Caffeine Fiends: Coffee and tea when you work from home

Samantha Geitz
12 minute read

At Tighten Co., if there's anything we take as seriously as our code, it's our caffeine addictions. Because we all work from home (or our own individual offices), there's no shared, decades-old office Mr. Coffee that nobody ever cleans; we are responsible for keeping ourselves caffeinated, for better or worse.

(It may be "for worse", when you consider the weeks of coordination, including a long questionnaire we sent to the poor Airbnb host, for our last onsite to make sure the coffee setup was adequate for 4 days.)

I surveyed the Tighten crew to get the specifics of their battlestation setups and favorite brew methods. Whether or not you're working from home, if you're looking to step up your coffee (or tea) game, we hope you can learn something from our nerdery!

Ansell Chiu

Ansell coffee setup

  • On a scale from 1-10, rate your level of coffee snobbery: 8. But I also drink Singaporean and Viet and Korean instant coffee lol.  

  • Favorite brew method:
    V60, but I want to get a chemex.

  • What equipment do you use most? Scale, grinder, and variable temp kettle are indispensable. My scale has a built-in timer that just makes everything better. The one thing I wish I had was a filtered water dispenser—hence the Brita. I don't find Brita water quality to be that good, and if you're gunning for high control in hand brew, the water quality seriously matters.

  • Do you have any backup equipment? AeroPress and French press. I still use them occasionally. A friend has my hand grinder right now.

  • What are your roaster / bean of choice? I use local roasters whenever I can (Oak Cliff, Cultivar, Novel), and try to buy direct trade as much as possible.

  • You’re in a position where you have to work without coffee for a day. How do you respond? Drink tea and do push ups. I'm versatile ✌️

Benson Lee

Benson water setup

  • On a scale from 1-10, rate your level of coffee snobbery: Zero. I'm primarily a water drinker and occassionally enjoy coffee flavored drinks. I may or may not be in the wrong company.

  • What equipment do you use most? I'm a big fan of the Hydro Flask brand of water bottles. They're insulated, so cold drinks stay cold and don't sweat. I have the 40 oz size in black, and they come in 12, 18, 21, 24, 32, and 64 oz variations in all sorts of colors.

Chelsea Ashbrook

Chelsea coffee setup

  • On a scale from 1-10, rate your level of coffee snobbery: A solid…1. Before attending the Tighten Onsite in March, my biggest concern was my lack of coffee knowledge. I had no idea what a burr grinder or an Aeropress were. I didn’t understand why we needed a scale, a variable-temp kettle, or a pour over cone. My assumption that someone would make a Dunkin run each morning was clearly incorrect. However – despite poor coffee etiquette – my fellow Tightenites accepted me and I was able to reap the benefits of their coffee snobbery each morning.

  • Favorite brew method: I can’t tell you how it was made, but I’d have to say that onsite coffee was some of the best I’ve ever had.

  • What equipment do you use most? My Keurig – yes, the K word. It was a gift from an old coworker and traveled with me cross-country. I recently discovered you can get 120 K-cups from Costco for 38 bucks so I’ve been taking full advantage of that. It’s fast and easy so when I wake up feeling like a comatose zombie I find solace in that quick cup.

  • Do you have any backup equipment? Well, when there are guests at my apartment and it doesn’t make sense to use a bunch of K-cups I really roll out the big guns–you guessed it–my 12-cup Mr. Coffee.

  • What are your roaster / bean of choice? The ‘Costa Rican Sonrisa’ beans from a coffee roasting company called A Happy Life, which was co-founded by a former peer of mine at UConn. All of A Happy Life’s profits go towards helping coffee farming communities in developing countries so drinking it makes you feel even happier than your average cup of joe.

  • You’re in a position where you have to work without coffee for a day. How do you respond? Hmm… I would say we have a very good leave policy at Tighten for a reason ☺️

Dan Sheetz

Dan coffee setup

  • On a scale from 1-10, rate your level of coffee snobbery: Probably about a 6.784

  • Favorite brew method:
    Pourover.  I have an German thermal carafe made by Alfi, and I use the cone that came with it.

