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Coffee and Johnny Yank Coffee Kept the Union On the March

Gun with Coffee GrinderThe 19th century was a tumultuous time for the United States of America,

and no time was more so than 1861 to 1865 when we were engaged in a

great Civil War. From New York to Texas, and beyond, the The Union Army

marched, and feeding the troops was a difficult task. In a time before

refrigeration was in use, foods had to either be fresh or be preserved.

Cattle “on the hoof” kept fresh and the men surely appreciated food that

transported itself. But this blog is all about coffee, and the same for

this article.

 

Coffee was a staple cherished by the northern troops. It was fairly

plentiful to the North where the soldiers received regular rations of

staple foods that included coffee. A quick pick-me-up was afforded by a

hot cup of coffee even when time was short. When out of camp and on the

march, when a rest period was called, the men would immediately gather

some twigs and sticks, light small fires, and begin boiling water for

coffee.

 

The preparation method was quite simple and readied ahead of time.

Ground coffee was mixed with their sugar ration, and once the water was

hot, a measure of this prepared coffee mixture was scooped into the

water. This practice was so ubiquitous that the Confederate soldiers

often referred to the Union soldiers as “the Coffee Boilers.” There was

a bit of jealousy in that since the South had very little coffee

available to them, particularly once the naval blockade of the South was

effective.

 

But as with all things, necessity gives way to solutions.When there was

a sustained break in the fighting, Union and Confederate soldiers would

communicate across the lines in remote areas. The young men set up

personal cease-fire zones and traded goods across the lines. Two items

regularly crossed the lines. The South, being predominantly agrarian

meant that the Confederate soldiers had regular rations of tobacco and

this was happily traded to the Union soldiers for coffee.

 

But coffee wasn’t always coffee. There were times when the Union

soldiers received their coffee ration pre-ground and this was not

preferred. There was a lot of underhanded dealing in the supply chain

and pre-ground coffee could be adulterated with filler such as cheaper,

easily-sourced, roasted grains. This increased profits to the suppliers

and lessened the caffeine level in the coffee. Carrying a coffee grinder

was pretty much out of the question to individual soldiers so they

improvised. A rifle butt against a flat rock was often found to work

just fine.

 

Whenever the subject off coffee and the Civil War comes up, the

Sharps Carbine Model 1859 Coffee Mill is often mentioned. This firearm had a hand mill built into the stock. These came into use late in the war and were not widely distributed.

Likely, less than one hundred of these were made and only about a dozen

are known to still exist. It is said by some that they were for coffee,

and some experts who have tested them with grains and coffee have stated

it seems they were intended for grain. Both are likely correct. The

coarse burrs in these grinders are reminiscent of bulk grinders today.

Many hand grain mills on farms well into the 20th century were used for

grain as well as coffee.

 

Thankfully, things haven’t changed much in the most important way

concerning coffee (this is a coffee blog, after all). Those who look for

the very best from their coffee would never consider pre-ground as a

substitute for whole bean. Roasted coffee beans, if stored properly,

will keep for as long as two to three weeks. Commercially packaged in

nitrogen under pressure can be good for a bit longer until opened. And

much like those soldiers of over one hundred fifty years ago, you pretty

much know what you are getting. So next time you measure out your

“morning ration” of coffee beans and are running them through your

grinder in preparation for the day’s march to the office, remember the

boys back in the 1860′s who did much the same.

Espresso Roast – The Sasquatch of the Coffee World

I could end this as one of the shortest articles I have ever written by simply saying, “Like Sasquatch, there’s no such thing.” You can call an elephant a dining room table, but that doesn’t make it a good place to set a dinner service for eight (even though there would be room for it).

Espresso Roast

Espresso Roast

We often see the very dark roasts in the grocery store plastic bins, covered in oil, labeled as “espresso roast.” These very-dark roasted coffee beans have a tradition that is said to have come from Italy. During the early part of the last century, during hard economic times when quality coffee was difficult to procure, low quality coffee beans were often used. Unfortunately, their taste matched their price point. To overcome that, the roasters pushed the roasting process darker and darker. Eventually they found a roast that was dark enough to remove or mask the actual taste of the coffee beans and create a taste that was overwhelmingly of the roast itself.

There are two main types of coffee beans, genetically speaking: Arabica and Robusta. A lot of that low-quality coffee mentioned above was cheap Robusta. It’s a good thing that it was dark roasted. While there are some quality Robusta coffee beans out there, the majority of them have an aroma and after taste of burnt bicycle inner tubes. It was that taste that the French roasters were working to destroy. Robusta is still used today, of course. When quality Robusta is used sparingly in a blend it increases the crema in espresso.

