A dictionary of coffee talk

Let's talk like a Barista and ask for drinks like we know what we are talking about...


Know your coffee!..there is nothing smarter than heading into a new cafe(or an old cafe, for that matter) with a bit of knowledge under your belt. As much as I love coffee, I am naturally suspicious of any coffee joint that I walk into. You would be amazed how many places try and baffle or zoom you with BS. Be prepared. Be informed. Do not let any cafe barista or owner pull the wool(or the beans) over your eyes! Learn the lingo!

 

Barista --The espresso machine operator, one who is fully informed and practiced (hopefully) in the art of coffee preparation; means "bartender" in Italian. In Italy it is a respected career.

Caffe Americano --Espresso diluted with hot water; one shot of espresso with up to seven ounces of water.

Cafe au Lait --Half drip-brewed coffee and half steamed milk.

Caffe Breve --A latte made with half-and-half instead of milk.

Caffe Coretto --An espresso "corrected" with the addition of liquor, typically brandy or a liqueur.

Caffe Latte --Espresso with steamed milk and a thin layer of foam on the top.

Caffe Mocha --Espresso mixed with chocolate and steamed milk and topped with steamed milk or whipped cream.

Cappuccino --Espresso topped with foam.

Con Panna --Literally, espresso with a dollop of whipped cream.

Crema --The reddish-brown, creamy layer of foam that sits on top of a well-drawn espresso.

Doppio --A double shot of espresso.

Draw --To prepare an espresso shot. (See also Pull.)

Drip --Short for drip-brewed coffee - also called a "pour" if you are measuring everything like I do..

Dry Cappuccino --A cappuccino with foam only, ever! Served in an 8 or 12 ounce cup.

Espresso Pitcher --A small, three- to five-ounce pitcher that the barista brews espresso into.

Espresso Macchiato --Espresso "marked" or "stained" by milk foam. Not the 24 fluid ounce caramel flavoured thing that Starbucks serves.

Flavored Espresso Drink --An espresso drink with a flavored syrup added.

Flat --No foam.

Grande -- Starbucks thing... A sixteen-ounce serving of coffee or espresso drink.

Granita --A dessert of shaved, sweetened ice flavored with coffee or fruit juice.

Group --An espresso machine's brewing chamber, comprising the group head and the portafilter.

Group Head --The circular unit that forms the upper half of an espresso machine's brewing chamber and into which the barista places the portafilter.

Group Switch --The button on the espresso machine that turns the group on and off.

Knockbox --A container with a padded bar across the top for the barista to use to "knock" the brewed coffee grounds out of the portafilter.

London Fog -- A coffee free latte made with Earl Grey tea, some sweetening and steamed/foamed milk.

Lungo --A long shot of espresso, about one to two ounces per seven grams of coffee.

Mochaccino --An American invention that features espresso mixed with chocolate and topped with more foam and less steamed milk than a caffe mocha.

One Percent --An espresso drink made with milk that has 1 percent milk fat.

Packing or tamping(the portafilter) --The process of filling the portafilter with coffee.

Portafilter --A handled device with a brew basket at its end that fits into an espresso machine's group head.

Pull --Used as a verb to describe the act of making espresso, as in "to pull a shot."

Purist --A coffee aficionado who demands quality and shuns the use of flavored syrups and the practice of diluting espresso with copious quantities of milk; will only drink an espresso, a macchiato, or a cappuccino. Usually the least happy customer in today's marketing-driven specialty retail store.

The Red Eye -- a shot of espresso poured into a serving of drip coffee. Also known as "A shot in the dark..." and "The Bomb" "Depth Charge" and a few other names... as seen on many menu's Worldwide - depending on the cafe you are in. It is kind of pointless as a shot of espresso in a cup of coffee does little more than create a "light Americano..." and the extra caffeine added is insignificant.

Ristretto --A shot of espresso that is cut off at fifteen to twenty seconds (when the crema turns light brown) yielding less than one ounce per seven grams of coffee; an aficionado's ambrosia.

Short --An eight-ounce serving of coffee or espresso drink.

Short Shot --or Short Pull See Ristretto.

Skinny --An espresso drink made with nonfat milk.

