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8 Simple Rules for Drinking My Tasty Coffees

This being the eighth month of August and on the heels of Sprudge’s cautionary list to baristas, it’s probably a good time for us all to consider what I’ll call 8 Simple Rules (RIP John Ritter) to consider at your neighborhood coffee shop.

  1. This isn’t the gelato shop on Saturday night– order your coffee and move on. While you may be confused by something new on the menu, when ordering your coffee first thing in the morning, it is best to refrain from asking more than a question or two. Caffeine is a delightful addiction and some of those people behind you might be packing heat and wondering why you’re coffee-blocking them. If you need to read the menu for a couple minutes or for the love of all that is good and decent, make a phone call, DO step out of line.
  2. Play foursquare on your phone, not the side of your cup. The number of modifiers you add when describing your drink is directly proportional to the size of a douchebag your fellow customers think you are. The staff are likely to cheerfully oblige you, but the meter on this cab to cheese-log island is only running higher the longer you keep adjective-izing.
  3. Try something new. Coffee is a crop and grows on trees– it has seasons. If your usual coffee or blend is gone for a time, don’t fret. Take it as a chance to learn about seasonality and give the new brown hotness a chance.
  4. Don’t make demands. If a shop doesn’t make the coffee you want or in the way you’re used to, either trundle your way back up to rule 3 or walk out the door. Half way into the sentence “But, WHY don’t you…” it should become clear that you’re dangerously straddling the line between your Aunt Rosie’s “Why I NEVER, in MY day I would sooner spoon up puddle water than pay more than 5 cents for a cup of…” and your Four Year Old Self “Buh, buh, buh I want the OTHER…ice…cre-hee-hee-heeeeAAM” (mouth spittle forming into a huge bubble that inexplicably won’t pop as you silently mouth the word “mom”). Coffee shops have different standards, equipment, and menus. They may not be able to make the beverage you’re used to. They may have tried making your beverage and realized it tasted bad or that they couldn’t make a profit on it. If you want something they don’t have, the time to make a suggestion is in a friendly note mailed to the owner, not while in line in front of a lady whose two toddlers have been alternately serving as freeweights and air raid sirens and who sees your neck as the only thing standing between herself and her cup of coffee.
  5. Get your beverage for-here or in ceramic. While using ceramic is better for trees and landfills, the real beneficiary in all this is your mouth. Ceramic always tastes better than paper and mostly doesn’t taste at all. As an alternative, pick yourself up a ceramic to-go cup. A lot of places will throw a dime at you for bringing your own cup, mind you, your mug might get chucked back at you if it’s dirty.
  6. Buy some whole bean coffee to take home. Unless you’re standing at one of the very few remaining coffee carts left in the nation, one of the ways that coffee shops keep the doors open is by selling whole bean coffee. Show your local shop some support and buy some coffee to take home. Also, few things will give you an appreciation for all the hard work your baristas do quite like trying to make coffee for yourself for a change.
  7. Be disloyal. I don’t mean to say that you should spurn the folks running your favorite shop, just that you should get out there and try some different shops. Coffee is continuing to evolve and proliferate and if you branch out now and again you might just find something new worth supporting. Shops around the nation are starting to follow the 2009 World Barista Champion’s lead to create disloyalty cards that ask customers to try several cafes around a particular city with the reward being a free cup of coffee at your favorite location. Seattle’s disloyalty card is off and running and it appears that the ATL will be 2nd to launch theirs.
  8. Tip. It’s not always easy when you’re dealing with credit and store cards, but when you receive good service for a tasty beverage, give your barista a tip. You throw a dollar at that bartender for leaning on a knob to deliver your $2.75 PBR, so why not the same for the person that is going to grind, dose, tamp, and carpal-tunnel their way to deliver your brown juice?  A good barista has the ability to not only deliver you a tasty beverage, but can sometimes even adjust your attitude back to “I’m going back into the meeting and showing that boss of mine SOMETHING. I will roll my eyes ONLY HALF the time! When I alternately nod off and re-awake in short succession it will be with so much gusto they’ll swear I’m channeling Brian Posehn at a Slayer concert T! P! S! Re-POOORT!” Like I was saying, baristas could use the appreciation and honestly, the money. Witness barista Michael Phillips of Intelligentsia Coffee bringing home the World Barista Championship to the United States for the first time since it’s inception 11 years ago. Years of practice and preparation while holding down his day job and his only payout is more work in coffee (and the ability to rock suspenders like no other). There is no Food Network show in the works, mild fame outside of coffee, little fortune other than his humble pride for a job done well, all that and …just part of what’s left in the tip jar at the end of the day.
If you’d like to share the high-repute shops that you visit or if you have burning coffee questions that would make interesting Nerdist Coffee fodder, please @me or add a comment below.
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  1. Your welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read it. Your post was a really great read.

    If you need a comedic poetry nerdist to fill in your categories between Podcasts and Products I’m available!. Just pay me in rich dark roasted coffee beans!

