Coffee, coffee, coffee! For many of us, this beverage is our lifeline out of the half-closed eyes and tired mumbling world—one slow shuffle away from eerily resembling a character on AMC's "The Walking Dead," and not the human ones.
It's the little drink that could, catapulting us into a brighter world, with vivid colors and singsong voices.
For some, coffee has simply become routine, much like brushing teeth, or rolling out of bed, and these drinkers find the quickest ways possible to brew, so they don't have to wait an extra second before indulging.
For others, coffee is an art form—something to experiment with, or make using sure, slow hands. From espresso to drip, there is no one-size-fits-all way to enjoy coffee.
Whether you drink it as a means to an end, or as an end to the madness, coffee transforms into exactly what you need it to. Just tread carefully; it's been known to burn even the most loyal drinkers.
The perfect ingredients—milk temperature, shot temperature, crema—are most important when trying to create coffee art. Milk should be steamed until there is a generous amount of foam. If you swirl it—crucial to keep the foam from separating—it should look like shiny, wet paint.
• Start your pour (and you will pour continuously until the cup is full) at least six inches above the cup—a thin, slow, steady stream. The milk shouldn't disrupt the surface, but rather "slide under" the espresso.
• Once your cup is close to 1/3 to 1/2 full, move the pitcher (while pouring) closer to the surface and pour a little faster. You should see a "cloud" start to form, and it's from here that you will create the art.
• Once this "cloud" forms, you can start to wiggle the pitcher to make a rosetta. This wiggle is very slight. It doesn't take much to make the milk move from side to side.
• As you wiggle away from the center, petals will form, and when you reach the edge of the cup, simply pull through the middle to make the stem.
• Hearts are formed at the same cloud stage, but you stay more in the middle of the cup, until it's almost full, and then pull through to divide and complete the heart.
When it comes to flavor profile, this is the MVP. Although the word seems terrible, it's actually a desirable characteristic when it comes to coffee. It's really just the sensation of dryness the coffee creates on the back of your palate and under the edges of your tongue. Its role in coffee is very similar to its role in wine. Acidity is the quality you'll notice first, and the one you'll most likely remember longest.
Without this little detail, your coffee would taste dull and flat.
Ahhh. No, seriously. Aroma is the reason we breathe that sigh of comfort when the scent of hot coffee drifts through the air. As smell is virtually impossible to separate from taste, so it is with aroma and flavor. Aroma helps your brain pick up the subtle nuances—so important with coffee—such as floral or chocolately characteristics. It's what helps discern various brews—light or dark—and it adds to the coffee profile.
Aroma is such an important part of the beverage that taking a big whiff is a step in itself during coffee tastings.
Now we're getting fancy. Body is the feel of the coffee in your mouth. Is it heavy? Is it rich? Thick? An easy way to understand the differences in body is by taking a drink of whole milk and comparing that to a drink of water. There's no denying the different feel between the two. Body feeling can change in relation to the oils and solids extracted during the brewing process, meaning you'll notice a difference between drip, French press, espresso, etc.; these changes will also vary with bean selection.
If your palate isn't quite sensitive enough to pick up the variances during a tasting, you can always add the same amount of milk to each cup. Heavy-bodied coffees will retain more of their flavor when thinned.
If acidity is the MVP, then flavor would be the coach—the thing drinkers depend on to carry the cup. Flavor is the overall perception. It includes acidity, aroma and body—the balance, the result. Some general flavor characteristics include richness, complexity (multiple flavors) and balance.
The flavor is what you'll remember; it's what you'll buy for. Really, it's what you'll drag yourself out of bed for.
To read more about coffee's health benefits, and to learn how to indulge in a tasting, visit www.bellevueclub.com/blog.