10 Coffee Tips & Tricks
on May 17, 2017
It's not as hard as you might think to make lattes for yourself or coffee-loving guests at home, and with a little practice, you can also pull off the latte-topping art you get when your baristas are less rushed. It's an art of patient milk pouring, with melted chocolate designs for the devoted Arabica artists. wikiHow's site details the ins and outs of latte art, and you can find a lot of inspiration on Flickr and other photo sites.
Lokesh Dhakar has done everyone who's ever been intimidated by barista jargon a huge favor with a series of illustrations detailing how most popular coffee drinks are made. They explain exactly what's in the standard versions of every Italian-named drink you'll find at most coffee shops in neat, simple fashion. For the forgetful or deeply smitten, there's a Cafe Press store that allows for printing Dhakar's diagrams on mugs, shirts, and lots of other gear.
It can take a long time for hot coffee to get cold in the fridge, or even the freezer, if you're in a real hurry for it. Try to rush it, and you get watered-down, bean-flavored water. Cold-brewing coffee, though, with just grounds, water, a fine filter, and (optional) milk, is something you can start right before you go to bed, then finish on a hot morning for a rejuvenating ride to work (or walk to the laptop, in your editors' cases)
The ever-lasting smell of garlic on your fingertips; dishes that just won't come clean; pests that eat up your backyard garden. If only there were some kind of magic, coarsely-ground semi-paste to take care of all these at once! Well, you know what this facetious stuff is, and it works really well in a lot of cleaning, gardening, and even beauty uses. Better still, they're a great reason to get started with composting.
Some bags of beans or pre-ground coffee offer a very rough guide to how much caffeine they're packing, but most don't. Starbucks co-founder Jerry Baldwin explains in a blog post the myths and realities of caffeine levels. A few short pull-outs: "Robusta" beans pack twice as much caffeine as "Arabica," "dark roast" means effectively nothing in terms of caffeine, and drip coffee can actually pack more caffeine than espresso, depending on the beans and amounts used.
This is advice best taken if you already hydrate well with water or exercise far ahead of bedtime, but it doesn't take downing a pot of the hot stuff to see a performance boost in your exercise or running routines. According to Australian researchers, a 176-pound man could drink four ounces of coffee, or two 12-ounce cans of soda, and "get the full caffeine effect" on their run. It's not how you'll get the edge in a 10K, but it might just give you the boost you need to make a hard-to-keep commitment going for one more day. Hit the link above to learn when and how much to drink to work it into your stride.
Not all coffee should go in the freezer. In fact, if you're going to actually use the coffee right away, you don't want it going straight from the icebox to under steaming water. Find a local coffee seller that roasts their own beans, or at least offers honest details on when their stuff was roasted, then divide your stash into weekly amounts. Keep the current week's stash in an airtight container at room temperature, or sealed in the refrigerator, and keep the other weeks' portions in the freezer.
Drip coffee has its limitations, but it can be made better. Newsweek's Budget Travel blog points out that one such limitation is that drip models—the kind at work in hotel rooms and maybe in your kitchen—take a long time to heat up to proper flavor-releasing temperatures . Run just a pot of water through the machine first to heat it up, then pour that heated water right back in to actually brew. Assuming you're not running out the door, this definitely seems worth the effort, and might save you the time and money spent at a coffee shop.
Our weekend editor got crazy-obsessive about turning out a good cup of Joe recently, researching the best practices from bean to brew. One notable, practical discovery was that it comes out better when you use a French press, even a cheap one. Here's why: One of the primary benefits of making coffee in a French press over a standard drip pot is that more of the coffee oils end up in your cup instead of in the machine's filter. More oils means better taste! As a bonus, a carefully cleaned French press can also double as an excellent pot for loose leaf tea.
You could complain about how hard it is to find fresh-roasted, quality beans, or you can bootstrap your coffee routine and roast your own beans. There are methods involving a heat gun and metal bowl, a garage sale special popcorn popper, or, as one commenter suggests, simply lay the green beans on a metal tray in the oven, turn it up as hot as it can go, then wait to hear the sounds of the beans cracking before pulling them out.