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This FAQ is dedicated to coffee and all that goes with it.
There are several newsgroups in which these topics may be of relevance, including rec.food.drink.coffee, alt.coffee, alt.food.coffee and alt.drugs.caffeine.
I welcome any and all contributions to this FAQ. If you do not agree with the info in
here please let me know or write an article for the FAQ. If you feel you can explain
something better than I have, by all means rewrite the article and send it in.
According to chemical studies, the optimal water temperature for drip coffee is 95-98C. According to my notes, colder water doesn't extract enough caffeine/essential oils from the beans, and above such temperature the acidity increases wildly.
The quality of a brew depends on the following factors (in no particular order):
Fact: Unless you are buying some major debris, bean quality is not very important, as compared to 1-3 and 5.
Fact: A coffee can in the supermarket often contains major debris, so be careful when you choose. (See note below).
Fact: Once you have freshly roasted and ground coffee, filtered water and equipment free of oil residues from the last brew, quality of beans makes a huge difference.
NOTE: A coffee can in the supermarket often contains a blend of Arabica and robusta beans while most coffee houses sell only arabica beans. Arabica beans are usually flavor rich, while robusta beans have more caffeine, less flavor and are cheaper to produce.
When you buy coffee, whether in a coffee house or in a supermarket, you want to get 100% arabica, except for espresso blends, which may be a combination of both. My personal experience says that a 100% arabica espresso blend is better but many people (including many Italians) will disagree on this point, so go with what you like.
For freshness, in a coffee house it is better to buy popular blends that move fast,
while in a supermarket vacuum packaged containers with expiration date are your best bet.
Chances are you will not get truly fresh coffee in a supermarket. This is an absolute fact if it is pre-ground. In a coffee house look for a shop that roasts in-house and ask what was roasted that day. If the person behind the counter does not know, ask to talk to someone who cares about coffee. If no one knows, go somewhere else. As a side note, it should be mentioned that coffee is at its best after 12-24 hours, so you might be interested in day-old coffee as well if you plan to brew the same day. Also, grind your own coffee. Buying fresh and then having it ground defeats the purpose. Ground coffee only lasts a few hours or one day tops.
Arabica beans and robusta beans are two different species of coffee. They are the
primary species of coffee that find their way into the American cup. The general
differences are those of taste, and the conditions under which the two species differ in
Taste: Arabicas have a wider taste range, between varieties. They range in taste from sweet-soft to sharp-tangy. Their unroasted smell is sometimes likened to blueberries. Their roasted smell is perfumey with fruity notes and sugary tones.
Robustas taste range is neutral to harsh and they are often described as tasting grain-like, oatmeally. Their unroasted smell is often described as raw-peanutty. Their roasted smell is often likened to burnt rubber.
Production Conditions: Arabicas are delicate, they require cool tropical climates, lots of moisture, rich soil, shade and sun. They are subject to attack from various pests, and are extremely vulnerable to cold and bad handling.
Robustas are hardier plants, capable of growing well at low altitudes, less subject to problems related to pests and rough handling. They yield more pounds of finished goods per acre at a lower cost of production.
Economics: Customs and trade, supply and demand over the course of the last 150 years has determined the relative values of arabica vs. robusta beans. Generally speaking, the best coffees are all arabicas and the highest quality blends are pure arabica blends. They are also the priciest.
In the U.S. you will generally find arabicas in the coffee store and specialty food shop, and robustas in the supermarket cans and jars of instant.
In Italy, home of espresso, the very highest quality brands are pure arabica, and like here, the popular-priced goods are blended with robusta beans. Because "Imported from Italy" can make an ordinary supermarket quality Italian espresso a "gourmet" coffee in the U.S., you will find robustas in some Italian brands offered for sale in the United States.
The coffee you like is a very personal thing. You may find that you really prefer the all-arabica blends, or you may feel comfortable with something less, just because you like it. That's OK. The American marketplace, thanks to the Specialty Coffee movement here, is now rich enough in roast types, species, varieties, blends, brews, grinds, and price points to have something for every taste and pocketbook.
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a. Whatever seems right to you.
b. It may change slightly from coffee to coffee and according to freshness.
c. What the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has to say:
A cup is defined as 6 ounces of water before brewing. This will produce 5.33 ounces of brewed coffee. Or 125 ml & 110 ml for Euro style coffee makers
The SCAA defines 10 grams or .36 oz per cup as the proper measure for brewed coffee if using the American standards. If using Euro standards the measure is 7 grams per 125 ml.
To further confuse things I will add a few more measures:
3.75 oz per 1/2 gallon
55 grams per liter
2.25 gallons per 1 lb.
If you want to know more check the SCAA's web page at www.scaa.com.
d. According to "The Coffee Lover's Companion" by Diana Rosen, the standard is 2 tbs. per 6 oz of water. This to me seems very high but I have never tried it.
e. My personal taste is 1 "standard measure" per cup of coffee. A standard measure is approximately 1 tbs. this is a plus or minus equation depending on the coffee I am using, the degree of roast (darker = more coffee due to weight loss to keep the same weight per ounce) and the coffeepot I am brewing in. I believe this should be approximately in line with the SCAA's advice.
