A new kind of coffee blend

Hand pour bar at the Mudhouse

I was chatting with my friend Dan at the Mudhouse, one of Charlottesville's coffee Institutions, the other day. A thought had occurred to me which seemed a bit obvious in retrospect, and as Dan is the person I know who is Most Serious About Coffee, I ask him about all my crazy coffee thoughts.

In this case, I was asking about hand-pour coffee. The question was whether people separate out the various parts of the brewing process and try them separately, so that, for example, you have three cups of coffee instead of one. The first cup represents the first 1/3 of the water that goes through the coffee grounds, the second the second 1/3, and the last the third 1/3. Dan told me that he hadn't done that with the hand pour, but it was part of his training program on espresso for new baristas. Then he gave me a sample.

The first part of the espresso shot tastes like every espresso you'll get in Italy, because italian espresso uses about 1/6 to 1/20 the water that you'll get from just about anywhere in the U.S. It's packed full of flavor, not really any bitterness. The second and third thirds don't have much flavor at all, but they do carry most of the body of the espresso, and I'm not entirely sure what makes up the body of espresso, so I'm going to have to do some research. Note to self. I'm pretty sure it's not collagen, though.

Right now, in artisanal coffee circles, hand-pour coffee is one of the darling techniques, because it allows for a lot of control and you can get a coffee cup full of flavor and nuance in a way that is different from all of the other techniques. It's not a replacement for other coffee brewing methods, naturally, it's just a way of tasting coffee very differently from what you'd get in, say, a French Press. It's especially good for single origin coffees, where you want to know all the nuances of a particular bean.

To hand-pour coffee, you essentially have a filter with ground coffee above a cup. You pour some hot water over the ground coffee, and coffee fills the cup. Very simple method, lots of things to do to get it right.

Here's what I can imagine: divide the hand-pour process into 10 equal pours. Call the resulting parts of the coffee "slices 1 to 10". If some were really, really serious about coffee experimentation, I could see that person saying "For this bean, you want to use slices 2-4, 7, and 9. For that blend, 1-3, 5-8" and so on. Take out the parts of the extraction that don't work for that bean to enhance or reduce whatever aspects aren't right. Of course, just like my explanation of the hand-pour process, if something like that would work it would be much more involved to get it right. 

Even more so, a very fast, very meticulous, essentially crazy person might brew slices of different single-origin coffees and blend them together into a single super cup. Such a coffee would either be: a) indistinguishable from other coffees; or b) the most amazing coffee ever. Either way, it would be terribly expensive to do right. Still, fun to imagine.

Italian Soffrito

A couple of days ago, I received a shipment of 6 liters of the greenest extra virgin olive oil* that you have ever seen. It was from Toscana Saporita, the cooking school my wife and I attended in Italy on our honeymoon. The cooking school is held on a working olive orchard, and the primary output of the estate is olive oil. So people who attend the school get a chance every year to order oil, which we did. The arrival of the oil reminded me of one of the big lessons of the school: the soffrito. Soffrito is a terribly misunderstood technique, primarily because people don't realize that it is a technique. Raised on cooking television where the mire poix and trinity are common, people figure that the soffrito is the Italian word for mire poix, and so the assumption is that the soffrito is carrots and onion and celery, or perhaps only two of those. In reality, soffrito means "softly fried", and it's actually the Italian version of "sweating", or cooking aromatic vegetables at a low temperature. It's used in the same way mire poix is, by being a flavorful base to just about anything savory. The difference between mire poix and soffrito is that it doesn't really matter which aromatic vegetables you use in a soffrito. If you are missing carrots that day, don't fret. Use some more celery! If you have peppers, throw those in. The proportions are not key, the specifics are up to what you have handy when you're cooking. It's Italian: relax. The technique is basically the same, though. Dice the aromatics into roughly equal-sized pieces, add some salt, andcook over medium-low heat in oil (or butter; whatever) until the vegetables show signs of being cooked. The signs include some increased transparency, being soft, deepening of color, depending on the vegetable. There ya go. If you're making a soup, throw this together at the beginning for better flavor. If you're making a braise, throw this together for better flavor. Stews, casseroles, sauces, etc etc. Go for it. Don't fret about the specifics, just make sure you have some sort of base, and your food and diners will thank you for it. *- or, as the Italians call it, "oil."

