How to Brew Strong Drip Coffee – 5 Tips

Every day I talk to customers who need a little help picking one of our coffees to brew at home.

To get an idea of what they might like, I ask them if there’s a coffee they’ve tried in the past that they really enjoyed. More than half the time, they reply that they don’t really know….they just know they like “strong” coffee.

Instead of easily pointing them to their coffee soul mate from there, I have to explain that we’re going to be chatting for a minute or two….

Why is that?
Well, “strong” is not a “flavor” – It’s a degree of the brewed intensity of what ends up in the cup. If you think about it…absolutely any flavor can be “strong”, right?

So then flavor preference is the question we’re trying to answer, right? Yes! Here are some examples:
Do you like the flavor of smoke, as in a dark roast, perhaps from Brazil?
Do you like the flavor of fruit, as in the blueberry taste of an Ethiopian Harrar?
Do you like the flavor of well balanced coffee deliciousness….as in a killer coffee blend?

Oooohh, now it makes sense! Flavor is what we’re trying to hone in on when selecting a roasted coffee, and to what intensity we choose to brew the coffee is a decision we can make at home.

Here’s the little fantasy bubble: Think of yourself at the gym (ok, yeah, I said fantasy): When you do squats, you can use the 1lb weights or you could use the 100 lb weights. You’re still doing squats either way, it’s just that with the 1 lb weights you’re doing the Diary of a Wimpy Kid version, and with the 100 lb weights, well, you’re doing the bad-ass version. Coffee brewing is exactly the same!

Flavor you like= type of exercise you pick
Strength you like = how much weight you decide to use in that chosen exercise

Here’s a quick science-dork moment when it comes to brewing drip coffee:
Generally enjoyable brewed drip coffee is around 98.75% water, and about 1.25% coffee. Yeah, I know, shocker! The optimal flavor zone is reached when we dissolve about 18-22% of the particles in coffee (only 30% can even BE dissolved).

OK, ok, here’s what you’ve been waiting for…
“Just Tell Me How to Brew Strong Coffee” explanation for drip brewing:

Step 1: Always make sure you’re using fresh coffee. Hint: Starting with old coffee is the equivalent of starting a ski race without your skis on! You have no hope, dude. If you want a chance at a medal, start with freshly roasted coffee less than 2 weeks from its roasting date.

Step 2: Use the right amount of coffee-to-water ratio, based on your taste. Generally, that’s 1-2 Tablespoons per 6 oz “cup” of coffee. Yes, you’ve got it – those are the little lines and numbers on the side of your brewer’s water tank. By weight, 1T coffee = 7 grams. So 1T per cup would be mild brew-strength, and 2 T per cup would be more intense brew-strength.

Step 3: Grind before brewing using a burr grinder. Coffee loses flavor sooo quickly once ground. I know – for some, the convenience of pre-grinding just can’t be outweighed. You get to decide how much flavor ends up in your cup, after all, so know the facts: Grinding right before brewing =more flavor & aroma in your cup. Blade grinders make “boulders and dust” coffee grounds, while a burr grinder makes a nice uniform grind, and therefore yummier tasting coffee. For drip, you want a medium grind.

Step 4: Brew using fresh, clean filtered water. Water tastes bad? So will your coffee. Last I checked, the strong taste of chlorine wasn’t on the top 10 list. Your machine should brew between 195-205 degrees F. Water colder than that will result in weak tasting coffee, and over that temp will result in a burnt, bitter taste. Brewing should take about 6 minutes for the optimal extraction (remember, you’re trying to dissolve 18-22% of the ground coffee). Be sure you’ve found a brewer that can actually deliver the right temp from start to finish. Hint: Drip brewers are really made to brew for a crowd. If you’re brewing one cup at a time, you’re better off using a pour-over or press pot.

Step 5: Sip and enjoy the best flavor your coffee has to offer with your perfect balance of strength and extraction. Yummy!

Squats anyone?

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Brewing with the Hario Pour Over

Life has gotta be simple, and the coffee has gotta be yummy. If you follow that way of thinking, then the pour over method of brewing is for you. With an investment as little as about 25 bucks, you’ll be on your way to brewing a smooth and velvety morning cup that beats most electric drip machines by a mile.



