Friday, 27 April 2012

X for X-ploring the X-Factor in Java

Made with my frother and K-Cup system
X X-factor.  As a follow up to my J for Java post I was interested in delving into that indefinable factor that makes different coffees appealing for different tastes. And (yet another confession) I used to avoid ordering coffee at places like Starbucks because I was completely intimidated and confused by the terminology. So I figured it was time to seize the coffee cup by the handle so to speak and get over this intimidation.
In June at the upcoming Eat!Vancouver Festival, I plan to go and observe the Western Canadian Regional competition of the Barista Championship so I really want to be able to appreciate what I see.
I found a couple of resources. Ironically one was the Starbucks website. Another was a post on coffee terminology by Jason Haegar that I found on It turns out that it is not as complicated as I thought, its just that people seem invent their own terms for the same thing.
Anyway for coffee naivetes like me, here is my summary extracted so to speak from the resources cited above. Espresso is a beverage made by high pressure extraction of a little water forced through very finely ground coffee compacted into a puck. Haegar defines the "body" as the weight of the liquid portion on the palate, the "heart" as the complex flavour of the coffee and of course, there is the all important "crema".
Americano is espresso diluted with hot water to consistency of drip coffee but with crema;
Macchiato is espresso with foam or frothed milk.
Mocha is espresso plus chocolate, steamed or frothed milk and topped with whipped cream- yummy.
Cappuccino is one third each of espresso, milk and foam and latte is milk with a little foam and a little espresso.  Skinny means made with skim milk.
 As to the all important coffee roast: The roast can be Light (Blonde at Starbucks), Medium or Dark, and I think Extra Bold means more ground coffee used in a brew, at least that's how the K-cup people define it.
Well I think I am ready to order a coffee at a real coffee shop- if I can only figure out what word to use for small. I think at Starbucks "small" gets you a Tall (12 oz) when what I want is an 8 oz so you have to ask for a "Short"- and then there is a medium size which is a Grande  Spanish for large). Go figure. Maybe I will stick to my home brewer after all.

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