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Meister

Meister

Coffee Columnist

Nervous cook; confident eater; smiling runner. Oh, and I also write. And teach people about coffee.

For over a decade, Meister has lived a double life as both a writer and a coffee professional—though she has yet to figure out which is her Dr. Jekyll side and which Mr. Hyde. Her day job is as a member of the customer support team for Counter Culture Coffee, and she has written and/or edited for The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Slashfood.com, Time Out NY, BUST Magazine, Barista Magazine, and Chickpea Magazine in addition to her work with this fine site. On her own, she blogs about cooking adventures (and misadventures) at The Nervous Cook, and about learning to love the long run at Running While Smiling.

She, her husband, and their dog share a too-small Chelsea apartment that's stuffed to the gills with books, vintage clothes, and a whole lot of tchotchkes.

  • Website
  • Location: New York City
  • Favorite foods: Sweet potatoes, tempeh Reubens, warm flour tortillas with salsa and salt, Brussels sprouts, apples, gallo pinto, peanut butter, ice-box cake, fermented anything… oh, and coffee.
  • Last bite on earth: Something in sandwich form. Actually, anything in sandwich form.

All About Milk Foam and Coffee

If it weren't for foam, what fun would espresso with milk be? (Not very.) Today, we honor the magic of foam by sharing a few facts about its creation, its deliciousness, and why not all of it is created equal. More

7 Gift Ideas for Coffee Lovers

The theme of this year's coffee gift guide is decidedly all about exploration. Whether it's helping a brother-in-law develop a more nuanced palate, encouraging your coffee-concerned significant other to give in on the hiking trip you've been suggesting for months, or even just picking out the perfect colors for your cousin's reusable to-go cup, the gift ideas on this list will help your loved ones peek into the world beyond their regular coffee routine. More

5 Facts About Nondairy Milk and Coffee

Nondairy milk can't seem to get no respect. Today we pay it some attention. Far from being the worst thing you can add to your coffee (I'm looking at you, Splenda), nondairy milk is actually pretty fascinating stuff, and it can be totally delicious in its own right. More

5 Great Coffee Blogs

Coffee lovers can't live on Serious Eats alone... Where else can you get a steaming cup of hot coffee news, interviews, and coffee-related art? Here are five of our favorite coffee blogs from around the web. More

How to Avoid Getting Coffee Breath

Do you find that your friends, colleagues, and strangers on a packed subway car try to subtly inch away from you after your morning mug is empty? Coffee breath is a real bummer. Here's what causes it, and some ways to make sure that you won't become a caffeinated pariah. More

Show and Tell: Your Latte Art

These are great! Honestly, y'all just made my day. (The only thing that ever makes me happier is when latte-art students of mine send me SMS photos of their lattes. I'd give y'all my phone number to do the same, but… that'd be weird.)

Keep pouring beautiful things, my friends, and stay thirsty.

What Is Coffee's Carbon Footprint?

@swagv: I think we have to speak to what we know, and as far as I'm concerned, I know a fair amount about coffee. I have found that my appreciation of and attention to the coffee supply chain has made me a more conscious consumer of things like clothing and tea, but that's on me: I can only hope that by speaking some truth about my area of expertise, that someone else will come to similar conclusions about being more aware in general.

That said, you sure criticize a lot and contribute a little: How about you offer something constructive to the conversation every once in a while?

5 Coffee Myths Debunked

@Rio Yeti: The process of decaffeinating is expensive in part because of the extra shipping, as the green beans have to be sent to a separate facility before being delivered to the roastery. Good roasters will simply charge more money for the decaffeinated beans; very good roasters will offer only decaffeinated versions of high-quality coffee they also offer in its caffeinated form. Not all coffees stand up well to the decaffeination process (and certainly cheap coffees less so). The disparity in quality between regular and decaf is probably as much if not more so a matter of freshness and user error than anything else, IMHO.

How to Brew Coffee in a Neapolitan Flip Pot

@Fraulein Doktor: Grazie!

How to Brew Coffee in a Neapolitan Flip Pot

@rawcooked: I would love some of your g-father's homemade anisette. Thank you for such a sweet remembrance!

How to Brew Coffee in a Neapolitan Flip Pot

@Peanut1: Actually, it's a lot less complicated than the way I normally brew coffee! There are only 4 steps, for Pete's sake. >wink

Not Just Coffee To-Go or To-Stay: How About Both?

@tea-and-syncope: You seem to be implying that there's some perceived judgment here aimed at paper-cup people, and I can't stress enough how that's not the case. If you like a to-go cup, take a to-go cup—the point, once again, isn't remotely to take anything away, but rather to offer something else to those who might like it. (I realize that you might not find it appealing, but hey, somebody else might. Won't know until we try.)

Not Just Coffee To-Go or To-Stay: How About Both?