Drip is the most common form of coffee served in the United States. This method essentially pours near-boiling water over medium-course coffee grounds to produce coffee. This is probably the easiest method of making coffee. A few words about filters: There are two types of filter available for drip coffee. One type is paper. The other is a metal or plastic permanent filter. Neither is innately better but they do produce different coffee flavors. A paper filter will hold some of the essential oils that are being released from the coffee. Some people have a preference for this. In paper filters there are several brands that have various thickness and types of paper that will absorb more or less of the oils. One selling point for paper filters is that they are very easy to clean up; just throw them away. This of course means more landfill and more trees being cut down. Some people also feel that paper filters give coffee a papery taste. The permanent filter has some obvious advantages and disadvantages in relation to paper. I will add just a couple of ideas about them here. One, use metal; plastic won't last as long and may give your coffee an off flavor. Two, permanent filters require a slightly courser grind and you may get some sediment in your cup. This is probably comparable to the sediment in a coffee press.
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A French press is a glass container with a wire mesh attached to a plunger. To make coffee, you first allow water to come very close to a boil but just short of this point. If you are heating water in an open pan, when you see the very beginning of a boil, pull your water. The overall temperature of the water from top to bottom should even out to be in the ideal range for coffee. If you are using a closed tea pot, this is the point where the water just begins to sound different in the pot. For more information on temperature see the section on water temperature. The press should be pre-warmed before putting the coffee in. This will help keep the glass from absorbing as much heat when the hot water is put in the press thus making for warmer coffee when you pour. The press should contain approximately the same amount of very coarsely ground coffee as you would use for drip coffee. Let it rest for 2-3 minutes or until it is easy to press the plunger down and then plunge the wire mesh. This filters the coffee. Course ground coffee is a must here or there will be a great deal of sediment in the cup. You will have a small amount of sediment no mater what. Due to the fact that there is no paper filter, all oils make it into the cup. This is a great cup of coffee.
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See the Home Espresso Machine Mini-FAQ by David Bogie at http://www.islandnet.com/coffee/faq.html for info on espresso. Also check the info in this file under the recipe section.
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This is a method I have never experienced so if someone who has first-hand experience
wants to redo this, let me know. The buildup of steam in the lower bowl forces the water
up into the funnel, where it mixes with the ground coffee. A quick stir wets the grounds
into the water, and a small amount of water left behind in the bowl keeps the steam coming
and the temperature constant. Brewing continues for 2 minutes (it can go longer but you
don't get any more flavor) and we then take the siphon off the hotplate. With no more
steam being produced, a vacuum forms in the bowl, which sucks the brewed coffee down
through the filter.I hear this gives a great cup of coffee and is quite fun to watch.
Cona (the original) in England, Hario in Japan, and Yama Glass in Taiwan and Bodum make vacuum pots. Corey & Silex used to make them in the U.S. and Sunbeam also made a metal model with built-in heating.
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Percolators violate most of the natural laws about brewing coffee.
Violating these rules may not sound like much, but these are about the only rules there are. The effect of a percolator is to keep passing boiling water/coffee over the grounds until there is no flavor left and the flavor in the coffee is so dead that it's a worthless waste.
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This is being worked on now. Check the next version.
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It is very important that you wash your coffee maker pot and filter container thoroughly at least once a week. Bitter oils stick to the glass container and plastic filter holder.
I used to wash the plastic filter container and rinse the glass pot. Coffee started to taste bad. When I was told to wash both thoroughly with plenty of soap the flavor improved instantly. Note: To the naked eye rinsed and soap washed pots look the same (clean that is).
Another trick is every time you use your coffeepot, unless you are making another pot right away, put a couple of drops of liquid dishwashing detergent in the pot and run hot water into the pot. Let this sit on the counter till you need it again, rinse and you are ready to go. This does not replace the weekly or twice-weekly washing but helps keep it cleaner between washings.
Some drip coffee makers require periodic cleansing with a solution of water and vinegar.
If you have a coffee/teapot, the inside of which is stained with oily brown residues - also plastic/metal coffee filters, tea strainers, and stainless steel sinks in caffeine-o-phile houses - they can be restored to a shining, brand-spanking-new state by washing in hot washing powder (detergent).
Get a large plastic jug, add 2 or 3 heaped tablespoons of Daz Automatic or Bold or whatever, and about a pint of hot water - just off the boil is the best.
Swill the jug around until the detergent is dissolved, and then pour into tea/coffeepot, and let it stand for 5 minutes, swilling the pot around occasionally, just to keep the detergent moving. Put the lid on and shake it a few times (care: slippery + hot)
Repeat as necessary. Keep it hot with a little boiling water if needed. If you have a cafetiere, disassemble it, and soak the parts in the mixture for a few minutes, agitating occasionally.
In both cases, the residue just falls off with almost no scrubbing. It does great things with overused filter machine filters, too.
Important: Rinse off all detergent afterwards, use lots of fresh water!
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If the exterior needs cleaning, just use a good cleaner like Fantastik or the like - note though that Fantastik might actually remove some of the stamped on text and logos if they are painted on.
If the interior needs cleaning, you need to decalcify it. Add about 3 oz. of vinegar to about 20 oz. of water, and let it run through the machine. Then run about 3-4 times the amount of fresh water. Several online coffee sites have info on decalcifying.
If you can disassemble the frothing wand, do so - and get the wand almost sterile-clean. If little rubber gaskets pop out, DON'T LOSE THEM and remember what order they go back on.
