Monthly Archives: February 2012
What’s The Difference?
Browsing the coffee aisle, you might notice some bags are marked as espresso or drip blends. That get’s you thinking: “What’s the difference between coffee and espresso beans?” The truth is, there’s no difference between espresso and coffee beans. A coffee bean is a coffee bean. So, why are bags labeled differently? As it turns out, it's the brew method.
Labeling beans as espresso or drip is nothing more than a recommendation from the roaster on how to bring out the flavor of the beans. Of course, there are different roasts and coffee beans—two species actually, Arabica and Robusta, as well as varietals bred from these species—but each is still a coffee bean that can be used in a variety of methods.
We’ll dive into how beans and blends create different flavors and how the recommended brew methods evolved.
Coffee Flavor Profile
Read the label of your favorite bag of beans and you’ll sometimes find food descriptors like oranges or baking ingredients like brown sugar listed on the label. These descriptors are unique flavor notes that the roaster has tasted or smelled in the beans based on their recommended brew process. However, these descriptions do not indicate the quality of brew, but a recommendation based on the background of the beans—such as growing region, process or whether it’s a single origin or blend.
Try brewing based on their recommendation: What do you taste? Perhaps it’s what the roaster detected—subtle sweet and fruit flavors with chocolate undertones or black tea with a tart, citrusy kick—or maybe you’ll find a slightly different flavor.
Espresso vs Coffee
So, how did espresso beans come about? When it was first popularized, coffee farms didn’t have the refinement of cultivating that we see today—and when the lesser quality beans were brewed as espresso it was painfully noticeable. When you put beans under pressure, like you do with espresso, the flavor profile becomes more intense, sort of like the difference between a blueberry tea and a spoonful of blueberry jam. In an effort to create a consistent flavor profile, roasters would use a darker roast to produce smoky, caramelized sugar notes, like we see in an Italian roasts. This roasting method, however, meant that the nuanced flavors were no longer detectable. Nowadays, specialty roasters source high-quality beans to make this method of masking taste not necessary. Roasters can experiment with lighter roasts the enhance the flavor of the coffee and share its complexity.
Brewed coffee, whether it’s from a standard drip brewer or pour over set-up like Chemex, tends to produce less intense flavors than espresso making it more forgiving when used to brew a variety of coffee qualities. You many also find that brewed coffee is a bit easier to control the extraction and therefore the flavor of the cup you produce. Many find that single origins, beans sourced from one location, are easier to brew in this fashion. Single origins typically have more delicate flavors, which makes it easy to under or over extract making them often difficult to brew with for espresso. Think of it like a target, getting a great cup of brewed coffee is like hitting the board and a great cup of espresso like hitting the bullseye. It’s not impossible, but it will take a bit more time and dedication.
We believe the writing on the bag shouldn’t influence how you brew. It’s a recommendation meant to guide you, but it’s ultimately up to you to experiment and find that ideal brew. While it might require some finessing to dial-in a single origin for espresso, we think the reward is well worth the effort—add some steamed milk and you’ll get a decadent, dessert-like treat. We enjoy pulling espresso shots that taste like a rich blueberry cobbler using a delicious natural processed coffee.
There is no difference between espresso and coffee beans. When specialty roasters write “espresso blend” or “drip blend,” it’s just the brew method roaster's believe will make the flavor profile really shine. Coffee is a matter of personal taste and preference—you do you and make coffee the way you love.
It's week two in my quest to incorporate coffee into as many foods as possible!
After last week's recipe, where I semi-deliberately didn't follow instructions and ended up with slightly less than perfect Espresso Meringues, I decided that I needed to take a step back and make something super easy.
The result? Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes, courtesy of a boxed cake mix. Like I said, super easy!
- Chocolate cake mix
- 3/4 cup brewed espresso (I used Caffe Umbria's Terra Sana Blend)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
- Beat cake mix, espresso, water, oil and eggs on low speed with mixer for 30 seconds
- Kick the mixer up to medium for about 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally
- Spoon mix into cupcake wrappers, filling about 2/3 full
- Bake in oven 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean
- Let cool on a wire rack before frosting
Keep in mind that the ingredients and directions will vary based on the boxed cake mix you use. To adapt the recipe to your cake mix, simply replace 50% or more of the water with brewed espresso.
