The title to this post is a little snide. But, I can be that way sometimes and I can’t really help it. Also, since espresso is something a lot of us drink with great frequency I figured we should at least be on the same page about pronunciation. es-press-so. (Let’s laugh this off here.)
Now let’s talk coffee.
So I only started drinking coffee on the daily about 3 years ago when I worked *early* mornings at a bakery. They had one of those monster espresso machines and some incredible bean choices…it spoiled me rotten. Not only did I consume coffee to my hearts content, I also made it my business to learn as much as possible about it while I had the resources to do so. Maybe it was the caffeine. It was probably the caffeine.
Why do we even like coffee? I mean…coffee on its own is bitter, astringent, and dehydrating. But we LIKE it, and some of us can’t live without it. I think a lot of this has to do with habit. It is highly speculated that the reason coffee makes us feel so good is because we are relieving the overnight caffeine withdrawal. But if that were the case, we would probably just take caffeine pills…so that means we actually enjoy drinking it.
Coffee contains pseudo-tannins, which have the same astringent effect as wine and tea. This effect, plus the aroma and proper extraction of flavor compounds from the roasted coffee bean yields a liquid that be manipulated in so many ways. It is important to remember that coffee tastes are personal just like everything else, so we should stop hating on people for their use of milk and sugar. (We can continue to poke a little fun at the caramel syrup people, though.)
WHY ARE THERE, LIKE, A MILLION KINDS OF COUNTRIES AND ROASTS?? For the same reason there are a million types of wine. Both the region and the roast are relevant, but hard to recommend. Since it is a matter of taste, I encourage trying as many combinations as you can to find your favorite. Coffee beans start green, and hard as a pebble. Roasting them transforms them into light, sponge-like, packages of flavor and extracts interior oils as a byproduct to the surface of the bean. There are 6 levels of roasting:
- Cinnamon (“light”, “New England”) – mostly sour taste with lots of fruit & citrus. Highest caffeine level. Ethiopian and Arabica deliver the best result of this roast level.
- City Roast (“American”, “medium”) – all the natural flavors and characteristic of the bean shine without competing with flavor of the roast. Bright & acidic. Most standard drip coffee is made from city-level roasted beans.
- Full City Roast (“light French”, “Continental”) Acidic characteristics start to give way to subtle sweetness. More body is present, as more oils are extracted from the bean through prolonged heating. This roast level found primarily in northern Italian espresso.
- French (“Turkish”) Natural bean characteristics muted, with low acidity. Bittersweet flavors dominate the palate with high astringency. Most commonly used for American espresso, and is generally undesirable for drip coffee.
- Italian (“dark French”, “Spanish”, “heavy”) Any characteristic flavors of the bean are almost completely lost, and it has been completely taken over by bitterness and char. Also, it has the least caffeine. I’m trying not to hate on this roast but man is it rough.
Espresso-based coffee drinks: I drew you a picture!
And now, debunking myths! HOORAY!
Coffee beans ain’t beans. It is actually the pit of the fruit produced by the family Rubiaceae, an evergreen shrub.
Espresso does not have more caffeine than drip coffee. Caffeine is actually lost the darker the bean is roasted, and espresso beans tend to be darker roasts. In addition to that, the methods differ in the contact time of water to beans. So, per serving, one 8 oz. cup of drip coffee has more caffeine than one shot (oz.) of espresso. (65-125mg vs. 30-50mg according to the National Coffee Association)
Shiny, oily beans are not a sign of high quality. Oily beans just means the beans have been dark-roasted. An intense roast is not always desirable, and full flavored, well-roasted beans will have a matte surface with a very slight sheen.
Espresso is a method, not a roast or bean type. The word espresso is an Italian word meaning something made at the moment, quickly, for one person. You can make espresso with any type of coffee.
You should NOT keep coffee in the fridge or freezer. The cold actually dries out the beans, and the moisture spoils the oils. In addition, coffee is prone to other aromas from your fridge/freezer. Your best bet is a dark place in an airtight container. Also, ground coffee goes stale a LOT faster than whole bean, so you should try to grind only what you need for 2-3 days at a time.
Milk foam should not be a big fluffy bubbly cloud. The intention of milk foam is actually to give your coffee some body. Properly foamed milk shouldn’t have big visible bubbles because it should be a microfoam. Also, if you have a huge fluffy bubbly cloud on your drink, the milk may even been scalded. This is what properly foamed milk looks like.
I hope you feel more informed, and that maybe if you’ve been sticking to the same cup every day you’ll be more adventurous!