Coffee is the defining element of most people’s college life. It’s the only thing that can make late night cram sessions bearable. You probably can’t even imagine being able to function in your 8 am (or 9 am…or 11 am) without at least one cup of it. You take immense pride in your Starbucks Gold Card, and maybe feel a little too excited when you earn that free drink.

Okay, so you’re probably addicted, but you aren’t alone. Over 54% of Americans aged 18 and older are drinking an average of 3.1 cups of day, but despite that, we still know almost nothing about that cup of delicious liquid crack.

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Luckily for you and your morning brew, we asked a French coffee roaster to spill the beans (pun intended) on everything you need to know about buying, making, and drinking the perfect cup. A lot goes into every bag of beans, and it’s important to know how to get the best cup on a college budget.

Jade Stéphan of Océan Coffee Roaster is the basically the Beyoncé of coffee, inspiring us mere mortals to try to be just a little bit better as people and coffee drinkers. She took her experience after having lived, worked, and studied in Brazil, the US, and France, to start her own roasting business in France in combination with fair trade coffee growers .

She answered a few of our embarrassing questions, totally understood our obsession, and even gave us a killer recipe for caffeine-filled iced coffee to get you through midterms and the day-to-day struggle bus. 

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On how to make the perfect cup

“To prepare a cup of coffee, there are many different techniques, like the vacuum coffee, French press, pour-over, espresso, Turkish coffee… It all depends on your personal tastes. I adore pour-over coffee, and I prepare it with the help of a Chemex or a V60. Whatever the method is, there are some preparation rules that are better to be followed than skipped:

1. Water should be simmering, but not boiling (around 95ºC/204ºF)

2. You need 7 grams of coffee for every 100 grams of water

3. You must use an adapted coffee grinder”

On what to look for when you go to buy coffee

“Try to know where your beans come from. If the name of the farm is there, that’s a positive sign. There is a very good chance that it is specialty coffee. If the roaster is good, the packaging will also indicate the date of roasting. Always buy the freshest coffee possible.”

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On how to grind your coffee
“The coffee grinder is essential for a cup of coffee. The fineness will be regulated by the time of contact between the coffee and water. If this isn’t good, the coffee will be either over-extracted or under-extracted, and in both cases, not good. Americans always use salt as a comparison point. I have learned from you, so now I will do the same:

1. Espresso: fine sea salt
2. Pour-over/filter: kosher salt
3. French press: coarse sea salt”

On how to make the most caffeinated coffee ever
“Many people think espresso contains the most caffeine, but this is an error. In reality, the more that the water and coffee are in contact, the higher the caffeine levels will be. So in order to stay awake during finals, drink cold-extraction coffee. It’s easy to make:

1. Put 70g coffee (ground for a filter) and 1 liter of cold water directly together in a sauce pan.

2. Leave them for 1 night, then filter using a conventional filter. You will get 1 liter of super-caffeinated iced coffee.

When I was working in the kitchen, I prepared the cold extraction. I filled an empty Coke bottle, and drank it throughout the day. It was my secret to working 17 hours a day.”

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On which methods to leave to the professionals
“The most difficult technique to master is the espresso. You must use incredible precision with tampering and adjusting the precision of the water, know when to stop the extraction. If you fail at something, the espresso will be very bad. I recommend leaving it to your favorite barista in your local coffee shop, and making filtered coffee in your own home.”

On who makes better coffee, the French or Americans
“I’ll confess something, in general Americans make better coffee than the French. Sometimes they roast it too much, so it is burnt and oily, and call it French Roast. Otherwise, I don’t really see an error. What I love about Americans is that they are curious and love to try new infusion techniques and blends, like coffee and peanut butter. Sometimes, it’s truly bizarre, but often it’s fantastic.”

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