  2. Billy Kangas says:

    What a great list. I have worked in coffee for ages (5 shops) I blog coffee, I dream about it at night and it’s all so people can start to get a handle on these simple concepts…

    As a Barista I want to highlight #8

    We get paid virtually nothing. I do it because I love it plain and simple. I have a family at home I need to feed just like you. I have worked at perfecting the art of espresso. I have spent hours getting the brew parameters just right on your coffee. I know more about coffee then I do about things a have University degrees in. WHY? Because I want YOU to have an amazing cup of coffee.

    Throw in a couple bucks…

    It amazes me that people are willing to pay $40 for a shot of Scotch and then don’t tip when they go to an espresso bar that serves them some of the best coffee money can buy for $3…

    Ok sorry rant over

  3. Leigh says:

    lol! Good read.

    I’m with JJ. I’m picky so no matter where I go my order is always a little bit more complicated than average. I don’t feel like a douche asking for an iced soy chai latte with light ice because I’m paying for it.

    I would say that if a person is a regular and can’t get their order taken care of in an efficient manner then that could be annoying but what about people who are new to coffee or just new to the cafe in particular? Asking questions and sorting out the “lingo” seem reasonable to me since every place seems to have their own rhythm. I’m more inclined to pipe up and offer suggestions based on my experience than get annoyed that I have to wait an extra 60 seconds.

  4. Brett Hanson says:

    @everyone- Thank you for the great comments, keep it (and questions) coming. I’m very happy to be here and serve.

    @Mark- Well said. W. Bruce Cameron, consider yourself shouted about.

    @melissa- A fine point also!

    @JJ- If you’re conscious of the length of your order, #2 couldn’t possibly apply to you. You know these people. They do the same thing at 7-11 mixing all the sodas together, but at least there, they have to do all the work.

    @Trish- There’s a second side, but it’s just text (!/photo.php?pid=467346&id=1593805238&ref=fbx_album) There might have been other shops interested in participating, but these are the ones that joined this time. There’s also talk of another card or similar experiences. Stay tuned to these shops if you’re in Seattle. Otherwise, keep an eye out in your town for a similar card and be sure to check out the shops that participate. They’re working hard to promote quality coffee.

    @MoxieMuchness- Poetry? Thank you so much for your contribution.

  5. I love coffee so much here is an
    Ode to my Morning Lover Coffee
    By E. Cortes

    The sunlight highlights the hints of your beautiful brown waves
    I breathe in your scent and think I must have you inside of me
    Your warmth fills me with the security that
    I can once again face the new day
    My children know not to approach me when I’m spending time with you
    Even my husband knows to leave me alone until you have touched my lips at least once.
    Oh my Columbian bean, with a hint of French Vanilla how I need you
    As you greet me with the beginning of each new day I thank God for you and Juan Valdez
    As I drink in your caffeine my brain begins to spark and once again function.
    And I scream oh Coffee Bean, oh Coffee Bean, Oh Coffee Bean
    You make me feel like a Queen once again.

  6. deb says:

    As I have to go to a cafe and purchase at least one beverage in order to gain access to the internet, I completely enjoyed this contribution!
    It was especially fun to read while the issues being covered were personified by various ridiculous customers at the counter nearby.
    (Let’s face it: caffeine IS a drug, and there IS withdrawal of sorts….)
    I am very fond of all the baristas here, and they have shared their pet peeves and horror stories with me when there are rare lulls, so I can appreciate the accuracy of this from their point of view, as well!

  7. Samantha says:

    As a former barista, I am extremely grateful for this article. What’s worse, is I worked in an organic coffee shop, so not only did I have the usual modifiers to deal with, but people constantly want to sub out their regular [but still incredibly expensive] organic milk for even-more-expensive soy or almond milk.
    Before you assume your local coffee shop can sub milk for a non-dairy substitute, ask what the milk options are. If they don’t offer anything besides milk, be prepared to go somewhere else.

  8. Trish says:

    Hey Brett,

    Is there a second side to that disloyalty card pictured?..are those the shops that wanted to participate only?

    …most of us in the industry and behind the counter understand that customers are people…we probably don’t mind a lot of the above that much.
    What bugs us most is when WE are not considered people…
    (#9, treat the barista like another human being)

  9. JJ says:

    OK – maybe I’m a douche, but I pay $5 for my latte in order to have it modified the way I like (ie – with less sugar than the standard recipe). But the baristas at my local *$ all know my order, and I don’t even have to tell them anymore.

    How about this – if you have modifiers on your order – just learn how your local shop calls that order – makes it faster for everyone.

  10. melissa says:

    I only drink coffee-flavored coffee but what about not making a slime-hole at the creamery area, creaming area..? Also, I like that the graph went to 11.

  11. Mark says:

    Hey, Great stuff. You should give a shoutout to W. Bruce Cameron, a (very funny) humor columnist who wrote the original 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter which became a book, which became the show John Ritter starred in (

  12. Brandy says:

    Good thoughts, Brett! Things I haven’t thought of.

  13. Khaled says:

    Awesome read! thank you for sharing!

  14. Ed says:

    great tips!! i love exploring coffee! (plus, other drinks)

  15. Kevin Kent says:

    really good reading…

  16. Ezy Action says:

    Great read. Rules 1, 2, and 4 especially! Here’s my fav local shop: Local chain with a great staff that goes out of their way to get to know the regular customers and what they drink.