Espresso Coffee - Part 1
As I was putting my thoughts down to write my next blog, I realized that I had not written about coffee or anything associated with coffee at all in my previous blogs. We refer to ourselves as a café but I had not talked about coffee which struck me as being a bit funny. So, I have decided to take this step to create one. Here it goes… enjoy!
This blog is intent on providing a bit of an education on coffee and a meaningful awareness of some the terminology that you might encounter in a coffee shop and or café. By doing so we hope to give some helpful information so that when you come to us or any coffee shop be it a Starbucks or any independent coffee shop similar to us with a passion for coffee. You will be well versed with the information needed to make the correct decision when choosing the perfect brew to satisfy your taste buds. It should be noted that this blog does not address coffee or espresso from instant pod machines.
Some of the terms you maybe familiar with while others you may not. Either way this might be a refresher or just a fun read.
First, what are the famous commonly known types of coffees. Choosing your coffee is an important key to your morning breakfast or to the start of your day. That being said we have to look at the two most popular forms in which it is served, Coffee and Espresso.
Let’s start with the differences. Just from the way it is served there is a noticeable difference. If you were to order a black coffee and are handed a shot of espresso, you'd probably be pretty disappointed—and vice versa. That's because a cup of regular coffee (also known as drip coffee) is very different than a shot of espresso. But what makes brewed coffee different from espresso, after all they're both coffees. Technically, both coffee and espresso can be made from the same coffee beans. The difference between coffee and espresso has to do with the preparation methods starting with the coffee beans. Regardless of the country that the Coffee beans are obtained from, commercially or farm grown the big difference is that espresso beans are generally roasted for a longer period of time than beans meant for drip coffee. Espresso beans are also ground on the finer side, more like sand than gravel compared to coffee which is a little larger and coarse. Open any commercially packed bag of drip coffee and compare it to espresso coffee.
What about whole beans ground at home? While the type of beans you use is important when it comes to the taste, the main difference between espresso and coffee has again to do with the way the coffee is prepared. Technically speaking you could use espresso-roasted beans to make drip coffee and dark roasted coffee beans to make espresso if you ground the beans correctly and used the right equipment. Just a little FYI there are many types of grinders available in both residential and commercial grades which in itself is a rather daunting task to review and would be a separate blog to be discussed in the future.
So, what do you need to make espresso? It sounds rather obvious and the answer is simple, but all you need is an espresso machine. Espresso, by definition, is a very strong black coffee that is made by forcing very hot water under pressure through tightly packed grounds of coffee beans. Hence the need for finer granules. The more finely the coffee is ground, the slower the espresso takes to comes out. Generally, for the best shot of espresso, it should take about 25 seconds for the water to pass through the coffee. Sometimes, the consistency of the grind is adjusted to control the brewing time. If everything goes well, what comes out is a dark brown, slightly thick liquid. That extraction process is what gives the espresso its signature layers consisting of a portioned shot of coffee at the bottom of the cup with a small layer of foam, or crema, at the top. Espresso must have foam and to any espresso aficionados the crème without the foam is a poor cup of espresso.
Now if you're making a basic drip coffee, there are a few options for brewing. Unlike espresso the grounds are mixing with water for a longer period of time and therefore the grinds can be coarser than that of espresso. To make the coffee, you can use either the pour-over or drip method of brewing which is typically found in your home or a regular coffee shop or a restaurant; or the immersion process like that of the French press. Which ever method you choose the coffee you brew from these methods will generally have a milder flavor than that of a shot of espresso. Also, coffee does not usually come with the foamed crème. Surprisingly, a cup of drip coffee has more caffeine than a shot of espresso.
But I digress. So, lets talk about Espresso.
They are two kinds of commercial coffee beans for espresso. Robusta and Arabica. Robusta beans are grown at low altitudes, they are disease resistant and economical, making a better tastier cup of coffee. Robusta coffee beans have a nuttier flavor when roasted and their taste is often compared to oatmeal. Un-roasted Robusta beans have scent reminiscent of “peanuts”. Many Italian espresso blends feature Robusta’s, primarily because they are inexpensive in Italy. Italians are well known for their love of coffee which they have mastered by incorporating these beans for maximum effect. Italian-style espresso blends have become increasingly available to consumers worldwide, we recommend that the coffee you serve be 100% Arabica. Arabica coffee are grown at dramatically higher altitudes and feature more desirable and pleasurable flavor characteristics. Depending on its variety, the Arabica bean’s flavor can range anywhere from sweet to tangy. When roasted, the Arabica beans have a sweeter and more floral flavor than Robusta that give off more fruit and sugar tones where as un-roasted, the Arabica bean has a sweet blueberry scent. My best advice would be to try the various types, it doesn’t hurt and often you will discover great flavours that you were not aware of. More choices make for a better understanding of flavour.
