Everything you always wanted to know about COFFEE but never dared to ask ….

Happy reading and don’t forget to drink some….


Jake Uys, co-owner of  YUM Eat Cafe, loves his coffees. He creates the tasteful coffee creations; preferable slow-brewed and sometimes with a time-consuming manual finishing touch. The beans are on his specification roasted at the Beanery in Hermanus and per coffee-order ground on the spot. Every speciality coffee needs its own ground, exact weight, water temperature, etc.  Starting with the history and ending with the perfect ‘Latte’. Included are excerpts from Wikipedia.

jake-coffee-series-2Coffee is a brewed drink with a distinct aroma and flavor, prepared from roasted coffee beans, the seeds found inside “berries” of the Coffea plant. Coffee plants are cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in the equatorial regions of the Americas, Southeast Asia, India and Africa. The two most commonly grown are the highly regarded arabica, and the less sophisticated but stronger and more hardy robusta. The Robusta has a more bitter taste. Once ripe, coffee beans are picked, processed, and dried. Green (unroasted) coffee beans are one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. Once traded, the beans are roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor, before being ground and brewed to create coffee.

The earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the middle of the 15th century, in the Sufi Muslim monasteries around Mocha in Yemen. It was here in Arabia that coffee seeds were first roasted and brewed, in a similar way to how it is now prepared. By the 16th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey, and northern Africa. Coffee seeds were first exported from Ethiopia to Yemen. Yemeni traders took coffee back to their homeland and began to cultivate the seed. The first coffee smuggled out of the Middle East was by Sufi Baba Budan from Yemen to India in 1670. Before then, all exported coffee was boiled or otherwise sterilised. Portraits of Baba Budan depict him as having smuggled seven coffee seeds by strapping them to his chest. The first plants grown from these smuggled seeds were planted in Mysore. Coffee then spread to Italy, and to the rest of Europe, to Indonesia, and to the Americas.

In 1583, Leonhard Rauwolf, a German physician, gave this description of coffee after returning from a ten-year trip to the Near East:
“A beverage as black as ink, useful against numerous illnesses, particularly those of the stomach. Its consumers take it in the morning, quite frankly, in a porcelain cup that is passed around and from which each one drinks a cupful. It is composed of water and the fruit from a bush called bunnu.”

The Dutch East India Company was the first to import coffee on a large scale. The Dutch later grew the crop in Java and Ceylon. The first exports of Indonesian coffee from Java to the Netherlands occurred in 1711. Through the efforts of the British East India Company, coffee became popular in England as well. Oxford’s Queen’s Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is still in existence today. Coffee was introduced in France in 1657, and in Austria and Poland after the 1683 Battle of Vienna, when coffee was captured from supplies of the defeated Turks.

The Frenchman Gabriel de Clieu took a coffee plant to the French territory of Martinique in the Caribbean, from which much of the world’s cultivated arabica coffee is descended. Coffee thrived in the climate and was conveyed across the Americas. The territory of Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) saw coffee cultivated from 1734, and by 1788 it supplied half the world’s coffee. The conditions that the slaves worked in on coffee plantations were a factor in the soon to follow Haitian Revolution. The coffee industry never fully recovered there. It made a brief come-back in 1949 when Haiti was the world’s 3rd largest coffee exporter, but fell quickly into rapid decline.

Meanwhile, coffee had been introduced to Brazil in 1727, although its cultivation did not gather momentum until independence in 1822.  Cultivation was taken up by many countries in Central America in the latter half of the 19th century. Coffee has become a vital cash crop for many developing countries. Over one hundred million people in developing countries have become dependent on coffee as their primary source of income. It has become the primary export and backbone for African countries like Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, as well as many Central American countries.





The traditional method of planting coffee is to place 20 seeds in each hole at the beginning of the rainy season. This method loses about 50% of the seeds’ potential, as about half fail to sprout. A more effective method of growing coffee, used in Brazil, is to raise seedlings in nurseries that are then planted outside at six to twelve months. Coffee is often intercropped with food crops, such as corn, beans, or rice during the first few years of cultivation as farmers become familiar with its requirements.

