Spilling the Coffee Beans

Which Tea is For Me?

As winter weather blankets half of the country and snow falls in record breaking totals, many of us would like nothing more than to curl up with a good book and a hot cup of tea. Aside from water, tea is the most consumed beverage on the planet — and for good reason! It provides us with an array of health benefits, and it tastes delicious. The important thing to remember is that there are many different types of tea, and each type has its own qualities. Some tea can help us drift off to sleep, while others help us stay alert. Don’t be overwhelmed by the varieties of tea — here is a helpful guide so you can choose the right tea for your mood.

Green Tea
All types of “true” teas are made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. The differences come from the harvesting and fermentation process.The ancient Chinese and Indian cultures that developed this tea have long been aware of their benefits. Green tea is un-oxidized, meaning that it is harvested before being exposed to oxygen-rich air which causes it to have the highest levels of antioxidants, such as vitamins A and E and lycopene, which fight signs of ageing and prevent disease. Un-oxidized tea also contains low levels of caffeine (about 30 milligrams per 8 oz cup) making it an excellent choice for soothing sore throats, since it will not dehydrate the vocal tract. The benefits don’t stop there! In a recent study by The National Cancer Institute, the polyphenols found in green tea were shown to reduce tumor growth in laboratory experiments and stimulate the immune system. Green tea such as this Lipton Green Tea often has a pleasant “earthy” taste that many drinkers find soothing.

Black Tea
Black tea is named for the color that the leaves turn when they are dried and oxidized and is the most widely consumed type of tea. It is referred to as “red tea” in some cultures for the color of the liquid that the tea leaves produce. Even though it is oxidized, it still contains many healthy antioxidants, which prevent DNA damage caused by toxins in the body. The oxidization process causes black tea to contain high levels of caffeine (about 50 milligrams per 8 oz cup) which can boost your metabolism and help to wake you up in the morning. This makes tea varieties such as Pickwick Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea a nice alternative to a cup of coffee.

White Tea
The leaves of white teas are harvested before the buds open, which causes them to be un-oxidized and therefore contain high levels of the same antioxidants found in green teas. In a recent study by Pace University, white tea was found to be the best type of tea for killing many harmful pathogens, such as bacteria, virus and fungi. The leaves are steamed and dried which creates a delicate, sometimes floral flavor. One of my personal favorites is the Berry White Tea by Organa.

Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese tea that originated in the Fujian province centuries ago. The leaves are partially fermented, which makes oolong tea fall somewhere between green and black tea. While you may not be familiar with the name “oolong tea”, you may have already consumed it at a Chinese restaurant. Because oolong tea is caffeinated, it can boost mental alertness which makes it an excellent choice for a midday pick-me-up.

Herbal Tea
Technically speaking, herbal tea is not actually tea at all! Herbal tea often does not contain leaves from the camellia sinensis plant, but does still contain organic ingredients that can be helpful in other ways. For example, chamomile is a popular herbal tea that contains the amino acid tryptophan (think, ‘turkey coma!’) that induces feelings of calm and sleepiness, making it a perfect bedtime choice. If you are suffering from a cold, tea containing thyme can help relieve your symptoms. Peppermint tea is a popular wintertime choice that can settle queasy stomachs.Thyme is another common ingredient in herbal tea, which contains essential oils that act as a decongestant and also protect against infections.

When choosing the right tea, the most important thing to look for is the ingredient label. Make sure you select teas with organic ingredients that contain no artificial preservatives. Many of the teas on coffeewholesaleusa.com are also Rainforest Alliance Certified, which means that the habitats in which the tea is grown, as well as the workers who harvest the tea, are protected, so you can rest easy knowing that you’ve made an excellent tea purchase!

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Coffee for Heart Health

The human body yearns for coffee. It helps us wake up, keeps us energized throughout the day, and is delicious when properly prepared or mixed with a ton of cream and sugar! What is it that we love about this mean bean? Is it the caffeine? As the world’s most widely used drug, our body may be physically and psychologically attached to our favorite morning drink on a molecular level. Other than acting as a stimulant, coffee (in it’s fully caffeinated form) offers several additional health pros: it increases memory, decreases muscle pain/fatigue, keeps Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s at bay, increases stamina and aids in weight loss… just to name a few. Now, thanks new evidence presented at last month’s 2013 Scientific Sessions by the American Heart Association, caffeinated coffee is adding another major health benefit to its repertoire: decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease. How? By increasing small blood vessel function. A small study’s results showed a 30% increase in blood flow for 75 minutes after consumption of caffeinated coffee.

