Thursday, December 17, 2009

Espresso Drinks and More

First of all I want to thank all of my loyal customers for their orders. It has been a very busy season for Arnold’s Coffee…The elves have been packing and shipping like crazy. We are down to the final shipping days in time for Christmas delivery…Let me remind you now is the time to order your special coffee for New Years Eve…

2010 promises to be an interesting year in the coffee business. Brazil will have the worst growing season of the past 50 years. While Brazil does not grow a lot of “Specialty Grade Coffee” their lack of commercial grade production will put a lot of pressure on the rest of the growing countries. Coffee prices are bound to rise as a result. Demand for Specialty Coffee continues to be on the upswing as more and more people like you discover the difference between grocery store coffee and high quality specialty coffee. As they say “You Can Taste The Difference”.

I get lots of questions about espresso based drinks. Folks want to know what makes a good Caffe Latte, Cappuccino or Mocha. The obvious answer is ingredients. But the truth is more than that. Producing a great Cappuccino, Mocha or Caffe Latte takes the skill of a well trained Barista. It is the “Man (please excuse the gender reference there are lots of great lady Baristas) the machine, the coffee and the tamp. What this old Italian saying refers to is a proper espresso machine, the correct grind, fresh espresso coffee, and the correct tamping pressure of the espresso in the portafilter and the proper heating of the milk.

I think you need to understand that the three basic drinks require different milk heating or frothing techniques. Cappuccinos require frothed milk, a real Cappuccino is 1/3 frothed milk, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 espresso. But that is in Europe where the average drink is 6 ounces. In America where everything is “bigger and better” that formula does not work. The average American drink is 20 ounces so we need to make adjustments in the proportions. But the milk treatment does not change. A cappuccino should have a smooth milk and espresso taste. A Caffe Latte is made with textured milk that is stretched in the heating process and produces a drink where the milk tastes like chiffon on the tongue. A Mocha is more than steamed milk, chocolate & espresso topped with whip cream. A real mocha is powered rich chocolate steamed with milk to make a rich base + espresso and whip cream. These drinks cannot be made in a gas station machine or a Automatica machine by some kid who does not know the difference between drip coffee and espresso and could care less. They take skill and caring. Once you have tasted the “real thing” you will never be satisfied with less. Just ask any former Arnold’s customer.

There are a number of other espresso drinks. So let’s talk about them.

The classic espresso is 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of espresso coffee, black, usually drunk with sugar. It fills 1/3 to 2/3 of a demitasse cup. You can order this drink short, less than an ounce, long about 2 ounces or double 2 1/2 to 3 ounces served in a 6 ounce cup. A Macchiato is a single serving of espresso (1 to 1 1/2 ounces) topped with frothed milk. Espresso con Panna, a single serving of espresso topped with whip cream. Café au Lait is about _ coffee and _ steamed milk. These are the classic drinks.

Just a word of caution, if you are traveling to Europe, don’t ask for a latte. Caffe lattes are an American invention. Ask for a latte in Italy or France and you’ll get a glass of milk.

Of course there are many “American” variations. You can add flavored syrup to any of the drinks. My favorite morning drink is a vanilla caffé latte. You can add whip cream to any of the drinks and they become dessert.

I might also tell you that straight espresso is an acquired taste. You’ll have to work at liking it. But once you become an espresso drinker you’ll love the taste and pleasure you receive from relaxing and drinking an espresso.

Just a note on press pot (French Press) brewing. The secret is coarse coffee, water that is taken of the burner just before it boils so as not to deoxygenate it, and allowing the coffee to steep for 4 to 5 minutes. Once brewed pour all the coffee in a hot S/S server. Do not allow the brewed coffee to stand in the press pot because it will become bitter.

I wish you a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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