Of the two main species grown, arabica coffee (from C. arabica) is generally more highly regarded than robusta coffee (from C. canephora); robusta tends to be bitter and have less flavour but better body than arabica. For these reasons, about three-quarters of coffee cultivated worldwide is C. arabica. Robusta strains also contain about 40–50% more caffeine than arabica. Consequently, this species is used as an inexpensive substitute for arabica in many commercial coffee blends. Good quality robusta beans are used in traditional Italian espresso blends to provide a full-bodied taste and a better foam head (known as crema).

However, Coffea canephora is less susceptible to disease than C. arabica and can be cultivated in lower altitudes and warmer climates where C. arabica will not thrive. The robusta strain was first collected in 1890 from the Lomani River, a tributary of the Congo River, and was conveyed from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) to Brussels to Java around 1900. From Java, further breeding resulted in the establishment of robusta plantations in many countries. In particular, the spread of the devastating coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix), to which C. arabica is vulnerable, hastened the uptake of the resistant robusta. Coffee leaf rust is found in virtually all countries that produce coffee.

There are 900 species of insects that damage coffee plants. Mass spraying of insecticides has often proven disastrous in the past, as the predators of the pests are more sensitive than the pests themselves. Instead, integrated pest management has developed, using techniques such as targeted treatment of pest outbreaks, and managing crop environment away from conditions favouring pests. Branches infested with scale are often cut and left on the ground, which promotes scale parasites to not only attack the scale on the fallen branches but in the plant as well.

The 2-mm-long coffee berry borer beetle (Hypothenemus hampei) is the most damaging insect pest to the world’s coffee industry, destroying up to 50 percent or more of the coffee berries on plantations in most coffee-producing countries. The adult female beetle nibbles a single tiny hole in a coffee berry and lays 35 to 50 eggs. Inside, the offspring grow, mate, and then emerge from the commercially ruined berry to disperse, repeating the cycle. Pesticides are mostly ineffective because the beetle juveniles are protected inside the berry nurseries, but they are vulnerable to predation by birds when they emerge. When groves of trees are nearby, the American Yellow Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler and other insectivorous birds have been shown to reduce by 50 percent the number of coffee berry borer beetles in Costa Rica coffee plantations.

Originally, coffee farming was done in the shade of trees that provided a habitat for many animals and insects. Remnant forest trees were used for this purpose, but many species have been planted as well. These include leguminous trees of the genera Acacia, Albizia, Cassia, Erythrina, Gliricidia, Inga, and Leucaena, as well as the nitrogen-fixing non-legume sheoaks of the genus Casuarina, and the silky oak Grevillea robusta.

This method commonly referred to as the traditional shaded method, or “shade-grown”. Starting in the 1970s, many farmers switched their production method to sun cultivation, in which coffee is grown in rows under full sun with little or no forest canopy. This causes berries to ripen more rapidly and bushes to produce higher yields, but requires the clearing of trees and increased use of fertilizer and pesticides, which damage the environment and cause health problems.

Unshaded coffee plants grown with fertilizer yield the most coffee, although unfertilized shaded crops generally yield more than unfertilized unshaded crops: the response to fertilizer is much greater in full sun. Although traditional coffee production causes berries to ripen more slowly and produce lower yields, the quality of the coffee is allegedly superior. In addition, the traditional shaded method provides living space for many wildlife species. Proponents of shade cultivation say environmental problems such as deforestation, pesticide pollution, habitat destruction, and soil and water degradation are the side effects of the practices employed in sun cultivation. Shaded coffee cultivation systems show greater biodiversity than full-sun systems, and those more distant from continuous forest compare rather poorly to undisturbed native forest in terms of habitat value for some bird species. Our supplier only uses the beans of unfertilized naturally shaded crops for the superior quality.