Here’s how to get it done:

Tools for the job (*required)
Hario V60 Glass Dripper *
Measuring scoop or scale *
Hot water kettle
#2 Hario paper filters (with pointed tip, not flat tip) *
Coffee grinder (not pictured)
8, 12, or 16 oz Mug (or server)

Heat water on stovetop or electric kettle to boil

At sea level, water boils at 212 F – Let cool to about 203 degrees if you live at low elevation
At high elevation (about 5000 ft) boiling point is about 203
Optimal brewing temp is about 198-203

Place paper filter in dripper, and set dripper atop mug (8 or 12 oz)

Measure coffee (adjust as needed to your taste)

By weight
16 g for 8 oz mug or
24 g for 12 oz mug
32 g for 16 oz mug
By volume
2 T for 8 oz mug
3 T for 12 oz mug
4 T for 16 oz mug

Grind Coffee

Use fine drip setting (about texture of refined sugar)
Place ground coffee into paper filter in dripper

Brew (about 3 minutes)

Pour about 1/3 of the necessary water on all grinds to wet
Coffee will “bloom” or poof up
Let sit and drip into mug about 60 seconds
Pour another 1/3 of water, and let brew through
Pour final 1/3 of water and let brew through
(remember you only need the volume of water your cup can hold)

Sip & Enjoy!


Visit www.lizzysfreshcoffee.com to purchase any of the pour over brewing tools.

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How to Store Coffee – 3 Tips

Ok, so you’ve purchased some amazing freshly roasted coffee. How do you take care of it from here? What? Rules, you’re thinking? Yep…but if you know these 3 secrets, your coffee will be tasty for up to 2 weeks.

Coffee’s Life is Very Short: Unfortunately, coffee will only stay fresh and flavorful for up to 2 weeks from its roasting day. So ideally you purchase only what you can consume in that time. During the staling process, the oils oxidize, becoming rancid, and the aromas disappear…yep….poof. Sorry, there’s no botox on the planet that can delay it. The good news is that you can be sure that it’s as slow as possible so you can enjoy every sip during the short time you have together.

Know the Enemies: Coffee is kind of anti social. Air, moisture, and light are coffee’s enemies. Plain and simple…letting these be all up in your coffee’s business will make your coffee stale faster than you can say yuck. Store your coffee in an airtight, opaque container to keep it happy.

Coffee Hates to be Cold or Hot: Finicky little thing, it is. Never store your 2 week fresh coffee supply in the freezer or refrigerator. And never store in a hot place like on top of a fridge or in a cabinet over the oven. In and out of the freezer or fridge introduces moisture, and exposure to heat gives the coffee sweaty armpits. Both situations break down the amazing intense aromas and flavors. Coffee likes to be at room temperature, right on your countertop. Read our blog about freezing coffee.

Options for Storage:

The bag it came in. Here at Lizzy’s we package our coffee immediately after roasting in foil bags with one-way degassing valves (that’s the little thing that looks like a belly button on your coffee bag). This allows the CO2 to escape, but doesn’t allow any oxygen in. It also keeps away moisture and light. It’s a great way to store your coffee if you simply roll down the bag, squeezing out the excess air, and flip back the tin tie or tape to create a nice tight seal.

A Decorative Tin or Container: Need a little more style than the bag? You can store in a decorative container, IN the foil bag. Follow directions above, then place entire coffee-in-bag in your container.

In a Container Designed to Hold Coffee, like the AirScape Storage Container: A sweet stainless steel design has a double lid system. The first lid presses excess air out of the chamber and blocks light. The second see-through lid creates an additional barrier, plus lets you see the contents level inside. Super clever, clean, and easy to use. Ideal for use with whole bean storage.

Sorry, the bad news is that if your coffee is already old, there’s no storage method in the world to make it come back to life. You might have to “repurpose” your coffee, or simply suffer through drinking it until it’s gone if that’s your style.

Do you have a question or a comment about this post? Tell us what you think below. If you like it, please share it on Facebook, Like it, or re-tweet!

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The Real Cost of Bad Coffee at the Office

People at offices hate their coffee. Most of them do, anyway. If you ask employees what sucks in the office, besides work, they’ll always say, “The coffee”.

Every few weeks, I get a customer who loves our coffee, and proclaims, “We should buy this for our office because what the owner buys us sucks. We all hate it. It tastes like old socks mixed with landfill”.

