Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Make Your Own Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

Chocolate-covered coffee beans are confections made by coating roasted coffee beans with chocolate that could be either dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or even white chocolate. They are just slightly sweet and especially the dark chocolate kind is rather intense.

The bitter flavor of the coffee beans can be overpowering for non-coffee-drinkers. Chocolate covered coffee beans are rich in saturated fat and have high caffeine content as well. If you are a coffee lover then you undoubtedly love coffee prepared in any way, shape or form. So chocolate covered coffee beans would be a popular treat for you! These tasty treats can be had at any coffee shop or specialty store. But you could also make your own as it is really quite simple.

All you need to do is to buy high quality coffee beans. Be sure they are fresh and not broken or damaged. Next purchase the chocolate. Dipping chocolate is easier to work with and it tends to set up nicer. Chocolate chips and chocolate squares will work too.

Melt and prepare the chocolate for dipping. All you need to do is carefully melt the chocolate in a pot. Once the chocolate is melted, simply place the beans in the pot to coat, and then remove with the fork. Set on wax paper to harden overnight.

Your tasty crunchy snack is ready!

The selection of coffee beans can be important in the making of chocolate covered coffee beans. You should buy a medium or dark roast, since a light roast will simply be too acidic for chocolate covered coffee beans. This is one reason why chocolate covered espresso beans are a popular sell, since it's a very dark roast.

Have fun & Enjoy!!!

Creating Perfect Foam

With a little practice, you can learn the secret of creating the perfect foam with steamed milk for making a wonderful cappuccino. Your foam should end up velvety smooth and the bubbles should be so small that you can barely see them. This enables the foam to blend with the espresso, creating a harmony of the flavors instead of a boring cap floating on top.

First of all, it's important to start with cold milk that's just out of the fridge. Pour the milk into the steaming pitcher until it is just about 1/3 of the way full. Milk will double to triple in volume after the frothing process. A stainless steel pitcher works best. It will dissipate some of the heat, allowing more time to infuse air into the milk before the milk gets too hot.

When making home-made cappuccino, it may take some practice to learn the art of creating a perfect foam.

Use a thermometer to get the milk to the correct temperature of 145 degrees. There are many thermometers made for this purpose that will clip onto the side of the pitcher for convenience.

The Technique:

Purge the steam wand onto a damp towel by releasing the valve for a few seconds. Be very careful not to burn yourself, the steam will be extremely hot. This purging will get all of the water out so you don't get it in your milk.

Next, submerge the wand into the milk and quickly turn the steam on full power. Avoid letting the tip of the wand come out of the milk. This will cause splattering and create large, tasteless bubbles.

Adjust the wand so that it is pointing off center in order to get the milk to flowing in a rapid, circular motion. Maintaining this fast, circulating vortex is vital.

Then, slowly lower the pitcher until the tip of the wand is just below the surface of the milk (keeping the circulation going). When you can hear a hissing noise, similar to bacon frying, you have reached the perfect position for the wand to inject air into the milk.

Try to maintain this hissing noise while keeping the milk rotating. You will have to slowly lower the pitcher as the milk volume rises in order to keep the wand tip just under the surface.

By keeping the milk flowing in a rapid circle, any large bubbles that are accidentally created will be rolled into the milk and eliminated. Continue steaming until the milk reaches 145 degrees. Be careful not to get the milk too hot, it will scald giving it a bad taste.

If you have a few large bubbles, you can try to get rid of them by tapping the bottom of the pitcher lightly on the counter.

Serve immediately and enjoy some of the silkiest frothed milk you have ever tasted!

So Many Teas To Choose From

With over 3000 different varieties of tea in the world, how do you choose?

Tea is known by the terms white, green, oolong and black. All four types come from the same plant species, the only major differences between them are a result of the different processing methods they undergo, mainly the amount of oxidation.

Oxidization is stopped at certain stages in the manufacture in order to produce the different types. Black teas undergo hours of oxidation in their preparation for market; oolongs receive less oxidation, and green and white teas are not oxidized at all.

So, based on the methods used in production, tea can be divided into the four different types: black, oolong, green and white tea. Of course there are many different varieties of tea within each of these four main types.

Black Tea Black tea is withered, fully fermented and dried. Black tea least resembles the natural tea leaf. The manufacturing processes and varieties of black tea differ considerably among the various growing regions. Black teas give a strong, hearty and bright, reddish or amber-colored brew.

