The Calgary Food Bank Fundraiser

Over the past 11 years, Fratello Coffee has donated over 14,000 bags to help raise over $350,000 for The Calgary Food Bank.  We thank CBC Calgary for including us in this project.   We also want to thank you all for participating in your own ways:  Roasting, packaging, shipping all of the coffee each year.  For showing up early on event days and ensuring the hundreds of guests feel welcome.

CBC One Knight Only

Fratello, is proudly the longest running partnership CBC has for the Calgary Food Bank fundraiser, and we couldn't be happier to do our part and give back to our community.   A community that has supported our family for the past 37 years in Calgary.  With out the support of Calgarians enjoying our coffee, we could not do what we love doing. 

“This year, we bring you One Knight Only - an exclusive one-of-a-kind mug with Angela Knight’s personal touch.

The mug represents some of Angela’s favourite things about CBC Calgary’s Food Bank Drive and the city of Calgary. This special edition mug would be a great addition to your collection."

When are the One Knight Only coffee and mug sales happening? Mark your calendars for the dates below, because we do sell out fast:



To learn more about One Knight Only and other events and programming, visit  cbc.ca/feedyyc  “

5 Reasons Why You Should Carry Retail Coffee Bags in Your Cafe

If you’re not already selling retail coffee in your coffee shop, there are lots of great reasons to start. Fresh retail coffee bags are the perfect item to fill your shelves with. Offering them increases your average transaction to your current clients, and helps that customer who just remembered they’re down to their last few beans at home.

Retail Coffee Display

If you haven’t been offering retail coffee bags, it can be a little daunting to start. You might stop short of offering retail coffee bags at your shop for fear that people will stop coming to you for drinks. In fact, the opposite is true. Going out for coffee and making coffee at home both have their own allure. Customers will continue to want both experiences. 

You might also worry that the inventory won’t move, and the beans will go stale on the shelf. The reality is that you can make a lot more business if you sell retail coffee bags–if you do it right.

Irish barista champion and industry veteran Colin Harmon talks about this in his book What I Know About Running Coffee Shops. He encourages coffee professionals to think about the retail shelf as passive income. Harmon is famous for touting a full, plentiful retail shelf, complete with coffee gear, merch, and of course, retail coffee bags. He’s even famous for training his staff to immediately refill the retail shelf as soon as a customer buys something.

The look of abundance can have a profound psychological effect on customers and make them want to buy. You’ll be surprised at how much it can increase your café’s revenue. 

coffee beans display

In this article, we’ll go over our top five reasons to put retail coffee bags on your shelf and address common objections. But first, let’s talk about the logistics of retail coffee. 

How do I find a good coffee roaster?

When looking to offer high-quality retail coffee in your shop, it’s important to look for a local roaster with good sourcing standards. The roasters should have a direct trade relationship with their producers and pay them what their work is worth. If not, they should be able to prove that there’s an ethical supply chain that ensures the well-being of their producers. 

Dedication to good farming and processing practises should also be high-up on your priorities. 

retail coffee beans for sale

 

What type of coffee should I offer?

Figure out what audience you’re serving. Are they the type of drinkers who don’t know much about coffee, but prefer specialty coffee to grocery store coffee? Offer a great blend. Our Godfather Espresso is a total crowd pleaser with milk chocolate and caramel notes. It’s a medium roast, perfect for espresso drinks, drip coffee, and pour over style coffee.

Maybe you have a more coffee-aware audience with decent coffee knowledge. Do they order straight espresso or drink their Americanos black? In this case, offer single origin beans. Here are our latest offerings.

If your audience is a mix of both types of customers, you can offer blends and origins.

Now that you understand the “how,” it’s time to explore the “why.” Without further ado, here are our top 5 reasons why you should offer retail coffee at your coffee shop.

5 reasons to fill your shelf with retail coffee bags

1) It makes it easy for people to drink great coffee. 

People tend to not be very on-top of their coffee game. They generally do their grocery shopping at the supermarket, which doesn’t always have the best coffee options. They either settle for mediocre coffee, or they don’t buy it at all. When they step into your shop and see specialty coffee on your retail shelf, you’ll be a life-saver to them.

2) It helps support the local economy. 

Supporting local specialty coffee roasters is a great way to support the local economy. One of the best ways to do that is to offer coffee from local roasters on your retail shelf. When you support local companies, you’re putting money back into your community. Your money maintains local infrastructure and supports programs, reduces transportation emissions, and keeps your neighbours employed.

3) ‘Tis the season for gift giving. 

This time of year, people are already in preparation for the holiday season. Your customers may not have been in gift shopping mode when they entered your cafe. Offering high-quality retail coffee makes it easy for them. 

Coffee is the perfect gift because it’s inexpensive, yet high-quality. If you’re afraid that your customers won’t buy them until closer to Christmas, think again. Lots of people send early Christmas gifts, mailing packages to friends and family all over the world. It’s not too early to start stocking your shelves with retail coffee.

coffee sales

4) People are making coffee at home more than ever. 

Thanks to the pandemic, many people’s jobs have become remote, and many are working from home. As a result, more people are making their coffee at home as opposed to grabbing it on the way to work. People are still going out for coffee, but it’s more often to catch up with friends or as a weekend excursion. Offering retail coffee helps people make delicious coffee from the comfort of their own homes.

The average consumer in Canada consumes 1 x 12oz bag of coffee per week at their home.  This will really begin to add up over time as you create new purchasing habits with your customers. 

5) It can drastically increase your revenue. 

According to the aforementioned Colin Harmon, offering retail coffee bags can increase your revenue by 10-30%.

Do you ever stop and wonder why you always see cases of soda pop piled high near the grocery checkout? That’s because people are attracted to the look of abundance. According to American psychologist Barry Schwartz, plentiful retail displays can make us feel optimistic and happy. On the other hand, scarcity can make us feel defensive and frugal. If there were only one case of pop left on the shelf, it would make us feel guilty about taking the last one.

Retail displays that employ abundance perform much better than scare, dwindling displays.  We encourage our customers to stock as much of their cafes inventory of coffee in the front of their cafes as possible.  You will be surprised at how many larger bags you will sell as well. 

busy cafe

What happens if people don’t buy the coffee bags?

You might be afraid to offer retail beans for fear that they’ll go stale on the shelf. After all, roasted beans only have a shelf life of 2-4 weeks from the roast date. But don’t let this stop you.

