Aah. What can beat a glass of cool lemonade on a sultry summer day or a cup of steaming coffee on a frosty morning? Beverages do more than quench our thirst, they also add sparkle to a party, warmth to a cozy get-together, color and flavor to any meal.
We have the recipes if you want to stir up a beverage from scratch, but you’ll also find an incredible selection of ready-to-drink beverages at your supermarket--from punches and fruit juices to soda pop, bottled sparkling water, and nonalcoholic beer and wine, plus flavored coffees and teas.
The perfect cup of coffee--for a coffee drinker, it’s a never-ending quest. What makes a perfect cup? Four things: the type of coffee beans, the style of roast, the equipment used, and most important, your own taste preferences. Let’s start with the beans:
- Coffee beans are actually the seeds of a cherry-red fruit produced by the coffee plant, which grows in the tropics. These seeds are picked green, and it is not until they are cleaned, dried, roasted and sometimes blended with other beans, that they become the product we are most familiar with.
- The commercial varieties of beans belong to two main species: arabica and robusta. The arabica coffee plant produces the most desirable beans because it grows at higher elevations and its beans have a rich flavor and aroma. Robusta beans thrive at lower altitudes and have a less complex flavor. Most coffee in the supermarket is made from robusta beans, which are often blended with a small amount of arabica beans to give a fuller body blend.
- Each coffee-growing region of the world produces beans with its own distinctive characteristics: Colombian coffee is rich, Kenyan coffee has a slightly sweet-tart flavor, and Sumatran coffee is full-bodied with little acidity. Ask around at your local coffee shop or grocery store to see what type of bean or blend of beans you may be interested in trying.
Roasting brings out the flavor in the bean and determines the richness, mellowness and smoothness of the coffee. The longer the bean is roasted, the darker and stronger-flavored the coffee. Beans may be roasted with or without added flavorings such as vanilla or hazelnut. Most gourmet coffee companies have their own specialty roasts. Sample them all until you find your favorite!
The main commercial roasts you’ll find are:
- American Roast: Chestnut brown in color with a caramel-like flavor. There will be no traces of a dark roast flavor.
- Cinnamon Roast: Light cinnamon in color with a strong nutlike flavor. This roast is the highest in acidity.
- French Roast: Very dark brown in color with a large amount of oil on the bean surface and a bitter taste dominated by pungent aromatic flavors. This roast may also be called New Orleans Roast.
- Full City Roast: Dark brown in color with no traces of oil on the bean surface. Flavor is fully developed and can range from caramel to chocolate-like with some hints of a dark roast flavor. This roasting method results in the coffee losing some acidity.
- Italian Roast: Black in color with large amounts of oil on the bean surface and a strong burnt flavor that is bitter and pungent.
- Vienna Roast: Dark brown in color with a small amount of oil on the bean surface and a noticeable dark roast flavor.
And finally, depending on what type of equipment you use to brew coffee, there is a specific type of grind to use for a great cup of coffee. Most coffee in the supermarket is labeled "for all coffeemakers."
- Automatic drip coffeemaker: Medium grind.
- Espresso maker: Fine grind.
- Percolator: Coarse grind.
- Plunger or French press coffeemaker: Coarse grind.
As far as personal taste, that is up to you. Do you like a deep, rich, full flavor or something lighter? The best way to figure out what you like is by asking around at your favorite coffee shop or sampling the daily varieties of brews.
Air and moisture are coffee’s worst enemies since they dry up the precious oils that give coffee its wonderful flavor. To preserve flavor, store whole beans and ground coffee in an airtight container in the cupboard. It will keep at room temperature for about a month. Or place the airtight container in the freezer for up to three months. Some manufacturers of vacuum-packed ground coffee suggest storing it tightly covered in the refrigerator after opening the can. Opinions vary on the best way to store coffee, so be sure to check the labels on brands of coffee, too.
Some people want to avoid caffeine, a stimulant that is present in regular coffee. Any bean can be decaffeinated however, it loses some aroma and flavor in the decaffeinating process.
Caffeine is removed by either the water process or solvent (chemical) process. The solvent process is faster, less expensive and disturbs fewer of the flavor components. But if you’re concerned about solvent residues, you may want to choose water-processed decaf.
Quickly dissolved in either hot or cold water, instant coffee powders are made by brewing pure ground coffee and evaporating the water. Freeze-dried coffee crystals are made from brewed coffee frozen into a slush before the water has evaporated. Because of this process, freeze-dried coffee is slightly more expensive than other instant coffees. For the best cup of instant coffee, pour boiling water over the coffee in the cup, rather than stirring the coffee into the water.
