Want to be a coffee nerd but not sure where to begin? Step one: Taste your way through the interesting independent cafes in your neighborhood. Step two: Trust your senses.
Smell... the coffee? If not, move on. Trust your nose. A pleasant aroma of coffee is a first sign you're in the right place.
Listen... for grinding. Great coffee shops grind the beans to order for every espresso-based drink (cappuccino, latte, cortado, etc.). No reason for you to get your fix from anything in a tin can or a five-pound bag from the storage closet.
Look... for a straight-forward menu. Great coffee doesn't need any silly syrups. Also, look for good foam. Says Everyman Espresso's Sam Penix: "You want tight, velvety looking bubbles and latte art. That's the mark of an experienced barista."
Feel... welcomed? Coffee is meant to be enjoyed slowly, not guzzled out of a paper cup while running to catch the F train. Sit down and stay a while.
Taste... coffee without the bitterness of a black bodega brew. Single origin coffees from places like Ethiopia are going to have more fruity flavors like cherry while beans from Indonesia are going to be more nutty and earthy. And that's before you add the milk.
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