Coffee berries and their seeds undergo several processes before they become the familiar roasted coffee. Berries have been traditionally selectively picked by hand; a labor-intensive method, it involves the selection of only the berries at the peak of ripeness. More commonly, crops are strip picked, where all berries are harvested simultaneously regardless of ripeness by person or machine. After picking, green coffee is processed by one of two methods—the dry process method, simpler and less labor-intensive as the berries can be strip picked, and the wet process method, which incorporates fermentation into the process and yields a mild coffee.

Then they are sorted by ripeness and color and most often the flesh of the berry is removed, usually by machine, and the seeds are fermented to remove the slimy layer of mucilage still present on the seed. When thefermentation is finished, the seeds are washed with large quantities of fresh water to remove the fermentation residue, which generates massive amounts of coffee wastewater. Finally, the seeds are dried.

The best (but least used) method of drying coffee is using drying tables. In this method, the pulped and fermented coffee is spread thinly on raised beds, which allows the air to pass on all sides of the coffee, and then the coffee is mixed by hand. In this method the drying that takes place is more uniform, and fermentation is less likely. Most African coffee is dried in this manner and certain coffee farms around the world are starting to use this traditional method.

Next, the coffee is sorted, and labeled as green coffee. Another way to let the coffee seeds dry is to let them sit on a concrete patio and rake over them in the sunlight. Some companies use cylinders to pump in heated air to dry the coffee seeds, though this is generally in places where the humidity is very high.

Some coffee undergoes a peculiar process, such as kopi luwak. It is made from the seeds of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet and other related civets, passing through its digestive tract. This process resulted in coffee seeds with much less bitterness, widely noted as the most expensive coffee in the world with prices reaching 5000.00 Rand ($ 600.00) per kilogram.


The next step in the process is the roasting of the green coffee. Coffee is usually sold in a roasted state, and with rare exceptions all coffee is roasted before it is consumed. It can be sold roasted by the supplier, or it can be home roasted. The roasting process influences the taste of the beverage by changing the coffee bean both physically and chemically. The bean decreases in weight as moisture is lost and increases in volume, causing it to become less dense. The density of the bean also influences the strength of the coffee and requirements for packaging.

The actual roasting begins when the temperature inside the bean reaches approximately 200 °C, though different varieties of seeds differ in moisture and density and therefore roast at different rates. During roasting, caramelization occurs as intense heat breaks down starches, changing them to simple sugars that begin to brown, which alters the colour of the bean.

Sucrose is rapidly lost during the roasting process and may disappear entirely in darker roasts. During roasting, aromatic oils and acids weaken, changing the flavor; at 205 °C, other oils start to develop. One of these oils, caffeol, is created at about 200 °C, which is largely responsible for coffee’s aroma and flavour,

Decaffeination may also be part of the processing that coffee seeds undergo. Seeds are decaffeinated when they are still green. Many methods can remove caffeine from coffee, but all involve either soaking the green seeds in hot water (often called the “Swiss water process”) or steaming them, then using a solvent to dissolve caffeine-containing oils. Decaffeination is often done by processing companies, and the extracted caffeine is usually sold to the pharmaceutical industry.


Coffee is best stored in an airtight container made of ceramic, glass, or non-reactive metal. Higher quality prepackaged coffee usually has a one-way valve which prevents air from entering while allowing the coffee to release gases. Coffee freshness and flavour is preserved when it is stored away from moisture, heat, and light. The ability of coffee to absorb strong smells from food means that it should be kept away from such smells. Storage of coffee in the refrigerator is not recommended due to the presence of moisture which can cause deterioration. Exterior walls of buildings which face the sun may heat the interior of a home, and this heat may damage coffee stored near such a wall. Heat from nearby ovens also harms stored coffee.In 1931, a method of packing coffee in a sealed vacuum in cans was introduced. The roasted coffee was packed and then 99% of the air was removed, allowing the coffee to be stored indefinitely until the can was opened. Today this method is in mass use for coffee in a large part of the world.




