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Making Espresso Drinks - Choosing Espresso Coffee Beans
Bins of coffee beans stretch out in seemingly endless rows. The grinder has too many settings and you are not sure of the difference between a French roast and an Italian one. How do you know which beans make the best espresso?
It is best to start with the basics. Cappuccinos and lattes are variations on espresso. They differ only in their ratio of espresso to steamed milk. Neither requires its own separate kind of bean.
The inexperienced shopper could easily be fooled into thinking that there are countless assortments of beans to chose from and be overwhelmed. Sometimes, unscrupulous marketers with take advantage of this common myth so they seem to have a larger inventory. In reality, there are only two types of beans available commercially: Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica comes from a minimum altitude of 2,400 feet, and is usually found in eastern Africa and Central and South America. It has a slightly acidic, but smooth, taste. Robusta is found in Southeast Asia, central Africa and Latin America. It grows in lower altitudes and is know for its less subtle, more accosting flavor.
All roasters subscribe to their own methods and beliefs about roasting, but in the basic process the green, raw coffee bean is exposed to temperatures of 480 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, usually for seven to 12 minutes. The heat tampers with the natural acidity and bitterness of the bean. The longer the roasting time, the more bitter and the less acidic the beans become.
Everyone thinks their way is the best, but no matter what anyone tells you, there is not just one right way to roast or grind coffee beans for espresso. As a matter of fact, espresso generally is not even made from one kind of bean, but from a blend of beans of all different colors and grinds. While it has not been scientifically documented, it has been noticed that blend preference tends to vary by geographic location. For example, in northern Italy, their preferred espresso roast tends to be medium, while California leans toward the darker, French roast.
You probably will not find the freshest beans in any supermarket, and that goes double for pre ground coffee. Your best bet is to pay close attention to the expiration date on the package. You will have better luck at a coffee house, especially one that roasts in house. The fastest selling bean will need to be roasted more often, so it is sure to be fresher. Grinding just enough of your own freshly roasted beans to brew a cup is the best way to the freshest coffee possible.
Though it is a great place to start, high quality beans do not guarantee the best espresso. Time lapses in the roasting-grinding-brewing process, the condition of the equipment and the quality of the water are also important factors. The debate over what makes the best espresso will likely be eternal, but no one knows better than your taste buds.
About the Author: Read more coffee articles by Cory Willins at The Coffee Site - Coffee Resources. Cory is a regular contributor of coffee articles.