Steam Wand --The thin metal tube on an espresso machine connected to the boiler that heats milk and produces foam.

Straight Shot --An espresso served without milk, steamed milk, or foam; the drink of true purists.

Tamping --The action of packing the coffee into the portafilter with enough force to ensure the proper extraction.

Wet Cappuccino --A cappuccino with foam and steamed milk; usually the espresso, foam, and steamed milk are in a 1:1:1 ratio.

With Legs --A drink to go.

 


Colin works, lives and plays in Victoria, B.C. Canada and feels that life is too short for bad coffee.


Living with the EKOBrew single cup brewer

2 press to lock - EKO Brew from Capital IronThe First definitive no nonsense review of the EKOBrew single cup K-Cup style brewer - with thanks to Capital Iron Victoria B.C. Canada for the loan.

For those that know me, I am old school when it comes to coffee. And frugal. To a fault perhaps.

I used to have one of the best home espresso set ups for under $1500 and abandoned it for the simple joy of pouring a carafe of coffee through a simple Japanese made filter holder called a Hario. I still do. My office set-up is a pair of Newco OCS-8 and OCS-12 semi-commercial drip brewers that lead the pack for hot drip coffee done right. On stand-by are Hario ceramic filter holders and carafes and a handful of Aeropress coffee makers.

For me, that is the essence of coffee in 2015 - no muss, no fuss and no moving parts, pumps, plastics or head aches. And everything, and I mean everything, heads into my compost when I am done. My home compost is alive with some of the happiest and most awake bugs in the neighborhood in which they regularly feed from fresh coffee grounds and compostable filter papers.

 The EKO Single Cup Brewer from Capital Iron and Steel Victoria

Anyway - when the opportunity came to check out something not exactly down my alley but gaining in popularity, I had to jump at it - if only for the benefit of my readers who are enthusiastic for some new content.

So, right to it. The good people at Capital Iron and Steel Victoria (perhaps one of the better kept secrets of Victoria B.C. shoppers who are coffee lovers...) have pretty much given me free run of their kitchen section - which is, I will admit, the one and only place in downtown Victoria to satisfy your coffee curiousity.

EkoBrew recycle pod from Capital Iron Capital Iron (as misleading a name as you can get for a department store [more a general store perhaps]) has the single largest collections of coffee goodies - for all tastes and inclinations. And because they are independent can afford the intellectual curiousity completely absent from the Big Boxes of Vancouver Island and B.C. in general. And that is good news for coffee lovers because if they don't have it, they are just as likely to order some if it appears that it might have a broader appeal.

For me, my adventure in K-Cup exploration started innocently enough when I was sent a small crate of K-Cups by a globally huge coffee roaster (who for the benefit of them and my legal expenses will remain nameless...)

Let's just say the coffee was wretched. I have tried every kind of coffee brewed every which way of every vintage from coffee I roasted 5 minutes ago to coffee that had its best before date 15 - 20 years ago! This is how I get a sense of what is on the vendors shelves and recreating any and all the circumstances that the average drinker may find themselves in.

I could hardly expect that the taste that comes from a brand new machine (filled with promise) when matched with coffee pods that were likely made when George Bush was still President could be that bad.

But they were - and it came down to the freshness of the coffee!

So this adventure lead me (on my own) to find some impeccably fresh K-Cup pods (sounds almost like an oxymoron) that would be suitable for a machine fresh out of the box.

That search led me to a coffee producer whose farm has special meaning to me.

Blue Horse Kona of Captain Cook, Hawaii were good enough to send me a box of 10 K-Cup pods, roaster fresh (with a retail value of $25 USD for 10 pods).

OK. And with that giddy introduction, on to the review and a discussion of what we found.

The product. The EKOBrew Single Cup brewer comes in a well padded box that is as much a platform for the actual refillable EKO Brew filter cup as it is for the brewer itself. The instructions are thorough and dire with all the right warnings: beware the needles that puncture the K-Cup pod, beware the hot water, use an extension cord at your peril, etc.

They are covering their hind quarters. In all fairness, the manual is well written and straightforward. The EKOBrew Single Cup brewer feels solid enough and it actually has a couple of visible security screws at the back for disassembly. (But don't even think about it! It will put you in harm's way and void the warranty!) 

