If you've been bitten by the coffee bean bug, you know that your coffee habit can easily get out of hand and cost you a small fortune. While most financial experts would say it's okay to splurge on a nice Cuppa Joe on occasion, it's certainly one area you can cut back and save a bundle.
It seems that everyone is getting on the gourmet coffee fad. You can get your fix at McDonald's, and my church even has a café open for breakfast that features a professional gourmet coffee machine that spits out frothy yummy caffeinated works of culinary art.
Brewing your own coffee can be quite an experience until you get the hang of it, but there are lots of helpful tips to be found when you're just starting out. Here are a few of the most important ones to get your gourmet brewing started:
1. Chill your metal containers and milk.
Take a few minutes before making steamed milk or froth for your cappuccinos by putting your gear in the freezer. It makes all the difference for your frothy goodness.
2. Make sure your equipment is cleaned regularly.
Follow the manufacturer's directions for cleaning every week, inspect your equipment regularly for mineral buildup, mold, or signs of built up gunk in cracks and crevices. Hot salt water or vinegar are good home-brewed cleaning solutions for stainless steel equipment.
3. Use only distilled or top-quality filtered water.
This is non-negotiable: For a better quality coffee and to prolong the life of your equipment, you must invest in the best and cleanest water possible.
4. Measure your ingredients precisely.
Especially for recipes that call for espresso or flavorings, the wrong amount of ingredients can quickly ruin a cup of gourmet coffee. Don't guesstimate—use your tools to measure things out exactly.
5. Don't store your beans or grounds in the fridge.
This dries out the natural oils found in the coffee and will adversely affect flavor. Store them in airtight containers, or better yet, only buy amounts that you will consume in a timely manner then purchase fresh ingredients on a regular basis.
6. Use a spoon to filter the steamed milk.
Do this while pouring the milk into your coffee so that the hot condensed milk reaches the cup first. Then, the foam can be poured onto the top without sinking to the bottom with the hot liquid coming from the pitcher.
7. Produce froth on the stovetop.
If you need to create a gourmet coffee in a pinch and don't have the fancy equipment, just use what you got: your stove! Pour 2% milk (or whole milk) into a saucepan and heat gently without boiling. Whisk the milk constantly while heating to achieve foam. You can also opt to use a hand mixer if you're talented enough to mix on the stove without melting the cord or creating a kitchen disaster (which I seem to have an affinity for, so I use the whisk).
8. Mix in quality hot cocoa mix with the coffee.
When serving gourmet coffee to teens or young adults, you can use cocoa instead of water to achieve a richer, sweeter taste. This is similar to the highly sweetened taste they crave from Starbucks and McDonald's.
9. Keep toppings in your cabinet.
Shaved chocolate curls, whipped cream, sauces for drizzling, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, and fresh fruit are all great gourmet coffee toppings and help elevate a normal cup o' joe into something truly special.
As a bonus, here are a few of my favorite homemade recipes to get you started on your budget coffee:
Coffee Dessert Martini - 2 oz. freshly brewed Espresso coffee (or strong coffee) - 1 oz. crème de cacao liqueur (or chocolate syrup) - 1 oz. raspberry liqueur (or syrup) - Sweetened whipped cream
Combine all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice. Shake well to combine. Empty into your favorite cocktail glass. Garnish with dollops of fresh sweetened cream or whipped cream, chocolate powder, and a fresh raspberries.
You can change out the raspberries for any favorite fruit. Just remember to coordinate your liqueur as well.
French Kiss Café Latte - 1/2 oz. vanilla syrup - 1/2 oz. caramel syrup - 4 oz. hot steamed milk - 2 oz. hot fresh Espresso - Whipped cream
Pour syrups into 2 stemmed glass mugs. Add hot milk. DO NOT STIR. Add Espresso to the milk/syrup mixture. Top with a dollop of whipped cream