Archive for November, 2009
In recent times nearly 20,000 studies have been done examining the health benefits of coffee. Coffee lovers should be encouraged by the results. More than 108 million Americans routinely start, or even end, their day with a steaming cup of java. Most American adults and a growing number of children are coffee drinkers.
During an 18-year study, Harvard researchers collected data from 126,000 people. The research showed that drinking one to three cups of caffeinated coffee per day reduces diabetes risk. Partaking of three cups of coffee per day reduces the risk in the single digits, and six cups of coffee per day reduces men’s risk of diabetes by 54 percent and decreases women’s diabetes risk by 30 percent.
Those who need a little more assurance may appreciate the fact that the findings of at least six other studies show people who drink coffee regularly are up to 80 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s, three of the studies examined showed that the more you drink the lower your risk. Other studies indicate that coffee can help manage asthma, headaches, prevent cavities, and boost a person’s mood.
So if your boss needs some justification for those frequent coffee breaks, just tell him it’s for your health. And, if that doesn’t work keep your own coffee maker on your desk and drink up.
For years I have been using the same coffee maker to brew my morning cup of Joe. This had seemed like an adequate means of getting my caffeine fix in the morning, but last Christmas my mother in-law bought me an espresso machine. In my naivety, I thought that this premium model was simply a superfluous extravagance, but I quickly learned to appreciate the luxuriousness of quality espresso.
As I have learned, there is actually a distinct difference between coffee and espresso, two terms that I formerly used interchangeably. Espresso is a concentrated coffee beverage that is created by brewing finely ground beans at a high pressure. This process actually gives it a higher caffeine content than traditional coffee, which means that it is more effective at waking me up in the morning.
The taste of espresso is also stronger and more concentrated, which any coffee aficionado will appreciate. Because of this strong flavor, espresso is often mixed with other ingredients to create lattes, mochas, and other specialty coffee beverages.
In my younger days, I was like most young men and didn’t put much thought into my cooking-or anything else I did in the kitchen, for that matter. As I have matured, I’ve grown to have an appreciation for fine cuisine and chef’s who have an attention to proper seasoning. Often it is not the amount of ingredients that you can afford to throw into a dish, but rather focusing on a few quality products that garners the best results.
When I am in the kitchen, I like to use flavorful foods and spices that don’t need to be “dressed up” with superfluous ingredients. In order to achieve this however, it is vital to use top-grade, fresh ingredients. That may mean making a few extra trips to the grocery store to ensure that your meat and produce are in peak condition.
For cuisine from virtually any corner of the globe, salt and pepper are the staple spices. Like most people, I used to skimp and buy pre-ground pepper and ordinary table salt. Through my experience cooking, I’ve learned that cracking whole peppercorns in pepper mills gives a much deeper flavor profile to whatever I am cooking. For most dishes, I also opt for a kosher or sea salt for bolder taste, as opposed to generic table salt.
When many Americans wake up to begin their work day, a fresh, aromatic cup of coffee is the only thing on their minds. From the rousing fragrance to the hot, slightly bitter feel of coffee in one’s mouth, everything about the experience is energizing and invigorating. Sometimes it’s even possible to go overboard with coffee. Not everyone knows when to quit when it comes to an early morning caffeine infusion. In some cases, too much highly caffeinated coffee can make one jittery and unable to concentrate.
Other times – such as an after-dinner coffee situation with guests – barely any caffeine is desired at all. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the caffeine content in several popular beans and blends. Paying attention to this guide could help you gain control over your caffeine intake and learn what time of day to drink certain brews. Robusta, the type of blend often used as a base for Italian roasts and espresso, has about twice as much caffeine as Arabica coffee made in automatic espresso machines.
The cultivar, or coffee plant responsible for yielding a certain consistent type of bean, determines how much caffeine will be found in the final product. Some believe that the duration and intensity of the roast has some effect on caffeine content, but this is patently false. Bear in mind that a person’s individual response to caffeine could differ greatly from that of others. Some people will barely be affected by a strong espresso while others will be bouncing off the walls from a bit of Arabica.
In many cases, it’s easy to tell the difference between upscale coffee shops and low-level coffee joints. Even before tasting the final product, a customer can tell a lot from the appearance of an espresso. A barista with talent and experience will always top off the drink with thin layer of tan foam – the crema. Other places, where coffee-making technique is less coveted, you’re more likely to receive some watered-down espresso.
The good news for coffee lovers is that it’s possible to duplicate that rich, foamy layer of crema at home with a Solis espresso machine. According to the experts at Coffeegeek.com, there are a number of important factors that play a role in executing the crema. First, there’s the matter of using a top-notch burr grinder, rather than the type with spinning blades. That’s because the heat and friction produced by the blades can detract form the coffee beans’ natural flavor.
The quality of beans and the way they are roasted also make a huge difference. For example, if the beans have only been roasted halfway, they will be oily rather than dry and smoky. These will not be conducive to creating a crema. Once the beans are ground and tamped, warm up the automatic espresso machine for a few minutes before pulling a shot.