Coffee beans must be ground and brewed to create a beverage. The criteria for choosing a method include flavour and economy. Almost all methods of preparing coffee require that the beans be ground and then mixed with hot water long enough to allow the flavour to emerge but not so long as to draw out bitter compounds. The liquid can be consumed after the spent grounds are removed. Brewing considerations include the fineness of grind, the way in which the water is to extract the flavour, the ratio of coffee grounds to water (the brew ratio), additional flavourings such as sugar, milk, and spices, and the technique to be used to separate spent grounds. Ideal holding temperatures range from 85–88 °C  to as high as 93 °C  and the ideal serving temperature is 68 to 79 °C.  The recommended brew ratio for non-espresso coffee is around 55 to 60 grams of grounds per litre of water, or two level tablespoons for a 5- or 6-ounce cup.

The roasted coffee beans may be ground at a roastery, in a grocery store, or at home. Most coffee is roasted and ground at a roastery and sold in packaged form, though roasted coffee beans can be ground at home immediately before consumption. It is also possible, though uncommon, to roast raw beans at home.

The choice of brewing method depends to some extent on the degree to which the coffee beans have been roasted. Lighter roasted coffee tends to be used for filter coffee as the combination of method and roast style results in higher acidity, complexity, and clearer nuances. Darker roasted coffee is used for espresso because the machine naturally extracts more dissolved solids, causing lighter coffee to become too acidic.

Y-beansCoffee beans may be ground in several ways. A burr grinder uses revolving elements to shear the seed; a blade grinder cuts the seeds with blades moving at high speed; and a mortar and pestle crushes the seeds. For most brewing methods a burr grinder is deemed superior because the grind is more even and the grind size can be adjusted.

The type of grind is often named after the brewing method for which it is generally used. Turkish grind is the finest grind, while coffee percolator or French press are the coarsest grinds. The most common grinds are between these two extremes: a medium grind is used in most home coffee-brewing machines.

Coffee may be brewed by several methods. It may be boiled, steeped, or pressurized. Brewing coffee by boiling was the earliest method, and Turkish coffee is an example of this method. It is prepared by grinding or pounding the seeds to a fine powder, then adding it to water and bringing it to the boil for no more than an instant in a pot called a cezve or, in Greek, a bríki. This produces a strong coffee with a layer of foam on the surface and sediment (which is not meant for drinking) settling at the bottom of the cup.

Coffee percolators and automatic coffeemakers brew coffee using gravity. In an automatic coffeemaker, hot water drips onto coffee grounds that are held in a paper, plastic, or perforated metal coffee filter, allowing the water to seep through the ground coffee while extracting its oils and essences. The liquid drips through the coffee and the filter into a carafe or pot, and the spent grounds are retained in the filter.

In a percolator, boiling water is forced into a chamber above a filter by steam pressure created by boiling. The water then seeps through the grounds, and the process is repeated until terminated by removing from the heat, by an internal timer, or by a thermostat that turns off the heater when the entire pot reaches a certain temperature.

Coffee may be brewed by steeping in a device such as a French press (also known as a cafetière, coffee press or coffee plunger). Ground coffee and hot water are combined in a cylindrical vessel and left to brew for a few minutes. A circular filter which fits tightly in the cylinder fixed to a plunger is then pushed down from the top to force the grounds to the bottom. The filter retains the grounds at the bottom as the coffee is poured from the container. Because the coffee grounds are in direct contact with the water, all the coffee oils remain in the liquid, making it a stronger beverage. This method of brewing leaves more sediment than in coffee made by an automatic coffee machine. Supporters of the French press method point out that the sediment issue can be minimised by using the right type of grinder: they claim that a rotary blade grinder cuts the coffee bean into a wide range of sizes, including a fine coffee dust that remains as sludge at the bottom of the cup, while a burr grinder uniformly grinds the beans into consistently-sized grinds, allowing the coffee to settle uniformly and be trapped by the press. 95% of the caffeine is released from the coffee beans within the first minute of brewing.

The espresso method forces hot pressurized and vaporized water through ground coffee. As a result of brewing under high pressure (ideally between 9–10 atm), the espresso beverage is more concentrated (as much as 10 to 15 times the quantity of coffee to water as gravity-brewing methods can produce) and has a more complex physical and chemical constitution. A well-prepared espresso has a reddish-brown foam called crema that floats on the surface. Other pressurised water methods include the moka pot and vacuum coffee maker.