You can always brew the coffee in your coffee shop if it’s not selling. Toss the beans into your espresso grinder hopper or brew it as drip before it goes stale. Alternatively, you can discount the bags to make them sell faster. 

You might have trouble selling the retail coffee at first. But if you’re employing abundance and moving your inventory, it won’t be long before the beans start flying off the shelf.

What else can I offer on my retail shelf?

You can also offer teas from our Idle Tea collection. Our tea line includes favourites like green tea, herbal tisanes, and black teas like Earl Grey, Assam, and chai. We also offer ceremonial-grade matcha powder and alternative lattes powder, like beetroot, turmeric, and rooibos matcha.

This will be delightful for the tea drinkers who visit you.  Very few cafe owners put much attention into this demographic, and like coffee drinkers, they like to brew high quality beverages at home.

Retail tea bags

Beans aplenty

Though it may sound counterintuitive to stock your retail shelf with coffee bags, especially if your business isn’t thriving, you’ll be surprised at what it does for your revenue. Of course, every market is different, and this might not work for every business. But how can you rule it out until you give it a shot?

Stick a nice percentage on your revenue, make holiday gift shopping easier, and be the lifesaver for that person who just ran out of coffee. Win, win, win.

Looking to sell retail coffee and tea at your coffee shop? Get in touch with us by dropping us a line at . We’d love to fill your retail shelves!

Idle Tea Spiced Chai Latte : Our Family Recipe

Chai tea lattes are the perfect warm drink for this time of year when the temperature starts to drop. With its warm spice blend of cardamom, ginger, peppercorn, cinnamon, and other spices, chai lattes are a fall and winter favourite.

Idle Spice Chai Latte

Masala chai tea has been around for millennia. While the recipe that’s loved and enjoyed today is a little different, the foundation remains the same. Black tea, an array of warm spices, and a sweetener are still the building blocks.

As a coffee shop, it’s essential that you carry a good quality chai blend, something that’s easy to make and delicious. Our Idle Tea Chai Latte concentrate makes a perfectly sweet, aromatic chai latte. 

Let’s take a look at the origin of masala chai, what makes our blend so special, and how to prepare it using our blend. Then, we’ll finish off with a few fun variations on the chai latte. 

Idle Tea Spiced Chai Latte

Where did chai originate?

Chai originated in India somewhere between 5000-9000 years ago. Indian royalty figures drank chai, both for medicinal purposes and as a delicacy. Closer to the 19th century, it became a drink that royals and commoners alike could enjoy.

Traditionally, the Indian chai recipe is prepared by steeping black tea and whole spices in hot milk, and sweetening it with sugar or honey. The spices include (but are not limited to) cardamom, cinnamon, whole peppercorn, ginger, and aniseed.

In Indian, the word “chai” actually means “tea.” The term “masala chai” refers to the chai that we know and love, with “masala” denoting the spice blend. 

Chai culture is still hugely popular in India, and is made at home in large kettles and enjoyed in a celebratory context. It’s also popular on the streets, and street vendors, called “chai wallahs,” make hot masala chai on demand. 

Chai lattes as we know them in North America are prepared much differently, though the ingredients remain the same. Milk, black tea, a warm spice blend, and some form of sweetener are crucial for a perfect chai latte. 

For more content about tea origins, check out our previous blog post about matcha green tea powder

Spiced Chai Tea mix

What makes the Idle Tea Spiced Chai Mix special?

Our Idle Tea Spiced Chai Mix aims to replicate the authentic recipe as closely as possible. Our blend brews black assam tea with an array of warm signature spices. Those spices include Guatemalan cardamom, Asian ginger, Indonesian cinnamon, Madagascar cloves and Indonesian Lampong black peppercorn. Once the tea and spices have been steeped, we add just the right amount of beetroot sugar for the perfect sweetness.

The chai latte blend is a liquid blend that is conveniently brewed already, with the perfect level of sweetness and spice. All you have to do is combine it with milk in a pitcher, steam it, and top it with some cinnamon or nutmeg.

Our chai latte blend is the same recipe that we developed in the early 2000’s, over 20 years ago when we started making our own line of chai, syrups and smoothies. It used to be called Flavors of Eden, followed by Valleta Flavors. But now it’s under the Idle Tea line, and it now comes in a recyclable bottle. It’s the same great blend with a new look and label.

Idle Tea Chai Mix

How to make a chai latte

Our chai latte blend makes it incredibly easy to make the perfect chai latte. Pour 1 part Idle Tea Spiced Chai Mix into a pitcher, followed by two parts milk or a non-dairy substitute. Steam it in the pitcher until it reaches 140 degrees F. Pour it into a cup and top with cinnamon or nutmeg.  The same ratio can also be served cold over ice.

If you want to serve our chai latte concentrate for your coffee shop, reach out to us at .

Chai latte variations

The flavours of masala chai pair wonderfully with other flavours, so you’re not just limited to chai lattes alone. Here are 3 popular takes on the classic drink.

Dirty chai latte

A dirty chai latte is simply a chai latte with an espresso shot added. With familiar warm spices like ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon, it’s almost reminiscent of a gingerbread latte or a pumpkin spice latte. 

To make it, just steam the correct ratio of milk and chai mix until it reaches 140 degrees F. Then, pull an espresso shot into a cup. Pour the steamed chai over the espresso shot, and top with cinnamon or nutmeg. 

Chai tea mix

Chai apple cider

Apple cider beautifully complements the flavours of cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. 

Simply pour 2 parts apple cider with 1 part Idle Tea Spiced Chai Mix into a pitcher, and steam until it reaches 140 degrees F. Pour into a cup, and top with cinnamon.

Chai hot chocolate

The chai hot chocolate is an experience similar to a spicy hot chocolate. The ginger and black peppercorn add a spicy, zesty kick. 

To make it, pour 1 tbsp of chocolate syrup into a cup. Into a metal milk pitcher, pour one part Idle Tea Spiced Chai Mix and 2 parts milk or non-dairy alternative. Steam it until it reaches 140 degrees F. Pour a small amount over the chocolate syrup, mixing well. Then, pour in the rest of the steamed chai. Top with nutmeg. 

Warm, spicy, and irresistable

Spiced Chai Latte

There’s nothing more comforting and warming than a chai latte with a dash of cinnamon on top. It’s the quintessential cozy drink, perfect for the colder fall and winter months. 

