Mar 11, 2013

What Level of Coffee Roast is Best?

Dark Roast

What level of coffee roast is the best? Is a light roast better than a dark roast? Is a medium roast the best because it should appeal to the widest audience?

The answer is that one roast is not inherently better than another – it is all a matter of personal preference and what brings out the best flavor in the coffee beans being used. Using one roast as a “catch all” for every bean means that you are definitely going to lose out on a lot of unique flavors (and therefore better cups of coffee) that you could be enjoying, so it is good to approach coffee drinking and coffee roasts with an open mind.

In general premium coffee companies – from Starbucks down to very small, boutique roasteries – pay a lot more attention to bringing out the nuances in the beans, so you will be able to experience a wider range of roasts and a wide range of coffees when you choose their beans (and learn about why they opted for which type of roast, if you can ask someone who does the roasting!). A premium coffee roaster will roast the beans to different degrees depending on them beans themselves. If they are using Central American beans, it could turn out that they require a light roast that lets their natural citrus notes shine through. If they are using Sumatran beans, they might have to go to a dark roast in order to find the rich chocolate flavors that are in them. And both roasts will probably be excellent.

Inexpensive coffee producers typically want their coffee to taste exactly the same from batch to batch – so that a huge tub of classic Folgers, for instance, will taste about the same as it did 10 years ago – and they roast the beans to try to minimize flavor disparities, not to highlight the uniqueness of a given bean.

It is easy to make a blanket statement and say “I prefer light roasts” or “I prefer dark roasts,” and while it might be true most of the time, you might end up missing out on some very good, very drinkable coffees by sticking to one roast type across the board.

Mar 9, 2013

NYC’s sugary drink rules impact coffee shops

DD Coffee Rules small

New York City’s ban on large-size sugary soft drinks goes into effect on Tuesday, the first such ban on the country. The city states that these new rules will help curb the obesity epidemic in the city (despite the fact that you can still buy and consume as many sodas as you could want from the grocery store), but many restaurant and cafe owners just see it as a big inconvenience – as well as consumers, because even though the new rules target soda, they also impact coffee drinkers.

Coffee shops, both neighborhood joints and large chains, will now be limited in how much sugar they can have in some of their large drinks. For drinks that contain more than 50% milk – such as lattes – sugar and syrups are just find in any amount. But cups of coffee larger than 16 ounces are affected. They can still be served as long as the barista/server adds no more than 3 to 5 packets of sugar before the drink is served. As a result, places that add the sugar to your coffee for you – like Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds – are no longer going to be able to sweeten your large drinks, though they will continue to sweeten the small ones. Starbucks doesn’t typically sweeten plain coffees for customers, but said that they will still add sugar for the customer regardless of the size of the drink if the customer asks. Large sized blended drinks, which are mostly made of ice and not milk, are also effected and some drinks will not be sold in large sizes or will be sold with the flavored syrup (i.e. the sugar) on the side and can pour it in themselves.

In an effort to clarify the new rules to NYC coffee-drinkers, Dunkin’ Donuts has published small fliers (click the picture above for a larger image) explaining what they can and cannot serve in the city. Other businesses are posting similar signage, though many are waiting to take action until they hear the results of some pending litigation against the city protesting the ban in the first place.

Mar 7, 2013

Starbucks launches new Hazelnut Macchiato

Starbucks Hazelnut Macchiato

We’re used to seeing seasonal drinks like the Pumpkin Spice Latte appear on Starbucks menus during the year, only to be phased out at the end of the season. Sometimes, it seems obvious that they’re meant to be seasonal, since most people don’t want Eggnog during the summer, but other times many of us miss the drinks when they’re gone (bring back Melon syrup!). It has been 16 years since Starbucks added a new core drink to their menu and this time their new drink is a permanent one: the Hazelnut Macchiato.

The Hazelnut Macchiato is very similar to the Caramel Macchiato and is made with vanilla syrup, steamed milk and espresso. It is topped with a rich hazelnut syrup that finishes things off with a sweet, nutty topping. It comes hot or iced as a macchiato, but you’ll also see a Hazelnut Frappuccino and a Hazelnut Latte as options on the menu if you want your hazelnut in a different format.

Mar 4, 2013

The Coffee Car gives new use to coffee grounds

Coffee Car

Coffee gets many of us going in the morning, but for a couple of engineers in the UK, it also gets their cars going. The Coffee Car is a car that runs on used coffee grounds. It is powered by a process called “gasification,” which converts carbon-containing substances – such as roasted coffee beans – into energy that powers the car. It is relatively clean energy, in spite of the puffs of smoke that arise from the car while it is in action, since it is reusing a product that might otherwise go to waste. That said, the car does take quite a lot of coffee to get going: it is said to travel about 55 miles on the power of a 22-pound sack of grounds.

The Coffee Car set a 65.5 mph Guinness World Record for the fastest coffee-powered car last month. Admittedly, it probably isn’t that competitive of a category, but still an impressive speed for something that is usually only considered to be a tasty beverage.

So, coffee grounds probably aren’t going to be the fuel of the future, largely because coffee is still a pretty pricey product and there wouldn’t be enough grounds to go around for huge numbers of drivers. But it is amazing to see how inventive people can be and how surprisingly versatile coffee can be!


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