In the last article we covered the basics of how coffee can be processed. Now, let’s move now to the basics of brewing. The first thing to acknowledge when deciding which kind of coffee we would love to drink is pretty obvious: Black Coffee Vs. White Coffee (Vs. Coffee with Sugar)
Black Coffee is as simple as it can be. The coffee beans, already processed, roasted and ground are brewed. This can happen in tons of different ways, from Espresso to Batch Brew, to Pour Over. But we’ll get to that later.
White Coffee is the aforementioned black coffee, with milk (of any kind, from diary milk to non-diary milk such as oat, soy and many more). It’s the beverage of choice of those who love the caffeine kick, but are not really into the rich taste of coffee.
Something that is not necessarily white coffee (even if sugar often goes fine with milk), but for sure not black, is the coffee with sugar (or any other artificial flavor). Again, this is often a choice made by someone that doesn’t totally enjoy the boldness of simple black coffee.
And then it’s time to talk about brewing methods. A basic (and not at all complete) subdivision? Espresso Vs. Drip Coffee Vs. Pour Over Vs. Cold Brew
Espresso, done exclusively with an espresso machine, uses pressurized hot water rather than just water dripping through the filter. This creates a more concentrated amount of the coffee product, usually called a ‘shot.’
What is usually referred to as Drip Coffee is probably one of the easiest ways to make coffee, using a simple “standard” coffee machine. You just need to add water to the coffee grounds, and simply pushing a button you’ll have your cup of filter coffee in 2 to 5 minutes.
Pour Over coffee is a wide term that includes many different types of filter coffee. The process involves warming up water and then pouring it over freshly ground coffee, without using a machine but a simple kettle and a nice dripper such as V60, Chemex, Origami and many more. This is often the method of choice of the specialty coffee world, together with the espresso. Pour overs can be tricky, and they often require some coffee skills, but the results can be really amazing.
Last but not least, the Cold Brew, obtained leaving the coffee grounds to steep in room temperature (or even fridge temperature) water, for a long time (8 to 24 hours!). It will give you low acidity, but an average higher level of caffeine.
Let’s move to other types of brew, both quite known or pretty obscure.
If you want to make a large amount of coffee similar to the drip coffee, but in a faster way, definitely go for a Batch Brew. It uses the same process as a drip coffee maker, but it can brew more coffee, in a much shorter amount of time.
The Moka Pot is a stove-top (now also electric) coffee maker that brews coffee by passing boiling water pressurized by steam through ground coffee. It was invented by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti in 1933 and quickly became one of the staples of Italian culture: nowadays, it’s still one of the most common coffee tools to be found in houses around the world.
Another brewing method often used in the specialty coffee world, but also by traveler and bikers (and practical people that look for a nice cup of coffee, no matter where they are) is the AeroPress. It’s a quite new brewing method, invented by Alan Adler (the guy behind the Aerobie frisbee company) in 2005, and it gives you a cup of coffee that is obtained by percolation, infusion, and pressure. Sounds complicate? Well, is not! Is actually pretty easy and really versatile.
A Vacuum Coffee is something completely different. Here, water is actually boiled in the bottom (rather than in the top), and the coffee grounds are put up above. As the water boils, it’s pushed upwards into the coffee grounds. Then the heat stops and the brewed coffee falls back into the bottom again.
Immersion Coffee is another huge category that includes different type of brewers: French Press, Clever Dripper, AeroPress or even Cold Brew jugs and many more. These methods have something in common: the brews always start with boiling water, and then soaking the coffee grounds in it. The steeping process results in a richer flavor.
A Turkish Coffee requires finely ground coffee beans as well as a pot that’s known as a Cezve or Ibrik. You start heating water (and usually also some sugar) to boiling inside the cezve. Then add your coffee grounds. Reheat it to get it frothed and you’ll have your coffee ready to go: just wait a couple of minutes for the coffee grounds to deposit on the bottom of the cezve, and then pour in a cup. It’s the typical brewing method in Turkey, Greece and in the Balkan Countries, and depending about the region, it can be brewed along with cardamom or other spices. Local legends also claim you can also read the future in the used ground coffee! But ask a local how to do it.
The Vietnamese Coffee, original (yes, you’re right) from Vietnam, uses a local metal filter that brews and filters the coffee. It can be served either hot or cold, but generally it comes with sweetened milk. Or, if you dare, you can try out a more unique version made with beaten egg yolks: you whisk them creamy and then add them to your coffee along with sugar and condensed milk.
Instant Coffee is a simple and cheap option: you just pour hot water over the coffee crystals or coffee powder, stir it all together and the powder or crystals will dissolve. The quality is usually quite low, but it’s nonetheless a type of coffee available worldwide.
Let’s talk about Espresso Based Drinks (hot, both black and white) now. There are so many types, and they differ from one country to another. Here’s a quick recap.
We already talked about the basic Espresso: originally from Italy, much more concentrated than a standard cup of filter coffee, it uses only coffee and pressurized water. This gives a stronger cup or ‘shot’ of the espresso, while also forming a bit of foam at the top through this process (what is usually called crema). If you want a stronger shot of espresso you can make it a Double Shot or a Doppio: simply drink the two shots that usually come from the espresso machine together, for a coffee more round and more complete.
A Ristretto, still from Italy, is a short Espresso, produced using half the water of the regular espresso: obviously you’re going to have a stronger shot. The Lungo is basically the opposite: a long espresso, watery and weaker.