Cold brew coffee is made by steeping coarsely ground seeds in cold water for several hours, then filtering them. This results in a brew lower in acidity than most hot-brewing methods.




Espresso is a single shot of coffee from an espresso machine. Making “good” espresso is an art form, and needs much research and practice to develop the best results. This is only a very basic starting place. For each small espresso cup you need 6 grams ground espresso beans; preferable a freshly roasted as possible (we get weekly new supply). Espresso can be made from a variety of roast levels. Roast preferences tend to vary by region. Northern Italy prefers a medium roast and Southern Italy prefers a darker roast. It is best to grind your own beans; but not with a cheap, electric, blade coffee grinder. These can “burn” the coffee, and it is hard to get a consistent grind. Either use a good espresso grinder, or buy fresh ground/roasted beans from a good source espresso shop. Ask how fresh the beans are, and have them ground while you are there. A good espresso grind should be about the consistency of sugar. Too coarse, and the water runs through too quickly to pick up the proper elements. Too fine (like powder), and it packs too densely and brewing takes too long, making the coffee bitter. Good espresso, brewed right, should not be bitter. Use purified water, without minerals or pollutants, heated to 90C degrees. Never use boiling water. Boiling water stops the process of creating good coffee dead. Not enough heat, and important components are not extracted from the coffee grind. Use the right amount of ground coffee. This is about 6grams  for a single shot (one ounce serving of espresso), or 12 grams for a double. It is about the grind and the pressure used with the tamper (assuming water temp is good) (the water is the easy part) you can compensate for too loose a grind with more pressure and too fine a grind with less. Pack the grinds into the portafilter or group (handle) of the espresso machine using a tamper. A tamper is a flat object, approximately the size of the inside of the portafilter, used to compress the grounds to a density that will create just the right amount of resistance for the water being forced through the grind. Usually that is around 30 pounds of pressure. Again, too little resistance and the water flows through without picking up the needed elements from the coffee. Too much pressure and the brew takes too long and the brew will be bitter and without crema. If everything above is right, it should take 5-10 seconds for the first ‘reluctant hone’ drops to appear & 20 to 25 seconds to create one or two ounces respectively.  Place your cup’s under the group/brew basket (making sure this is seated securely). Turned on your espresso machine. You should see a hazel brown cream, called crema or foam, appear at the surface of the coffee when its finished.



Moer Koffie

Y-moer-koffie1‘Moerkoffie’, as we know it today in South Africa, has its origins in the late 1700 and early 1800 in Europe. The “trekboere” and settlers were the first people in South Africa to make use of the “coffee biggin method “, a predecessor of the filter system. In this device ground coffee was placed in a flannel or muslin bag suspended from the rim of a metal or aluminium pot.  Because of the bag, the coffee stays in contact with the water longer, producing a different type of brew.  The same method was used by many generations of Afrikaners as well as my predecessors on the Highveld of the Eastern Escarpment of South Africa. The families all adapted the method of making coffee whatever suited them best.  The description (‘recipe’ if you like) that follows is the one my family used.

YUM Eat Cafe coffee grinderMy mother used to buy green Arabica beans from a supplier near Volksrust.  She would roast the beans in a pan, turning them often to get an even roast on the top of a very hot coal stove.  I can still remember the beans being almost a milk chocolate colour. She usually roasted just enough beans to last for a week!  We had a wall mounted coffee grinder that had been in use in the family for many years.  We would grind just enough coffee for one pot of coffee.  We used two heaped tablespoons of coffee (+ 60 g) that went into the muslin bag hanging into the coffee pot.  The pot gets filled with boiling water (at altitude + 96 degree C).  The capacity of the pot we still use today is 1 litre.

Now comes the tricky part! Bring the water to the boil, turn the heat down immediately and let it simmer for 2 minutes.  Take the coffee off the stove and pour into cups.

