Even people who aren’t regular wine drinkers know that wines are chock full of flavors like berries, herbs, chocolate and other elements. There are classes you can take to increase your wine tasting knowledge and skill, and flavor wheels to help you learn to put a name to the notes you’re picking up. But coffee drinkers don’t usually have the same resources. Coffee tasting classes are few and far between, but there is a Coffee Tasting Kit at Uncommon Goods – a fun shop that always offers up unique gift ideas for men (here) and for women (here) – that can help you conduct your own coffee tasting workshop at home.
The Jean Lenoir Le Nez du Cafe includes a brief guidebook and six tiny bottles of fragrance that contain six common – and very different – scents that are often found in brewed coffee. These scents include Garden Peas, Blackcurrant, Butter, Caramel, Roasted Peanuts and Roasted Coffee, and the handbook describes them in great detail and also gives hints as to which types of coffee you might find these aromas in. The general idea is that you can use these bottles to memorize key scents in coffee and you can later call them back to better identify the flavors in your coffee and to better describe them. Continue reading »
A french press is one of my favorite tools to make a great cup of coffee. You can brew any type of bean or roast in there and get good results, and they’re easy to use. The only problem with a french press is that they’re typically designed to brew a whole pot. Now some are smaller than others, but if you only want one cup of coffee you might find yourself looking for an alternative. The Minibru Coffee Mug is one possible solution: a single-serving french press inside of a mug that promises to let you brew a great cup of coffee and drink it, too.
I recently got a Minibru and couldn’t wait to try it out. The instructions are simple: add coarsely ground coffee to the coffee line, add water to the water line, brew for 3 minutes, press and drink. I tried it exactly as written and my first few cups were terrible and incredibly weak. I watched a video on how to use the Minibru and noticed that they were using a lot more coffee than I was, so I decided to deviate from the directions and see if I could encourage a better performance out of the mug.
Single serve coffee makers are, hands down, the most convenient way to make coffee at home. The Keurig machine takes just a few minutes to warm up, the coffee is prepacked and and there is virtually no cleanup. The downside is that K-cups are fairly expensive (unless you are a very savvy shopper) and they can add up quickly if you drink a lot of coffee. Consumer Reports recently (March 2013) set out to see if there are K-cup alternatives that would work as well, but that could save you a little money in the long run.
They estimated that someone who drinks one K-cup a day ends up spending somewhere from $220-$275 on the little cups over the course of the year. They tested both disposable and reusable cups that work with Keurig machines but that are designed to be filled with coffee by the user. The original K-cups were still winners when it came to convenience, but they found at least one good alternative that could save you some cash in the long run.
Simple Cups are disposable cups that you fill with your own coffee. They cost less than the K-cups, but not by much. CR estimated that a cup-a-day drinker would still spend around $185 a year with these, including your own coffee. EZ Cups are reusable cups with disposable filters inside, and you also use your own coffee. They turned out to run about $135 a year, including coffee. Neither model was as easy to use as a K-cup and could be difficult to close.
The winner when it came to saving money and ease of use was the Keurig K-Cup Adapter, with its reusable cup and filter system. It’s only about $18, so your only cost after that is the coffee, at about $80 a year. It does require cleaning, but it offers a good value and was Consumer Reports top pick for a K-cup alternative.
As much as I enjoy a good cup of black coffee, I also love topping a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso off with a dollop of steamed milk or whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa powder to add a little extra flavor and just generally dress up the drink. It is one of those little touches that somehow makes the drink seem fancier and me feel like slowing down to enjoy it – as I would do at a coffee shop, but might not necessarily do at home. It was clear that the new Trader Joe’s Sugar, Chocolate and Coffee Bean Grinder is designed to make it easy to add this sort of coffee shop flare to your coffee drinks at home. The grinder looks like a pepper mill, but is filled with white and brown sugar, chocolate and coffee beans. A few twists of the cap and you have a sweet sprinkling on top of your drink! The mix is great, and because it comes out of a pepper grinder, everything has a very coarse texture to it, so you get both an attractive look and a lot of flavor from just a small amount of this mix. The sugar crystals are crunchy, the coffee is subtle and the chocolate just leaves a hint of richness on your tongue as it melts. I’m keeping mine by the coffee maker.
TJ’s also recommends putting this on buttered toast, ice cream or other desserts. I can vouch for how delicious it is on top of buttered toast, and I’ll definitely be up for experimenting with it on other desserts that need a little spike of coffee, chocolate and sugar to dress them up.