General Usage. The EKOBrew Single Cup brewer has a 1420 watt power plant and a 3-Bar vibration pump. The wattage alone gave me comfort that the water temperature will be sufficiently high to brew the coffee at the right temperature. I have numerous high tech temp sensors but for the purpose of this review I used my fingers to measure the brew water...

Oww, that's hot. Good.

EKOBrew single brewer for the K-CupA quick single press of the power button warms up the beast. I did not measure the heat up time but I think it was under a minute. When the power light stopped flashing, I put a cup under the brew head and ran a cycle of water through the EKOBrew Single Cup brewer. This does two things. It warms up your cup and makes sure that the "mysterious innards" of the EKOBrew Single Cup brewer are ready for action. That and it's just silly to brew hot coffee into a cold cup.

The entire operation of the K-Cup unit is all about the simplicity. Open the head by the lever, drop in a K-Cup, press to lock the head and press one of three brew buttons; short, medium or long.

Frankly I found the best tasting coffee on the "short" setting. Because here is the thing: The K-Cup only holds so much coffee and (yea I get your personal preference...) there is an ideal amount of coffee for an ideal amount of water. For me, it is quite literally whatever the K-Cup pod holder holds in terms of ground coffee multiplied by 12 to 14 times as much water.

Example: If the K-Cup pod holds 14G of ground coffee then you want to run around 190g of water through it or just under 8 fluid ounces. That is considered a nice satisfying demitasse of coffee.

Want more? Brew another pod into the same cup. Yes, I do occasionally get the "Colin, your coffee is TOO STRONG!" there is no such thing as coffee that is too strong but that is another tedious retelling of my story for another day.

Anyway - drop in a pod. Press brew button. Wait the 20+ seconds for your portion to brew. Let it drip a bit towards the end of the brew cycle or put another cup under the brew head to gather the dregs. Either way, enjoy. I have fingers made of pure asbestos so I can pop open the brew chamber and pull out a spent K-Cup pod while it's still steaming but maybe you shouldn't. If you need to brew another cup immediately, jump in. The water is not that bad.

But what does it taste like? I did a couple of side by side taste tastes with some of the most wretched anthropologist worthy K-Cup samples. These had been sitting on a shelf in my electronics lab for over a year.

On the plus side we had on hand some farm fresh samples from a source that I trust: Blue Horse Kona Coffee

The old coffee had a flavor that I could only describe as "mystery industrial medicine" - that is, I could taste coffee but I could also taste something decidely chemical, weird and sinister - and this, as it would turn out has absolutely nothing to do with the brewer. It is what you get when you run date sensitive coffee (these are not nespresso pods after all - more on that later!) through a brewer that demands decent and fairly new ground coffee.

Anyhow - I brewed up some bad coffee and mentally recorded some people's facial expressions  - I tried some myself - and yuck, it was bad. But I knew that I was brewing the sketchiest possible coffee.

Onto the good stuff. When I started popping Blue Horse Kona pods into the machine and serving them to the lab crew, the change was immediate, palpable and alarming.

This is known as the 7 stages of the new coffee experience:

1.) Sip coffee. 2.) Look in the cup 3.) Look at me 4.) Look at the brewer 5.) take another Sip 6.) Stare into space then 7.) Smile.

 

The overwhelming consensus was, "How is it POSSIBLE that this COFFEE came from THIS BREWER?". "This coffee is really, really good." My wife, for instance, likened the experience to sitting on the patio adjacent to the farmer's fields enjoying a freshly brewed pot of Blue Horse Kona coffee.

My opinion. Under the right conditions (and I have a few more tests to do...) - with good coffee and good water and all that other stuff, the EKOBrewer makes some very drinkable coffee when brewed following the most optimum conditions: Brew short, use good or great fresh coffee or pods and enjoy!

Environmental Bottom Line: My coffee drinking philosophy is like that of a doctor: Do no harm. Before you invest some of your time and money in a brew method that is, perhaps, at the upper end of the expense range, do some research and find out if you can effectively recycle the regular pods somewhere.

