Ah, Jared's Java. Pleasant taste. Slight Monsterism.

Welcome to the home of my mind, where I brew my intellectual and spiritual joe. Sit back and let me pour you a cup or two. I promise not to cut you off, even after you get the caffeine jitters.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Foody Friday:The Truth About Coffee (and Chai)

First off, no, this isn't a picture of my work. I'm more rustic than artistic with my coffee. Now that that's out of the way, on with the show...

People often compliment me on my barista skills when I serve them coffee. I can do most any coffee drink (though I don't dabble in soy milk). I do a very mean chai latte, too (it exceeds coffee house quality). The truth is, I'm no genius. Heck, if dumb were dirt, I'd probably be an acre. I experiment and evaluate, experiment and evaluate, etc. It doesn't take much skill or specialty tools to beat the coffee houses.

I know few people who wouldn't like to have Starbucks in their kitchen. What if I told you that you could make it happen with stuff you already have in your kitchen, plus about $20? Interested? Good. Let's talk hardware!

My mainstay is my Bialetti espresso maker. I bought the six shot model at Kitchen Kaboodle for $20 (it was on sale). Truth be told, the ones you find on the shelf at your local Ross Dress for Less in their kitchen ware section for $10 (or less) will do just fine. They all work on the same principles of physics, they have no moving parts, the rubber seals are interchangeable between brands because they're all the exact same size (in incredibly inexpensive) and you'll probably pass it on to your children when you die. Yes, it can last you that long.

The other piece you'll need to buy is a milk frother. You could probably pick up a spendy model for $10-25 at Bed Bath and Beyond or Target. They have two types. One is like a motorized mini-whisk and the other is a glass cup with a top you put on it. I've not tried the glass cup version, but either version does just fine. IKEA sells a mini-whisk version on their website for $1.99 plush shipping. It's what I use, and it's served me well for a couple of years.

The other stuff is stuff you should already have. What do you need? Well, for chai lattes, you'll need something that boils water. I assume you have at least a hot plate and one pot? That'll work. You'll need a Pyrex measuring glass with a 4 cup capacity and a microwave to heat your milk (if you don't buy the glass model pictured above). If you don't have a microwave, you could also do this on the stove top/hot plate in a pan.

That's all. Simpler than you thought, eh? With a little experimentation, you can develop your own coffee drink recipes that are way better than anything you could hope to buy at Starbucks. What's more, you can do it for about sixty cents per drink (with the recent jump in the price of milk accounted for), perhaps even less. And I'm not talking about a "tall" sized drink, either. I'm talking "super-venti."

And remember, if you buy crappy coffee, you'll get crappy espresso. I get the Seattle Mountain Blend from Costco, which they roast on site. It is an excellent blend of 3 types of beans. I recommend it to everyone I know. It's fairly inexpensive to boot (I pay $8 for 2.5 lbs).

Check your local Cash 'n Carry/restaurant supply store for the flavored syrups. At least in my locale, they have prices that beat all other competitors. And buy Nesquik chocolate syrup for mochas, or Hershey Special Dark syrup. Don't waste your money on those jugs of goo that cost $10-15.

Is anyone else out there doing this? Anyone else have any essentials or tricks and tips to share?


clumsy ox said...

Great article, and great pics.

Personally, I see no valid reason to put any form of milk or dairy product into coffee (although I can buy putting coffee into ice cream), but it might be good to equip myself to make coffee froo-froo drinks for guests...

Dapoppins said...

hummm, I'd just rather be invited over to your house for coffee and dessert.

The Family Jewels said...

I was always told that coffee stunts your growth and turns your knees black, so I have never tried the stuff.

I'm not really a hot drink fan though...love the smell of coffee, but still have never tried the stuff.

Gwen said...

"Turns your knees black"??? That's a first! Hilarious!

I finally started making big batches of chai concentrate and keeping it in a jar in the fridge, so I don't have to start cutting up ginger and peeling cardamom every time I want a cup of tea. It lasts about a week, and it makes it a snap to whip up some latte. I use the Ikea frother, too, ever since my cappuccino maker bit the dust.


Dapoppins said...

fresh chai? Not out of a can? What's this?

Niki said...

You can make me a chai anytime! I could use one about now!

Anne said...

I bet you'd like roasting your own beans too. Hubby gets his bean from Sweet Maria's on line.