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Check Out Some Latte Art

Check Out Some Latte Art


While many agree that making a good cup of espresso is an art within itself, latte art refers to patterns made in the foam topping espresso drinks. If you want to get in touch with your inner barista (expert in coffee preparation), latte art is a critical skill, which can take years to master.

  1. Pour enough cold milk (34 ºF or 1 ºC)for one cup into the steam pitcher.
  2. Put the steam wand at the bottom of the pitcher. Turn on the steam, and slowly raise the wand until it is near the top of the milk. Lower the pitcher as the milk rises so the steam wand stays 1 cm away from the top of the milk. The milk should not stretch too much nor should there be any big bubbles. This should create a smooth, velvety milk as opposed to the foam that sits atop most espresso drinks.
  3. Allow the milk to reach 80 ºF (27 ºC). Then place the steam wand on the side of the pitcher, deep into the milk, positioning the pitcher to spin counterclockwise. Keep doing this motion until the milk heats to 150 ºF to 160 ºF (65 ºC – 70 ºC).
  4. Shut the steam and remove the steam wand and thermometer from the milk. Clean the steam wand with a wet cloth.
  5. Let the milk settle for a few seconds. This will allow a more velvety texture.
  6. Swirl the milk vigorously. If you see any bubbles, pound the pitcher on the counter several times and go back to swirling the milk for 20 to 30 seconds.

A Short History of Espresso

A Short History of Espresso

The original article and all credits can be found here.

The term cafe-espress has been used since the 1880s, well before espresso machines existed. It means coffee made to order, expressly for the person ordering it. It also means coffee fresh in every sense of the word:

  • Made from fresh beans roasted at most two weeks prior to use,
  • Ground just before brewing,
  • Brewed just before drinking.

Ideally, all cafes and restaurants would serve even their regularly brewed coffee as espresso in this larger sense—freshly ground in press pots, neopolitans, vacuum brewers or table top pourovers. The aroma of good coffee is delicate and dissipates in a matter of minutes after grinding, whether it is brewed or not.
Bezzera espresso machine

Early steam-powered Bezzera

People are in a hurry. For many workers, waiting five minutes for coffee to brew is too long. They were also in a hurry 100 years ago when inventors started looking for faster ways to brew coffee to order. It being the age of steam, the first attempts used steam rather than water. A steam brewing contraption at the 1896 World’s Fair is said to have made 3000 cups per hour. Unfortunately, steam-brewed coffee tastes awful since coffee generally needs to brew at just below boiling (195-205°F or 90-96°C) to taste its best. In 1901, the Italian inventor Luigi Bezzera came up with a workable solution. Pavoni manufactured these first espresso machines in 1905.

This machine was also steam powered. However, the steam does not come into contact with the coffee. Instead, steam pressure at the top of the boiler forces water at the bottom of the boiler through ground coffee. The coffee is held in a group consisting of a portafilter, a metal filter basket and removable brass mount, and a brew head into which the portafilter attaches. The piping and group were designed to act as heat radiators, so the temperature of the pressurized water dropped from 250°F (120°C) in the boiler to the correct brewing temperature at the grouphead. This brewing principle is still used in stovetop mochapots. Since the water was pressurized, the coffee could be ground finer than in a regular pourover brewer, reducing the minimum brewing cycle from about 4 minutes to 30 seconds. Espresso machines and their accompanying coffee grinders became the standard equipment for making coffee in Italy, Southern France, Spain and Latin America. In other parts of the world, it followed Italian immigrants who popularized it in each country they settled.

But technology moves on, and this method is no longer regarded as specifically espresso, although mochapots and other steam pressured brewers continue to be marketed under the name. In the 1920s through the 1940s, Italian engineers experimented with pumping devices to increase the brewing pressure. The first practical one was developed by Cremonesi in 1938 and manufactured by Achille Gaggia in 1946. It used a hand powered piston. On machines of this type, steam pressure in the boiler forces the water into a cylinder, but then it is pressurized further by a spring-powered piston to about 8 to 9 bar (120 to 135 PSI), or 8 to 9 times the pressure that had been developed by the steam machines. The spring that powers the piston is compressed by a lever forced down by the barista (Italian for barkeep)—the person making the coffee. As with the older generation machines, these lever groups are designed to cool the water from boiler to brewing temperature.

