Stage One: Caffeine Needers
Let's face it: mornings are terrible things. Humans aren't designed to arise to an alarm clock. Without one we would wake up when our bodies were rested. However we have responsibilities, from education to careers to caring for children, something is bound to wake us before our eyes naturally open on their own. And as a result of these earlier-than-natural mornings, many find the desire, or simply the need for caffeine. Alas coffee is easily accessible and relatively easily brew-able and does in fact contain a good deal of caffeine. And so many people begin their consumption - perhaps not even enjoyment - of coffee upon the desperate realization that something must caffeinate their bodies quickly.
Indicator of this stage: "Please make it not taste like coffee"
Coffee alone is an acquired taste and consequently this stage of coffee-drinker will usually prefer some flavor in coffee. These people will often be seen drinking coffee as an additive to milk or cream and sugar. Those who don't mind paying more for a cup of caffeine will drink coffee in the form of cappuccinos, mochas, and frappes. These frilly drinks often associated with coffee actually contain very little of the actual taste. Stage one coffee drinkers love that!
Stage Two: The Coffee Inclined
Perhaps as a natural next step or simply because some are more inclined to the taste of coffee, one will begin to enjoy the drink. There may even be some mysterious science behind acquired taste that explains it all clearly. I'm not familiar with any such science so I'm going on a hunch here. And I digress. Main point being at stage two of this objective scale, a person will enjoy, if only a little, the taste of coffee.
Indicator of this stage: "This is how I take my coffee"
This group of people will refer to coffee as "good" more often than caffeine needers. They know how they like their coffee. At some point they have transitioned to complementing the taste of coffee with cream or sugar instead of the other way around. Most have accepted that better coffee makers brew better coffee and will own equipment like Keurig or Ninja. And those who like to buy their drinks may trade the sugary cappuccino for espresso based drinks like late or macchiato.
Stage Three: Coffee Snobs
A few ascend from stage two and will taste a cup of coffee that opens up a new dimension of possibility. They realize that coffee has variety and character on its own - without the addition of cream, sugar, or syrup. Subtle, but distinctive tastes begin to emerge from coffee, like the dancing musical flavors in Pixar's Ratatouille. At this point a person has developed an affection, not just a liking, for coffee. Not just any coffee, however, only freshly brewed coffee will do for this crowd.
Indicator of this stage: "I don't like coffee. I love it. If I don't love it, I don't swallow"
Aside: if you don't get the reference you should really watch Pixar's Ratatouille
Once one reaches this stage of coffee enjoyment, they prefer their coffee "fresh". "Freshly ground", "freshly brewed", "freshly roasted", "fresh, fresh, fresh!!". An ordinary cup of drip coffee is no longer good enough. In order to enjoy the greatest potential flavor from their coffee, a coffee snob usually has a preferred brewing method. Popular among this group is the pour-over brew and french press. They have returned to what the other stages may view as archaic manual brewing mechanisms. But they take pride in brewing their coffee by hand only moments after grinding it. Coffee snobs also tend to persuade others to try their coffee, hoping to share their enlightenment.
Keep enjoying coffee!
It doesn't matter why or how you drink your coffee, odds are its part of your life. Enjoy it no matter where you fall on this humorous spectrum.