Coffee vs. Espresso

During a typical day at work I get questions from customers about the taste of different coffees, or suggestions on something new to try. I am always happy to help make a new discovery for each person. They get excited to try something new that they enjoy, and I am happy to have been part of their day. One common question that is difficult to answer is about the differences between espresso, and regular coffee.


Drip coffee is brewed in a machine, typically. There are other forms of making coffee. French pressing, cold brewing and pour overs are just a few ways of making your daily dose. Ground coffee beans are placed in the paper filter of the machine, then it starts to pour hot water through. The water picks up the flavors and caffeine from the grounds as it drips through the grounds. It takes a few minutes for the brewing to finish. Once your coffee is brewed it will be good for up to a few hours. Some may argue that the flavors start to change after an hour, so it is best to make a new batch if it has been sitting out for that long. The average serving size of a cup of coffee can vary, but it is usually 8 ounces.

Photo By: Porsche Brosseau (Drip Coffee)

Espresso is made much differently. It is tightly compressed and more finely ground. The machine compacts the grounds tightly, so the water will not create a hole in the middle of the grounds as it pours through. It takes about 15 to 20 seconds for a shot of espresso to pull through. The espresso machine typically produces one to two shots at a time. The espresso shots can be served alone if desired. Usually the shots are the base for espresso drinks like lattes and mochas. Unlike drip coffee, espresso shots must be consumed or mixed quickly. The espresso shot has three parts. The first is the heart; it is the darkest, and at the bottom of the shot glass. Above the heart, is the body, which is the biggest part. Finally, the top frothy part, is the crema. After 10 seconds the three distinct parts turn black and the shot dies. This is where the taste of a drink will be determined. If the shots of a latte sit too long, then the drink will taste terrible.

Photo By: Catie Rhodes (Espresso Shots)

Compared to a serving size of coffee, a serving size of espresso contains more caffeine per ounce. One ounce of espresso, which also equals one serving size, contains 30 to 50 milligrams of caffeine. An ounce of coffee only contains 8 to 15 milligrams of caffeine. Both contain magnesium, calcium and potassium which is why they give us an energy boost. Either drink will wake you up in the morning and help you accomplish your daily tasks. The only way to know which is better, is to try them and be the judge yourself. As for myself, I love to start the day with drip coffee and treat myself with an espresso drink when I want to relax.


Coffee Grounds in the Garden

I thought I would share another way to use those left over coffee grounds. Since the weather here in southern California is so dry, the plants in my yard often lack the needed nutrients to bloom when they are in season. I decided to add used coffee grounds into the soil to see if it would help.

Photo By: Quinn Dombrowski (Coffee grounds in the garden)

In past years, the orange tree would not give much fruit, if any. This year, I have been able to pick bags of juicy oranges for me and my family. Used coffee grounds contain nitrogen, which is important for the roots of plants since it helps them take in proteins and water. The important factor in adding the used grounds to the soil of your plants is to make sure that you add them into the soil and not just on top of the ground.

Photo By: Me (Orange tree in my backyard)

This is a good way to help your gardens stay green, especially if you live in a dry location like myself.


The Grind

As a barista, I have access to piles of coffee beans. Family and friends ask me to supply them with their beans, and I am happy to oblige. Recently, my aunt asked if I could get her a pound of the Thanksgiving coffee blend that’s sold at the store I work at, so I did. My aunt, however, does not have a grinder and asked me if I could grind them for her. I asked her what type of coffee maker she owned, which was a paper filter one, and I proceeded to grinding the beans accordingly.

Photo By: robin_ottawa
Photo By: robin_ottawa

Brewing coffee is chemistry, and making it correctly requires a certain amount of water, the correct grind and the correct amount of ground coffee. If any of these three are out of balance, the result is bad coffee. It can taste too strong or too watered down, depending on which of the three major components is not added. Another thing to consider when brewing is how you like to drink it. Some prefer a stronger taste, while others enjoy a cup that is on the weaker side. Online measuring charts provide us with the appropriate measurements to follow if you ever forget. Since I enjoy strong coffee, I always use two tablespoons of freshly ground coffee with six fluid ounces of water. If I am making some for my dad, who prefers a weaker coffee, I only use one tablespoon with six fluid ounces of water.

Photo By: Morning Brew
Photo By: Darin House

I do not own a nice fancy coffee grinder at home since I have access to one where I work. However, I do own a small manual coffee grinder that I can only use to grind a few tablespoons at a time. Once, while I was in the middle of using my little grinder, my mom suggested that I use the blender instead. I almost exploded! Although her suggestion made sense, I could never manage putting precious coffee beans through the torture of being ground improperly. I had to explain to her that the blades in a blender were not made to grind the beans properly. Each method of brewing coffee calls for a different type of grind. If you use a french press type of coffee maker, then the grounds will be more coarse than if you are using a paper filter method. Only a coffee grinder can correctly grind the beans, since it can be adjusted according to the brewing method you are using.

Another component to making great tasting coffee is to know how long you can keep it before it goes bad. Just like any other food, coffee has an expiration date. An unopened bag of coffee beans can last for up to nine months. Once the beans are ground, the shelf life goes down. Ground coffee is most fresh when used within a week of being ground. Any length of time over a week would compromise the taste, so I suggest grinding one pound at a time in order to always have a fresh cup available.

Have fun brewing!

Coffee Gift Idea for the Holidays

During the holidays I feel the need to buy gifts for all my loved ones. I, unfortunately, don’t make enough money to splurge on expensive gifts. If you are in a similar situation, then you might enjoy this idea. I decided to make everyone on my list something inexpensive and useful. Of course, I will be using coffee. I am talking about coffee soap. It smells amazing and it’s incredible for your skin.