There are hundreds of K-Cups to pick from and they are going to run the gamut from interesting, predictable to (gasp) flavoured. That said, with a refillable EKO Brew pod unit (and you might want to buy several) you can use any coffee ground to your own discerning specifications and brew to your hearts content with zero guilt.

Where to buy: The EKOBrew pod and single brewer seem to be available online and in stores that care about variety - around $120

Critical caveat! If you decide to buy some of the many K-Cup pods available, do your level best to find the freshest pods available. K-Cups are not the same as Nespresso pods which are nitrogen charged during the manufacture and have a higher shelf life. K-Cups are more sensitive to freshness so do your homework and enjoy!

Post script: I did just get in a great question: (And I always field questions - and if they are good questions, I will integrate them into the permanent articles)
"Can you buy locally sourced K-Cups?" Well yes, I did. You can buy the Blue Horse Kona ones but I suspect that there is a World of K-Cups that can be found by digging deep on the internet. Additionally, with the refillable K-Cup EKOBrew filter holder, you will be spinning your own in no time.


 Your coffee author, Colin Newell, has been writing about coffee and coffee culture for over 20 years. He has lived in Victoria B.C. Canada but has traveled extensively finding the best cups of java.


 

Living with the Profitec 300 DB Machine

profitec 300In an era of plastic and cheaply made products, it is a nice change to wrap your hands (and in this case your arms) around something very solidly made - and very heavy.

The folks at Quality Coffee Systems in Vancouver were good enough to loan me a sample unit for a few weeks - they are the same people that loaned me the amazng Olympic Lever machine. It is an awesome opportunity to be in a position to borrow virtually any machine made - at any time - and I never forget that this is a privilege that is earned - and I need to keep that privilege earned by releasing good content from time to time on this website! So, on with the report.

The Profitec 300 is one in a series of well made and smartly designed espresso machines with a strong Italian heritage. Made in Germany from a company that has been in the business since the 90's - founded in 1985, Profitec GmBh has drawn on some of the classic engineering from the Faema E61 heat exchanging head.

The Faema E61 machine from 1961 set the "bar" for espresso machine design for the home, lab, office and cafe that has yet to be bested - and this technology is firmly at home with the senior Profitec machines. The E61 head (for the purposes of explaining this amazing technology [though not present on the 300 series Profitec]) ensures better control and regulation of brew water for the ground coffee. Strict control of the brew water is the secret to a consistent shot of espresso - with readily reproduceable results time and again. If you have ever heard of the term "temperature surfing" in the world of espresso coffee, this is what it is all about. The Profitec 300 uses a PID system (described below) in place of a "head exchanging head" to better approximate the tight temperature control needed for consistent results. A PID is not as good as a heat exchanging E61 brew head but it is significantly better than none at all.

Profitec 300 DB espresso machineThe Profitec 300 features independant dual 1200 watt boilers for brewing and hot water/steam production. The beauty of this is that the user can power up the espresso boiler alone for pulling shots within 5 to 7 minutes. The Profitec 300 uses two 1200 watt boilers and all told that is over 2KW of energy that you are pulling off of one 110V circuit. Do not be surprised if your kitchen lights wink a little bit as the Profitec 300 cycles - particularly if you are running the steam boiler and the espresso boiler at the same time.

The Profitec 300 weighs in at around 40 pounds - with dual marine .325L brass boilers, Ulka vibration pump, and all commercial grade portafilters (singles and duals included...) this unit is well within the realm of the serious home machine - comparable to the Giotto Rocket series of espresso machines - less the HX head that is on the 500 and 700 models.

Profitec 300 DB espresso machineI was fortunate enough to have the Profitec 300 for 2 weeks and it only took less than 1/2 pound of one of my favorite espresso blend to really dial it in with a Rancilio Rocky grinder.

As with all serious machines, a suitable burr grinder is a must. There are few things more things more sensitive to the quality of ground coffee or a method more fussy that semi-commercial or commercial espresso. Examples of suitable grinders for this machine include most of the Baratza grinders, the Rancilio Rocky and virtually anything in the $500 to $1500 bracket - although that is at the top end of the spectrum.