Early Gaggia lever machine

Now we have modern espresso in the restricted sense of the term—coffee brewed with water at 8 to 9 bar pressure between 90°C to 96°C. This technology also explains why modern espresso uses the same amount in a small one ounce drink as was previously used in 2½ ounce demitasse espressos or five ounce regular cups of coffee. The pressurization cylinder could only hold that much water, otherwise the arm strength required to compress the spring would have been prohibitive. Finally, if it’s done just right, the added brewing pressure creates a nice layer of foam over the coffee called crema.
What’s this scum on my coffee?!?

Legend has it that the first patrons to drink the new potion at Gaggia’s coffee bar didn’t think it was so nice. They asked, “What’s this scum (sciuma – foam) on my coffee?” So in a marketing ploy, Gaggia called the new drink “caffè crema” instead of espresso. For about a decade, espresso machines were made with some groups using the old style one bar steam pressure and others using the new-fangled nine bar spring-lever pressure. But in time, the new style won out and became the true espresso. The term “caffè crema” died out, only to be revived for another style of coffee drink by the Swiss in the 80s.

Faema E61

The next innovations were commercialized in 1961 by Faema. Instead of a piston situated between the boiler and ground coffee, they used an electric pump to move cold water through a heat exchanger that traversed the boiler to the grouphead. The heat exchanger was designed to heat the water to the correct brewing temperature. Since the group was no longer used to cool the water, it too had to be held at the correct brewing temperature. Faema used a hot water circulation system to keep the group hot; other manufacturers used a hot water jacket or kept the group in close thermal contact with the boiler for the same purpose.

The cylinder on lever groups only held an ounce of water, limiting the volume that could be used to prepare an espresso. There are no such limits for an electric pump. So why hasn’t espresso gone back to being a regular or demitasse cup of coffee, only brewed more quickly using pressure? This is precisely what the Swiss do for the drink now called a café crema. However, by the time the newer electric pump models came out, espresso had become its own drink category, and people had developed a taste for the “little cup.” The only change to espresso created by electric pump machines is the introduction of the double espresso—double the water and double the coffee for a drink with the identical concentration and taste.

Home lever machines had been designed since the 1960s, but they didn’t achieve a mass market because of two severe shortcomings: the groups were too small, so the coffee would overheat after a few shots, and the shortened levers required considerable arm strength. The next big breakthrough came in the late 1970s. A company called Ulka introduced a small, inexpensive pump that could still produce the pressure required by modern espresso. This made affordable and small home pump espresso machines a practical possibility. Gaggia and Quick Mill brought out the first models and many other manufacturers soon followed.

We Have a New Website!

We Have a New Website!

Have a look around at our new website! We now have an area for news and resources, new and used products, and a handy contact form. If you get a chance, give us some feedback on what you think! If you have a good suggestion, we’ll probably integrate it!

Coffee 101

Coffee 101

A Brief History of Coffee.
Coffee was first discovered in Northern Africa in an area we know today as Ethiopia. A popular legend refers to a goat herder by the name of Kaldi, who observed his goats acting unusually frisky after eating berries from a bush. Curious about this phenomena, Kaldi tried eating the berries himself. He found that these berries gave him a renewed energy. The news of this energy laden fruit quickly spread throughout the region. Monks hearing about this amazing fruit, dried the berries so that they could be transported to distant monasteries. They reconstituted these berries in water, ate the fruit, and drank the liquid to provide stimulation for a more awakened time for prayer.

Coffee berries were transported from Ethiopia to the Arabian peninsula, and were first cultivated in what today is the country of Yemen. From there, coffee traveled to Turkey where coffee beans were roasted for the first time over open fires. The roasted beans were crushed, and then boiled in water, creating a crude version of the beverage we enjoy today.

Coffee first arrived on the European continent by means of Venetian trade merchants. Once in Europe this new beverage fell under harsh criticism from the Catholic church. Many felt the pope should ban coffee, calling it the drink of the devil. To their surprise, the pope, already a coffee drinker, blessed coffee, declaring it a truly Christian beverage. Coffee houses spread quickly across Europe becoming centers for intellectual exchange. Many great minds of Europe used this beverage, and forum, as a springboard to heightened thought and creativity.