This time, I used 60% espresso and, while it was definitely noticeable in the batter, it seemed to lose a lot of its taste after baking. Next time I make it, I'll use only espresso ('Look ma, no water!') and see what happens. I'm thinking deliciousness!
The cupcakes turned out yummy and, if I do say so myself, quite pretty! To top it off, they were frosted with Hazelnut Cream Cheese Frosting. I know you want the recipe, so check in on Thursday to see Brandi whip some up!
For folks that dig precision, a dual boiler espresso machine with PID temperature control of the brew boiler is hard to beat. While we tend to shoot from the hip in general around here, that doesn't mean we can't appreciate a shot pulled from one of these beauties!
We asked Gail to pull shots from the Izzo Alex Duetto II, La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi and Breville Dual Boiler so that we could see how they compare. No science at work here, friends (hey, old habits die hard!), but we did use the same grinder for each machine (the Nuova Simonelli MCI), coffee (Lavazza Super Crema) and brew temp (199F) to try to nail down a few of the variables.
Watch as we taste and discuss the shots from each of these machines, then rank them in terms of our favorites, flavor-wise.
While we have over 100 different espresso machines at our jittery little fingertips each day, our crew sometimes opts to brew a batch o' java using a different method. We asked Gail, Bunny, Allie, Brandi and Rade to share which non-espresso coffee preparations they dig the most, then filmed how they do it.
We shot this series over a few weeks and didn't realize until the slice-n-dice that one very common theme throughout is that all of us lack the precision some folks adore, but we're pretty sure you know that about us by now!
Watch as each of our trusty compatriots talk about why they like the prep they've chosen and make us a cup so we can taste their handiwork. This video is a true homage to shooting from the hip if there ever was one.
We kept her on pins and needles long enough, so when we had the opportunity to pair up a non-sweetened coffee drink with a batch of Kaylie's Espresso Meringue cookies, we let Brandi break out the Nespresso! She chose to produce an iced latte, featuring the Aeroccino's cold frothing functionality.
While the recipe isn't rocket science (a couple shots of espresso and a batch of cold-frothed milk), it's always fun to watch Brandi whip something up, isn't it?
So you've finally pulled together the courage to add up how much you've been spending on all those lattes, macchiatos and cappuccinos you've consumed at your local cafe everyday. After looking at the grand total you think, 'Wow, I could've set up my own espresso shop!'
When considering their purchase, folks often think about the kind of coffee they want to make and how easy it will be to use -- generally, how much work they're willing to do to craft their favorite drink every day. They also consider the initial monetary investment when purchasing the machine, but we rarely have folks thinking about the overall care and feeding of their new gear: How much work will it take to maintain and keep these machines running well? What kind of life expectancy might a specific machine have? Are there any known issues they should be aware of and prepare for?
To answer these questions, we've delved into the tech nitty gritty: From entry-level single boilers to high end 'prosumer' semi-automatics to mini caffeine robots (also known as superautomatics), we've got the 411 on the general longevity, maintenance and care of different machines. We couldn't hit all of them, of course, but hopefully there's enough info here to help you while considering which machine is right for you.
I recently decided that my mission in life is going to be finding ways to incorporate coffee and espresso into everyday foods. After all, who wants to limit their caffeine intake to mornings?!
So, the first recipe I wanted to tackle was Espresso Infused Meringue Cookies from the Happy Good Times Blog. I think now would be the appropriate time to point out that these meringues didn't turn out how I think they were supposed to. They were still good (seriously!), but I think I lack the necessary skills to create this lovechild of baked goods and candy. Also, I may or may not follow directions well...