Make sure to seize the opportunity and offer this incredibly popular drink to your customers. It’s easy and quick to make, it makes for a perfectly balanced drink, and best of all, it’ll keep your line moving while keeping your customers in good spirits. Happy chai season!

Need the perfect chai latte blend for your coffee shop? Drop us a line at

 

How to Clean and Maintain Your Espresso Machine

It may seem like a daunting task to have to clean your commercial espresso machine. With all those levers and buttons and knobs, it may look more like a fuse box than a coffee maker. But rest assured that cleaning your commercial coffee machine isn’t much harder than cleaning your drip coffee maker!

Sure, you can dig out your dusty old user manual, complete with typos and instructions that make so sense. Or, you can check out this easy guide on how to clean your espresso machine. We’ll go over how to clean an espresso portafilter, what is backflushing an espresso machine, and how to descale an espresso machine.

What happens if I don’t clean my espresso machine?

If you don’t clean your espresso machine, you risk crappy tasting coffee, bacterial build-up, and the function of your machine. While you’re using your espresso machine throughout the day, espresso grinds, coffee oil, and mineral scale from water intake build up throughout the day. 

Espresso being extracted

 

A lot of things can go wrong if you don’t clean your espresso machine, or don’t clean it properly. 

For one, your coffee will taste stale or “off.” If you’re brewing espresso from a brew head with day-old grinds, through a dirty portafilter, you’ll taste yesterday’s coffee. Not exactly what you’re going for! When exposed to air, moisture, light, and heat, coffee oils go rancid quickly.

Not only that, but you also run the risk of attracting pests. Stray coffee grounds are food to cockroaches, and they can attract mice and rats if you’re not careful. Restaurants and cafes are particularly susceptible to pests. Make sure all surfaces are wiped of coffee beans and grounds, and don’t give pests a reason to stick around. 

In general, having a visibly dirty espresso machine could make customers think twice about ordering coffee off of you.

How to descale an espresso machine

Part of cleaning your espresso machine is descaling. Descaling your machine cleans it, but it also removes mineral buildup in the hot water tanks. If mineral buildup goes unchecked, it can affect water flow and pressure in your machine. This, in turn, will affect the flavour of your espresso. Excess mineral build-up will require a professional to remove, and can even cause your machine to call it quits altogether. 

How often do I need to clean my espresso machine?

To maintain your machine properly and have great tasting espresso at all times, clean your machine at least once a day, at the end of the business day. 

Espresso machine steaming

We’ve broken down the cleaning tasks by espresso machine part.

The portafilters (the filters that screw into the group heads with handles) need to be cleaned spotlessly. Soak them in hot water and dish soap to loosen stuck-on grounds and oil. If you’re worried about a soapy flavour, you can soak them in hot water and Puro Caff.  After they’ve soaked for 10-15 minutes, scrub them vigorously, rinse them, and leave them to air dry.

Pop the basket out first before you leave them to soak in the water to get them as clean as possible. To remove the basket, pry it off with a spoon or a butter knife. 

Backflushing the machine is when you intentionally change the direction of the water flow so the machine can flush the water tank. You do this by using “blind” or “blank” baskets. Unlike regular portafilter baskets with holes, these baskets are solid, forcing the water backwards into the tank. Backflushing removes any scale, coffee grounds or sludge from the inside of the water tank.

To backflush, remove the regular basket from the portafilter, and put the blind basket in. Place ½ tsp of Urnex into the basket, and screw the portafilter into the machine. You’ll want to run 5 cycles, each with 10 seconds on, and 5 seconds off. You’ll likely see dirty, foamy liquid coming from the outlet–that’s normal. After your 5 cycles, remove the portafilter, run some water from the group head, and rinse the portafilter. 

Screw the portafilter back in, and run 5 cycles (10 seconds on, 5 seconds off), this time without the Urnex. Your backflush is complete.

NOTE: Backflushing works on 3-way valve systems. If you have a lever-style machine, backflushing isn’t necessary, and shouldn’t be attempted.

Espresso machine group head

The group heads are the brewers, ie. the part that the portafilters screw into. They’ll be covered in grounds from the day, and will need a good wipe-down and brushing. Using a group head brush, scrub the entire top of the group head while running the water. If the hot water is threatening to splash at you, just turn the hot water off while scrubbing, running it between brushes. 

After you’re done brushing, wipe the entire group head with a clean cloth or paper towel. 

The steam wands are in contact with milk all day, posing the risk of bacteria. Not only this, but if the wands aren’t cleaned regularly, the milk residue can harden over time, affecting the performance of the steam wands. They won’t make barista-worthy microfoam if they’re clogged up. 

To clean them, dissolve a ¼ tsp of Frother Cleaner in a small pitcher with hot water filled halfway. Place the steam wand in the pitcher and leave it to soak for 30-60 minutes (NOTE - Do not leave overnight). In the morning, simply wipe down the steam wands and purge them for 30-60 seconds. 

Espresso machine steam wands

The espresso machine has a tray that collects water and spilt coffee. During the day, this can get quite dirty. It’s important to clean this daily–otherwise it can clog the drain, smell foul, and attract pests.

To clean the tray, simply flush the tray with hot water until all the grounds are gone. You can also manually remove it and rinse it under the sink (just make sure you cover the hole with a damp cloth or you’ll have another mess to clean up!). 

While it’s what’s on the inside that counts, we also believe your espresso machine should look sharp on the outside, too. Make sure the tops of your espresso machine (where the cups and saucers live) and the exterior of your machine are cleaned regularly. Grinds can accumulate on top of the machine, and coffee and milk splashes can be seen on the outside of the machine, facing customers. Your espresso machine is a work of art, so make sure it always looks taken-care-of. 

espresso cup

Maintaining the cleanliness of your espresso machine should be a group effort. An espresso machine that doesn’t get cleaned regularly can make the flavour of your coffee suffer, and it can slowly degrade your machine. Espresso machines are not cheap, and neither are espresso machine technicians. Remember: a stitch in time saves 9!

Looking for more tips for masking tasty espresso? Check out our previous article on how to pull a perfect shot of espresso. If you need more guidance on the ins-and-outs of espresso, book a consultation with us–we’re here to help!