@je6789: First of all, I'm glad you usually like this column! Sorry this one doesn't strike you: I guess I can't always nail it, right?

However, I am curious about your comment: I don't see this as being a "have it all" thing at all, and would like to know how it strikes you that way. The point isn't that customers shouldn't have to choose because they deserve everything handed to them and all services should cater to their every whim; the point is more that people develop habits that might affect their experiences in ways they never even realize, and unless they're offered an alternative, may never realize.

Maybe it doesn't matter if they realize it or not, but maybe it does: The worst we can do is try and fail, right? The worst I can do is make you an offer and have you refuse it. We'll both go on with our lives, but at least we'll know better.

Not Just Coffee To-Go or To-Stay: How About Both?

@thinstea & @tea-and-syncope: Is this part of an anti-coffee conspiracy by tea lovers? (Just kidding!) I guess I can see your point/s about preciousness, but in practice it's designed not to be so at all. There's a sign advertising the option, and the barista asks simply if you'd like your coffee to stay, to go, or both. No long-winded explanation or cajoling, just a simple extra option. I'm not interested in proselytizing (which I'd agree with you would be very precious), just simply interested in seeing what people's organic reaction would be to having an alternative presented to them.

5 Coffee Splurges that are Totally Worth the Money

@rahimlee: I love the sound of that—what's the shop? Also: There are absolutely folks for who an espresso machine is a good and right decision, and I'll wager you're one. What kind have you got? How's it working out for you? Tell me EVERYTHING.

5 Coffee Splurges that are Totally Worth the Money

@berzerkeley: Good on you, you got one! A few things: The burrs are still probably getting broken in, so it might be a bit tough going just at first. Also, if they are set very fine, it will take considerably longer to grind than if they are farther apart/coarser.

What type did you get? Maybe I can help more!

5 Coffee Splurges that are Totally Worth the Money

@santiago Cardona: 100% true! Your coffee is only ever going to be as good as the beans are.

@jpeckjr: GREAT point.

@rahimlee: But doesn't that make it all the more sweet when you do get to splurge? (She asks hopefully.)

5 Coffee Splurges that Aren't Worth the Money

@scalfin: You've made a soufflé in an Easy Bake?! I need details.

5 Coffee Splurges that Aren't Worth the Money

@Dushko Von Cubric: Good question, and thanks for commenting. I think that there are so many ways to define "aficionado," and "well-informed," that I try to avoid assuming any particular level of experience or expertise. Which is to say, there's no way to know what everybody knows, so I just do my best to speak to everybody who loves coffee.

5 Coffee Splurges that Aren't Worth the Money

@Claudia Dee: Hear, hear! I highly encourage people to get geeky about this stuff. It's so much more fun that way.

@Old Gray Mare: If it's any consolation, there are definitely different ways of looking at it: I know for a fact that the "sushi" I make at home is about 1/1000th as good as it would be at even the cheapest sushi restaurant, but I still do it because I love it, and it tastes good enough for a Tuesday dinner, you know? If you enjoy it, keep at it.

@Meat guy: Very true. Keep 'spressin'!

Iced Coffee Troubleshooting: Maybe Your Ice is the Problem

@Orchid64: AN ICE CUBE TRAY WITH A LID. That is a potential game-changer.

Iced Coffee Troubleshooting: Maybe Your Ice is the Problem

@Ben Fishner: My ice is definitely one of the problems! I don't mean to project…

Iced Coffee Troubleshooting: Maybe Your Ice is the Problem

@syncat: Making the ice from milk is pretty genius. I'd never thought of that!

Coffee Varieties: SL-28

@Ben Myers: You raise such great and complicated points, and it's true that Kenyan coffee farming (though not specifically limited to SL-28) is very problematic from an environmental, social, financial, and political point of view. (Actually, all coffee falls under one or more of those categories, come to think of it: If I were to air all my grievances with the coffee industry in these columns this would be a VERY different series!)

I do want to be clear that it's not the "specialty coffee market's" fault what happens in Kenyan agriculture: Kenya's relationship with colonial farms and coffee farming specifically is a lot bigger, older, and more complex than can be blamed on our comparably puny segment of the market.

Of course specialty coffee consumers can vote with their dollars and boycott coffee from problematic regions, which is an effective way to alert business owners of the issues and desires that shape demand. In the case of coffee, however, all that does is take money away from any farmers who might potentially be inspired to lobby for less restrictive legislation on what can and can't be used to treat coffee farms in Kenya, or for organic fertilizer subsidies, or for agroecology education. And so it creates a bigger incentive to continue going on and scraping by and using chemical inputs, which defeats the purpose.

See why I didn't decide to go down that road in the first place?

In any event! Thank you for reading and for raising important and noteworthy topics: I'm ALWAYS happy to talk about the stuff that makes coffee as complicated as it is beautiful.