  • What equipment do you use most? The aforementioned Alfi carafe.  #5 Melitta cone filters.  Gooseneck kettle that Tighten gave everybody like 3 years ago.  Cheap digital kitchen scale.  A Baratza Encore burr grinder that I like but don’t love.

  • Do you have any backup equipment? Nespresso.  Don’t judge, it’s really quite good, and we recycle the pods through the mail (seriously). In an emergency, I'd microwave some Trader Joe's cold brew.

  • What are your roaster / bean of choice? Blue Bottle weekly subscription!  I do the blends, as opposed to the single origins.  More balanced for the morning cup.  For local roasters, I love Kickapoo and Counter Culture

  • You’re in a position where you have to work without coffee for a day. How do you respond? I have never had this happen.  Can I get an iced chai?  If no coffee/tea, I think I would go ahead and have a Coke.

Dave Hicking

Dave tea setup

  • On a scale from 1-10, rate your level of tea snobbery: 5

  • Favorite brew method: Tea temps:

    • Crucial.
    • I like 190 for black tea. I know it's not what you're "supposed" to do, but any hotter and I need to let it cool for too long
    • I typically put a bit of half & half or almond milk in the tea (not too much)
    • For herbal teas, it's 160 degrees. For green tea, 175. No milk or half & half for those.
  • What equipment do you use most? Unquestionably, it’s my electric kettle.  This is my second electric kettle, and having actual temperature control makes a huge difference to me.

  • Do you have any backup equipment? Sadly, it would be the microwave.

  • What are your teas of choice? I typically alternate between:

  • You’re in a position where you have to work without tea for a day. How do you respond? Honestly, the biggest thing for me is to make sure that I can maintain a good amount of energy through out the day. So I'd probably be making sure I'm taking breaks to walk around, maybe even doing some pushups or jumping jacks from time to time to keep the blood flowing.

    Jamison Valenta

    Jamison tea setup

  • On a scale from 1-10, rate your level of caffeinated-beverage snobbery: 7.  This translates into me drinking coffee a dozen times per year, because it’s just not worth it unless it’s perfect. I drink tea far more often, not because I’m less intense about doing it well, but because a bad tea steep doesn’t make me hate the world.

  • Favorite brew method: Steeping loose-leaf tea with a metal infuser. Steep tea for correct time for the temperature (more details elsewhere in this comp). Allow to cool open-topped, cover with glass top once at drinking temperature to keep tea at the perfect temp.  Alternatively, steep in a covered tea pot, and use a small tea bowl for drinking.

  • What equipment do you use most? Pictured: Bonavita kettle, laser cut tea infuser w/ glass top. Soda-fired porcelain mug that I made, which has a mouth that fits the size of the infuser glass top.  Things I love about the infuser - 1: You get to use the top for your mug to keep your tea at that perfect drinking temp for nearly an hour. 2: The laser-cut holes only let the finest particles out 3: the infuser doesn’t have holes on the bottom, so once you’ve steeped your tea, you don’t have to find a dish to put it on to prevent leakage.

  • Do you have any backup equipment? A pot on the stove?  Bring the water to boiling, add to mug, add just the right amount of tap water to cool, add infuser with tea.  For the finer tea types - green/white/oolong, you can use boiling water, but you should only steep for 20-30 seconds. Gives you a really light, clean taste.  The first steep will be really weak because the leaves are still hydrating. The 2nd and 3rd times will taste much more balanced.  This boiling method can be great for that person who always forgets to stop steeping their tea and gets a bitter steep as a punishment.  When my brain is super distracted/tired/etc, I’ll use this method intentionally, literally counting out loud. It’s just 30 seconds.  =)

  • What are your teas of choice? It varies.  For greens/whites/oolongs I usually go with packages where I don’t know the language; the sort of gift box you receive from business partners when visiting East Asia.  The way I tell quality is how well the flavor holds and matures in multiple steeps of the same leaves. Ground leaves are usually the worst. Also, don’t waste your money on individually sachet-ed packets.