Spanking Poms

Pomegranates are not the prettiest of fruit*. Oh, sure, their seeds (er, arils) are lovely on their own, but as an assembled fruit, they're not all that great. Plus, taking them apart is a pain. The arils will explode upon contact, and squirt their red juices all over whatever white clothing you might happen to be wearing**. There are two recommended methods of disassembling a pomegranate. The first method is the one recommended by the Pom Wonderful folk. You have to cut open the pomegranate, score out sections along where the natural divisions are, peel sections out, loosen the arils into a bowl of water, scoop stuff out, strain, blah blah blah. It takes forever. For. Ever. The second way is the way suggested by everyone else. You cut the pomegranate in half, grab a wooden spoon, and thwack the pomegranate***. Sometimes you'll use the back of the spoon, some the edge. Move it around to various parts. You'll get the feel of it. And the arils just fall right out. The great way about the second method is it's really easy to do. You can feel the right way to hit the pomegranate, and it's very satisfying when the seeds fall out. The other way is just trouble. Don't do it, no matter what the people who sold you the pomegranate say. *- This opening has started a firestorm of conversation in The Food Geek compound, where Melanie points out that, not only does she think it's a beautiful fruit, but it has been considered in art in culture as being symbolic of, shall we say, womanhood. I can see that, and I completely acknowledge the symbological nature of the fruit. What I'm saying is that there's this internal inedible structure that does not lend itself to being photogenic. It takes a special photographer to do it right, compared with some of the other fruits that do not take the special touch. **- Which is, I suspect, also part of the metaphor. I'm just sayin'. ***- You people who read the other two foodnotes should stop that giggling. I swear, it's like we're in middle school.

High Voltage Cookin'

Make Magazine's blog tells us all about Raphael and Max who have set up a Jacob's Ladder*, staple of Mad Scientists everywhere, and they discover which foods cook… well, not better, but at least more easily with some high-voltage electricity. I say not better because there's a comment about it smelling like burnt hair, and you really don't have a lot of control over electricity, so repeatability is going to be tricky. On the other hand, it's unbelievably cool and dangerous. If someone tries to be all macho with their flambé, you can show them this trick and make them feel weak and timid. Seriously, high-voltage electrical projects are dangerous, so if you try this, learn about the appropriate precautions and take them. You'll likely hurt yourself or others, but nothing's really safe in life, is it? *- Not the movie

Deconstructing Garlic

Garlic BulbSo, seriously, what's the point of dicing garlic? Wouldn't it be easier just to use the microplane grater, or, better yet, crush it? Food Blog Skillet Doux asks just those questions (or near enough) and throws in a nice, hypothesis-testing experiment to discover the answer. He tries three methods of garlic preparation, and cooks each of those in the same recipe of tomato sauce. The nice thing about science, or things that resemble science, is that you can replicate the results. I highly recommend running similar tests with your own recipes, and posting the results. I may do something similar myself. The great thing about cooking is that, if you try cooking something in a similar manner, a vary only a single variable at a time, it's really easy to tell what works for you and what doesn't. Although there are techniques that people claim are vital for tasty food, that doesn't mean that those techniques are the only way to cook something and have it turn out well. Improper garlic handling is supposed to result in bitterness, as opposed to the warm sweetness of properly handled garlic. Still, properly handled, bitterness is a nice counter-note to an otherwise bland dish. And, for people who are used to a life of improperly handled garlic, they would likely miss the bitter twang of a fresh, well-diced bit of garlic. So how to know? Try it out. Test actual, fresh garlic (which seems hard for me to find, for some reason), chop it, crush it, mince it, sweat it, brown it, burn it, and see which way works best for you. But, if that seems like too much work, you might want to just read the linked report and do what it says.

