Morning Glory

No matter what could be going on in the world, no matter how thrown off or distant our normality may seem, no matter what day-to-day routine may be in store for us, one thing will always remain constant for some: coffee. The fuel for your engine. The love for the joe can definitely be set to varying levels. Wake up, turn on the Keurig, press a button, walk away, come back and BAM! Coffee ready for consumption. Everyones guilty of it, whether it was ignorance early on, ease of use, or finding it the only brew method at work. Maybe you were so hungover you just needed a quick fix (but if you are THAT hungover, it’s probably not going to do much). Some may take it to the next level with a method that requires multiple steps (french press, pour over, Moka pot, Aeropress, etc..). Some may buy pre-ground beans from Starbucks. Some may buy whole bean from the grocery and grind there. Some may scour to local and smaller coffee companies and buy beans from them. Grind all at once. Grind morning of. It doesn’t matter (but it kind of does). The thing that ties all this together is the love of coffee. Some see it as necessity. Some see it as luxury. Some see it as both. 1 cup. 2 cups (hopefully is the limit per day). Red cups (but we ain’t talking about sinking piss). Blue cups. For some, thinking of the cup of coffee the next morning brings a smile to their face (some may see this as concerning, but ignore that). 

We find ourselves in a strange time. It does become rather tiresome to keep talking about this mess our world has entangled itself in, but it is too real and too present to ignore. For a while, peoples normal routines and passions will be neglected. Better hope you can do what you love inside, or you might need a new hobby. Those who have not been completely confined to limited resources are blessed. But it seems as though at one point it will be a level playing field. Sure, you will always be able to go walk around or get outside, but activities might start to get limited. You have the control to keep it spicy. Last week, music was the center of the discussion for switching things up. No matter what, we will always be able to listen to music. This week it’s coffee. In order from least to most difficult (in terms of time, money, effort, and an open mindset), here are some ways to expand your taste and preference for coffee, and really tap into all the aspects of the brew.

Bean Variety (the spice of life) 

How to Buy the Best Coffee Beans | Bon Appétit

This is the beginning of the journey to coffee enlightenment. There are hundreds of thousands of different coffee beans waiting to get brewed into your morning cup. From different sourcing locations, to flavor notes, to brands, etcetera, the amount of options are endless. This is the very first way you can switch up your morning brew and try something new. At this point, at least in more populated areas, your local grocery store will have an array of options, from giants in the coffee game, artisan roasters, and even locally sourced beans (if you are lucky). With minimal time and effort (just grab em during your routine grocery run), this is a good start to expanding your coffee taste. Price depends on the beans you pick, but put it this way: most of the time, the more expensive it is the better it’s going to taste. This may seem foreign at first, but if you expand your taste you can tell the difference between a normal bean and a single origin. One last thing: flavor notes. It’s best to keep 2 styles in rotation, a tried and true and a wacky one. Your coffee will never literally taste like stone fruits or green apple candy, but the more exotic the flavor notes, the more exciting the first sip. 

Method of Brew 

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How you brew your coffee is always going to come down to a personal preference in the long run. You are always going to have the way that you find is the easiest but still yields the results you have come to yearn for every morning. For some it might be a french press. Others a Keurig. Some run it old school and brew it by the pot. There are a handful of different ways to brew a cup of joe, with varying levels of dedication and time. While some may claim one way superior to others, this all comes down to personal preference. However, some brew different styles of coffee, so while taste may be preference, you can’t argue that a different style might be worth trying. While pour overs and Aeropresses might scare people based on the super precise method to the madness, one great switch up is brewing “espresso”. This is said lightly, as you would need to break the bank to make actual espresso. But something like a Moka pot is a cheap and easy way to get espresso-style coffee cheaply. It isn’t very expensive, and brews a stronger, smaller batch of coffee. Take it like a shot (RIP going out on the weekends) or water it down with hot or cold water for an Americano. Just be careful: drink too much and this might give you the shakes. This is just one way to switch up the process. French presses are also a cost-effective alternative to brewing, giving a similar style to a regular cup of joe from the pot or Keurig. 

Out Here Grinding 

Coarse Grind Vs Fine Grind Coffee - Espresso Gal's How To Guide To ...