As a consumer, why should we care? Blood vessels transport blood throughout the entire body in an intricate web. Increased blood vessel function means improved circulation. Oxygen-rich blood needs to reach all parts of the body, or lethargy, dizziness, and delayed mental reaction will present themselves upon onset. Memory retention is also negatively impacted by poor blood flow. Eventually, if left untreated, your chances of suffering kidney damage, a heart attack, or a stroke increases significantly. Poor blood flow is also the culprit for unsightly varicose veins. This is all great news for the world’s most popular beverage and its consumers. The study does not reveal exactly why this occurs, however, lead researcher Masato Tsutsui, M.D., Ph.D., believes it most likely results from reduced inflammation combined with actual widening of vessels.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Grind Your Way to Better Coffee

Grinding coffee beans right before you begin to brew is the number one thing you can do to improve the taste of your coffee at home. Most people buy coffee that is pre-ground (as opposed to whole bean). Who can blame them? Coffee making is a process that can be a time-consuming addition to your morning routine. Grinding coffee at home is another step in the process that can be messy and takes a little focus and concentration early in the morning. Right after awakening, the common mentality is “I WANT MY COFFEE AND I WANT IT NOW!” Instant gratification can be found in a Keurig or an expensive brewer that you can set to begin brewing at a certain time resulting in a hot, fresh pot o’ joe. I used to make one pot of coffee on Monday morning and reheat it for days. Gross, yes, but it certainly saved some time.

After visiting a friend in the morning, I had to admit that her coffee, although the same brand and roast type/flavor, was significantly better than my reheated, pre-ground, lazy coffee. This lead to a little bit of research that changed the way I prepare and consume coffee every day since that morning.

Did you know that freshly roasted coffee has more flavor compounds than a glass of wine? Flavor compounds are organic substances found in the bean itself that give your mug of coffee many trademark characteristics like flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel. Once the beans are exposed to oxygen via the grinding process, these lovely compounds begin to perish. When you grind your beans at home right before you fill up the filter, the compounds remain intact. Pre-ground beans, even if “sealed for freshness”, will indeed save you time and energy but are devoid of a significant amount of flavor and other pleasantries found in whole bean coffee.

So what’s the best way to grind whole bean coffee to achieve the ideal mug? Grind those beans the right way by following my step by step instructions:

  1. Before you even think about grinding, you’ll want coffee that is freshly roasted. Sorry, large chain grocery stores of the world! Independent coffee roasters, most indie coffee shops, and many small/natural-foods grocery stores have beans that are freshly roasted. “Freshly roasted” refers to beans that are roasted on-site. Freshness remains for 5-7 days (ideally) but are still tasty for up to two weeks.
  2. Buy a burr grinder as opposed to a blade grinder or coffee mill. They are slightly more expensive but offer the most precise level of coarseness and can be used in all types of brewers (drip, french press, espresso machines, etc.) Blade grinders simply break up the coffee and you can try to achieve the ideal texture by adjusting the amount of time you turn on the grinder but there is no real precision, and you can forget about finely-ground beans (for espresso or turkish). Plus, blade mills are very loud, break easily, and produce more heat which deteriorates flavor compounds Burr grinders pulverize the beans, and you set your level of coarseness manually, from coarse to super fine and everything in-between. Coffee wholesale offers the Krups GVX2-12 Burr Coffee Grinder (free shipping) and the extra fancy Cuisinart CBM-18N Programmable Conical Burr Grinder.
  3. Decide on the grind level, or coarseness, that you need or want. This will largely depend on what kind of brewer you are using. Coarse grind is ideal for a french press or percolator. Medium grind is ideal for drip brewers. Fine grind is ideal for espresso machines. Extra fine is necessary for Turkish coffee. Check out this awesome grind chart with illustrates grind levels.
  4. Again, grind your beans immediately before brewing. This cannot be emphasized enough. So try to use only the amount of coffee beans you will need for the amount of brewed coffee you will be consuming that day.

Okay, so you have a small bag of freshly roasted beans from a roastery? Check. Purchased or otherwise inherited a burr grinder? Check. Set the grind level on your burr grinder to align with the type of brewer or other coffee maker of your choosing? Check. Ready, set, go! You are now ready for the best cup of homemade coffee you’ve ever whipped up. A perfect cup of coffee can be the perfect way to start a great day!

