From Perfect Daily Grind / Written by Jimmy Malone. Edited by Tanya Newton
Apart from choosing the right beans, the key to a great cup of coffee is in the preparation. Imagine you had the chance to go back in time and re-introduce yourself to coffee. What preparation method would you introduce yourself to first? The reliable French Press? Would you order a straight shot of espresso? Or would you go down the other end of the spectrum and order a Caramel Macchiato (can you say “sugar rush”)?
With so many variations to choose from, it’s no surprise newer coffee drinkers are quickly overwhelmed. I’ve come up with this handy-dandy guide to serve as a tour guide through several types of coffee preparation. I was careful to start with drinks that are easy to find and progress to ones that are a bit more obscure, but underscore how wildly different coffee can taste, feel, and smell simply by altering how it’s made.
That said, there’s no need to rush from one to the next; each step is meant to be thoroughly enjoyed. Try the same preparation method using different beans or at different coffee shops. You’ll find that even for a drink with the same name, there can be significant deviations depending on the geography, barista training, and many other factors.
A typical latte complete with “latte art” foam on the surface.
Ah yes, the venerable latte. While the name is familiar and most people can guess it’s a coffee with milk, there are some specifics worth mentioning. First, the coffee is always prepared as espresso shots, not drip coffee (that’s called “cafe con leche”). Second, there are three parts that make up a latte: the milk foam at the top; the steamed milk in the middle; and, finally, the espresso shot (or shots) at the bottom. There can be as many shots as the drinker prefers, but one to two is traditional. Finally, the milk is always added to the coffee. The result is a rich, filling drink that still has a coffee flavor and is a great transitional drink from coffee flavored treats like ice cream.
2. French Press
Those of you who already know about the French Press may be taken aback by seeing it on this list as the second drink to try, as it produces a “strong” coffee. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a French Press is a simple device that consists of a carafe and a plunger with a wire mesh screen. Coarsely ground beans are placed in the carafe, followed by hot water. The beans are brewed in the hot water for roughly five minutes, then the plunger is pushed through the mixture, filtering out the grounds and leaving a charastically “strong” coffee.
The great thing about the French Press is that it leaves the oils in the coffee, which hides some of the acidity you taste in paper-filtered coffee, and it can also be cut with milk to taste. This makes it a great option for the novice coffee drinker.
Never heard of a cortado? Until recently, I hadn’t either. The cortado has found its place as the third drink to try for a good reason. In the simplest sense, it’s a more coffee-centric version of the latte, consisting of espresso cut with equal parts warm milk. Prepared correctly, it allows more subtle notes of the coffee to come through, not to mention that ordering it gives you street cred with the barista. Because it’s more concentrated, it’s great when you’re more pressed for time or don’t want to risk your latte getting cold. I personally recommend trying it on a day where you need a bit more of a pick-me-up. The extra fat found in the milk in a latte can keep you from feeling sprightly, so a cortado makes an ideal alternative.