Froth Without the Machine, Low Tech Methods for High Class Coffee

Nothing feels quite as luxurious as sitting down to a steaming, frothy cup cappuccino or latte in the morning. The quest for the perfect “micro foam” is high on a many a coffee lovers list with the ultimate goal being a silky, smooth and light foam to swirl into a cup of rich, strong coffee. While steamed milk drinks are the bread and butter of corner coffee shops and mega coffee chains, unless you have the space and money for a high quality espresso machine, steamed and frothed milk can be hard to come by at home. However, with a little time and a few basic tools the perfect cappuccino can be yours for the making.


At a very basic level, cold milk can be “frothed” by pouring it into a large glass jar and shaken vigorously until it has doubled in volume. This foamy milk can be microwave for 30-50 seconds to warm it before adding to your very strong coffee or espresso. Another simple and low-tech method for creating a foamy milk is to warm the milk for just under a minute in a tall glass. Insert a wire whisk and roll the handle between your hands rapidly until the milk has doubled in volume.


For a slightly more high tech method an electric micro-whisk can be used to achieve foam quickly. Look for styles with a horizontal loop of curled wire as these achieve the best results. Warm milk slightly, either in your mug or in a tall glass, and whisk until the desired amount of froth is achieved. These are popular with coffee lovers and can be found in a wide range of prices.


Another lesser known, but progressively popular method for frothing milk involves the use of a French Press. Although narrower and shorter presses are sold specifically for the purpose, any French Press will create excellent foam. Pour cold milk into the beaker of the French Press, filling it approximately one third full. Insert the plunger, being certain the mesh filter is clean and free of any coffee grounds. Plunge the handle rapidly up and down the beaker for about a minute and a half, the faster you plunge, the faster the froth will be created. Once the milk has at least doubled in volume, remove the plunger and microwave the beaker of milk and froth until it is just warm. Lower fat milks are far easier to froth than whole milk or cream and a cold beaker can make the process faster and easier.

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The Pro’s and Con’s of French Press Brewing

French press cafetiere with coffee on Coffee R...
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The brewing of coffee can be both a pedestrian chore and a high art form. With a myriad of coffee makers on the market today, coffee lovers can easily become confused on just how to make that perfect cup of coffee.

While espresso machines and drip coffee makers have changed drastically in the past decades, the French Press had remained largely unchanged since it was first patented by Attilio Calimani in 1929, and yet it has remained a favorite vehicle for brewing coffee all that time.

The French Press, sometimes known as a cafetiere, consists in its most basic form, of a cylindrical beaker, with a “plunger” made of metal or plastic, which fits tightly inside the beaker. This plunger is covered with a fine wire mesh filter, which pulls the coffee grounds away from the coffee. That filter is also the secret to the millions of French Press devotees.

Unlike drip coffee makers, in which coffee is pulled thorough the grounds and the paper filter at the rate of gravity, a French Press allows the coffee to mellow in the grounds for a longer period, allowing the oils in the beans to emerge and the mesh filter, while keeping the grounds from passing into your cup, does not filter away these flavorful oils.

While most coffee experts will agree that French Press Coffee is among the most flavorful, it does have a few downsides. In today’s rushed world, a French Press takes time. Unlike a drip coffee machine, you cannot set it on a timer and you must allow the coffee a few minutes to steep. Water must be boiled and then allowed to cook slightly – the optimum water temperature for French Press coffee is 200 degrees- and unless the beaker is insulated, a relatively recent option, the coffee must be decanted to a thermos to retain it’s heat.

On the other hand, the French Press has other benefits beyond superior taste. Generally made of smooth glass, a French Press is easy to clean and relatively small, taking up less space than a traditional coffee maker or espresso machine. A French Press is also more economical and environmentally friendly, requiring no filters and minimal electricity consumption (only enough to boil water). In recent years portable French presses have emerged, ranging from light weight and durable styles for camping to small hand held presses that feature drinking holes in the lid so that coffee lovers can make their ideal cup of coffee on the go. Additionally a French Press can be used to brew teas or herbal infusions.