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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2013: The Year of the Coffee Snake

According to Chinese Astrology, 2013 is the year of the snake. You might be thinking: what in the world does the Zodiac have to do with coffee? For starters: the snake, as opposed to other Chinese Zodiac characters (oxen, rooster, bear, sheel, dog, pig, and so on), boasts a whole genus of snakes called coffee snakes! Also known as ninja snakes, there are eight different subspecies in this genus. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘snake’? For me, the term ‘snake’ conjures up images of Anacondas swallowing farm animals whole and thoughts of sin (Garden of Eden-style), venom, and intrigue.

Over the past few weeks, coffee futures (prices) have hit their lowest price in four years — a remarkable comeback since crops and entire processing plants around the globe were on the brink of shutting down due in June/July to crazy climate change, invasive borer beetles and rampant fungi.

The cute red coffee snake is a non-poisonous, bug-loving, small and harmless snake that lives in Mexico and other parts of Cental and South America. They love eating earthworms, slugs, and snails. This yields excrement that is chock full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. They don’t eat plants or birds, so having a few coffee snakes around your coffee crops will do nothing but help! They look like poisonous coral snakes, which helps to keep pesky invasive insects and/or coffee thieves away from your coffee stash.

The harmless red snake has a heart of gold, but they boast the moniker “ninja snakes”. No, they won’t change from scarlet to black and start wielding a samurai sword, but like ninjas, they are creatively elusive when dealing with predators. Their first line of defense: the snake flattens it’s head to a triangular shape (indicative of venomous snakes). If this tactic is unsuccessful, the coffee snake thens plays dead. The body goes limp, eyes appear dark and unfocused, and the snake won’t move a muscle. Ninja Skills Activated!

In India, Pythons and other big snakes have been playing a helpful role in sustaining a healthy coffee ecosystem by eating and demolishing small animals and rodents that pose huge threats to coffee crops, as well as warding off any critter who senses their presence guarding the woods. Snakes don’t eat coffee fruit. Unfortunately, Indian coffee farmers perceive these big snakes as giant threat, killing them where they stand without considering their contribution to the ecosystem of that coffee forest. Thankfully, due to an educational movement to inform farmers of shade-grown coffee forests, the population of snakes is no longer decreasing at such a drastic rate. The grounds of these forests are covered in biomass. Snakes help turn these fallen leaves, sticks and other organic materials into vitamin-rich mulch and compost by processing and excreting them. Because of the vital role snakes have been playing in protecting the shade-grown coffee ecosystems, many coffee farmers have set aside a special plot of land or created snake shrines inside their homes — small areas built for paying homage to the creepy yet essential critters who balance their farms by eating and deterring rodents and other animals who love to rob farmers of their blossoming berries.

Snake preservation for the sake of our morning Joe isn’t just a growing trend in India. The Rainforest Alliance, which is a nonprofit aiming to provide small family-owned coffee farms in Colombia certification, verification and validation services for eco-friendly practices that promote wildlife conservation, protects human and animal rights, and fair-trade systems. The Rainforest Alliance published a study just a few months ago demonstrating the effectiveness and impact of their certifications on certified coffee farms. Snakes, among other animals like tree monkeys, were specifically mentioned and singled out by the organization for their study. The study, titled Impacts of Rainforest Alliance Certification on Coffee Farms in Colombia, is available to read in full, for free, on their website.

Abe Lincoln, Pablo Picasso, Anne Frank, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were all born in the year of the snake. The Chinese calendar ends on the later half of January. The next time you find yourself curling up with that oh-so-satisfying cup of hot coffee (tomorrow morning perhaps), Let’s all silently acknowledge and commemorate this slithering unsung hero that helps make your beverage all it can be.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Coffee and Your Health

New studies claiming to verify whether or not coffee is actually good for you seem to pop up in the news frequently, and they often contradict themselves. These studies are funded by special interest groups and the results serve as a lobbying tool to “inform” the public and public servants, resulting in a change in public policy. I have read that excessive coffee drinking can cause heart problems. A different study claims that coffee can prevent liver cancer. It appears as if the western medical take on coffee and your health is skewed at best. As a huge fan and advocate for alternative medicine, I look to the ancient eastern philosophy of Ayurveda for some answers.

Ayurveda is an ancient Hindu system of medicine (according to Google) that advocates for a balance of “doshas”, or natural bodily energies, with pranayamic breathing, herbal treatments, and a balanced diet. What a mouthful! And it doesn’t outwardly appear to have any opinion over whether or not coffee is good or bad for you, but if you take a closer look, it does.

