Analog and Digital Tools of the Coffee Review Trade

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Once in a while people are curious about coffee apps, tools I use to track my coffees and things like that, so I figured an article on my process and the tools I use to do my work is in order. I use computers at work all day long and I’ve been a pen and paper nerd for decades, so I definitely lean toward the analog in my tool selection.

Digital Tools

Let’s look at digital tools first. The one app I do use consistently is the Press Coffee app for iPhone. You can buy it for $2.99. I did a short story on this and another app a while back. I log every coffee I drink (but no tasting notes) because I like the map feature. I hate typing on my iPhone for more than a quick message, so I keep my actual tasting notes in a notebook, but every coffee gets logged into this app so I can watch my map grow every day!

Photography is an important part of my coffee hobby, as is social media, so of course I use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The iPhone 5 camera is pretty decent for my purposes and I use it a lot because it’s so convenient. I love most of the adjustment tools that are built into Instagram and I do 90% of the editing of iPhone photos using Instagram. If I need a little more control or something, then I use VSCO or Enlight to edit the photo, then upload it. I use an IFTTT script that will post every Instagram photo natively to Twitter, and that has been a big convenience. If I have the time, I prefer to use my Pentax K-7 DSLR, usually with a Tamron ƒ2.8 17-50mm lens because I can really blur out the background and make my coffee photos a bit more artsy. I use Adobe Lightroom to process the RAW files and then Dropbox/Carousel to save the photos and make them available to my phone for Instagram later on. Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s not too bad.

I keep all my actual tasting notes in notebooks, but if I were to use an app for it I think I’d probably use Day One, since it’s taggable, syncs to the cloud, and easy to use, looks nice, etc.

Analog Tools

I like to use pocket-size notebooks, almost always a Field Notes, to keep my notes in. I leave the first leaf of paper blank so I can keep a table of contents, and to date I have been able to fit my notes for a coffee on a single page. That means one Field Notes can hold 46 reviews for me! I have enough Field Notes to last me the next 10 years or so at this rate! LOL I like the aesthetic of Field Notes and it’s nice to be able to use a new, different looking one every couple months, so there is nice variety and I don’t get bored of the notebook. It’s also as easy as sticking my notebook and something to write with in my pocket, so I don’t have to lug a laptop around and I can enjoy a cafe if I’m out, rather than being glued to my screen like everyone else in the place!

I am a big fountain pen guy, but Field Notes paper usually doesn’t do great with fountain pen inks (although, I have no illusion that anyone but me cares about these notebooks, so I’ll write with whatever and the bleeding and feathering on the paper doesn’t bother me). That being said, I tend to write with either a Ti2 Techliner shorty in copper (with UniBall Signo 207 refill in 0.7mm), Ateleia brass pen (with the UniBall Signo UMR-1 0.38 refill if I want to write really tiny), or a pencil (I like the Musgrave Test Scoring 100 best) in these notebooks. I told you I am a pen nerd!

At Oddly Correct with my Field Notes and a Tactical Keychains Titanium TKMB pen
At Oddly Correct with my Field Notes and a Tactical Keychains Titanium TKMB pen

I keep a separate notebook (Kukuyo A5 size Campus notebook… paper is AWESOME) by my computer where I track the names of roasters I’ve reached out to, the date I emailed or sent a message on social media, and then whether I heard back or not. A lot of people give me grief for my notebooks (I always have one on me so I can write things down during the day) and pens, but I feel the same way about them as I do about coffee… if I’m going to use them, they’re going to be something that I really get enjoyment from rather than something tedious that I don’t like.