Tuesday, July 07, 2009

How to make coffee #2 Espresso and Filter

The High Streets of most towns and cities are now littered with charity shops, former estate agents and chain coffee shops. Most of those coffee shops are part of chains and really should be called espresso bars, since that's the main drink on offer at your local Starbucks, Costa or Caffe Nero.

The Espresso is made by the Barista and is at its purest form a concentrated coffee hit. It'll be pretty much the cheapest item on a crowded menu of favoured and diluted derivatives which are worth experimenting with. Most commonly the Espresso becomes an Americano, by diluting with hot water. If you ask for a black coffee that's what you're getting. In most cases an Americano is what the white-coffee drinker also wants when they end up ordering a Latte. The Americano comes black but room for milk is an option. A good tasty coffee has a Crèma, a tasty golden layer, on top, contrast that with the thin film around the edges of an instant coffee. The quality of this is a combination of the freshness of the coffee beans and the way the coffee is made.

In some Espresso Bars the Americano can be a rather weak drink, over diluted and verging towards the consistency of an Instant Coffee (though never quite that bad!), requesting a double-shot is well advised, and comes by default at Caffe Nero.

Filter Coffee
The alternative from Starbucks is a filter coffee. Usually they'll have two coffees brewing as a Freshly Brewed Coffee, a strong fair trade coffee and another blend from around the world. This is a drip coffee rather than made at high pressure like an Espresso. It's a fine drink usually nicer than a weak Americano. The thing to watch for is that drip filter coffee kept warm tends to burn after about half an hour and is then a little unpleasant. Starbucks refreshes theirs every so often, usually keeping only one brewing at a time. It'd be worth requesting the other option offered and waiting a few minutes to have it fresh. At Starbucks this is the next cheapest coffee to an Espresso, and is really what the average coffee drinker wants to drink - white or black.

Both Espresso and Drip coffee can be made at home if you buy the right machinery.


  1. Starbucks also offer a free refill with their filter/drip coffees ;-)

    And with their "loyalty" card payment, you get extra espresso shots and flavoured syrup for free ;-)

  2. Or you can just come over to my place where espresso is always free..... :-)

  3. This is all very interesting to a non-coffee drinker. A real education.

    Are you going to talk about the respective merits of percolated coffee and cafetieres as well?