Archive for July, 2010
An expert operator of an espresso machine is a “barista,” the Italian word for a bartender. In Italy and other parts of Europe, a barista is considered a career position, often with specific skills and training passed down from generation to generation.
In other parts of the world, the job of a barista has been frequently seen as an employment choice for young people, mostly as a starting point in their career, but is not seen as a life career choice. As a result, many coffee shops have moved to fully automatic espresso machines which allow a minimally-trained employee to create an espresso drink by merely pushing a button.
A few days ago, my son got pulled over for doing 55 in a 40. He just got his license a few months back; I can’t believe he’s already gotten a ticket. My husband and I grounded him for the rest of the summer and took away his license, of course, and while he’s stranded at home, we’ve decided to make him do some long needed chores.
First, I’m making him clean all of the windows in the house and dust the entire place, ceiling to floor. Then he has to retile his bathroom sink, which is totally disgusting. And ever since he started drinking coffee last winter my machine has never worked right, so I’m making him take the espresso decalcifier to it. Now that I think about it, it seems like he’s getting off a little easy; I think I’ll make him do the gutters and clean out the garage too.
Looking back on it now, the idea to combine hot milk and coffee seems apparent, but just 100 years ago this was a novel idea. The first cappuccino maker was actually an espresso machine, which was patented by Luigi Bezzera at the turn of the 20th century. Italy was the first country to serve the cappuccino, and it saw increasing popularity up until the 1940s.
In 1948, Gaggia introduced the modern, high-powered espresso machine that we know it today. This innovation made making cappuccinos easier and facilitated its proliferation around the globe. Particularly in Britain, where there had long been a tradition of drinking coffee with milk, the addition of heated milk and milk foam caught on quickly. Today cappuccinos are seen as a specialty beverage in many parts of the world, where they are usually enjoyed before noon.
Whether you consider yourself a seasoned chef or loathe the nights you have to cook, we all want to make delicious fare when we step into the kitchen. And creating succulent food isn’t rocket science, all you need is quality ingredients and to cook the food properly. Some people will douse their food in sauce, butter or oil mistakenly thinking that this is the only way to infuse flavor into the cuisine. In fact, proper seasoning can make any dish tasty, regardless of the cooking process.
No matter if you’re frying, sautéing, grilling or roasting, seasoning your food before you introduce it to the heat source is imperative. This allows the flavors to sear on the outside and permeate deep into the food. The seasonings you choose are largely a matter of personal preference, but will also be dictated by the other dishes on the menu. However, pepper and salt mills are a good place to start for any meal.
My son moved into his own apartment about a year and a half ago, but last weekend was the first time my husband and I had visited his new abode. He was never the cleanest person when he was living at home, so I went in expecting the worst. And I wasn’t disappointed. Garbage and clothes were strewn about the house and half of his belongings weren’t even out of the boxes yet.
Within seconds my maternal instincts took over and I went into a cleaning frenzy, tackling everything from the bathroom to the attic. One area that was particularly dingy was the kitchen; instead of cleaning his dishes, I think he simply goes out and buys new ones. To make matters worse, there is hard water in his apartment complex, so I had to break out my descaler and clean all of his appliances. I know my hard work will all be for not, but at least the apartment will be clean for a few hours.
Every summer my grandkids come to stay with me while their parents go on a much-deserved vacation. I relish the opportunity to spoil the kids, letting them stay up late and going on fun outings everyday. But like most grandmas, my favorite indulgence for the little ones is cooking up some of their favorites.
I create all of the classic items—cookies, cakes and pies—but my grandkids also love my savory cuisine. Most of the time I’m cooking in the oven, but since it’s been so hot lately we’ve actually been utilizing the grill for the majority of the cooking. Last night I decided to cook some ribs, starting them off in the smoker with just a dash from the pepper mill and a few other basic spices. The ribs were fall-off-the-bone good, and they paired perfectly with my famous mac ’n’ cheese.
Once you’ve achieve your preferred roast, your job’s not done yet. Like other foodstuffs, the beans will continue to cook once you remove them from the heat source, so it’s important to cool them down quickly. As soon as they are out of the heat, pour the beans into a colander, which will allow them to lose their heat more rapidly.
If you are roasting coffee indoors, there will probably some smoke from the beans; simply turn on the exhaust fan on the stove to dissipate it. Like all good things in life, quality roasted coffee takes time. The beans won’t reach their peak flavor until about 24 hours after the roasting process, so if you can, hold out on popping them in your Saeco espresso machines ‘til then. During this time, excess CO2 is released from the beans and the new chemical structure stabilizes
Now that we’ve covered the beans, it’s time to move on to the roasting process. If you don’t have a newfangled roasting machine to use in conjunction with your coffee makers, you can roast your beans in a simple convection oven. Simply lay the beans out on a baking sheet, preheat the oven to about 500 oF and roast for 15-20 minutes. There aren’t any steadfast rules when it comes to roasting coffee; as I said yesterday, the roast is largely a matter of personal preference. But you still need to know so you know when to stop. Here are some of the easiest indicators:
~Color: Once you create beans you like, burn that image into your mind and try to replicate it in subsequent roasts.
~Smell: As the beans become done, the smell will morph from green veggies to rich coffee.
~Sound: The beans will begin to snap and pop as the water is forced out as steam.
~Time: If you use the same roasting method each time, the duration of the roast will be your most reliable metric.
Most people have enough difficultly choosing roasted coffee beans from their local grocery store to use in their cappuccino makers; and as you can imagine, selecting green, unroasted beans can be even harder. Making distinctions between beans with nothing but your eyes isn’t effective, so your best bet is to simply try out a variety of unroasted coffee beans from around the globe until you find a flavor profile you like. This may sound like an arduous undertaking, but most suppliers have some sort of sampler option which allows you to try an assortment of coffees without blowing your budget or doing months of research.
The beans are certainly an important part of the equation, but coffee drinkers know that the roast is a main determinant in the flavor. The more you roast the coffee, the more you detract from the natural coffee flavors. This is one of the biggest benefits of roasting your own beans; the fact that you can cater the roast to your distinct preferences.
Coffee connoisseurs espouse the merits of grinding their own coffee for use in their Saeco espresso machines, claiming it offers a fresher, richer cup of coffee. This is true, since the coffee begins to lose its flavor as soon as it is ground. But if you are willing to go through the trouble of grinding your own coffee, why not go the extra mile and roast your own beans?
As with coffee grinding, you can achiever fresher, better tasting coffee by grinding your own beans. Unroasted coffee beans are a light green color and up until recently were a rarity in standard grocery stores. With the rise of the coffee culture however—not to mention the internet—it’s now quite easy to find high-quality, unroasted beans. Over the next few days we’ll go over which beans to choose, how to create a roasting blend catered to your palette and overview the various roasting methods.