People would believe you might take your coffee a little too seriously if you are grinding your beans freshly. But if they knew the cup it would produce, they would be believers too. The two easiest ways to level up your morning cup is buying higher quality beans and grinding them yourself. For this, you first would need to acquire a grinder. Electric or manual, it all does the same thing. It isn’t the worst coffee instrument to invest in, as you start to get higher quality and more tasty coffee, it is going to come in whole-bean form only. Sure you can get it ground at the location of purchase (hopefully), but this then puts a ticking clock on the freshness of the coffee (this is for sure some coffee snob thinking, but the facts are there). Grinding at home also lets you adjust the coarseness of the grind per batch. Certain methods require a certain coarseness. More coarse for a french press, medium for pot and pour overs, fine for Moka pots, and so on. Being able to give the process the required grind will again increase the quality and taste of the batch. And nothing’s more fun than hand grinding beans first thing in the morning. 

Mixology & Garnishes

What's the difference between the milk types? | PhillyVoice

At this point, if you have been drinking coffee for a handful of years, you most likely have how you like your coffee dialed. Maybe it’s black with a pinch of sugar. Maybe it’s a lot creamer. Maybe it’s a mix of both or neither. While you shouldn’t go too far away from what YOU like the most, there are plenty of options in which you can spice up your coffee without deriving too far from the original formula. Let’s say you are a classic coffee with a splash of cream type. In our current age, there are tons of different kinds of milks/creamers to choose from. Artisan creamers, almond milk, oat milk, macadamia milk (a personal favorite). Each has its own properties that transform your cup, but still keep it tasting familiar enough. Maybe you are about black coffee with sugar. There are so many different sweeteners and ways to spice up a black cup, that you might as well play around with alternatives to your go to. Even if you end up back to your traditional cup, you can’t say you didn’t try. Become a coffee mixologist and play around with different ways to transform that familiar cup to something of a cousin to its original flavor. 

Resourceful Rationing

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee in a French Press | GROSCHE

We’ve talked about getting creative, and let’s just throw a couple more in there before we go into the next idea. Cinnamon in hot or cold coffee can add a little flavor to a normal cup. Maybe warm up a chocolate chip or two and add that and let it dissolve. Simple and easy ways to add flavor to your cup (without super sugary simple syrup). But enough of this, let’s talk about being resourceful. This is sort of restricted to those with multiple brewing mechanisms, but can make sure you are never coffee-less or needing to leave the house to go get a cup. If you have a large french press, pour your first cup of hot coffee into your morning mug, and then place the remainder into the fridge. Boom, you have a supply of chilled coffee that kind of gets stronger and stronger the longer you leave it. Then go ahead to brew into your smaller french press to keep those morning cups piping hot. Have a Moka pot that makes a little too much for one sitting? Make your morning shot or Americano, and then later in the day make that iced Americano for the 2 o’clock kick. If you want to get crazy, add that leftover shot to your iced coffee supply to blastoff for the next 3-4 hours. If you make your coffee, you should try not to pour out what’s leftover. When you start buying nicer coffee, you are definitely going to want to get as much out of the bag before you buy another.

Artisan drinks Odd-ball Shit

The Strangest, Weirdest, and Downright Oddest Coffee That People ...

This is the end all be all for the purist coffee drinker. On one end is normal and on the other end is somewhat sacrilegious for some. Let’s start with the normal. Artisan drinks are what we treat ourselves to when we go out for a cup (at least I do). The go-to might be a cappuccino, a latte, or a flat white. Dirty chai, iced lavender, and the list goes on and on. There is a high chance if you try to craft these, they are not going to taste nearly as good as the coffee shop. But hey, that’s why they are a coffee shop. It’s what they do. But if you find yourself unable to support your local cup creators and want to play around in the kitchen, trying to imitate these sought-after sips could prove to be fruitful. Who knows, you maybe were a barista ad just never knew it. Now the weird stuff. There are ways to brew coffee that will have your family, roommates, and even yourself just saying “what am I doing.” Making coffee with a whole egg, adding cheese to your coffee, and the highly touted bulletproof coffee are all ways to really go into left field with your morning fix. If you aren’t someone with a super picky palate, you might as well try a couple just to add that level of uncertainty to your morning. The more you look into these wacky methods, the more you question your morning cup. However, don’t knock it until you try it. (Personal story time: I had tried a coffee soda recently [half tonic water, half coffee, a quarter of a lemon squeezed in] and it actually tasted great]). While some methods may just seem sacrilegious to coffee purists, if there is any time to sin it’s now.