This Take-Charge employee then asks me for some prices, and scurries off to Decision Maker …you know her… all things, questions, concerns, or other… must pass through her, but she doesn’t really have the power she thinks she has? While presenting the pricing, and making a case, Take Charge reflects on why Decision Maker always determines the theme for each year’s Christmas party, and can’t help but loathe Decision Maker’s personal internal victory when proclaiming, “This year, it’s a Cowboy Jamboree”. Yippee, Take Charge can’t wait to dress up like a 70’s cowgirl and get drunk with the dudes from IT. We’re pretty sure Decision Maker was kicked off her high school prom’s planning committee.

Anyway, a few days pass, and dejected Take-Charge comes back to me and says “It costs too much and they don’t have the budget for it”. The decision went something like this: “Actually in Charge” looked at the number and said, “No, our coffee is fine. If they want good coffee, they can go out and buy it themselves”.

Brilliant answer, Actually in Charge, here’s what you’ve just done: You’ll keep buying your current coffee for some cheap price, and about 60% of your staff actually will drink it to some extent. Some slurp it down by the gallon because they were born without any sense of taste or smell and it doesn’t matter to them. Others drink it because they’re trying to knock off that hangover and just need something to stay alert during your annoyingly long meetings, and the last group, just to make it drinkable, drowns it in so much vanilla-hazelnut creamer that you can practically see their gut/butt forming as they walk down the hall with their 32 oz Circle-K mugs (that’s a different subject).

The 40% who won’t drink your coffee selection go out, just like you asked. The problem is this: They go out on YOUR clock, not theirs. Yes, some will show up to work with their latte in hand, but most usually wait until about 10 a.m., when they start to IM their office mates and ask them to join in the field trip.

Here’s what that costs you:
10 minutes of IMs “thinking about going out for coffee, wanna go?” (no work being accomplished)
10 minutes of walking or driving to said “place of good coffee” (nothing but gossip happening here)
5 minutes of waiting for the ordered beverage (at best…you know how long those lines can get)
10 minutes of walking or driving back to “place of pain and suffering” (talking about why they hate the sucky coffee you buy them)
10 minutes of re-entry to a productive state at the computer with “good” coffee now in hand
Total time employee is not productive: about 45 minutes
Cost to you for an average salary of $50k: $18 per employee X 3 employees = $54 for that little outing.
Allow me to do the math for you: That’s $270 per week. That’s $14,000 in lost productivity every single year. How does the price of bad, cheap coffee look now?

Yes, it’s true, part of going “out for coffee” is getting a break, and we know that people need breaks (is there some law about that?). In all fairness, let’s agree that if there’s good coffee AT your office, the employee will still take 15 minutes to get there, pour coffee, and chat about what a tramp Kathy in accounting is. But the bottom line is that by keeping them on site, you’re keeping them working to the tune of 130 hours per year, per employee!

With that, you can buy awesome coffee, an espresso machine to go with it, a grinder, a drip machine, and even afford the extra 30 minutes for the cleaning lady to clean up the terrible mess you know your employees will leave behind. After outfitting your office with the right equipment, you’ll actually be SAVING money year after year. And now…? Now they like you. They happily arrive at your long meetings with coffee in hand, ready to listen to you drone on for hours. Little butterflies and rainbows appear in their daydreams, because they know you love them enough to buy them awesome coffee. Little do they know it didn’t actually cost you more, and you’re probably even saving money. After all, there’s a reason you’re the one who’s actually in charge, right? You’re a frigging genius.

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To Freeze?

Where to store these little jewels?

Where to store these little jewels?


“Should I store my coffee in the freezer?”
Without a doubt, this is the most frequently asked question I get from customers, so here it is….the unfrozen answer…..

Picture this…..There you are at the bakery. You point to the clerk…”I’d like one of those, and one of those, and one of those.” Just baked, and still just room temperature you run home to throw the perfectly delicious raspberry almond, peach, and strawberry pastries into the freezer so they will stay “fresh” for your afternoon coffee party with friends. You go to the freezer 6 hours later to pull your pastries out to thaw in time for your guests’ arrival. Not only are they hard as a rock, but they now smell like the Dino-Nuggets and fish sticks wedged deep in the freezer 18 months ago. You pretend like this doesn’t bother you, and let the baked goods thaw at room temperature, only to find that when finally thawed, the flaky crust, and chewy center, and fresh fruit have been turned into a soggy, flat and sad excuse for the once amazing baked goods you purchased earlier that day. Sure they still taste pastry-like, but you’ve moved them from a “10” to a “6” at best. Your friends officially think you suck, and would like never to be invited for afternoon coffee at your house again.