While some beans do like a darker roast, in today’s coffee market there are a lot of very high quality beans and roasting them that dark destroys a lot of the flavor that the growers, processors, and roasters work to develop. These beans offer a wide range of flavors. Not like the artificially flavored coffee beans, but subtle sub-flavors; nuances if you will. Roasting these beans to that dark, “espresso roast” level would be like ordering blackened filet mignon.

So what to look for in beans to be used for espresso?

  • Beans that have, at the most, a few drops of oil on them. Avoid those that look like they have been stored in ta used oil pan of a ’58 DeSoto.
  • A nice medium to dark oak color. Some beans like to be a bit darker and some lighter, so don’t be afraid to try different roast levels.
  • Even when you find a bean you like, experiment! There is no reason to stick yourself in such a rut, only purchasing one specific bean origin, brand, or espresso roast level.

I am often asked which espresso coffee beans are the best. The simple answer is that no one can answer that for you, and you will never know unless you try them all. That is surely not possible, but variety is certainly the spice of life so don’t get stuck in a rut with just once coffee.

Read more: What is Espresso?

Stale Coffee Mug

Ten Ways to Make a Bad Cup of Coffee

ONE: Use Old Coffee – You find a bag of coffee in the fridge, way in the back. You ask yourself, “How badly do I need a cup of coffee?” If you don’t remember when you bought it, then you must need it really badly! Once coffee is roasted the clock is ticking. From the back of the fridge, behind the old jar of mayonnaise, in a bag that is stuck to the shelf? That’s a very good start to the worst cup of coffee you have ever made!

Two: Buy Your Coffee From the Open Bins in the Supermarket – No old coffee against the back wall of the fridge? Head to the market! Sure, whole bean coffee is great, but when it has been sitting out in the open bins which are hazed-over with old coffee oils so thick that it looks like the beans are in a San Francisco fog, you are well on your way to making a bad cup of coffee.

Three: Buy Pre-Ground Coffee – At the market you could always just pick up a big “jug” of pre-ground coffee and save all the trouble of grinding it yourself. You will get consistency that way. Since oxygen is an enemy of coffee, there is no better way to get coffee to get stale than grinding it and then letting it sit around. By the time you get to the bottom of that jug the coffee will be so stale that you might as well be brewing sawdust.

Four: Spend $10 on a Coffee Grinder – So you read that pre-ground coffee is bad so you went to the store and found an economy grinder, and it is so easy to use! Just put in the beans, press the “ON” button and the little helicopter blade inside grinds the coffee. Fortunately for you, this is a chopper and not a grinder. Even better, since your goal is to make the worst coffee possible, all that coffee dust you are creating is sure to add extra bitterness to the already-bitter coffee you are about to brew.

Five: Buy the Espresso Roast – Since there is no such thing as “espresso roast” (regardless as to what the little tag on the bin says), this is a sure sign that whoever roasted this or whoever is selling it really does not know coffee, and who better to buy your coffee from? If the espresso roast is not available, check for “expresso” roast which doesn’t exist either.

Bad Coffee

Don’t Do It

Six: Get the Oily Beans – A good coat of oil on the coffee beans often signifies that the coffee has been poorly stored in a hot environment and the heat has brought the oils to the surface. The oils are a big part of the taste of the coffee, and so exposing them to air will accelerate the staling process. We are over half-way there to a bad cup of coffee!

Seven: Look for a “Best if Used By” Date – Knowing when coffee was roasted is a good thing. Finding a “Best if Used By” date on the package is a sure way of knowing that the coffee you are buying is already past its prime.

Eight: Made From Coffee Beans – Try to find a coffee that is called something like breakfast blend, morning wake up, or mountain delight. Stay away from specifics like Colombian, Hawaiian, and Ethiopian. Since you are looking for the worst coffee possible, it’s best if you don’t know where your beans actually came from.

Nine: Spend as Little as Possible – The worst beans cost the least amount of money. Find a roasted coffee that is selling for about $2.00 to $3.00 a pound. Since that is well under half the cost of most high-quality, un-roasted coffee, you can be assured that your coffee will be from the lowest-quality coffee beans possible. They might even be adulterated with artificial aroma!

Ten: Use a Cheap Coffee Brewer – The “economy” coffee brewers which sell for $20 (or less) are sure to brew too fast and at too low of a temperature to ever extract the goodness from your coffee. But that’s OK since your coffee came to you wholly lacking in goodness anyway.
by Randy Glass of EspressoMyEspresso.com

Help for making a perfect pot of coffee

Capresso Iced Tea Maker

Iced Tea at the Touch of a Button!