How to Make Coffee
Remember that perfect cup of coffee? Here’s how to make it:
- Start with a clean pot. Wash the pot and filter basket after each use with hot, soapy water--but not abrasive scouring pads--to get rid of any bitter oils that may cling to the inside. Rinse well with hot water. Check manufacturer’s directions for periodic cleaning of the entire coffeemaker.
- Choose the correct grind for your coffeemaker. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations if you’re not sure.
- Use freshly ground beans and fresh cold water. For the best flavor, grind coffee beans just before using. The "magic formula" preferred by many coffee lovers is 2 level tablespoons of ground coffee per 3/4 cup (or 6 ounces) of water--this makes a stronger cup of coffee (see below for other formulas).
- Serve hot coffee as soon as it’s done brewing. Just as air is the beans worst enemy, heat destroys the flavor of coffee if left on the burner too long. If you aren’t going to drink it right away, remove the grounds and keep the heat very low, or pour the coffee into an insulated container.
- Never reheat coffee, it becomes very bitter. However, leftover coffee can be covered and refrigerated until cold and used for iced coffee.
Coffee Brewing Strength (per serving)*
Strength Ground Coffee
of Brew (level tablespoon) Water
Regular 1 3/4 cup (6 ounces)
Strong 2 3/4 cup (6 ounces)
*Best general recommendation
Although specialty coffee drinks may seem like a new phenomenon, European, Middle Eastern and African cultures have been savoring them for centuries. Once available only in coffeehouses and cafes, inexpensive, scaled-down equipment now lets you make these coffee drinks at home, too. Dress any of them up with sprinkles of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or cocoa-or even a dash of your favorite liqueur.
- Café au lait: Equal parts of hot coffee and hot milk, originally popular in France as a breakfast beverage.
- Café latte: One-third espresso plus two-thirds hot steamed milk, usually without a foamy cap.
- Café mocha: One-third espresso plus chocolate syrup (usually 1 to 2 tablespoons per serving) and two-thirds steamed milk. It’s usually topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of sweetened cocoa.
- Cappuccino: Espresso plus hot steamed milk topped with a cap of foamed milk. In the U.S., it’s often sprinkled with cinnamon and served with a biscotti cookie for dipping. In Italy, cappuccino is a breakfast beverage Americans drink it any time of day.
- Espresso: Made using a special coffeemaker with a pressurized brewing chamber that uses steaming-hot water for brewing and a steam valve for steaming and foaming or frothing milk.
- Flavored instant coffee mixes: Available in a delightful variety of flavors, from chocolate mint to raspberry cream. Mix according to package directions.
- Iced coffee: Starts with very strong brewed coffee. It’s chilled in the refrigerator, then served over ice.
- Iced coffee frappé: Made in a blender with cold coffee, ice, sugar, and cream or milk. This coffee slush is served with a drizzle of chocolate syrup.
- Irish coffee: A blend of strong coffee, a tablespoon or two of Irish or other whiskey and a small amount of sugar. It’s usually topped with whipped cream. It’s often served after dinner, with or in place of dessert.
- Turkish coffee: A combination of equal parts of sugar and coffee and 1/2 cup water. It’s boiled twice, then served in espresso cups without removing the grounds.
When you cozy up with a cup of tea, you’re joining people around the world in enjoying a beverage that’s steeped in tradition, from the afternoon high tea of the English to the tea ceremony of the Japanese. Next to water, tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world.
Tea, an evergreen shrub related to the magnolia, was first cultivated in China several thousand years ago and was originally considered a medicine.
There are three main types of tea:
- Black tea: Made from dried and fermented leaves. It contains the most caffeine, about 50 to 65 percent of the amount in coffee. Some familiar varieties are Darjeeling, Assam and Ceylon orange pekoe.
- Green tea: Unfermented and pale green in color with a light, fresh flavor. Gunpowder, so named because it’s rolled in little balls that "explode" when they come in contact with water, and Lung Ching are two popular green teas.
- Oolong tea: Partially fermented and a cross between green and black teas. You’ll also recognize it as "Chinese restaurant tea." Imperial oolong is prized for its honey flavor, while Formosa oolong tastes a little like peaches.
Black, green and oolong teas are just the processing methods--there are literally thousands of varieties of teas, including:
- Blended tea: A combination of teas. Some of the best known are English breakfast, Earl Grey, Russian-style and spiced blends.