So what the does that have to do with coffee besides the fact that it’s coffee hour? Everything. If you are going to buy freshly roasted coffee (I mean freshly roasted, like in the past 1-3 days), and you’re going to be able to drink what you’ve purchased over the next 8-13 days, don’t put it in the freezer. Yes, a pastry’s freshness window is really only about 12 hours, whereas coffee is about 2 weeks, so adjust your imagination accordingly. If you can drink the coffee you have purchased during its freshness window, simply store in an airtight, opaque container and normal room temperature. Enjoy it every day until it’s gone. If your coffee came in a foil coffee bag with a one way degassing valve on it, and can be closed well, that’s also a great way to store it.

If you can’t drink the fresh coffee you’ve purchased within the 2 week freshness window, then here are your options. (Pay attention…none of this matters one bit if you’ve purchased old coffee already.)
1. Don’t care, and know that your coffee’s flavor will deteriorate during the time it takes you to drink it. Keep it all stored at room temp in an airtight container.
2. Try to make it better, and take the portion that you can’t drink in 2 weeks and store it in your freezer in an airtight, opaque container. Enjoy the fresh portion you’ve kept out at room temperature until it’s gone. Once your room-temperature stores have depleted, remove your frozen portion from the freezer, and store and use at room temperature from then on. Know that your frozen coffee’s flavor will be less amazing than the freshly -roasted-never-frozen-version of itself. Don’t expect your coffee to hold on in the freezer for longer than a month.

The most important thing to realize is that making a hybrid version of the above is a terrible idea.….thinking that by just KEEPING your coffee in the freezer day after day, that it will stay better. Not true! We all know that anything we freeze changes in texture and taste. Loaf of bread? That Marlin you caught in Cabo last fall? You get the point.

Think of it this way. You’re a young 15 year old girl has just discovered makeup (ok, hang with me here). You ever-so-slightly apply some mascara and eyeshadow to your eyes to highlight their green color, then brush a little lip gloss onto your perfect little lips to brighten your amazing smile. You go out on a date looking this way, and you’re georgeous. The world acknowledges your undeniable beauty and radiance, and compliments come from every angle. The next day, still enjoying yesterday’s compliments, you think to yourself “if some makeup was that awesome, then I’ll, like, just put more on, and everyone will think I’m INCREDIBLE!”

Nope. Wrong. Now you look like a hooker, and not the “good” kind. Don’t turn your coffee into a street walking train wreck by keeping it stored in the freezer. (You know who you are…you have that half-sealed bag sitting in there right now. Every day it goes in and out of the freezer, forms condensation on the beans, picks up the freezer’s odors, and breaks down the fantastic flavor and aroma characteristics to the point where your coffee just tastes like the old ice cubes on the top shelf behind the sad frozen open bag of broccoli).

The best world scenario is to buy only what you need for 2 weeks, get it fresh, treat it with respect, and enjoy it until it’s gone. Then, buy more fresh coffee and do it all over again. Think of the freezer as an emergency situation that’s only brought in when you get invited on a sudden beach vacation to Baja. When you get back, you’ll still be basking in your sun-tanned look and post Tequila fogginess, so you have a few days to burn up the frozen stuff before your brain kicks in to reality and tells you it’s time to buy more fresh coffee.

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The Final Yard….

A little logo that means so much

A little logo that means so much

A little knock on the front door and she entered the room…….The auditor….the one who should be feared….. the organic overlord. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little bit. I did invite her here, after all. So what was she doing here? She hadn’t traveled to Idaho just to enjoy a cup of our coffee, nor was she craving a few turns in the new powder on her skis. She was here to spend the day with us, sorting through our documented practices in roasting the organic coffees we offer our customers, with our goal to become a certified organic coffee processor. Sounds like a fun party, doesn’t it?