In the 1700s, coffee found its way to the Americas by means of a French infantry captain who nurtured one small plant on its long journey across the Atlantic. This one plant, transplanted to the Caribbean Island of Martinique, became the predecessor of over 19 million trees on the island within 50 years. It was from this humble beginning that the coffee plant found its way to the rest of the tropical regions of South and Central America.

Coffee was declared the national drink of the then colonized United States by the Continental Congress, in protest of the excessive tax on tea levied by the British crown.

Espresso, a recent innovation in the way to prepare coffee, obtained its origin in 1822, with the innovation of the first crude espresso machine in France. The Italians perfected this wonderful machine and were the first to manufacture it. Espresso has become such an integral part of Italian life and culture, that there are presently over 200,000 espresso bars in Italy.

Today, coffee is a giant global industry employing more than 20 million people. This commodity ranks second only to petroleum in terms of dollars traded worldwide. With over 400 billion cups consumed every year, coffee is the world’s most popular beverage. If you can imagine, in Brazil alone, over 5 million people are employed in the cultivation and harvesting of over 3 billion coffee plants. Sales of premium specialty coffees in the United States have reached the multi billion dollar level, and are increasing significantly on an annual basis.

About the Bean

About the Bean

What is coffee? Coffee is the seed of a cherry from a tree, which grows from sea level to approximately 6,000 feet, in a narrow subtropical belt around the world.

Coffee trees are an evergreen and grow to heights of 20 feet. To simplify harvesting, the trees are pruned to 8 to 10 feet. The coffee cherries ripen at different times, so they are predominantly picked by hand. It takes approximately 2,000 Arabica cherries to produce just one pound of roasted coffee. Since each cherry contains two beans, your one pound of coffee is derived from 4,000 coffee beans. The average coffee tree only produces one to two pounds of roasted coffee per year, and takes four to five years to produce its first crop.

The coffee plant first produces delicate clusters of white blossoms, resembling jasmine in shape and scent. These blossoms last only a few days. Small green coffee cherries then begin to appear and ripen to yellow … red … and finally almost black, within six to nine months.

Once the coffee cherries are picked, they are transported for processing. The fruit is then removed from the seed by one of two methods. The natural or dry process, where the cherries are dried in the sun or in dryers, and the fruit is then separated from the bean by processing them through a mechanical husker. Or, by a superior soaking method known as the wet process, which produces beans which are referred to as washed coffees. The green beans are then dried, sized, sorted, graded and selected, usually all by hand. The beans are then bagged and are ready for shipment to local roasters around the world. Few products we use require so much in terms of human effort.

The two commercially significant species of coffee beans are: coffea arabica, and coffea robusta. Arabica beans grow best at altitudes over 3,000 feet. This species produces superior quality coffees, which possess the greatest flavor and aromatic characteristics. They typically contain half the caffeine of the robusta beans. Arabica production represents 80% of the world’s coffee trade, however, only 10% of this meets specialty coffee standards. Robusta beans are usually grown at lower elevations. Robusta trees are easier to grow, produce higher yields, and are more disease resistant than the arabica species. Robusta beans usually possess a woody, astringent flavor. They are used when a lower price or additional caffeine is desired. A small percentage is typically added to many Italian espresso blends for the additional crema and complexity they contribute.

In addition to the species of the coffee, many other factors contribute to the overall quality of the green beans. Seed stock, plantation location, soil composition, altitude, weather conditions, fertilization, cultivation, harvesting, and processing methods, will all have a dramatic influence on the finished product.

Storing Coffee

Coffee is a perishable. When storing coffee, you want to avoid air and moisture. These two culprits are the biggest cause of a stale, flavorless, brew. We recommend storing beans in a clean, dry, air-tight container, in a cool dark place. Much like the way wine is stored. It is not recommended that you store beans in a refrigerator, because coffee tends to asorb flavors and a fridge can be quite humid. Freezing coffee is generally not recommeded, but only because taking it in and out of the cold temperature each time you brew will cause condensation and not allow for air-tight storage. If you want to take advantage of buying in larger quantities or for storing for longer periods of time, we do suggest storing coffee in your freezer. Simply store the beans in smaller size packages; about what you will use in a week, that can be removed from the freezer just once. Keep your beans or ground coffee in an air-tight container on your counter or cupboard. Remember too, whole bean coffee will last longer than ground beans. By using this system for coffee storage you can take advantage of our 5lb. bag discount (a 20% savings) without compromising coffee flavor.

