Typically when you enter a restaurant, the basic espresso options are on the menu: cafe latte, cappuccino, and the winter favorite cafe mocha (Caffe Mocha), dark chocolate preferred, please. Then the menu changes based on the geographic location and the coffee shop's sophistication, which is where things become interesting. Coffeehouses usually have a specialty drink like a bleu or lavender latte or their take on a popular favorite, like the peppermint mocha. However, almost all reputable coffee houses have a secret or underground menu. You can order these drinks, and the coffee shop should know how to make them if you ask. Let's explore the current top 3 secret coffee menu items you should ask for.
Flat White There has been an interesting debate about what flat white should be. Should it have one shot or two in it? This can vary from one country to the next, and our vote is for two. That aside, the flat white, popular in Australia and New Zealand, is only 6oz (approximately 160ml) tall, making it shorter than a latte, so you will taste much more of the espresso than a latte. The key here is the layer of foam at the top. A Flat White has a skinny layer or flat layer of foam (approximately 2mm), and there is more of a velvety microfoam texture. If you are looking for an espresso drink and want a little bit less milk than a latte, the Flat White is the drink for you.
Cafe Lagrima If you love espresso yet don't want a full shot of espresso because it's just too late in the day or doesn't want the full taste of an espresso shot, the Cafe Lagrima is for you. Usually 6oz in total, the Cafe Lagrima features only 1/2 a shot of espresso, also known as a touch, and the rest is warm milk. You can get a ristretto shot if you are fancy. The Cafe Lagrima is great if you don't want a nice beverage with a touch of espresso flavor.
King Cortado The cortado is the best go-to travel espresso drink of all time. It's compact, has tons of flavor, and is well balanced. The King Cortado is for those who need a little bit more for the long haul. A King Cortado is still equal parts of espresso and milk. However, the King Cortado features three shots (3oz) of espresso instead of two (2oz), with a matching amount of milk. If you are looking for a long drive or an action-packed evening, we recommend the King Cortado.
Most chocolate lovers don't like white chocolate. It is often in third place behind milk and dark chocolate and often not on the menu of coffee shops unless it is the holiday season. White chocolate has its advantages that many overlook. It has a smooth and creamy taste and pairs well with minty and nutty flavors. That said, there are three surprising facts about white chocolate that you need to know.
1) Real white chocolate isn't white. Quality cocoa butter used for authentic white chocolate is ivory-colored. If your chocolate is white, then it could be bleached or confectionary. Pay attention to the ingredients. Make sure that it contains cocoa butter and is not a cheaper oil substitute. Interestingly enough, in The United States, white chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa fat.
2) It isn't chocolate. White chocolate indeed originates from the cacao plant, yet the FDA states that 'chocolate' must contain chocolate liquor giving the bitter chocolate flavor and color we all know and love.
3) It absorbs odor. The smooth and creamy taste comes in part from the high-fat content, which allows it to absorb odor. When storing white chocolate, make sure it is in a cool location away from any foods that might emit odor. On the plus side, these same high-fat content also brings many antioxidants, allowing you to keep it for up to four or more years if stored properly.
One of the most common questions we get is, what is a Macchiato? or What is a Cortado? Some who have heard of them before ask, what is the difference? These two espresso drinks are friendly neighbors in the coffee world, yet the ever so slight difference between the two can make a significant difference in what you get, depending on what you desire.
So let's explore the difference between the two, so you can make an informed decision.
Macchiato | Mah-key-AH-toe Single espresso served with 1-2 tsp of foamed milk (normally warm)
Two drinks define Italian Caffe, espresso, and Macchiato. Unlike the well-known Starbucks version, an authentic Macchiato has a touch of foamed milk on the top. That touch of milk gives this drink its name, essentially meaning the espresso is "marked" with milk. Perfect for those who like espresso and want a touch of milk to soften the taste of the crema. Macchiatos are typically enjoyed in the afternoons or after your meal. Caution, there is this Italian cultural rule that milk shouldn't be consumed after breakfast or brunch, yet this allows you to get by with a respectable warning.
Cortado | Core - taa - doe Single or double espresso served with equal amounts of milk.
Originally from Spain, the Cortado is known as the best well-balanced espresso drink. Great for those who want the flavor of espresso and not an abundance of milk that might overwhelm your beverage as a latte would. We pause a moment to bring you up to speed, as there is a debate if a cortado should have one or two shots. We just believe that life is too short for a single shot. An interesting touch from Spain is that the Cortado uses steamed milk and not frothy like other espresso drinks, allowing the texture and viscosity to be much more rich and smooth.
