European Roast…?

What is it about coffee in Europe that makes it taste so good? Why do so many people love Dunkin’ Donuts coffee when it quite obviously tastes (and looks) like gnat’s piss? And why, indeed, do people feel the need to drink a pint of coffee in one go? More to the point, how can they drink a pint of coffee while sitting in traffic on their morning commute? Maybe it’s my bladder, but I can’t imagine putting myself through the agony of needing to pee while trapped in rush-hour traffic, not to mention the agony of drinking a pint of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee every day.

Whenever we visit the in-laws we have to drink coffee percolator coffee that is lukewarm and well, frankly insipid, and when we complain that the coffee is bad, we get accused of being snobbish. How dare they, you say? You We Are Never Full folks are the last bastion in the fight for tasty, authentic food and drink, you shout in support of us. Well, exactly, we say, but evidently, in North America, we are in the minority.

How hard is it to make good coffee? Given that Americans drink more coffee than any other country in the world (you may be interested to know that Brazil is the world’s second largest coffee consumer), is it not preposterous then that the general standard of the beverage across this great land is almost uniformly disappointing? Perhaps this is because of the uniform nature of the beastly chains that have taken over our country, or perhaps its just because people are prepared to pay nearly $3 for a shitty cup of coffee?

But, in answer to the question above, it is not hard at all, and frankly, buying cheap coffee and using simple technology does not mean a poorer drink, in fact, we think it means a better one. Whereas my inlaws have spent around $100 for their Cuisinart coffee maker, and another $35 recently on a replacement pot, we spent less than $10 on our stove-top, Italian-style espresso-maker by Bialetti. We also only spend $2.99 per pound on our coffee.

Cafe Bustelo is certainly not as good as Lavazza or other famous Italian brands, but it is less than half the price, and still produces an excellent tasting cup, both with milk and as an espresso. So, do yourself a favor, get your hands on one these bad-boys to the right and stick some cafe bustelo or cafe pilon in it. You can get 6 cups of espresso or 2-3 cups of cafe con leche out of one of these, but there is one key element to making the latter – hot milk.

Putting an inch and a half of milk in a mug in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute to heat up before pouring in your coffee makes all the difference in the world to the taste of your morning wake-up. The fact that the milk does not cool the coffee seems to mean that the flavors of the coffee mix better with the milk and allows the aroma to persist longer than it would with cold milk.

So, why does coffee taste better in Europe? Well, undoubtedly it’s the hot milk and the dark roast of the beans, but it’s also got a lot to do with the atmosphere of sitting in the square and enjoying it in a relaxed way rather than in your car, stressed about traffic and needing to pee.

11 thoughts on “European Roast…?

  1. mmm pilon and bustelo have been favorites for years and i can finally get them here in asheville. French press works great as well for regualr coffee and you can make it as hot as you want to boil the h2o. also you can get an on the stove milk frother. tj max and marshals should have them in the home section for under ten dollars.

  2. I, 110% completely agree with you! I wasnt much of a fan of coffee becuase my family makes it with Maxwell House and two small scoops for a 12 cup pot of coffee. It looks like piss water and it tastes like piss water (it must be piss water!).

    When I finally got hooked on coffee, I was hooked on the $4 version from Starbucks. They are good, I dont deny. My wife is from Europe and when I visited her many times before I proposed to her, I noticed she used a Bialetti and her coffee was ALWAYS so good. Im still not a coffee freak, but now that we are married… its no waste of money at Starbucks anymore. We use our Bialetti as well as the house blend at COSTCO which gets their roasted beans from Starbucks anyways. Same beans, less then half the price.

    Great Blog BTW!

  3. Now that you have stated your OPINION regarding coffee why not go back to the 2nd grade and learn how to write.
    Typical yank!

    1. @Edward Whitney-Melon: my blog, my opinion. In case you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t CNN or the BBC. It’s a personal blog so I can write what I like. Happily, that control also extends to moronic comments like yours. In this case, I’m actually letting it slide because I’d like to point out that I am not a typical Yank, not even an atypical one. I’m English and always have been. I would also challenge you to find any grammatical errors or misspellings in this post. Now, if you’d like to find another corner of the interwebs to peddle your absurd interactions, please move along…

  4. I’ve tried every coffee…. but Cafe Bustelo is a favorite. I make mine with flax milk and stevia. It can be made strong or full bodied. I adore the strong chocolate taste.

    1. @Kat: Thanks for visiting! Interesting you should mention that chocolate taste, because we’ve noticed it too, especially in combination with milk and sweetener, but it’s uncommon among even espresso coffees.

  5. When it comes down to it, the freshness of the coffee is huge. Most Americans drink really stale coffee that has been pre-ground and sitting around for months. If you buy freshly roasted coffee that is higher quality than the darkest roasted cheap beans out there (major companies like Folgers roast really dark so you don’t taste the cheap, rotting beans they use), and you grind them right before brewing, the coffee tastes amazing!

  6. I’ve been making coffee exactly the way you described it here for the past few months. I absolutely love it! Still trying to get the perfect milk to coffee ratio to make it taste just the way I want. I’ve never tried any of the Italian brands you talked about, but I agree that Café Bustelo is very good. Interesting article. Thanks.

  7. @GretaCribbs: Thanks for your comment! After a while it’s hard to have to drink anything else, isn’t it?. I sort of think that you get to know both your own tastes and your own tools after a few months, so that you know how much milk to heat and how long to heat it in the microwave until it’s hot but doesn’t boil and spill everywhere. As well as knowing more or less exactly the ratio of water to coffee in your bialetti. We just bought an actual espresso machine, a small versions of the ones you see in good cafés and I’m still figuring out the right ratios. Hoping to find my rhythm with it soon.

  8. @John and Amy
    I am European and cannot stand American coffee which tastes like dishwater….which is why I bought a Nespresso machine about 17 years ago. The coffee was terrific…..Then I discovered Cuban coffee which is absolutely divine. The closest to making a Cuban coffee is using Bustello in an Italian Bialetti.
    So I have an expensive Nespresso machine gathering dust. Europeans enjoy strong coffee while Americans don’t Starbucks is absolutely terrible so that’s not an option…Best coffee is in my own kitchen…And espresso has LESS caffeine than regular American coffee .Just changed my Bialetti into a steel one.
    Instead of Stevia try Xylosweet

    1. @my2cents: you’re so right. We’ve been living off Bustello in a Bialetti mocha for the last few years (well, sometimes we’ll use Pilon, if Bustello isn’t available). We’ve also recently discovered Lebanese coffee that is flavored with cardamom – it’s quite the revelation!

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