(PS: The photographs of coffee plants covered in chemicals might be a bit misleading, or at least they sound taken out of context. Caveat emptor.)

Coffee Varieties: Gesha

*came, not *game. Sorry, I am so caffeinated today!

Coffee Varieties: Gesha

@Adam: Great question. Technically it would be "Gesha," after the Ethiopian location from whence it game. Because it sounds so familiar to the Japanese term "geisha," it often gets called that (though I more typically hear "Gesha" pronounced with an "eh" sound instead of a schwa).

The Petersons specifically call their famous Esmeralda coffee Geisha variety, and many other producers have adopted that term as well: Perhaps because it sounds… exotic? Probably because it sounds… expensive.

What Do Coffees from the Major Growing Regions Taste Like?

@JLHuge: I have most certainly enjoyed monsooned coffees before, myself. I think what it boils down to is that there are good and bad versions of coffees all over the place, and so one shouldn't let one (or two, or maybe even five) bad apples spoil the whole lot—I think part of the fun of coffee is tasting with an open mind, and hoping you find those magical, show-stopping cups more often along the way because of it, even if you sometimes have to choke down the swill while you're searching.

What Do Coffees from the Major Growing Regions Taste Like?

@JLHuge: To answer your other questions!

Monsooning does create a very different flavor profile, that is in part classic to Indian coffees: Super spicy and musky and deep. Not terribly unlike the flavor a robusta coffee might contribute, especially in an espresso blend. (Monsooned arabica coffees are often used for that purpose.)

That said, not all Indian coffees are monsooned: Washed coffees can have a sort of mellow chocolate to them, with some toasted nut qualities. Wet hulling is another common process that happens in India, which can give coffee a very Indonesian-like earthiness. India also produces a lot of robusta coffees.

I hesitate to make a sweeping generalization about PNG coffees because I have limited personal experience with specialty beans from there, and I'm not as familiar with the more widespread processing practices of the place. I will say from personal experience that the washed PNG coffees I've tasted are vastly different from the typically wet-hulled Indonesian coffees I've had, though that is pretty likely the effect of process, as opposed to terroir or variety. (Many of the varieties are the same in Indonesia and PNG.)

If any other coffee people out there are willing and able to chime in, I'd love to hear more opinions and reflections on coffee origin as a contribution to flavor, in one way or another (e.g. processing vs. climate vs. variety vs. else whatever we can dream up).

What Do Coffees from the Major Growing Regions Taste Like?

@Ejmollo, @JLHuge, and @handfulofsounds: You've asked a rather tricky question! For one thing, there's hardly any purely Kona or purely JBM coffee available for purchase, because there's so little of it and it's so valuable (read: "expensive"). Most bags of both are only a relatively small percentage of coffee from that origin—beware "Kona style" or "Kona blend" coffee, for instance, if you want to really taste the Hawaiian stuff—and because of their comparably prohibitive expense, they don't move terribly fast in most retail environments, which means you're typically getting an old bag o' beans.

Additionally, part of the reason the prices of these coffees are so high is a either/both limited availability (in order to be officially classified as Jamaica Blue Mountain, the coffee must grow between about 1,000 and 1,700 meters, which leaves precious little room for farming on the Blue Mountain) and cost of production (Kona coffee, being grown in America, is subject to American labor laws, which dictate a certain wage for those doing the growing and picking).

These are, of course, not descriptions of the flavor, but they might lend some understanding about why it's hard to find both of these coffees in their purest (and, therefore, most representative) forms. Coffees on both Kona and Jamaica tend to be descendants of Typica variety plants (coming soon to a column near you!), and are almost always washed. I'd expect them to have a mellow acidity, gentle brown-sugar sweetness, and some florality due to the climate. I honestly haven't had terribly much personal experience with either in their purest forms because, well, mama ain't made of money.

If you want to try a Hawaiian coffee that's not got the prestigious name of Kona to command so hefty a price tag, check out Rusty's Hawaiian, from Ka‘u (the southern tip of the Big Island): The family-run farm and roasting operation has some really stellar offerings, including the Barista Championship–winning Pete Licata Espresso.

I hope that was at all helpful! Sorry I don't know more in particular...

Espresso: It's Just Another Word for Coffee

@Ken G: You're right, in a sense: Espresso is a certain type of coffee beverage, made from coffee beans that are finely ground and extracted under pressure. It has just become shorthand in a way that makes it seem like a completely distinctive drink from all other coffee preparations, and while it does have differences based on its concentrated state, it's still, strictly speaking, just a way to make coffee—any coffee. You can turn any coffee beans on earth into the drink that we call espresso, regardless of roast or country of origin. (Also, arguably, regardless of grind size—though coarser grounds won't work if you're trying to make it taste any good, and can certainly cause a mess.)