Our signature drink: the Machiato Dulcito

One of our baristas, Kelly, came up with this one. Very popular and has a lot of people hooked.

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Which has more of a kick in the cup: espresso or brewed?

Caffeine content.  The winner may surprise you!

Caffeine content winner: You'll be surprised!

Well this may surprise you.  Truth is neither actually wins.  They are about the same.  Let me explain.

The traditional American espresso based drinks, cappuccino or latte, are made from one to several “shots” of espresso and steamed milk.  One shot of espresso is approximately 1 1/2 ounces, two shots 3 ounces and so on.

Espresso is prepared by grinding beans to a finer consistency than for traditional brewed coffee.  The water is passed through the coffee rather quickly and under high pressure (20 seconds +/-) and the result is a bold, concentrated dose of coffee.  We call this espresso.

By the way, espresso is not a specific bean or roast level it is a method of making coffee.

Any bean or roasting level can be used to produce authentic espresso.  In Italy, the birth country of espresso, roast levels can vary quite a bit. In Southern Italy, a darker roast is often preferred, but the further north one goes in the country, the trend moves towards lighter roasts.

An espresso shot has about the same caffeine content as a cup of brewed coffee

An espresso shot has about the same caffeine content as a cup of brewed coffee

Brewed coffee on the other hand is made with much less coffee generally (as a ratio of dry coffee to finished beverage), more coarsely ground and then allowed to float in a bath of hot water (as in a paper filter basket type) then draining through a calibrated orifice (hole) in the bottom or in a percolator where water is continually passed over the coffee for several minutes.  The result generally is coffee with a distinctly milder body. Drip or percolator brewed coffee strength is varied by the amount of coffee used.

There are other ways to  process roasted coffee like a french press for example, but the point here is not process but end result.

Caffeine comparison chart (click to enlarge)

Caffeine comparison chart (click to enlarge)

Conclusions

Here it is: by the drink, a 12 ounce latte made with one shot of espresso has no more and possibly less caffeine that 12 ounces of brewed coffee.  Each shot of espresso adds approximately the equivalent caffeine of one 12 ounce cup of brewed coffee. Ounce for prepared ounce they are all about the same.

Our preferences for espresso based drinks, brewed coffee and even french pressed coffee should really be defined more by their unique characteristics of flavor and not misconceptions about caffeine potency.

In other words, a triple shot  latte will produce about the same results as three cups of regular brewed coffee.

“So how do I add  a little more kick to my coffee?”

-If you want more caffeine in your cup of brewed coffee or french press add more coffee not more time.  Remember this: steeping coffee longer, in a french press or percolator for example, will just make it bitter.

FYI, real hard-core-caffers often add shots of espresso to regular brewed coffee.  This is called a “Shot in the Dark”.

-In the case of espresso based drinks, add more shots.

“What if I don’t like coffee all that well but need a boost some mornings?”

One popular alternative is to add a shot of espresso to hot chocolate or to a chai tea.  The intense richness of these drinks masks a lot of the coffee flavor, still providing the caffeine.

Another popular alternative for energy seekers not wanting a lot of caffeine is white and green tea, both of whom have a component called ECGC (not available in black teas), which some studies show to increase metabolism and fat burning as well having other potential anti-oxidative effects.  This is largely unsupported through extensive scientific testing, but results so far are at least promising.

At Toomer’s coffee we serve a wide variety of loose teas which we brew by the cup.  Good stuff!

Where do coffee beans come from?

This is the first is a multi-part series on coffee to help educate our customers.

First, there are two types of coffee beans

Coffee beans come from two basic versins of coffee plants: either the Robusta ( aka Coffea robusta, or Coffea canephora) or Arabica (aka Coffea arabica) version.

At Toomer’s Coffee Roasters we do not roast or sell Robusta beans. I once asked our coffee broker how much Robusta they sell and she said less that 5% of their total volume is Robusta. While it is higher in caffeine content (the main reason I guess a dubious roaster might add it..to jack up the “vibrancy” of their blends), the overall taste issues and roasting peculiarities she said make it a less than desirable option.

Arabica beans on the other hand, while lower in caffeine content have a number of factors that make them the number #1 preference amongst 99% of roasters today, taste being the main factor.  But we will cover that in a later articel specifically on Arabica beans.

They start life as a fruit

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Coffee beans start out "Cherries" (Click to enlarge)

Arabica beans are grown on low (3-6 feet) shrubby plants that bear white blossoms that produce the coffee fruit called “cherries” (about the size and color of cranberries).

These coffee cherries are clustered along the limbs of the plant ( See image).  The cherries are harvested from approximately October through January each year.  Since the coffee cherries do not ripen together, several pickings of the the same plant may be required until all of the cherries have been harvested at the peak of ripenness.

This is the first step in the chain of factors that seperates fair coffee from truly exceptional coffee: only picking the red cherries.  Mixing in under-ripe/ greenish cherries with red cherries will result in bitter coffee no matter how well it is roasted.

In our next article we will talk about the regions beans are grown in and how that affects flavor.

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