It's the week of July 4th, which means it's time to celebrate our freedom in vague ways that suggest many of us have no idea what freedom really means. One of the ways many of us celebrate our self-conceived notion of freedom is by doing whatever we want, whenever we want. But being able to do whatever you want doesn't mean you should, and with that I would like to talk to you about coffee for a minute.
There are a few things you just shouldn't do to your coffee. I'm talking about handcrafted coffee, not Starbucks. You can and should do anything you want to your Starbucks coffee. Hell, turn it into a milkshake for all I care. But if you frequent local coffee shops that roast their own beans or get them from a quality roaster, you deserve to get your money's worth. Because let's be honest, you are definitely paying more for your drink than you would at a place like Starbucks, and for good reason. Independent coffee shops pay real people living wages. Small children in Mexico aren't paid 2 cents an hour to work at the coffee plantation, and while I'm sure they do good work, I prefer my coffee to be harvested by consenting adults. Also, handcrafted coffee is, as the name implies, a craft. It is really easy to mess up coffee when you are doing it by hand. You can under or over extract the espresso. You can dose it incorrectly. You can aerate the milk too much or not enough. You get the idea.
(I was a barista for a little while a few years ago. When I wasn't washing the same dish for the third time in the same day and wondering what I was doing with my life, I made people drinks. I was usually terrified. I pulled shots short because I was afraid of noticeably ruining them. I gave up trying to make latte art. Eventually I decided the craft was better left to more talented people.)
So anyway, like I was saying, you are paying your good hard earned money for a quality product, and there are a three things you should avoid because it will ruin the experience and spit on all the hard work that the barista, roaster and farm put into getting that espresso in your hand:s.
Espresso over ice. Shocking espresso with ice is a bad idea. It messes with the flavor development and ruins the crema. Consider getting iced toddy instead.
Espresso to-go. You just waited 5-10 minutes for 1-2 ounces of liquid and you can't drink it there? Hot espresso straight into a paper cup means the lining of the cup is leached into your concentrated coffee shot. Take the extra three minutes and just enjoy it there.
Sugar-free everything. You probably already know it's frowned upon to lace your coffee drink with heavy syrups, and sugar-free syrups are the worst. This one is also about the type of person who orders sugar-free drinks, because there is totally a type. Baristas can spot you a mile away, and for whatever reason you are usually not in a good mood. Plus you are probably giving your future self cancer. So it's time to let the Splenda go. If it is any consolation, heating the sugars in the milk will give your latte a subtly sweet taste with no added calories or carcinogens.