When you think of Italy, there are a several distinct images that probably come to mind. Some of the most celebrated artwork in the world – from Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” fresco in Milan to Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture in Florence – are located in Italy. Cutting-edge fashion design is headquartered in Milan and Rome, thanks in part to the prevalent leather industries and other merchants that have practiced there for centuries. And while Italian food is a favorite all over the world, a particular beverage from the boot-shaped peninsula is just as beloved.
Italian espresso traditionally contains rich, highly caffeinated Robusta beans. These beans are roasted even longer than a French roast, until they are no longer oily. Then they air-cool, allowing them to retain their flavor until it’s time to begin grinding. It’s also crucial that the beans are ground shortly after roasting is complete. When the beans are shipped overseas, they are often vacuum-sealed to lock in freshness and flavor.
The best part about Italian espresso is that it can be created anywhere in the world. Although the process was refined in Europe, we Americans can enjoy a potent espresso shot thanks to the availability of Solis espresso machines. The most important part is acquiring the proper ingredients, going about the roasting process in the preferred manner and grinding the beans yourself. A conical bur grinder is thought to preserve flavor better as the friction level is reduced.
There are many steps of the espresso making process that we take for granted when we walk into a favorite coffee shop and order a specialty drink to go. In truth, even the baristas who do the work of making the drink might be largely clueless about the roasting process. While there’s nothing spectacular about the taste of a green, unroasted coffee bean – barring the fact that it already contains plenty of protein and caffeine – a good roasting can unlock surprisingly rich flavor.
Much is made about the distinctive flavors of coffee beans from around the world, but the fact is that it’s possible to bring out a wide range of tastes depending on the roasting technique. Many Americans who enjoy plain coffee are familiar with a light roast, also known as cinnamon roast. This form of roasting ends after about seven minutes when the beans pop and expand.
Beyond that point, a French roast can be achieved. Roasters must allow the beans to heat up for about 12 minutes, at which point the surface becomes shiny with oil and popping occurs again. Italian roasts, like those that are perfect for an automatic espresso machine, take closer to 14 minutes. By then, the beans have finished popping but they smoke. The surface of the beans is even oilier and the sugars have caramelized.
By the late 15th century, Europeans were no longer content with staying home and living an isolationist lifestyle. With vast oceans and landmasses all around them, it was time to begin the Age of Exploration. But what motivated explorers like Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo and Ferdinand Magellan to venture into regions that no map had yet documented?
At that time, explorers were looking for four primary things on behalf of their patrons – who were generally kings and queens. They wanted gold, of course, and mythical cities such as El Dorado became the talk of Western Europe. Many of them wanted to convert any natives they found along the way to Christianity. It goes without saying that they desired land. The fourth thing tends to go overlooked, however. Explorers from Portugal, Spain, France, England and other places were all looking for a water route to the orient.
The East was home to silks and other fine fabrics, along with some precious metals that would be valuable for trade. Still, the main advantage the civilizations of China and India possessed at that time was their ability to preserve food and make it taste better with exotic spices. In fact, pepper has been traded back and forth in its native India for at least 4,000 years. The next time you use a pepper mill to give a dish some zip, think about the long, storied history of the spice trade.
I woke up last Friday morning excited for the day. That evening, my husband and I were planning to host a dinner party. We had invited all our friends and even a few neighbors we had only met in passing. In short, it would be a night to show off our skills and entertaining guests and accommodating them as well. The house was already spotless – I had made sure of that the night before.
All that remained to be done was to select some background music for the evening, buy the ingredients for dinner and then head to work. At least that’s what I thought. On the way out the door, I poured some coffee and found – much to my chagrin – that something terrible had happened to the taste. Knowing that coffee is a popular after-dinner drink, I figured I would have to solve the problem sooner rather than later.
As it turned out, the hard water in our house had been slowly causing mineral deposits to accumulate inside the coffee boiler. Not only did that buildup affect the taste of the coffee, souring it significantly, but it could have a disastrous impact for the inner workings of the machine as well. Luckily, my husband had bought some Durgol descaling solution online a few months prior, and we had some leftover in the pantry. It seemed that our dinner party could still be a flawless one after all.
In small amounts, sodium is absolutely essential to the body. It helps to maintain the right balance of fluids, aids in sending electrical impulses through the nervous system has an impact on muscle contraction and relaxation. In short, we would be in dire biological straits without consuming some calcium each day. It’s also well known that too much sodium can be detrimental to one’s health. The kidneys are charged with eliminating excess sodium, and when they are unable to achieve that task high blood pressure becomes a concern.
What often goes overlooked, however, is that table salt hardly contributes to most Americans’ sodium intake. The overabundance of sodium in our foods could instead be blamed on all the preservatives pumped into packaged food. According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, only 11 percent of sodium is added to food by those cooking and eating it. An additional 12 percent comes from natural sources, and an overwhelming 77 percent originates in the processing of prepared foods.
In other words, there’s no reason to shy away from the occasional dash or pinch of salt when cooking a favorite meal from scratch. Salt is among the most popular condiments for a reason: it has the ability to enhance and draw out the natural flavor of food. As is so often the case, salt should be used in moderation. So put those salt mills back on the table and enjoy your meal.