Auditors I’ve met in the past usually come clad in suits, and spend most of their lives tediously sorting through papers in locked off areas of offices to which one only goes when one’s manager wants to have a “word”. Today’s visit was luckily different—at least from a fashion point of view. As someone who regularly audits agricultural processing operations like dairies, she seemed happy that she didn’t have to come to this audit wearing her rubber boots, and could instead arrive in her every day comfort-footwear, with not a suit in site. She also happened to be a coffee business owner and roaster herself, which, if anything else, just made me feel like we’d be speaking the same language for the day. Ready to go, our audit started with an inaugural espresso before we took a seat and dug in to the pages of our application.

What is certified organic coffee anyway? Here it is…in plain words: Starting with the grower, coffee is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Then, after coffee is grown and harvested, certified organic handling standards are met throughout the supply chain to ensure that when coffees arrive at the coffee roasters’ doors, the integrity of the organic quality is maintained. Why then, wouldn’t that be considered certified organic coffee, you might ask? Good question!

If you can imagine a quarterback tossing a perfect spiral throw to the receiver, who then runs it 60 yards toward the end zone…but instead of crossing the line for the touchdown, he stops just a yard short, sits down, and calls “close enough” a “touchdown”. Well, it’s not a touchdown. And at a yard short, it’s not certified organic either.

The coffee roaster – the one responsible for the final yard before reaching you, the customer – must also become a certified organic processor for the coffee to be sold as USDA Certified Organic on the label. It’s a commitment to the organic product, by which the roaster ensures that handling, roasting, and packaging methods are performed per certified organic processing standards.

All of this is for us, the consumer. Can you believe it? The USDA actually cares about us and the validity of the organic product we might choose to purchase. Believe it or not, the use of the term organic is still highly abused within many industries, including the coffee industry. Strict labeling requirements define who, how, & where you can actually use the term “organic”. It seems like it’s a confusing thing to understand, but the good news is that at the consumer level, we don’t need to know all these rules. We can just look for that little round “USDA Organic” logo on the front packaging of a product claiming organic, and know that this is actually what it says it is. The entire supply chain, including the final processor, is certified. It’s just that easy. Thank you great regulators of the world. We like pictures.

So finally, after hours of scouring every one of our policies, practices, forms, and processes (probably topped only by the amount of paper that Brad and Angelina had to file to adopt their soccer team of kids) our auditor left. We’ll had to patiently wait for what we hope to be the good news. And good news it was. We’ve officially been granted our organic processors certification, and are now a certified organic coffee roaster. Now that……..that is a touchdown.

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Coffee Peep Show

Somewhere back in the 70s or 80s, grocery store shoppers were introduced to the wonderful world of bulk products. These grand rows of foods ranging from candy to flour to beans and cereal were displayed in large, “fancy” plexiglas containers, inviting the shopper to overindulge in goodies and staples at prices that couldn’t be resisted. All the while the shopper felt so victorious thinking of all the money she was saving by choosing products sans packaging, regardless of the fact that she bought lentils, which she never eats. The grocer looked like a hero to the shopper, showing a generous tolerance to shoplifters of 1-2 gummy bears, or that old lady who always used her hands to dig out a few more dried apricots. It certainly paved the way for today’s bulk food and junque giant, Costco.

Although these bins are less common in grocery stores now, they still hang on in patchouli scented health food stores, and in nearly every grocery store I’ve seen for the display and dispensation of coffee. If you buy your coffee at the grocery store, I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. There, shining in the distance is a shelving display stacked 6 across and down filled with what you believe to be fresh coffee. You get closer, and notice that almost every container’s front surfaces is a greasy brown textured mess as the beans have created etched in goober streaks as a few ounces of coffee are emptied out into your awaiting paper-ish bag. Usually accompanying this display is a grinder that lets you destroy your coffee even further as you select a grind from “drip” to “ Turkish” at the turn of the dial. How convenient. You scamper off happy with your fresh, bulk food purchase.

Let me tell you what you’ve just paid $11.95 for…

Let’s just back up to the facts about proper coffee storage. Coffee’s mortal enemies are light, air, and moisture. To properly store coffee, it must be in an airtight, opaque container at room, or slightly below, temperature. These bins have everything going wrong for them. They’re not airtight, opaque or moisture barriers (that being the least of the possible problems in this storage situation…but we’ll skip that tangent). The worst of the situation is that they’re almost NEVER clean. That chunky brown greasy front is the coffee’s oils building up on the surface as week after week, the beans are left to grow old and stale. There are 2 reasons that coffee oils are on the surface of the bean. Reason 1- the coffee was roasted very dark, and the oils emerged from inside the bean to the surface. Reason 2- the coffee is old, because as any degree of roast ages, the oils migrate to the surface.

