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5 Ways to Know Your Coffee Shop Doesn't Suck

Cartel Coffee Lab does not suck.
Cartel Coffee Lab does not suck.

Consider this a shout-out to all the caffeine-fueled, hard-working Americans out there who can't get the day started without a cup of joe. We feel your adrenal-shot addiction and offer up this advice: Life is much too short to drink bad coffee.

How does one make absolute sure they are procuring the good stuff from a cafe of good-standing? Allow us to seize a cup (or twelve) of liquid muse and we shall tell you the five ways to know your coffee shop doesn't suck. Stereotypical though they may be. We find the following to be true.

A coffee roaster at work.
A coffee roaster at work.

Do they roast their own beans?

If the answer is no, get the hell out. We're looking for beans roasted meticulously by an obsessed coffee shop owner who seems to care more about the beans than he does about his customers. If your coffee roaster goes by a single name that sounds foreign in origin (examples: Micha, Raul, Dieter) you're on the right path. Bonus points if they have a permanent scowl and mutter things in a language you don't understand.

An angry barista. It's a good thing.
An angry barista. It's a good thing.

Are they pretentious?

Yes, we don't like dealing with pretentious people either, but it turns out this is the one sacrifice you must make to enjoy the finest joe. Think about it! Would you want a barista handing you your mid-morning pick-me-up with a side of shiny, happy mannerisms? No, we thank not. If you're Barista gives you a scripted, I've-said-this-a-million-times-in-the-past-hour inquiry as to what flavor of coffee you would like, you're in the wrong place. If your barista looks you over as though you're unworthy to drink rancid, steamed milk, you've hit the jackpot...strange though it sounds.  

No low-fat here.
No low-fat here.

Are they insistent about preparing drinks a certain way?

Lattes are to be crafted with whole milk. Period. If ordering your espresso drink involves use of the word "skinny," congratulations, you're at Starbucks drinking the same coffee that the feed to the rest of the robots who frequent that particular establishment. If you're not at Starbucks and you're baristas asks if you want a pump of anything in your latte, you need to leave immediately and began asking your friends to recommend coffee shops to you that don't suck.

Deliciously cold-brewed, not hot coffee over ice.
Deliciously cold-brewed, not hot coffee over ice.

Do they provide cold-brewed iced coffee?

Cold-brewed coffee, much like it sounds, is made in a pitcher of water kept at cold temperatures. It is generally considered smoother and stronger than hot-brewed coffee. The important thing here is that cold-brewed coffee is a great way to get your coffee fix on a warm, summer's day. Hot-brewed coffee poured over ice is not. If your coffee shop does this, your mug deserves better.

If your coffee shop has robots, keep drinking.
If your coffee shop has robots, keep drinking.

Do they have random toys that look like they were purchased at a garage sale while nursing a hangover?

Aging Pee-Wee Herman dolls, Voltron toys missing their missiles or weird vinyl toys (so long as they're out of their collector's packaging) count. Don't ask us why, but the places with these token icons to pop culture generally make better coffee. Perhaps they are secretly inhabited by magic, coffee-making gnomes who take comfort and joy in knowing they are bestowing the human race with only the finest of caffeinated goodness. Then again, perhaps we should switch to decaf, this is getting a little trippy.


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