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Coffee Book Recommendation | Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

Uncommon Grounds tells the history of coffee from its discovery on a hill in ancient Abyssinia to the advent of Starbucks. In this updated edition of the classic work, Mark Pendergrast reviews the dramatic changes in coffee culture over the past decade, from the disastrous “Coffee Crisis” that caused global prices to plummet to the rise of the Fair Trade movement and the “third-wave” of quality-obsessed coffee connoisseurs. As the scope of coffee culture continues to expand, Uncommon Grounds remains more than ever a brilliantly entertaining guide to the currents of one of the world’s favorite beverages.

I love history. I love epics. I love coffee. These ingredients come together in Uncommon Grounds, an epic  history of coffee, from it discover in ancient Abyssinia to the modern franchise epitomized by Starbucks. Through the looking glass of coffee production, trade and consumption we get to savor the rich, full-bodied tale of the world’s favorite drink and it’s impact on cultures, trade, slavery, branding, healthcare, the environment and lives of people from exploited farmers to society’s elites.

The New York Times describes the book as “a rich blend of anecdote, character study, market analysis and social history… Everything you ought to know about coffee is here, even how to make it.”

If you’ve ever wanted to know about the rich history of coffee, this is a great book to enjoy over a cup of coffee! Buy it now on Amazon!

 

Homemade Mocha with Instant Coffee and Hot Chocolate

Do you enjoy a Mocha? I certainly do! Even though I usually drink my coffee black and unsweetened, I love both coffee and chocolate which can be easily combined for a homemade mocha. Besides being an indulgent treat, it’s also a stomach filler for times when I feel a little hungry in between meals or before going to bed. Certainly less sinful than having cheesecake or chocolate cookies at midnight!

Coffee and Hershey’s Chocolate

There are several ways you can make a Mocha at home. I used to squeeze Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup into my coffee with milk, which is how a Cafe Mocha is done in a coffee shop. That was pretty nice. Till I discovered Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix.

Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix

Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix

Coffee and Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix

My current go to chocolate caffeine fix is a spoonful of instant coffee with Swiss Miss. Swiss Miss comes in a variety of flavors. I’ve tried Milk Chocolate, Rich Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Sensation and Marshmallow Lovers. My favorite is Dark Chocolate Sensation followed by Rich Chocolate. I find both Milk Chocolate and Marshmallow Lovers too sweet but you might have a sweet tooth!

Low Calorie Choice

For weight watchers there is Diet which has only 25 calories!

Mocha Cappuccino

If you want a hot chocolate with just a hint of coffee, give Swiss Miss Mocha Cappuccino a shot. You don’t even need to add coffee although you can if you prefer more caffeine!

Price Per Cup

Using Swiss Miss adds around 20 to 30 cents to each cup of coffee depending on where and the quantity you purchase. That’s pretty pocket friendly and well worth it for Mocha or chocolate lovers.

It’s much better value to buy multi-packs. Even though you can buy single packs for much less upfront, they end up costing 3 times or more per serve. So go ahead, grab some Swiss Miss for your homemade Mocha fix!

Go back to the homepage for more instant coffee comparisons.

Swiss Miss official page: www.swissmiss.com

How To Make Coffee At Home – Alternatives to Instant Coffee

While instant coffee is the easiest and cheapest way to make a cup of coffee, there are alternatives methods to make a good cup of coffee at home or in the office. The common alternative are capsule based coffee makers, drip coffee, the french press and filtered coffee aka the sock as it’s sometimes referred to in parts of Asia.

Capsule based coffee makers

This is the instant version of the espresso machine. They cost a fraction of a real espresso machine, but a basic Nespresso Espresso Maker still requires an initial investment of about $120 (or up to 600 servings of instant coffee) and if you want your coffee with milk, a fancier model can cost $300 or more. But that’s not all, it’s the ongoing cost per cup that quickly adds up – easily $0.50 to $1.30 per capsule. Based on my consumption that would cost $50 to $200 a month. So this option produces italian style espresso but with pretty hefty costs. This model is similar to the Amazon Kindle sales model which sells the initial product for a low price in order to gain an eBook customer which will provide a long term, recurring income stream.

Plungers (aka The French Press)

The french press or coffee / tea plunger is a pretty simple device and works great for loose tea leaves or floral teas as well. It is pretty convenient and looks great when used to serve guests. This is a pretty convenient option and looks cool.

At home, I have both a french press and metal drip filter (for cat poop coffee – you read that right! I’ll go into that in a separate post!)

Drip Coffee

I enjoy the occasional drip coffees when staying in some hotels which are equipped with drip machines but would I use one at home? Drip coffees are light and delicate but come with some hassle. Buying one did cross my mind several years ago but the thought of having to regularly clean it put that idea to permanently rest in peace. Drip coffees are light and delicate but come with some hassle.