Same thing goes for the brewhead - that's where the water comes out - most pump machines have a brewhead that can be removed with a single screw - tilt your machine on its side (make sure there's no water in it) and disassemble that part - again, do get it crystal clean - use toothbrushes, use a clean j-cloth, whatever it takes to get all the nooks and crannies.
Once the machine is cleaned inside and out, run one more full batch of water through it, making sure you stop the pump just before all the water drains out.
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One should always store coffee beans in a glass, air-tight container. Air and moisture are coffee's principle enemies. Glass is best because it doesn't retain the odors of the beans or the oils, which could contaminate future beans stored in the same container. However, if you use glass, make sure the container is not exposed to light, as sunlight is believed to reduce freshness.
Buy only what coffee can be consumed in a week to a week and a half from the time it
was roasted. This is the only way to have truly fresh coffee.
Do not freeze ground coffee. There are two key problems here. One, the freezing will damage some of subtle tastes in the coffee and two, when the coffee is taken out the container will sweat, exposing your coffee to moisture.
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First off, any grinder is better than having your coffee preground at the store. Pregrinding is just a way of insuring stale coffee.
Perhaps the earliest form of grinding anything, whether it be spices or coffee, was the simple mortar and pestle approach. The item to be ground - or crushed as it were - was placed in the bottom of a bowl, and the blunt end of a stick was used to crush said item along the bowl's bottom and sides. Following this - and history tends to lead us down numerous paths - mechanical means replaced the mortar and pestle. Manually operated, the coffee (or, again, spice, wheat, corn... whatever) was placed between a stationary and a moving disc. The movement of the one disc atop the other created a grinding force. This is also known as milling; a term we carry into the present.
Milling has become very efficient with the use of electrical motors as opposed to horses, water, steam, or human-power. And milling, as a process, is as common to the agricultural industry as it is to coffee. To understand the benefit of milling coffee, let us first compare it to another popular grinding technique, the blade-style coffee grinder. Available in practically every housewares store in the world, the blade-style grinder uses a small, universal electrical motor to spin two metal blades at very high speeds. When in contact with the coffee beans, the blades chop and crush the bean's structure. Akin to the mortar and pestle for not creating a uniform grind, this method is quick and inexpensive. Many models of this type can be had for less than 20$US.
A step up, and the primary focus of this article, is the burr style, or milling style coffee grinder. Like the wheat or corn grinder, and essentially identical to commercial, industrial-sized grinders, the burr grinder for today's consumer is available in a myriad of colors, features, materials, and prices.
Why a burr grinder?
As mentioned above, the blade variant of coffee grinders allows a varying particle size from the resultant grind. The leading reason for the use of a burr grinder is the ability to produce a uniform grind of the beans. A uniform grind is important for a few different reasons. First, it provides an even surface area for extraction during whatever brew process you may wish to use. Second, for espresso, the uniform grind allows for even wetting and even packing of the grounds.
Let us return above. An even grind will provide for an even extraction of the oils from the coffee. Ill-proportioned grind will cause some of the coffee to over-extract, and some to under-extract. Over-extracted coffee will taste bitter and overly pungent. Under-extracted will taste weak and thin.
Burr grinders, ideally and theoretically, pass an incoming bean under (or in between) its burrs once. Whether it be for one revolution or two, the bean, as it finishes its pass, is completely crushed into identically-sized pieces. Blade-style and mortar and pestle re-grind the coffee, which provides the inconsistency mentioned above.
The Big Debate - Flat-Plate Burr Grinders vs. Conical Burr Grinders:
Burr grinders are distinct by two forms. The first is where the burrs are plate-shaped and lie atop each other. In the second model, the burrs are shaped like two mating cones; the grinding teeth facing toward each burr set. The debate lies with life expectancy (read: wear), grind consistency, and ease of cleaning. To begin with, both variations are easy to clean so long as the manufacturer designed the grinder to allow one of the two burr sets to be removed. To my knowledge, every manufacturer has done so. It is up to the owner to find the appropriate cleaning tool used to get into the teeth's grooves. Incidentally, a stiff bristled brush like that of a toothbrush works well. The debate flourishes here: does a conical burr-set wear more but provide a greater grind consistency and slower operating speed (due to prolonged contact between bean and burr), or does the flat-plate burr-set provide greater consistency and life because of its ability to operate at faster speeds? You decide. There are arguments for and against both parties. All in all, to the average consumer, this argument is like the blowing of the wind. Meaningless.
"You get what you paid for."
I mentioned this above. And it is true, especially when you figure in other factors to your potential purchase. These factors are as follows:
Does the machine come with a warranty? If so, how many years?
May I try the machine first before committing to a purchase?
Is the machine too loud?
Is the machine easy to clean up? Does its spill or throw ground coffee all over the place?
Is there service available in my area? If so, how much extra and how easy is it to obtain?
Is the machine repairable by myself or a local appliance repairperson?
Keep all of these questions on the tip of your brain when and after you go shopping. You'll find distinct differences between each and every model mentioned above. It is true that the higher you go, the greater the quality of the machine - both in materials used and end product. Consistency is still very much a driving argument and consistency is best achieved when higher-quality components and material are used.
These are the biggest questions you need to keep on your mind:
How much will you use this grinder and for what reasons? Do you plan on only grinding for one style of coffee? Do you plan on using it daily? Do you plan on using many different types of coffee beans?