According to Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant Larissa Hall Carlson,”every type of food can be a poison or a medicine” depending on when and how you consume it. Ayurvedic philosophy promotes balance. The best time to drink coffee is between 6 am and 10 am, after a meal. Coffee promotes digestion and stimulates the mind. The key here is not to overdo it.

Some people are naturally lethargic. In ayurveda we call that a kapha dosha. For those folks that are kapha by nature, coffee can serve as a medicinal aid to boost energy and act as a stimulant. If your dosha is vatta (naturally full of energy) or pitta (overly competitive), coffee might agitate your emotional and mental state and throw your energy balance way off track. Drinking coffee late at night is also not advised. The caffeine in coffee stays in your system for 12 hours. Clearly, late night coffee consumption would result in insomnia and disordered sleeping.

The key to coffee drinking, from an ayurvedic perspective, is moderation. Anything can be harmful in excess, and coffee is no exception. Coffee can be helpful in lifting depressed moods, aiding in digestion, acting as a diuretic (promoting urination and decreasing bloating) and as an early morning stimulant. Caffeine aside, coffee contains antioxidants and flavonoids. In the typical American diet, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants as reported by a 2005 study. The flavonoids aid brain function. Coffee also promotes growth of probiotics, which is helpful to upset stomachs and irregularity. The bad news: caffeine is addictive. Caffeine withdrawal feels like a mild hangover, complete with a nagging headache and lethargy. Although caffeine is the most consumed drug in America, it’s addictive quality is something to avoid if you want balanced doshas. Relying on coffee to give you an early morning boost every day may result in addiction. Moderation is key from a holistic, ayurvedic viewpoint.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Coffee Wholesale: Eco-Friendly Coffee Drinking

It seems like everyone’s “going green” these days. Buzzwords such as “organic”, “sustainable” and “fair trade” (among others) are lighting up not only the retail and culinary markets, but the entire coffee culture as well. We like this trend. Coffee is the second largest traded commodity, after oil. Americans drink 400,000,000 cups of coffee a day. Imagine if all of those cups were made from plastic K-Cups. We’d have the issue of excessive landfill waste go public QUICKLY. Luckily, plastic single serve coffee pods are not as popular as Maxwell House or Folgers. Coffee shops like Starbucks are also popular because of their convenience and accessibility. This equals a big win for coffee shops and a big Minus One for the environment. Why? You guessed it: to-go cups for coffee are different than other paper cups: they are coated on the inside with plastic, meaning they are not biodegradable. Environmentally friendly coffee consumption practices are NOT as convenient (and maybe not as fun) as using a Keurig or going to Starbucks. However, they will save you money in the long run; and time, if you believe that time IS money. Here’s a list of three little things you can do to decrease your carbon footprint in a big way:

1. Buy organic and/or fair trade coffee. Think of the little guy! Coffee isn’t grown, picked, and processed on it’s own. And I can’t think of a single state in the U.S. (other than Hawaii) that boasts coffee production. Most coffee is grown in South America, Africa and Asia. Organic coffee means it’s produced without pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. Fair trade coffee help coffee farmers to escape poverty and lead a better life. Through fair trade, farmers are guaranteed a minimum price guarantee for their goods, and long term sustainability (buzzword!) is reached when these farmers are linked directly towards importers, away from middleman offering a lower amount in cash for their crops. Coffee Wholesale sells delicious organic coffee blends such as Organic Colombian Supremo or Organic Costa Rican Tarrazu. We also sell fair trade coffee (that is also organic) in single serve pods (Wolfgang Puck Colombian or Reunion Island French Roast).

2. Stock up on reusable or biodegradable to-go cups/mugs. We love skinny mochas, too, so we understand your possibly irrational Starbucks obsession. You don’t need to swear it off! Just bring your own (clean) to-go container into the local coffee shop. Baristas will oblige and you will be saving the earth a little heartache each time.

3. Trade in the Keurig or single cup brewer for a drip brewer with reusable filter. This will help cut down on waste. Or, stock up on reusable k-cup pods, like the Cafejo My Pod. Not only will you be saving the earth with this move, you will also be saving your wallet! Also, did you know that spent coffee grounds are great for the compost bin? Earth worms love coffee, too.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Quick Benefits of Being a Coffee Drinker

If you are a daily coffee drinker, it will come as little surprise to you that the caffeine in coffee will make you more alert and attentive, enabling you to better concentrate. So a new and similar conclusion, drawn by expert John Stanley, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College, may not raise eyebrows too much, but it does warrant our attention: the caffeine found in coffee can increase physical and mental performance.