Grinder Info

Grinder Info

How Grinders Affect the Coffee:
Grinding coffee is a violent thing. The coffee is taken from its nice friendly home in its bag or can and put into a bean hopper, which by itself is not a bad place. But then the grinder is turned on and you immediately hear the sound of the motor and the burrs spinning wildly as the coffee starts to be ground into small particles. This is where the action takes place and is the start of your coffee experience. The final result of your espresso/coffee will depend upon how evenly your coffee is ground and it’s final temperature after grinding. Yes that’s right, as the coffee is ground it will pick up heat and the more heat your coffee picks up the more adversely it will affect your final product. If you are only grinding enough for a double shot the coffee will not pick up much heat from any grinder. The more coffee you grind the hotter the coffee gets due to the grinding burrs and surrounding parts getting hotter. Another possible by product of grinding coffee may be the dreaded static charge that can cause the ground coffee to literally jump out of the ground coffee container. You would have to see it to believe it. Have you ever noticed your hair standing on end after donning your wool sweater? No it’s not a ghost, it’s a static charge. The static charge forms when the coffee is ground and then forced through a chute and into a receptacle. Factors that effect this ghost like phenomenon are the speed of the grinding burrs, the way in which the coffee exits through the chute, humidity, temperature and the coffee itself. It is pretty hard to control most of these factors but it is easy to control which grinder you purchase.

The Inside Scoop
As a rule, the grinders that produce the most static charge and add the most heat to your fresh ground coffee are the high-speed grinders. These grinders include the Saeco MC2002, the Gaggia MM and the Capresso Burr Grinder Select. The rest of our grinders are low speed grinders and produce little static and heat.

The Size of the Grind
What we are talking about now is how fine or how coarse your coffee is ground. The size of the grind you will need is directly related to the type of equipment used in brewing your coffee, how fresh the coffee is, and how it is roasted. Different types of espresso/coffee machines are designed to extract flavor and aroma from the coffee in a different way. Therefore they require a different size grind. The following will provide guidelines to help you understand what you will need to get the best out of your espresso/coffee machine.

French Press: Very Coarse Drip Coffee: Coarse Espresso machine w/ crema enhancing device: Medium to Medium Fine. If you were to rub the coffee between your fingers it would feel like sugar, maybe a little finer. Note: Many home espresso machines are designed with crema enhancing devices to make getting a thick crema on your coffee very easy. It does not necessarily make a better espresso and as with everything there are pros and cons to this that we will not get into here. The machines that have the crema enhancing devices are the Solis, Krups, Saeco and Capresso. Commercial Style Espresso Machines:Very fine, almost like powder. You will find that old dry coffee must be ground finer than fresh roasted coffee.

Note: The commercial style espresso machines need a fine grind tamped firmly into place to produce an excellent espresso. Turkish Coffee: Very Fine. It must be ground to a powder.

The Long History of Espresso

The Long History of Espresso

For many coffee drinkers, espresso is coffee. It is the purest distillation of the coffee bean, the literal essence of a bean. In another sense, it is also the first instant coffee. Before espresso, it could take up to five minutes five minutes! for a cup of coffee to brew. But what exactly is espresso and how did it come to dominate our morning routines? Although many people are familiar with espresso these days thanks to the Starbucksification of the world, there is often still some confusion over what it actually is – largely due to “espresso roasts” available on supermarket shelves everywhere. First, and most importantly, espresso is not a roasting method. It is neither a bean nor a blend. It is a method of preparation. More specifically, it is a preparation method in which highly-pressurized hot water is forced over coffee grounds to produce a very concentrated coffee drink with a deep, robust flavor. While there is no standardized process for pulling a shot of espresso, Italian coffeemaker Illy’s definition of the authentic espresso seems as good a measure as any:

A jet of hot water at 88°-93° C (190°-200°F) passes under a pressure of nine or more atmospheres through a seven-gram (.25 oz) cake-like layer of ground and tamped coffee. Done right, the result is a concentrate of not more than 30 ml (one oz) of pure sensorial pleasure.

