Cafetiere vs. Caffe Americano

Cafetierre2 With apologies to Markham and others who have given up coffee for Lent, I am going to return briefly to the subject, because I think we’ve made a break-through. It’s not anything earth-shattering, but still I think worth talking about.

For the last years we’ve been struggling with making a simple cup of coffee. It might seem a humble option in a board full of caramel lattes, and affogato al caffes, but still I feel it’s like vanilla ice cream – a bench mark. If I go to an ice cream shop, I often taste their vanilla because often the simplest flavours are both the hardest to do and the easiest to judge.

CafetierreIn our shops, we’ve been serving Caffè Americanos when people ask for “coffee.” The Americano is perfect for the many people who like it, but it’s not perfect for all coffee drinkers. Although many people think it’s a strong coffee because it comes from an espresso machine, the name means quite the opposite. Italians called it “Americano” years ago because it tasted like American coffee to them, the kind you still find in US diners. In other words, it was very weak to their palates.

After a lot of tasting, we’ve decided on the French-style plunger, or “Cafetiere,” for our regular coffee. We’ve chosen an organic, fair-trade bean from Maher’s and grind it quite fine. The result is a deep, rich flavour for those who like their coffee very strong. For everyone else, there’s still of course the Americano.

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Coffee Rant Number Two

OK, I know I might be getting a little repetitive and negative here as I’ve already ranted about coffee on this blog, and I promise to sweeten things up with the next post.

However, after going in for a couple of coffees in an un-named cafe in Kerry, ordering a cappuccino and latte, and being served watery, scalded drinks that were identical except the cups, I have to ask again, how can so few people care about their coffees, especially when the Irish coffee-drinking culture is exploding?

At the very least, baristas could be trained in basic definitions of the drinks and know that a cappuccino and a latte are not the same. It’s not a guarded secret! The information’s out there. Lavazza Training Centre and Espresso Planet are two of about 1,900,000 sites that came up when I typed “Espresso terminology” in Google.

The crazy thing is that I do not at all consider myself a coffee expert. It’s just that I can’t understand how people can’t inject a greater level of care in what they do…

By the way, in the other coffee post, I wrote a tip for making a good espresso. One way to tell if it’s a decent one is that an espresso should look like a mini Guinness, and an espresso without crema is like a pint without a head. You wouldn’t serve it.

If you’re in the business or have an espresso machine at home, pull an espresso (above) and/or an americano (right) into a glass, and if it’s a good one you will see that it even settles like a freshly-pulled pint, turning from a bubbly brown into black!

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Snow in Dingle & 5 Ways to Improve Coffee

Today, with quite a bit of work and stress, we managed to get the Dingle shop back open. It was an odd thing to open an ice cream shop with snow all about Dingle. What an impressive sight first thing in the morning, although the snow melted quickly everywhere except the mountains.

There are so many bits a pieces after four months of being closed, that you end up running around for days collecting, cleaning, buying.

However, it’s a great feeling to having the shop back in operation, and it’s a wonderful thing to have the espresso machine up and running. My day certainly improved with a double caffe moccha!

Now, please forgive a rant… What astonishes me is the dreadful quality of coffee most places in Ireland. So many of us have become coffee drinkers, but somehow quality hasn’t followed as quickly as I would have thought. We’re travelling to countries that serve decent coffee, and most Irish people know the difference between good and bad, so why aren’t more baristas about the place upping their game? It takes relatively little effort to make decent espressos etc., and I’m amazed that more people don’t do it.

Here are five ways to instantly improve coffee drinks:

1. Run an espresso shot to 1 oz. Anything longer will bring in a watery taste and bitterness.

2. If you’re making a latte or cappuccino, don’t overheat the milk! There is a reason that in Italy you will never burn your mouth on a latte. There is as reason that you’re supposed to simmer milk, not boil it. Over 65C, the milk proteins change and the fat separates out. We have such great milk in this country. Why ruin it?

3. Get the grind right. If it’s too fine and packed too tight, you will get a burned taste. If it’s too coarse, the shot will be watery. A good shot should have a head like a pint of porter without being burned.

4. Filter the water coming to the espresso machine.

5. Grind your beans fresh! It’s amazing how quickly ground coffee can taste stale.

There are lots of places to learn about coffee. Bellisimo is one of a million helpful sites.

Finally, I have to thank Pauline, one of our customers-who-have-become-friends, who rang to let us know that our ice cream was poorly displayed in Superquinn – Sundrive. It’s an amazing thing to have customers looking out for us, especially now that we’re selling through a distributor and have less contact with the shops than we used to. How can we thank them?

For now, just… Thanks!