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There are some things in Life we just don't want to give up.... actually let me rephrase that. There are some things in Life we shouldn't have to give up! Yes times are hard and our pockets are full of lint... but does that mean we don't deserve to treat ourselves?
I worked at Coffee Shops for years and have a few tricks up my sleeve. The main thing to remember is Coffee Drinks are just liquid recipes. I compare it to Sandwiches. It always tastes better when someone else makes it. The reality is if you have all your necessary ingredients, you can make it yourself just as well, if not better! It'll take a few tries to get your drink just right, but once you figure it out you will smirk at the fact you ever paid over a penny to a Corporation for your daily fix! Don't let the pretty cups and bouncy Barista's fool you.
A few simple things to know... Espresso has less caffeine than Coffee. Dark Roast has less Caffeine than Regular roast, and Decaf Coffee has Caffeine, just a less amount than regular. Certain companies claim to be "Kosher" yet store all the products together, and/or use the same serving utensils.... and lets not forget the Barista's on breaks who store their lunches near "Kosher" products. Certain companies use fancy names for drinks and drink sizes... don't be fooled, you can be your own Barista!!
If you insist on having Espresso drinks be smart. Buy your equipment separate. The big shiny (and some times candy apple red, forest green, all the pretty colors that match your kitchen) machines are a gimmick! Get a small one cup espresso machine. I think Krups makes one for under 40 bucks. Get a simple basic Steamer for Milk if you insist on foam for your Lattes, or if you'd like a Capuccino. The reason I say this is the bigger machines have many maintenance issues if used frequently. They tend to break shortly after the Warranty expires (coincidence? I think not! The warranty is specifically made to terminate before the machine... ever purchased an Xbox 360 for your kid and as soon as the warranty expires you get the red light of death?). If you pay less and get single items you can either return it to the store or if warranty has expired you haven't lost much. Also you still have access to the rest of your supplies.
LATTE'S EVERYDAY... Confessions of an ex-barista.....Here is my secret. It's all about Monthly planning. That is critical to your pocketbook (or if your like me, your overstuffed backpack). Go to the Grocery Store and purchase the following items. A bottle of Italian Syrup. I prefer Vanilla its sweet without being overwhelming and it is the base of almost every flavored coffee drink. Purchase a small thing of extract (your favorite flavor.. ie caramel, mint, etc.). Purchase Coffee Singles-regular not flavored- (they come in packets, and if you really want to treat yourself Starbucks now carries them... no worries treat yourself..you will still save costs in the end). Get pre-packed half and half (flavored or non is okay) and pre-packed sugar or your choice of sweetening. You can grab whip cream and caramel or chocolate drizzle for those special days (when Aunt Flo is visiting). Most of your purchases will last about two months. So here's what I do..... I go drop the kids off at school and stop by the local coffee shop. I ask how much for a hot cup of water. I have never had to pay over 50 cents even at the best establishments. If they don't charge me I drop the two quarters in the tip jar. I take it to go. I am kinda bold and care not what others think...so I just sit outside and create my drink. I add a coffee packet (1 1/2 if I need an extra boost), a shot of syrup (I carry in a small tupperware), a couple of creamers and there is my Cafe Latte. Pack a lil extract or caramel/choclate drizzle for the fancy drinks. Remember Extract is strong, don't go crazy! Now if you must have the espresso you can pay for a shot of espresso but its such a waste, the Coffee works just as well.
Tips to Steaming Milk at home...
Use a container that you can feel the heat through, not a cup. Have a dishtowel handy, the container will get hot! Use a thermometer until you can eye it. Submerge the wand in milk until temp gets about 130 or so... then gradually lower cup and raise wand to right at the surface of the milk yet a tinge below (to avoid splatter) lower cup slowly as milk rises leaving wand in the same position... that will create foam. If you have enough foam and Milk is still warming just submerge wand and continue to heat. Stop at around 150* do not go over 160*.
Espresso shots... they spoil quickly.. add them to your drink immediately!!!
Flavoring is not Rocket Science... so you want a mocha... add a little cocoa mix, you want a carmel latte... add a little carmel... you want a mint mocha... add mint and cocoa mix, etc. (don't let the fancy names on the drinks trick you, you can make your own). Key point to remember Vanilla is the base of Caramel drinks. Add a bit of Vanilla Syrup along with the carmel extract. You can use Caramel syrup but it can be a little strong.
For those Frozen Blended Drinks....
Do the same thing as the Cafe Latte.. just add ice and blend... add some pre-sweetened chocolate chips for a sugary treat. Be careful with ice it tends to make things watery, try to find some type of powder or mixture (milkshake blend) to add thickness, so you will have to do this several times until you get your recipe just right. The key to it all is do not give up. Once you figure out how you like your drink you will be a lil' richer and whole lot happier!
Your drinks can be made to go in a thermos for those busy early mornings... but the serious coffee drinkers may need to wean themselves off the addiction to the early morning Coffee-House routine. Thus the order hot water suggestion. If you'd really like to stop all together began 1/2 caff solution. Making your drinks 1/2 decaf 1/2 caffinated, then go to decaf, then go to caffenated tea lattes (same ingredients just substitute tea), then just plain herbal tea.
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