Taken as a whole, most coffee lovers will agree that a few extra minutes of wait is well worth a flavorful and rich cup of coffee every time.

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A photo of a cup of coffee.
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How can something so contrary to our own behaviors become such a deliciously necessary daily ritual?

We don’t like darkness, we shy away from things that can burn us, and most of us have no place in our lives for bitterness, yet coffee is all three of these things, and we just can not seem to get enough of the stuff.  The aroma, the sight of swirling cream into the darkness, the way it warms your hands in the morning… all some of the most wonderful things we experience throughout our days.  And to think it is just a seed from a purple or red fruit that gets picked from a bush, roasted, ground, and mixed with hot water is even more amazing.

That seed has been a multi-billion dollar industry for the past twenty-five years, and it shows no signs of slowing down, but that is to your benefit.  You see, the best part of all this is that recent research indicates coffee is actually good for you, too.

You love coffee and it’s good for you, so how about some tips on how and when to enjoy it?

Tip #1: Get up and go with gusto

Yes, you are probably well aware of that morning cup of joe that gets your day started on the right foot.  It is a great mood lifter, and the caffeine it contains kickstarts your heart and mind, getting them in gear for the day ahead.  (This first tip is really a no-brainer, and is only here to show you this list is on the same page as you.)

Tip #2: Get ahead at the office

With very few exceptions, offices are the same everywhere: white walls, fluorescent lights, and windows you don’t sit near.  They are stuffy, never at the right temperature, and full of distractions that cause you to constantly run behind schedule.  You arrive with the best of intents, but as soon as the adrenaline from the early rush wears off, you begin to slip into the drone of office rigmarole, drifting away mentally and physically.  Your posture and attitude suffer, and your production drops rapidly.

And it’s only 10 AM.

Enter coffee.  Just a quick mid-morning cup will suffice in allowing your body to commit at least some of its energy back to your brain to help you focus.  It will help you leave your coworkers in the dust, and there is no reason to settle for the motor oil your office serves in those big metal bins.  Take your own!  Invest a small amount of money into a single serving French press coffee maker, spoon in your grounds, fill it with hot water from said metal bin, and let it steep.  After a few minutes, press the screen down slowly, and you will have your favorite coffee piping hot and ready to go.  It really is that simple.

Tip #3: Big meal?  Big deal!

So you caved at dinner: you ordered the pasta with cream sauce, and got dessert when you were already beyond stuffed.  What to do?

Easy: drink a cup of coffee.  Yes, coffee is a stimulant and caffeine will give you a boost when you are tired, but it is also a digestive aid.  But drinking a cup after a heavy meal stimulates wavelike movements throughout the digestive tract, keeping that dinner from sticking around too long in your gut.

And you only need a little bit of caffeine for this to take effect.  No need to go full bore, super strong like your morning coffee.  Just dilute it a bit: one tablespoon for every two or three cups should do the trick.

Just like anything else, coffee is for you to use as you see fit.  It is also great before exercise and pairs well with just about any sweet, so get creative and match it to your lifestyle.

Try Panache Coffee.

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The Joys of French Press Coffee

