My Coffee Setup

I am obsessed with coffee as nearly everyone who knows me can attest. This post will be a primer of my coffee preferences and setup to achieve coffee perfection.

I typically make 2 cups of coffee at home before work while I read. Since my coffee setup is — intense — I cannot bring it with me to work so I may suffer through a Kuerig during the day. I have been trying to cut back my coffee consumption anyways so mostly it’s just 2 cups a day


Not my home setup exactly — but close enough

The fundamentals of quality coffee are simple: brewing temp, grind size, fresh coffee.

The advanced techniques are really not that complicated but come down to timing, a bit of pour technique, and weighing your coffee/water for consistent ratios.


Variable Temperature Electric Swan Neck Kettle – Necessary for control of both temperature to brew and precise pouring technique

Baratza Vario Coffee Grinder – Simply the best home grinder on the market. 440 distinct grind settings. Ceramic burrs for low heat transfer and long life. Produces a consistent grind every time with minimal coffee leftover in the chute (stale coffee grinds == bad)

Hario V60 Ceramic Drip Cone – Quality drip cone for 1-2 cup pours (I find the larger ones tend to over extract) Ceramic is nice to hold heat and have some weight for stability.

Hario V60 Coffee Filters – Natural (vs white bleached) is crucial here. Perfect fit for V60 drip cone helps make for smooth brew process.

Hario Coffee Drip Scale/Timer – 2 for 1 product for the technically savvy coffee enthusiast. Measuring your ratio of coffee to water as well as timing the water contact puts you in the coffee fanatic camp. This product feels a bit cheap but has lasted me ~2 years now with no signs of failing soon so I’ve been happy.

My coffee of choice comes from Intelligentsia – a roaster out of Chicago.

Really fantastic coffee with decently quick standard shipping. If you’re going to buy a nice setup like the one above you need quality beans. That said I have augmented with a bag of beans from the grocery store in a pinch. You can make a pretty incredible cup of coffee with Dunkin Donuts Whole Bean Original. But compared to fresh roasted Intelligentsia — it’s still an order of magnitude off. I really like their House Blend as my standard and usually order a smaller amount of their seasonal blend and a single origin (these change frequently so I dont want to recommend here). House Blend goes for $18 a pound.

OK so yes this is quite the setup for coffee. I will address the common criticisms I hear:

1. Time to brew – once you have the process down it takes me ~5 mins to brew including boiling water. 3 mins to boil with electric kettle (during which I measure and stage the coffee). ~2 mins to brew via the pour over drip method (video below). Sure it’s not Keurig fast but really not that time consuming.

2. Price – Yes the initial costs are expensive. If you total the price of the equipment I listed you get: ~$725. Intelligentsia House Blend costs 18 bucks per pound (pound yields 26 cups at 17grams per 10 ounce cup) The per unit cost of the filters is ~7 cents. So material costs are ~0.77 cents per 10 ounce cup. For my daily 2 cups thats $1.54. The grande (16oz) at Starbucks costs ~2 dollars. So a 46 cent differential per day yields approximately a 4 year break even point on my initial investment assuming no breakages (I am 2 years in currently). This does not take into account coffee quality and gas to drive to Starbucks and convenience of brewing at home and reading in bed whenever I want with an incredible cup of coffee.

3. Are you OCD? — Probably

Technique Video: Easy than explaining it via text


Russian Translation: Как я делаю кофе»

Как я делаю кофе translated by Coffee health benefits

The World Does Not Need Your Idea

I really liked this quote by Alan Webber on his blog today. It embodies the spirit of what truly separates a good idea from a bad one…getting people to use your product/service/website. It bears some resemblance to Paul Graham’s famous quip to “make something people want” but with more impact. It gives me more of a sense of purpose and drive behind what the idea will eventually become.

Clearly a new startup idea is going to provide value in some way, shape or form. Recognizing that the world does not need your innovation is a good way to humble you before you change the world.

Challenging Work

There is a large difference between important work and challenging work. I work for a large company and there is a plethora of work that is absolutely critical to get the job done. This in turn generates revenue for the company and typically makes the customers happy since it is work they contracted to get done. The problem is that this work is often easy and mundane. Simply requiring the employee to show up and be conscious to get done.

After reading, Seth Godin’s blog post, Why makers should think more like managers (and vice versa), it enlightened me to the point that more time should be put towards figuring out how to do challenging work.

Challenging work could be thinking about how to turn those critical tasks into completely automatic ones. Or get them done quicker and waste less time. In other words, disrupt the business as usual path. Often times this doesn’t even occur to people because of the “that’s just how things are done around here” mentality.

The benefits of this are plentiful but two good ones are the increased feeling of making a difference and the increase in value for customers (and the company).

Go and challenge yourself.

Gmail….even Mom’s can use it

I recently set my mother up with a Gmail account. She was tentative at first but now it’s her email fixture. She is even using labels and Gmail Chat to talk with my sisters and I.

This is incredible. Google makes products that everyone can and WANTS to use. I am a programmer and I love gmail. My mom is completely non-technical and loves gmail. Talk about running the gamut in potential users.

Sometimes you have to step back in awe. Gmail is a feat of engineering.

Even Dijkstra disallowed the Break statement

I work on a project that prohibits using the break keyword. Personally I am puzzled by this. For one I do not think it is used all that often. Secondly, if its a legal keyword in the language why are we changing the rules? Are we better than the language inventors.

Now there are many arguments to why disallowing it is a good thing with the most common being that it has burned programs in the past with nasty bugs that were difficult to track down. Other reasons include making code unreadable and adding complexity. Even Dijkstra was against its usage.

In my view the argument goes beyond the break statement. I say leave it to the programmers choice to use it or not. Here in America we have 4 gas stations per busy intersection….we love choices. When we make bad ones we learn. Sure you get burned some times but typically those are the best learning experiences.

Completely disallowing something is not good practice. It will hinder the programmers who could use it to optimize loops and create better control paths. Sure it will keep the mediocre programmers from shooting themselves in the foot but then when will they learn to use it properly….never.

I advocate personal responsibility and craftsmanship pride. Choices are a good thing.