Sunday, June 17, 2007

Coffee Conundrums

Here's another of the tiny mysteries that make urban life so puzzling... Such is my craven addiction to caffeine that I often buy espressos as I make my way from place to place. Every time - yes, every time - I ask for a 'small espresso', I am asked 'single or double?' What, I wonder, would a small double look like? Very like a single, I'll warrant. (There is a mini-me version of the single espresso known as a ristretto, but that's available only at, er, restricted outlets, so I doubt if that is in their minds.) Then, at a later stage, I'm very often asked if I want milk with it (a macchiato, in my book). The milk question is also prompted, 9 times out of 10, by a request for an Americano, which by its very nature is black. Milk - there's no getting away from the stuff...

11 comments:

  1. As one who clearly has his terminology confused, I asked for an Americana at a cafe the other day. Actually I asked for a coffee with cream. She asked if i wanted Americana. I said yes, thinking that's what she meant - coffee with cream.

    It came black. I asked for cream. She got angry and asked then why did I ask for Americana? People are always getting angry with me because I don't udnerstand what the term is meant to mean.

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  2. Could you identify your posts by name Bryan and Nige? I don't know who posts what.

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  3. Susan B., who also loves coffee,June 17, 2007 9:36 pm

    Their names are at the bottom of their posts, Anon.

    But for those who don't sleep at night, this caffeine addiction may be the reason why.

    This "Americana" thing cracks me up. When I think "Americana," I think of John Prine singing a folk song, or an Amish quilt.

    In NYC, a coffee with cream is "coffee regular" (or "regulah," as it's pronounced). I used to get a "coffee light" so they'd add more cream.

    Here you get an espresso or a cafe au lait; no such thing as Americana/o.

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  4. Nige, I empathize, I really do, having lived in Hong Kong in the '70's. Getting a cup of black coffee could be a real trial back then. In many places, during rush hours, cups were prepped with cream and sugar. Most people undoubtedly thought I was certifiable. Perhaps I was. Might still be, for that matter.

    Be that as it may (or may not be), living on the Left Coast of the USA, I can attest that Americanos are rather common, particularly towards closing time when it really isn't worth brewing another pot. The baristas often suggest an Americano instead. Sad to say, but true, about half also ask, "With or w/o cream?"

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  5. Susan B., confused,June 17, 2007 11:32 pm

    So, guys: Is an "Americano" (which I have not seen here on the Right Coast, not that I go much beyond Starbucks) basically a coffee with cream?

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  6. Susan B.:

    Properly-prepared, an "Americano" is espresso added to hot water, so that it has a similar strength but different flavor than regular drip coffee.

    Most people prefer it black and unsweetened, to savor the differences in taste from regular coffee.

    But I suspect that, in a lot of places, an "Americano" is simply regular black coffee.

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  7. From Wikipedia: "Espresso contains approximately twice the caffeine content per volume as regular brewed coffee, at approximately 40 milligrams per fluid ounce, but only about 1/3 the content per serving."

    So espresso, because of the pressurized processing, contains more caffeine than an equal amount of coffee but because the serving size of espresso is so much smaller you actually get only 1/3 of the caffeine that you do from a regular cup of coffee.

    And because the chemicals in espresso are highly volatile, it should be drunk quickly.

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  8. And served in a small, thick china cup so the heat disperses and you can knock it straight back. It also preserves the espresso's crema, as the Italians call it. A heatproof polystyrene cup - an abomination in itself - is fatal to espresso.

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  9. Nige, I so know whart you mean. Only yesterday I asked for a black americano - I always say "black" so as to avoid the whole milk thing - and was given a milky coffee.

    Maybe you should start rephrasing your order, and asking for a "single espresso"?

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