Cafetière/French press.
Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever enjoyed a steaming mug of French Press coffee? If not you will be quite astonished by the bold flavor and heavenly aroma, and also by the fact that it is incredibly easy to make.
A French Press is a two-part device that relies on a glass carafe and a lid with a specially designed plunger. This plunger utilizes a fine metal filter that separates the coffee grounds from the boiling water. This way of making coffee really gives the cook a great deal of control over the results. Unlike traditional percolators, espresso machines, or regular coffee pots, the French Press devices allow the user to determine the ratio of coffee to water, the fineness of the grounds, and the length of time that coffee brews. This is the reason that it can be used for almost any type of coffee and any type of grind.
It does take a bit of practice to perfect the technique because the optimal results come from pre-heating the carafe and also making the ideal mixture to suit the taste of the drinker.
To begin, the cook must use a kettle to heat double the quantity of water that they anticipate using in the coffee-making process; and this is to first heat the coffee cups and the carafe. Next, it is usually best to grind the beans just prior to making the coffee, and for the novice maker it is best to use a very moderate and even grind.
Once the water is just about to boil the maker should use a small amount to heat the carafe and cups. They must then measure the amount of coffee necessary, and a preliminary formula uses between two to four tablespoons of coffee to every eight ounces of water. Measuring is key to the best results as well, and simply “eye balling” either of the ingredients will give inconsistent results.
Once the carafe has been pre-heated and emptied of water the maker can add the proper amount of coffee, pour the water over the top, and then stir this briefly with a wooden spoon. The minimum brew time is three minutes, though a longer period can be used for a stronger pot of coffee. After that time has passed the maker can position the plunger into place and slowly push down the stem until it hits the bottom of the pot.
It is this point of the process that will indicate if the grind of the coffee is too coarse or too fine because the plunger will tend to create some resistance. If there is absolutely no resistance then the grind is far too fine, and if it is incredibly difficult to sink the plunger then the coffee is too coarse. Generally it requires a count of twenty for the plunger to reach the bottom of the pot.
Once this done the coffee is ready to be served. You can empty the mugs of the pre-heated water and add sugar or cream to your liking. It is never a good idea to allow coffee to remain in the press overly long as this can create a very bitter mixture.

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Coffee Knowledge 101

Dark roasted coffee beans
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Served hot or cold, coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world. We drink it at home, at the office, and at coffee shops with friends. It’s estimated that more than half of the adults in the United States drink coffee every day, with even more people being occasional drinkers.

Clearly, coffee culture reigns supreme. There’s a coffee shop on almost every corner and a coffee maker in virtually every home. However, most people don’t know much about the caffeinated drink other than that it tastes good. Read the mini guide below to familiarize yourself with behind-the-scenes information on coffee.

Coffee History

Coffee beans were most likely discovered by the Ethiopians hundreds of years ago. However, it wasn’t until the beans were transported to Yemen that they were used to make a drink. By the 15th century, the entire Arab world was enjoying coffee. Shortly thereafter, knowledge of the beans and drink spread to Italy and the rest of Europe.

Coffee was available in North America when the first settlers arrived, but it didn’t become popular until the late 18th century. Now, coffee consumption in the United States is so great that it is one of the country’s biggest imports.

From Plant to Cup

The coffee plant is a shrub with glossy green leaves. It produces small white flowers and berries. Inside each berry are two coffee beans. Berries take about eight months to mature; they start out green and then ripen to yellow and red. Once harvested, the berries are dried and the seeds are picked out.

The seeds are fermented to remove any slimy substances from the interior of the berry. Then, they are washed and allowed to dry. Roasting comes next in the coffee production cycle. Beans are roasted for various amounts of time until they meet the requirements for light roasts, medium roasts, or dark roasts.

Next, the beans are packaged in airtight containers and distributed worldwide. When it comes time to brew a cup of coffee, the roasted beans must be ground and mixed with hot water. There are many ways of preparing ground coffee–from French presses to pressurized machines–and all give variations in the coffee’s complexity and flavor.

Coffee-Producing Nations

Almost 8 billion pounds of coffee beans were produced worldwide in 2008. Brazil produced the largest percentage of that total, with approximately 17 million tons cultivated in the country. Coffee is grown in tropical climates all over the world. In fact, most coffee names are derived from the region in which the beans were grown. Regional differences in taste and flavor can be extreme, and most coffee connoisseurs have a particular variety that they prefer over others. For example, Columbian coffee is mild, with a bright taste, full body, and rich aromas.

Caffeine in Coffee

Many people drink coffee for the pick me up that comes from its high caffeine content. The average cup of drip-brewed coffee contains about 150 mg of caffeine. A single shot of espresso has about 60 mg. In comparison, a can of cola has about 34 mg of caffeine.

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