February 1, 2011 Nathan

Seven deadly coffee sins

Bad coffee is a sin. Here are the seven cardinal sins of coffee. I hope this list will contain some helpful tips for people wanting to avoid the sin of bad coffee in their ministry… when it comes to coffee there are sins of omission and sins of commission.

  1. The sin of Instant Coffee – Instant coffee is the chief among the cardinal sins of church hospitality. We are so far past the need to provide instant coffee at church events that its like putting songs on an overhead projector rather than data projector. There are degrees of coffee sin – International Roast is not coffee at all. Do not serve instant coffee in your church or house. This is not loving. Buy a plunger – source some real beans – or stick with tea. It is better to offer tea than to risk offending your guest with instant.
  2. The sin of Stale coffee – Instant coffee is bad, real coffee served stale is only marginally better. Coffee starts going stale almost as soon as it is ground. As soon as those particles of coffee start feeling a breath of fresh air the coffee is going stale. It’s a chemical reaction. It’s unavoidable. Don’t buy your coffee from the freezer. Don’t buy your coffee in volumes you can’t consume in a week. Don’t put your ground coffee in the freezer, don’t buy ground coffee. Grind it yourself. The closer to roasting the better. Coffee beans need to rest for a couple of days after roasting – but once that time has passed it’s a case of the sooner the better when it comes to consumption.
  3. The sin of off, or burnt, milk – Nothing ruins a good coffee like off milk. Burning the milk is inexcusable – if you can’t tell that your milk is too hot by touch then get out of the game or buy a thermometer. My biggest pet hate when buying takeaway coffee is boiled milk that seems to get hotter as it sits. I call this the thermonuclear effect.
  4. The sin of burnt coffee – Burnt coffee (or “over roasted ash” like Starbucks sell) is bad coffee. Burnt coffee under the guise of “quality control” in the roasting process is unforgivable. It’s one thing to have a machine that runs hot – or to use water hotter than 98 degrees in your plunger – it’s another thing entirely to produce black beans intentionally. Which is what Starbucks do. They roast any original (as in “of origin”) characteristics out of their beans so that they can produce a consistent flavour using beans from different origins. Unfortunately this results in consistently bad coffee.
  5. The sin of unethical coffee – I am yet to find “ethical” instant. It might exist. I won’t drink coffee produced by the slave like conditions of many mass production focused coffee plantations. This doesn’t mean I’m a fan of “Fairtrade” coffee – ethical coffee has many labels – and I’d much prefer “relationship” or “direct trade” coffee given the choice, and Rainforest Alliance stuff failing that. Most specialty coffee is ethical – even if it’s not certified, because most good coffee beans are produced by farms that care about their product, and their staff.
  6. The sin of adding sugar – This one is not so serious – but unnecessary sugar is bad for your health and my mum always said if you were not adult enough to enjoy coffee (or tea) without sugar you were not adult enough to enjoy coffee.
  7. The sin of not sharing the gospel of coffee – If you’re going to be a coffee snob and keep it to yourself you’re not a nice person. If you take your own plunger, aeropress, or other paraphernalia to work or your next camping trip then bring some for everybody. Sharing is caring. Sharing the gospel of good coffee is not only good for the hearer – but for the friends of hearers also. Instant coffee will not disappear if people aren’t shown the light. The principles of good coffee are simple and easy to share – and good coffee done well will actually be cheaper than good coffee bought from cafes. Good coffee saves money – even taking into account the cost of equipment.
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About the Author

Nathan Nathan is a coffee lover, home roaster, amateur barista and coffee tinkerer. He's married, has two kids, one turtle, and for a day job works for Creek Road Presbyterian Church. He previously worked in PR. This blog is his attempt to make coffee tax deductible.

Comments (7)

  1. Amy

    Ok – I agree with all of these… unfortunately it seems to be generational to commit many of these sins. Behold, I shall illustrate by talking of the church I attend which has many of the older generation.

    Our colleague at the church my husband serves in has a sign educating the older generation in the art of real coffee ( we’re talking basic here, just plunger use!) but I still keep getting offered instant by the ‘tea ladies’.

    We buy and serve nice real coffee at our bible study – but by that time of night we don’t get many takers.

    What do you think of ‘Mocha’ drinkers? My husband likes coffee but his love of chocolate means that he must have his coffee chocolate flavoured…personally I think if the coffee is any good it should not need anything other than milk.

    • admin

      Hi Amy,

      I’m ok with Mocha drinkers. I think it’s a valid form of self expression. I agree with your last sentence to. My mum always said if you need sugar in your coffee you’re not adult enough to be drinking it. Though some people suggest that milk is also a crutch when it comes to enjoying coffee – so I recognise that it’s a spectrum.

      I think good coffee in churches is essential – and I almost think my contribution to the church coffee scene in Australia could be more substantial than any impact I have teaching the Bible. Especially if I figure out a way to allegorise coffee consumption into some sort of gospel presentation.

      • Amy

        Hmmm, yes, when I was writing ‘except milk’ I realised that milk has a form of sugar so really I also adulterate my coffee…it is a spectrum. Some coffee is grown for extra acidity however so that milk does not ‘cut’ the flavour quite so much from what I gather.

        Keep working on that coffee allegory, right now all I can think of is that coffee is a truly good gift from God that helps us to concentrate on understanding the gospel – which of course is confirmed by the Holy Spirit…
        Then: Good coffee is a form of love, it is an act of service that enriches fellowship

        Thats as far as I get…

  2. Brian

    Really? You’re happy to buy caged eggs??? Have you seen the conditions those caged chickens live in? How can you rationalize, I would think particularly given your religion, caged eggs but not non-ethically sourced coffee when both involve the suffering of living beings? Do living creatures not even register as living, do you really consider them that worthless? If it’s the expense then I hope you can see the irony; finicky about coffee (hardly a staple, definitely a luxury), but too tight-fisted to fork out for free-range eggs.

    Incidentally, ethically-sourced instant coffee is available, but the brand escapes me. Funnily enough I was searching for the brand that I buy and I came across your site, saw the caged eggs remark and couldn’t refrain from leaving a comment.

    • Hi Brian,

      I’ve actually changed my mind on eggs since writing this post, thanks for the comment – I’ve amended the post.

    • Though I don’t equate the suffering of a chicken with the suffering of a person. They’re not equivalent.

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