The Profitec 300 uses a "PID" to track the temperature during routine use - and what is a PID you ask?

The PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) is a mechanism that will control the boiler heating element of the Profitec Machine. This mechanism, when installed and programmed properly, will increase the boiler temperature in calculated increments in order to reach a set temperature also called the Set Value. The science of the PID and its programming is beyond the scope of this article but suffice to say that it might just make a very positive contribution to the actual brewing process. The thing is, you want the water to stay the same as the brew cycle is unwinding. If the temperature drops significantly towards the end of the brew cycle then that is going to effect the taste of the espresso - conversely, if the temperature of the water is significantly high at the beginning of the brew cycle then this could effect the results to. Bottom line: Keep that water temperature as close to ideal for that bean as possible!

So how did I do? With hot water on demand from a dedicated boiler, I had no trouble banging out great Americano's every couple of minutes - the Profitec 300 has a pretty quick recovery and you can make multiple drinks in quick succession, whether they be caps, lattes, espresso or other specialty drinks. If the machine has one weak area it was (or was my ability lacking) my inability to make good micro-foam for awesome cafe quality cappuccinos. I even had a celebrity cafe/restaurant owner over to try as well (Mark Engels of Bubby's Kitchen) and he had little more luck than I did. The "loaner" of the machine was going to give it his own work out and get back to me on what I was missing in my technique. Suffice to say, I have had a way easier time whipping out milk decorated drinks on a Rancilio Silvia - and this unit should have kicked it in the milk department - but I did not find that. 

 For more photos of the Profitec 300 Dual Boiler machine - click here.

Shot for shot, the espresso was as good as anything I had from any dual boiler machine - and a tad better than single boiler units. When you have a boiler dedicated to brewing and one to hot water for steam/water on demand, there are fewer things that can go wrong.

The Nespresso Inissia pod system

Nespresso-Inissia-2015 GourmessoEvery so often I get an offer of a coffee machine, to test,  in exchange for a review - or a machine in exchange from one of the many online companies offering a selection of coffee products. The folks at New York City based Gourmesso.com were good enough to send a very significant supply of coffee samples and arrange for an Inissia machine to test them on.

This machine came with no real strings attached (my favorite) apart from, "Hey test the machine out - tell us what you think and what you think of the coffee pods that we supply..." OK. I can do that.

Anyway - the Nespresso Inissia arrived via courier in pretty short order along with a separate shipment of Gourmesso pods - happy times for the boys in the lab about to ensue!

The Nespresso always comes well packed with very handsome and readable instructions and a sample of some authentic Nespresso pods. Out of the box it is a pretty quick set-up. Add some water to the carafe, "touch" one of the brew buttons (there is no classic power switch) and the "brew" button blinks until the unit is ready to brew - typically under 90 seconds when you are powering it up for the first time. I do not mind there not being a power switch as long as it is clear in the instructions that there isn't one - and there are very clear instructions. 

The Nespresso Inissia is an espresso machine in the truest sense of the word. It makes 2 fluid ounce servings of espresso using a high pressure pump. It uses the proprietary pod system as created by Nestle - but of course there are other vendors that make pods that will work with the unit - like Gourmesso, the company that were kind of enough to spot us a machine.

Quite often, when the curious among us are checking out the Nespresso system for the first time they need to be reminded that this is an espresso coffee system. It does not make mugs of brewed coffee. You can make passable Americano drinks with it if you are willing to have a supply of boiled water on hand to water down the espresso. I found that I needed to brew 4 shots of Nespresso coffee to make a decent 12 oz. Americano. More on that later.

Continuing the tradition that Nespresso started, there are a myriad of pods available for these machines all with very fanciful names that say nothing about the coffee you are drinking -- for the most part that is.

Some Examples:

  • Ristretto: full-bodied, intense espresso. Appears to be their benchmark.
  • Arpegio: full-bodied, intense espresso. Bright. Lemony. 
  • Roma: Fairly balanced. Unassuming.
  • Fortissio Lungo: Lungo does refer to a "long shot" but I try not to stretch the brew much. 

Anyway - you get the idea. 

