Know Your Coffee

A lesson in java, from the grounds up

By Meredith Kestel

Hugh Laurie once said it best, “I am a coffee fanatic. Once you go to proper coffee, you can’t go back. You cannot go back.”

The key term here is “proper coffee,” so ladies (and gentlemen perhaps) hang up your Pumpkin Spice Lattes and your Iced Caramel Macchiatos. It’s about to go down, you’re about to get schooled, in coffee.

Espresso

 

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Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine

First things first, the core of all coffee drinks. Espresso is a fine grind of a darkly roasted bean that nearly-boiling water is poured through to create the perfect, concentrated, hearty goodness. An espresso shot is a more concentrated form of a cup of coffee but the two actually have the same amount of caffeine.

 

Macchiato
Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine
Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine

To start off we will go with the drink that drives baristas insane. Macchiatos are not iced. They are not served in large cups with copious amounts of steamy, fluffy milk covered in an oozing layer of caramel. JUST NO! A traditional macchiato, the way a macchiato should be, is a double shot of espresso served in a teeny-tiny ceramic cup, with a lovely dollop of foam on top of it. The steaming espresso then melts the foam down into the drink, making it sweeter. In the original language of coffee, Italian, macchiato means stained, hence the dollop of foam on top.

Americano
Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine
Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine

Alright, let’s slow it down just a hair now and make it a little more simple. An Americano is almost the most basic form of a coffee drink one can order. It is the hearty, warm espresso poured into hot water. You can either order this iced or hot. Americano AKA diluted espresso.

 

Drip Coffee
Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine
Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine

For all you ambitious people with old souls who like black coffee, this is thedrink for you. Drip coffee is hot water poured in a filter filled with ground coffee beans. Gravity pulls the water down through the grounds and ta-da, you’ve got coffee. But contrary to popular belief, dark roast coffee has less caffeine than light roast coffee. So the lighter the bean, the more pep in your step.

Cubano
Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine
Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine

Now it’s going to get a little more complicated. A Cubano is an espresso drink that originated in Cuba. Who would’ve thought? This is similar to a double shot of espresso, except before you pull the shots you add natural sugar to the espresso grounds. As the hot water goes through the espresso grounds, it melts the sugar. Now you have a nice and sweet jolt of energy.

Cappuccino
Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine
Meredith Kestel / Ethos magazine

The finale of all finales — the cappuccino. This is the drink that most baristas will scold you for behind your back. Let’s clear this up right here, right now. A cappuccino consists of espresso and a lot of foam. A latte consists of espresso and steamed milk. So don’t go into a coffee shop and ask for a vanilla, caramel cappucino, or an iced cappuccino — those don’t exist. If you wanna sound really smart, order a dry cappuccino. That means you will get strictly foam and espresso. Order a wet cappuccino and you will get a little bit of steamed milk in your espresso, then topped with foam.