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June 2007

Coffee and Tea Making Essentials

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In the article, Coffee and Tea Making Essentials, you'll learn about the various tricks of coffee and tea brewing. Discover what tools are available, how they are used, and why you need them.

In order to brew coffee you need a coffee maker and coffee, but did you know there are many gadgets and accessories that can make your life easier, while helping you brew the perfect cup? In this guide we're going to take a look at coffee and tea making essentials and learn what they are, how they are used, and why you need them.

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COFFEE FILTERS:
If you have ever brewed coffee in an automatic coffee maker you are probably familiar with coffee filters. A coffee filter is important because it brings out the best flavor in your coffee by catching grinds and some of the bitter taste, while allowing the flavor of the beans to flow through.

The most common coffee filter is the paper filter. Paper coffee filters are available in a variety of sizes and shapes, with the most common being a cone or round shape. White coffee filters are made from paper pulp which has been bleached. Some coffee drinkers feel that bleached filters have a negative effect on coffee flavor and recommend using unbleached brown coffee filters instead.

Paper coffee filters are available in different grades. You can alter the taste of your coffee by using a different grade of filter. Paper coffee filters are disposable and generally inexpensive. They can be found in most grocery stores, convenient stores, and drug stores.

An option to paper coffee filters is the permanent filter. Permanent coffee filters are wire mesh, made from stainless steel. These reusable filters are formed into either a basket or cone shape.

Many coffee makers are now being sold with permanent coffee filters. Permanent filters are easy to clean and can be washed by hand, or placed in a dishwasher. Permanent coffee filters are not as effective in filtering out bitterness as paper filters and can be somewhat messy to clean. However, they can save you a bit of money; you never have to worry about running out of filters; and they are environmentally-friendly.

Coffeemaker Gold Tone Permanent Filter, 10-12 Cup, Cone Style by Mr. CoffeeGold coffee filters are a favorite choice amongst coffee connoisseurs. A gold-tone coffee filter is constructed from stainless steel that has been enhanced with gold plating. A Swiss gold coffee filter is made from real 23-karat gold, which gives it even more longevity. Both types of gold filters eliminate the need for a paper filter.

Those who use a gold coffee filter claim there is a definite difference in the flavor of their brews. They say it makes the coffee more lively, vibrant and complex.

One major advantage of a gold coffee filter is longevity. Another advantage is that in the long run, you'll probably save money. Gold coffee filters range in price from $8 to $25 and can last for years.

Gold coffee filters are relatively easy to maintain. Just empty the used grounds and rinse thoroughly. The only downside to using a gold coffee filter is that occasionally smaller grinds escape through the filter and end up in your cup.

Last, but not least, a relatively new product on the market is the hemp coffee filter. Using high quality hemp fabric, filters are constructed as a cone or basket filter and inserted into the coffee maker just like any other filter.

Hemp coffee filters are one of the most environmentally-friendly choices you can make. You simply need to rinse them out after each use and allow to air dry. Hemp coffee filters can also be washed in a washing machine.

Hemp tea bags are also available. These are great for brewing whole leaf tea and suitable for a quick cup of tea or a full pot. Another use for hemp tea bags is to fill them with dried herbs, such as lavender or cinnamon, and toss them in the bath water for a relaxing herbal bath.

Hemp coffee filters and tea bags can oftentimes be found in health food stores, or grocery chains such as Wild Oats or Trader Joes. If you can't find any in your area, type in "hemp coffee filters" at your favorite search engine.

Krups® Stainless Steel Burr GrinderCOFFEE GRINDERS:
While there is nothing wrong with purchasing ground coffee, there's nothing better than the taste of brew made from freshly ground coffee beans. A coffee grinder is used to grind coffee beans into grounds that are fine, medium, or coarse.

Fine to medium grounds are best for traditional coffee makers. Those who love espresso will want to grind the beans into fine grounds, similar to sugar or salt. Coarse coffee grounds are good for use in percolators and vacuum brewers.

There are two main types of coffee grinders. The first is a blade grinder, which uses rotating metal blades to chop up coffee beans. The blade grinder is the cheapest and easiest type of coffee grinder to use. Just throw in the beans, place the cover on the grinder, and push the start button.

The second type of coffee grinder uses a grinder wheel and is called a burr coffee grinder. There are two types of burr grinders: flat blade and conical.

The conical burr grinder has two cone-shaped burrs. Coffee beans are fed between the burrs and crushed when one of the burrs rotates while the other stays stationary.

The flat blade grinder comes with two flat and parallel blade burrs that shear the coffee beans. This process leaves a more uniform and larger surface area on the bean.

Coffee grinders work in two different ways. First, there is the manual coffee grinder that has a crank attached to the side. It's easy to use, but does require some manual labor. Manual coffee grinders generally take more time to clean.

