The Best Part of Waking Up Is Folgers in Your Cup

A few days ago I was in Sam’s Club with my friend Lisa. We were perusing the aisles of freakishly large food items when she plopped a container of Maxwell House coffee in the cart.

I was struck by this.

Only a week earlier I had bought coffee from my usual place; Amaretto beans, which I freshly ground for my french press. At just under $10 a pound and feeling the pinch after having just done the grocery shopping, I bought less than half a pound.

Now, here were multiple-pound plastic tubs of ground coffee for roughly the same price. No wonder people drink generic coffee, I thought. My husband’s family drinks generic coffee. Lisa drinks generic coffee. Why can’t I drink generic coffee?

If my husband was surprised at being greeted by a 3lb tub of Folgers on the table when he came home from work, he didn’t show it. “Look, we can save money …” I said.  “And the Bailey’s creamer we always buy should mask the taste if it’s awful,” I continued. “And it makes up to 380 cups!” In my head, I was still justifying the purchase.

This morning I opened it.

AromaSeal? That can’t possibly work. I probably just wasted our money on coffee that will go stale in a week.

Medium roast? That’s code for “weak, watery-tasting coffee.”

Oh, it makes 380 6oz cups. Who drinks only a 6oz cup?

I pushed the lid back on as tightly as possible, hitting it a few times for good measure like you would a can of paint. I added 50% more grounds than I would normally and heated the water a little hotter. I made more than twelve ounces. And I added Bailey’s creamer.

We both took a sip, my husband and I. He had no compulsion saying what I was thinking.

“This is good.”

 

 

Thus a coffee snob, to borrow the phrase,  “got hers”.

 

Advertisements

Coffee Fest: possibly the best day of my life.

“If it looks like coffee, smells like coffee, goes well with coffee or is coffee you will find it at Coffee Fest. Everything under the sun that would be found in an upscale coffee shop on either side of the counter, including the counter would be found on the exhibition floor at Coffee Fest. The best coffee retail education, training and workshops are found at Coffee Fest.”

-coffeefest.com

Two and a half years ago I was lucky enough to attend Coffee Fest in Seattle. (My sister Jahna has connections.) Coffee Fest is a tradeshow held several times a year in different locations. I was able to sit in on workshops about coffee, browse the floor and collect tons of free samples for awesome products, and revel in the fact that I was surrounded by people whose lives were defined by coffee even more than mine was.

I heard the owner of Forza Coffee Company discuss how they branded themselves, what they did in their shops that made them unique from the competition, and how important atmosphere is. I talked to him afterwards and he offered me a job on the spot. Definitely something I’ll never forget. Mostly because of how sad I still am that I couldn’t take it: this was in September of 2008 and in January of 09 I came to Grove City.

Aside from all of this, one of the highlights for me was the latte art competition.

Coffee Fest is pleased to announce the creation and debut of this fresh, exciting and leading edge 64 competitor tournament for the ages. The 64 Competitor format will feature head to head competition as “a match” between the competitors. The competitor receiving the highest score from the three judges will advance and the loser will be eliminated. Competitors will be given three minutes to produce one drink for the judges to be scored against the competitor at the facing machine on the tournament stage.

Judging will be based on five categories:
1) Aesthetic Beauty
2) Definition
3) Color Infusion
4) Degree of Difficulty and Creativity
5) Speed
The ultimate champion will earn a grand sum of $2,500. Second place pockets $1,000 and third place earns $500.

The winner for the competition I watched was Hiroshi Sawada, September 2008, Seattle Washington.

This was his winning design:


Coffee Creamers

Has anyone seen the “International Delight” commercials?

They make me laugh. Honestly, using a specific creamer isn’t going to make your coffee taste like you have a live-in barista.

I actually tried International Delight over Easter break. It was fairly good, but not nearly delicious as my favorite creamer.

Yes. Bailey’s makes creamer. It’s non-alcoholic, but for the savvy, it’s easy enough to add the alcohol yourself if you want it.

