Think about the best cup of coffee you have ever had? Mine was in Italy. Shortly after arriving to the area I entered a café and my opinion of coffee changed forever. A significant reason why this particular cup of coffee left a lasting impression is because of its finish.
Just like wine, coffee can have a bouquet of flavors that are appreciated with every sip and how that cup of coffee finishes can leave lasting impressions. When I refer to finish, I am referring to coffee’s texture and body. Is the body of the coffee smooth and silky? Does the flavor you taste rest on your tongue for a long time? How does it change when you add milk? When you are drinking coffee, I believe the cup’s finish and how well it carries that blend’s flavor will have a major influence on your opinion of that blend.
Next time you drink a cup of coffee, slow things down and think about how this cup changes over time and remember how this cup finishes can help you pick the right beans to purchase.
Summer is here and most of us are feeling it. Hot weather accompanied by humidity can make it difficult for coffee lovers to enjoy their favorite beverage during the summer seasons. One alternative is cold coffee. Some true coffee enthusiast could never go down this road, and I argue they haven’t spent much time in Atlanta, Chicago or Phoenix in the middle of the summer. People who prefer their coffee in the summer over ice can rest easy because it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy the iced beverage. This also presents a new question: iced or cold brew?
For those unfamiliar that there is a difference between the two, think of cold brew as the new café on the scene. Many of us when we were younger knew about iced coffee. Gloria Jeans (yeah that far back), and smaller coffee shops would just pour ice over your beverage, and you could only find cold brew in trendy restaurants and café’s for the summer or during warm weather. Now major companies such as La Columbe and Starbucks, offer these year-round and in bodegas and grocery stores and there are now plenty of recipes for you to try at home.
What’s the difference between cold brew and iced coffee? They are almost the same, just how they are made is different. Iced coffee, if made right, isn’t just espresso or coffee over ice and more of a carefully constructed blend of coffee and milk or water over the right temperature. This prevents the drink to become watery. Cold brew is a longer process. Typically taking between 12-24 hours, cold brew needs time to express the unique flavors present in the blend. In the end you can taste the flavor of the coffee really well and the caffeine content is higher removing a lot of the bitter qualities you taste when served warm. Next time its warm out and you want to have some coffee, try an iced beverage and let us know what you think. You may be surprised.
If your espresso feels like they have running shoes on, then we have to make some adjustments. It can surely be frustrating trying to figure where to start. The first thing you want to consider is the machine you are using. If you have something that is steam powered, it will be more difficult to get a lot of crema because of the water temperature. If your machine is a manual lever, the speed may not be consistent, so pay attention to that. Now that we got that out of the way, there are 4 things you should look when your espresso shots are running marathons: The grind, the tamping pressure, the amount of coffee and is your machine clean.
The Grind. Each espresso machine is unique. As you use yours more, you begin to understand which grind setting you need to use to get the right extraction. If your shot is pulling to fast, that means that your grind is too coarse, and the water doesn’t have enough time to extract goodness of the beans. Thus look at using a finer grind (refer to your grinder) and then pull another shot and adjust until the flow is much more smooth.
Tamping? When tamping down your espresso shot, the general rule is to apply 30 lbs of pressure to the grinds in the porta-filter (this is that nice silver thing where the grinds go). Let’s be honest, who knows what exactly 30 lbs is? You are going to have to feel around a bit to see what that feels like, and this specifically is practice, practice and you know what else, practice. My issue when I started out tamping was that I was tamping to hard, thus a slower pouring shot. Here are a few things to help you out. First take tamping arm and make it approx. 90 degrees, rest the porta-filter on the counter and press down. Some also have tried tamping lightly, about 5 lbs, to make things event and then another tamp of about 27-30 lbs. This should help. All else fails, you can buy a calibrated coffee tamper.
How much coffee is in there? The amount of espresso grinds you put in will change how the shot pours. Too little and it’s off to the races, too much and paint may dry faster. General rule is 14-18 grams depending on the grind and the coffee. Now don’t go running off to get a scale just yet. Your porta filter should be filled to at least a little more than ½ of the capacity tamped to start. Then add or remove the amount of grinds as you figure out what is the right amount.
Is your machine clean? One of the basic things to always check is to see if your machine is clean. A dirty machine can chance how much or how consistent the water pressure is along with many other issues. Check your manufacture’s instructions on how to and how often should you clean your machine.
In the past, most coffee drinkers bought their coffee in big tin cans or bags and brewed them using that iconic Mr. Coffee coffee maker (try saying that five times fast). It was a big thing that your coffee maker had a timer on it. Just leave the beans or grinds in the coffee maker overnight (I know, I know) and voila, when you wake up in the morning, the smell of coffee would fill your home. People would store their coffee in the cupboard, on the counter or the freezer to keep their coffee “fresh”. The idea is that coffee stored in the freezer would be preserve the coffee’s flavor. Fast forward to today and if you mention the freezer, you can seem out of touch or not even care about how your coffee tastes. Somehow this way of storing coffee is accepted by some and a cardinal sin by others. Let’s take a look at what happens when you store coffee and why others still swear by it.
Supermarket coffee, you will notice, has a best before date instead of the roasting date. This is because that coffee may be months old. Large coffee roasting companies do need to roast way ahead of time in order to keep up with demand globally. To preserve their coffee for consumers, it’s likely that they are freezing it to preserve it. Just remember a fair amount of coffee that is sold in the supermarket isn’t specialty coffee.
What happens when coffee comes in contact with moisture or precipitation, the cell structure (bring out your science book for just a little bit) of the bean starts changing and thus the flavor does too. There isn’t much moisture in the freezer you say? That is right, however putting them in the for a lengthy period of time (say more than a month) just like other food can damage the beans. Additionally, defrosting beans is the challenging part. If defrosted and brewed correctly, then you are pretty good to go and won’t lose much flavor in your coffee. The other important thing to remember that coffee is fantastic for absorbing odor. If you have something with a strong odor in your freezer, expect your coffee to absorb it and you are likely to have some surprising new flavor notes when you taste it. I for one am not a fan of catfish coffee. Yes, take a moment and then let that thought go.
In the end, if you are looking at enjoying your coffee at its “peak brewing time” then freezing your coffee shouldn’t be an option for you. Store beans in an airtight container, with no light or moisture. If that peak time isn’t important to you, then you can surely store your coffee in a nice container in the freezer for 1.5 months. I would highly encourage you to try testing frozen and non-frozen beans yourself. Put some beans in the freezer for 2 weeks, and then brew them side by side with some fresh roasted beans. You might be surprised with what you discover.
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