Temper, temper

Eggs are a wonder of the world, capable of turning potential birds into real birds, supporting a soufflé, making nog and other custards, and bringing disparate ingredients together in a bit of harmony that would make the United Nations proud. There are nearly 3 sesquitillion techniques for working eggs properly into food, some of more general use than others. Today I'm going to tell you the secret of working eggs into hot liquid without scrambling it or otherwise turning it into a solid mass, a technique called tempering. At the simplest level, an egg is a combination of fat, water, and protein. There's about 1000 times the amount of water than protein in an egg, but any given protein is around 1000 or so times as large as a water molecule. In the uncooked state, the proteins are curled up together, like a shiny new slinky. Cooking the egg causes the protein to unwind, just like the time your little brother got ahold of the slinky and decided to test it's marvelous stretching capabilities. The reason the egg becomes solid is because the proteins start sticking to each other, making a nice three-dimensional structure. This is the equivalent of your brother having a sleepover, where twenty of his closest friends brought all their Slinkys, and they randomly grabbed the ends of the Slinkys and started running around the room like monkeys hopped up on red bull. The Slinkys would get tangled together in some points, stretched out in others, and pretty soon, nobody would be able to walk through the room because Slinkys get in their way. This is why the egg turns solid, and it's also why you can't see through it after it's cooked, because light can't pass through, either. All the water from the egg is stuck in-between the slinky chains, like your brother's friends. Keep cooking it, though, and it takes the party too far. The proteins get too tight, and the metaphorical children in the slinky chain start realizing that metal kinda hurts when it gets to tight, so they slip out of the protein net and into the freedom of the living room (or frying pan, depending on whether you're following the metaphor or the actual event). This makes the egg tough and nasty. For a basic egg, this happens at relatively low temperatures (145^A^0 to 180^A^0F, depending on which part of the egg). This means that if you throw egg into a boiling liquid, it's going to cook the egg on contact, which is likely not what you're going for, especially if you want to thicken a sauce. To spare your guests from a b~A(c)chamel ~A! la scrambled egg, the trick is to add a little of the hot liquid into egg mixture first. If your volume of cold egg is significantly greater that the warm or hot liquid, chances are that the egg will integrate some of the liquid before heating up too much. As the liquid will likely contain fat and/or water, this will decrease the protein-to-liquid ratio in the egg, meaning it will have to raise its temperature even more in order to form the slinky chains. It's like taking the sleepover to the nearest football field and putting in 2000 more children without adding more Slinkys - there's only so many ways that the slinkys can twist together in that much space. Once you have enough of your liquid incorporated, you can safely add the tempered egg back to the hot liquid and reap all of the benefits that egg will provide you.

