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Coffee Drink Basics

by Gary Gresham

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Understanding the many choices at your local coffeehouse.


When you enter a coffee house, you have a multitude of drink choices like latté, cappuccino, straight shot and caffé mocha just to name a few.

Sometimes knowing what to order can be overwhelming unless you know what you are getting. After all, who wants to pay an outrageous amount of money for a mystery drink that you may not even like?

So Perfect Coffees.Com has come to the rescue, and after you read this, you'll have a basic understanding of how the most popular coffee drinks are made and what they are made of.

Most coffee drinks start with espresso and espresso is just coffee that is brewed a certain way. It is finely ground to almost a powder then very hot water is forced through the grounds under intense pressure.

The brewing process is timed so that the flavorful and aromatic oils are extracted from the coffee and not the bitter components. This produces a strong flavored, but not bitter, concentrated shot of coffee.

Straight Shot
The straight shot refers to espresso coffee and the secret to good espresso is the extraction time, volume, and golden crema which is a thick light brown layer of frothed coffee oils that float on top of a properly extracted espresso.

The short shot or ristretto is extracted to a volume of three-quarters of an ounce. The shorter restricted pour magnifies the essence of the coffee and the chance of any bitter elements being extracted is minimized. If you have ever ordered an espresso shot in Europe they usually serve the ristretto.

The long shot or lungo is extracted to a volume of one and one-half ounces.

The double shot is a 2 ounce shot using twice as much coffee in the portafilter.

The correct way to serve a straight shot is to extract it directly into a warmed demitasse cup. The warm demitasse cup will keep the straight shot warm and prolong the crema. A straight shot is best enjoyed immediately after brewing.

It is rare to see people drinking straight shots of espresso in the US. Most people here drink variations using steamed milk mixed with the shots to make the different coffee drinks listed here.

Espresso Macchiato
The Espresso Macchiato starts with a shot of espresso and then a small amount of foamed milk is spooned over the shot. Macchiato in Italian means "marked," as the espresso is marked with foam.

Espresso Con Panna
This is an Espresso Macchiato using whipped cream in place of the foamed milk. The drink gets its name Con Panna which means "with cream."

Caffé Americano
The Caffé Americano is a drink similar to American brewed coffee. It is made with a single or double shot of espresso combined with 6 to 8 ounces of hot water out of an espresso machine. The result is a very smooth cup of coffee that is much hotter than brewed coffee.

Cappuccino
Cappuccino is made with a fluffy, wet foam, mixed with espresso coffee upon the pour to create a blend of the two flavors. Cold milk is essential, as is expertise in the foaming process. Cappuccino has a large volume of foam making it a light weight drink and less filling.

Caffé Latté
Caffé Latté is similar to the cappuccino but with much less foam and more steamed milk. A latté is made by holding back the foam with a spoon while pouring the frothed milk from the steaming pitcher. The caffé latté is completed by being topped with a small amount of the held back foam.

Caffé latté gets its name from the addition of coffee to milk. For an iced latté, cold milk is combined with the espresso and then the ice is added.

Caffé Mocha
A caffé mocha is made by adding powdered or chocolate syrup to a hot shot of espresso and blended. Steamed milk is then be added to the espresso-chocolate mixture and usually it is topped with whipped cream.

Iced mochas are made with cold milk and the ice added after the coffee and chocolate have been blended.

Flavored Coffee Drinks
Some popular coffee flavors are: vanilla, Irish creme, almond, hazelnut, caramel and fruit flavors such as orange and raspberry. These drinks usually start with a flavored syrup that is mixed with hot espresso and stirred. Then steamed milk is stirred in like in a latté.

An iced version of these flavored coffees made with cold milk instead of steamed makes a delicious cold drink in the summer months.

So now that you know what's in the basic coffee drinks, try one you haven't tasted yet. Who knows, you might find a new favorite.

Copyright 2004 Perfect Coffees.com. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author:
Gary Gresham is the webmaster for http://www.perfectcoffees.com where you can purchase quality coffee, tea, cups & mugs, coffee gifts and delicious desserts online. He offers a free monthly coffee newsletter at http://www.perfectcoffees.com/newsletter.html.

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