April 29, 2008
Ever since I went to Latin America about a decade ago, I have enjoyed Cafe au Lait. I love it for its strong flavors and is unapologetic rough flavor that can only be tamed by a little milk and sugar. The brand that I ran into is pretty basic, Cafe Bustelo, which sells for less than $3.50 per 10-ounce can where I shop. I know it sounds odd, but the coffee always seems pretty fresh in the can as there are a lot of hispanic consumers buying it at our market, which keeps things turning over fairly often. To be clear, this is not your single origin fair trade arabica only blend, as it's got enough kick in it to think that it's got more than a robusta bean or two in there. That's OK, because I like the added body and flavor that a robusta blend has, and if you do, read on.
Whenever I am brewing for cafe au lait, I brew it in my Moka pot. This is a 4-cup (8-ounce) pot that makes just enough for me to enjoy a pretty good sized mug of cafe au lait in the morning. The whole proces takes about 6 - 7 minutes; and only about 1 of that is actual work. Fill the bottom of the Moka pot with water, add a few tablespoons of coffee to the grounds holder, screw everything together, and put it on the stove. I usually get the rest of breakfast going, and by the time I am done, the coffee is ready.
I usually add about 2-4 ounces of milk to the 8-ounces of espresso, with a good slug of sugar too. Wakes me right up.
more on Cafe Bustelo
Bialetti Moka Pots at Amazon
April 28, 2008
So if you have been following the Starbucks news lately and have heard of their turn around plans, you have probably heard of the new miracle machine that they are betting the house on... or at least the store. The new Mastrena High Performance Espresso Machine at starbucks is being brought into the stores because the production line automation machines that are there now blew the feel of the place right out the door with their efficiency. No grinding, no hand tamping, no long waits, and as a result no magic. The Mastrena is supposed to bring back a little flair to the experience while keeping the production line efficiency that no doubt boosted the bottom line a while back.
The Mastrena is shorter and with the flying saucer orb on top to hold whole beans, it will get the store all aromatic and stuff as it grinds for your shot. I think that move in particular will help. In walking into a real cafe, the overpowering aroma of coffee has to hit you and embrace you; which just doesn't happen when the coffee is preground and stored in mylar air-tight bags only to be dumped into a hopper and auto-tamped.
I am not so sure that having the thing shorter is going to actually do anything for the banter or the chemistry of the place. I mean, I don't get much of that now, and never did. Anyway, they will be in 30 percent of the stores by the end of this year, and 75 percent by the end of 2010.
April 24, 2008
The Bialetti Mokona espresso and cappuccino maker caught my eye if for nothing else its total kitsch feel of the classic manual re-created in the new electric, 15-bar variety. The unit does put up some decent stats though; 15-bar, used pods, grounds or the Bialetti proprietary capsules. It has a 1.5 liter water tank, and two thermostats for brewing and streaming milk.
The unit comes in silver, blue, pink and black. The unit is not all chrome, but also some silvered ABS plastic. The Bialetti Mokona espresso maker has a list price of around $349.
More at Bialetti
April 23, 2008
Saw this and had to pass it along. Not sure if I like it, but it is unique in it's looks, and may just look as much like a frog as it does Jar-Jar Binks from the Star Wars Trilogy.
Anyway, like most pod-only brewers, it's got a pretty easy operation style that allows you to heat, slip in a pod, pull on the lever to lock the brewing chamber and hit the brew button; 30 second slater the shot is ready to go. Comes in Yellow, Blue, Gray, and Red; sorry no Gungan Warrior version.
April 22, 2008
Hey, in the times of $3.50 a gallon gas, $5 off coffee is something I'll take, and something I was happy to redeem yesterday for some French Roast K-Cups. The coupon came as part of the email newsletter that I subscribed to a while back. I'd recommend it as it always comes through with some sort of deal or news in it.
I drink my K-cups from the Keurig B-70, which is a pretty easy way to get a good cup of coffee when I am not kicking back a few shots of espresso.
Hurry - Deal ends in 2 days - 4/24.