Stanley elaborates: if you drink coffee 20-30 minutes before aerobic exercise, you can boost your endurance by 30%. The caffeine found in coffee reverses feelings of fatigue, modulates perceived pain, and increases adrenaline production which in turn boosts heart rate, blood flow and stimulates energy production. All of these effects culminate into a 30% longer average workout duration. He also noted that the sports most-impacted by a spike in caffeine levels are swimming, tennis, and cycling.

This information is good to know, but what if you aren’t an athlete? A new poll out of London by Zip HydroTap reported that those who chose coffee over tea in the a.m. were more likely to earn a higher salary. Not only were the coffee drinkers the more executive-types, but they also exhibited a hot-headed and argumentative personality type vs. their laid back, tea-sipping counterparts. Does coffee drinking lead to a swifter move up the proverbial ladder or do successful types simply prefer the higher-caffeinated bitter taste of coffee over tea? The study does not say. It’s kind of a chicken-or-the-egg type question, in my opinion.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Coffee by Region

Before I became a self-proclaimed “coffee expert”, I knew that coffee that comes pre-ground in large blue containers smells great when you are getting out of bed in the morning. I knew that Jamaica has really great coffee, called ‘Blue …’ something … because my mom told me about it when I visited the island in 7th grade. I also naively thought the best coffee came from Vietnam, before I realized it was the sweetened condensed milk that appeased my taste buds. I grew up a little bit and went off to college, where cafeteria coffee came in two types: ‘dark roast’ or ‘morning blend’. I decided then that my favorite type of coffee was ‘dark roast’ because I incorrectly assumed that dark roast was higher in caffeine. This assumption was about on par with the rest of my college logic. Example: vodka was preferable over beer because it contains more alcohol. At least the latter example wasn’t factually incorrect.

Now when I browse the shelves (or internet sites) for my coffee of choice, I look for genre first, then region, and lastly at the blend. Although we call ourselves “Coffee Wholesale – USA”, coffee cannot be produced in the contiguous United States (Hawaii is one of those non contiguous states) No, for coffee plants to survive and thrive, they need a few particular climate requirements.

There are two genres of coffee beans: arabica and robusta. Arabica beans necessitate one of the two types of growing conditions:

  1. In subtropical regions at high altitudes ranging from 3,600 degrees to 6,300 degrees. The subtropics run just above and below the tropical climate range (which is near the super-hot equator), falling above the Tropic of Cancer and below the Tropic of Capricorn by only 15 degrees longitude on either side before they hit the large temperate zone (includes most of the U.S.). These areas have well-defined wet and dry seasons. Mostly in South America.
    • • Mexico
    • • Jamaica (it’s Blue Mountain Coffee, by the way)
    • • Argentina
    • • Brazil
    • • Paraguay
    • • Hawaii (home of the exquisite and most sought after kona bean)
    • • Zimbabwe (in Africa)

     

  2. In VERY hot regions no more than 10 degrees above and below the equator. These areas have two rainy seasons which means there are two harvests in one year. Most of these regions lie in Africa, which is where the Arabica tree originated.
    • • Kenya
    • • Ethiopia
    • • Columbia

Robusta beans aren’t as picky and cheaper to produce. They thrive in tropical climates — 10 degrees north and south of the equator — at lower altitudes (from sea level to 3,000 feet). Coffee snobs usually scoff at the proposition of ingesting any beverage made from robusta. However, Italians traditionally use robusta blends in their espresso drinks. Coffee regions that produce examples include:

  • • Uganda
  • • Vietnam
  • • Brazil
  • • India
  • • Indonesia

 

How important is region when choosing coffee? Arabica and robusta are very different in flavor. However, some people can’t tell the difference. Training your palate to taste coffee takes practice, as it would to develop a nose for wine. Much less subtle but still important are the differences in flavors between countries. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a coffee-tasting party? Discover your preference and let us know, what is your favorite type of coffee? Does region influence your purchasing decisions?

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Coffee Prices DROP!

