Thursday, February 9, 2012


Best Blog Tips
Cappuccino with homemade soy milk

I was just reading about the recall of some 900,000 Tassimo coffee makers in Canada, and about 850,000 in the USA.  This article goes on: "The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says there have been 140 reports of problems with the Tassimo single-cup brewers dousing people, including 37 cases involving second-degree burns.
In one incident, a 10-year-old girl from Minnesota was hospitalized with second-degree burns to her face and neck. The commission also says the coffee maker's "T-disc" — the plastic disc that holds the coffee or tea — can burst while brewing and spray hot liquid. It says a 2-year-old girl in Canada suffered second-degree burns to her face.
Some four million packages of Tassimo espresso T-discs are also being recalled, and about half of those were sold in Canada. They were manufactured by Kraft Foods Global Inc., in Illinois, and were recalled after 21 reports of problems."
Now, far be it from me to say that electric coffee devices are no good.  However, my husband has been making wonderful espresso-style coffee for years with no electric equipment, with stove-top espresso makers that last for many, many years if you treat them right.  I'd just like to make the case for not bothering with another electric device which only has one use, takes up counter space, and has a tendency to break down after a very few years (never mind the possible dangers).

Another reason to consider switching to a stove-top version (perhaps when your electric one kicks the bucket) is the fact that these are sturdily-made from stainless steel, no plastic to throw away. And the Tassimo-- and other similar machines-- requires a plastic "T-disc" to hold little separately-packaged one-serving amounts of coffee-- more plastic to throw away.  It's easy to grind your own coffee beans (organic, fair trade, preferably)-- it takes only a minute, even in a hand grinder-- and the coffee is fresh. 

We use the big one when we have company, and the small ones when it's just one of two of us.

DH even grinds his own coffee manually every time (takes only seconds) on this old Spong grinder that he's had for years.  (The sound of grinding coffee is my morning wake-up call.) Missing from this photo: a little metal dish that fits into the gap below the grinding apparatus. Here's some history of the Spong, plus tips on using and a blog post about Spong grinders.

The full battery of DH's stovetop espresso makers-- all in use at family gatherings.
You fill the bottom part of the pot with water just to the little valve, add freshly-ground coffee (don't pack it down too much-- that firm packing is for the commercial steam machines), screw on the top part and set it on high on the burner.  When it starts to make noise it means that the water is turning to steam and being forced up through the coffee.  If your stove is electric, just leave it on the burner, but turn it off.  The residual heat is enough to finish the process.  If you have gas, turn it down a bit and keep an eye on it.  Open the lid to see if the coffee has all come up, and enjoy!

I don't drink much of coffee, but, when I do, only the best will do (my husband's), and I usually make a soy latte or cappuccino.  To foam the milk for a cappuccino, I use a manual milk frother:

You add heated milk (or heat it right in the container in the microwave)-- just  1/3 to 1/2 cup...

This turns into...

Any store with cookware will have something similar-- this one was only $12.  

Blue-striped cup, rear left: homemade soymilk; white cup, rear right: Almond Breeze; front in blue cup: Soy Dream (They all foam, but homemade soymilk or Soy Dream or Vitasoy are best; hemp milk foams, but is rather weak.)

                                                     Vitasoy Foam

                                                Almond Breeze foam

                                                    Hemp milk foam

Some folks have told me that their coffee curdles with soy milk.  Ours never does.  We use dark roast, but not so dark that it tastes burnt (Starbucks tastes burnt  to me).  Brown (lighter roast) beans are actually more acidic than dark roast beans (and acid is what makes it curdle usually-- even some teas are a bit acidic. Warming the milk before adding to coffee also tends to prevent curdling. I found this on, of all things, the National Dairy Council site (!): "...The acid in coffee, along with coffee's heat, favor curdling of cream." From Oregon State U. site; "The phenolics and acids in coffee may curdle the cream. This is especially true if the coffee is hot ..."

Now, about the coffee: "The acid content in a brew is also greatly dependent upon the roast degree, type of roaster, and brewing method." (from They show the types of acids in coffee and point out that there is a maximum concentration of acetic, malic, and citric acids in light roasted coffee. And: "In regards to the concentration of citric, malic, lactic, pyruvic and acetic acid, Blank found that a typical medium roast coffee consisted of 0.30%, 0.22%, 0.13%, 0.07%, and 0.27% of each acid, respectively (Clarke, 25). At very light roasts, Blank found that the total concentration of these acids was around 1.58%, while at dark roasts these acids could drop down to 0.71%."