Enter the following coupon code at checkout to receive your FREE $5 coupon: spring08
More at CoffeeWiz.com
April 21, 2008
To honor Patriots Day, I decided to get up and drink iced Americanos today, a bit of a tradition. I pulled a shot using Mokarabia 100% Arabica ESE Pods, and then dosed in a few ounces of cool water and ice to bring it up to about 6 ounces total.... then I do it all over again for a little kick. Add a splash of milk or sugar to taste.
It's been unseasonably warm up here this month, so the iced Americanos seemed to be a better idea this year. If you weren't sure, Patriots Day is the holiday when the whole Paul Revere ride and Old North Bridge thing in Concord happened.
I have some of these Bodum Pavnia 12 ounce Glasses for enjoying more cold coffee and cold espresso drinks this summer. I LOVE my smaller Bodum Pavina glasses for espresso, and I enjoy the tumblers for the warmer months when they are great for keeping Iced Americano's or maybe a few beers cool in the warmer weather.
Bodum Pavnia 12 ounce Glasses at Amazon
April 17, 2008
BusinessWeek of all magazines has taken a look at some extremes, comparing the high end versus the lower end to try to figure out if it's worth the big up-charge to enjoy the life of luxury. Thought I would pass it on, they thought that the Krups XP 7230 Super Auto was a better brewer and all around value than the Bialetti. So, go ahead and spend the extra $950 on the super auto..... what the heck.
I do admit to really liking my Bialetti for some brews, but agree a high pressure brewer is a better cup of expresso. I typically brew a Cuban style cafe au lait drink when I make coffee in a Bialetti. I don't see that as a drink that's even close to the espresso that I drink on a regular basis out of my other machines like the The Cuisinart EM-200 Espresso Machine, or my reviewed the Nespresso Essenza C100. For me, like BusinessWeek, there is no comparison, but I don't think you'll need to spend a grand to get great coffee.
BusinessWeek goes on to compare some other unuasual products; check it out.
April 16, 2008
Krups has a couple of Super Automatic Espresso machines out on the market, and this is one that caught my eye for a couple of reasons. The first is that its got some decent credentials, but the second is its more compact size; 30 - 50% smaller than other models. Many of the Super Automatics are about 17 inches deep makes for a pretty prominent appliance on your counter - sticking out from under a typical cabinet by six inches. The Krups XP7230 is only 12.5-inches deep, making it pretty much fit under the profile of a typical cabinet, just like most coffee makers.
It's also a pretty sharp looking machine, with a stainless look that is going to fit into a lot of kitchens these days. The unit takes in whole beans, grinds, tamps and extracts to make anything from an espresso all the way to "pressure brewed coffee" - a good choice for a regular size cup. The XP7230 of course has a steaming arm to create milk based lattes and cappuccinos. The unit does give up some features for the compact size like a by-pass doser which allows you to add ground coffee directly to other machines. convenient for a de-caf shot late night. The grinder has three grind settings, down from a usual 6 or 7 on other machines. Finally the water tank is only 40-ounces. Great for shots alone, but will be a more frequent trip to the sink when you start pounding out bigger drinks and steaming milk.
I like the design of a couple of aspects though. The machine packs the grounds bin in the side, a couple of floats on the drip tray to warm you when you need to empty it, and an easy to understand dial and selection system for the interface. The XP7230 also comes with a water cartridge filter.
More at Krups
Available at Amazon
April 15, 2008
This little bad boy is showing up all over the place first we saw it on Amazon, and now it's at Staples. So, if you missed this terrible looking machine with the high likelihood of brewing some questionable coffee for $12.99 at Amazon, you now have the chance to grab it from Staples for $9.90. Hummm, if it were only closer to that Yankee Swap gift exchange at work when everyone brings in crappy gifts and you get stuck with some re-gifted junk; I might have jumped on it. Instead I think I'll stick with a real espresso maker.
Thanks Adam for sending this one in.
April 14, 2008
Have you ever wanted to take a little vaca and learn a bit more about where coffee comes from? JavaVentures is a company that can help you do that. There are trips that can take you to Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru and others. Many of these are planned for later in the year during normal harvest times, so you can see how the picking and processing works, which I am sure can be a great time on a coffee farm. One past trip to Peru was also focused on FairTrade coffee, learning about smaller coffee farms, and organic growing. The stops at Macchu Picchu and Cusco sound cool too.
