I used to pay as little as 50 cents for a 7oz paper cup of instant coffee from a vending machine. A slightly bigger paper cup of coffee from outlets like Starbucks costs over $2! Here in Cayman the normal price is $2.25 and that is CI$, equating to a whopping US$2.80!
The price of coffee beans has risen dramatically over the past few years and a pound of coffee that only a few years ago was costing $2 is now about $3.25. But it is the taste that matters most not the cost. The better the taste the higher is the cost of the coffee bean
The taste difference is even greater with coffee brewed in an espresso machine since an espresso machine is an amplifier. It will highlight a really good coffee, but conversely, it will also amplify any faults with that coffee.
Remember, espresso is not a type of bean, but is a method of brewing coffee. Espresso coffee is tightly packed (7 grams), through which hot water (198 degrees F) is forced at high mechanical pressure (132 psi). The resultant one and a half fluid ounces is the elixir known as espresso, and many countries could be conquered before 9:00 am if their population were to be deprived of this magic “elixir”!
A commonly mistaken thought is that coffee used in espresso machines should be dark roasted – WRONG! When beans are darkly over-roasted, all the oils come to the surface giving the impression that the roasted coffee has been coated with grease. These oils contain much of the flavor of the coffee and when brought to the surface by over-roasting, they will be lost when handled, stored, and of course, when they are ground. Since coffee is really “cooked” three times, (the first during roasting; second when ground since the grinder creates heat; and thirdly when brewed), over-roasting will produce a bitter/burnt taste when brewed as an espresso.
Let me return to my original point as to why better coffee beans cost more. Coffee beans are an agrarian product, and like all crops they are subject to climate, soil, and growing and harvesting methods. Coffee plants that are treated better will produce a better crop.
Coffee harvested by hand will produce a higher quality product. A mechanical harvester only goes through once plucking ripe and unripe berries simultaneously. Manual harvesting takes place over a period of time and the pickers only pluck the ripe fruit, avoiding the unripe berries.
Sorting takes place at the plantation AND at the roaster. The better the sorting, the better the coffee. This process begins with the removal of stones (which can ruin your grinder), branches, leaves, poisonous spiders, (just joking, I think), and continues with the removal of broken, misshapen, and bad beans. This is critical since a broken or misshapen piece could roast quicker than the other beans, and will affect the quality of the finished batch.
Blending must take place after roasting. Different batches of beans from different plantations and countries will roast at different times and temperatures. Throwing different green beans together will result in some beans being under-roasted while others are burnt. Expert blending (or cupping as it is known) of roasted beans will ensure the best and most consistent flavor.
Packing the perfectly roasted and blended beans will ensure that you are sold the product in peak condition. Coffee begins to oxidise and lose its flavour and aroma as soon as the roasting process is finished. It’s essential that the coffee is packed in lightproof and airproof bags that have been nitrogen flushed and/or vacuum packed. The bag should also have a unilateral valve to allow carbon dioxide to escape.
Now Iâ€™ve talked about the beans have you walked into the modern coffee shops like the aforementioned Starbucks? Even similar oneâ€™s here in Cayman is a whole new world. You’re not just ordering a “coffee”. You’re ordering a “coffee drink”. There’s an entire language you need to know just to order a coffee drink!
It all starts with placing your order. It used to be that you’d tell a waitress what you wanted. Now this job is held by a barista, or a person who serves coffee drinks as a profession. You need to tell the barista the size of the coffee drink you want. If you look on the menu, small, medium, and large will probably not be there. Your size choices are usually short (8 oz), tall (12 oz), grande (16 oz) and venti (20 oz).
The hardest decision will be what coffee drink to order “Black, cream & sugar” is probably going to get a strange look from the friendly barista. Ordering a drip coffee drink is not the fashionable thing these days. The more common drinks are cafes or espressos. You then need to figure out if you prefer a latte, mocha, or a cappuccino. A latte is an espresso shot with steamed milk. A cappuccino is equal parts of espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk. Mocha is basically a latte or a cappuccino with chocolate syrup added. But these are just the basics! The following list contains just a few of the coffee drinks available in a coffee shop (of course these names will vary slightly from one coffee shop to another).
-Caffe Americano: Single shot of espresso with 6 to 8 ounces of hot water added.
-Espresso Con Panna: An espresso shot with whipped cream.
-Ristretto: A restricted shot of espresso (called a short pull). During the brewing process, less water is allowed to pass through the coffee grounds. The makes for an especially intense flavour.
-Lungo: An extra long pull. During the brewing process, twice as much water is allowed to pass through the coffee grounds.
-Cafe Breva: Cappuccino made with Half & Half instead of whole milk.
-Dry: Espresso with a small amount of foam and no steamed milk.
-Chairo: Espresso drink made “clear” by adding more milk.
-Caffe Mochaccino: Cappuccino with chocolate syrup.
-Frappe: Coffee drink made with ice cream and milk.
-Shot in the Dark: An espresso shot in coffee cup, then rest of cup filled with drip coffee.
Good luck. It was easier and cheaper in days not so long ago wasnâ€™t it?