 

A Great Way To Spend A Saturday: Road-tripping North

Piggybacking off of 2 blog posts ago (if you recall, we were talking about being open-arms to change in life, and almost seeking it rather than loathing it), one great way to spend a Saturday involves getting yourself out of your normal zone. We often grow accustomed to the same routine, whether it is the weekend nightlife destination or even just the local beach. From coffee to coastline, we tend to stick with what we know. And often this can leave us in a rut. Jumping in the car and heading north or south can help us alleviate the normalities of everyday life. And there are limitless possibilities in the path you can take whether it’s north south east or west (typically I like north and south, staying coastal and avoiding being on a boat in the middle of the ocean [unless it’s in Indonesia or French Polynesia]). So what did I do this past weekend? I got out of the bubble. It is far too easy to stay put over the weekend. Usually by Friday you are cooked by the workweek, or maybe you work weekends and have to stick around. But this go around I decided it was time. I used to flee the OC scene far more often in my early California years, but now more often than not I find myself anchored down in Newport. I hit the 405 and headed north to SB. Here are the tips and tricks (applicable to any location) from a Saturday spent north of helLA. 

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Driving up

One thing that can really hinder the stoke-factor of your trip is traffic. Maybe not as big of a complication outside California, but miss-timing the traffic on a little road trip can add on hours upon hours of time in the car. While half the road trip is the time in the car with your pals, every extra hour or even couple minutes where you can be out of the car already feel like salt in an open wound. The problem especially with going north on any highway coming from Orange County is grinding out the LA portion of the drive. Time it right and cruise through it without going under 40 mph. Hit peak traffic time and prepare to be shifting between park and drive while furiously skipping through songs and checking Instagram. The tactic with avoiding traffic is dodging the prime time work commute hours. This means really early in the AM or after 7PM. If you can take the day off, cruise it between 11-3 and it’s smooth sailing. 

Morning Sip

Every great morning starts with a great cup. A bad cup of coffee can really throw your day off the rails, and dialing in coffee in an unknown area can be tougher than you think. In 2020, it is pretty easy to hop on google or yelp and search “coffee shop” and get pointed in the right direction. Still, the litmus test is the actual first sip. That first drip of joe to travel through your mouth is the real tell tale sign of a good or bad cup. Getting up and starting your morning off on the right foot is essential, so if you are in the SB area (although it is on the southern end) Lucky Llama is the zone. Owned by the son of local surfboard shaper and surf shop owner Matt Moore, this place is always busy and filled with happy customers. With delicious coffee, acai bowls, and baked treats, this is the perfect pit stop for before the sun rises or a mid morning pick me up. 

Beach Day

North of LA is cluttered with a ton of super fun surf spots to take a stab at while you are up there. From beachies to points, there’s a wave for everyone, novice to expert, goofy to regular. Whether it is a long roping point wave or a hollow punchy beach break, you can find it if you look hard enough. There is however, one wave that in particular if you are making your way up to it has a special place in most California surfers hearts. Especially if you are a regular footer. And even for some goofy footers. Rincon point is affectionately referred to as “The Queen of the Coast.” And if that doesn’t speak to the admiration of the wave, then let’s just get to the numbers. You can ride a right for up to 3/4s of a mile (maybe more, most of the time less). That’s comparable to a Jbay stint, minus the men in grey suits. If we are talking numbers, on any given weekend with swell the lineup could be littered with well over one hundred bodies, from bonafide rippers to log jammers going straight. We were talking about switching it up, so unless you regularly surf down at Trestles, there aren’t many comparable waves to Rincon in OC. And they still don’t stand a chance against the Queen on a good hair day. 

Fuel for the Day

This kind of goes off the point above. If you end up posting up on the beach at Rincon point, it’s going to be pretty hard to leave. With endless right handers and the crowd only getting thinker, being hunkered down on the beach for the long haul is a good way to maximize water time in the morning before the wind and wave warriors come in stronger and stronger. Packing light, nutrient dense, and refreshing snacks to munch on the cobbles in between run arounds is the move for an all-day surf bender. Protein bars, fruits, and lot’s of water. Maybe an extra coffee to get the paddle muscles re-awakened for another marathon sprint up the point. This will increase your time before you really need a solid lunch or meal and also help you avoid cramping. Post up with a cooler and tax it occasionally until it runs dry. When it’s empty, you know you only have a couple more laps around the point left. 

Last Bite

When you are venturing outside your usual comfort zone, it usually beckons for eating out and sampling the local flavors. Luckily, Santa Barbara has a TON of awesome eats and even better ambiance in most restaurants. However, I think there is a better way to go about finishing off a hard earned day of fun in the sun. While this can only be done if you have a couple of people you might know in the area, but eating over a friends house or a BBQ with some brews is the best way to cap off a successful day or weekend trip. Whether you grill a classic or try something new, making your own meal adds even more pride and accomplishment to already getting outside your local town and adventuring into the zones unknown. If this seems like too much trouble, finding a good place to eat in SB is easy. Just walk along or adjacent to State street in downtown SB and you’ll more often than not luck into a good bite to eat. 