For those of you who, like me, are more than a few years out of science class, nine atmospheres of pressure is the equivalent to nine times the amount of pressure normally exerted by the earth’s atmosphere. As you might be able to tell from the precision of Illy’s description, good espresso is good chemistry. It’s all about precision and consistency and finding the perfect balance between grind, temperature, and pressure. Espresso happens at the molecular level. This is why technology has been such an important part of the historical development of espresso and a key to the ongoing search for the perfect shot. While espresso was never designed per se, the machines –or Macchina– that make our cappuccinos and lattes have a history that stretches back more than a century. In the 19th century, coffee was a huge business in Europe with cafes flourishing across the continent. But coffee brewing was a slow process and, as is still the case today, customers often had to wait for their brew. Seeing an opportunity, inventors across Europe began to explore ways of using steam machines to reduce brewing time – this was, after all, the age of steam. Though there were surely innumerable patents and prototypes, the invention of the machine and the method that would lead to espresso is usually attributed to Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy, who was granted a patent in 1884 for “new steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage.” The machine consisted of a large boiler, heated to 1.5 bars of pressure, that pushed water through a large bed of coffee grounds on demand, with a second boiler producing steam that would flash the bed of coffee and complete the brew. Though Moriondo’s invention was the first coffee machine to use both water and steam, it was purely a bulk brewer created for the Turin General Exposition. Not much more is known about Moriondo, due in large part to what we might think of today as a branding failure. There were never any “Moriondo” machines, there are no verifiable machines still in existence, and there aren’t even photographs of his work. With the exception of his patent, Moriondo has been largely lost to history. The two men who would improve on Morinodo’s design to produce a single serving espresso would not make that same mistake. Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni were the Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs of espresso. Milanese manufacturer and “maker of liquors” Luigi Bezzera had the know-how. He invented single-shot espresso in the early years of the 20th century while looking for a method of quickly brewing coffee directly into the cup. He made several improvements to Moriondo’s machine, introduced the portafilter, multiple brewheads, and many other innovations still associated with espresso machines today. In Bezzera’s original patent, a large boiler with built-in burner chambers filled with water was heated until it pushed water and steam through a tamped puck of ground coffee. The mechanism through which the heated water passed also functioned as heat radiators, lowering the temperature of the water from 250°F in the boiler to the ideal brewing temperature of approximately 195°F (90°C). Et voila, espresso. For the first time, a cup of coffee was brewed to order in a matter of seconds. But Bezzera’s machine was heated over an open flame, which made it difficult to control pressure and temperature, and nearly impossible to to produce a consistent shot. And consistency is key in the world of espresso. Bezzera designed and built a few prototypes of his machine but his beverage remained largely unappreciated because he didn’t have any money to expand his business or any idea how to market the machine. But he knew someone who did. Enter Desiderio Pavoni. Pavoni bought Bezerra’s patents in 1903 and improved many aspects of the design. Notably, he invented the first pressure release valve. This meant that hot coffee wouldn’t splash all over the barista from the instant release of pressure, further expediting the brewing process and earning the gratitude of baristas everywhere. Pavoni also created the steam wand to access the built-up steam that collected inside a machine’s boiler. Bezzera and Pavoni worked together to perfect their machine, which Pavoni dubbed the Ideale. At the 1906 Milan Fair, the two men introduced the world to “cafeé espresso”. Bezzera, though he may have even built Pavoni’s first machines, slowly faded from the picture –he may have been bought out– as Pavoni continued to widely market his name brand “espresso” (“made on the spur of the moment”) machines, which were produced commercially in his workshop in Milan. With its numerous innovations, the Ideale marked an important step in the first development of modern espresso. After the Milan Fair, similar espresso machines began to appear throughout Italy, and Bezzera’s early utilitarian machine evolved into the elaborate gilded contraptions that look like a hood ornament for an airship in a Jules Verne novel. These early machines could produce up to 1,000 cups of coffee per hour, but relied exclusively on steam, which had the unfortunate side effect of imbuing the