If you add anything to your coffee, it should be Bailey’s. In fact, here’s a $1 off coupon to get you started. You can buy it at our local County Market.

14 Cups of Coffee

My friend Lisa Francis sent me this link to a collection of “14 Great Coffee Cup Pictures.”

This one, Still Coffee by Geoff Powell, is my favorite:

This picture could never depict my morning cup, however, because I would have chosen a different cookie. These look like store-bought gingersnaps.

I have nothing against gingersnaps. But I do have great love for danishes. And brownies.

(They’re selling these great blueberry danish in the GeDunk right now that look like hands. Soo delicious.)

…On second thought, this picture wouldn’t work nearly as well if there was a giant danish dropped in that cup. We would have to title it “Morning Mess by Jayni Juedes.”

How Much Caffeine Are You Drinking?

One summer in junior high I went to camp.

There was a long list of items you weren’t allowed to bring: knives, fireworks, C4 … etc. I remember a girl named Danielle. Not because she brought C4. One night, fairly early on in the week, she showed me a can of Coca Cola that she was hiding.

I thought this was weird. Why hide a soft-drink? She was doing so because she didn’t want anyone to drink it (okay, normal) because if she got a headache, she would need to drink it. (wait, what?) She insisted only a coke could cure a headache.

Well folks, poor Danielle got headaches that we recognize today as a symptom of caffeine withdrawal.

To this end, I think that it is important to realize just how much caffeine we consume each day. And I’m not just talking about coffee. There are large amounts of caffeine in tea, and even root beer – frequently advertised as being caffeine free, has half the amount of caffeine that’s in a Mountain Dew if it’s Barq’s.

Type of coffee Caffeine
(milligrams)
Dunkin’ Donuts, brewed, 16 oz (480 mL) 143-206
Generic brewed, 8 oz (240 mL) 95-200
Generic brewed, decaffeinated, 8 oz (240 mL) 2-12
Generic instant, 8 oz (240 mL) 27-173
Generic instant, decaffeinated, 8 oz (240 mL) 2-12
Starbucks Espresso, 1 oz (30 mL) 58-75
Starbucks Vanilla Latte, 16 oz (480 mL) 150

 

Type of tea Caffeine
(milligrams)
Brewed tea  
Black tea, 8 oz (240 mL) 40-120
Black tea, decaffeinated, 8 oz (240 mL) 2-10
Starbucks Tazo Chai Tea Latte, 16 oz (480 mL) 100
Stash Premium Green, 6 oz (180 mL) 26
Iced Tea  
AriZona Green Tea, 16 oz (480 mL) 15
Generic instant mix, unsweetened, 1 tsp (5 mL) 27
Generic instant mix, decaffeinated, unsweetened, 1 tsp (5 mL) 1
Lipton Brisk Lemon Iced Tea, 12 oz (355 mL) 7
Nestea Iced Tea, 12 oz (355 mL) 26
Snapple Plain Unsweetened, 16 oz (480 mL) 18

 

Soft drink, 12 ounces (355 milliliters) Caffeine (milligrams)
7Up, regular or diet 0
Barq’s Root Beer, regular or diet 23
Coca-Cola Cherry, regular or diet 35
Coca-Cola Classic 35
Coca-Cola Zero 35
Diet Coke and Diet Coke With Lime 47
Dr Pepper, regular or diet 42-44
Fanta, all flavors 0
Mello Yello 53
Mountain Dew, regular or diet 54
Mountain Dew Code Red, regular or diet 54
Mug Root Beer, regular or diet 0
Pepsi, regular or diet 36-38
Sprite, regular or diet 0
TaB 47
Vault 71
Wild Cherry Pepsi, regular or diet 38

 

Sports or energy drink Caffeine
(milligrams)
AMP, 8.4 oz (250 mL) 74
Enviga, 12 oz (355 mL) 100
Full Throttle, 16 oz (480 mL) 144
Monster Energy, 16 oz (480 mL) 160
No Fear, 8 oz (240 mL) 83
No Name (formerly known as Cocaine), 8.4 oz (250 mL) 280
Red Bull, 8.3 oz (250 mL) 76
Rockstar, 8 oz (240 mL) 80

 

info taken from the Mayo Clinic website, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/AN01211

Dorm Options: How You Can Avoid (the terrible cafeteria coffee)

 My last post explained why the cafeteria coffee tastes like burnt sludge. This entry aims to outline a few different options that you as a student have to make your own coffee.