Most people opt for the electric coffee grinder, which requires little effort to use or maintain. There are many styles and colors to suit your décor and budget. Coffee grinders range in price from $20 up to several hundred dollars.

There are definite advantages to grinding your own coffee. First, you can select the grind that suits your taste. Second, whole coffee beans hold their flavor longer than ground coffee. When you grind your own beans, you can indulge in a fresher and tastier cup of brew. Third, it's good for your senses. The smell of freshly ground beans is a great way to start your day!

Tiffin Coffee DuoCERAMIC COFFEE CANISTERS:
The way you store your coffee will effect the flavor. Regardless of whether you prefer whole beans or ground; coffee should always be stored in an airtight ceramic canister that blocks light. It should also have a rubber seal around the lid so air cannot get inside.

Avoid using plastic or metal containers for coffee storage. It's okay to use glass containers; however, if you use clear glass, store them in a dark, cool cabinet or pantry.

Ground coffee will only retain its freshness for a few days after it has been exposed to air. The truth is, trying to keep ground coffee fresh is next to impossible. If you feel you must use ground coffee, purchase small amounts and replenish every few days.

Freezing coffee is a bad idea. It does not help preserve the coffee and can actually harm it. When you freeze coffee, water molecules attach to both the coffee and the packaging. When water comes into contact with the surface of a coffee bean, ice forms around it. When the ice melts, it is absorbed into the coffee, deteriorating the taste and quality.

You don't want to store your coffee in the 'fridge either. It's the same concept as above; except in the refrigerator coffee is subjected to the constant cold mist inside the refrigerator. In terms of coffee storage, water is coffee's worst enemy.

HERE'S THE SCOOP:
It's best to use a coffee scoop to measure your coffee. Coffee scoops are constructed from wood, plastic, copper or stainless steel. They are available in measurements of one or two tablespoons. Some are rounded, others have a cone shape.

Espresso scoops are oftentimes found with a scoop at each end. One scoop measures one tablespoon, while the other scoop measures two tablespoons for a double shot.

In order to make the perfect cup of coffee, it's important to use the proper water to coffee measurement. To make drip coffee, the measurement is 3 ounces, or 1-1/2 tablespoons of coffee to 8 ounces of water.

You can find a vast array of coffee scoops in retail stores, grocery chains, and specialty shops. Some of the best and most unique coffee scoops can be found in coffee shops or via the Internet.

Lemon Coffee MugDRINKWARE:
In order to drink your coffee, you need to have some type of container from which to drink it. Coffee mugs and cups are available in just about any form and made from a wide range of materials.

Coffee cups are generally smaller and hold about 5-ounces of coffee. Coffee mugs are larger and hold between 8- and 16-ounces of steamy brew. Travel mugs are ideal for those who want to take their coffee along with them. Travel mugs generally have a handle and a lid with an opening that can be closed with a snap top. They are insulated and constructed from plastic or stainless steel.

Many people enjoy sipping their favorite brew from a personalized coffee mug. Personalized coffee mugs can be found in specialty stores or ordered on-line from coffee retailers. There are many creative coffee cups and mugs available. There is no wrong or right coffee drinking vessel. Just choose one that you like and suits your needs.

COFFEE SERVICE:
A coffee service ensemble is essential when serving coffee or tea to family, friends, neighbors or business associates. A traditional coffee service consists of a serving tray, coffee or tea pot, sugar bowl, cream pitcher and serving utensils.

Coffee service ensembles are generally made from sterling silver or porcelain. Coffee and tea pitchers have a handle, spout and lid that can be opened by pressing a lever with the thumb. Sugar bowls have either a small set of tongs for removing sugar cubes, or a teaspoon for serving sugar granules. Cream pitchers have a handle and spout and oftentimes have a lid similar to the coffee pot.

Coffee service ensembles are not as popular as in the past; however, they can still be found in fine department stores, some retail outlets and on-line auctions. Oftentimes coffee service ensembles can be located through public auctions, estate sales, and antique stores.

If you entertain on a regular basis, a coffee service ensemble is a must-have. Ensembles provide you with the opportunity to make an elegant coffee or tea presentation. Using an ensemble has a tendency to make you and your guests feel like royalty, so if you can find a nice service at a reasonable price, consider making the investment.

TEA INFUSER:
Also known as tea balls, these wire mesh balls are constructed from stainless steel and consist of two sections which latch together. Simply add the proper amount of loose leaf tea, close and latch, and submerge in hot water.

Tea infusers can be used in tea pots or directly in a cup. They have a small chain attached so you can drape it over the side of the cup or easily extract it from a tea pot.