A good espresso is complex, well-balanced and typically roasted slightly darker than coffees designed for drip brewing. That said, there is a huge range of acceptable tastes, blends, roasts, etc. that constitute a good espresso. Try as many as you want but don’t necessarily base a final decision on your own preference – yours might not reflect other customers or consumers taste who you happen to share a cup of coffee or espresso with.
GENERAL TIPS: Coffee Lovers
- Whole Bean coffee should be used within a week of its exposure to air, and never beyond 10-14 days. Depending on the type of packaging used, the “expiry date” could be one week from the day of roasting or from the day coffee is sealed in its vacuum-locked packaging. The coffee will not go bad but rather both the aromas and flavour will diminish and left long enough become stale. Be sure to check the manufactures notes on the coffee. Quality coffees often come in packaging that has a vent to breath hence the need to use it in the specified time frame. This differs from vacuum-locked packaging which lasts a bit longer.
- Once, exposed, coffee should be protected from air, light, heat and moisture.
- If you keep your beans in bins or drawers, clean them properly between batches. Use a clean, dry cloth (cotton bar towels are ideal) – no moisture or soap. Any dampness will sap coffee flavor and accelerate the coffee deterioration rate, while soap residue will taint the coffee taste.
- Never mix stale beans with fresh beans. It takes about 50 beans to brew a good shot of espresso, and only takes one bad bean to ruin it.
- Never put more beans in the cone-shaped hopper of your espresso grinder than can be used within 8 hours.
- Use ground espresso within one hour. During notably slow periods, turn off the automatic timer on your grinder (if you have one) so you can keep coffee grinding moderate.
TERMINOLOGY and RECIPES:
Espresso Beverages. Listed below are some of the most common kinds of coffee you can find out there. Try each one, I’m pretty sure you’ll find what your looking for which will become your favorite go to. Sometimes its hard to spend your hard-earned money on a bad cup of coffee. We suggest going to the grocery stores and independent stores that sell coffee beans, buy a few and prepare it at home. If samples are being offered try it, if you like it be sure to ask the person who served it to you how it was made. The preparation can often determine the quality of the coffee just as much as the bean.
A 1-ounce serving of straight espresso served ungarnished in a small demitasse (4- 8-ounce cup). Made to drink immediately, straight espresso should always be fresh. You can also try espresso Macchiato, with a teaspoon of steamed milk foam, or as an espresso Con Panna with a modest dollop of whipped cream. Solo is the Italian word for one, or a single shot of espresso, doppio means double or two shots of espresso.
A “restricted” shot of espresso is roughly about ¾ of a full ounce, this is the first sweet burst of espresso when you make it.
A cappuccino is an ounce of espresso in a cup, topped with equal parts of steamed and frothed milk. Named after the fringe of hair ringing the heads of Italy’s capuchin monks. In Italy, the cappuccino is a morning drink for most Italians, they take their coffee with milk.
One of the very popular orders in any café. This latte has a greater proportion of milk than a cappuccino. A 1-ounce serving of espresso, steamed milk up to the top of the cup, and a ¼” finish of steamed milk foam.
One of the other favorites as well. It consists of a 1-ounce serving of espresso poured into a cup holding 1 ounce of chocolate syrup. It is filled with steamed milk, and topped with a flourish of whipped cream. A very inviting introduction to the world of espresso.
As the name define itself “Americanized” espresso; 1 or more servings of espresso (the ratio for the menu should be your call, a matter of taste) diluted (hot water) to the strength of drip coffee. Dark, fresh, intense.
A latte made not with steamed milk, but instead by adding rich, steamed half and half.
TOOLS & EQUIPMENT
Every espresso machine operator needs commercial grade steaming pitchers to steam the milk. There are different sizes to choose from be it 12 to 60 ounces. For better results its best to start with a one-liter or 32-ounce model. Get the high-grade stainless steel with a solid, welded on handle just like this one (add link here). Steel wears well and should be cleaned thoroughly after use.
Many of us uses thermometers to monitor proper milk temperature. Its very possible to achieve a desirable effect without this technology, everything takes practice to be an expert. The same is to said about preparing coffee. Use of milk thermometers will ensure consistency and quality, especially among newcomers to the art of brewing. A good thermometer comes with a clip attachment to be mounted on the side of the pitcher. A thermometer should fit pitchers well, have a large and visible dial that does not get in your way. The most popular and practical range of the thermometer is 0”-220’F.
Spoon and Spatula
Any spoon and spatula will do. But as a good barista they don’t use one of these to spoon foam onto a latte, but to hold it back while pouring and then allow the foam into the drink as appropriate. The most common utensils are the large stainless serving spoons and plastic or rubber baker’s spatula.
A hand tamper is a small tool shaped somewhat like a mushroom that is used for packing espresso grounds into the portafilter to prepare them for brewing.