Oolong Tea Oolong tea is withered, partially fermented and dried. Oolongs fall between black and green tea in color and taste, have low caffeine, and give an orangy-brown to dark brown brew. Oolong tea give a very mellow, delicate and "fruity" flavor. Some varieties give a deliciously "nutty" finish.

Green Tea Green tea totally skips the oxidation process. After it's been withered, if at all, it's immediately steamed or heated via firing or pan frying to prevent oxidation. It is then rolled and dried. Green tea most resembles the tea leaf in its natural state. Higher grades of green tea have a fuller, more complex flavor, and can usually be steeped more times than the lower grades. Green tea give a pale, yellowish-green brew, and the taste should be smooth and fresh -- very light and delicate.

White Tea White tea is unfermented -- it goes through the least amount of processing of all the teas. The young tea buds are plucked before they open and receive no oxidation or rolling; they are simply withered and then immediately dried by steaming. The curled up buds have a silvery, white appearance, thus the name. White tea is produced mainly in China (Fujian Province) and Sri Lanka. It produces subtle flavors in the cup -- fresh and mellow with a hint of sweetness and a slight "flowery" taste. The color of the brew is very pale. White teas are extremely rich in vitamins.

Whether choosing your tea by type or by taste, it totally depends on your own personal tastes and preferences. Those who prefer a very light tea that has little caffeine and a mild taste should lean towards purchasing white or oolong tea. Those who enjoy an aromatic, "herby," yet refreshing tea should purchase green tea, and those who prefer a darker more robust brew should look to purchase black tea.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Well Do You Know Your Coffee?

Many people grind their beans themselves, to ensure a fresh and flavorful cup of coffee. But not as many people roast their own. Whether you are a home-roaster or not, knowing the different roast levels and their taste characteristics can be helpful when purchasing coffee.

As beans are roasted, the sugars, fats and starches that are within the bean are emulsified, caramelized and released. This creates the delicate coffee oil. This oil is what gives coffee its distinctive aroma and taste.

In general, lighter roasts are sharper and more acidic than the darker roasts. Darker roasts have a fuller flavor. Beans that have been over-roasted will take on a burned, smoky or charcoal flavor. Also, there is less caffeine in the darker roasted coffees than in the lighter ones.

The roast alone doesn't determine the resulting coffee taste or quality. The origin of the beans makes a big difference.

Here are the basic roast types. Many are used interchangeably, so be careful.

Light Cinnamon
The lightest roast for coffee. Beans are a pale cinnamon brown and dry with no oil on the surface of the bean. The flavors of the coffee are barely developed, and the brew has a bready, baked taste (also sometimes known as a ‘pale roast’).

Cinnamon Roast
The color is pale orangey brown and dry with no oil on the surface of the bean. The flavor is a bit more polished than a light cinnamon, slightly grainy in taste.

New England Roast
A light roast popular on the Northeast coast. The flavor is light and slightly acidic with a hint of sourness.

American Roast
The color of American roast is a medium brown with no oily patches on the beans. It delivers a light tasting cup of coffee with no sour notes, but less coffee flavor than slightly darker roasts. It’s considered an optimal roast for coffees that are brewed from a single type of coffee bean because it lets the flavor of the bean come through without imposing the flavors of the roasting method.

City Roast
At this roast, the coffee beans are a medium brown with darker brown marbling or cracking lines showing distinctly. The flavor is rich and full-bodied, with the individual flavor of the coffee variety still very much in evidence.

Full City Roast
Slightly darker than City roast, the Full City is a uniform brown, with a strong coffee aroma and no burnt or caramelized flavor to the coffee.

Light French (Viennese) Roast
A deep, rich brown roast with slight patches of oil on the bean surface. This roast is rich and full-bodied, and is generally considered to be the point where the flavor of the roasting process begins to eclipse the unique flavors of the coffee’s origin. For many, this is the darkest roast that should be used for making espresso.

French Roast
The beans are so dark that they appear nearly black, and the entire surface of the bean is oily. French roast coffee has a sharp, bright flavor to it with a light acidic overtone. Most French Roast coffees will have more in common flavorwise with other French Roast coffees than they do with lighter roasts of the same type of coffee bean.