The mysteries of the Grill

There are challenges with any style of cooking. The challenges of regular cooking, the pots-and-pans, pour-and-stir style of cooking, is mostly one of "volume of material." There are so many methods, so many different ingredients, and such obscure terminology, that it's difficult to get going. Trickier is leaning how to combine ingredients in a way that tastes good, and getting interesting combinations of textures and flavors, that it's just a matter of getting through the material and remembering it, at least to reach a certain level. Baking is a bit different. Baking has a lot more required knowledge of chemistry and biology in order to get things working at all. There are magical proportions of ingredients, certain order of adding things. If that were all, it wouldn't be so bad, but because there are so many factors that have to be just right in order to work, and there's enough variation in materials available to the home cook, that you can't usually rely just upon the numbers; instead, you have to get a feel for when things are working and when they aren't, so you can make adjustments to a recipe if, for example, your flour doesn't have as high a protein-content as it did the last time you bought it. And then there's grilling. Grilling is, in many ways, the simplest of the three styles of cooking. It's basically a single style of heat application, or maybe two styles, depending on how fancy you're getting. However, as with anything simple, this means that there are fewer steps to get wrong, so if you do mess something up, it'll be more noticeable. Add to that what would appear to be an impenetrable black box of whatever it is that you're cooking, and you have what seems like some sort of voodoo. It doesn't help that much of the grilling knowledge is passed down, father-to-son, in family bonding rituals. The side effect of this is that, if there were something that the dad didn't know, it's likely that he wouldn't ask anyone else, or look it up, he'd just make something up that sounded good and pass that information along to the next generation. Not a good scenario. Fortunately, I'm here to help, with what will hopefully be simple and useful tips on grilling techniques. First, consider that the primary method of grilling involves high amounts of radiant heat hitting the item being grilled. Your hamburgers, your steaks, your rotisserie chickens, these are all applications involving that radiant heat. The secondary method is a lower energy heat, some radiant, some convection. If you close the lid, the air inside will get very hot, though not as hot as whatever is right over the coals. The tertiary method of cooking is conduction. While the conduction cooks very little of the food percentage-wise, it's responsible for the ever-important grill marks, which are almost as vital to grilling as a pair of tongs, both in flavor and presentation. The second thing to consider is how big the critter you're grilling is. Oh, sure, you could be grilling vegetables or making some sort of crazy coal-fired bread oven, but the trick to grilling is learning to cook meat so that it's flavorful and juicy. The other applications are interesting, but not the main focus; the meat, if you will. You won't? Okay, fine: the main focus. For our grilling purposes, there are two types of meats: thick and thin. Thin meats are your steaks, your hamburgers, your pork chops, and so on. The thick meats are your chuck roasts, your legs of lamb, and the like. The thick meats, in many ways, are relatively simple to cook and know when they're ready. Generally you'll cook over indirect heat, with a searing at the beginning or the end, and you'll use a probe thermometer or an instant-read thermometer to determine their doneness. There are plenty of sources on the internet for the temperature at which any given meat is both safe to eat and tasty, so use those as necessary. Bear in mind that you'll want to cook it under temperature by 5-10 degrees, then let the meat rest for 10 minutes covered in foil to let the residual heat finish cooking the rest of the way. This gives the meat a chance to reabsorb some of its juices, for a tastier meal. For the thinner meats, this is where the voodoo comes in. To be sure, you can still use a thermometer, but it's a little trickier to hit the center of a thinner piece of meat, and besides, it's far less satisfying. No, when grilling properly, you want to learn how to feel when the meat is cooked. At the early stages of your grilling career, that means literally feeling the meat, not making an emotional connection with it. As you increase your skills, well, the sky's the limit. Hold out your right hand, as if telling oncoming traffic to stop: fingers splayed in a relaxed manner, palm out. Using your thumb and forefinger of your left hand, feel on either side (front/palm) of your right hand until you locate where the bones meet for the thumb and index finger. The muscle that comes out from that part of your hand inside the angle formed by those two bones, that's what we'll call your Steak Zone. I know, it's very appetizing, but stay with me. Do you feel how tight the muscle is just away from the bones? That's a well-done steak, or as steak lovers call it, an over-cooked steak. Don't let your steak get this firm, for that means failure. Yes, I know, that's harsh, but there are realities to grilling steaks, and one of those realities is that a well-done steak is not good to eat. Another reality is that steak sauce is not good to eat on a properly done steak either, but we'll get to that later. Back to the Steak Zone. Continue out from the over-cooked/well-done section towards the open air. Stop when you've reached the part that feels more or less like raw steak, but not as cold or wet (hopefully). That's your range of feeling. Divide that into 4-6 distinct areas, and you have all you need to know to get started on your path to zen grilling. The closer it feels to the inside muscle, the more done it is. The closer it feels to the outside, the more rare it is. Combine that with lots and lots of practice, and you'll be a grill master in no time. I know, it hurts, having to cook and eat a series of steaks just to increase your skills, but sacrifices must be made. So, back to the steak sauce. A proper cut of meat, properly cooked, needs but salt, pepper, and, if you're exceptionally decadent, a smidge of butter to reach perfection. If you feel the need to break out the steak sauce, chances are that you've just skimped on the salt, because steak sauce is generally pretty heavy with salt. Add some on, and you should be good. Try it out; if it doesn't work for you, then enjoy your steak sauce, but I think you'll be surprised by the difference. Above is about 75% of what you need to know to successfully grill meats of various descriptions. Oh, sure, details will vary, recipes and spices will be thrown in, and we've completely avoided talk of what kind of grill to use, but the important thing is that you don't have to be born to grilling; it can be learned, and you can do it.