Caked on coffee oils and residue.  Yuck!

Caked on coffee oils and residue. Yuck!

This Grocery store bin display actually has an OPEN 5 lb bag of beans sitting atop the display itself.

This Grocery store bin display actually has an OPEN 5 lb bag of beans sitting atop the display itself.

I can almost promise you that it’s likely that you’re not in the presence of freshly roasted dark, oily beans when staring into the tempting little box of coffee in a miniature peep-show of sorts. The reality is that it’s more likely that those coffees are weeks or months old. They arrived from the roaster in a bulk 5 pound bag, and the grocery store stock boy poured the next “fresh” batch onto the remnants of the last order. I’m merely guessing here, and I don’t know what the grocery store protocol is to clean those bins, but the reality is that there’s usually so much gunk built up inside those little boxes that you can see it from isle 4. What’s the problem with coffee oil? When coffee oil comes in contact with oxygen, the process of rancidification begins within 45 minutes. Once rancid, oils boast unpleasant noxious odors and flavors. Ever had rancid butter? I rest my case.

The only time I’d buy coffee out of an open bin or container is if I visited the roaster’s shop, and that morning’s coffees were displayed for sale just like a baker has today’s fresh breads out. You ask for your fresh beans, and get a 12 oz bag that you’ll immediately place in your countertop airtight canister when you arrive home..just like you’d put the ice cream into the freezer when you arrive home (read carefully here…Ice cream in freezer, Coffee at room temperature). At the store, you’re much better off buying something that’s sold in an airtight bag, as long as you can figure out how old it is. Don’t waste your money on anything that you can’t finish up within 2 weeks of the roasting date. Buying anything other than that? You’re just spending your money on “day olds” so to speak. The bummer is the store isn’t giving you the “day old” price.

Dispenser loaded with rancid oils and caked on gunk.

Dispenser loaded with rancid oils and caked on gunk—Stay away!

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How to Save Money but Still Live Like a Celebrity

You can do it!

We’ve all see those snapshots in the grocery store checkout line–a Hollywood starlet on the front page of a magazine, darting out of a well known coffee chain with huge white paper cup that is only eclipsed by the size of her sunglasses and gigantic “hobo” bag.

At an easy four bucks a pop (after dropping the change in the tip jar) those drinks add up fast. When did we become ok with buying a drink containing 70% milk for more than the price of a half-gallon of milk alone? Not going on vacation this year because of the economy? Can’t buy those fancy shoes because you’re cutting back? I think you’re looking for your lost kitten hiding right under your own couch. What are you spending on coffee beverages at your local palace of caffeine? Here’s the truth.

If you buy a drink that costs you $3.50 per day, and drop the change in the tip jar, that adds up to over $1200 per year. “Holy Monolo Blahnik!” Oh, sorry guys “Holy Sony flat screen!” Pair up your consumption with your significant other, and we’re talking about at least $2400 bucks per year spent on coffee, sugar and milk. I’m telling you, without hesitation, that every one of us can learn to make these snazzy drinks at home in no time – but why would we?

Well, the last time I checked, most of us don’t have movie deals in the works, nor are we secretly enjoying a trust fund set up by our long lost uncle in the oil business (you’re going to tell your girlfriend about it just as soon as you figure out if she loves you for you and not for your money). So why are we spending so much of our hard earned money on something we really can do ourselves? The reality is that you’ll never be able to make your own 4” heals to wear to this year’s Christmas party, and you’ll never be able to build your own television. However, you can learn to make a darn good latte with just a little practice and guidance, and probably do it better than 90% of the “baristas” out there working at your local cafes.

Excuse: I don’t have time to make a drink.
Reality: You have 9 minutes to go to a cafe to buy your drink every morning.

Excuse: I can’t make the drink as yummy as they do with the foam and stuff.
Reality: You can totally make the foam, and you can totally pull a great espresso shot. You just need to have the right equipment and get a little instruction. By my calculations you have $1000 bucks this year to spend on a new espresso machine that will last you the next 7 years. You’re at least as clever as “Sideburn Jimmy” who works down at the you-know-where who learned how to make your drink up to those “standards” in no time. Yes, the other 10% may never ever be attained, but you can sure give it a good try. Chances are you’re not getting that extra fancy 10% now, even at the $3.50 a cup.