 

Tamp Like a Champ: How to Tamp Espresso

How you tamp your espresso can have a huge impact on the flavour of the coffee. If you did everything else right but your espresso is tasting sour or running poorly, your tamp could be the culprit.

Tamping espresso

When you’re leading a team of baristas, it can be common for everyone to have different ways of tamping. There are lots of wrong ways to tamp espresso, and baristas can carry these bad habits for years. 

Poor tamping is not just an issue of flavour–it’s also a health and safety issue. Tamping can cause repetitive strain injuries over time, a condition more commonly known as “barista wrist” in the industry.

Luckily, it’s easy to learn how to tamp espresso properly and fix any mistakes. We’ll walk you through all the dos and don’ts of tamping espresso. But first, we’ll take a look at why we tamp coffee in the first place.

espresso tamper

What happens if you don’t tamp coffee?

Tamping coffee is when you apply downward pressure on coffee using a tamper. 

If you try to brew a portafilter with loose grounds, the water will move through the coffee instead of brewing it. As a result, you’ll get a watery, under extracted, sour espresso. Coffee that hasn’t been tamped has a lot of pockets of air, and the water finds an easy way to exit. 

Tamping removes these air pockets from the coffee. This helps the water move more evenly throughout the whole puck. All it takes is one loose spot on the puck for the water to find this weak spot and rush through it. This is known as “channeling.”

What are some examples of poor tamping?

Here are some common ways that tamping goes wrong. 

If you tamp at an angle and the puck isn’t parallel to the portfiler, the water will go to the lowest point. Water is always looking for the path of least resistance. Instead of brewing the whole puck, it will only brew the low part. To make sure your tamper is parallel to the portafilter, use the ring inside the portafilter basket as a guide.  

Holding the tamper incorrectly can have an impact on the flavour. Avoid holding the tamper like an ink stamp with your hand gripping the handle only. This can cause coffee grounds to jump out of the basket and cause an uneven tamp. Instead, wrap your fingers around the base of the tamp while applying downward pressure.

Tamping a mountain of coffee grounds won’t result in a level coffee bed. You’ll get a flat surface with bevelled edges–a perfect weak spot for the hot water. After grinding your beans into the portafilter, give the portafilter a good tap on the side. This helps the process along by settling the bed of coffee.

After tamping your espresso, there will usually be some loose grounds floating on the sides of the puck. The barista’s common instinct is to knock the portafilter to get the loose grounds in the middle so they can tamp again. But knocking the side of the portafilter can crack the puck, causing channeling, and it also damages your equipment.

Instead of knocking, place your tamper on top of the puck again, and spin the tamp with no pressure. This will make those loose grounds on the side co-operate. 

Barista tamping espresso

How to tamp espresso the right way: Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to tamp espresso properly.

  1. Grind your coffee into your portafilter. Once ground, tap it against the side of your hand (or on the tamping mat) to help level out the coffee bed.
  2. Place your portafilter on the tamp mat. Turn your body so that your dominant hand side is parallel with the bar counter. Place the tamper evenly on the bed of coffee so it’s parallel to the ring in the portafilter basket. Push straight down firmly until you meet resistance. (If your portafilter has a splitter, make sure the splitter is off the tamp mat. This prevents the splitter from breaking off.)
  3. If there are any loose coffee grounds, place the tamper back on. Without applying any pressure, spin the tamper to settle the loose grounds. 
  4. Brew your espresso. Easy!

Espresso tamping

How hard should I tamp?

In the coffee industry, it’s agreed upon that 20-30 lbs of pressure goes into a proper tamp. You don’t need to tamp incredibly hard to achieve this. Tamp until you feel the coffee stop. 

It can be easy to get tired at the end of the day and tamp lighter as the day goes on. Be aware of this, and try to keep a consistent tamping strength throughout the whole day.

Tamping safety

The trick to avoiding strain on your wrist is keeping it straight while you tamp and engaging your shoulder and your arm. Lifting your elbow at a 90 degree angle makes it easy to keep your wrist straight, and makes the power come from your arm.

Which is the best espresso tamper?

The most important thing when looking for a tamper is finding one that fits your portafilters. The tamp should spread to the very edges of the basket, ensuring a smooth, uniform tamp. If the tamper is too big, it simply won’t fit; if the tamper is too small, you’ll create air pockets around the edges and cause channeling. 

For newbie baristas who don’t know how hard to press, click tampers are a great option. They make an audible clicking noise once 30 lbs of pressure have been pushed into the coffee puck. 

naked portafilter

How do I know if I’m tamping correctly?

You can tell a lot about how well (or poorly) your coffee is running just by looking at your spent coffee pucks. If you see any air pockets or obvious signs of the coffee spilling over the edge of the basket, your tamp could be the issue.

If you’re still not sure, try to look at the bigger picture. Brew a shot of espresso, dilute it with some water, and taste it. If the coffee tastes unpleasant and has an edge, try again. If it tastes acceptable, or even good, you’re on the right track!

Tamp champ

Tamping isn’t complicated; it’s actually remarkably easy. But unfortunately, there are a lot of bad habits out there that seem to be contagious. Baristas learn by watching other baristas, picking up on their habits without knowing whether they’re right or wrong. But it’s not their fault–if they don’t receive the proper training, how can they be expected to do a good job?

As a cafe manager or owner, it’s up to you to set standards and catch any bad habits before they get out of hand. By teaching correct tamping, you improve your coffee, retain your customer base, and keep your team safe.

Looking for more tips to improve your espresso game? Check out our previous blog post about degassing coffee for better tasting espresso. And, if you need more support, book a consultation with us, and drop us a line at






Barista-worthy Steamed Milk : Microfoam for Beginners

There’s no experience more decadent than drinking a well-crafted latte. A good latte merries a perfectly pulled shot of espresso and textured milk. But textured milk is easier said than done. That’s why baristas painstakingly steam your milk to perfection. Properly steamed microfoam isn’t thick and foamy; it’s creamy and velvety, and its sweetness complements the espresso perfectly.

Latte Art

Proper microfoam is essential for latte art. At its core, latte art is an indication of a well-made drink. Both the espresso shot and the milk have to be executed properly, or you won’t get that beautiful latte art. The visual appeal of latte art will keep your customers coming back for more. As a barista, it’s a fun challenge that keeps you on your toes.