Italian (Dark French) Roast
Italian roast beans are fully caramelized, black in color and very oily. They can make very burnt tasting coffee, depending on how fast they reached the dark roast stage and how well controlled the process was. It is the roast most favored on the Southern Italian peninsula.

Make Your Own Potpourri

Potpourri ~ basically, a mixture of dried flowers and herbs ~ has been used for centuries to sweeten a home with soft scents. However, potpourri can be decorative and lovely to look at, too.

Follow these instructions to make your own potpourri and a pretty container to display it in...
What You'll Need:

  • Scented garden flowers
  • Paper towels
  • Spices
  • Glass container
  • Ribbon
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Spoon
How To Make Potpourri:

Step 1: Gather sweet-scented garden flowers early in the day after the morning dew has dried.

Step 2: Pick the petals off larger flowers, pick leaves off herbs, and spread the petals and leaves out to dry on paper towels. Smaller flowers may be dried whole. You can also cut the flower spikes from herbs such as lavender and dry them whole.

You can experiment to see which flowers keep their scent after drying. You may want to dry petals of colorful but unscented flowers to add color to your potpourri.

Step 3: Blend your herbs and flowers together to make a pleasing scent. You can add spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or bay leaves.
Try some of the following mixes, or make up your own combinations:
  • Lemon verbena or lemon balm, lavender, and violets
  • Rose petals, lavender, and bits of orange peel
  • Pine needles, rosemary, violets, and bay leaves
Step 4: Put your mixture, now "potpourri", into glass containers with lids and decorate with ribbons.

To make sachets: Cut circles of fabric. Place a few spoonfuls of potpourri in the middle of the circle. Draw the fabric in over the potpourri and tie the bundle with ribbon.

Did You Know?

If you are a coffee/tea lover, there is perhaps nothing better than one of these delicious beverages sometime during the day. For those who are avid coffee/tea lovers, these types of drinks don't even have to be consumed during the morning hours as coffee/tea beverages are good all day long.

Here is some helpful information that all lovers of coffee and tea should be aware of. Some of this information will already be known by those who appreciate the bean or the tea leaf whereas other information might be new insight.

Keep the Coffee Tea Products Fresh
One of the best tips to keep in mind when it comes to coffee/tea items is to keep the beans and tea bags/leaves as fresh as possible. In order to promote the freshest condition, coffee tea items should be stored in airtight containers. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a wise idea to store your coffee tea ingredients in the refrigerator. By keeping your coffee tea items fresh, you will find that the end result will be the highest quality of coffee tea drinks possible.

Buy Beans Whole & Grind Them
It is also a wise idea for coffee drinkers to buy whole coffee beans and then grind the beans right before brewing coffee. This will keep the flavor inside the bean intact as long as possible and make the final product an extremely tasty cup of coffee simply bursting with flavor. Although ground coffee beans are good as well, the freshest coffee comes from newly ground beans.

Green Tea Has Wonderful Health Qualities
Some may already know about the wonderful health qualities associated with green tea. The main healthy quality pertains to the antioxidants present within the tea leaves. Although black tea contains such antioxidants as well, green tea tends to have a higher concentration of these healthy items. Therefore, when you are sipping on your hot cup of green tea or green tea latte, it is good to know that you are getting health-related benefits to boot.

The Type of Coffee Bean May Dictate How Good the Coffee Is
Like wine and beer, coffee also comes in a large variety of styles and flavors. Coffee beans come in many different styles whereas some are stronger than others may be. If you are a frequent coffee drinker and you like to sample different types of coffee beans, you may already know which variety you prefer. As coffee beans have distinct tastes, some cups of coffee may yield different results with regard to favoritism. Therefore, what type of bean you choose may dictate how good the coffee is to you.

Coffee & Tea Offer a Wide Array of Beverages
If you drank coffee in the past and were not crazy about it, don't give up completely on the coffee bean. There are many different beverages which coffee beans can be turned into… espresso, cappuccino, lattes, breves, ice coffee and even more. A coffee/tea lover doesn't necessarily prefer every type of coffee/tea beverage as there are some lovers of coffee and tea who like lattes and cappuccino yet do not like espresso or hot coffee. Therefore, if you have tried different types of coffee/tea options in the past and not been successful in choosing one you like, you might want to try some of the other types. You may just find one you really love.