Filed under: Kevin, Random Reads
Date: Jul 2, 2009
I just paid nearly five dollars for a cup of burnt dirt. Okay, it’s not really burnt dirt, but that’s definitely what it tastes like.
Those who drink coffee will know exactly what I’m saying when I say that a poorly made latte can really just kick your day off to a bad start. It’s like taking a bite of cereal only to find that your milk has gone bad… or cracking open an egg and finding a dead baby chicken. Sick.
Making the perfect coffee beverage is an art. A lot more goes into it than you might expect and when you’re shelling out 5 bucks or more every morning to feed your addiction, it’s not unreasonable to expect it to be right. Without getting into TOO much detail, here are a few tips - whether you’re making it yourself or are relying on a barista:
- Flavor Savour
- Latte, Cappuccino, Macchiato, Espresso… They are the basics, but there’s a lot of difference between them! A latte should be mostly milk with just a little foam, resulting in a more mild coffee flavor. A cappuccino is going to be very little milk and lots of foam (the more “dry” you want it the less milk they’ll use), resulting in a much stronger flavor. A Macchiato is technically an espresso with just a dash of milk poured in so slowly that it never makes it to the bottom of the glass (though Starbucks’ rendition is quite the opposite). If you want to avoid disappointment, know how strong a flavor your want before you order something you’ll regret.
- Milk Duds
- Choose the right milk for the drink you’ve decided on. If you’re having a latte, you can get away with any milk choice because you’re not relying on much foam, but if you order a cappuccino and you want it done well… don’t order it non-fat! Trying to get foam from skim milk is like buying denim at the Gap… you can pretend it’s good – but it’s really not. For a drink that relies so heavily on foam you’re going to need to break out the 2% at least, but whole works best of course. If you’re really in a mood to splurge, try it breve (made with half & half).
- Milk should be heated to about 160 F / 70 C, however if you like it extra hot you can go as high as 180 F / 82 C (milk scalds at that temperature, so be careful.)
- 1, 2 Step…
- There’s actually an order your beverage should be constructed in. Flavor in the cup (if you’re having any) and then steam your milk (assuming you’re having a hot latte) - there’s more of it and will hold the temperature longer than your espresso will.
- Espresso comes next. Your espresso shots should have a dark brown color, take no longer than 30 seconds to fill the ounce and the top should have a dark caramel color foam that bleeds down into the darker at the bottom (this is called Crema). If your shot takes longer than 30 seconds to fill it will likely taste somewhat like kissing a smoker tastes like. Burnt.
- Once you have your shots, put them in the cup, add the milk and top with the desired amount of foam.
- If you’re having an iced latte – do not pour your espresso shots directly over the ice! If you see your barista do this, yell, scream and throw a tantrum (but please have someone take a video of it so that we can all laugh at you later). Pouring hot espresso directly over ice can give it a bitter flavor, and no one likes a bitter (queen) latte. Instead, pour some milk into the cup, add the espresso and then add the ice. The milk will help cool the espresso gradually first and then the ice finishes it off.
That’s about it in a nutshell, but here’s a couple other things to look out for if someone else is making the coffee for you:
- They should only steam as much milk as is needed for your drink. Starbucks recently switched over to this method a number of months ago and while it does mean you wait a bit longer, it ensures a more consistent flavor and temperature.
- A good coffee shop will always fix it. If you don’t like it, say something and they’ll more than likely make you a new one or let you try something else. If they don’t, please follow the “I-just-saw-you-pour-my-espresso-over-ice” instructions above (and don’t forget about the recording part).