The coffee is usually enjoyed black with a little bit of sugar – a bit of cream will not do the coffee any harm! We never left the coffee on the stove to become bitter!  The whole process was repeated when more coffee was needed. Sometimes people left the pot on the cooler part of the AGA stove, but the coffee usually became so strong that nobody would drink it.



Y-Americano6L’Americano, Café Americano, Espresso Lungo! What a big heading for quite an easy drinking coffee.

During the Second World War, American GI’s in Italy sought after the familiar “cup of Joe” they were accustomed to back home.

Local baristas complied, although reluctantly, by adding hot water to espresso, providing the accustomed strength of regular drip coffee.

The Americano tradition lives on in the coffee shops of today, albeit in different forms.

A normal serving of espresso which is lengthened with hot water  after it has been brewed to a volume of about 75 – 95 ml/ 3 – 3.5 fl.oz. is called an Espresso Lungo.  Its body is like filter coffee, and is usually served in a 150 ml cup/5 fl.oz. cup – a small cappuccino cup.

The better you know your customer, the better chance you have of making him the perfect Americano.

Nowadays we usually do a double espresso that has been brewed to a volume of 95 – 110 ml.  Its body is like filter coffee, and is served in a 220 ml cup – a standard cappuccino cup.  It is usually served black with hot or cold milk on the side.

You can try some flavoured sugar with your Americano.  Various sugars have different tastes depending whether it is refined (white) or unrefined (raw) cane sugar.  Unrefined sugar has more taste because of the higher molasses content which varies from low in demarura to higher amounts in the muscavado sugar.  But, the choice is purely a matter of taste.

Hope this is sufficient info for making your perfect Americano!




To make the perfect cappuccino one has to start at the most important part of making coffee and that is the coffee bean and how it is blended to give a specific proprietary or signature blend. There are more than 20 species of coffee plants, but only two, namely Robusta and Arabica are used for the lion’s share of commercial coffees.

Robusta beans have a woody, bitter taste and aroma and are often included in the espresso blends to boost “crema”, the alluring layer of tiny, smooth bubbles that trap the wonderful aromatics in the caramel “top” of the espresso. Arabica varieties are appreciated for their acidity and depth they add to the blends, beans from different origins are blended to make a coffee that is higher in quality than any of the beans on their own.  Superior Arabica varieties stand alone as single origin and estate coffees.

Now that we have the beans to make a good espresso, we can start with the basis of a good cappuccino! The cappuccino is made up of one third espresso, one third fine smooth foam, one third steamed milk in a cup size of 150 – 175 ml. In the last few years the cappuccino has taken the world by storm!  The ideal is still to make the perfect cappuccino and to do that you have to go back to the basics.

The original cappuccino is made up of three equal parts of espresso coffee, fine smooth foam and steamed milk (it can be full cream of low fat milk). Firstly pour very cold milk in a metal jug (concave) and steam until fine, smooth foam has formed – not more than 60 degree C and set aside. Next brew an espresso into a cappuccino (150 – 175 ml) cup. Pour the steamed milk over the coffee, keeping the froth back till last when it can be spooned onto the surface. Top with a sprinkle of cocoa, chocolate or cinnamon if you please.

The perfect temperature for the perfect cappuccino should be between 72 and 76 degree C.

There you are! That was only one perfect cup!




Espresso types

Espresso is firstly the method of brewing coffee, secondly it is the coffee produced by the brewing method, and lastly the style in serving that coffee.Cappuccino for instance can’t be called an espresso because of the volume of milk added.

There are many espresso types.  I will discuss some of the more favourite ones. Espresso (normal)  is made of 6 – 8 grams of very finely ground dark roasted coffee extracted at high pressure just below boiling point.  The amount of coffee, 40-50 ml, served in a 60 ml cup. Espresso Macchiato is a normal espresso with about 15 ml/1 tbsp foamed milk on top. Espresso Ristrotto.  It is also a basic espresso, served in a espresso cup.  The volume is restricted to 25 ml.  Ristrotto is strong, because you use the same amount of coffee, but less diluted with water! 

