Coffee for Overachievers: A Comprehensive Guide to Better Brew – Wall Street Journal

How the ancient beverage is evolving with the Internet Age.

IN THE INTERNET AGE, nerds have inherited the earth, using dork-dollar startup money to develop social media, smart devices, driverless cars, delivery robots and Tinder. Now they’re out to answer that key question of our time: “How do you take your coffee?”

Universities including Texas A&M, UC Davis and Vanderbilt have launched coffee programs with curricula that encompass coffee physiology, chemistry, sustainability and culture. Later this year, San Francisco’s famed Tartine Bakery will open the Coffee Lab, the first Specialty Coffee Association campus in the U.S. The Lab will offer courses and conduct experiments in processing, production and roasting, with plans to bring in experts in fermentation and the science of tasting. Meanwhile, the coffee boom has exploded at the speed of tech, with aficionados creating apps to graph water-pouring over time. Others in search of the perfect, post-Starbucks cup are executing recipes with kettles, grinders and scales that sync via Bluetooth, while YouTubers and podcasters are expounding fresh wisdom online.

Even the quick and dirty approach is getting an upgrade. Maligned instant crystals have gone artisanal thanks to innovative brewing methods. And some coffee lovers who’ve shared warm moments with an array of hand grinders, frothers and trendy brewing vessels over the years are sick of waking early to precisely measure and crush beans for their first jolt of caffeine: They’re ready for an automated coffee machine.

But it won’t be that Mr. Coffee you encounter while waiting on an oil change. The next-level machines can mimic artisanal pour-overs, metering out water for a proper bloom. “Hand grinding is more work than anyone should do,” said Laila Ghambari, director of education for Stumptown Coffee Roasters. “I’ve made coffee every day for 15 years. I love the idea of pushing a button.” With access to information, high-tech gear and diversely sourced beans, choices surrounding the quotidian beverage are infinite. In a celebration of bean nerdom, we’ve compiled trivia and myths, the best brew tools, java pop culture and a defense of Keurig in the face of coffee elitism.

—Eleanore Park

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