A note about foam

There are two main ideologies in the coffee world: Italian-style or “old-school” coffee, and third wave coffee. A lot of people order a cappuccino, expecting to see a thick cloud of foam on top. This is also referred to as a “bone-dry” cappuccino. When they get their microfoam cappuccino, they’re disappointed, and it’s not what they pictured.

The old-school coffee ideology is respected in its own right. But in this article, we’re talking about third wave coffee, to which flat microfoam is central.

What is microfoam?

Microfoam is a method of steaming milk where you inject tons of tiny bubbles into the milk, creating a textured milk. The bubbles run all throughout the milk, instead of the foam and the milk being separate from one another. Rather than having a thick foamy milk that plops right on top of your espresso, you get a continuous flow. This opens the door to latte art, and mastering microfoam lets baristas create rosettas, tulips, and even swans!

In addition, microfoam isn’t hot; it’s warm. Dairy milk has natural sugars (lactose) which complement the sweetness of espresso. Heating up your milk too much can burn and effectively destroy those natural sugars. You should aim for 120-140 degrees F. To get that optimal warm temperature, place your palm on the side of the metal pitcher while steaming. As soon as you feel warmth, stop steaming immediately. You can use a thermometer, but your hand is more intuitive.

Milk thermometer

How to make microfoam for beginners

To make proper microfoam, you’ll need a high-quality espresso machine with a precision steam wand. Pour your milk into a metal steaming pitcher until it’s about a centimetre below the spout. Place the pitcher at an angle, leaning down slightly to your right. Before you start steaming, lift the milk pitcher up to the steam wand. The steam wand should be slightly below the surface of the milk, about a centimetre.

Turn your steam wand on. If you’re at the correct angle, you should create a vortex effect. If you don’t see this affect, don’t panic. Gently move the pitcher side to side (not up and down), making sure the steam wand is just below the surface. Keep steaming until it starts to feel warm, not hot. Immediately switch the steam wand off.

steaming milk

The sound (or lack thereof) is everything. If the steam wand is too close to the surface, you’ll get a high-pitched screeching sound. If it’s too submerged, you’ll get a loud, low rumbling sound. If it’s in the right spot, it’ll make practically no sound at all.

It’s normal to get a few big bubbles. Let your milk sit for a few seconds and tap out the big bubbles on a hard surface before pouring.

How to make latte art with microfoam

This is probably the hardest part. Latte art takes practise. If all you can manage is a heart, you should call that a win!

Try to get better at microfoam before attempting latte art. You can’t make latte art if your microfoam is thick and foamy. It has to be thin and glossy, similar to wet paint in texture and viscosity.

Pour your microfoam directly over the espresso in a circular motion. Once your cup is about ⅔ full, pause your pour. This is when you’ll start your latte art.

Get the spout of the pitcher closer to your latte, and pour while rapidly swiveling the pitcher left and right, about half a centimeter apart.

Fratello Coffee Latte Art

Pro tip:

Pour a bit of microfoam in the espresso, stir it with a spoon, and then pour the rest of the milk. This helps prevent a bitter taste upon the first sip. The crema layer from the espresso is quite bitter, and it rises to the top when you do latte art. Integrating it early on disperses that bitter top layer.

Practising microfoam

Instead of wasting milk to practise your microfoam, practise with a pitcher of water with a drop of dish soap. When steamed, it creates a similar texture. It helps you gauge the correct position of the pitcher and the steam wand. It also helps you practise co-ordinating when to turn off the steam wand, which can be tricky at first.

pouring microfoam milk

Making microfoam with non dairy milk

Non-dairy milk doesn’t perform as well as dairy milk when steamed, but there are ways to improve the texture. Steam your non-dairy milk more vigorously than you would with regular milk. Because they have less fat content and are more watery, they heat up quicker, meaning you have to work quicker. After steaming, let it sit for a while to let bigger bubbles come to the surface. Then, tap the pitcher firmly on a hard surface to let the bubbles out and swirl vigorously to integrate.

Don’t cry over spilt milk

Creating that perfect microfoam can be frustrating at first. There are several factors that you have to be aware of, all at the same time. This includes the angle of the milk pitcher, proper submersion of the wand, temperature, and wand shut-off. It doesn’t help that a big, roaring espresso machine can be a little daunting to a newbie barista. But if you don’t get it perfect at first, the most important thing is that you try. Customers can taste care in a cup.

Looking to open a coffee shop, or just need a tune-up for your team of baristas? Get in touch with us about our cafe consultations, and drop us a line at .




Why Do I Need a Burr Grinder?

Blade grinders are not the best choice for grinding coffee beans. While they are inexpensive and easy to use, they don't produce the same quality of coffee as burr grinders.  So why do I need a burr grinder? 

The reason blade grinders do not produce high-quality coffee is because the blades heat up during operation and this causes a burnt taste. Burr grinders, on the other hand, use rotating disks that never get hot enough to cause this burnt taste.

There is only one grinder for coffee, and that’s the burr grinder. If your coffee doesn’t taste quite right on a burr grinder, at least you have the option of adjusting it. Consistency is everything when it comes to brewing good coffee.

Hand mill grinder

I can’t afford a burr grinder! I’m just a poor student.

We get it. Burr grinders can be expensive. But this is an investment, a piece of equipment that’ll make tasty coffee for years to come. A decent electric burr grinder ranges in price from $200-$1000. We recommend the Baratza Encore burr grinder as a great entry-level grinder. The conical burrs stay sharp for years with excellent precision. If you’re on a smaller budget, the Timemore Chestnut C2 grinder delivers the same quality. The only caveat is that it requires good old-fashioned elbow grease. This is perfect if you only drink one or two cups a day, and as a bonus, it travels well.

If you still don’t want to buy a burr grinder, at the very least, ask us to grind it for you, but make sure to use it up quickly. When you order beans online, make sure to tell us what grind setting you want in the checkout notes.

Hand burr grinder

Why are blade grinders bad for coffee?

Here’s what blade grinders do to your coffee. They blindly cut it up, resulting in coffee particles of all sizes, from fines to boulders. When you’re brewing a particular method, whether it’s French press or pour over, you are looking for 1 particle size… not 20!

Blade grinders are particularly bad for pour overs. When you make a pour over with blade ground coffee, you’ll get a slow-pouring, clogged filter. The resulting coffee will taste bitter and sour at the same time. And, you won’t really get any resounding flavour notes. Just a flat, lifeless cup. Sounds like a waste of effort, doesn’t it?

