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Coffee Basics and The Truth About Espresso

by Dani Johnson

January 17, 2014

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Donate I've had to take a hiatus from writing because I was recently hired as a manager at a local coffee shop, but things have settled down a little bit and I've decided to take on my favorite pastime, again. One thing that I've realized since I've been there is that whatever I thought I knew about coffee was wrong, and I actually knew nothing at all aside from the fact that I lloovvee the bold taste of my favorite piping-hot, locally roasted dark coffee. Little did I know that there's an entire world full of coffee just waiting to be sampled over and over again by the espresso-stained hands of a greedy, coffee-loving fiend.

Needless to say, there are a lot of people that come into the shop and really don't know what they're asking for. I can't blame them, either. There are so many variations of drinks, and a lot of them only differ by the order in which they are prepared. For instance, pouring hot water over espresso makes an Americano, but reversing it and pouring espresso over hot water makes a long black. The difference is that in the americano when the water falls onto the espresso it destroys the cream that would normally sit on top of the drink. Pouring the espresso into the water preserves the crema therefore slightly changing the drink. It can be a little overwhelming and down right confusing sometimes.

The barista at any good coffee shop should be a great help if you have any questions about the drinks, but being armed with the basic knowledge is enough to get you a great tasting drink that you know you'll love. A lot of the drinks include espresso, which has a lot of misconceptions associated with it.

Espresso is commonly thought of as a type of roast or a particular flavor of coffee, but it's more complicated than that. Espresso is actually a type of brew, forcing high-temperature water through finely ground beans. The truth is, you can make espresso out of any beans, but a lot of companies have their signature "espresso" blend that they claim to yield the best results.

With so many different types of coffee, it's hard to keep up with which has more caffeine. Basically, the medium roasts have more caffeine than the dark roasts. One way to remove caffeine from the bean is to just roast it out. Espresso is a concentrated version of coffee, so it does have more caffeine per unit volume, but the serving size is much smaller. A typical double shot of espresso is only about 3 ounces of liquid, while a small cup of coffee is about 12 ounces of liquid. While drinking 12 ounces off espresso certainly won't hurt you, I can't imagine it would be a very comfortable experience unless your caffeine tolerance level is high.

So, enjoy your latte without fear of bouncing off of the walls from having had too much to drink.

Wikipedia has the best comprehensive list of coffee drinks that I can find on short notice, and The Oatmeal has a funny post about coffee.

My favorite coffee drink is a breve. I can't get enough of the half & half! I also like to experiment with flavors. Raspberry and chocolate breves are AMAZING! Add a little whipped cream with a sprinkle of cocoa powder and a drizzle of raspberry flavor, and you'd be hard pressed to call me away from that drink before I'm done.

Tell me your favorite coffee drinks, iced or hot, in the comments below!

by Dani Johnson

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