Coffee Life is my new page to talk about my new adventure in coffee and espresso making. I’ve only been a coffee drinker since the beginning of 2013 when I needed to quit drinking soda pop and wanted a new source of caffeine.
My father drinks instant coffee and has for as long as I’ve been alive. I remember trying it a couple of times over the years growing up and never liked the taste – it was too bitter. I’ve never tried coffee since as an adult. Even going through the Marine Corps, I avoided coffee because of the bad taste experience.
More recently I would go to Starbucks and get a caramel latte which I like and would enjoy that because the milk and carmel covers the taste of the coffee, or rather espresso. Once I needed to stop drinking the soda pop I wanted to investigate what espresso was. I really had no idea whatsoever what it was and had to ask someone whom I sort of knew on the MacRumors forums that was into coffee. We’ve become rather good friends since then and frequently talk about coffee as he teaches me everything there is to know about it.
I’ve learned that espresso is not the same as normal coffee as I’ve known it. It’s a very concentrated drink of only a few ounces in a tiny cup. It requires more work and some basic skills to to make properly. First you need an espresso machine and a good tamper. A coffee grinder is probably a must-have for most purists but isn’t necessary since you can buy pre-ground espresso or grind it at your local coffee shop.
My father told me that he tried espresso once at a local coffee shop when he was in France during the Vietnam War while in the Army. He didn’t like it and said it tasted like mud!
I’ve gone through several brands of espresso blends from various places and found that I also do not like the taste of pure espresso. What I do like however, is espresso-based drinks like latte’s and cappuccinos. Those are what I end up making along with regular drip coffee. I prefer making the carmel latte or cappuccino but sometimes will make a vanilla one too. I also like the pumpkin spice latte which is a seasonal drink at most chain coffee shops like Starbucks. I’ve purchased the necessary ingredients to make my own pumpkin spice lattes.
There is a process for making espresso and it varies by person and some professionals are very strict about their processes and for good reason. My process for latte’s are as follows.
- Pre-heat the cup by adding hot water from the espresso machine into it. This is more essential for making pure espresso so that the drink stays warm for longer.
- Prepare the espresso by scooping a couple of scoops into the double-shot portafilter basket and tamping it with about 30 – 35 pounds of pressure, according to most experts.
- Using a different cup insert the portafilter into the machine and turn it on. If the grind is right for the beans you are using and the tamp ideal it should take about 20-30 seconds to extract the espresso and develop a good crema on top.
- Pour about 1 cup of 2% milk into a metal pitcher and use the steam wand of the espresso machine to steam and froth the milk. The ideal temperature is between 140F – 160F, preferably 150F – 155F. You’ll need a latte thermometer to gauge the temperature. I usually put two pumps of carmel into the milk prior to steaming to get it mixed in really well.
- Once you approach the ideal temperature (I turn the steamer off at 140F since the temperature continues to rise slightly afterward reaching the optimum temperature) tilt the pitcher about 12 degrees and let the wand dip just below the surface of the milk so it sounds like it’s tearing paper. This makes for the nice froth on top.
- Pour out the hot water from the pre-heated cup and pour in the espresso and then pour in the steamed milk next. holding a spoon next to the pitcher as you pour the milk helps hold back the froth until the end of the pour and puts it on top.
I also drink regular drip coffee probably more than espresso-based drinks. This is because it’s less work to make and easier to clean up from. Plus, I don’t make espresso in the mornings before work. Those I will make in the afternoons when I am home again.
I’ve tried all sorts of coffee from Starbucks, Tim Hortons and a few online coffee retailers. To date, Tim Hortons has the best smelling and tasting coffee I’ve tried. I have tried nearly every Starbucks blend of coffee they offer and I’ve liked none of them. I don’t mind their coffee when it’s in a latte, cappuccino or macchiato since the coffee taste is mostly covered. I have just kept coming back to Tim Hortons for my regular everyday coffee.
For a while I was buying the coffee and grinding the whole bag in the stores and at home putting it into a Friis container for storage. This worked out well because these are special coffee containers which allow the off-gassing of CO2 to escape the container allowing the coffee grinds to remain fresh for longer. Despite that, by the time I’d get a few days into having a fresh container the staleness would set in and by the end of the supply the taste was quite different. Enter the home grinder.
I now am drinking coffee made with a French Press and really love it better this way. Removing the automatic drip machine and the plastic it was made from has made the taste of the coffee even better. The coffee and water are now only ever in glass and doesn’t absorb the chemical taste from the heated plastics in the drip machine. The heated part is the hot water/coffee sitting inside it.
With the French Press you pour the coffee grinds into it, add a few ounces of water and let it sit for about 30 seconds. Then come back and stir it. Then fill it all the way up, or to your desired fill mark, and let it sit for about another 3 minutes. Next, push the plunger down to separate the grinds and keep them at the bottom. Now you may pour your coffee into the cup and enjoy it.
Currently, I have a very small French Press that makes one cup of coffee at a time. That’s perfect for me since I am the only I make coffee for and usually one cup is plenty.
My friend is an espresso purist and only has the freshest coffee. It took me quite a while to buy a grinder because they can be quite expensive for a decent quality model. I was weighing the cost of the grinder against the amount of use I thought I’d get out of it and decided that a grinder wasn’t what I needed. That all changed when I became tired of making stale coffee every other week. It normally takes me a week and a half to two weeks to go through a pound of coffee.
I began searching around for a quality, yet not-too-expensive grinder and with the assistance of my friend we found a good one for just under $200. It’s made by a reputable company and is a quality conical burr grinder. I’m told that one should never, ever, buy a blade grinder – always go with the burr grinders.
The blade grinders chop up the beans in a messy fashion and produce far more heat on the beans during the process which takes away the flavor and taste of them.
Now that I am grinding my own beans I only buy the Tim Hortons beans as whole beans and do not grind the whole bag at one in the store. I take the beans and put them into the Friis containers and only scoop out the amount of beans I need for each brew and grind only those. I generally only have about 1.5 to 2 cups of coffee at a time, so I only scoop about 24 to 26 grams of beans and grind them up and immediately brew them.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I love the smell of the Tim Hortons coffee beans when they’re freshly ground and brewed. The smell is almost Heavenly and I breath a huge breath of satisfaction with every grind and brew. Having the whole beans and the grinder means I get this lovely smell every single time I make a pot now. Previously I only had this beautiful smell for a day or two until the coffee started to get noticeably stale.
I take my regular coffee black with no milk, creamer or sugar and it tastes oh so good!
I intend on keeping this blog up-to-date and refining some of what I wrote above as time goes on. Coffee is a newfound passion of mine. If you are a coffee lover too, please feel free to send me comments here. Note: Article comments are now closed due to high volumes of spam.