coffee

  • Italian Roast vs. French Roast

    We've found that we generally prefer medium roasted coffees because we're able to taste a more diverse palette of flavors in a specific coffee blend. However, we know that there are die-hard devotees of dark roasted coffee and we were recently asked what the difference was between French Roast and Italian Roast.

    They're both roasted quite darkly, so that they have an oily sheen to them after the roasting process is complete. With a French Roast, the temperature of the roast is high enough that these oils are brought to the surface and will impart a roasted flavor to the produced coffee or espresso. Aromas can vary from berry to citrus. Italian Roast is much darker and oilier than a French Roast and often preferred in Italy.

    If a coffee is described as being a French or Italian roast, it isn't because they were grown or roasted in these countries, just that the roaster utilized this generalized roast level for that blend of beans. You can read more about roasting in our article It Starts with Great Coffee.

    What is your preferred roast or blend and why? We'd love to hear about some of your favorites!

  • Tech Tip: Superautomatics and Oily Beans

    We have written before about the no love lost between superautomatic espresso machines and oily, dark roasted coffee beans, but when we got a machine in the repair center last week that was caked to the gills with coffee cement, we just had to film it and show you what we're talking about.

    Watch Gail take apart the grinder of a Saeco Vienna superautomatic espresso machine and show what happens over time to the internal grinders on these machines if someone is using super-dark and oily beans. We definitely recommend sticking with a lighter, drier roast for the long term health of your machine -- and now you'll see why!

  • Coffee in High Altitudes

    It was just a couple of weeks ago that we were wondering in the store how brewing coffee or pulling espresso differs at higher altitudes. We're basically at sea level here, but we'd been talking about the kind of coffee some of us have found in the higher elevations of Montana -- more bitter and like 'coffee water' than what we make and drink here.

    We found the answer in this interesting piece on coffee in Santa Fe, NM. A Qasimi discusses how the higher altitude affects brewing and roasting:

    I don?t drink home-brewed coffee in Santa Fe. I?ve often found it sour and lacking in the depth, robustness and natural sweetness that makes great coffee great. How does high altitude affect coffee and espresso quality at home and with the use of commercial equipment? Drip coffee machines that merely boil are convenient devices but they deliver water to the grounds at below the ideal range of temperatures, leading to underextraction of the beans and a sour, dull or poorly developed brew.

    Thus, the only way to compensate for altitude is pressure -- and that means espresso -- but pulling a proper espresso shot is not easy at this altitude either. Ironically, though the best coffee grows at higher altitudes, with water?s lower boiling point in elevated places, brewing can get tricky. Roasting, on the other hand, merely benefits from altitude: The best possible results come from roasting the beans at the same altitude as they?ll be used and particularly at high altitudes that allow for faster roast development at lower temperatures

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