, these machines emulsify the coffee oils while quickly extracting the solids. That pressure is what creates the thicker consistency and more concentrated flavor of an espresso drink.
Keep in mind that different methods require you to use different types of grinds. Some brewing methods call for grinds the size of sea salt, while others need a fine or medium consistency.
Knowing all the various ways to make coffee isn’t enough — you’ll need to sample every different method to decide which one you personally prefer.
Before you can make each variation at home, you’ll need some equipment.
A coffee grinder is a must. Pick up a burr grinder before you even brew one cup. Without one, you’ll never be able to get your beans into the medium or fine grind you need.
You’ll also need to get different machines, coffee pots, and carafes. You can buy personal one-cup auto-makers in just about every brewing method. But you’ll also want to invest in a Chemex for pour over coffee, a stovetop pot for Turkish coffee, and an old school percolator.
You will undoubtedly stumble upon some brewing methods that you love and some that you never want again.
No one would consider themselves a wine connoisseur without ever having been to a vineyard. So if coffee is your passion, it’s time to start visiting every coffee shop you see.
And no, we’re not talking about popping into every Starbucks within a 30-mile radius. If you want to become a coffee connoisseur, you’ll need to dig a little deeper than that.
Forget the national chains. Instead, visit mom and pop coffee shops and all the independent stores you can find. Attend coffee cuppings to experience some variety and learn more about the art of coffee making. And be sure to check out some third wave coffee shops during the process.
Not sure what a third wave coffee shop is?
If you really want to become a coffee expert, you’ll need to learn what this is all about.
Third wave coffee shops are those that know how to make a coffee drinker feel special.
How do they do that?
By serving coffee that’s sourced, produced, and brewed with the customer’s experience in mind.
A third wave coffee shop doesn’t just sell specialty coffee. It’s entire goal and mission focuses on the customer experience and serving that customer the perfect cup.
To reach that level of perfection, the coffee needs to be of the highest quality. Then sourced sustainably through direct and fair trade. And finally, brewed through innovative methods (such as the pour over process).
It’s the opposite of brewing a large batch and serving the same cup to every customer who walks through the door. Third wave coffee is about tapping into the needs and preferences of each individual customer. Striving to serve them the cup that hits their flavor profile and provides the sweet, bold, or complex flavor they desire.
If you truly want to be a coffee connoisseur, make it a point to visit every third wave shop in your city. And if you live in Seattle, Portland, or San Fran, good luck. That could take weeks!
The world of coffee is complex. Just like wine and whiskey, there are endless versions and various ways to mix a drink. Learning every drink, every brew method, and every variety takes serious commitment.
You can find all sorts of different roasts, beans, and blends at your favorite coffee shop or the local grocery store. Sample every type from every coffee company you can find. The more types you sample, the easier it will be to identify a high-quality coffee drink when you have one.
Next time you find yourself in the Sonoma area, stop by the Taylor Lane shop and we’ll help pick out the best coffee roast for you!
There’s no better time than right now to start becoming a master of the coffee world. As long as you have passion for those beans, you can become a coffee connoisseur — in less time than you may think.