What you need to know to drink [coffee] like fantastic.

  • Follow the DLF Instagram and drink what I drink. Use #DLFCoffee to show people what you are looking for.

  • Visit small, independent coffee shops & roasters.

  • Look for the word “specialty” not “gourmet”.

  • Brew with bottled or filtered water at home. Coffee is 98% water. You want to use delicious water for delicious coffee.

  • Ask the following questions about the coffee when ordering, the more a barista or coffee professional can tell you, the better.

  • Ask who the farmer is and the name of the farm.

  • Ask what type of coffee it is and how it was processed. You want to hear specific varieties like Typica, Caturra, or SL28, and not just that it’s Arabica.

  • Look for lighter roasts, caramel colored beans. Dark, oily beans are burnt and will be bitter.

  • Begin to judge coffees by the farmer or farm, not a type, a process. Machines don’t make great coffee, people do.

  • Once you find a source you trust to deliver excellent coffees, use them as a guide and resource. Believe me, if they are obsessed and great at what they do, they will love to show you the way.

  • Try new things and drink what you like. Trust yourself. If it’s delicious to you, it’s delicious to you!
     

The Story

I’ve never felt more free than when riding down a dirt road in the back of a pickup truck on the side of an active volcano. Against this backdrop, I made one of the greatest discoveries of my life: I learned what it meant to make coffee.

Three months earlier, I’d traveled to that same volcano in El Salvador and built my first coffee mill—I had no idea what I was doing. A coffee mill is where the fruit that grows on coffee trees is turned into the seeds or “coffee beans” we roast, grind, and brew. I was determined to make my own coffee from seed to cup. What I learned that sweltering day in the back of that truck was that making a great cup of coffee had to do with one thing: the farmer.

Growing up, we never really thought about where coffee came from because for the longest time no one really knew. That knowledge was reserved for traders and those born into a coffee farm. But over the course of my career I’ve watched that change. I’ve been in the coffee business for almost 20 years, and the transformation that has taken place is monumental. We know more about coffee than ever before, but most importantly we now know the people who grow it and they know us.

Let me explain the change. Imagine if we lived in a world where we only ate green bananas. Now what would we say if some crazy person came along and started talking about yellow bananas? They would say things like, “just give it a few days” or “yellow bananas are sweeter and more flavorful.” I’m sure our response would not be very accommodating, after all, we’ve been eating green bananas our whole lives. Don’t tell me how to eat my bananas!

Or imagine you’re a kid standing by the oven door waiting for a batch of your mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies to finish baking. You helped make the batter, you ate as many chips as possible, and soon they’ll be done. As the oven door opens, smoke billows to the ceiling. Once all the smoke clears you see the cookies, and they’re perfect; black and burnt to a crisp. After they cool you take your first bite, and it’s blissful. Black ashy goodness falls to the floor as you crunch your way through the carbon cake.

Neither of these two things would happen. Because ripe fruit is better tasting than unripe fruit, and perfectly browned cookies are sweeter than burnt ones. So why have we insisted on burning coffee beans for so long? It’s simple. We didn’t know enough about growing or processing coffee to make perfectly ripe coffee beans, and because the coffee fruit was unripe and processed incorrectly it made more sense to roast it darker.

Unripe and poorly processed coffee tastes terrible, and the lighter you roast the more the coffee flavor shines through—which is not good if the coffee beans suck. When you roast them darker, the coffee just tastes burnt, which is at least consistent and ash is arguably more delicious than garbage.

Think about it: most children don’t like bad coffee the first time they try it. Often we drink it as a right of passage, and over time we acquire a taste for burnt coffee because we get addicted to the ritual and the caffeine, not the flavor. But now that we have unprecedented access to beautiful, ripe coffee fruit, it’s time to stop burning it so the fruit can shine. I promise, there’s still caffeine, and the ritual is even more beautiful.

This is why the most important thing in making a cup of coffee is a farmer. If a farmer grows a delicious, sweet, ripe fruit, then a roaster can roast it to highlight that sweetness and flavor. It’s the most important thing.

We once lived our lives in analogue but now we have the entire breadth of human knowledge at our fingertips. We used to live in isolation, now our communities span the globe. And we once lived in a world with unripe, bitter, putrid tasting coffee, roasted dark so we wouldn’t notice, but now we live in a world of sweet, red, ripe fruit that tastes like berries, pineapple, grapefruit, and candy and our roasters are making it even sweeter—like caramel and cookies. The difference between our ability to make coffee just 20 years ago and our ability to make coffee now is the difference between a rotary phone and the yellow pages and an iphone. Welcome to the future.