  • You’re in a position where you have to work without tea for a day. How do you respond? No big deal.  I don’t really respond to caffeine, and when I do, it comes in the form of an all-body muscle activation but-not-quite-twitchy thing.  No affect on consciousness (regardless of tiredness)

    Keith Damiani

Keith coffee setup

  • On a scale from 1-10, rate your level of coffee snobbery: 8

  • Favorite brew method: Espresso

  • What equipment do you use most?

    • La Pavoni Europiccola lever espresso machine: "The peacock" is a shiny workhorse of a machine, and has been going strong for about 20 years now. It's temperamental but beautiful, and each day it makes me feel all retro-Italian...like I'm hanging out in 1950s Milan for a few minutes.
    • Rancilio Rocky burr grinder: Rocky is a beast, but produces a remarkably consistent grind and is relatively quiet for a burr grinder. In true Pavlovian fashion, the sweet, gravelly hum of the grinder every morning tells my brain that caffeinated bliss isn't far behind.
  • Do you have any backup equipment?

    • Ceramic pour-over (Hario V60)
    • Capresso Infinity conical burr grinder
  • What are your roaster / bean of choice?

    • Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co., Richmond, VA (their "Blanchard's Blend" makes a mean, Italian-style espresso)
    • Red Rooster Coffee Roaster, Floyd, VA ("Funky Chicken", excellent for a pour-over cup)
    • Lavazza Super Crema (Lavazza's whole bean espressos are 👌, but their pre-ground stuff is 💩)
  • You’re in a position where you have to work without coffee for a day. How do you respond? Go back to bed. Or just jump straight to evening cocktails.

Matt Stauffer

Jamison tea setup

  • On a scale from 1-10, rate your level of coffee snobbery: 8? I think?

  • Favorite brew method:
    V60, I think. It's the best way to get the most flavor out of the coffee. Second would probably be espresso, but I have to have all the right materials around, and I don't always.

  • What equipment do you use most? Hario V60. It's light and easy, almost no clean up, hard to break, easy to replace, makes coffee with great flavor. I have a Gaggia Classic for Espresso. My grinder is a Capresso Infinity.

  • Do you have any backup equipment? At home I have an Aeropress and my wife has a classic Cuisinart drip machine. I used to have a Hario cold brew pot and a french press but my son broke both.

  • What are your roaster / bean of choice? Blue Bottle, Counter Culture, Intelligentsia, Stumptown, and I recently was given some Funky Chicken that I totally love. Beans-wise I'll also go light roast--gimme dat flavor! I'm a big fan of Ethiopian coffee, and have always loved Yirgacheffe.

  • You’re in a position where you have to work without coffee for a day. How do you respond? Go to the gym. Same effect as coffee. If that's not an option, give me some kombucha, tea, or a bunch of water.

Samantha Geitz

Sam coffee setup

  • On a scale from 1-10, rate your level of coffee snobbery: I'm a solid 8. Like, I'll drink Starbucks if I don't have any better options, but I'll grumble under my breath about it the whole time.

  • Favorite brew method:
    Espresso, hands-down

  • What equipment do you use most? I have a Gaggia Classic that I'm constantly daydreaming about upgrading to something better, but it gets the job done. For a grinder, I use a Lido E-T hand grinder, and I love it. It's more work than an electric grinder, but the perfect consistency for an espresso grind is worth the effort. I've also got a cheap-o scale and an expensive tamper.

  • Do you have any backup equipment? During the summer, I make a lot of cold brew coffee and keep it in the fridge for when I'm feeling hot and/or lazy (which is pretty much every afternoon). I also have an AeroPress that I use on occasion, especially when I'm going to be traveling.

  • What are your roaster / bean of choice? I like to experiment, but Intelligentsia's Black Cat blend is probably what I drink most frequently because it gives me an excuse to walk downtown when I need some. Second choice is definitely BowTruss's Canopy blend.

  • You’re in a position where you have to work without coffee for a day. How do you respond? Find the nearest bottle of scotch and go back to bed, in that order.