Coffee Time Part 2 - Brewing Methods

Now that you know where coffee comes from, it's time to focus on the more practical aspect of coffee: the making. There are a lot of ways to brew coffee, from the pedestrian to the futuristic to the complicated to the, well, weird. All coffee making methods share the desire to combine grounds with hot water in one form or another, and most of the methods separate the grounds from the water at some point in the process before it reaches your cup. In a nutshell, that's brewing. After brewing is preparation and/or drinking, but that's a story for another time.

Automatic Drip

The most popular method of brewing in the US is the automatic drip. You start with some grounds in a filtered bowl, pour hot water through, then let the water fall into a pot waiting below, while the grounds stay with the filtered bowl. Very consistent, for any given coffee pot, and likely to make a serviceable pot of coffee with minimal effort. There are a few problems with the automatic drip method, depending on how you like your coffee. But to understand why, you'll need to learn a little bit more about the coffee itself. Most of the flavor of coffee comes from the essential oils that are captured by the water. These essential oils are what the roasting process is all about; the darker the roast, the more oil there is, with additional changes in flavor from the heat treatment. In an ideal brew, you strip off all of the essential oils and leave everything else, because the rest of the flavor in the coffee bean is very bitter and nasty, which does not make for a tasty brew. Any given volume of water will be inclined to pull out a certain amount of flavor and then stop, or at least slow down, the acquisition of additional flavors. There's only so much space between the water molecules for yummy treats. However, consider the layout of your general automatic drip: Bowl of grounds, water up top, small hole at the bottom. All of the water falls into that bowl from a single point or set of points. After a while, the points of contact between the water and the grounds are going to lose essential oils, and then the water will start picking up the bitter compounds from the coffee before grabbing the essential oils from below. Some coffee pots try to fix this by pouring in enough water that the grounds are floating in a pool while the relatively small spout at the bottom slowly releases the coffee enriched water into the pot. That's a good step, unless you like your coffee strong (as I do). If you try to add more coffee to the filtered bowl (especially what I consider to be the "proper amount", it may overload your filter basket and you'll make a big mess. So, if you want pretty strong, not-terribly-bitter coffee from an automatic drip, it's going to take a lot of comparison shopping, and a lot of trial, error, and returns. Another difficulty, though more easily fixed, is that putting the water through paper doesn't taste all that good. A metal filter will let more of the oils through, though I'll admit, this is one of those subtle changes. There are many more ways to optimize your coffee experience that will have a greater impact. Finally, the convenience of the automatic drip is also its downfall. The timer option encourages you to either use pre-ground coffee, or to grind your coffee the night before. The more surface area on the coffee, the more oils will be exposed to air, which will break them down into flavorless compounds. Don't hurt your coffee this way, grind as close to brewing time as possible. The other convenience factor is the heated pot, which will break down the oils and make them bitter. But, considering all these disadvantages, how else can you brew coffee?