Now you know, and the next time you go to our local caffe, you can try both, then make the decision on which one you like better.
One of the most asked questions we receive about coffee is the difference between coffee and espresso beans? A valid question for sure, yet the answer may not be as exciting as much as you think. Let's start with the beans.
Commonly, coffee roasters will use specific beans for espresso and others for drip, pour-over, or pods. This is partly because roasters can consistently extract the flavors and the characteristics they want for their blend. This makes sense, especially if that cafe or coffee roaster has a signature blend they are best known for. That said, they technically are the same beans. The difference is in the roasting process. Espresso beans tend to be a medium or darker roast because the beans become more porous during the roasting process, allowing flavors to be more easily extracted during the quick process of an espresso pull. The darker roasts allow for the formation of what we all know and love: crema.
So being the coffee lovers or caffiends you are, you now know the difference between the two, or more how similar they are.
The first time I tried an affogato, I wondered why I had not heard of this wonderful delight much sooner in my life. For those who don't know, and affogato is a scoop of ice cream paired with a shot of espresso. You pour the shot of espresso over the ice cream and enjoy one of the best food pairings of all time. The pair seems so unlikely, yet so was chicken and waffles until your first tasted it, and you were sold. The bitter and sweet tastes with the temperature change are something to experience. The standard ice cream used is vanilla bean, and vanilla on its own is acceptable, yet why stop there. Over the years, I have tried a lot of combinations, and here are my top favorites.
Pistachio. This nutty-flavored combination is one of my favorites. Pistachios tend to be reasonably light in flavor compared to other nuts, and when made into ice cream from the right company, the flavor balance is impressive, quickly becoming one of your favorites.
Peach. Ripe for the summer, peaches are known to pair exceptionally well with tea, yet an unlikely pairing is with a shot of espresso. The sweetness of the peach and the dark, rich flavor of the espresso matches nicely. Similar to dark chocolate peach truffles, the pairing takes your taste buds on a lovely summer trip that ends in a caffeinated satisfaction that is worth booking a return trip.
Jasmine Tea. The fresh and fragrant scent of jasmine tea gelato or ice cream is pleasant on its own, and when paired with espresso, is nicely balanced. This pairing isn't for everyone, as some of us don't like jasmine tea, and if that is the case, you won't like this pairing either, yet for those who do, taste the jasmine tea first, and then the espresso to see the flavors develop. It is something different and can be appreciated by tea and coffee lovers.
Spicy Chocolate. Mochas are among the most popular espresso drinks of all time. Picante mochas are not so well known and become popular in the wintertime. The flavor heat from the spices pair exceptionally well with chocolate, as well observed from the TCHO flavor wheel, and adding espresso to the party will add a plethora of flavor options. Smokey to herby chili or even increasing richness. With this selection, the full spectrum of chocolate flavors opens many doors you never knew were there. For beginners, go with sea salt or Aji Panca, which is very light with a respectable kick for those sensitive to heat.
A menu defines caffe. Just as much as the people who go there, the beverages and pastries help create its character. People visit from near and far to visit this place, because of what it has to offer, and to pick up their favorite drink or pastry. A true caffe, like any business that is customer focused, will listen and occasionally create drinks based on feedback. This is what my menu is, and will always be about, the customer. I am not saying we will always make what is requested, and with every new permanent or seasonal beverage, food option or merchandise, we will keep our customers in mind. With that said, you will probably see something that you have never saw before, or thought could be a beverage, and that in itself, is the character of Sipbie Caffe. So when you see us, stop by and experience something different, and if you stay a while, that's ok too.
At some coffee shops, you will notice that baristas use tampers. Tampers are used to pack espresso grounds into the portafilter before extraction by an espresso machine. The idea is when you pack the grounds evenly every time, you can produce a quality espresso shot. This makes it harder for the water to go through the coffee grounds, allowing for a more even extraction. Tampers are easy to use, and when used the right way, helps produce amazing shots. There are four types of tampers: Handle, puck, dual-head, and weight-calibrated.
The handle tampers are the most common style of tamper. Think of an ink stamp that you have used before. Nice wooden, rubber, or metal handle with a flat base allowing you to apply more pressure when tamping. This one is great for home use. The puck tamper looks like, you guessed it, a hockey puck, and somewhat similar to an espresso distribution tool. This tamper is flat on the top, and you can apply pressure with the palm of your hand or twist and apply pressure downward. The dual-head or double-sided tamper looks similar to the handle tamper, yet has a smaller and larger flat base. This is nice if you have portafilters that are of different sizes. The fancies of the tampers are the weight-calibrated tampers. These tampers are specifically made to apply a consistent amount of pressure to ensure every time. Some espresso machines and grinders come with tampers, and they are useful if you are making your casual coffee cup at home. Expect to pay above $35 for a high-level tamper, yet note that one may not be necessary in the beginning. I suggest a handle tamper to start.
