Category Archives: Food and Drink

Health Watch: Aluminum Boilers & Alzheimers

One of the more controversial topics within the discussion of Alzheimer’s is whether or not aluminum has a causal relationship to the development of the disease. Since the first study in the 1960′s that found higher concentrations of aluminum in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s than in the brains of people without the disease, scientist have been exploring the influences and attempting to correlate the two, with contradictory results. To this day, there is not conclusive evidence one way or the other, and the medical community is still very uncertain about whether or not the aluminum found at the center of the plaques which they believe to be the cause of the disease are the cause of the plaques or simply a harmless secondary association.

What does a discussion of neuroscience and disease have to do with coffee? Well, many people are concerned about the uncertain and contradictory information on this topic — one that might be close to home to any of you with an espresso machine or stovetop espresso brewer with an aluminum boiler. Since aluminum is part of the earth’s crust and used in tons of products, from toothpastes to antacids to cookware, it’s difficult to avoid it altogether. But the amount of aluminum that might leach into your espresso during the brewing process is relatively minimal, if any, than you would intake normally, so it’s likely not much of a concern.

While the jury is still out on whether or not aluminum is a contributing factor to developing Alzheimer’s, or just coincidentally happens to be along for the ride, you’re probably pretty safe to continue enjoying your delicious espresso — aluminum boiler or not.

Recipe: New Orleans Cafe Brulot

Who doesn’t love a little voodoo in their coffee cup every now and again? We were thumbing through Betty Rosbottom’s book Coffee: Scrumptious Drinks and Treats, looking for a yummy concoction to spice up these darkening autumn days, when we happened upon this recipe for Cafe Brulot that we just had to try — and share.

Ingredients:

  • 3 thin orange slices, quartered
  • 3 thin lemon slices, quartered
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks, coarsely chopped
  • 20 cloves
  • 2 cups freshly brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup brandy

Directions:

  1. Prepare 6 warm demitasse cups and saucers
  2. Put the orange and lemon slices, sugar, cinnamon and cloves in a medium, non-reactive saucepan.
  3. Add the coffee and set pan over very low heat, just to keep the coffee warm while you flame the brandy.
  4. Put the brandy in a small saucepan and set it over medium-high heat. When the brandy just starts to boil, avert your face and flame the brandy with a lit, wooden match.
  5. Turn off the heat and when the flame in the brandy goes out after a few seconds, add the brandy to the coffee.
  6. To serve, ladle the coffee, brandy, fruit and spice mixture into the demitasse cups.

Makes 6 4-5 oz. servings.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Brew Tip: Got Two Turntables and Microfoam

If you’re looking to rock like a pro barista, you need to perfect the art of microfoam — that glossy smooth steamed milk that makes latte art possible. It’s really not that difficult to pull off once you know the step-by-step process:

  1. Keep your steaming pitcher in the refrigerator/chilled
  2. Start with icy cold milk (about 34F degrees)
  3. Begin steaming by getting the milk to spin rapidly clockwise, then
    work the surface of the milk for about 15 – 20 seconds in one of the
    following ways:

    • Standard Steam Wand: Bring the tip of the steam wand to the top, so that it just barely breaks the surface to suck in air and milk
      simultaneously
    • Panarello Steam Wand: Submerge the wand so that the top of the
      milk and the air intake slot or hole are even, allowing milk and air to
      be drawn in evenly — if you submerged it above the air intake, you’ll
      just steam the milk; if you submerge it well below the intake, you’ll
      end up with fluffy, bubbly foam
  4. Plunge the steam wand all the way into the milk and then roll the milk for the remainder of the steam
  5. Temperature-wise, your milk should measure between 140F – 180F
    degrees — if it’s too cold, it will be chalky; if it’s too hot, it
    will be scalded
  6. Tap the pitcher on the counter to settle the milk and force any air bubbles to the top
  7. Prior to pouring, roll the milk slightly around the pitcher to
    incorporate the foam and the milk. The milk should have a shiny, glassy
    smooth surface that is free of any bubbles
  8. Pour to make your favorite latte art

More visually inclined? Check out our video.

Lavazza Whole Bean Blends Go Toe to Toe

Lavazza is renowned around the world for some of the best coffee available, and we’re often asked about the differences between their six main whole bean blends. So, we took these guys to the tasting lab and came back with a comparison chart that should help you pick the blend that’s going to taste best to you.

Some of the highlights are the smoky chocolate and loam undertones of Grand Espresso and Super Crema‘s sweet & earthy fruitiness. Our descriptions might not do them full justice, however, so why not have a tasting party yourself? You’re sure to find a favorite among them.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Pregnancy

Two universities in the UK have determined that excessive amounts of caffeine during pregnancy can impact the weight of the child as it’s developing, putting some babies at risk of a low birth weight.