Espresso Romano

Espresso Romano

Espresso Romano.  A normal espresso served with a piece of lemon peel. 

In Brazil a cafezinho is served with a slice of lemon. A cup of normal espresso brewed with a alcoholic spirit or liquor is called a espresso correto – in Northern Italy the espresso is corrected with grappa. A double dose of espresso brewed a two-group filter holder and dispensed in a cappuccino cup (150 ml) is called an espresso doppio – twice the caffeine with less dilution! Espresso con panna is made the same way as a espresso macchiato – the only difference is the addition of whipped cream instead of foamed milk. Espresso lunga or café Americano we talked about when we did the Americano Coffees a few weeks ago – I can refresh your memory by saying 50% espresso, 50% hot water in a 150-175 ml cup.

I hope you found the espresso types interesting!  I am sure there are some more types you can think of on your own.



Y-latte2Coffee and milk have been part of European cuisine since the 17th century (there is no mention of milk in coffee pre 1600 in Turkey or in the Arab world). ‘Caffè latte’, ‘Milchkaffee’, ‘Café au lait’ and ‘Café con leche’ are domestic terms of traditional ways of drinking coffee, usually as part of breakfast in the home. Public Cafés in Europe and the US it seems have no mention of the terms until the 20th century, although ‘Kapuziner’ is mentioned in Austrian coffee houses in Vienna and Trieste in the 2nd half of the 1700s as ‘coffee with cream, spices and sugar’ (being the origin of the Italian ‘cappuccino’).

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term caffè latte was first used in English in 1867 by William Dean Howells in his essay “Italian Journeys”. Kenneth David maintains that “…breakfast drinks of this kind have existed in Europe for generations, but the (commercial) caffè version of this drink is an American invention”.

The French term ‘Café au lait’ was used in cafés in several countries in western continental Europe from 1900 onwards, while the French themselves started using the term ‘café crème’ for coffee with milk or cream.

Ylatte1The Austrian-Hungarian empire (eastern Europe) had its own terminology for the coffees being served in coffee houses, while in German homes it was still called ‘milchkaffee’. The Italians used the term ‘caffè latte’ domestically, but it is not known from cafés like ‘Florian’ in Venice or any other coffee houses or places where coffee was served publicly. Even when the Italian espresso bar culture bloomed in the years after WW2 both in Italy, and in cities like Vienna and London, ‘espresso’ and ‘cappuccino’ are the terms, ‘latte’ is missing on coffee menus.

In Italian latte means milk—so ordering a “latte” in Italy will get the customer a glass of milk.

Y-latte3The ‘Caffe Mediterranean in Berkeley, California  claims Lino Meiorin, one of its early owners, “invented” and “made the latte a standard drink” in the 1950s. The latte was popularized in Seattle, Washington in the early 1980s and spread more widely in the early 1990s.

Y-latte1In northern Europe and Scandinavia, a similar ‘trend’ started in the early 1980s as ‘Café au lait’ became popular again, prepared with espresso and steamed milk. ‘Caffè Latte’ started replacing this term around 1996-97, but both names exist side by side, more often more similar than different in preparation.

Ylatte2Coffee menus worldwide use a number of spelling variations for words to indicate coffee and milk, often using incorrect accents or a combination of French and Italian terms. Italian is caffellatte (the standard form; caffelatte is a Northern Italian variation), contracted from caffè-latte,  while French is café au lait ; Spanish is café con leche and Portugese is café com leite. Variants such as caffé latté, café latte, and caffé lattè are commonly seen in English. In Italy, caffè latte is almost always prepared at home, for breakfast only. The coffee is brewed with a stovetop Moka pot and poured into a cup containing heated milk. (Unlike the international latte drink, the milk in the Italian original is generally not foamed.) Outside Italy, a caffè latte is typically prepared in a 240 mL (8 US fl oz) glass or cup with one standard shot of espresso (either single, 30 mL or 1 US fl oz, or double, 60 mL or 2 US fl oz) and filled with steamed milk, with a layer of foamed milk approximately 12 mm (12 in) thick on the top. The drink is similar to a cappuccino, the difference being that a cappuccino consists of espresso and steamed milk with a 20 mL (1 US fl oz) layer of thick milk foam. A variant found in Australia and New Zealand similar to the latte is the flat white which is served in a smaller ceramic cup with the micro-foamed milk. In the United States this beverage is sometimes referred to as a wet cappuccino.Iced latteIn the United States, an iced latte is usually espresso and chilled milk poured over ice. Unlike a hot latte, it does not usually contain steamed milk or foam. Iced lattes can have sugar or flavouring syrups added, and are sometimes served blended with the ice.   