Some tea infusers consist of two solid pieces that fit together. The upper portion has tiny holes which allow the tea to be infused in the water as it steeps. This type of tea ball generally is held together through a twisting motion of the two containers. If the two containers are not sealed properly, the top can pop off during steeping and leave quite the mess. Personally, I find the mesh infusers with the latch to be more user-friendly.

TEA BAG SQUEEZER:
Tea bag squeezers look like miniature tongs. Generally constructed of stainless steel, tea bag squeezers are available in two sizes: small and large. The tongs are shaped like a tiny spatula with holes. The flat surface allows you to place the tea bag between the two spatulas and squeeze the tea through the holes. Tea bag squeezers are most often found in coffee tea shops and specialty stores.

Behmor 1600 Plus Customizable Drum Coffee RoasterHOME COFFEE ROASTER:
Many people are turning to home roasting their coffee. It's really quite simple and cost-effective, and it gives you much better control over the quality and roast of the coffee. Home roasting can be as easy as making popcorn. You can roast enough in one batch for several days enjoyment and the results are equal to (and often fresher than) professionally roasted coffees.

Coffee roasters range from stovetop poppers to roasting drums. Prices range from $39 to $699. If you decide to become involved in home roasting, it's wise to do your homework on the various types of roasters and roasting methods.

Roasting coffee at home requires the use of green coffee beans. On average green coffee beans cost between 20- to 40-percent less than roasted beans. If you drink a lot of coffee, you can obtain significant savings by roasting your own beans. And, you receive an additional bonus of "coffee aromatherapy" as the roast fills your home with the delightful scent of coffee. 

 

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Oatmeal Pancakes Recipe

 

Oatmeal-pancakesOatmeal pancakes are one of my favorite breakfast foods. I love this recipe because it includes buttermilk and coconut oil which produces a fabulous fluffy pancake.

Serve with a side of fresh fruit, a few slices of bacon or breakfast sausage and a cold glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

OATMEAL PANCAKES RECIPE
Yield: 8 medium pancakes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup Buttermilk
1 large Egg
1 Tablespoon organic Coconut Oil
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup (plus additional for pouring over cooked pancakes)
1/2 cup organic Whole Wheat Flour (can substitute with all purpose unbleached flour)
3/4 cup Steel Cut Oats
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan Salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together buttermilk, egg, oil, and maple syrup.
  2. Add dry ingredients to buttermilk mixture and gently stir until combined. Let batter stand for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Preheat griddle or skillet to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter onto griddle and cook until it becomes bubbly around edges.
  5. Using a spatula, flip pancakes and cook 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Top with unsalted butter and/or maple syrup, if desired. Serve immediately.

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Steel Cut Oats 2 lb

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Cooking Contests

Do you have a passion for cooking? Do you have a family recipe that everyone raves about? If so, you might want to consider entering cooking contests. There is a lot of money to be made in submitting recipes or competing in cook-offs. Prizes can range from free products to several thousand dollars. The infamous Pillsbury Bake-Off offers a whopping $1 million cash prize!

One excellent resource for locating cooking contests is Cooking Contest Central located at www.CookingContestCentral.com. This site offers a preview of various cooking contests across the U.S. However, for a mere $25, you can subscribe to their service which offers updated cooking contests throughout the year. It's quite a bargain for those who are involved in competitive cooking.

You'll find a tremendous amount of valuable information at Cooking Contest Central including ongoing contests, contest tips, and cooking news. Isn't it time for your recipe to receive recognition?

Discover more contests via The Cheap Gourmet's "Cooking Contest" database.

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Homemade Salsa Recipe

SalsagardenAfter months of cultivating my organic salsa garden, the fruits (or veggies in this case) of my labor are ready for harvest.

I tended these gorgeous tomatoes, peppers, and herbs myself, but didn't have much success with the garlic. From what I now know, garlic is grown during the winter months. Other than that, my garden was a success and today I would like to share my favorite Homemade Salsa Recipe with you.

There's nothing better than the rich, robust flavor of homemade salsa made from home-grown vegetables. However, if you don't have homegrown produce you can still enjoy this delicious recipe. Simply purchase the ingredients at your local grocery store, health food store or Farmer's Market. Enjoy!

HOMEMADE SALSA RECIPE
Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 stalks Cilantro, stems removed, leaves finely chopped
5-6 stems Chives, finely chopped
2-3 cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 Vadalia onion, finely chopped
1 small Habaneros or Cowhorn pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 Banana or Sweet peppers, seeds removed and finely chopped
1/2 Green, Red, or Yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
3-4 vine-ripened Tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon Adobo seasoning

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Cover and place in refrigerator for 24 hours.
  3. Serve with organic blue chips and enjoy!

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