French Press

French PressThe easiest, least expensive way to move away from the tyranny of the Automatic Drip Coffee Pot is to buy a French Press. A simple contraption, it involves a container that holds both the grounds and the water together, as well as a filter on the end of a stick. You put the grounds in the bottom, add near-boiling water, wait four minutes, press the filter down, and enjoy your coffee. You can easily control both the amount of coffee and the length of brewing time to fit your own personal style. There are a couple of downsides, though. The first is that it has no water heating mechanism, so you'll have to provide the hot water yourself. I use an electric coffee kettle, which is a nice, multipurpose device that heats water extremely quickly with minimal effort. You can also use a regular kettle, some manner of pot on a stove, a bottled water dispenser with hot water tap, or an under-sink hot water heater, depending on your preference. The second is that it has no timer, so you can't just wake up to pre-made coffee. On the other hand, it's really not that hard to make, and you'll want to grind the beans (with a rough grind) as close to the time you brew anyways. The third is that there are very few insulated presses, and the insulation isn't all that great anyways, so your coffee will get cold quickly if you don't drink it immediately. However, a vacuum flask will take care of that problem. The fourth is that the clean up is a bit of a pain. You have to dump out the grounds then wash the apparatus. An automatic drip is a bit easier with the paper filter, but if you use a metal filter, well, it's the same amount of work. The final disadvantage is the obverse of the flexibility: you have to pay more attention to what you're doing. If you want minimal thinking while you're making coffee, and don't want to have to keep an eye on the time and so on, then you might not like the French Press. Which leads us to...

Vacuum Pot

This is my latest coffee related acquisition, and it's keen. Although the tech is decades old, it looks very futuristic. The basic concept is similar to those "love meters", which are little glass contraptions with colored water and two reservoirs connected by a glass tube. If you put your hand on the airy section of the lower reservoir, the heat from your hand will increase the pressure on the air, forcing the liquid up through the tube to the top reservoir, in apparent defiance of gravity. Same thing with the Vacuum Pot. The lower pot looks much like any automatic drip's pot looks like, but generally slanted at some funny angles. Then you have a top section with a filtered tube that drops almost to the bottom of the first pot. You put water in the bottom section, coffee grounds up top, and apply heat to it. Water heats up to just below a simmer, which is a great temperature for brewing coffee. The vapor is released from the water slowly, which collects in the air above the water. This increases the pressure on the water, and, when it hits the appropriate temperature, the water flies up the tube, mixing with the coffee grounds. Some of the air even follows it up, ensuring that the water and coffee are thoroughly mixed while treating you with a cool bubble show. Then you remove the heat, and the air will cool, pressure drops, and with it, the water falls back through the filtered tube, sans coffee grounds, into the reservoir below. If you have an electric model, it takes no supervision at all after the elements are assembled. There are even models with timers on them, so you could leave it overnight (though I would recommend you never do that, what with the air and essential oils and destruction of all that lovely flavor and such). You could also get a stovetop model, as the original ones are, but that would obviously be more work while brewing a pot of coffee, since you have to take it off the heat at the proper time and all. It does give you more control, of course, if you can't find an electric model that brews for as long as you might like. On the downside, they're a little expensive, in the $100 range, but you'll pay that for a good automatic drip, so it's not so bad. Cleanup is also a bit of a pain compared with a paper filter, and the electric models can't be cleaned in a dishwasher, unlike most of the automatic drip pots and french presses.

Percolator

Ah, the savior of the catering industry and the bane of coffee lovers everywhere. The percolator is a huuuuuge pot of water and coffee mixed together with heat applied and a filtered spout at the bottom. Mix together, apply heat, and eventually, pour out on a per-cup basis. Whether for 4 minutes or 4 days, the coffee and grounds stay together, warmed continuously throughout. So, continuous application of heat, and contact between the grounds and the water well past the stage necessary to extract oils, combined with the likelihood that cheap, prepackaged and pre-ground coffee of the cheapest nature will be used to minimize cost, and you have...? That's right: coffee as bitter as an English major being forced to take calculus. While being taught by her ex-husband. When the graduate assistants are the men she caught him with the night he left her. Maybe even a little more bitter than that. On the other hand, if you have to make coffee for 200 people you hate, there's no more convenient way to do it.