If you can answer these questions, you can narrow down your search very easily.
For more info and the full text of this article check out http://www.seasoned.com/issues/199809/
Another point that deserves attention is that many cheap coffee grinders have a tendency to have some type of static problems. Some of the more expensive models can also have these same problems so, as with other considerations, be sure to try the grinder before you buy.
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Please read the question :).
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By far, the most common spelling used throughout the world today is "espresso". This is a shortened form of the original Italian name for the drink "caffe espresso" (accent marks omitted). This spelling is considered to be the correct spelling by the vast majority of of coffee consumers, vendors, retailers, and producers.
Some English language dictionaries also list "expresso" as a variant spelling. However, this does not mean the spelling is 'equally valid.' (see the post by Jesse Sheidlower included below)
It was pointed out during the great "espresso vs. expresso" debate (spring '94) that the Italian alphabet does not even contain the letter "X," which is incorrect.
Further, it was discovered that at least three dictionaries contained incorrect definitions of the word "espresso". The American Heritage Dictionary gave the following definition:
"A strong coffee brewed by forcing steam under pressure through darkly roasted, powdered coffee beans."
The Oxford English Dictionary said:
"Coffee brewed by forcing steam through powdered coffee beans"
The Webster New World Dictionary gives:
"coffee prepared in a special machine from finely ground coffee beans, through which steam under high pressure is forced."
All three of these are wrong. In fact, espresso is a strong coffee brewed by quickly forcing hot water through darkly roasted, finely-ground coffee beans.
(Some espresso makers do use steam, but only to force the hot water through the ground coffee. The steam NEVER touches the coffee. Many espresso makers use no steam at all. Instead, they use either a pump or a piston to quickly force hot water through the ground coffee.)
Once these errors and the origins of the word "espresso" had been pointed out, the argument "but expresso is in the dictionary" quickly began to crumble. The final death blow to this position came in a post by dictionary editor Jesse Sheidlower. This post is reproduced in its entirety below:
Jesse Sheidlower writes
I find this thread fascinating. I regret that it demonstrates an unfamiliarity with dictionaries and how to use them, but no matter. I believe that I am the only dictionary editor to participate in this discussion, so let me waste a bit more bandwidth addressing some of the points made so far, and introducing a few others:
- The OED, Second Edition, does include _espresso_ and _expresso_, the latter being a variant of the former. It correctly derives it from Italian _caffe espresso_. [Accents left off here.] Whoever claimed it derives the term from a would-be Italian _caffe expresso_ was in error.
- There _is_ an "x" in Latin and Italian.
Mike Oliver points out that there are two Italian alphabets, one (il tradizionale) with no w, x or y, and the other one with all the letters in the English alphabet. The latter seems to be the one currently in use. (Reference: Il grande dizionario Garzanti della lingua italiana, Garzanti Editore s.p.a, 1987).
- There are four major American dictionaries (published by Merriam Webster, Webster's New World, Random House, and American Heritage). The most recent edition of each gives _espresso_ as the main form, and _expresso_ as a variant only. The fact that _expresso_ is listed in the dictionary does not mean that it is equally common: the front matter for each dictionary explains this. The person who claimed that three dictionaries including OED give _expresso_ as "equally valid" was in error.
- Dictionaries, in general, do not dictate usage: they reflect the usage that exists in the language. If a dictionary says that _espresso_ is the main spelling, it means that in the experience of its editors (based on an examination of the language), _espresso_ is notably more common. It does not mean that the editors have a vendetta against _expresso_.
- To the linguist who rejects the authority of dictionaries: I agree that language is constantly changing; I'm sure that every dictionary editor in the country does as well. Dictionaries are outdated before they go to press. But I think they remain accurate to a large extent. Also, if you are going to disagree with the conclusions of a dictionary, you should be prepared to back yourself up. I can defend, with extensive written evidence, our decision to give _espresso_ as the preferred form.
- The spelling _espresso_ is the form used by the copy desks of the _New York Times,_ _Gourmet,_ _Bon Appetit,_ The _Wine Spectator,_ the _Wall St. Journal,_ the _L.A. Times,_ _Time,_ _Newsweek,_ and to my knowledge every other major or minor newspaper or magazine, general or food-related, in the English-speaking world. The fact that a handwritten menu on an Italian restaurant door spells it "expresso" is trivial by comparison.
- In sum: though both _espresso_ and _expresso_ are found, the former is by far the more common. It is also to be favored on immediate etymological evidence, since the Italian word from which it is directly borrowed is spelled _espresso_. The form _espresso_ is clearly preferred by all mainstream sources.
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It has recently come to my attention that the answer to this question is a bit up in the air so I will be reporting reasonable possibilities that I pick up from the news groups here. Some or all may be urban legend but until I have a sure way to know I will use this system.
1. The U.S. Navy used to serve alcoholic beverages on board ships. However, when Admiral Josephus "Joe" Daniels became Chief of Naval Operations, he outlawed alcohol onboard ships, except for very special occasions. Coffee then became the beverage of choice, hence the term "Cup of Joe."
2. "Joe" is 19th Cent. American slang for coffee.
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The only coffee of commerce today that is the product of an animal's digestive tract is
Kopi Luak or Luwak from Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is reported that the
yearly crop is about 80 LB total. It retails in the US for about $18.50 oz. or $296.00 LB.
and is available from John Martinez & Son in Atlanta, GA.