The thick golden foam that sits on top of an espresso shot after a fresh pull. Crema is a bubbly bouquet of aroma that enhances the flavor of your espresso. The quality of the shot is often associated with the crema. A nice, thick, and colorful crema means the shot was pulled correctly and the beans were excellent. If the crema is thin or dissolves quickly, then there is an issue with the quality of the shot. Not all great espresso shots have an amazing layer of crema. Here's why, if you have darker or lighter roasted beans, crema is harder to create because the oil levels are too high or low. Additionally, if the beans have been sitting for a while, they will have "gassed" much longer than freshly roasted beans. In the end, it is nice to see crema resting peacefully on your espresso, and if you don't and still enjoy the flavor of your beverage, it's not a big deal. Remember that crema is a great indicator and not the confirmation of a great shot.
People are always looking to improve the quality of the espresso shots they pull. Everything from adjusting the grinder to ensuring the extraction time is just right, we try to control as many of the variables as possible. One of these techniques that is up for debate is the espresso distribution tool.
An espresso distribution tool (EDT) evens out espresso grinds, preventing different levels of compression and reducing channeling when extracting a shot. When you place espresso in the portafilter, espresso grinds tend to fall randomly in place. When you tamp these grinds incorrectly channeling is more likely to occur. Channeling is when water meanders through cracks and small gaps in your portafilter after you tamp them down causing an uneven extraction. The EDT helps prevent that by evening out the grinds before tamping, allowing for a more consistent pull of espresso.
The debate arises when coffee lovers ask if this tool helps pull a better espresso shot. I don't have any scientific evidence and I am sure it's out there somewhere, so if you have it please share. My experience is that the EDT helps preserve consistency in the shots I pull, especially when I am using a new blend I haven't tasted or worked with before.
For beginners, this is a great tool and you should use it. This will make it easier for you to learn while gaining skills and urge you to practice more, perfecting your craft. The EDT isn't the magical tool to add in your toolbox to get you barista superstar status only time and experience can help you get there. When you are ready try pulling shots without using the EDT. The best espresso I have ever had in the world by far was in Italy, made by a barista who didn't use anything other than a tamper and since that day I have been pursuing the perfect shot ever since.
The Latte. A coffee shop favorite that brings so much joy from the first sip to the last drop. Yet do you know what a latte is? A latte means milk in Italian. If you were in any cafe in Italy and asked for a latte, they would serve you a nice glass of warm milk, and you would be confused. The latte as we know it in the US, milk with an espresso shot or two, is more of an American adaptation. Italians call this a caffe latte. Caffe meaning coffee, and latte meaning milk. Americans assume the coffee is included because warm milk in the US is best served with cookies or honey.
Covid-19 changed everything. How we work, travel, socialize, and go about our lives. As we move forward, we will encounter a new world that will be different than what we are accustomed to for some time. Going to a café, enjoying your favorite espresso drink and relaxing for hours isn’t an option for a lot of businesses right now, and possibly for some time. Coffee shops, big and small, are suffering and have adapted how they serve their customer. This includes closing locations that won’t help their business weather the storm.
Starbucks announced that they are closing almost 400 stores and focusing more on drive-up and take away locations. Where are some of these locations you might ask? Think about malls. It is estimated that around 25,000 shops inside malls could close around the United States because their business can’t survive being closed this long. When malls open up, which may be next week or next month depending on where you live, the traffic will be drastically reduced. Coffee shops have to adjust to consumer behavior and offer pick up and take away. Don’t think this is all doom and gloom. Starbucks does plan on opening up more than 200 locations that offer, you guessed it, pick up, and to go.
All that said, the cafés of the future, at least for the next few years, will surely resemble those in Japan, Korea, and Italy. Café’s that are small with limited indoor and outdoor seating and a majority of their business comes from orders that are picked up and taken away. You will also see an expansion of coffee shops offering their beans to take home. I will miss going to those large coffee shops, watching people for hours, or enjoying my favorite book. I am confident that we will return to those days in the US soon, but for now, I live off of the photos and stories my friends around the world who are living their lives, while here in the US we still need time to figure it out and get it right.
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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