They also showed that a quick-brewing method (such as the steam method of espresso, or the European plunger [French press] method) results in less acid in the brew. Also, oddly, less caffeine, even with the darker bean.

Here is the approximate caffeine content of a variety of coffee products. Keep in mind that the numbers provided are not exact:

Brewed (8 oz./250mL) = 85mg of caffeine

Instant (8 oz./250mL) = 75mg of caffeine

Decaffeinated, brewed (8 oz./250mL) = 3mg of caffeine

Decaffeinated, instant (8 oz./250mL) = 3mg of caffeine

Espresso (1 oz./30mL) = 40mg of caffeine

Cappuccino and Latte (1 oz./30mL) = 40mg of caffeine

More advice from "Buy a moderately-dark- to dark-roasted coffee. Dark roasting reduces the acid sensation in coffee.

Buy a lower-altitude, naturally low-acid coffee brought to a moderately dark roast (full-city, Viennese, light espresso). To me, this is by far the best solution for acid-shy coffee drinkers. Naturally low-acid coffees include Brazils, most India and Pacific (Sumatra, Timor, Hawaii) coffees, and most Caribbean coffees.

It also helps to buy very good coffee, because the best coffee has been processed from ripe coffee fruit, and coffee from ripe fruit is naturally sweet and lacks the sharp, astringent sensation of cheaper coffee processed from less-than-ripe fruit." adds: "Acidity is typically a highly valued quality especially in Central American and some East African coffees." So you might want to avoid those.

And "Acidity has been correlated with coffees grown at very high altitudes and in mineral rich volcanic soils. The perceived acidity of washed coffees is also significantly higher than the acidity found in naturally (dry) processed coffees. This is likely due to an increase in the body of naturally processed coffees relative to wet processed coffees since body masks a coffee's acidity."



Vegan Fazool said...

So glad you are talking about the light roasts being acidic. I always tell people that the lighter roasts are more acidic and that is the culprit of curdled soy or other milks.

Dunkin' Donuts coffee curdles soy milk EVERY time. It's so acidic. People think it's "mild," I think, so don't realize how much acid it has.

I have to drag out my stove top espresso, where the heck is it??


Karmalily said...

That is beautiful foam! I've never had soy milk curdle in my coffee either, but I likewise stick to dark roasts.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could use my stove top espresso maker. But since having purchased a gas stove I cannot make it anymore. The outer ring is too large and the inner ring is not strong enough to heat the water. I guess I could get a trivet of some kind.

Linda said...

As a former coffee junkie, I found the best tasting, least acidic, least caffeinated brew was "cold brewing." After that, I could never have gone back to heat brewing! Best flavor.

I agree about the dark roasts being least offensive: I used to think "light roast" meant better; but to my taste and my stomach the dark roasts were always milder. I thought it was just me!

I recall reading that Japanese do cold brewing with ice and green teas, usually during the summer.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Some people find cold-brewed coffee pleasantly delicate, others find it bland. Since I drink coffee only a couple of times a week, I'm sticking with our espresso makers, and I think my husband would miss the ritual!

nic said...

i looked for a milk frother for a couple months, but wasn't able to find one that wasn't the handheld. what store did you get this at?

Im an every day cold brewed coffee drinker, but when i don't have time to cold brew, the pour over method with a dark roast is very dark and delicious, and in my opinion more flavorful than when i cold brew it.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

nic, there are any number of that type on you'll find a link to one in the text above the picture of the empty frother. I bought mine at London Drugs, a Canadian chain.

Quantina Beck-Jones said...

Before today I had never heard of a stove top Espresso Maker. For sure I will now be on the look out for one though. Being from Minnesota, I felt sick when hearing about the little girl burnt in the face and neck by the Tassimo device. A close family member recently suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns (unrelated to this product) and has gone through months of therapy. To think these babies have to endure treatment because of this very expensive faulty device that was not well thought out enrages me. Thank you for this post I feel more informed and it goes to show new doesn't mean better . Sometimes it's best to do things the "old fashioned" way.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

FranksGreenGirl, thanks very much for your thoughtful comment.

myvegancookbook said...

This post was so helpful to me! I just got my milk frother from amazon today, my moka pot is coming soon. I tried the frother out tonight and was amazed. So excited to put it all together and make my own cappuccinos.

Anonymous said...

Asian stores sell little gas rings in their own little suitcases, very handy and a good range of flame from small to large. You use cans of propane to run them. I bet one of these would work well for a stovetop espresso maker.