Electric Coffee Machines: The basic solution, however, unviable if you live in the dorms (okay if you live in Colonial) because appliances with hotplates are illegal in the dorms. Yes. Your coffeepot could burn MAP down. Obviously.

So what are some other solutions, save buying a latte every day?

French Press: Yes, I’m biased. I love my French Press. It’s such a simple process that creates such delicious coffee. You merely fill the press with as much hot water as coffee you’d like to yield, and add an appropriate amount of grounds. Let sit for a few minutes to brew, push the plunger down, pour and enjoy.

The entire process takes 5-7 minutes if you heat the water with an electric kettle.

One drawback is that you must use  coarsely ground coffee beans. You can often buy beans in bulk at your local grocery store and grind them right there. I recommend Here’s Howe … Café Frangelica beans “taste like cake” as my little sister succinctly stated. Delicious.

Keurig Machine:  allows you to brew one cup at a time with no mess! You merely insert the container of coffee (or cocoa … there’s a large variety) and press a button. After the cup is done brewing, merely flip the top open and the grounds are still contained in the plastic container they come in. Toss this and you’re good to go.

The simplicity and mess-free design are an obvious plus. The downsides are that the machine itself is fairly pricey and you can only use the pre-packaged plastic cups of coffee. Which are also pricey. The machine also makes only one cup at a time: convenient if you only want one cup, worthless if you want two.

Instant coffee: Oh yesss, I said it. Whether it’s the individual plastic-packet type or the tin of “cappuccino goodness” it’s generally disgusting. If you’re looking for a quick caffeine fix, however, all it takes is hot water and a spoon.

Why the Cafeteria Coffee is Terrible

Initially, I was excited about free cafeteria coffee. And it was Here’s Howe! …I didn’t know what that was, but it sure sounded fancy.

Unfortunately, like everyone else I soon discovered that the cafeteria coffee was useful only in a pinch. Say, during midterms and final’s week. Though admittedly,  for daily use I would occasionally add a small amount to a cup of cocoa for an added shot of caffeine (the chocolate raspberry worked the best.)

There are two reasons why the cafeteria coffee is (as a general rule) disgusting.

 

  1. The water temperature is too high
  2. They coffee sits in a carafe until it is empty

 

The high-volume drip brewing machines paired with carafes is the problem. The water dripped through the grounds is at least 200F. High heat brings out the “flavor” of the coffee faster, but it is not a good flavor. This is exactly why the coffee has a very strong coffee taste yet someone seems watery. The high temperature of the water neglects to properly extract the oils from the beans, leaving the coffee with a very bitter, burnt taste that can’t be disguised.

Once brewed, drip coffee has a shelf life of one hour. Now, this is based on the idea that the coffee is of high-quality and delicious tasting in the first place. After an hour, the coffee tastes stale. Once again, this has to do with the oils in the beans. In the cafeteria and in many other places where people don’t actually know what they’re doing with coffee, a batch is brewed and allowed to sit in a carafe until it is either empty or cold. Even then, sometimes it is merely reheated.

 

 

Stay tuned for Dorm Options: How You Can Avoid (the terrible cafeteria coffee)

 

 

How Coffee Beans Are Processed

Rather than try and explain this myself, I turned to Youtube. This video has very simple, very obnoxious music but does a good job of explaining the basic process.

Enjoy!

 

Major Coffee Chains & You

Starbucks: the largest company in world. 17,009 stores in 50 countries, including over 11,000 in the United States. Fun fact: the name comes from Moby Dick – Starbuck was the first mate on the Pequod.