According to the former head of the Indonesian national zoo, as told to the Smithsonian's rep. Kopi Luak is a fiction with a great sales pitch. (See: http://www.si.edu/natzoo/coffee.htm )
Does it really exist? That is a good question. Is something being sold in the US as Kopi Luak? Yes.
Check out what Dave Barry had to say about it at: http://home.earthlink.net/~munson/tom/coffee/nov9.html.
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In the United States federal regulations require that in order to label coffee as "decaffeinated" that coffee must have had its caffeine level reduced by no less than 97.5 percent.
Example: Panamanian coffee is about 1.36% caffeine by weight normally. This and many other arabica coffees are about 98.64% caffeine free even before anything is done to lower the caffeine content..
When 97% of the caffeine has been removed only .0408 % of the coffee weight is caffeine. About 4/10ths of 1%. At this level it is labeled "decaffeinated. How roasters label their products is another matter. Suppose two roasters roast Panama coffee that originally came from the same lot, and were decaffeinated together in the same vat. One roaster labels his decaf. "97% Caffeine Removed." The other says his is "99+% Caffeine Free." Which roaster is not telling the truth?
The answer is: They are both right. They are both essentially saying the same thing. But, which decaf. does the average consumer believe has the least caffeine?
Currently used solvents for decaffeinating coffee include, H2O (water), CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), Meth. Chloride, Ethyl Acetate. Note: A relatively new method called Swiss Water Decaffeinated uses "flavor-charged" water in the decaffeination process.
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NOTE: I do not entirely agree with some of the assertions made in a couple of these recipes and do not know much about some of the preparation methods described, so use these at your own risk.
I need a good write up of how to make espresso. Someone please help out here.
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You won't get single, glossy beans, but the taste is there!
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Disclaimer: People prepare cappuccino in many different ways, and in their very own way, each one of them is correct. The following recipe, which is commonly used in Latin countries, has been tasted by several of my North American friends and they unanimously agreed that cappuccino prepared using this recipe tastes much better than the standard fare in USA/Canada.
Start with cold milk (it doesn't really need to be ice-cold), use homo. milk or carnation. 2% or skim is just not thick enough (though admittedly, it is easier to produce foam with skim milk).
Place the milk in a special cappuccino glass with a cappuccino basket. (Cappuccino glasses have a thinner bottom).
Aerate the milk near the top, within 2cm (1 in.) of the top. Move the glass down as the milk aerates. It is a good idea to have an oscillating motion while aerating the milk. (ed. The process of oscillation probably won't really add much to your drink but it does look cool.)
Aerating the milk in another container, then pouring in a glass and adding the foam with a spoon is sacrilege.
If you need to aerate the milk in a separate container, aerate exactly the amount of milk required for one cup, so no need to add foam with a spoon.
Once the milk has been aerated, promptly clean the aerator with a wet rag. Failure to do so will quickly result in rotten milk flavor coming from the aerator.
Another warning on similar lines applies to restaurant-type coffee machines: leave the aerator valve open when powering the machine up and down. When the machine is off a partial vacuum is formed in the boiler that will suck milk residue into the boiler. This then coats the inside of the boiler and can cause bad smelling steam until the boiler is flushed. Some machines have a vacuum bleed valve to prevent this problem but many don't.
Wait for the steam pressure to build up again (for some cappuccino makers wait time is near zero, for others it may be as long as 60 secs.).
Prepare the espresso coffee - you may add it directly to the glass if possible or use a cup and then pour it from the cup on the milk.
According to Jym Dyer: In Italy, the milk is added TO the espresso, not the other way around, that way the milk is floating; on top, where you then add the sugar, and stir it up.
Cappuccino tastes better when it is really hot, and has two teaspoons of sugar. (small teaspoons, like the ones in expensive silverware).
Then, accompany said cappuccino with a warm tea bisquit or English muffin with marmalade, or alternatively with a baguette sandwich or panini.
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Frappe coffee is widely consumed in parts of Europe and Latin America, especially in summer. Originally, it was made with cold espresso. Nowadays it is prepared in most places by shaking into a shaker 1-2 teaspoons of instant coffee with sugar, water and ice-cubes and it is served in a long glass with ice, milk to taste and a straw. The important thing is the thick froth on top of the glass.
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The best coffee I ever tasted was while in the coffee growing regions of Mexico, in the state of Veracruz, in the town of Coatepec. The quality of the coffee was mostly due to the method of preparation rather than the quality of the grains (which is at about the same level as an average Colombian coffee). Here's how to make it:
Warning: This coffee may fool you 'cause it has a very smooth taste but is extremely strong. Caffeine content per milliliter is right there with espresso, but you can't tell!
Note: For some strange reason, when preparing this coffee I tend to have a success ratio of about one out of two attempts. I still don't know what I'm doing wrong, since, as far as I can tell, I always repeat the same steps. Perhaps sometimes I don't let the coffee rest long enough.
This type of coffee is similar in nature to the French press. And in principle, you could possibly add sugar to the ground coffee, then pour water, and lastly press with the strainer.
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Turkish coffee is prepared using a little copper pot called a raqwa.
Use a heaping teaspoon of very finely-ground coffee and, optionally, one heaping teaspoon of sugar (to taste). Use about 3oz of coffee. [Add the sugar only just before boiling point.] Turkish coffee without sugar is called sade, with a little sugar is "orta s,ekerli" and with lots of sugar is "c,ok s,ekerli".
