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APPLIANCES : Machines Let Gourmet Coffee Lovers Make Own Home Brew


Coffeehouses continue to pop up in the United States, reflecting Americans' abiding love for this flavorful brew. And coffee lovers seek the same tastes at home. No more of those cups of instant granules mixed into a cup of hot water. Today's coffee drinkers are more sophisticated, enjoying more varieties and flavors than ever.

Van Garanian, owner of Aromatic, a Yorba Linda-based gourmet coffee and tea shop, has seen a trend toward the purchase of more gourmet coffees and coffee machines so customers can make their favorite brew at home.

"I grew up with coffee and I've always loved it," Garanian said. "In Europe, the coffeehouses are very common, and it's a tradition to serve coffee to guests. I think as more people get away from alcohol, they're looking for something they can drink while they socialize. A cup of coffee is nice to linger over while visiting with friends.

"Generally, people start off buying specialty coffees at coffeehouses and then become interested in making the same items at home."

This interest has led to an increase in the sales of espresso/cappuccino machines, stove-top espresso pots, coffee grinders and dozens of other types of coffee-making equipment, not to mention more varieties of coffee beans.

Garanian said coffee still outsells tea in his store.

"Once people become accustomed to the coffees, they don't stop," he said. "Most of my customers want to grind the beans at home, although we can grind them here. They can taste the difference between coffee that was ground that morning and coffee that was ground weeks ago."

Today's drip coffee makers brew a better pot of coffee than the percolators of a few decades ago, he said.

"With the drip system, the water runs over the grounds once," said Garanian. "With the percolators, it kept running over the grounds again and again, often making the taste more bitter. The drip system provides a smoother taste."

When purchasing a coffee maker, Garanian recommends looking for a drip system with a cone-shaped funnel, rather than a flat one.

"With the cone-shaped funnel, the grounds are better exposed to the water so you get more flavor," he said.

The next step budding coffee aficionados take is to purchase a coffee grinder.

"The electric grinders are very good," said Garanian. "Most people like them because they grind the beans quickly and easily. Depending on how often you'll use it, you should check to see how strong the blade is and how hard it is. Also, look at the size of the motor. Most people do fine with a small grinder and if you get one that's of good quality, you can expect it to last for about 10 years."

The advantage of freshly ground beans is that the coffee tends to be more flavorful and aromatic, and less bitter.

Thermal carafes are recommended if you tend to let a pot of coffee sit for more than 20 minutes.

"With the coffee makers, the coffee is continually being heated," Garanian said. "The carafes keep the coffee hot, but you don't have to worry about it burning."

Espresso can be made using stove-top pots or new electric machines.

The stove-top pots, which cost about $30, work on a simple principle. The bottom half of the pot unscrews, allowing you to fill it with water. A coffee filter is placed over the bottom half and, as the water boils, it pushes up through the coffee grounds into the top half of the pot, brewing a very strong, dark drink.

"The system is completely different than with the drip coffee makers since the water moves up, not down. With espresso, it's important to select dark roasted beans and grind them until they are very fine," said Garanian.

The espresso is then poured into tiny demitasse cups and sipped slowly because it is so strong.

Cappuccino, the most popular coffee that Garanian sells, is also made with espresso. The difference, however, is that it is mixed with steamed milk and often finished with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon or chocolate or both.

"The new espresso/cappuccino machines are really pretty easy to use," said Garanian. "Cappuccino is really catching on. It's a sweet, light drink that people enjoy when they're entertaining."

You can make the espresso in the machine and then steam the milk with a special attachment on the side of the machine. A jet of steam warms the milk until the milk becomes frothy.

The cost of an espresso/cappuccino machine ranges from $70 to $200.

"Many people are intimidated about making cappuccino until they've tried it a few times," Garanian said. "After you know what you're doing, it takes about as long to make a cup of cappuccino as it does to make a cup of coffee."

If mornings are harried enough without having to worry about coffee making, the cold brew coffee-making system may be what you're looking for. With this machine, cold water is poured over the coffee grounds and left overnight. This makes a coffee concentrate that can be added to water and then popped in the microwave for a quick cup of coffee.

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