When it comes to coffee, the choices used to be simple. Regular or decaf? Cream and sugar, or black? These days it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the variety of coffee drinks available, whether you’re visiting a local roaster or going through a drive- thru.
Kendra Boesdorfer, owner of Custom Cup Coffee in Springfield, explains the mysteries behind some of today’s biggest coffee trends, from cold brew to French press to espresso. “Generally, the faster the extraction, the more bitter and acidic the final brew will be. Espresso is on one end of the spectrum, with a very fast steam extraction of the coffee and cold brew coffee is at the other, Boesdorfer explained. “Traditional drip coffee falls in the middle.”
Espresso is a style of coffee made using pressurized hot water. Espresso beans are usually roasted darker to bring out their sweetness, but any roast of coffee can be used to brew espresso. The grind is critical in creating a perfect cup of espresso, allowing the hot water to evenly permeate the grounds and create a perfect layer of toffee-colored crema on top. Espresso has a higher proportion of suspended solids and rich coffee oils, giving properly made espresso a rich, creamy texture. A double shot of espresso is the basis of many coffee house favorites: Americano (espresso mixed with hot water); macchiato (a shot of espresso topped with a dollop of foamed milk); cappuccino (equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk);
latte (espresso mixed with steamed milk and topped with a small dollop of foamed milk); and mocha (a latte sweetened with chocolate).
Sometimes called a coffee plunger, this cylindrical pot with a built-in plunger fitted with a metal screen is a popular choice the world over for making delicious coffee. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to make a high quality cuppa, with no paper filters involved.
This is the classic method we all know and love. This traditional coffee machine heats water then pumps it over ground coffee in a paper filter into a carafe that is usually insulated or sitting on a warmer.
Pour over coffee has become a popular offering in many quality coffee shops. As with drip coffee, hot water is poured over ground coffee in a paper filter into a cup or carafe. The main benefit of a pour over is the control one has when making it and the freshness of the finished brew. Most home coffee makers don’t reach the ideal water temperature of 205 degrees and don’t evenly pour the water over the coffee grounds. With a pour over, one can better control the temperature of the water and the rate at which the water is poured over the grounds, allowing for a truly customized cup.
Cold brew coffee is made by combining ground coffee with cold water and allowing it to sit at room temperature for 8-10 hours before being filtered. This slow method of extraction produces an incredibly flavorful coffee that is less acidic and bitter than traditional hot water brewing methods. This has become my preferred method of making coffee at home. I pour 12 ounces of ground coffee into a gallon size glass jar and fill it with filtered water. After it sits, I strain it through a filter into quart mason jars and store them in the fridge, where it will keep for up to three weeks. My husband prefers his cold, while I like mine warmed up in the microwave. Cold brew made in this way is concentrated and can be adjusted to your preferred strength with the addition of water.
Ashley Meyer is a Springfield-based food writer, cook and mother of two. She is currently the baker in residence at Custom Cup Coffee in Springfield.