The trick of it is to heat it until it froths, pour the froth into the coffee cup and heat it a second time. When it froths again, pour the rest into the cup.
The grounds will settle to the bottom of the cup as you drink the coffee and towards the end, it'll start to taste bitter and the texture will be more like wet coffee grounds than a drink. As soon as this happens stop or your next sip will taste really, really bitter. Instead, turn your cup upside down on the saucer, and let someone read your fortune!
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Be careful not to stir after the cream has been added. The cream should form a foamy layer about 1 cm (or half an inch) thick on top of the black coffee.
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Make very strong coffee (50-100% more coffee to water than usual), use something like Cafe Du Monde which has chicory in it. Pour 6-8 oz into cup and add about 1 Tbs. sweetened condensed milk. Stir, then pour over ice.
You'll have to experiment with the strength and milk so you get lots of taste after the ice/water dilutes it.
Alternatively, this version which comes from a newspaper article of many years ago simply calls for grinding two or three fresh cardamom pods and putting them in with the coffee grounds. Make a strong coffee with a fresh dark roast, chill it, sweeten and add half-and-half to taste.
Lastly, we have the following recipe:
Makes 1 8-cup pot of coffee
One other fun note: I got a fresh vanilla bean recently and put it to good use by sealing it in an airtight container with my sugar. The sugar gets the faintest vanilla aroma and is incredible in Real Chocolate Milk (TM) and iced coffee.
One final note: this would probably be even better with iced espresso, because the espresso is so much more powerful and loses its taste less when it's cold.
Prepare a pot of coffee at a good European strength (Miriam Nadel suggests 2 tablespoons per cup, which I'd say is about right). In the ground coffee, add 2 or 3 freshly ground cardamom pods. (I've used green ones, I imagine the brown ones would give a slightly different flavor.) Sweeten while hot, then cool quickly.
Serve over ice, with unsweetened evaporated milk (or heavy cream if you're feeling extra indulgent). To get the layered effect, place a spoon atop the coffee and pour the milk carefully into the spoon so that it floats on the top of the coffee.
The recipe I have calls for:
I'd probably use less water and more coffee and milk.
There is also a stronger version of Thai coffee called "Oliang or Oleng" which is very strong to me and to a lot of coffee lovers.
6 to 8 tablespoons ground espresso or French roast coffee, 4 to 6 green cardamom pods, crushed sugar to taste, half-and-half or cream and ice cubes
Put the cardamom pods and the ground dark-roast coffee into a coffee press, espresso maker, or the filter of a drip coffee maker (if using a drip-style coffee maker, use half the water). Brew coffee as for espresso, stir in sugar.
Fill a large glass with ice and pour coffee over ice, leaving about 1/2 inch at the top. Place a spoon at the surface of the coffee and slowly pour half-and-half or cream into the spoon, so that it spreads across the top of the coffee rather than sinking in. (You'll stir it in yourself anyway, but this is a much prettier presentation and it's as used in most Thai restaurants.)
As with Vietnamese coffee, the struggle here is to keep from downing this all in ten seconds.
And now for another look at Thai Iced Coffee
Surely, one can get coffee with condensed milk in Thailand. But when one speaks of "Thai Iced Coffee", as found in Thai restaurants in America, one is referring to "Oliang/Oleng" [there is no standard transliteration of the Thai alphabet, so the spelling varies.] In the FAQ one reads: "There is also a stronger version of Thai coffee called "Oleng" which is very strong to me and to a lot of coffee lovers." But this IS Thai Iced Coffee. And it is only strong if you brew it to be strong.
Oliang is a blend of coffee and other ingredients. The brand I have (Pantainorasingh Brand) states the percentages right on the label: 50% coffee, 25% corn, 20% soya bean, 5% sesame seed. This blend of coffee and roasted grains is really quite exquisite--a perfect marriage of flavors!
Traditionally, oliang is brewed with a "tung tom kah fe"--a metal ring with a handle to which is attached a muslin-like cloth bag. It is much like those cloth tea-strainers one finds in Europe, only larger, like a sock. One puts the coffee in the bag and pours over it water that has come to a boil - into a carafe. Let the bag full of coffee steep in the carafe for 10 minutes. Then add sugar and stir. Let it cool. Pour into a glass with ice, and add the dairy product of your choice on top. I use fresh half-and- half, but you can use condensed milk, evaporated milk, or a mix of the two, or of the three. The proportions of coffee - water - sugar, vary. I use 2/3 part oliang to 1 1/4 parts sugar to 6 parts water.
[The tung tom kah fe can be found at SE Asian grocery stores--after a bit of searching. In Seattle at Viet Wah or Mekong Ranier.]
Alternately, one can bring water to a boil in a pot, add the coffee, and remove from heat. Let the coffee steep for 10 minutes. Then strain through cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or a fine metal strainer. And continue as above.
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Same coffee as above. Sweetened condensed (not evaporated) milk, ice
Make even stronger coffee, preferably in a Vietnamese coffee maker. (This is a metal cylinder with tiny holes in the bottom and a perforated disc that fits into it; you put coffee in the bottom of the cylinder, place the disc atop it, then fill with boiling water and a very rich infusion of coffee drips slowly from the bottom.)
