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‘Train Your Tastebuds’ – and 9 Other Coffee Resolutions for 2016

New years resolutions for coffee

Picking the right resolutions for a new year can be nearly as hard as keeping them. Not too concerned with fitness or finances? Make this year about coffee.

It’s a wild ride – not for the faint of heart, literally – but exploring coffee’s science and engaging its culture are the first steps toward an immersive 2016. And we resolve to help you take the plunge.

Here are 10 goals for the year ahead.

1
Try coffee roasted in another country

Arabica coffee roaster in Japan with Slayer

Technology is shrinking the globe to the diameter of a fiber optic cable, yet coffee continues to find unique expression everywhere. Roasting styles vary regionally and, whether by preference or necessity, so does the selection of greens. Now, with many roasters shipping internationally, brewing Ethiopian coffee, roasted in Berlin, at your own kitchen counter isn’t as crazy as it sounds.

Level up: Join Third Wave Wichteln, an annual coffee exchange with thousands of participants in over 60 countries. You’ll be paired up randomly, but the odds are in favor of finding a match overseas.

2
Attend a new industry event

Slayer at Specialty Coffee trade show in Seattle

Coffee’s calendar is full to the brim. Between trade shows, throwdowns, competitions, meet-ups, and seminars, the coffee sophisticate is hard-pressed for a free weekend. In 2016, look for Slayer at MICE (Melbourne), SCAA (Atlanta), and World of Coffee (Dublin). We’re planning a few surprise cameos, too!

Pro tip: Some trade shows grant free admission to volunteers. Register early to get your preferred schedule and duties.

3
Subscribe to a blog

Information about coffee crowds the internet; where do you find the good stuff? Blogs can be remarkable resources, where personal experiences are divulged, new products are critiqued, and radical theories are tested. We have a few favorites, which make the cut for their engaging prose and unique insights. Try The Barista Hustle, The Coffee Compass, jimseven, or Colonna and Smalls.

4
Visit a ‘Hit List’ cafe

Slayer at Revelator Coffee in New Orleans

Keeping up with every cafe may be a lost cause, but that didn’t stop us from rounding up the hottest opens of last year. Our ‘Hit List’ has 10+ Slayer cafes that served their first espressos in 2015. Read the blog, then hit the road.

5
Train your tastebuds

SCAA coffee flavor wheel

Sometimes you just want coffee to be coffee, and being polled about whether those “deep fruit notes” are more raisin or prune could send you over the edge. But if you’re ever drinking coffee with another specialty coffee fanatic, it helps to have a developed sense of taste and a shared lexicon. The Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel has defined the terminology used by the industry for 20 years and offers an intuitive guide to training your tastebuds.

Pro tip: Ask a local roaster if their cuppings are open to the public. Tasting coffee alongside professionals is the fast track to a smarter palate.

6
Read a print magazine

They’re the “vinyl records” of literature. Coffee magazines aren’t the flimsy throwaways you have in mind, but are often thoughtfully curated and beautifully printed collections of stories worth keeping. Having way too many to choose from, we recommend that you start with Barista Magazine, Roast Magazine, Standart, or Caffeine. Each is written for a different kind of reader, so explore them a bit to see which suits you.

Pro tip: Some cafes keep magazines around for customers to read. Preview a few different issues before deciding which subscription to order.

7
Tour a manufacturing or roasting facility

Slayer studio Seattle

There are many facets to the coffee industry, each as radiant as the next. Tributes to agriculture are stamped on every bag, while retail really gets the last word on consumer experience, but we think that manufacturing deserves a chance to shine. Visit the manufacturer of one of your favorite coffee products and you may be surprised by the unique perspective they offer. Getting behind the scenes at a roastery is fascinating, too, and accessible in just about any city.

8
Watch a live competition routine

Every year, regional and national associations around the world crown a champion for each of several competitions. Their performances reveal new ideas and techniques, many of which become permanent fixtures in the industry. These events are worth watching live, but you can also find an online feed.

9
Order a ‘sig bev’

Iced latte recipe by Slayer

If you’re wondering how something like a professional coffee competition might spill into mainstream, look no further than “signature beverages”. Their popularity is a prevailing (and delicious) example of the influence of the Barista Championship. As traditional cafe menus evolve, we see more and more of these creative drinks, which are cocktail-like in complexity, yet still coffee-forward. Keep an eye on the board at your favorite cafe – it’s probably changing!

Pro tip: New sig bevs tend to show up on menus during competition season, which generally runs January to June.

10
Take more measurements – or none at all

Slayer shot on Acaia Lunar scale

Weight, time, temperature, pressure, flow, volume… Coffee may seem simple, but did you know that so many variables are at play? This year, pick at least one of them and measure it mercilessly. You may need some new gear to do the job, but we can almost guarantee a tasty return on your investment.

Level up: Got a handle on your measurements? We (and Cat & Cloud Coffee Podcast) dare you to ‘go dark’. See if you can hit the same quality without one of your favorite tools there to help.

What are your goals? Share any coffee resolutions you’ve made in the comments below.