Intro

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I fit the Seattle stereo-type through and through. I love coffee. In the morning, afternoon, evening and well into the night I enjoy this jitter inducing, sleep-preventing, delicious drug.

I love coffee’s smoky complexity. It fascinates me that one roasters bean tastes of citrus and berries while another’s interpretation brings out hints of chocolate and tobacco. Coffee enthusiasts are a passionate bunch and I am always learning from and being entertained by their continuous debates.

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A good cup of coffee is the first thing I want in the morning. The thought of slowly sipping on a hot cup of the black gold is often what encourages me to actually get out of bed. And in the evening when the two little punkens are tightly tucked into bed and the house is in its rare silent state, we will often fire up one of our five brewing systems to create the perfect cup to end a good day.

Yes that’s right. Five brewing systems. Pretty sure I have now just “outed” myself as a coffee nerd. I blame my husband who is much nerdier then I. It wasn’t long ago that he wouldn’t touch the stuff. That all changed when he traveled to Guatemala to photograph the production process – from bean to cup – on the family farm of a good friend. Since that point he’s been collecting geeky coffee paraphernalia like this drip Kettle by Hario.

I love it. I think his fastidiousness is hot.

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Our five brewing methods:

1. Chemex

2. French Press (Storyville knows its way around a french press)

3. Hario Dripper

4. Italian Stove-top – the way the nuns made it for me when I lived in Italy

5. Ms. Silvia – the Espresso Machine

Each morning we ask each other “do you want coffee?” If the other responds “no” then we know something is terribly wrong. If Gabe is brewing he will often go with the Hario Dripper (similar to the Melitta – which is very portable). If I am in charge of the coffee making then I turn to Ms. Silvia who produces silky foam and a luscious shot with a nice thick crema.

So since I am the one writing this post from here on out I will be focusing on espresso. By the end of these posts you will be one step closer to being the typical Seattle coffee snob.

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In this multi-post lesson we will learn the classic Espresso Drinks – as some large coffee companies, who shall remain nameless – may have tainted our understanding of true espresso beverages.

Tonight we will study two drinks because if we do much more of that I won’t sleep at all.

1. Classic Espresso – is made by forcing hot water though finely ground coffee beans – often dark-roast.  Single shots are 1 – 1.5 ounces. Double shots are 2 – 2.5 ounces. All espresso should take 20-25 seconds to brew. A well pulled shot will should produce a fine layer of foam known as crema.

Besides single and double there are a couple of different types of shots.

1a. Ristretto – or “short” shot. This is a smaller shot (double – 1 – 1.5 ounces)  that gives you a higher ratio of flavorful coffee oils to caffeine. You end up with a richer, bolder shot with more body. Ristrettos are often preferred by coffee lovers – some of my favorite coffee shops in town only pull Ristrettos.

There are a few ways of pulling a Ristretto – the most common way is to simply stop the extraction early so that less water passes through the coffee.

2a. Lungo – is the Italian term for “long”. This shot allows for nearly twice as much water to pass through taking up to a minute to pull. This is not the same as an Americano (espresso and hot water). A Lungo is not as strong as a regular shot but is more bitter as some of the coffee components that are typically undissolved are extracted in this extended shot.

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2. Caffe Macchiato - Literally means “espresso marked with milk”. This drink simply is a shot of espresso dotted with a touch of milk or velvety foam. Everyone’s definition of how much milk should be involved is a bit different. The general ratio is 80:20.

All right. Class dismissed. Now I am going to go lie in bed. Awake. All night long. With the shakes. But in the name of coffee education – it is well worth it.

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Here is more information from some real experts.

Espresso – Artazza

Macchiato- Artazza

Pulling the perfect shot – How Stuff Works

The milk frothing guide from Coffee Geek

All you ever wanted to know about frothing milk from Whole Latte Love

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17 Responses to “A Seattleites Guide to coffee”

  1. nina

    You sure know your coffee well, I am impressed. I do like a good cup of coffe, but am still such a novice!!! Which machine would you start on?

    Reply
  2. Monika

    I can’t imagine life without my stove-top espresso maker. I usually only fill the chamber with water halfway to the “fill” line. Do you think this results in a ristretto shot? I’m too attached to deviate to a different brewing method at home – any advice on how to approximate a ristretto shot with my stove-top would be appreciated. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Monika – I think you are on to something there. I can’t speak with ultimate authority on this but from what I understand that sounds like a Ristretto to me.

      Reply
  3. Barbara

    Wow. I had no idea Chemex still existed. My parents had one back in the 60’s. With your long list of brewing methods, when would you choose to use the Chemex?

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Barbara – We just went through a very long and happy Chemex phase. I had been used to drinking French Press but the Chemex removes any bitterness gives a clean, pure cup of coffee with not a lot of sediment and body. Right now we are primarily drinking coffee from the dripper and the espresso machine. I just love espresso. But our phases come and go and are usually related to what is the newest brewing system we got.

      Reply
  4. Dana

    OK, where is my coffee invite? I love going to people’s houses who know their stuff. One of my best friends’ husband used to work for Clover before they sold to Starbucks. I loved coffee at her house.

    Reply
  5. Talley

    This is an incredible post, thank you! I am in awe of your coffee geekery.

    So which coffeehouses in Seattle pull only Ristrettos? Would every (good) barista be able to tell me what kind of shot their place pulls (or would I make myself look like a tool for asking)? Do you have a favorite place or two in seattle (unless you’d prefer not to endorse…)?

    Last year we got an aeropress which has been working pretty well for us. Ever seen or used one? Lacking in crema, but good in flavor and low in bitterness and acidity.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      haha. I just put that gadget on my amazon wish list. I’ve seen it in action but it’s one of the few brewing systems we don’t own.
      We are so blessed in Seattle. We have good coffee running from our pores. Off the top of my head I’m going to say my favorites are 1. Stumptown – their coffee is ridiculous. Lightly roasted so the flavors are bright. Their sourcing is honorable and their passion is delicious. I haven’t figured out their secret but the foamed milk tastes like toasted marshmallows.
      2. Victrola. Great green beans – they cup almost every day. And the very nice barista was giving me latte art lessons.
      Don’t be afraid to ask your barista if they pull Ristrettos. If they don’t know the answer find a different barista. Seriously.

      Reply
  6. reto meier

    Thank you for focusing on specialty coffee – wish more culinary professionals would venture into this interesting subject. Maybe we’ll see some coffee and espresso based desserts popping up on notwithoutsalt.com? Hint, hint!

    Reply
  7. Philosofob

    I’m really surprised that among your brewing methods you’ve listed, you do not include siphon/vacuum brewed coffee. It’s my preferred way to brew, otherwise if I’m too lazy, I’ll Chemex.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Phil – Our collection is always looking for new members. I’ve seen that system and wouldn’t be surprised if we add that to the mix in the future. How do you like it?

      Reply
  8. krishansen

    have enjoyed following your blog…and found out we have a common friend! nina/edwin are good friends of my sister.

    anyways- your blog is a great inspiration for me and my husband’s food/photo/blog endeavors! thanks!

    Reply

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