A proper tamp is applied from above, leveraging weight equal to about 50 pounds per square inch. When you purchase your own machine, sometimes it maybe included as a free addition to the machine. However not all manufactures include this. Be sure to confirm that it has one. If it does not, be sure to purchase it as well. Plastic tampers tend to break easily and it may affect the taste of your coffee. We suggest to purchase easy to hold anodized aluminum or the ultra hard wooden versions of the tamper for durability and ease of use.
This is a great debate as to which one is the best to use for your liking. Shot glasses vs. stainless steel. Brew pitches are also called “bell Cleaners”. Shot glasses holds heat well. Using shot glasses allows you to monitor the quality of drinks visually, which should be done every hour or so whether you’re brewing in glass or not. Look for the variety with a visible one-ounce mark.
Have you heard the saying “time is of the essence”? It’s the same thing when preparing your favorite coffee. That is why shot timers are very important tool to prevent you from going beyond time needed and to prevent you from having an odd or bitterness taste to it. The purpose of the timers is to time the extraction of the pour, or pull of each espresso shot. Periodic use of timers, however is a good way to monitor extraction time and make sure the grind is appropriate. Buy a timer that counts up not down. The shot timers need to count up, starting when water first hits the grounds and ending when the pour of a full shot is complete. If you serve drip coffee and you want to keep tab of the age of the coffee on the pot the timer is good tool to use and helps to eliminate the over cooked or stale taste that occurs in drip coffee that stands to long. Several commercial chains have policies on coffee that brewed fresh every 20 minutes
The knock box is nothing more than a garbage container. Once you are done tampering your espresso coffee it goes here. It’s a stainless Steele box with a rubber cover bar across the middle, either sits on the top of the counter by the espresso machine. Good knock boxes use the same reinforced rubber that is found in the auto industry to cover the knocking bar, cheap hoses give out long before the box’s life should end.
Condiments are standard in all coffee shop. The most common is powdered cocoa, who doesn’t like cocoa? Cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Try not to buy too small or too big condiment shakers. Not only can this get messy when pouring it, but if it’s too big customers might add too much of the condiment changing the taste of the coffee making it undesirable. Just use some common sense when buying one. Small ones might clog when in use while big ones might pour a lot either ruining the coffee or leaving a wonderful outline from where the coffee sat from the blizzard of powdered cocoa, cinnamon or other powders.
Whipped cream dispensers
We recommend that you invest in a high-quality whip cream dispenser. There are some cheap ones you can buy to use but remember with coffee its all about timing and good quality materials when making it. If you are going to use it a lot, a better dispenser made from stainless steels is the way to go. A good dispenser yields superior whipped cream and won’t end up in a landfill. In the long run it is ultimately less expensive because it will last for years. Look for commercial grade dispenser. Its better to spend a bit more once than to spend a little over and over again. It also results in less frustration especially when a low-end product breaks down.
To avoid spills, help control sticky syrups and avoid pesky insects its often good to buy about 25 mocha pump to start. As they are often made plastic and under go a lot of abuse its good to invest in several of them.
Brushes are used to keep your machinery clean which is essential with many coffee and espresso machines. Often the fine or course grounds can cause a machine to fail or even severely damage the mechanisms inside. It also reduces the chance of stale grounds being incorporated into your coffee that could ruin the taste. Often the manufactures of these machines include brushes with recommendations on how to use them.
Pour Spouts for syrups
Pour Spout for syrup helps to control the spills and stickiness of syrups being used and it cut down the degree to which undesirable insects are attracted to them. Start small and then continue up to the desire count.
It's good to stock different colors and styles of serving cups. It adds up to the overall good appearance of the café. We recommend using commercial grade serving cups (make sure they look very nice. Make sure to include demi-tasse cups, as small as possible and with matching shots of espresso is in a demitasse. Don’t spend lots of money on fancy one’s though because the most attractive varieties have a tendency to slide out the door. Standard cappuccino cups should hold six to eight ounces of liquid and have wide mouths. Latte cups or mugs tend to hold eight, ten or even twelve or more ounces of milk.
I’m pretty sure you see some of these in store but these are other tools to make your favorite espresso. Not every one can afford to buy an expensive espresso machine. Here are some tools you can try if you are starting to make coffee and espresso. When I tried making my own espresso and coffee for the first time, they could not compare to the quality of the coffee and espresso professionally made. The quality of the experience is often a combination of the quality of the coffee combined with the quality of the machine and the patience to produce it. The manual way, is the better way to prepare coffee. Well it really depends with you. If you have time and money please try the traditional way to prepare it. If time is a constraint and you have a busy life then there are various coffee machines that you can try that at different cost levels. It should be noted that certain types of coffees are suited to specific brewing styles. Often this can be found on line or from the manufacture’s recommendations. Just remember that larger machines with more functions cost more and require more patience this is especially true of the combination espresso/coffee machines. Coffee world is a big discussion for that reason we are making blog part by part.
Stay tune for more.