Excuse: I don’t know where to get good coffee
Reality: Try finding and tasting fresh coffee from a local or online coffee roaster until you find a coffee you enjoy drinking. According to my calculations, you can spend about $16 for a 12 oz bag and land at the savings I mentioned above.

Excuse: I have a huge crush on the girl who makes my grande latte down at Kitty Cat Coffee Bar and I’m sure one of these days she’ll realize I’m spending $4.50 a day just to see her and hope that she’ll look into my eyes and fall in love.
Reality: She has no idea you exist except for the fact that you’re grande latte guy and you tip her a buck every morning. Ask her out, win her heart, and pretty soon she’ll be making your drinks at your house every morning instead. You can use those extra bucks for something sparkly.

More excuses? The reality is that making a great coffee beverage isn’t that complicated at all. If 300,000 22 year olds working at coffee chains across the country can figure it out, so can you. For those of you who are graced with an amazing local shop that actually makes you an over the top drink with beautiful microfoam and a rosetta design on top – you’re spoiled now, but even that can be achieved with a little practice.

There are great home espresso machines out there that you can buy to make drink making a snap at home, and there are fantastic fresh coffees available to buy. Need the tips for pulling it all together? Check out our how-to vids right here on the blog. Think of what you’ll do with all that money you’ll be saving, then make sure your passport is up to date.

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Sideline Caffeine

This Saturday morning we woke up to the surprise of 2 inches of snow on the ground. Expected, partly, because the forecast called for it, but unexpected, because as anyone who lives in ski towns knows, if youre expecting the snow, it probably wont come. Dont expect it, and there it is: Magiceven in October. My soccer-obsessed kid couldnt wait to suit up for his last game of the season on the powder covered grass with a bunch of his little buddies. Parents were a little more reluctant in their enthusiasm as they stood bundled up on the sidelines, sporting an overwhelming lack of appropriate footwear. When snow comes in October, and you need to be somewhere by 10 a.m. the only easily accessible shoe choices are things like flip-flops, sandals, running shoes, or clogs. Avoiding clogs at all costs is my advice, but you know that about me already.

Dozens of moms and dads stood in support of our little Beckems and Beckemettes, clutching onto their travel mugs and paper cups filled with a hot coffee of some kind. One of my friends said to me, teeth chattering as she grasped her little plastic mug, thank god for caffeine. I had to agree. Caffeine rocks. I assure you the fans cheering was mostly measurable by the amount of caffeine each person had ingested to that point. God only knows its hard to be a cheerleader when your toes are freezing. I know theres a lot of this and that about itits good one minute, bad the next, ok in moderation, a drug of the devil, a juice of the gods. I cant possibly play ball in the caffeine good or bad debate, as I took the road back in college to study business instead of science. Since I dont have a lab of my own, and cant report my own findings, Ill share with you some of what Ive learned. (There are lots of places you can go to research actual milligrams present in each cup, so dont base your caffeine consumption on what Im about to say, and if your eye pops out of your head due to caffeine overdose, its your fault, not mine.)

So heres some stuff that might surprise you:
A 6 oz cup of coffee prepared as drip coffee has about 60% more caffeine than a 1 oz single shot of espresso (thatd be comparing serving to serving). Extracting your coffee as espresso only pulls out about 60% of the total available caffeine in the volume of ground coffee, due to the short 25-30 second brew cycle. So its true, you get less caffeine when brewing your coffee as espresso, serving per serving, compared to drip.
There are two main cultivated species of coffee, simply put, Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are what all the quality coffee brands useotherwise known as the good stuff. Robusta is what youll find in the cheapo-budget brands and lots of gas stations across the country. Robusta actually contains about 50% more caffeine than its much lovelier cousin, the Arabica species. I guess its not a mistake that crappy coffee and truck stops go hand in hand. Its the high-test stuff that gets us through that 10 hour stretch in the Nevada desert that gives us the most caffeine per cup. If you drink the quality stuff, which will taste way better, youd have to pee more, and we all know thats just not cool on a road trip. Unless, of course, youre stopping for more coffee anyway.
Different coffee varietals contain slightly different amounts of caffeine, and can vary season to season. Brewing factors can vary also, even in your own kitchen, so no two cups are exactly the same.
The darker the coffee is roasted, the less caffeine usually ends up in your cup. Comparing the same coffee bean, and all else being equal, the darker a coffee is roasted, the puffier the beans become, and therefore the fewer beans are used when you use your measuring scoop. Its a slight difference, but contrary to what people believe, roasting darker doesnt bring on more caffeine. The bean has what the bean has, and you cant grow more caffeine in a coffee bean by roasting it darker. So sad but true, those black beans that you think pack more of a punch just because theyre darker, really dont.
Black tea has about 1/3 the caffeine as the same amount of drip coffee.
Decaffeinated coffee still contains a few milligrams of caffeine.
Caffeine can be found all over our diets in foods, drinks, candies, and medicines.
Caffeine rocks. (Oh sorry, thats just me and the rest of the soccer moms and dads talking).