Photo By: Me
Photo By: Me

The ingredients are probably around your house, and if not, they are easy to find at a reasonable price. If you have those mini hotel soaps laying around your house, bust them out. Otherwise, you can get some inexpensive soap at the dollar store or get a bundle of it for around 10 dollars at a craft store, if you want to make a larger amount. You will also need coffee grounds, a muffin tin or some type of mold. All you need to do is melt the soap in the microwave in 10 second intervals.

Photo By: Me
Photo By: Me

Put some grounds in the muffin tin, pour the liquid over them and wait for it to set. Once they harden you can wrap them up however you’d like. Voila, the perfect gift!

Photo By: Me
Photo By: Me
Photo By: Me
Photo By: Me

The Pumpkin Spice Latte

Photo by: Michael Allen Smith
Photo by: Michael Allen Smith

The season of the pumpkin spice latte is here. Many are excited to have their fall time beverage back, but others not so much. After making what seems like about a hundred of these drinks at work everyday, I am sick of them by the time it comes to actually trying to enjoy one. Did I mention that I am a barista? Making the PSL is how I pay the bills, so I am thankful that they are so popular, don’t get me wrong. There is no denying the popularity of the PSL. One of the most popular things to do when getting any espresso drink is to snap a picture and post it for all to see, but during the fall season it is the PSL that gets most of the attention.

There are many who claim to hate the drink just because it’s so mainstream. I haven’t met many people who dislike the fall favorite, but they are out there just waiting to wrinkle their noses in disgust whenever they see someone drink or post about their first pumpkin spice latte of the season, and I don’t blame them.

Photo by: hirotomo t
Photo by: hirotomo t

Starbucks recently announced that this year they would be making the drink with real pumpkin. To many this news was exciting, and to others it sounded a bit odd. What were they even putting in there before? It was just a blend of spices along with caramel coloring that were used to flavor the drinks, but now the drinks are being made with real pumpkin puree along with other spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. After that announcement people were eager to try the new and improved pumpkin spice and see how it compared to previous years.

The price of the drink varies with the location. Places everywhere are jumping on the PSL bandwagon. The pumpkin spice originators, Starbucks, is the first place many think of when it comes to buying a cup of their fall favorite. However, the price is also the highest, so the fact that other places are making the drink for less money is exciting for those who are not trying to spend $5 on one drink. Places like Panera, Dunkin Donuts and Peet’s Coffee are just a few places where you can find a version of the creamy pumpkin beverage. Surprisingly, even gas stations like 7-Eleven have started brewing their own mix of the infamous drink.

Photo by: mumbot
Photo by: mumbot

Whether you like it or not, the PSL is here, and it is everywhere. If you still haven’t tried one, I suggest giving in to all the craze and trying one for yourself. You might be surprised to find that it’s the best thing you’ve tried. You might find that it’s not all that great. Either way, it’s fall and there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a nice hot drink while the weather gets crisp and colder.

Scrub After You Sip

Photo by: Kimberly K.
Photo by: Kimberly K.

As the season of dry skin approaches, I thought I’d share some coffee wisdom with you all. After you drink your coffee, you most likely throw away the used grounds. Today I’m telling you not to. Instead try mixing your coffee grounds with some coconut oil, brown sugar or sea salt. This scrub will help hydrate your skin as well as smooth out any bumps. There is no need to purchase an expensive scrub when you can make one yourself.

Coffee scrub also helps reduce cellulite, stretch marks, and the appearance of scars. I have been using coffee scrub to improve the appearance and condition of my skin, and so far the results are pretty awesome.

How Coffee is Good for Your Tummy

Photo by: waferboard
Photo by: waferboard

Drinking coffee is a daily routine for many people. It has its usual benefits like giving you that extra energy boost needed to go through the day, but there are benefits that are overlooked. I’m going to get very real right now. Other than helping you conquer your daily tasks, coffee helps your tummy do the same thing. Manhattan Gastroenterology’s article talks about coffee being a natural laxative and when your tummy needs help getting things going, coffee is there to save the day.

I’ll admit that visiting the little girls room has become weirdly important to me. Let me explain without getting too off topic. A recent surgery to fix a problem in my tummy area has left my digestive system all crazy, but I have discovered that a cup o’ joe a day fixes me right up.

Keeping tabs on our visits to the bathroom is pretty important. Visiting it too often or not enough can reveal a lot about our overall health. An article on Everyday Health gets into more detail about what is normal and what is not, but I am going to get back our dear friend, cup o’ joe.

There are many studies about coffee and its effects on the body. All you have to do is type in the word “coffee” into the google search bar and you will see an overwhelming amount of results. We are all different, so the way that your body reacts to coffee will be different than my own. So, I will let the experts’ research and findings lead this one. According to Dr. Mercola, doing too much of anything may not be beneficial to the body, so drinking too much coffee can actually have negative impacts. Less than four cups of coffee is the way to go. Moderation is key. Regular coffee drinkers know how it feels when we have had one cup too many. The sudden anxiety and shakiness are the sign that we have gone too far.

Quick! Think about how many cups you drink a day. Now think about how much sugar it takes to sweeten that up. It adds up quickly, and we all know that too much sugar is not good for our bodies. There are ways to drink coffee without overwhelming amounts of sugar. For example, I find that pairing a black coffee with a good food is a great way to get my morning started. There are foods that pair beautifully with certain coffees, but that is a totally different topic for another day. You can have a black coffee paired with a hot buttery croissant for breakfast, for example.

Until you find your favorite combination of food and coffee, have fun experimenting. There will always be something new to try.

Sip on.