Brewing Equipment

If you consider the limited number of ways coffee and water can be combined, it is amazing how many factors there are in the brewing that make a difference in the resulting coffee flavour.

The simplest method is AL FRESCO where you only need a pot that you can use over an open fire.  The brew should be about 55 g per litre.  Bring the water to the boil, remove from the stove and stir well. Set aside for about 4 minutes, strain the coffee into cups.

The JUG or CARAFE is also a simple infusion method which requires little equipment.  Earthenware jugs are ideal for this method.  Fill the jug with boiling water, pour out the water.  Place medium grind coffee, 55 g per litre, at the bottom and fill again with water just below boiling point.  Stir well with a wooden spoon for 4 minutes before straining into cups.


Making coffee in a plunger is exactly the same as making coffee in a carafe, but without the use of a strainer.


You need a enamel coffee pot with a muslin bag inside.  Two heaped tablespoons of coffee (+ 60 g) goes into the muslin bag hanging into the coffee pot.  Fill the pot with boiling water (at altitude + 96 degree C). 

Bring the water to the boil, turn the heat down immediately and let it simmer for 2 minutes.  Take the coffee off the stove and pour into cups.


With a filter coffee machine, the water runs through the coffee to extract the flavour, instead of leaving the coffee to steep in the water.  Commercial machines are much easier to operate than manual ones, as they do all the hard work for you.


Manual espresso pots are the forerunners of automatic espresso machines and are still used in many households all over the world to make a good espresso!

To make coffee in an espresso pot, fill the lower chamber with fresh water up to the bottom of the safety valve.

Fill the filter funnel basket with very finely ground dark-roasted coffee, using the back of a spoon to eliminate any possible air pockets in the coffee and any gaps around the rim of the basket.

The ground coffee should always be level with the top of the basket.

Using your finger, remove any loose coffee grounds from the outside of the basket rim, and place the coffee basket into the top of the lower chamber.

Very firmly screw the top half of the pot on to the bottom, keeping the bottom chamber containing the water upright, to avoid wetting the coffee grounds too soon.

Place the espresso pot on low to medium heat.  After the water boils, its steam will start to push the remainder of the water up the funnel and into the coffee.

Immediately reduce the heat to very low.  If the heat remains too high, the coffee liquid will be acidic and thin, as the water will have passed through it too quickly.

When most of the water has left the lower chamber the bubbling sound will become more intermittent, and it is very important to remove the pot from the heat at this time.  Wait for the bubbling to ease before serving.

Y-coffee4That leaves us with the espresso machines that we see in all the coffee shops all over the world. Sleek and mean machines with a “barista” behind them that fill all us mere mortals with awe!!!!


Re-use of coffee grounds

Recycling or re-use of coffee grounds in your garden is an ecological sound idea. It stimulates a healthy garden.

1) Pest repellent

Sprinkle used coffee grounds around your plants to protect them against snails and slugs.

2) Fertiliser

Acid loving plants like roses, azaleas, hydrangeas and camellias love the nitrogen, magnesium and potassium rich used coffee grounds.

3) Compost

Coffee grounds make an excellent ‘green’ matter as they are rich in nitrogen and worms are always attracted by coffee grounds.

4) Caffeine for carrots

If you love carrots and coffee you’re in business. Add coffee grounds to the soil when sowing carrots. It gives the plants a boost and it also keeps some unwanted pests away


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s