If you are using a Vietnamese coffee maker, put two tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of a cup and put the coffee maker on top of the cup. If you are making espresso or cafe filter (the infusion method where you press the plunger down through the grounds after several minutes of infusion), mix the sweetened condensed milk and the coffee any way you like.
When the milk is dissolved in the coffee (yes, dissolved *is* the right word here!), pour the combination over ice and sip.
Thai and Vietnamese coffees are very different.
Ca phe sua da (Vietnamese style iced coffee)
Place ground coffee in Vietnamese coffee press and screw lid down on the grounds. Put the sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of a coffee cup and set the coffee maker on the rim. Pour boiling water over the screw lid of the press; adjust the tension on the screw lid just till bubbles appear through the water, and the coffee drips slowly out the bottom of the press.
When all water has dripped through, stir the milk and coffee together. You can drink it like this, just warm, as ca phe sua neng, but I prefer it over ice, as ca phe sua da. To serve it that way, pour the milk-coffee mixture over ice, stir, and drink as slowly as you can manage. I always gulp mine too fast. :-)
A Vietnamese coffee press looks like a stainless steel top hat. There's a "brim" that rests on the coffee cup; in the middle of that is a cylinder with tiny perforations in the bottom. Above that rises a threaded rod, to which you screw the top of the press, which is a disc with similar tiny perforations. Water trickles through these, extracts flavor from the coffee, and then trickles through the bottom perforations. It is excruciatingly slow. Loosening the top disc speeds the process, but also weakens the resulting coffee and adds sediment to the brew.
If you can't find a Vietnamese coffee press, regular-strength espresso is an adequate substitute, particularly if made with French-roast beans or with a dark coffee with chicory. I've seen the commonly available Medaglia d'Oro brand coffee cans in Vietnamese restaurants, and it works, though you'll lose some of the subtle bitterness that the chicory offers. Luzianne brand coffee comes with chicory and is usable in Vietnamese coffee, though at home I generally get French roast from my normal coffee provider. My father tells me that when he visits Vietnamese friends in Florida that Luzianne and a local blend are the coffees sold in the local Vietnamese-run/shopped stores.
Of these two coffees, Vietnamese coffee should taste more or less like melted Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream, while Thai iced coffee has a more fragrant and lighter flavor from the cardamom and half-and-half rather than the condensed milk. Both are exquisite, and not difficult to make once you've got the equipment.
As a final tip, I often use my old-fashioned on-the-stove espresso maker (the one shaped like an hourglass, where you put water in the bottom, coffee in the middle, and as it boils the coffee comes out in the top) for Thai iced coffee. The simplest way is merely to put the cardamom and sugar right in with the coffee, so that what comes out the top is ready to pour over ice and add half-and-half. It makes a delicious and very passable version of restaurant-style Thai iced coffee.
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Brew espresso; for this purpose, a Bialetti-style stovetop will work. In a coffee mug, place 1 teaspoon of unsweetened powdered cocoa; then cover a teaspoon with honey and drizzle it into the cup. Stir while the coffee brews; this is the fun part. The cocoa seems to coat the honey without mixing, so you get a dusty, sticky mass that looks as though it will never mix. Then all at once, presto! It looks like dark chocolate sauce. Pour hot espresso over the honey, stirring to dissolve. Serve with cream (optional). I have never served this cold but I imagine it would be interesting; I use it as a great hot drink for cold days, though, so all my memories are of gray skies, heavy sweaters, damp feet and big smiles.
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A Latte is usually a 3:1 ratio of steamed milk and espresso, but YMMV. Do what you like best.
Here's how I make a latte. First, I grind my beans to fill my shot filter. Those are the removable components in your portafilter (that arm thing). If you don't have a grinder, buy one, and buy a burr grinder - not one of those cheapo blade things.
So I grind my beans, fill my filter, and tamp it down tightly - that's the act of compressing the grind in the filter. Note: you can't really do this with the steam espresso filters because they are not designed for any real pressure (less than one bar I believe). If you do tamp a steam toy, the pressure release valve should kick in to save the day but if it does not work you are taking a chance with a very hot exploding machine. Don't tamp steam machines.
I load the espresso machine with the grinds, then turn on the machine, but to the steaming ready stage - not the espresso stage. Once it is ready, I steam my milk first.
Lattes are steamed milk, not frothed. Though again, it's your choice - if you want froth, go for it. Steam your milk to about 150F or so (you will notice a change in the steaming sound - it starts to rumble once it hits 150 or so). If you want froth, about midway, pull the steam nozzle to hover right at the surface - you want to hear a deep frothing sound - if the sound you hear is like blowing bubbles through a straw, you're too high.
Once the milk is steamed, I then take a small 4 oz. cup I have and place it under the portafilter. I switch over to making my espresso, and I brew the espresso.
I then pour the espresso into the cup with the milk. Most of my "coffee" cups are actually glass or stainless steel, or a combo of both, so I pour my espresso slowly and it creates a cool looking drink... the espresso sits near the top, just below the foam.
Add sugar, sprinkle the top with cinnamon and/or chocolate, and drink!
Oh, don't forget to clean your wand before you brew the espresso. It's quick - just grab a washcloth and scrub it clean, then run the wand once more to "flush it out" - this keeps milk from turning into harmful bacteria that makes your milk taste bad.
Once you've had your latte, dislodge the portafilter, dump your beans, give the brewhead a quick wipe, a good rinse on your filters, etc., and you're ready for your next one - less cleaning!