Filtered Coffee or Coffee Bags

There are two ways to make filtered coffee. The traditional and arduous method is to buy coffee filter paper and use it with ground coffee. The supermarket across the street from my apartment has a coffee bean grinder so I did try this hoping that the fancier Illy beans freshly grounded would be worth the extra tender loving care. End result? I gave up after a couple of weeks as he filters would regularly tear, spilling the ground coffee into the cup and ruining it! And I was not using cheap filters either, it was some Italian brand. Maybe I should get a permanent steel mesh filter instead…

The second and easier way is to buy coffee bags and simply dunk them in hot water. These are packaged just like tea bags and used in the same way. But since the ground coffee is not processed like instant coffee it tastes more like a traditional cup of coffee which some prefer. Also since these are as easy as instant to make, I think it deserves it’s own post. I have tried Folgers Coffee Singles and it is a pretty light and pleasant cup of coffee. Maxwell House Coffee Singles is also highly rated. I might actually try these out.

Back to Instant Coffee

So there you have it. I am back to using humble instant coffee for my daily fixes. But feel free to try out the alternatives. You might enjoy them!

How Instant Coffee Is Made

Ever wondered how instant coffee is made?

Instant Coffee is actually just brewed coffee that has had it’s water content removed by a drying process. There are two methods for producing instant coffee. Both are fairly straightforward processes involving the use of coffee concentrates, but interestingly they apply extreme opposites in temperature to the coffee concentrate to achieve the same end product of water soluble instant coffee. Freeze drying  uses freezing as the name implies and spray drying involves spraying coffee through very hot air.

Freeze Dried Instant Coffee

Freeze Dried Instant Coffee GranulesFreeze dried instant coffee is usually more expensive than spray dried instant coffee. The process generally retains more coffee flavor and involves a more complex process. Brewed coffee is left to sit in order for the water evaporate which results in a coffee concentrate. This concentrate is then frozen to around -40 Fahrenheit (-40 Celsius, not a typo it’s the same at this temperature). The remaining water freezes into ice crystals. Sublimation , a process where the ice is converted from solid to vapor without going through the liquid state, is used to remove the ice. What’s left is dry grains of coffee which can be reconstituted in water.

Spray Dried Instant Coffee

Spray Dried Instant Coffee PowderIn spray drying, the water is also evaporated from brewed coffee to form a concentrate. The coffee concentrate is then sprayed into the top a large chamber through very hot, dry air. As the coffee droplets fall through the hot, dry air, the remaining water evaporates leaving a dry coffee powder by the time they land. More flavor is lost through this method than freeze drying due to the effects of  the high temperatures which strip some of the oils and aromas from the coffee in this method.

There has been considerable research and effort put into producing instant coffee that smells and tastes like brewed coffee. You can read about the history of instant coffee in an upcoming post.

Types of Coffee Beans

Then There Were Two…Types of Coffee Beans

First of all, do you know that coffee is actually not a bean? Coffee beans are actually seeds found in a fruit – the cherry of a coffee plant!

Although there are 50 different species of coffee beans, only 2 species of beans are  widely used for making coffee that ends up in a drink. The 2 types of coffee beans are Coffee Arabica and Coffee Robusta. The fancy names in coffee labeling are mostly sub-varieties of these 2 species.

Coffee Arabica

Arabica beans account for about three quarters of the world’s coffee production. The species originates from Ethiopia but it is now farmed in many other regions. Coffee Arabica is relatively more expensive then Robusta beans as they are generally difficult to cultivate (sensitive to temperature, pH value in the soil and vulnerable to pests and disease) and have a short harvesting window that requires identifying and picking the cherries by hand to obtain the beans at the peak of ripeness.

Coffee Arabica is mild and complex in flavor. However there is a wide variation in flavors depending on where the crop comes from. The caffeine content is lower at 1.5% compared the Coffee Robusta which has 2.7% caffeine.

Coffee Robusta

Robusta varieties are commonly used in the production of instant coffee. The main reason being, you guessed it, they are cheap! Robusta beans are lower cost because the plants are less picky (pun intended!) compared to Arabica varieties. It has greater crop yield, a wider window in which beans can be picked and are more resistant to pests and diseases thus also needing less pesticides.

Coffee Robusta is considered a lower grade. It also contains almost double the amount of caffeine than Coffee Arabica.

Other Species of Coffee Bean

There are many other species of coffee beans though these are not relevant in the context of instant coffee or indeed the coffee industry in general. They are very rarely exported and found only in their native domestic areas. For a list of coffee species you can refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffea

Introduction to Best Instant Coffee

Through www.bestinstantcoffee.net, I hope to share my enjoyment of instant coffee with the rest of the world and in doing so provide some helpful information to anyone who would like to get the most out of a convenient and relatively low cost way to enjoy a cuppa!

The best place to start is the homepage where you will find how to assess coffee by aroma, taste, acidity, body, etc. You will also find an instant coffee comparison chart where you can have a good overview of brands, customer ratings and price per cup which can help you decide on which instant coffee is best for you. From here you will also be able to read reviews of the various instant coffees.

On this site, you will find articles and information on:

  • The origins of instant coffee
  • Caffeine in instant coffee
  • Calories in instant coffee
  • Instant coffee vs brewed coffee
  • Comparisons of instant coffee brands
  • Instant coffee reviews: the good, bad and best instant coffee! And some ugly too!
  • How to make instant coffee
  • Where to purchase instant coffee – primarily through Amazon which is quick and easy, like instant coffee!
  • Interesting info on coffee in general

Go ahead, make your favorite cup of mojo and have a great day!

While you’re at it, feel free to drop a comment on the home page at www.bestinstantcoffee.net