To understand why blade ground coffee is not ideal, you need to understand extraction. Extraction refers to the amount of soluble compounds extracted from coffee in a given time period. Extraction depends on a few factors, namely temperature and grind size. Temperature is easier to control, but grind size needs a lot of attention. The finer the grind, the quicker the extraction time; the coarser the grind, the slower the extraction time. That’s why espresso pours in mere seconds and French press takes several minutes. A bitter taste indicates over-extraction, and a sour taste indicates under-extraction.

Now that you see why blade grinders can’t create consistency, it’s time to retire that sucker. You can clean it out and use it to grind whole spices, or you can donate it to someone else looking to enter the “fresh ground coffee world”.

How does a burr grinder work?

A burr grinder is essentially a coffee mill. It “mills” the coffee, much like how a pepper mill creates particles that are uniform in size. On a burr grinder, you can adjust settings from fine to coarse, and every particle will be the same size. You need a uniform grind to achieve even extraction. If your coffee doesn’t come out quite right, at least you can adjust your grind and try again. You will notice that this is especially important when brewing espresso. With a blade grinder, you don’t have this option–instead, you get what you get.

Espresso grinder

Are there ways to make good coffee with a blade grinder?

We certainly don’t recommend a blade grinder for making pour overs, aeropresses and espresso. However, some coffee methods are more forgiving than others. Immersion methods, like steep & filter and French press, tend to respond better to blade ground coffee. That’s because immersion methods eliminate that awful sour, weak taste, which is almost always down to under extraction.

If you’re using a blade grinder, grind it on the coarser side, and pause every few seconds to shake it. Immerse the grounds in the hot water for 4-6 minutes. This won’t make an incredible coffee, but it’ll make it palatable.

What to do with pre-ground coffee

Maybe you’ve decided that a burr grinder is not in your budget, and you need to rely on pre-ground coffee. In this case, we recommend using up your pre ground coffee as quickly as possible. Ground coffee goes stale very quickly, so try to use it up within a few days maximum. Store it in the bag in a cool, dark place.

Another way to quickly use up pre ground coffee is to make a big batch of cold brew so you can use your coffee up in a timely manner. Once brewed, cold brew stays good for 1-2 weeks in your fridge. This coffee method is deliciously smooth and foolproof, and it makes for a refreshing drink in the summer months. If you’re not into cold coffee, you can always heat it up later.

Coffee Burr Grinder

Is a burr grinder a good investment?

If you’re the type who drinks 4-6 coffees a day with lots of cream and sugar, you might not notice the difference. But, if you drink coffee more for the flavour than for the caffeine, a burr grinder is a good investment. When it comes to specialty coffee, it doesn’t make sense to ruin

it with a blade grinder. Specialty coffee is pricier than other coffees on the market, in part because of the complex flavour. Only a burr grinder will unlock those tasting notes!

Want to put your burr grinder to the test? Check out our foolproof pour over guide!



Can Coffee be TOO Fresh? The Importance of Degassing Coffee

We’ve talked about the importance of fresh coffee ad nauseum here at Fratello Coffee. It’s coffee 101 to use up your beans within 2-4 weeks of roasting. But did you know that coffee can actually be too fresh? It may sound a little contradictory, but drinking too-fresh coffee can be less than tasty. This is where degassing coffee comes in.

Probat coffee roaster

In the coffee world, degassing is crucial after roasting. Coffee straight off the roaster can taste a bit jarring. Hardcore coffee lovers find extra-fresh coffee exciting, but the average coffee drinker will be a bit offput by the flavour.

Whether you make filter coffee at home or work in the coffee business, degassing coffee is key to making tasty coffee. Let’s take a look at the composition of fresh coffee and explore why it’s so important to give coffee a rest.

Why degassing coffee is necessary

When coffee beans are being roasted, the beans produce and trap carbon dioxide. Most of the CO2 dissipates from the coffee while it’s being roasted, but the coffee will retain a significant amount of it. CO2 is a natural byproduct of roasted coffee, but in large amounts, it can make the coffee taste bad. Extra fresh coffee will have a sour, vegetal, even carbonated taste. This can distract from the desirable flavour notes of the bean. 

After roasting, experts in the coffee industry recommend you rest, or “age”, your coffee for a few days before brewing. Lighter roasted beans are denser, and therefore retain a lot more CO2 than darker roasts. The lighter the roast, the longer it needs to rest.

There will still be CO2 in coffee even after the coffee has rested, but in smaller amounts. Have you ever wondered why pour over recipes tell you to “bloom” your coffee? It's because pouring a bit of hot water on the grinds allows the gasses to dissipate, improving the flavour of the coffee.

Slayer Espresso

Does aged coffee make a better espresso?

While degassing is important no matter what method you’re using, it’s particularly important for espresso. Because espresso introduces pressure, it’s a lot easier for those gasses to end up in the shot, altering the flavour. And, because third-wave espresso bars tend to serve light and medium roast espresso, aging is crucial.

Giving the coffee time to degas will let you taste the true characteristics of the coffee. You won’t have that overpowering CO2 flavour distracting your taste buds.

It’s important to realize that the “crema” layer (the caramel-coloured layer on top of the espresso) is overrated. While it may look delicious and make stunning latte art, it can make a bitter tasting drink. An ultra-thick crema layer indicates right away that your beans are still too fresh. Aging the coffee will make for a thinner crema layer, but the flavour will be much better.

How to degas coffee after roasting

Degassing coffee is simply a question of resting the coffee and leaving it alone for a few days. There’s no special technique–just let it sit undisturbed with minimal exposure to light, heat, and moisture. It should be left in an opaque container with a clearly-marked roast date so you know when to start using it.

espresso shot

How long should I degas the coffee?

How long you age your coffee depends on two things: the brew method you’re using, and the roast level.

When it comes to drip or filter coffee, it’s a good idea to rest your coffee for 2-8 days before using it. Lighter roasts can rest for 4-8 days, and darker roasts can rest for 2-4 days.

When it comes to espresso, you’ll want to wait longer. If you’re using a light roast, you’ll want to rest the coffee for 10 days. If you’re using a medium roast, rest it for 8-10 days. If you’re using a dark roast for your espresso, it should only rest for about 2 days. Dark roast coffees are porous, and you should be more concerned about using them up before they go stale. 

