The art of drinking coffee dates back to the 9th century, when coffee was first brewed in the sands of Northern Africa. Over the centuries coffee has evolved into myriad types of coffee drinks to suit the needs and tastes of cultures around the world. Today we all have the opportunity to enjoy coffee in whatever way we choose, whether as a simple cup of drip coffee, or as a decadent cafe mocha, towering with whipped cream and colored sugar.
There are several different ways to brew coffee, each resulting in a significantly different beverage. When most people think of a cup of coffee they are envisioning a traditional cup of american coffee, also known as drip coffee. Other methods include french press coffee, turkish coffee, and the purist’s favorite – espresso.
American coffee is brewed from an automatic coffeemaker. Roasted coffee beans are ground into a medium grind, and then put in either a paper or metal filter. Through gravity, hot water is automatically released over the coffee grounds. It then drips into a receiving coffee pot. During the process of brewing the oils and essences of the bean are released into the water. This creates your conventional cup of drip brewed coffee, which depending on personal preference, can be enjoyed black, or with the addition of any combination of sweetener and cream, and it is still a cup of American coffee. A popular variation of American coffee is a cafe au lait. This coffee drink is simply equal parts of brewed coffee and steamed milk.
French press coffee is another variation of the coffee brewing method. For french press coffee, coarse grounds are put into the bottom of a metal, glass, or plastic pot, and very hot water is added. The ground beans and water are allowed to set together for 3 to 5 minutes, with a longer brew time yielding a stronger coffee. The top of a traditional french press pot has a circular plastic filter, which is plunged down the height of the pot. This process separates the grounds from the freshly brewed coffee. French press coffee is typically very flavorful because the coffee beans have direct contact with the water.
Turkish coffee is made from very fine coffee grounds. They are boiled with water in a small pot called an ibrik. An ibrik serves one or two people. Usually sugar is added while the coffee is brewing. Turkish coffee is characterized by a rich, intense flavor, and a thin layer of foam.
Espresso is made when pressurized water is forced through finely grained coffee grounds. The water needs to be very hot, but not quite boiling. The result is a flavorful coffee drink, with a caramel colored layer of crema on top. Although espresso has more caffeine than american coffee by volume, a single serving of espresso has only half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. The flavors and chemicals in espresso are very concentrated, so espresso is usually drunk in a small one ounce shot, and is often blended with different variations of milk, water, or syrup, in a cappuccino, latte, macchiatto, americano, or a cafe mocha.
A cappuccino is made from a shot of espresso and foamed milk, served in a coffee mug. The true version of this coffee drink is made entirely from the light, airy foam and espresso, but there are variations. A dry cappuccino is all foam and espresso, while a wet cappuccino is closer to a cafe latte, with half steamed milk, and half foam content. A cafe latte is espresso with steamed milk. Often a latte is topped with a thin layer of foam, but in essence it is a much heavier coffee drink than a cappuccino. A machiatto is the coffee drink for those who enjoy the flavor and intensity of espresso, but also want a small amount of milk. It is a shot of espresso topped with a dollop of foamed milk, and is usually served in the demitasse cup.
A cafe americano is espresso with hot water added to it. It is a close substitute for a cup of drip coffee, but will carry more of the flavor of espresso. A typical serving is 2 to 3 shots of espresso with 3 to 4 ounces of water.
A cafe mocha is in essence a latte with chocolate syrup. Freshly brewed hot espresso melts the chocolate syrup, then steamed milk is added. Often mocha’s are enjoyed with whipped cream and other fixings such as a sprinkle of sugar of cocoa. Lattes can easily be flavored with any type of syrup that is preferred, from vanilla, to almond, to peppermint. Once all the basics are understood, there are endless possibilities when it comes to coffee drinks.