The next time you’re in Egypt or Bulgaria, make sure you look them up for a cup.

Caribou coffee: second largest in the world after starbucks. 415 company-owned coffeehouses in 16 states and the District of Columbia, as well as 126 franchise locations worldwide.

Dunkin’ donuts: 8,800 stores in 31 countries. What prevents it from being considered the largest chain over Starbucks is that it is coffee and baked goods – with half of its revenue generated from coffee sales. Both Starbucks and Krispy Kreme are considered its largest competitors.

Gloria Jean’s coffee: stores in over 30 countries. Gloria Jean’s Coffees is now 100% Australian owned and has opened over 1,000 coffee houses across 39 markets worldwide.

McCafe – Mcdonalds: I felt like this should be included, given its growing popularity. However, it was difficult to find any stats on it.

Seattle’s Best: has retail stores and grocery sub-stores in 20 states and provinces and DC. You can get SB at Taco Bell, Subway, J.C. Penney’s and Borders … it’s a subsidiary of Starbucks, but is generally cheaper.

 

 

I know; most of that wasn’t really interesting. What you’re interested in is what’s available to you, here in Grove City?

Location- from closest out:

The GeeDunk: serves Here’s Howe coffee.

Beans on Broad: independent, local store.

Gloria Jean’s: by the PB across from Colonial Hall

McDonald’s: Across the street from Gloria Jean’s

Sheetz: made to order gas station coffee. Mediocre quality but an innovative concept.

 

Just in case you’re wondering, the nearest Starbucks is in Hermitage, 19.8 miles away. The next closest location is in Ohio. This is not the place for Starbucks junkies.

Click here to see a Google map depiction of this area’s closest coffee shops. I’m sorry to say that in the top six, two are the same (there’s a listing for both The Coffee Grove and Beans on Broad) and three are various Sheetz locations.

 

*basic info on coffee chains obtained from wikipedia; the world’s best source on everything.


Basic Coffee Drinks

We’ve all been there. You’re craving something delicious and caffeinated, but after stepping into the coffee shop you’re at a loss. Menus galore, all of them brightly colored. Some of them chalked. Someone, somewhere decided that coffee shop menus need to be hand-written in colored chalk. I don’t know who this person is but they need to be shot. It only adds to the confusion.

There are drink types. Lists and lists of what you could have. Simple names. Fancy names. Funny names. But where are the helpful guides that explain just what a “flapamocha macapacaphina” is?

Here’s an explanation of basic coffee drinks.

 

Shot-in-the-Dark: a shot of espresso added to a regular brewed cup of coffee. For those who like their coffee intense.

Espresso: simply shots of espresso. After an espresso shot is “pulled” from the machine, it expires in 30 seconds. What I mean by this is that the heat causes the flavor of the espresso to become more and more bitter with each passing second. A freshly-pulled shot will primarily be a light caramel-color that darkens from the bottom-up. By 30 seconds the entire shot will have turned black.

Timing is important. When ordering straight-up espresso if must be drunk immediately. This means waiting at the coffee bar expectantly, so that as soon as the shots are pulled they can immediately be drunk. Adding sugar does not stop the process, and since doing so takes time, by the time you drink the espresso it will be extremely bitter. Adding another liquid such as milk or water –even a small splash–does, so if you do not want to drink your espresso immediately and straight, ask the barista to add a bit of milk.

Many people insist espresso is too strong to be drunk straight. The problem is that by “strong” they mean “bitter.” Good espresso, made correctly and drunk in a timely fashion is delicious. It has depth and breadth of flavor. You can actually taste the nuttiness and various delicate flavors of the bean.

Observe the difference between a good shot of espresso and an expired shot of espresso:

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

There are several variations on espresso for those who cannot drink it straight.

Espresso Macchiato: contains espresso and a dollop of milk foam. The espresso shot is pulled directly into an espresso cup and the dollop of foam is immediately added. This prevents the shot from expiring.