For further information on coffee storage, please refer to our blog post: 5 Ways to Keep your Beans Fresh

How can I degas coffee quickly?

We don’t recommend trying to speed up the degassing process. If you try to prematurely degas the coffee by exposing it to air and light, you’ll only damage it and make it go stale. Have patience!

If you run an espresso bar and you want to serve perfectly aged coffee at all times, do a bit of planning. It’s a good idea to have extra stock of your most popular espresso blend so you don’t have to wait for it to degas. 

espresso shot

What’s the point of the degassing valve?

On most coffee bags, you’ll see a circle with holes. That’s the degassing valve. While most people think that’s some kind of gadget for smelling the coffee, it actually serves a very important, practical purpose. It stops the bag of beans from exploding!

Freshly roasted beans contain enough CO2 to puff, and even explode, the bag. The valve is a one-way channel, letting CO2 exit without allowing outside air to enter the bag.

The purpose of degassing valves became abundantly clear after a 2019 incident with a popular California roaster. The renowned Blue Bottle Coffee had to recall their coffee, which was packed in airtight tins, after 13 people were injured. 

coffee beans

Fresh to death

Degassing your coffee is a great tool to have in your back pocket if you run an espresso bar. It’s a system you can implement early on to take your espresso from good to great. When it comes to making great coffee, there’s no one single recipe for perfection. Making great coffee requires curiosity, and it’s a journey of learning as you go.

If you’re looking to improve your overall espresso game, check out our previous post about pulling a perfect shot of espresso. If you’re in the coffee business and need more support, book a consultation with us by dropping us a line at




How to Read a Coffee Label Like a Pro

Do you ever go to buy a bag of quality coffee, only to stare blankly at the information on the label? Maybe you see “elevation: 1600 masl” or “varietal: SL-28.” What the heck does “honey process” mean? If you don’t know what it all means, it can make your head spin. You’re not alone. The world of coffee is vast and can be complicated. If you want to get the best coffee around, it starts with understanding what you’re buying.

Don’t let complicated labels plunge you into imposter syndrome! Great coffee is for everyone, and it’ll take some time to get acquainted with the specialty coffee label. Maybe you’re searching for particular tasting notes, or just want to learn more about specialty coffee. Or, maybe you just want to impress your friends with your knowledge! Either way, you’ll find that this tidbit of information isn’t so trivial afterall. Learning how to read coffee labels is not only important for understanding the journey the beans have taken before ending up in your cup, but also for being able to make educated purchase decisions.

Why should I read the coffee label?

If you’re becoming a real coffee lover, understanding the coffee label will take your passion to the next level. Plus, it’ll help you spot ethical coffee right away. Ethical coffee is coffee produced with the wellbeing of farmers in mind, and it’s more expensive as a result. Most coffee on the market today is incredibly cheap, and farmers don’t get a fair share.

You won’t find a comprehensive coffee label on bags of poor quality coffee. That’s because poor quality coffee companies don’t want you to see the ugly side of the coffee industry. Read any Fratello coffee label, and you’ll find the country, region or farm, process, roast date, and roast level. If you check out our online coffee collection, you’ll find even more information about the producers. Coffee labels aren’t just for laughs–they’re for traceability and transparency.

Specialty Coffee Label Specifics

Here are the most common pieces of information you’ll see printed on a specialty coffee label.

Coffee origin

It’s not enough to know which country your coffee came from–you should know the origin, and ideally, the farm. You can even get information about the microlot. For example, with our Guatemala Montecristo, “Montecristo” refers to the microlot where the coffee was grown. If you read the label further, you’ll find that it comes from the San Marcos region of Guatemala.

Even if you’re buying a coffee blend, you should know which origins make up the blend. Don’t be fooled by flowery language that describes the coffee with no information about where it comes from.

Coffee elevation

Coffee elevation is everything in specialty coffee. Quality arabica coffee is a delicate plant, and it likes to grow in cool, shady conditions. Growing coffee at higher altitudes achieves this. Lesser quality coffees are grown in full sun and on lower elevations. Although sun-grown, lower elevation coffee makes for a big yield, the quality of the coffee suffers.

When you see “1600 masl” on a coffee label, that means that it’s grown at 1600 metres above sea level. You might also see altitude in feet.

Tasting notes

Good coffee doesn’t need artificial flavourings to taste delicious. You’ll often find tasting notes printed on coffee bags that refer to the subtle characteristics unique to that bean. When it comes to fruit notes, you could see apple, cherry, or blueberry. For sweet notes, you could see toffee, caramel, or molasses. You could even come across notes like nutty, chocolatey, floral, earthy, and even smokey.

As a newbie coffee enthusiast, these flavour notes can be daunting. You may be thinking, “the bag says floral, but all I taste is coffee!” Remember, it takes a long time to develop a flavour palate. If you want to speed up the process, purchase two coffees with wildly different flavour notes, and try them side-by-side. For example, try our Ethiopia Guji (citrus, watermelon, bright) next to our Godfather Espresso TM Blend (milk chocolate, caramel, smooth).

Coffee process

For those who don’t know, coffee is actually the seed of a cherry. The cherries grow on shrub-like trees, and are picked ripe once they turn dark red. Farmers pick thousands and thousands of cherries, and the seeds are extracted. The extraction method is referred to as the coffee process. There are a few different processes, and different processes lead to unique flavours. Here are the most common ones.

 

Varietals

Just like with wine, arabica coffee has its own varietals. With wine, you’ll see different grapes, like merlot, chardonnay, or bordeaux. In coffee, you’ll see varietals like typica, caturra, catuai, SL-28, bourbon, and more. There are over 1000 heirloom varieties, though typica is said to be the oldest known coffee varietal.

Roast level

Roast level refers to roasted coffee, not green coffee. Roasts range from light to dark. Lighter roasts tend to have a bright, acidic, fruity flavour. On the other hand, darker roasts will have more of a bold, toasty, chocolatey flavour.

 

 

 

Roast date

Make sure to buy beans that have been roasted within the past two weeks. Roast date is extremely important if you want to drink fresh coffee. Many coffees sold at the supermarket will have coffee that’s been roasted months ago and vacuum-packed. Specialty coffee roasters will never offer stale, months-old coffee. Just say no to stale coffee!