Fun times in the snow...

Fun times in the snow...

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Espresso Confusion

What kind of beans are these?There you are, standing in the grocery store isle about to pick out your next bag of coffee. You say to yourself “self“ (‘cause you’re talking to yourself) “find the espresso beans“. You hunt and peck around and find 5 choices at least to tell you you’ve found espresso beans. Yippie for you. You make your selection and would even skip down the isle were it not for the 250 pound cart you’re pushing in front of you loaded with the week’s worth of groceries and 2 bags of dog food. Skipping causes broken ankles anyway.

The next morning you get up to brew your espresso beans because they, of course, are the most flavorful beans ever grown on any coffee shrub, anywhere. Imagining this special shrub and how it looks, you daydream of tiny little demitasses, saucers, and mini spoons hung all about in a sort of cheering section for the fantastic espresso beans as they emerge from tiny little blips to full grown brown beans just ready to be ground and married with hot water to create the miniature delight in your miniature cup.

….errrrrrrrrrrrrcccccchhhhh. Dream sequence over. Dude, espresso is a drink, not a coffee bean. Let me say that to the other half. Dudette, espresso is a drink, not a coffee bean. It’s not your fault that you believe this either, because the marketing is as confused as Sarah Palin is by Katie Couric’s questions.

Here’s the truth, no matter what the ridiculous marketing on your bag of coffee is telling you: Espresso is a beverage that can be prepared from any coffee bean at all. Yep, that’s what I said. There is no such thing as an “espresso bean“. No, it’s not a smaller bean or something blacker, or something special that only tastes a certain way because of the way it’s grown. It grows as a coffee cherry just like every other coffee bean in the world. It’s nothing but a way to prepare a coffee beverage. And yes, an espresso is a kind of coffee beverage.

How is an espresso coffee made? Espresso coffee is a small 1 oz. shot of pressure-brewed coffee using about 1 Tablespoon (7 oz) of finely ground coffee per serving “shot“. Hot water of about 197-203 degrees Fahrenheit is forced through the beans at about .9-1 bar (or around 130 PSI) of pressure for 20-30 seconds. Properly brewed, an espresso will slowly pour out in a thin ribbon and feature dark syrupy liquid topped by a layer of rich dark golden “crema“ on the surface. This beverage can be taken in just like that, with sugar, cream, or both, or topped in various combinations and quantities of foamy milk, whipped cream, or other goopy “toppings“ that an American coffee chain has cooked up to add more than your fair share of daily calories in a 16 oz paper cup.

The truth is that yes, any coffee bean can be made into espresso coffee, but not every coffee will taste good made as an espresso coffee. A well created coffee blend that will shine when brewed as espresso is usually a combination of 3, 4, or more coffees from different origins, each roasted individually or blended together before roasting. A coffee suited for making espresso can be roasted to many degrees of brownish. It’s not just a dark black roast as many believe, so don’t be surprised if something called an “espresso roast“ is not that expected color. Additionally, any blend created with espresso coffee in mind may not taste as good when made with a drip machine or press pot. You need to be the judge and the one who makes the final call next time you’re making a coffee choice.

So, if the bag you’re considering buying says “Espresso Blend“, it’s simply telling you “Hey you“ (‘cause the bag is talking now), “I’m a coffee that my roaster thinks tastes best made as an espresso coffee“. Then, make your fantastic espresso coffee from your selected beans, and sit back to enjoy the dream sequence where Sarah gets interviewed by a talking bag of coffee. Fun times.

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