Month: September 2013

How to make coffeeshop drinks: Equipment

One thing people ask me frequently is how to make their favorite coffee shop drinks at home. A lot of drinks are surprisingly easy to make, especially if you have the right things on hand. In this part of what will hopefully be an ongoing series of posts, I’ll give a quick introduction to the equipment you’d need to create most of these delicious concoctions in the comfort of your own kitchen. Note: The items linked below are for example purposes only and do not consitute an endorsement or advertisement. Even the machine I have at home is a matter of personal preference. Note 2: I’m going out of my way to avoid mentioning any trademarked drink names from any particular establishment. I don’t really want to be seen as encouraging people not to shop anywhere. Hopefully the generic, public-domain drink descriptions will suffice. What you need will depend on what drink you’re trying to make. I’ll break it down by drink type. Brewed coffee/cafe au lait: The proper brewing of regular coffee will be the subject of a whole ‘nother post. Suffice to say that for these, all you’ll need is a way to make plain old coffee. Options range from inexpensive French presses and regular coffee machines to more expensive brewing methods like Chemex, Keurig K-cups, and expensive machines that even grind the beans for you. If...

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Review: Salted Caramel Mocha (Starbucks)

With all the buzz the Pumpkin Spice Latte is getting these days, it’s easy to forget that it’s not the only seasonal drink on the menu this fall. If you take a look you’ll see there’s two other drinks being quietly advertised right now — the Salted Caramel Mocha and the Chocolate Chai. A review of the Chocolate Chai will have to wait until some morning when I can allow myself that caffeine (it can’t be ordered decaf), but here’s the rundown on the Salted Caramel Mocha. The SCM is espresso, milk, chocolate, and toffee nut syrup, topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce, and a mix of sugar and salt. It’s a sugary comfort drink with a nice mix of flavors. Unlike most Starbucks mochas, it’s pretty sweet thanks to all the other stuff that’s added. You can, of course, order it with less sweet stuff, but why? I order most drinks with half sweetener, but the only change I usually make to SCMs is to leave off the whipped cream. If you like chocolate and caramel, this drink is for you. It’s also pretty versatile. Since it’s an espresso drink, it can be ordered decaf, made with nonfat or soy milk, etc. You can leave out the espresso, making it a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. You can get it on the rocks (iced), you can get it in...

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Review: Pumpkin Spice Latte (Starbucks)

if you say “pumpkin spice latte” in the mirror 3 times a white girl in yoga pants will appear & tell you all her favorite things about fall — Grumpy Cat (@ItsTheGrumpyCat) September 9, 2013   Many seasonal drinks have come and gone at Starbucks — the Tazo Citrus, the Vanilla Spice Latte, the Chantico* — but some become so popular that they come back year after year with a bigger marketing blitz each time. It’s been ten years since the introduction of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and Starbucks wants to make sure you know that. It’s printed on the cup sleeves, it’s on the in-store signs, it’s all over Twitter with carefully cultivated hashtags. It might seem a little weird to be “reviewing” a drink that’s hit the stores every fall since 2003, but hey. I’m here to drink the drinks so you don’t have to. This review will give you an idea of whether it’s worth taking a hit to your hipster cred to pick up the most (over?)hyped early fall espresso drink. Rest assured, however, I don’t actually own yoga pants and there’s really no “fall” where I live. So what is it? The PSL is a latte (that is, espresso and steamed milk) with “pumpkin spice” flavoring syrup, whipped cream, and a dash of spices on top. I don’t know how much actual pumpkin is...

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Once more unto the breach, with feeling

Yep, another “hey I’m still here” post! For the past several months, all my creative juices have gone into creating this: I swear, I haven’t been able to write damn near anything while the baby was incubating. It really is as if every ounce of creative energy in my body was focused on making her little cells divide instead of making words come out my fingertips. But after a truly Sisyphean labor (which I may blog about at some point, without too much graphic detail), her journey from “tiny bundle of cells” to “independently breathing human being” is complete, so hopefully I can get the words out of my fingers again. Don’t worry, this won’t become one of those dreaded “mommyblogs”* — I’ll still be posting about coffee-related stuff, mixed in with random personal stuff as it strikes my fancy. I have trouble remembering to use this blog for mundane personal posts, the way I used to use LiveJournal, but I’m working on that. You can see in the “Crap I’ve said lately” section in the sidebar, I still tweet random useless thoughts at random hours. Posts currently brewing in my head include: the (in)famous Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, bits and bobs on the new audio show I’m working on (stalled out during the great Babyfication process), and possibly the story of the Sisyphean labor....

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