Gourmesso, bless their hearts, has simplified the identifcation and sampling of their wares by choosing a naming system that makes more sense and gives you an idea about what you are loading into the machine; Nicaragua Mezzo, Brazil Forte, Ethiopia Blend Forte, Colombia Arabica, etc. Very helpful indeed when you compare this to the mystery of the Nespresso naming system!

In use: The Nespresso Inissia is one of the fastest power to brew-ready units I have ever tested. A minute and a half to warm up - give or take - which is pretty astounding. I imagine that the boiler (yes, I really need to tear one of these units apart to find out...) is pretty small and is likely a "thermo-block" system. Little more than a heating unit with a coil of water conducting conduit inside - in the old days these units were quite vulnerable to scale build up and a catastrophic "heart attack" coffee machine style. I am going to keep this unit for a bit and dish out some abuse to see how it stands up.

Locking and loading: is dead simple. Pick a pod. Pull up lever. Drop it in. Pull lever forward. Ready to brew. There are two buttons for brewing. Short and Long. And regardless of which one you pick to push, you can hit a button to stop the brew cycle "ristretto" or short. I use the short brew exclusively. Honest moment folks: If you were to use the LONG brew on this unit, the results would be simply undrinkable. There is simply not enough coffee in the pods to use that much water. I will actually take some Gourmesso pods and Nespresso pods apart and weigh the contents. My theory so far is that the Gourmesso pods contain slightly less coffee than the Nespresso ones - which explains why the taste of the Nespresso pods is (to my taste) slightly better. It's all subjective right?

The Long Reality: The long brew on the Nespresso Inissia is around 4 fluid ounces (OK, maybe 3.5) -- which is way over-extracted. As I said above - I am going to make some comparisons. In an interesting experiment, I polled over 100 staff in my unit at the University to freely come visit and have some free pod coffee from the Nespresso unit. There were only 6 volunteers and half of those objected to the waste that the coffee brewers produce! Now that is science at work!

Cost: At 80 cents for a Nespresso capsule - you are going to rack up some serious charges in a hurry if you have a thirst for this kind of caffeine delivery. The Gourmesso pods are around 45 cents each - but there is a bit of a compromise on the flavor I think. I will be revisiting this theory after I buy some more Nespresso pods this weekend.

Convenience:
 There are mountains of pods created by the popularity of these machines. One of my issues is the near inability for most people to recycle the pods - and hence 100% of the waste goes into a landfull or is dumped in the ocean in an every increasing crisis. Sorry to say this but I cannot support those kinds of products no matter how good the taste is (see below) or how convenient it all is. For me, convenience is making coffee with paper filters that I can toss into my compost bin and recycle onto the vegetable bed. The tomatoes love it!

Taste: Overall, (and this is almost a direct quote from my previous article on the Pixie!) I found the taste of the pods edgy, not particularly alive nor particularly unique, somewhat muted but better than they tasted when I tested my first Nespresso several years ago. Truth be told, the flavor has improved, particularly for the Nespresso pods. And, as I said, I need to do some live side by side comparisons of the Nespresso versus the Gourmesso pods - because I can definitely taste a difference.

Bottom line:  You cannot beat the convenience of powering up a coffee maker in under 3 minutes and dropping a pod or two in and brewing up passable espresso in such a short time. This is not cafe quality coffee. This is not even coffee that is up to my rigid standards for the home. It is, however, massively convenient and if you do not mind the blight on the environment and the cost, it might be your thing.

Price tag: The Nespresso Inissia sells online (or in select retail stores) for around $99 bucks. You would be hard pressed to get any conventional pump drive machine to produce anything even remotely espresso like for $100. It is largely plastic and obviously a stripped down version of the sexier Pixie, but the results are the same.

Final impressions: Love them or hate them, POD Coffee systems are here to stay. Hopefully someone will come up with an idea to make the pods biodegreadable or something. It is hard to take - brewing up some pretty good shots of espresso only to tip the waste into an overflowing landfill. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And yet, these machines are going to appeal to the busy people of this World that do not have the time or inclination to turn coffee making into the art form it has been for me all these years.


Your author has been writing about coffee culture since the mid 1990's - which makes this website very old in internet years. From time to time we discover something quite fascinating. It can happen to me and can happen to you!