Espresso con Panna: consists of espresso and a dollop of whipped cream. Similar to above, only whipped cream is immediately added instead of foam.

Americano: an Americano is made with shots of espresso and water. It is the most similar drink to brewed coffee. The espresso gives it a stronger coffee flavor, yet in my opinion the drink tastes more watery than brewed coffee.

The advantage to this drink is cost. It is the cheapest drink next to brewed coffee. If you are strapped for cash but want a latte, the easiest thing to do is order an americano with just a splash of water. You can add milk  from the coffee shop’s condiments bar. If you want a flavored latte, merely order an americano with a splash of water and a shot of flavor, then add milk to taste.

The disadvantage to this method is that the drink will be cold. This works best in summer, when an iced drink is desired anyway. Merely order an americano over ice. The barista will pour the espresso shots directly over the ice, melting and slightly diluting the strong coffee flavor.

Latte: a latte is steamed milk and shots of espresso. The fat content and type of milk will affect the taste of the drink. e.g. whole milk vs. fat-free milk vs. soy milk.

Starbucks has traditionally used whole as their stock milk. This means if you order and do not specify which type of milk you want they would use whole. I believe this has changed more recently. During Christmas break I went to Starbucks as they asked if I preferred whole or non-fat.

If you are calorie-conscious at all, I recommend asking what the stock milk is at your favorite shop. Because lattes are simply milk and espresso, and each espresso shot is roughly one liquid ounce, a 16oz unflavored latte will contain 14oz of milk. That’s a lot of milk. Thus, if you frequently order milk-based coffee drinks the fat percent can make a surprising difference.

Lattes are the most popular and versatile drink.  they are very simple to change up – all you need is a shot of flavored syrup.

Breve: the only difference between a latte and a breve is that instead of milk, half-and-half is used. To each his own, but the calorie content is astronomical.

Mocha: a mocha is steamed milk, espresso and chocolate syrup. For all intents and purposes, a mocha is a latte with chocolate. The quality of the chocolate syrup that is used is very important to the overall taste of the drink. Never get a mocha from a shop that uses chocolate-flavored syrup. The absolute best-tasting syrup is Ghirardelli. It mixes well with the milk, giving the drink a great flavor and smooth texture.

 

Cappuccino: a cappuccino is steamed milk and espresso. The difference between a latte and a cappuccino is the amount of foam in the steamed milk. A “dry” cappuccino is shots of espresso poured over foamed milk. Quality foam is the consistency of marshmallow fluff.

I personally dislike this drink because I hate the taste of milk foam. It is more tolerable when flavored, but if I’m seeking a marshmallow-fluff experience, I’ll go buy a jar and grab a spoon.

Caramel Macchioto: this is the sweetest and my favorite drink, especially iced. It has layered flavor: Vanilla flavored syrup joins the steamed milk. The the espresso is added. Caramel is drizzled over the top of the foamed milk, and slowly sinks through the foam, dragging hints of espresso down through the drink. It is a taste experience.

I especially enjoy it iced, as ice is added to the vanilla syrup and milk. The espresso shots on top melt the ice slightly, and the caramel sinks between the ice cubes. It’s flavor you can see in a clear cup, and it’s fun to watch the colors swirl as your drink it.

It’s really something you have to see to understand:

If you ever order a caramel macchioto and it does not look like the above picture, your barista made it incorrectly. And yes, it’s worth going back into the shop to insist they do it properly – it tastes completely different layered than when it’s mixed. Even in the coffee capital (Seattle) I’ve had to stubbornly insist and occasionally explain how this drink is made correctly.

Personally, I like to mix it up sometimes and add a different flavor instead of vanilla. Cookie Dough adds another dimension, for instance, without traveling too far away from the original drink.

 

So there you have it … basic coffee drinks.

There are several things you can do to these basic drinks to change the taste. The ratio of their ingredients will affect the taste, and adding either a simple or mix of flavor shots can turn it into an entirely different drink.