- Chai: A newcomer to the American tea scene, but it has long been a staple in India. It’s made from black tea brewed with water, milk, sugar and spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and black peppercorns. Chai is served in some coffeehouses and can also be made at home or bought packaged, often as a concentrate.
- Decaffeinated tea: Fits well with today’s emphasis on healthful living because almost all the caffeine is removed during processing. Brew and enjoy decaffeinated tea just as you would regular tea.
- Herb tea: Really not a tea at all because it doesn’t contain tea leaves. Also called a tisane, herb tea is made by steeping blends of dried herbs,
flowers and spices in boiling water. Some of the most popular herbal teas are chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm and rose hip.
- Instant tea: Quickly dissolves in either hot or cold water and is made by brewing tea and evaporating the water. Buy it unsweetened or sweetened with sugar or sweetener. Or try flavors such as lemon, peach and raspberry. Make instant tea according to the directions on the container.
- Specialty tea: Flavored with spices or flowers, such as jasmine, chrysanthemum blossoms and orange or lemon peel.
Making tea is very simple, and so is the equipment you’ll need:
- Infuser: An infuser holds loose tea leaves. They come in all shapes and sizes.
- Tea strainer: A strainer comes in handy when you brew with loose tea leaves and you don’t have an infuser. Hold it over the cup as you pour to catch the leaves.
- Teapot: Choose one made of glass, china or earthenware. Look for an opening wide enough to transfer tea bags or leaves into, a stay-cool handle, and a lid that stays on while pouring.
How to Make Tea
Brewing tea is as easy as 1, 2, 3! Choose your tea, then:
1. Start with a spotlessly clean teapot. Warm or “hot the pot” by filling it with hot water. Empty it before adding the tea.
2. Bring fresh, cold water to a full boil in a teakettle.
3. Add tea to the warm pot, about 1 teaspoon of loose tea or 1 tea bag for each 3/4 cup of water. Pour the boiling water* over the tea. Let it steep for 3 to 5 minutes to bring out the full flavor (tea is not ready once the color has changed). Stir the tea once to ensure an even brew. Remove the tea bags or infuser, or strain the tea as you pour. If you prefer weaker tea, add hot water after brewing the tea. Serve with milk or cream, lemon and sugar, and enjoy!
*Some experts suggest that green tea is the exception make it with very hot water (about 170° to 190°) not boiling water.
Iced tea is an American tradition. We drink it to cool down on a hot summer day, sip it with meals year-round and refresh ourselves with it after exercise. To make clear, crisp iced tea:
- Brew a pot of tea, using double the amount of tea.
- Remove the tea bags or strain the tea while pouring it into ice-filled glasses or a pitcher. Put a metal knife or spoon into the glasses or pitcher to keep the glass from cracking from the heat of
- If you’re making tea in advance, let it cool to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator so it won’t become cloudy.
- Keep iced tea in the refrigerator for only 8 hours, then throw it out. Because bacteria can multiply during brewing, we don’t recommend sun tea.
There’s something welcoming about a big bowl of punch--guests gather round it, chat and get acquainted. Punch is a snap to pour together, and there are almost as many kinds of punch as there are kinds of parties. Following are a few tips for festive punches:
- Chill all ingredients for cold punches before mixing. You can mix fruit juices and spices ahead and refrigerate, but add soda pop, sparkling water and alcohol just before serving.
- Instead of using ice cubes, try an ice ring. Check to be sure the ring mold will fit your punch bowl, then fill it with the same juices as in the punch and freeze. Perk it up with pieces of fresh fruit--strawberries, cherries, kiwifruit, grapes and star fruit.
For hot punches, start with a heat-resistant punch bowl, then warm it by rinsing with hot water before pouring in the punch. Or serve hot punches in an attractive saucepan right from the stove or in a fondue pot, chafing dish or slow cooker.
From "Betty Crocker's Complete Cookbook, Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today, 9th Edition." Text Copyright 2000 General Mills, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
"I must say this is the best recipe software I have ever owned."
"Your DVO cookbook software saves me time and money!"
"I saw lots of recipe software for PC computers but I was having a hard time finding really good mac recipe software. I'm so glad I discovered Cook'n! It's so nice to have all my recipes in a computer recipe organizer. Cook'n has saved me so much time with meal planning and the recipe nutrition calculator is amazing!!!
My favorite is the Cook'n Recipe App.