Check it out at JavaVentures
There are several other options that are available, and this article over at Frommers is a great place to start your Coffee Adventure Planning.
I'll admit that I am partial to Peet's and have their Italian roast in my usual rotation of coffee feeding my espresso machines, but when I came across this, I thought I would pass it along. Peet's has been around a long time and some credit them with starting the craft coffee revolution so many years ago.
This contest has you writing a short essay, and if you are picked, you could win free coffee for a year; in fact you and up to 5 friends can win. If your essay is selected, you can win a 12-month Comparative Tasting Tour where you'll get 2 lbs of coffee a month for 12 months. It will walk your through some of their best blends, and is valued at $299.
April 10, 2008
OK - so you can't do whatever you want, but there are some fun ways to customize your Starbucks card if you want to. Pick from different backgrounds, patterns and design themes. You can even add your own message - subject to the Starbucks Censors, but hey, you can't have everything.
Don't forget; in April, you'll be getting free flavor shots and free refills on brewed coffee when you use a card.
Design your card at Starbucks.com
April 8, 2008
Espresso cups are always a matter of taste - classic, or new age, colorful or refined and assured. I saw these and thought I would pass them along; they are white porcelain with "a softly rounded square shape in a geometric take on the coffee-bar classic." 2"sq.x3"H cup, 4" sq. saucer.
All that and only $3.95 each - at Crate and Barrel
April 7, 2008
Apparently Starbucks is launching a new blend and new policy on Tuesday; the Pike Place Roast, which is a smooth and lighter blend will be available every day along with the flavor of the week. The new blend will be a nod to their first store location in Seattle's Pike Place Market. Interesting to think that the char-bucks flavor that was sold as the must have flavor for discerning palettes isn't the way the market is going. Delicately roasted and carefully selected coffees can make for some wonderful cups.... maybe something that is a bit better in a china cup and not a paper cup.
April 4, 2008
The Cuisinart EM-200 is a pump-driven stainless clad espresso machine with some nice characteristics and features. The 15-bar pump delivers enough pressure to get some pretty good crèma on those espresso shots, and it comes with three portafilter adapters: Single, double and a special ESE Pod adapter. The versatility is worth it, and on the EM-200 I have been flipping back and forth between ground and pods.
The Cuisinart EM-200 has a 64-ounce reservoir so you can get a pretty long time in between fill ups. The buttons on the front of the machine are the controls for the unit, and are preprogrammed for a single and a double shot of espresso. The dial on the side is the steam control; press the steaming button, then control the amount by adjusting the knob.
To brew, preheat the machine, load your coffee and tamp, or coffee pod, and attach the portafilter to the housing. You can either push the manual button to start, and then push it again to stop the brewing, or push the "single" button to brew up a single shot. The three portafilter inserts allows a lot of range should you want some serious strength (Double size filter pulling a single shot or less with a manual button push)
The Cuisinart comes with a tamp/scoop and a removable drip tray that is easy to clean and easy to slide in and out.
At Amazon The Cuisinart EM-200 Espresso Machine
April 3, 2008
Yup, it's true, WalMart has a new line of coffee coming out under the Sam's Choice label that will include Fair Trade, Organics and even a "Carbon Neutral" coffee. Now some cynics will say that they've just ruined the world (again) by getting consumers to consider this potentially bad coffee instead of a "Real" do-gooder quality coffee. I say good for them and good for us.
I am am pretty confident that I am not going to buy WalMart coffee anyway, but I would suspect that the growers who are getting paid extra from the world's largest retailer are pretty happy to put a little extra jingle in their pockets. Isn't that the goal of Fair Trade? The cynic in me that keeps me from heading off to WalMart on a daily basis says that WalMart will cut a deal and then force Fair Trade prices down in some kind of Every Day Low Prices scheme, but until I hear that, I am on board.
The other aspect is that this will hopefully get the average WalMart shopper paying attention to better coffee. Once they see the difference between the cheapest tin on the shelf and a bag of high quality arabica coffee, they might not want to go back. That puts them on the road to nirvana, or at least the road where life may be a little bit better because they can appreciate some of the wonderful flavor discoveries in a cup of coffee instead of their usual "Hot-Brown" cup every morning.
April 1, 2008