Egg Coffee

What? No, really. What? Well, back in the old days, say turn of the last century, people didn't fuss with those fancy filters or French contraptions. No, what they did is they mixed the coffee grounds with a beaten, raw egg, poured boiling water over it. The egg would hold the grounds, while still allowing the water to get at them. The egg would end up cooking enough to be easily separated from the coffee laden water, and people drank it. Oftentimes, the egg shell was kept with the egg as well. I won't lie to you: I haven't tried this yet. I keep meaning to, but it slips my mind when I'm at home, and at work, well, there just isn't an egg to spare. As soon as I try it, I'll report on the findings. I will say that people who've had this claim there's no finer way to make coffee. On the other hand, people who've willingly tried this could be crazy, so there may be some selection issues with the sample.

Espresso

Enjoying a renaissance of sorts in the United States, fueled by a little Seattle coffee house you've probably never heard of, espresso is extremely concentrated coffee made by pushing steam through finely ground coffee and pumped into a cup. You have to use steam, because water is too dense to fit through the coffee as it is ground so fine. Most people in the US drink espresso in the form of a latte or one of its brethren, because the espresso is so poorly made you have to drown in it milk to enjoy it. I have had precisely one cup of decent, coffee-house/restaurant espresso in my life, but I try it at any coffee house or sufficiently fancy European descended restaurant. If I don't like the espresso, I will snobbily consider the coffee house to be below my consideration. Of course, once you find out how I prefer my coffee prepared, you'll likely not care about my snobbishness. Still, a good espresso is a thoroughly tasteful and enjoyable, and a bad espresso is a tiny cup of concentrated bitterness. Seek out good espresso, and enjoy it if you can. There are several ways to make espresso, ranging from the traditional and inexpensive to the "would you prefer that espresso machine or perhaps a sports car" price range. The least expensive is a device that is shaped like a small, metal vacuum pot, except without the tube going down. Reservoir in the bottom with water, coffee grounds in the middle with a fine filter on each side, and a pot on top to hold the coffee. Heat the water until it boils, the steam goes through the coffee, into the top reservoir where it cools and, being liquid again, can't go down through the grounds again. Pour and enjoy. The most popular home version is like that in function, but is self-contained, much larger, and brews directly into a cup. Still, the pressure of the steam is what propels it through the coffee grounds. The more expensive models will actually pump the steam through mechanically, adding additional air pressure, allowing a finer ground. Many of these electric models will have a steam wand that allows you to froth milk, for the cappuccino and latte lovers. Unfortunately, that's about as much detail as I can go into, as I don't really have a schmancy espresso maker, so I can't give you good tips. When I get one, or if I find a good guest writer, you can learn all about the dangers and pitfalls of espresso making, and how to avoid them. Oh, and there's powdered espresso, I'm sure that's really tasty to drink. Heh.

Turkish Coffee

This is a very different style of making coffee, and likely the oldest type. First, you grind your coffee very fine, until it's powdery. Fill your ibrik, or Turkish Coffee Pot, with sugar water, and put the coffee powder over it without stirring. Heat this on your stovetop or sufficiently hot, desert sand until foam comes up to to top. Remove from heat, and stir. Repeat this procedure two more times. Pour into a coffee cup, and, um, enjoy.Turkish Coffee Ibrik Okay, I'll admit that I've never had coffee prepared this way, so it could be fantastic. However, I suspect it's going to be bitter and, very possibly, nasty. Bear in mind that you will have coffee grounds mixed in with your coffee, as this method was invented well before people decided that filtering their coffee was a good idea.

Vietnamese Coffee

Okay, I have a soft spot in my heart for Vietnamese style coffee, on account of it using Sweetened Condensed Milk. Much like Thai Iced Tea and an empty spoon, everything is tastier with some sweetened condensed milk. To make Vietnamese style coffee, you take a coffee cup with some sweetened condensed milk in it, and you place on top of it the metal coffee pot. This pot has a tight filter that only allows a little water out at a time. You put the grounds and the hot water into the pot, close it up, and wait for all the water to drip out 4 or 5 minutes later. Stir and enjoy. [series-info:left]