Aug 15, 2011

What is cold brewed coffee?

Cold Brewed Coffee

Cold brewed is a coffee term that has been popping up more and more frequently, even though there are plenty of cafes – including the chain Seattle’s Best – that have been offering up cold brewed coffee for quite some time now. Cold brewed coffee is just what it sounds like: coffee that is brewed cold, not hot. To make it, ground coffee beans are placed in cool water and left to sit in a cool place for around 12 hours to brew. Cold brewing produces a milder and sweeter cup of coffee than simply refrigerating coffee that is brewed hot. You don’t get the harsher, more bitter notes of coffee that are often brought out after chilling hot-brewed coffee. Cold brewed coffee will keep very well for several days in the refrigerator after it has been made, and it is easy to make a big batch and keep it on hand. As with regular coffee, you will want to experiment with the ratio of coffee grounds to water to get a concentration that you like, but err on the side of using too much coffee. Not only are you not rising adding bitterness to your drink by doing this, but you can always water down a cold-brewed coffee concentrate with a bit of extra water before serving if it is too strong.

Aug 8, 2011

Use Jonathan Stark’s Starbucks Card

Jonathan Stark's starbucks card

Jonathan Stark wants you to use his Starbucks card, which he is using as a kind of social experiment. He has posted the screenshot of his mobile Starbucks card from the Starbucks iPhone app and is inviting people to use the card and get their drinks, free, on him! He asks that purchases be kept to under $3 and that users Tweet or blog about his project to keep it going. And, if you want to pay it forward to the next coffee-lover in line, you can go ahead and add a little money to the card’s account.

Since the project started in July, the account has seen more than $4000 come and go through it. Stark seeded the account, but the vast majority of that money has been contributed (and used!) by everyone using Stark’s card at a Starbucks store. The Providence, R.I., based Stark says that “he sees his experiment as setting an example of ‘humans being good’” – not because people are sharing coffee with others, but because mobile payments allow people to do good things in such an easy way. ‘Imagine,’ says Stark, ‘if you had a CVS card and you could give someone $10 for their Alzheimer’s medication. The concept of frictionless social giving is very attractive. And this is just the beginning of that.’

To join in, you can download the image of the card here and read more about the project.
To check the balance of the card, follow it on Twitter.

Aug 3, 2011

Cook’s Country reviews supermarket green teas

Celestial Seasonings Green Tea

To be honest, I almost never buy bagged green tea unless it is flavored with something fruity. The reason is that, while there are lots of excellent green teas out there, many of the more “mass produced” teas don’t have a flavor that appeals to me. They can range from bland to having somewhat unpleasant vegetal notes to them. In fairness, as green teas have become more popular the overall quality of what is widely available at grocery stores has improved tremendously, and a supermarket tea is likely to be much more affordable than a specialty blend. In the most recent issue (Aug/Sept 2011) of Cook’s Country magazine, the test kitchen set out to taste test a bunch of supermarket green teas to pick out a winner. They were looking for something with good flavor that was affordable for everyday drinking and for cooking with (cooking being a category where you really don’t want to use the most expensive wine or coffee out there, either!).

They tasted five nationally available brands and tested them brewed, infused in a custard and rubbed on their luau-style Kalua pork. The test kitchen admitted that none of the options blew them away, but they still were able to find one that fit their needs. The winner was Celestial Seasonings Authentic Green Tea, with a “clean” flavor and a  “nice grassy quality” that was good plain and in recipes.

Twinings Green Tea, Bigelow Green Tea and Lipton Green Tea were all “recommended with reservations.” The Twinings tea had a harsh, astringent flavor that the taste testers didn’t like, but that balanced out fairly well in recipes. The other two were subtle and bland, with the Lipton barely squeaking into this category. Tazo China Tips Green Tea was “not recommended,” with its overly strong “harsh,” “soapy,” and “tinny” flavor that verged on an unpleasant bitterness, even in recipes.

Jul 31, 2011

Trader Joe’s Sugar, Chocolate and Coffee Bean Grinder, reviewed

TJ's Sugar, Chocolate and Coffee Bean Grinder

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.

TJ's Sugar, Chocolate and Coffee Bean Topping

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