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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Coffee, Espresso & Cappuccino

Beverages have not been something I've written about much on this blog. I should though since they tend to be a fundamental part of any meal. Beverages can consist of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. In the category of non-alcoholic drinks, coffee has to be the leading after dinner drink especially in the morning. The magic ingredient in coffee is caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulate making coffee the ideal morning eye-opener and anytime pick-me-up drink. However, coffee is popular because of the taste!

We live in the land of "a doughnut shop on every corner"! Well we don't ourselves because we live in the country but a short drive can get us to a coffee shop and a bit longer drive to one of many doughnut shops. Stopping at the doughnut shop for a coffee and a doughnut is a normal part of the morning routine for many people. The doughnut and coffee shops are where the senior citizens hangout in the mornings so there is more of a social aspect to consuming coffee as well. The two closest chains to us are Tim Hortons® (affectionately called Timmy's) and Country Style®. The closest Starbucks® is about a 40 minute drive from us.

Coffee Making Equipment

Pictured is our coffee making equipment. The Melitta® One:One (1) is a single serving brewing system that uses coffee pods. This coffee maker used to sit on the breakfast bar along with coffee pods and tea bags. I have opted for a more streamlined look for the kitchen so the coffee maker now sits on the counter in the laundry room just off the family room. In terms of coffee, this machine produces a better tasting coffee than instant. The coffee is similar to drip coffee. This really is a convenience coffee maker for those times you don't want to make a full pot of coffee. It is also perfect for entertaining where one person may want decaffinated coffee and everyone else wants regular coffee or only one person wants coffee. To use this machine, fill the removable reservoir with cold water and press the middle button. It will flash slowly while the water heats. Rapid flashing means it is out of water. Place a pod in the holder and shut the lid. Press either the large cup or small cup size and wait for the coffee. Depending on the size of your coffee cup you may have to press again to get the right amount.

The Melitta® Espresso Maker (2) was a gift and while it doesn't see extensive use it earned its place on the counter by adding a touch of class. You really need an espresso maker to make espresso. While the instructions made this appliance look complicated to use it really isn't. You simply fill the removable reservoir with cold water and turn to the heater mode. Place fine ground esspresso coffe in the filter basket and tamper to compress then twist the tamper to polish the surface of the grounds. When the ok light comes on you switch to brew and fill the cup(s) to the desired level. That's all there is to making espresso! If you want to make latte or cappuccino, place the cup on the warming plate. Turn the indicator to steam then place the steam nozzle in the milk turn steam knob at the side to create frothy steamed milk. The important parts are shown in the second picture (5).

We have not used a regular drip coffee maker in years! My husband swears that percolator coffee is better tasting than drip coffee and I have to agree. By far the most common method we use for brewing coffee is a vintage Faberware Superfast percolator (model 142AE) circa 1960 that I bought at a thrift store for $3. True to its name this percolator begins to perc within seconds of plugging it in. A full pot will be ready in under 3 minutes and it will stay hot as long as it is plugged in. I should mention that we tend to brew what we will reasonably use within a short period of time rather than leave the perculator plugged in for any length of time. At 1,000 W cost of opperation works out to under a penny per hour still I'm always scared I will forget to unplug it which may have the potential of overheating. It brews 2 to 12 cups of wonderful, rich, full bodied coffee. This percolator sees almost daily use 8 months of the year with lower use during the heat of the summer. Just in case this percolator gives up the ghost we have a new West Bend electric percolator sitting in the closet. Not pictured is the percolator for stovetop use brought out to make coffee on the gas grill side burner or campfire. Both percolators are stored in cabinets when not in use.

The best coffee is made using fresh ground beans. For that you need a coffee grinder, either manual or electric. I use a White-Westinghouse™coffee grinder on a regular basis but also use my Osterizer blender with the small container attachment (not shown). This is useful for entertaining when I know I will more than likely need to make more than one pot of coffee. The container holds up to 8 ounces of ground coffee and can be tightly sealed with a plastic screw on lid until the coffee is needed. In general the finer the grind the stronger the coffee. Use a coarser grind for French press, percolator and basket-style drip coffee makers. Use a finer grind for cone-style drip coffee makers and espresso.

Coffees

Like any food product I keep a good stock of various coffees in the pantry. Pictured is a small portion of my coffee stocks. Not pictured is instant coffee. I keep a couple of jars of instant coffee on hand used more for cooking than drinking.