Nighttime Sip

You’ve done it all today. Sucked down your morning cup of coffee. Took in your new surroundings. Hopefully got a surf in. Absorbed in a lot of vitamin D from the big bright circle in the sky. Ate a delicious dinner to help mend your sore muscles and pallets. And now the only thing left is a celebratory sud. A nice beer or two is the icing on the cake, and it tastes so much sweeter when it was worked for. As far as beers, you gotta stick with local breweries and trying beers you might not have ever had before. Just to make it easy, after you ate dinner around State street, hop in an Uber and head over to the funk zone. Whether it’s Topa Topa or Lama Dog, there are plenty of craft brew creators to pick from. Try one. Try three. Just don’t try none. Happy hunting. 

Coffee Climates in Chronological order

I love coffee. Every morning, I wake up and start prepping the brew. French press or moka pot? I make a decision and then grind some beans in accordance. During the workweek, I always make the cup at home. It’s too early and there is too little time to stop somewhere and come back home for breakfast. When the weekend hits, i try to take advantage of treating myself to a cup on the road. Cheap or expensive. Potent or flavorful. Hot or iced. For me, there is a time for every type of coffee, and even a place sometimes. Here is the method to my madness for ordering some joe outside of your home.

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Drip coffee

This is definitely the go to upon awakening. I still typically I tend to brew at home to save some money and slow the morning down a little if I am drinking drip, but every now and then I hop in the car and drive for a cup. The time I am drinking a drip coffee is always in the morning, the earlier the better. The drip coffee tastes best extra hot, slowly helping wake you up while making you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Drip coffee for me pairs well with a drive: whether it is an early AM road trip or a morning surf check that requires multiple stops. You can slam it pre-session, or save half for the post session. Drip coffee also taste great nuzzled under your covers on your laptop. You can even make it last all morning (unfortunately for me, it never seems too) and can even turn iced if you make it back home with any leftover. A win win win situation.

Almond Cappuccino

The cappuccino is a kick-starter. Packaged in a nice small container and typically not aggressively hot, for me the capp is a grab and go coffee ready for maximum caffeine in a minimum amount of time. I really love the taste of espresso: the dark and smoky taste is delicious, and the aromas it gives off tickles the nose. A good cappuccino is hard to drink slowly. I typically drink mine way too fast because I love them on the warmer side. This is a great drink to grab, park, and paddle out. Or grab and get after it. Also, if you are feeling a little on the slower side, this is a better fix than drip coffee. Less fluids jumping and twisting in your stomach. And you also can drink some water after rather than hoping right out. I’ve had all sorts of capps: whole milk, half and half, almond and oat. I prefer almond at this point. Oat is nice too though. The almond capp is perfect for when that morning cup just didn’t cut it for you.

Iced Americano

Unless I wake up incredibly dehydrated, I can’t really drink iced coffee early in the morning. Even pre-Coachella in 90-degree desert weather, I tend to still like to sip a warm beverage while waking up. It helps you ease into your day. The iced coffee comes in the afternoon. For a while I was keen on just an iced coffee or a cold brew. But as of late, an iced Americano has been my play for a nice afternoon buzz. The typically are a little cheaper than cold brew, and give you the bitter and deep taste of espresso over ice. Dare to get a double and you really can start bouncing off the walls. Drink it black to soak up the entire flavor or add a splash of dairy to lighten the color and taste. A little sugar never hurt in this caffeine cocktail either. I am happy I started getting this classic drink, or else I’d be stuck in the cold brew rut. This is perfect for an afternoon that is jammed packed or is going to require activity late in the day.

Iced Flavored Coffee

This is the mid day pick-me-up, when you have little responsibility or the vibe for the day is lounging. I find these drinks perfect for a beach day or a relaxing day at home, when time goes by slowly. They usually aren’t as caffeinated, which sometimes is what you are looking for. The iced flavored coffee is vague, but refers to any flavored drink which has just as much sweet to it as coffee. The really delicious, less potent potions that differ from place to place. Whether it is lavender cold brew, iced maple latte, a dirty chai latte, or anything under the sun, these drinks are meant to spoil you. Nothing is sweeter than sipping on a delicious coffee that doesn’t make you go nuts or start tweaking. Like I said, these are the drinks you sip while tanning. For taking a stroll or bike rides around town. Just the perfect drink for a do nothing day. Treat yourself. I also tend to drink this drinks more sparingly as they usually come with a larger price tag. If I were to pick this as my go to afternoon drink, my productivity would take a hit and so would my bank account. But every now and then, it just feels right.