The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 23, 2013

Amanda Stone: Crazy for coffee

Stay-at-home barista shares tips for making flavorful coffee on a budget

JOPLIN, Mo. — I am an addict. For me, coffee is no longer recreational — I need it for my well-being and the well-being of those around me. I keep a steady supply of Joe in my system to keep myself from collapsing, and I use teeth whitening strips once a year to combat the yellow. It’s serious.

Although I have over 10 years of experience as a barista, which is essentially a person who makes and serves coffee, frugality wins. I have the coffee knowledge — I know what’s good — but I rarely allow room in my budget for my favorite coffeehouse drinks. This is the end result of a liberal arts degree. Sigh. I know a little bit about most things, but I know a lot about coffee. If you want to continue drinking fancy coffee drinks, but want to tighten up your budget, I’m your girl.

Bringing the coffeehouse home

It’s possible to make great coffeehouse-style coffee at home. It helps to have the proper equipment, such as an espresso machine or cappuccino maker, but it can be done without all the bells and whistles.

Let’s be realistic. Most days I wake up before sunrise to a bouncing 4-year-old excited to start the day. I barely manage to raise my eyebrows and mumble. I need coffee. So, yes, I have the automatic machine preset to have the coffee made upon my bleary-eyed arrival. Even though this is the case, I still try to treat myself sometimes by drinking good-quality coffee. Try locally roasted beans, like those found at Cottage Small Coffee Roasters or Bearded Lady Roasters, both of which can be found on Facebook.

Find flavor in foreign lands

Coffee is the international beverage. When you’re traveling, you can be confident that ordering “coffee” in English will get you something resembling what you crave. Sip the brown liquid and find comfort in knowing that there’s at least one familiar flavor in a foreign land. The same probably goes for Coca-Cola, but try coffee instead. Every country serves it up in its own unique way.

There’s no need to travel to distant lands or even your nearest coffee shop for good coffee. You can make great coffee at home. Whether your definition of “great” is sweet and creamy or exotic beans served black, I can help. Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out at a coffee shop, reading and sipping good coffee with a splash of cream. Now, because of my bouncing 4-year-old, it’s a special event that I get to splurge on once in a while. Although I can’t have the complete coffee shop experience at home, at least I can have good coffee.

If you want to get the most out of your coffee experience at home, you’ll need a coffee grinder and a French press. Grind your beans right before you brew them for maximum flavor. Use filtered or bottled water. A French press is a simple device that plunges ground coffee using a metal, mesh screen. It’s the purist’s way to drink good coffee. It’s super simple — it can be used at the dinner table, and at the very least will impress guests.

If you care more about sweet, milky goodness than the origin of your coffee beans, try making flavored creamer at home. Be sure to read the ingredients of liquid and powdered creamer, because most of them don’t even include actual dairy products and are full of words you can’t pronounce. Try adding a pinch of cinnamon or cocoa to your ground coffee to give it a hint of flavor. Treat yourself once in a while with a dollop of whipped cream and a few chocolate shavings. You’ll feel fancy in no time.

Make a simple, sweet creamer base by combining one part sweetened condensed milk with one part whole milk. If you prefer non-dairy, try coconut milk mixed with almond or soy milk. Go wild by adding your favorite flavors like cinnamon, cocoa, vanilla or almond extracts. Or try the delicious creamer recipes included in this story to create a sweet treat at home.

Caution: These creamers are by no means low in calories. A serving is a splash. Use low-fat dairy products and less sweetener if you want to cut fat and calories.

I love the idea of having a weekend coffee bar. Invite a couple of friends over, sample a few flavors of homemade creamer and enjoy the coffee shop experience without changing out of your pajamas.

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