Coffee prices (and coffee futures) are having a somewhat schizophrenic year. Back in June/July, borer beetle infestations, crop fungi and climate change/drought took such a hit on coffee production. Thus, worldwide coffee prices hiked up – even by huge, already overly-priced chains like Starbucks. Folgers and other large commercial coffee producers adjusted their prices accordingly.

Last Monday, coffee prices hit a four year LOW. An ideal change in weather in Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, and other South American countries like Columbia, has arabica coffee plants churning out large and lucrative crops. So what does this mean for the consumer? Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts won’t be dropping prices, but these corporations will certainly be enjoying the increased profit margins. Maxwell House, Folgers, and other big-name supermarket brands have not yet, but are suspected to drop retail prices.

Prices are expected to drop even lower in the upcoming months/year, with experts predicting a “super harvest” (‘supersafra’) in 2014. It may be a few months before you see a drop in prices at your local grocery store, as price adjustments are usually made after quarterly reports become available to the public.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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Espresso Basics

The folks at Coffee Wholesale USA are wild for espresso! Most of us are partial to this drink’s high concentration of caffeine. Others love the rich, smooth flavor and full-bodied taste of this specially-roasted bean. You don’t have to be a professionally-trained barista, however, to fully understand how espresso works.

There are three parts to the espresso shot: the crema, the body, and the heart. The crema is the light brown, creamy layer floating on top of your espresso shot. It’s naturally very sweet and comes at the end of the pull. The crema creates a full bodied mouthfeel and adds to the aesthetic appeal of this Italian beverage. The body is found in the middle of a shot and is very dark brown, yet slightly lighter than the almost black heart which rests on the bottom. Both the body and the heart are where most of the suspended and dissolved coffee lies. They are bitter, but if brewed correctly, can be surprisingly light and sweet.

Espresso is a highly concentrated beverage, and as such is very thick. Not like a milkshake, but with lots of suspended solids and naturally-occurring oils and tannins. It mixes very well with dairy milk. Milk is naturally sweet as well, and when heated, the natural sweetness is more apparent. When espresso is steamed, or heated and induced with air, it expands and thickens, creating two distinct parts: foamed milk and steamed milk. One thing that even most modern baristas don’t even understand is that the Italians intended for traditional espresso and milk-based drinks (lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, etc.) to be created by frothing/foaming the milk according to which kind of drink you are creating, stirring the milk, then pouring it over the espresso to create one smooth and well-mixed beverage. Today, baristas are either not trained properly or cut corners by using a large, broad spoon to hold back the foamed milk (which floats on the top), allowing the steamed milk onto the beverage first, and topping with foamed milk by spooning the froth onto the top of the beverage. Not only is this visually unappealing, covering up all of the lovely dark espresso crema, but it also does not blend the beverage adequately. All of the espresso remains on the bottom and the drink does not taste as it was intended to taste.

Another common misconception: many people think that coffee bean blends labelled “Espresso Roast” or “Espresso Beans” are the only thing that you need to make espresso coffee. This misconception couldn’t be farther from the truth. Espresso beans are full-bodied dark roasted coffee beans. You can use them in an espresso machine as well as at home in your drip brewer. Espresso coffee is a brewing method created with an expensive, specially-manufactured espresso machine. The machine uses finely ground coffee which can actually be made from any type of blend of roasted coffee beans. Typically, these machines are way too expensive for anyone to have in their homes, and are only found in commercial restaurants and cafes.

To make espresso, baristas warm up the espresso machine, which is simply a device that pushes very hot water under very high pressure through finely ground coffee, yielding the concentrated coffee beverage we know and love. Next, coffee beans are ground finely in a grinder. Commercial grinders as well as some home grinders allow you to adjust the grind setting. Coffee is poured into a portafilter or small basket which holds the coffee and tamped down with a round stamp-like device. If coffee is ground too finely or the grounds are tamped down too hard, the machine cannot properly push water through the ground beans and the end product will taste burnt. If the coffee is too coarse or the grounds are not tamped down hard enough, the end product will be watery, unflavorful, and crema won’t be produced. Clearly, there’s a little bit of trial and error that every barista has to go through to get the feel of it. Shots are poured, in a semi-automatic espresso machine, by entering the portafilter into it’s holder and flipping the switch which turns on the water. One shot is poured in 18-23 seconds, depending on that machine’s specific settings. Voila! One perfect shot of espresso is the end result.

Now that you are on your way to becoming a coffee connoisseur, we want to know: what’s your favorite espresso-based beverage? Can you stomach plain espresso, or do you need to sweeten it with sugar or steamed milk?

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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