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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Espresso Makers: Depending on Your Need, There's an Espresso Maker for You

Espresso Makers: Depending on Your Need, There's an Espresso Maker for You
by: Allen Shaw

Since Starbucks first went International in the early 1990s, espresso has been the number-one item on the minds of those who need a quick pick-me-up to get their day started. It started out as a fad, but with the onslaught of Friends on NBC in 1994 and Starbucks reproducing like rabbits throughout the last decade of the 20th Century, it has morphed into a worldwide phenomenon.

But what is espresso exactly. To put it in the simplest terms, espresso is coffee's more aggressive and strong willed little brother. Espresso is caffeine's answer to a shot of whisky. Just as addictive in some cases, but will not get you thrown in jail.

Espresso is made by filtering 1.5 to 2 ounces of water through tightly ground, espresso coffee, roughly the caffeine equivalent of four cups of coffee. If everything goes according to plan, what you get is 2 ounces of compressed caffeine with a small layer of foam on the top. The resulting concoction looks like a dark German beer with a head…only a lot smaller.

But how do you make espresso? Is it as easy as Starbucks would have you believe? In a word…yes. So where do you start? Again, the answer is simple…right here. There are five basic types of espresso machines. Let's take a quick look:

Stovetop espresso makers are popular with hikers and tourists because they do not require electricity. But since the stovetop espresso maker is usually the "one-cup" variety, you won't get the creamy foam layer top. What you will get though is a very concentrated shot of espresso.

Steam powered espresso makers work a lot like the stovetop variety but is fashioned more like the standard pump driven espresso makers. Still convenient for tourists and hikers, the steam powered espresso maker is not as popular with this crowd because of its bulky size.

The piston driven espresso maker is the grandfather of all espresso makers and the reason most espresso comes with a foamy top. Invented in 1938 by Achille Gaggia, the piston driven maker is still a good way to make espresso, though not often used. This kind of of espresso maker is sold as an antique as often as it is the caffeine junkie's primary maker.

Pump driven espresso makers are the offshoot of the piston driven variety and the most popular maker in commercial settings. Usually hooked up directly to the building's plumbing, pump driven makers heat the water as it is filtered through the coffee and uses a built in shot timer to help insure every shot of espresso is exactly the same.

Automatic espresso makers are becoming increasingly popular because the machine does almost everything for you. Automatic machines consistently produce the same espresso shot every time and require less fine-tuning than commercial makers. In addition, this expensive but consistent alternative to your daily trek to the corner coffe house does everything from grinding the beans to disposing of the spent grounds. The only thing the user has to do is turn on the machine.

Now that you know how to make espresso, how do you decide what your favorite concoction is? After all Starbucks has more varieties of espresso than Baskin Robbins does ice cream. You do not want to make a fool of yourself when you when you are late for work and don't have time to make your morning wake-me-up at home. Yo need to feel confident and proud when you walk up to the conter and ask for:

ESPRESSO - For those who prefer the simple things in life, a single shot of espresso, no foam, is probably best.

ESRESSO DOPIO – Or a double espresso is for those days when you just cannot wake up.

If you are feeling a need for some balance in your life, try an ESPRESSO MACCHIATO (a single or double shot of espresso with a whipped cream top).

For those sweet and sour days, try an ESPRESSO ROMANO, a single shot of espresso topped with a sliced lemon peel.

For amateur espresso drinkers who prefer a foamier, creamier, more chocolaty taste than a straight shot of espresso, CAPPUCCINO, CAFÉ LATTE and MOCHA CAPPUCCINO is probably the safest bet.

So now that you know everything there is to know about espresso and why there seems to be a Starbucks on every corner of every city in every state in every country in the world, you can decide whether you want to join in on this worldwide phenomenon. But beware...if you decide not to join the crowd on this one, you will likely be left behind. A caffeine-powered work force is what made the world what it is today.

About the author:
Allen Shaw is a successful author who provides information on espresso makers for A1 Coffee Makers. "I am the news director at USA News Network and have been working as freelance writer for 2 years. I've been published in a few magazines, newspapers and websites and my specialty up to this point has been movie and music reviews."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Coffee: Is It Getting Too Complicated?

Coffee: Is It Getting Too Complicated?
by: Eileen Church

Plain coffee is fast becoming a thing of the past. It's now quite simple to whip up a gourmet hot beverage for guest, family, or just for yourself. Nowadays there are a number of coffee clubs and circles in which coffee drinking has become somewhat of a social club. These social clubs meet in the community or on the Internet.

Where did the good old days go where you could get just a regular, good cup of coffee all across America.

It's all because there is a big craze over coffee these days. People are almost worshipping the coffee bean now. People get a thrill out of ordering and buying special coffees from specialty stores. They really like grinding their own coffee beans. They like visiting places such as Costa Rica and bringing back their special blends. And "coffee tasting" seems to be about as popular as "wine tasting".

They even have furniture and home interior designs with a coffee theme. This would make great gifts for the coffee buff.

Coffee got its beginnings around 900 A.D. where it was at first used as a stimulant. It was also at times used as a wine and a medicine. It doesn't look like anything is much different today.

There are not many products such as coffee that have continued "as is" for hundreds of years. And yet people are still scrutinizing and getting creative with it today and probably will be for years to come.

What is also interesting is that coffee is second to oil in dollar volume as a world commodity.

Did you know that there is two times more caffeine in a pound of tea than in the same amount of roasted coffee? This may be good news for those of you who hate the taste of decaffeinated coffee however wait just one moment. A pound of tea will make about 160 cups whereas a pound of coffee will usually make about 40 cups. This means that a cup of tea has about 1/4th the caffeine of a cup of coffee.

The content of caffeine in coffee decreases as it is grown at higher altitudes. If you want less caffeine in your coffee, grow it higher. Gourmet coffees are typically grown at higher altitudes so they have less caffeine than their grocery store counterparts.

There are many different types of coffee beans and way too many to describe in this article. Here are just a few of them:

You have Latte, Espresso, Low-Fat, Organic, Cal, Decaf, Half-Decaf, Black Forest, Cappuccino, Cafe au Lait, Alpine which has brown sugar, Arabian (lightly spiced and without filter), Cafe con Miel (Spanish for coffee with honey), and Cafe de Olla (a sweet coffee made with chocolate).

And you really should attend a coffee tasting at least once. You will get to experience how making and brewing gourmet coffee is slowly becoming a form of art. What is fun about the coffee tasting is that you could get a chance to taste two dozen or more different blends. You may even leave to start your journey as a coffee connoisseur. Any way you look at it, the tasting experience will be fun if you like coffee.

About the author:
Eileen Church, webmistress for, loves to experiment with coffee of all kinds. Be sure to visit often for great coffee resources.