Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How does a Coffee Maker Work?

Have you ever wondered how a coffee maker works? Today, we are going to find out just how these mechanical wonders make our delicious morning cup of joe.  We will talk about the standard coffee maker model, you know the one that can be found in the majority of kitchens. Drip Coffee Makers. So just how do they work?

A drip coffee maker consists of three main components:
  1. The Reservoir: this holds the water that is poured into the coffee pot. At the bottom of the reservoir there is a hole.
  2. The Tube: you will also find that there will be a tube (usually white or clear) that leads up from the bottom of the base of the reservoir. This tube carries the hot water to the drip area. 
  3. The Shower Head: In the majority of drip coffee makers, above the basket that you will put your grounds in you will notice (usually on the lid) that there is a piece that resembles the shower head in your shower. The tube that was mentioned previously carries the hot water up to the shower head so that the water can be sprayed over (or dripped down on) the coffee grounds.
Those three main components, while very important, would not be able to work with what you will find in the bottom of the coffee maker.  Inside your coffee maker is a heating element. This heating element heats water that flows through an aluminum tube. This is the same heating element that keeps your coffee warm once it is made.

Water moves through your coffee pot through the help of gravity, and the bubbles from boiling water. This is why coffee makers tend to be very reliable machines, there aren't any pumps that can wear down or tear up. A great simplistic design is what brings you your coffee from a drip coffee maker each morning.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where does Coffee Come From?

Coffee comes from the beans of the coffee plant, Coffea arabica. This plant is the most used plant in coffee production.  The coffee plant is a tropical plant that is very bush like and can reach 10-12 feet in height.  The coffee plant is not a winter hardy plant so it cannot be grown in temperate climate zones.  Coffee requires warm weather and a lot of water, fertilizer, and it also prefers alkaline (basic) soils.  The coffee beans are the seeds of the plant, these seeds have caffeine in them which is the plant's natural defense against the insects and animals that eat them.  

Coffea arabica is considered to produce the best flavor when brewed in a coffee pot.  Other types tend to be to bitter and/or bold.  Cheaper coffee brands may have a mixture of Coffea arabica and a substandard species.  Typically, you will be able to tell the difference.  

The process of going from bean on the plant to roasted beans ready to put in your coffee brewer is this:
  1. Coffee is picked.
  2. If picked green it is ripened.
  3. Beans are dried once ripened.
  4. Beans are roasted.
Four steps sounds simple enough right? Well, each of those steps has a series of sub-steps that must be followed. For more information do a search on these process in the making of coffee.

The color of the bean determines the boldness of the bean.  If the bean is a darker brown it will have a more robust flavor.  Once the beans have dried they will be sorted into these different grades.  Darker roasts are bolder because they have less fiber content a more sugar.  Lighter roasts have a complex and stronger flavor. 

To store the beans, an airtight container must be used and placed in a cool, dark, and dry place.  This will help maintain the flavors of the coffee.  Ironically, the bags we often purchase coffee in are not the best method for storing coffee. 

If you think you would like to have a coffee plant in your house, go ahead and get one!  Although, you should not expect to grow any coffee beans on it unless you live in the tropics.  The flowers are beautiful though!  If you live in a climate that is warmer most of the year they make a wonderful ornamental plant.

Friday, December 2, 2011

How to Make Peppermint Coffee

Tis the season for all things warm minty and sweet. Peppermint is definitely a flavor that makes me think about the holidays, snow, presents, and just all the warm fuzzies that go along with this time of the year.

Peppermint coffee really embodies the holidays for me. And for just a standard peppermint coffee it is quite easy to make. Just make your coffee as you normally do, then add a drop of peppermint extract (careful a little goes a long way!)

For a more coffee bistro style peppermint coffee try the recipe below:

Chocolate Peppermint Coffee

  • Coffee made in your coffee maker
  • Candy Cane (small candy canes or the round hard peppermint candies also work)
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Milk
  1. Make your coffee as usual, but leave it black, don't add sugar or creamer.
  2. Crush the candy canes. 
  3. Fill your coffee mug about 1/4 full of the milk and heat in the microwave for about 30 - 45 seconds.
  4. Pour the coffee over the warm milk, pour in some chocolate syrup (to taste) and add your crushed candy cane. Stir up your coffee. (adjust chocolate and peppermint to taste)
  5. If you want you can also add whipped topping, drizzle with chocolate sauce and sprinkle some more crushed peppermint on top of the whipped cream.
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