Note: Many people brew espresso then steam their milk. Many do it the way described
here. The arguments go like this:
If you brew then steam the milk while you are waiting for the machine to reach steaming temperature, the espresso is getting old. On the other hand, if you steam then brew, you either have to let the machine cool a bit before making your shot, thus allowing the milk to cool, or you will be hitting the coffee grounds with steam and not hot water. Which is correct? I can not tell you. I rarely drink anything at home except straight shots so I don't worry myself with it too much. On a side note: if you really want the best I believe some home machines may have dual water reservoirs which will allow you to brew and steam simultaneously, or at least nearly simultaneously.
NOTE: Flavorings really should not be needed in good coffee but we all want something a
little different every now and again. As a general rule, adding your own flavoring is a
better approach to drinking flavored coffee than buying pre-flavored coffee.
Commercially-flavored coffee usually uses a low quality bean since most of the flavor will
be masked by the chemical flavorings anyway. So be warned - in many cases you are paying a
lot for cheap beans that have had a chemical added to them to make them more palatable. It
is my opinion that if you start with a good quality coffee, there is very little need for
external flavoring except as an occasional change of pace. As in all things coffee, go
with your taste. If you like flavored coffee by all means drink it!
One last note. If you buy flavored coffee wash all your coffee equipment thoroughly after brewing flavored coffee. The flavoring agents used will stick to anything used with them. Do not use the same grinder to grind flavored and unflavored coffee. It will take approximately 20 grinding of coffee to remove all the flavoring agents that stick to the internal part of the grinder.
Chicory became popular in the United States as a coffee additive during the Union
blockade of the South during the Civil War. It was also used again During World War II to
"stretch" coffee (just ask your grandmother). It has lost popularity in the US
as a coffee additive in recent years. Chicory is also used in Vietnamese coffee blends as
As a flavoring, chicory has a tendency to mellow bitter coffee. Today chicory blend coffee is available canned with various ratios of coffee to chicory. There are several brands available today. I counted three when I went to the grocery store last. Chicory is also available by itself in many grocery stores, and I am told some health food stores carry chicory root as well. I recommend going with the method of buying your chicory and mixing it with fresh roasted coffee; by default any coffee you buy pre-ground and premixed will be stale when you get it. Concentration varies from 10-30% in most commercial blends.
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Italian syrups are popular as flavorings for espresso drinks and to a lesser extent
other forms of coffee. Essentially what they are is sugar water with a flavoring added. In
this they serve a dual purpose of flavoring the drink while sweetening. They also have a
side role in weakening the drink they are added to. Over all I do not like Italian syrups
for this last reason.
Use your own judgement - they are very popular, so obviously many people do like them.
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Chocolate syrup makes a great mocha. Much better than Italian syrups.
Hot chocolate mix makes for a nice mocha and has sugar already added. I sometimes will give friends who do not like coffee a cup with a packet of instant hot chocolate mixed in to let them acquire a taste for coffee.
Altoids make a nice peppermint coffee.
Cinnamon is easy: just put it in the bottom of a filter for drip coffee. You can do the same for press coffee but you will have some extra sediment.
For nut coffee: grind roasted nut of the variety you want and put it in with the coffee as it brews. Generally speaking this will not be as strong as chemical flavorings.
Any extract you can buy can be used as a flavoring although I feel many extracts will give coffee a chemical flavor so you may get bad coffee with this method.
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A Caffe Latte is a single shot of espresso with steamed milk. There is not frothed milk in this drink. A Caffe Latte should have approximately 6 to 8 ounces of milk in it. (Note: ordering a Latte in an Italian restaurant may get you a glass of milk so be sure to order Caffe latte.)
Cappuccino is traditionally equal parts espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk. Many coffee shops will add much more milk than this in the belief that bigger is better. This is not the case stick with the above proportions for good cappuccino.
An Americano is a single shot of espresso with 6 to 8 ounces of hot water added. Not as bad as it sounds.
A hammerhead is a shot of espresso in a coffee cup that is then filled with drip coffee. I highly recommend this drink.
This is usually a cappuccino or a Caffe Latte with chocolate syrup added. This term actually has very little meaning so you might want to ask what it is in a given coffee house before you order one.
This is a shot with whipped cream.
Two shots of espresso with the same amount of all other ingredients.
This is a restricted shot. Less water is allowed to come through the coffee. This is approximately a .75 ounce pull.
This is an extra long pull allowing approximately twice as much water through the same amount of coffee as normally used for a single shot. This will be bitter and I do not recommend trying it. It's about a 2-3 ounce shot.
How do I get the newest copy of this FAQ?
My page at http://aomt.netmegs.com/coffee/coffaq.html
or via e-mail send a message to email@example.com
or for the caffeine faq:
My page at http://aomt.netmegs.com/coffee/caffaq.html
or via e-mail send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
This FAQ is a collective effort. Here's a list of most (all?) of the contributors.
This FAQ is Copyright (C) 1994,1995 by Alex Lopez-Ortiz.
This FAQ is Copyright © 1998 by Daniel Owen. This text, in whole or in part, may not be sold in any medium, including, but not limited to, electronic, CD-ROM, or published in print, without the explicit, written permission of Daniel Owen email@example.com.
Copyright (C) 1994, Alex López-Ortiz.
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