- 3 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon finely ground espresso or coffee beans (we used Velton's Twilight Blend)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (I used powdered, but I don't think that's necessary)
- Allow whites to come to room temperature (about 20 minutes)
- Clean and dry your mixing bowl
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper
- Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees F
- Stir together sugar, espresso grounds and vanilla - set aside
- Using a mixer, beat whites on low speed until foamy
- Sprinkle cream of tartar and salt over foamy whites
- Increase mixer speed to medium, and beat until medium peaks form
- Increase mixer speed to high, and add sugar mixture one tablespoon at a time
- When stiff, glossy peak form, spoon meringue onto your prepared baking sheet
- Bake for 60-70 minutes in the top third of your oven
- Allow to cool completely on the baking sheet
- Store in an air-tight container for about 3 days.
After reading through that, and seeing my pictures, you may have a couple of questions. Questions like: 'Kaylie, did you use bottled egg whites instead of fresh ones?' or 'That sounds like a lot of meringue mixture; did you double the recipe?' The answer to both of those questions is yes, that is exactly what I did! Remember what I said about not following directions? Well, it's not that I don't follow them so much as I try to take shortcuts. Shortcuts which may or may not ruin the finished product.
How so? Well, the meringues were very delicate on the outside and soft on the inside. Not fluffy soft, more like 'too heavy to rise so it sunk to the bottom' soft. The result? Something like hollow egg shells that were nearly impossible to keep intact while removing them from the baking sheet.
The crew here at Seattle Coffee Gear still ate them, cutting the sweetness with an iced latte (courtesy of Brandi). I just wish they had turned out pretty and delicious. If there are any readers with mad meringue-making skills, please let me know what I did wrong! I'd love to try these again and have them turn out. In the meantime, I will just need to redeem myself with next week's recipe ... Wish me luck.
Things were getting a little bit docile around these parts, so it was clearly time for another grudge match! We asked Gail to brew a pot of coffee in the Technivorm Moccamaster KB741 and in the Bonavita Coffee Maker, then line 'em up and see which our trusty crew members preferred.
Watch as Rade, Allison, Bunny and our newest ingenue, Kaylie, sip and select their favorite.
Who doesn't love a woman who shows up at work with a gigantic bottle of vodka in the morning?! Brandi is wooing us yet again with one of her dangerously delicious boozin' concoctions.
Watch her craft this lovely drink -- which we're fairly certain is perfect for breakfast. There's gotta be some vitamins in there, right?
- 1 oz Monin Blood Orange syrup
- 1 1/4 oz vodka
- 4 oz lemon lime soda
Fill glass with ice; add vodka and syrup, stir well to combine. Top with lemon lime soda and garnish with an orange slice.
Who would've thought that the fountain of youth could be found right in your very own kitchen -- and right under your nose? Your morning cup of coffee provides more than just a kick in the pants to get going in the morning, it also has positive affects on your noodle!
Studies have shown that drinking at least three to five cups of coffee a day in midlife can cut Alzheimer's risk 65 percent in late life.
A July 2011 study by researchers at the University of Florida found that 'coffee seems to have an unidentified ingredient that combines with caffeine to reduce brain levels of beta-amyloid -- the abnormal protein that is thought to cause the disease,' published the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
In early studies, USF researchers believed that caffeine was probably the ingredient that provides protection because it decreases brain production of beta-amyloid. However, the same study also claims that it may not be the caffeine itself but a combination of the caffeine and coffee's compounds that, when combined, increases blood levels of a growth factor called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor). Alzheimer patients are known to have low levels of GCSF.
In their studies, long term treatment with coffee enhanced levels of GCSF and memory in mice with Alzheimer's. Three key benefits researchers found were:
- GCSF recruits stem cells from bone marrow to enter the brain and remove the harmful beta-amyloid protein that initiates the disease
- GSCF creates new connections between brain cells
- GCSF increases the birth of new neurons in the brain
While this has only been tested and verified on mice, it does demonstrate that coffee can have a strong impact on the progression of Alzheimer's, to the extent that it's worth more study. Dr. Chuanhai Cao, one of the study's lead authors, said, 'Together these actions appear to give coffee an amazing potential to protect against Alzheimer's -- but only if you drink moderate amounts of caffeinated coffee.'
But who's to say adding those extra cups of coffee won't give you a memory like an elephant when you're in your 90s? Better safe than sorry.
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