If you’re really looking for a caffeine boost, the Red Eye may be your beverage of choice: a shot of espresso that’s topped off with a full cup of regular coffee. This gives an extra kick of caffeine while combining the flavor of both styles.
An Americano is usually a double shot of espresso extracted in a cup of hot water, to dilute the strong flavor of the Espresso. The Long Black is pretty much the same, but with less water.
The Vienna (or Caffè con Panna) is a double shot espresso with added whipped cream, for a drink that’s sweet but that also gives you a nice caffeine boost and coffee flavor.
The Café au Lait, from France, is a full cup of coffee with a small amount of warm milk added into it. From the same country comes the Café Noisette, a double shot of espresso with an ounce of steamed milk.
The Flat White is a double shot of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk poured on top, with not too much foam.
The Galao, from Portugal, is a single shot of espresso that’s then topped with hot steamed milk: traditionally it’s really hot, and the amount of milk foam is almost nonexistent.
The traditional Cappuccino is an espresso that includes both foamed and steamed milk and it’s divided into thirds: 1/3 espresso topped with 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 foamed milk. Nowadays it’s a creamy drink, a little bit milder in flavor than the flat white, with more foam.
The Latte is made with a very small amount of espresso (usually one shot): most of the rest of the cup is filled with steamed milk and top with a small amount of foamed milk. This gives you a creamy drink with very mild espresso flavor.
The Caffe Breve is the American version of the Latte. It uses ¼ espresso with half-and-half milk (which is full milk with heavy cream)- this creates a relatively dense drink.
The Piccolo Latte starts with a traditional Ristretto double shot that is then topped with warm milk. It’s served in a traditional latte glass so the double shot of espresso goes in the bottom and the rest of the glass is warm milk to give a little caffeine with a lot of creaminess.
The Macchiato is made with espresso and what’s considered a ‘dash’ of milk. The idea is to get mostly the espresso flavor but then cool it down with a little bit of creaminess.: it can also be served with a bit of steamed milk on top for extra foam.
The Latte Macchiato is a big glass of milk, on top of which you would pour a small amount of espresso: the entire drink has very little espresso in it and therefore a lighter flavor overall.
In a Cortado you will generally have an even amount of espresso and steamed milk, with a general 1:2 ratio of coffee to milk.
The Gibraltar, popular out of San Francisco, is a variation on the Cortado. It actually uses a shot of espresso and then has milk added to it. The drink is served in a heated glass, but it cools quickly.
The Mocha or Mochaccino is a type of Latte, made with a double shot of espresso mixed with hot chocolate, and topped by foamed milk.
Affogato comes from Italy and starts with a scoop of gelato in the bottom of a chilled bowl. You then add your double shot of espresso on top and, if desired, it can be served with whipped cream, liqueur, nuts or berries on top of that. It’s both a drink and a dessert.
Last but not least, let’s talk about Iced Coffee (because there’s so much more out there than the already mentioned Cold Brew).
A Standard Iced Coffee is pretty much just what it sounds like. It’s a cup of ice that you pour your coffee over: it could be hot (just brewed) or chilled in the fridge first.
The Iced Espresso is pretty much the same, but it uses a shot of espresso instead.
The Mazagran, not too known, is an iced coffee that also includes lemon and sugar, and even rum if you fancy something more “fun”.
The Frappuccino is a coffee that includes ice and generally either a caramel or chocolate flavoring, all blended together and then topped with whipped cream. It can also have a little milk to make it more creamy.
The Nitro Coffee is a cold brew coffee that is made in the standard way but then has nitrogen gas infused into it. This creates an extra smooth texture and tiny bubbles in the coffee. It won’t affect the caffeine or the flavor but it will give you a unique texture to try out, something similar to a stout beer (but with no alcohol in it!)
An Espresso Tonic is what the name suggests: you fill up a glass with ice, add a bit of lime juice and tonic water and then a double shot espresso. You will have a unique and slightly sharp flavor.
The Japanese Iced Coffee, lately really trendy, is a Pour Over (usually a V60), extracted directly over ice, using less hot water than the traditional recipe. Is then poured over ice: this causes a quick release of flavors and a slightly cooler drink.
And Something Odd, to finish…
The Bulletproof Coffee is perfect or those who are looking for a high fat and low carb drink: it’s actually a standard brewed coffee with coconut oil and unsalted butter.
The Butter Coffee, a slightly variation, uses brewed coffee, unsalted butter and medium-chain triglycerides to provide the body with the needed energy.
The Cascara Infusion isn’t quite a coffee but it’s also not quite a tea either. It’s an infusion made using the dried coffee cherries.
The Swedish Kaffeost, quite unique, is made with cheese. It requires a special cheese known as kaffeost, made by heating milk and cream in a pot, straining out the curds and then baking it in the oven to make it golden. Then you slice your cheese, add it to your cup and pour coffee over the top.
The Austrian Einspanner uses a chilled bowl where you will whip together heavy cream, sugar and vanilla to get stiff peaks from your own fresh whipped cream. Mix a double shot of espresso with a little sugar and add whipped cream and chocolate shavings onto the top.
The Scandinavian Egg Coffee, similar to the Vietnamese coffee, uses a raw egg with approximately 200ml of cold water. You add in your coffee grounds and bring it to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, add another 100g of cold water and skim off the coffee grounds that rise to the top, strain it and it’s ready to be drank!
The Irish Coffee is the king of the coffee cocktails: hot coffee mixed with whiskey, sugar and topped with cream. Pretty common, but always enjoyable!