What do we mean by excessive? Well, the study found that the babies of mothers who drank the equivalent of 3 or more cups of coffee each day tracked to a lower weight during each trimester of development. A low birth rate has been linked to health issues such as diabetes or heart disease later in life, so it’s important that a baby is born within the healthy range.

While the study has confirmed a link between caffeine and fetal development issues, scientists don’t think this should inspire pregnant mothers to abstain from all caffeine intake. Other health benefits still exist and a mother limiting her coffee to 1 cup per day should have no concern.

To Milk or Not to Milk

American coffee drinkers are often looked down upon because of their proclivity for adulterating their coffee drinks with a healthy dose of milk. Sometimes attributed to the fact that the coffee itself is inferior to coffee you might find in, say, Italy, the practice actually extends throughout northern Europe as well.

So why do you find heavily dairy-dependent drinks in France, Austria or Switzerland and virtually  none in Italy or Turkey? It might not actually be due to the coffee itself, but more related to evolutionary genetics.

It has been measured that lactose intolerance is high among Mediterranean peoples, specifically Italians, who have centered most of their dairy intake around mature cheeses — a process which virtually removes the offending sugar, lactose. At birth and through the first years of our life, we produce an enzyme called lactase, which helps break down and metabolize this sugar in our digestive system. Theoretically, through sustained non-human milk drinking well into adulthood generation after generation, a genetic mutation developed which resulted in the continued production of lactase as adults. There are several different regions around the world that exhibit this type of mutation, and each of them have documented cultural drivers that would have required them to ingest raw or unprocessed non-human milk as an important part of their caloric intake as adults.

If a latte or cafe au lait is your caffeinated drink of choice, don’t let anyone make you think your preference is the result of an undeveloped palette. Your taste may instead be the result of thousands of years of evolution, so drink up!

Health Watch: Coffee & Relationships

An intriguing new study from the University of Colorado indicates that warm drinks lend themselves to more friendly feelings. Participants in the study were randomly given hot cups of coffee or glasses of iced coffee, then asked to assess the relative warmth of a series of fictional characters. The result was that they were 11% more likely to rate a complete stranger as welcoming or trustworthy if the participant had been holding a warm beverage versus a cold beverage.

Psychologists attribute this to possible early conditioning in infancy, when bonding and trust building with our parents could have been in an environment of warm bodily temperature — just think of all those baby blankets! — so that we are more likely to associate the actual physical temperature with the relative warmth and openness of someone’s personality.

Whatever the root cause, it’s clear that the age old practice of socializing over a hot cup of coffee helps build and expand on the warm bonds of friendship — so why not invite your friends (or someone new) over for an espresso today?

Recipe: Espresso Martini

Today marks one of the most historic general elections in American history and we hope you’ve taken the time to make your voice heard by voting!

Afterward, you might want to get together with some of your favorite people to either celebrate or drown your sorrows, depending on your political perspective and the election’s outcome. An election party/commiseration wouldn’t be complete without a delicious espresso martini!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 fluid ounces Kahlua
  • 1 1/2 fluid ounces brewed espresso
  • 3 fluid ounces vanilla vodka
  • 1 1/2 fluid ounces Creme de Cacao
  • heavy cream or half-and-half (optional)

Directions

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker 2/3 full with ice.
  2. Add ingredients and shake well until very cold.
  3. Strain into a martini glass.
  4. In a plastic bottle with a narrow tip, add some heavy cream.
  5. Starting from the center of the drink, start a spiral and cirle to the outside of the glass.
  6. Then take a stirrer or a toothpick and starting in the center of the drink, drag the stirrer to the edge of the glass.
  7. Return to center of the drink, and repeat procedure in ‘pie segments’ to make a ‘web’ with the heavy cream (or make any design that you’d like).

How To: Hot Cocoa Art

The practice of topping off your hot beverage with beautiful milk foam art shouldn’t be limited to just espresso drinks! We often get asked how to do ‘cocoa art’ in a similar manner to latte art, so here’s how we express our cocoa side:

First, mix your preferred amount of chocolate with a few tablespoons of milk to create a dark mixture with which your foamed milk can be integrated. After you’ve steamed your milk, pour it similarly to how you pour when you make latte art. A simple leaf, for example, starts with pouring the milk in the middle of the mug, then slowly moving outward to the side, eventually working your way slowly back into the middle while shaking the pitcher from side to side. You should have a kind of leaf-like design, pulling back at the last moment to form the stem.