Coffee Pods: Coffee pods are for single use coffee makers. The coffee is packed in between the filter material resembling a round tea bag. My biggest problem is finding the pods. At one time Sobey's had two flavours ($6.99/18 pods) but they no longer carry the pods. The only way I buy them is online from Melitta® ($4.99/18 pods plus shipping) or when we are in the US. However, Meijer's in the US sells Folgers® coffee pods for $4.99/18 pods regular price but $3.99/18 pods on sale. So for single use coffee we are paying between 22¢ and 39¢ per cup, still quite a savings over coffee/doughnut shop prices and we can use our travel mugs in the car instead of disposable coffee cups. Both companies offer a variety of roasts as well as flavoured coffee pods. Now I have to say I prefer the Folgers® pods over Melitta®'s because they are not individually packaged in foil packs. I try to avoid as much over packaging as possible. Folgers® pods come packaged in a resealable bag but I prefer to put the pods into a mason jar.

Coffee Beans: The best tasting coffee is made from whole beans ground just before making the coffee. Coffee beans come in various roasts (light, medium, medium-dark, dark, decaf) and the variety of coffee bean will determine the caffeine content. For example Coffea arabica coffee beans have a lower caffeine content than other coffee bean cultivars. Arabica coffee beans also produce a better coffee in comparison to C. robusta which tends to be bitter with less flavour but has about 40% more caffeine. Robusta is used in cheaper commercial blends. Other cultivars include C. liberica and C. esliaca. The flavour of the coffee beans is also influenced by where they are grown. Coffee beans may or may not be labelled as to the country where they were grown (eg. 100% Columbian) as well as the variety (eg. 100% Arabica). More and more I look for Fair Trade Certified and Certified Organic Shade Grown coffee beans. Both are little more expensive but I think they are worth it.

Commercially Ground Coffee: We keep a good stock of commercially ground coffee on hand. The two brands we use most often are Maxwell House and Tim Hortons®. Maxwell House coffee often goes on sale we stock up then. It is our normal breakfast coffee during the colder weather. Tim Hortons® coffee is a bit more expensive but one of our kids loves it so we keep a can or two on hand as well. Once commercially ground coffee is open it will lose flavour and aroma quickly. Therefore buy in smaller sized containers (326 g) and refrigerate after opening to preserve flavour and aroma.

Dessert Coffees: I keep a few dessert coffees on hand. These are flavoured ground coffees with enticing names like Eggnog, Strawberry Shortcake, Sugar Cookies and Irish Cream for use in the percolator. I also keep a couple boxes of dessert coffee pods on hand. Dessert coffees are an ideal after dinner drink where you get a lot of flavour without all the calories. They are also perfect for entertaining.

Mugs & Espresso Cup

There is no point having a 6 oz cup of coffee in the morning! Our favourite mugs are 12 oz; the burgundy match our daily dinnerware. We have another eight 12 oz mugs that match our alternate blue dinnerware set. Like many who do a lot of entertaining we also have smaller 8 oz mugs that match a 4 place setting white dinnerware set and the coffee cups with our 4 place setting china set. Then we have a large variety of ceramic mugs, most of them in the 12 oz size. Now that sounds like a lot of mugs and cups but we do a lot of entertaining and I prefer to use mugs to disposable cups. Not only is this an environmentally friendly choice I think it nicer for our guests. The creamy white expresso cups (3 oz) and match oval saucers are porcelain which retains heat better.

Fancy Coffees

The big chain coffee shops have made specialty coffees quite popular. These coffees much like regular brewed coffees come with a high price tag. You can make specialty coffees at home for a fraction of the cost to enjoy anytime.

Espresso is a very strong coffee that is pressure brewed. This brewing process results in the flavours and chemicals being condensed. In general espresso has about 3 times the level of caffeine content of regular brewed coffee. Espresso has a thicker consistency than drip coffee as well as a layer of rich crema, a reddish brown foam on the surface. The crema consists of vegetable oils, proteins and sugars. Espresso is served in small 3 oz espresso cups. Since the flavour is so condensed it is the perfect base for other specialty coffees.

Cappuccino is espresso coffee with steamed milk plus the froth. In Italy, cappuccino is usually one part espresso and 2 parts milk pluth the froth. Cold skim milk gives the best frothing results. When frothing the milk with the steamer the volume will double. Pour the milk into the hot espresso and spoon the froth on top. In North America cinnamon, sugar, shaved chocolate, nutmeg and/or various liquors may be added. Serve cappuccino in a porcelain cup because it has better heat retention than glass or paper.

Latte
is made using ⅓ c espresso and ⅔ c heated milk. A thin layer of froth can be placed on top. Unlike cappuccino, latte contains about half the milk and a much thinner layer of froth. A flat white latte is made by adding only the steamed milk and not the froth. Flavourings such as vanilla, chocolate and caramel can be added. Lattes are often served in glass cups.


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