Party Like a Barista

If you never had the personal joy of working as a barista during your halcyon days of youth, Discovery Bay Games has developed a close second: Barista – The Game. Well, okay, it’s not that close to the real thing, but it is a lot of fun.

You and up to four of your friends can battle it out, trying to match orders and messing with your opponents’ ability to complete them before you do. It’s fast paced, compact and fun — plus, you don’t have to deal with any cranky customers!

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!

The Grind – November 2008

Seattle Coffee Gear’s monthly newsletter, The Grind, provides readers with tips, expert advice, recipes, article highlights and a Grind-only special coupon!

This month’s Grind includes expert advice on how to produce microfoam, information on our new Tune-Up service and a recipe for our new favorite drink: The Pumpkin Spice White Chocolate Mocha!

Read this month’s edition and sign up for future editions of The Grind here!

Brew Tip: Pour One Out

When you’ve started up your espresso machine for the first time in the morning, it’s important that you thoroughly warm it up — from the inside out — before you pull any shots. The easiest way to do this is to pull a ‘blind shot’ through the portafilter once your machine’s boiler has reached proper brewing temperature.

What’s a ‘blind shot’? It sounds fancier than it is: Just insert your empty portafilter into the brew group, then initiate your shot. Let the hot water run through to heat up the internal pipes, the brew group head and the portafilter. Incidentally, this is also something you should do if you have machine with an E61 brew group that has been on and sitting unattended for more than 10 minutes.

Remember: Temperature regulation is probably one of the most important aspects of espresso brewing, so take the time to make sure brewing temperature is up to snuff. Otherwise, you’ll end up with poorly extracted, cool, pale shots with little crema.

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?