Iced tea brewed fresh at the touch of a button. The Capresso Iced Tea Maker brews directly into the included 80 ounce glass pitcher. Loose tea or tea bags may be used. 18 recipe booklet ncluded, our favorite:

Fresh Peach Iced Tea

• 3 peaches, peeled and sliced

• ¼ cup sugar or sweetener, if desired

• 6 black tea bags

Add sliced peaches and sugar to the pitcher and lightly muddle with a wooden spoon to release the juices. Fill pitcher with ice to the ice level marking and place pitcher with lid onto the machine. Add tea bags to the brew basket and close lid. Turn on machine and let brew. After brewing, pour tea into ice-filled glasses and garnish with peach wedges.

iced-tea-recipes-peach

Coffee Doesn’t Talk

Coffee Doesn't Talk

Coffee Doesn’t Talk

No coffee doesn’t talk, but nothing says “coffee” like “espresso.” But if it could describe itself, it might be something like, “You want some real coffee, Paisan? You use instant coffee? Fuhgeddaboudit! I’ll tell ya’ what you do. Take some of my cousins, the Beans. Ya, coffee beans. Don’t be a wise guy. I’m trying to help ya’ out here. Now grind them really fine. Put them in a little basket sort of thing that looks like a colander from a dollhouse. It’s called a portafilter basket. Now attach that to a machine that can heat water and then it can pump the water through that coffee with a lot of pressure. Like 135 pounds per square inch. You bet, that’s a lot of pressure. And if you do all that right you get a cup of pure coffee joy.

Talking coffee can’t really help you out, but we can. Espresso is all that a cup of coffee can be, but it takes special equipment to make it. You need an espresso machine and a grinder, and then add some experience and practice. Not a detail-oriented person? Don’t enjoy the process but you do want to enjoy a good cup of coffee? Then try a super-automatic espresso machine. Just put in beans and water and with the push of a button the machines does all that work for you.

Give us a call and let us help you choose the machine that best fits your needs. And we promise, no talking coffee beans. Just some straight talk to get you on the road to great coffee.

Get a taste of Brazil with Illy Monoarabica Brazil.
Bold and Flavorful from the Cerrado Mineiro region of Brazil. This whole bean coffee offers a full-bodied boldness and smooth, rich taste with subtle hints of decadent chocolate. The tropical climate and rich soil of Cerrado Mineiro give this coffee its intense aromas and full body with an underlying note of dark chocolate, for a uniquely inspiring coffee experience.

illy Brazil Coffee

Illy Brazil Coffee

A Coffee Revolution

The new VertuoLine is a coffee revolution, it represents the next generation of single serve machines from Nespresso. The VertuoLine expands the capability of Nespresso’s single serve espresso concept by offering the ability to brew larger cups of crema coffee, in addition to classic Italian style espresso.

Centrifusion Technology – A whole new way to brew coffee. This 5 step brewing process starts with the Vertuoline Casule, each capsule has a bar code which contains the perfect brewing parameters associated with the selected capsule. Temperature is adjusted, as well as, cup size, rotational speed, flow rate and time the water is in contact with the coffee. During brewing, the coffee is spun at speeds of up to 7000 RPM creating deliciously thick crema.

Now through Father’s Day, receive $75 in free coffee with purchase.

What is Cappuccino?

Espresso + steamed milk = cappuccino.

Cappuccino

I could stop there, but I might as well tell you that a steak is heated meat. Both statements are true but there is more to it than that. As the cappuccino formula indicates, the beverage starts with espresso. That can be a single shot of about one ounce (30ml), or a double shot of two ounces (60 ml).

The other component of a cappuccino is milk which is steamed using the steam wand of the espresso machine. The heat of the steam and the steam’s power to agitate the milk change the structure of the liquid. The fat content of the milk wraps around the proteins and creates what is referred to as microfoam. As the name implies, this is a sort of “tiny foam.” If done properly, you cannot see any bubbles. The milk increases in volume and takes on a richer, creamier texture and slightly sweeter taste. It pours as a liquid, but with more body than when first poured from the carton.

From that point, all bets are off. What is sold as a cappuccino in the USA can range from a more traditional six ounce beverage made with two ounces of espresso and about two ounces of steamed milk with a topping of dense milk foam to a much larger beverage in a large takeaway cup. In Australia it is called a flat white which is the same six to eight ounce beverage but there is no stiff foam on top, just the espresso and the steamed milk.

Read more about Cappuccino