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Articles / Coffee Beverages Explained

Coffee Beverages Explained

Thursday, October 30, 2014
Article Coffee Beverages Explained

The coffee drinking culture has been evolving for hundreds of thousands of years. It has never been as rich as it is today. How do you make sense of different types of coffee, what do the particular names in the beverage menu mean and which beverage should you choose for which occasion in your favorite café?

Coffee can be divided into two basic categories according to the method of preparation.

Espresso-based beverages

Espresso on its own

The philosophy of this beverage is not about pondering over a cup and then sipping from it for hours, but more about a quick order and two or three gulps at a bar. Espresso is not the highest achievable level to pursue among coffee beverages. It is just a simple method of coffee preparation that serves its purpose – a swift and concentrated experience.

Parameters of a good espresso:
One portion of coffee: 7 g ± 0.5 (for some types of coffee even 10-11 g)
Output temperature of water from the coffee machine: 88 °C ± 2 °C
Temperature of the coffee in the cup: 67 °C ± 3 °C
Input water pressure: 9 bar ± 1
Extraction time: 25 seconds ± 2.5 seconds
Viscosity at 45 °C: > 1.5 mPa s
Oil: > 2 mg/ml
Caffeine: < 100 mg/cup
Volume of coffee in the cup, including cream: 25 ml ± 2.5 ml

An espresso is served in an espresso cup with a volume of 60-90 ml. It is also possible to prepare an espresso doppio (i.e., double espresso), when a double portion of coffee (14 to 20 g) and water (approx. 60 ml) are used, while keeping the extraction time the same as when preparing a standard espresso.

Espresso with water

Espresso is used as the basis for many drinks and is often combined with water.

Americano

An Americano is an espresso with added hot water, which increases the volume, typically at a ratio of 1:5. According to legend, Americano gained its name during the World War II when American soldiers didn't like strong espresso and, therefore, drank it thinned. An Americano can be prepared by adding hot water to an espresso or, vice versa, by adding espresso to water. In the latter case, the beverage is usually called Long Black and is served in a cappuccino cup with a volume of 150-180 ml.

Lungo

Lungo means long, watery or thinned in Italian, which describes the preparation methods of this beverage. Baristas tend to achieve this beverage in different ways; some adjust the grinder to a coarser level while keeping the extraction time the same as with an espresso, gaining coffee with a volume of 60 ml. We recommend the gentler method of adding hot water to an espresso at a ratio of 1:1.

Espresso with milk

Cappuccino

The basis of this beverage is 30 ml of espresso and warm milk, making up a mug of 150 to 180 ml in total. In the original Italian recipe, this coffee holds 2 cm of thick foam on top of the hot milk. A newer variant, the Seattle-style cappuccino, trades this thick foam for a microfoam. This microfoam is closely interleaved with the milk and leaves a pleasant and velvety feeling in the mouth. The temperature of the milk during whipping should not exceed 65 °C.

The aim is to create a beverage without visible bubbles, while the surface follows the edge of the mug and does not protrude higher. Also, a cappuccino should not be sprinkled with chocolate or even cinnamon.

Lately, baristas have learned how to draw pictures in the white milk of the coffee, creating "latte art". They wish not only to offer a delicious mug of coffee to the customer, but to please the customer visually as well. The most common "latte art" motifs on cappuccinos are hearts, tulips, or rosettas. However, most important is the taste of the beverage itself, latte art is only a sweet bonus.

Flat white

For some, one espresso in a milk drink is just not enough. Therefore, the growing demand for stronger coffee can be seen these days. Flat white became very popular in Australia and has already become commonplace in the rest of the world. It is prepared in a glass or a cappuccino cup from two shots of espresso (doppio) and topped with warm milk and foam, which typically makes a 1 cm layer. Flat white can also be decorated with latte art.

Espresso macchiato

Espresso macchiato is a beverage that matches its title, as in Italian, macchiato means speckled or spotted.

According to classical teaching, espresso macchiato is an espresso with a drop of milk foam added to the cream using a teaspoon. The modern macchiato looks like a miniature cappuccino – an espresso is in an 80 ml cup topped with microfoam up to the edge. It can also be decorated with latte art.

Caffé latté

The caffe latte is a beverage of more than 250 ml in volume. It differs from a cappuccino in total volume and also in its smaller portion of foam. The caffe latte is prepared in a cup with a handle. It was originally devised in Italy as a coffee for children and is considered less popular among adults.

A variant of caffe latte is the latte macchiato, which is prepared slightly differently. Frothed milk is poured into a glass first, where the milk foam separates from the milk in half a minute creating a firmer layer on the top. Espresso is added last and creates a typical coffee stain on the surface. It often happens that by pouring coffee into the milk, three layers are created. This result is a bonus, not a requirement.

Filtered coffee

The preparation of filtered coffee does not use pressure for extraction, but the natural process of leaching soluble substances instead. Hot water (up to 93 °C) is in contact with the coffee for 1 to 5 minutes (according to the preparation method) and then this extraction is stopped by filtering or straining the liquid. Further extraction (leaching of the coffee beans) does not take place in the resulting beverage

Filtered coffee has gained, a little unfairly, the reputation of being an inferior product that is best avoided and traded for an espresso. However, if all basic conditions are met, this coffee presents a wonderful treat. If we perceive espresso as a concentrated beverage intended for immediate consumption, filtered coffee is quite the opposite – the lower proportion of soluble substances allows the consumer to enjoy subtle nuances, such as can be found in wine.

Our tip: if the source is good quality, it is immensely interesting to watch the beverage evolve in taste during the process of cooling. In the first phase, 80-60 °C, we can taste only bitter tones and experience the too high temperature. The beverage, though, smells nice due to the evaporating essential oils. In the middle of the cooling process, somewhere between the second and fifth sip, we discover the body, acidity, viscosity, sweetness, and the first signs of tones. In a cooled beverage, the massive aroma recedes and only a hint of the light accompanying aroma remains. The tastes reveal the full potential, tones, harmony, and accents. All this, of course, without any additions, such as sugar, milk, cream, or honey.

The following list sums up all the requirements for this coffee before its preparation:

  • Fresh selected coffee; freshness means 2-25 days after roasting
  • The amount of 60 g / liter
  • Grinding with a manual or electric grinder with stones, always just before preparation, with the coarseness selected according to the method of preparation
  • Water heated to 91 °C that is fresh, with a neutral pH, moderate hardness, and is non-mineralized, non-chlorinated, and non-carbonated
  • Hand-held non-automatic preparation
  • Adherence to the time of extraction

For the preparation of filtered coffee, a French press, AeroPress, vacuum pot, moka pot, percolator with a  paper filter, or a Chemex, can be used, for example.