coffee with a burnt or bitter taste and could only conjure up, at best, two bars of atmospheric pressure – not even enough for the resulting drink to be considered espresso by today’s standard. As electricity replaced gas and Art Deco replaced the chrome-and-brass aesthetic of the early 20th century, the machines became smaller and more efficient, but no coffee innovators managed to create a machine that could brew with more than 1.5-2 bars of pressure without burning the coffee. Pavoni dominated the espresso market for more than a decade. Yet despite the success of his machines, espresso remained a mostly regional delight for denizens of Milan and surrounding areas. Among Pavoni’s growing competition was Pier Teresio Arduino. Arduino was an inventor determined to find a method of brewing espresso that didn’t depend exclusively on steam. Even though he conceived of incorporating screw pistons and air pumps into the machines, he was never able to effectively implement his ideas. Instead, his main contributions to the history of espresso are of a different nature. Arduino was a businessman and master marketer – more so than even Pavoni. He built a marketing machine around espresso, which included directing graphic designer Leonetto Cappiello to create the famous espresso poster that perfectly captured the nature of espresso and the speed of the modern era. In the 1920s, Arduino had a much larger workshop than Pavoni’s in Milan and, as a result of his production capabilities and marketing savvy, was largely responsible for exporting machines out of Milan and spreading the espresso across the rest of Europe. The man to finally surpass the two-bar brewing barrier was Milanese café owner Achille Gaggia. Gaggia transformed the Jules Verne hood ornament into a chromed-out counter-top spaceship with the invention of the lever-driven machine. In Gaggia’s machine, invented after World War II, steam pressure in the boiler forces the water into a cylinder where it is further pressurized by a spring-piston lever operated by the barista. Not only did this obviate the need for massive boilers, but it also drastically increased the water pressure from 1.5-2 bars to 8-10 bars. The lever machines also standardized the size of the espresso. The cylinder on lever groups could only hold an ounce of water, limiting the volume that could be used to prepare an espresso. With the lever machines also came some some new jargon: baristas operating Gaggia’s spring-loaded levers coined the term “pulling a shot” of espresso. But perhaps most importantly, with the invention of the high-pressure lever machine came the discovery of crema – the foam floating over the coffee liquid that is the defining characteristic of a quality espresso. A historical anecdote claims that early consumers were dubious of this “scum” floating over their coffee until Gaggia began referring to it as “caffe creme”, suggesting that the coffee was of such quality that it produced its own creme. With high pressure and golden crema, Gaggia’s lever machine marks the birth of the contemporary espresso. But that is not then end of the evolution of the Macchina, not by far. The next revolution in espresso machine happend, appropriately in the revolutionary 1960s when Gaggia’s piston machine was surpassed by the Faema E61. Invented by Ernesto Valente in 1961, the E61 introduced many more innovations and espresso firsts. Rather than relying on the manual force of the barista, it used a motorized pump to provides the nine atmospheric bars of pressure needed for brewing espresso. The pump draws tap water directly from a plumbing line, sending it through a spiral copper pipe inside a boiler before being shot through the ground coffee. A heat exchanger keeps the water to an ideal brewing temperature. With its technical innovations, smaller size, versatility and streamlined stainless steel design, the E61 was an immediate success and is rightly included in the pantheon of the most influential coffee machines of history. There are surely a few other steps along the way, but these developments track the larger commercial history of the espresso. Over more than a century, the espresso machine has been drastically improved, with electrical components, computerized measurements, and portable pneumatics. But as with the finest objects of design, science and technology is not enough. There is an art to the espresso as well. The talent of the barista is as important as the quality of the beans and the efficiency of the machine. Indeed, it is said that a good espresso depends on the four M’s: -Macchina, the espresso machine; -Macinazione, the proper grinding of a beans –a uniform grind between fine and powdery– which is ideally done moments brewing the drink; -Miscela, the coffee blend and the roast, and -Mano is the skilled hand of the barista, because even with the finest beans and the most advanced equipment, the shot depends on the touch and style of the barista. When combined properly, these four Ms yield a drink that is at once bold and elegant, with a light, sweet foam crema floating over the coffee. A complex drink with a complex history.
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