Liquid Ambition

beautiful design in the frothed milk of a latte

Liquid Ambition:  The best description of coffee I’ve ever heard.  My kid doesn’t really truly sleep through the night; and we parents go to bed waaay too late; plus I’ve got a lot going on in a day.  So it’s no wonder that when I awaken I am a groggy, zombie-like shell of a person.  But put a cup of coffee in me and boom: breakfast is made and emails are answered, the morning meetings are underway, the kid and I are dressed!  It’s the closet thing to magic elixir that I know.

Here are the basics to brewing your best cup of joe (there will be no mention here of those weird pod machines I warn now):

The Roast

Coffee Roast Colour ChartImage via Gourmet Coffee Zone

Roasting is the process of turning green coffee beans into those brown beans you bring home.  The darker the bean roast, the higher the roasting temperature; darker roasts also translate to an oilier, less acidic tasting bean and an ever so slight decrease in caffeine.  The darker the colour, the more full-bodied and intense the flavour.  Dark roasts are my preferred roasts and are especially good for espresso.

The Importance of Grind

coarse and fine ground coffeeImage via Coffee Tea Warehouse

  • Make sure your grind is appropriate to the type of machine you’re using.  Espresso machines require a fine grind while a French Press uses a coarse grind.
  • Grind as close to the time of brewing as you can.   And while it is an extra step in the morning, you do get that wonderful aroma of fresh ground beans permeating your home,lightening the morning,  for all your trouble.
  • Use a burr grinder rather than a blade (AKA coffee mill) if possible.  The burr grinder yields a perfect grind every time.  Each grind is uniform in size to the next which believe it or not goes a long way to getting you the perfect cup of coffee.  Burr grinders are a bigger investment.  I understand if you’re not there yet.  To grind beans well with a coffee mill, will take more time.  In a mill it’s recommended you grind beans one cup of coffee at a time (that’s about 2 tablespoons of beans to 6 ounces of water).  Grind in pulses (rather than just turning the thing on) and shake up the grinds in between pulses.  This should help give you better uniformity through your grind.  Your other option is to just use your coffee shop’s burr grinder, buying only enough for the week.

a premium burr grinderPremium Burr Grinder. Image via The Appliancist


Whether you’re using a French Press, espresso machine or percolator, make sure your equipment is well cleaned.  Residue from coffees past can really alter the taste, usually making your new cup more bitter.  Be sure too to use fresh, very cold water and don’t use distilled or softened water.  Bleck.

Most importantly though, don’t let a coffee snob tell you how it should be.  Experiment with the amount of grinds, the type of roast, and water contact time in the case of French Press, till you find your ideal cup.

Oh and here’s some barista porn art to tide you over till break time:

Studio 6

The word in a cup of coffee by the artists over at Studio 6 Coffee

Or perhaps you'd like a closer look at the map

Cappuccino made with espresso, steamed and foamed milk

Espresso Con Panna is a shot with a dollop (generous) of whipped cream on top

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