The cream of the crop

Coffee is one of the top most traded commodity in the world, along with sugar, corn and oil. As a result, there’s a lot of bad coffee out there. You can dodge a bullet by only purchasing coffee with information about process, elevation, and more. Life is too short to drink poor quality coffee. So do yourself a favour, and learn to read coffee labels like a pro!

Want to learn more about specialty coffee? Check out our blog post about new crop coffee.



How to Pull a Perfect Shot of Espresso

There’s nothing worse than going to a renowned coffee shop only to receive an espresso drink that’s bitter and undrinkable. Poorly made espresso-based drinks are more common than you might think. Even the best beans, espresso machine, and grinder can’t guarantee a good shot of espresso.

Slayer Espresso

A big challenge for cafe managers and owners is getting their large team of baristas to make good-tasting espresso. A lot of newbie baristas don’t know what to look for when dialing in espresso and lack the confidence to calibrate it.  This is why we offer complimentary ongoing training and consultation for our wholesales clients.

By putting certain practises in place, you can show your whole team how to pull a perfect shot of espresso. First, we’ll show you how to lead an espresso tasting session with a team of baristas. Then, we’ll show you how to ensure the espresso is always running well.

The building blocks of good espresso

It may sound obvious, but you need to start with great coffee and great equipment to make great espresso. Make sure you have all of these in place first before you troubleshoot your espresso.

Make sure to source roasted beans from a high-quality, specialty coffee roaster. They should have an emphasis on ethical sourcing, meticulous roasting, and freshness.

A high-quality espresso machine with enough pressure and stamina is crucial for great espresso. We recommend the Slayer espresso machine, which was produced by the fine folks here at Fratello!

A good espresso grinder allows you to micro-adjust the grind setting. It should have a timed doser to provide consistency. We recommend Mahlkonig espresso grinders. 

If you have all of that already, let’s get into it!

coffee grinder

Leading an espresso tasting with your team

It’s always a good idea to do an espresso tasting session with your team. This allows you to answer any questions and try different espresso shots side-by-side for comparison. When guiding your team through a tasting, here are some common things to look for.

While not all coffees have a sweet profile, you should aim for a sweet shot. Sweetness is detected on the tip of the tongue. Unlike an unpleasant sour flavour, you’re looking for a sweetness akin to fruit or sugar.

A good shot of espresso should never taste unpleasantly bitter or sour. You can assess this more broadly when you try the espresso by asking yourself, “Is this pleasant?” “Is this acceptable to serve?”

Bitter and sour notes can be part of the inherent flavour profile of the coffee, like rich cocoa and lemon. Don’t get confused by desirable flavour attributes. 

Get your team familiar with the flavour wheel. It’s not cheating to fill your head with all the possibilities of what coffee can taste like. It helps your team by giving them a vocabulary to describe coffee.

TIP: It’s easier for newbie baristas to taste coffee that’s cooled down and/or diluted with a bit of water.

cappuccino

Creating an espresso calibration system

After you’ve done your initial group tasting session with your team, it’s time to create a calibration system.

The best way to calibrate espresso is by tasting it and adjusting it as needed. However, most newbie baristas won’t have the skills or the confidence to do this. This method also takes more time, and when you’re trying to move a lineup, it isn’t practical. A calibration system is easy-to-follow, keeps your coffee tasting great at all times, and doesn’t disrupt your flow.

Not all coffee is the same, but as a general rule of thumb, there’s a certain espresso recipe to follow. When it comes to brewing parameters for espresso, you want to start with a dry weight of 18 grams, a wet weight of 36 grams (ie. actual brewed espresso), and a brew time of 28-30 seconds. If you brew your espresso and it doesn’t fit within these confines, you can tweak the dose and the grind setting of the coffee.

perfect espresso

How to pull a perfect shot of espresso, step-by-step:

  1. Pop the basket out of the portafilter, and zero it out on a digital scale. Grind your beans from your timed espresso grinder, and weigh it. If it weighs below 18 grams, increase your dose by a few milliseconds. If it weighs above 18 grams, decrease your dose. Don’t worry if you’re off by 0.5 grams.
  2. Once you have the right weight, evenly tamp your espresso with 30 lbs of pressure.
  3. Have a timer ready to countdown from 30 seconds. Grab a clean shot glass or mini metal pitcher, place it on the scale, and zero it out.
  4. Place the scale and the glass under the group head, and begin brewing your espresso. Immediately start your 30-second timer. 
  5. At the 30-second mark, stop the shot and read the wet weight on the scale. If the wet weight isn’t 36 grams, make some changes and start over. If the wet weight is below 36 grams, make your grind coarser. If it’s above 36 grams, make your grind finer.

Make sure to post the espresso parameters (ie. dry weight, wet weight, brew time) where staff can see it. Have your team calibrate the espresso several times a day: once first thing in the morning, at mid-morning, and in the afternoon. For accountability, you can set up a checklist on a marker board, and have staff initial their calibrations.

Other factors affecting espresso flavour

Getting the right dose and weight is important when making good espresso, but it’s not the only thing to be aware of. Other things greatly affect the flavour of espresso. Here are some common factors:

Make sure your team is tamping properly. An uneven tamp or a cracked puck can result in uneven extraction, and thus, a sour, undrinkable espresso. Check out this video to make sure your team isn’t committing any tamping faux-pas!

 

The temperature and humidity in your cafe can instantly change how your espresso pours. If the weather suddenly changes from rainy and cold to sunny and warm, recalibrate your espresso.

A dirty espresso machine can make your coffee taste off if you’re doing everything else right. Make sure your team is cleaning the espresso machine and portafilters every night with Cafiza. Additionally, make sure your team is wiping the portafilter baskets with a dry rag between espressos. Have them purge the group heads between pours, too.

Fratello Coffee

Give it your best shot

Espresso can be intimidating for new baristas who lack skills and confidence. You can’t expect them to know everything right off the bat. The more effort you put into standards and procedures, the more likely it is that your team will get on board.

It doesn’t take long to gain a reputation as a no-fail, sure-shot espresso bar. Before long, your customers will notice, and they’ll be lining up for more. So do a little planning, schedule that espresso tasting with your team, and knock it out of the park!

We know that espresso can be a complicated beast. With decades of experience in the specialty coffee world, we have all the tools to make your cafe a success. Book a consultation call with us by emailing us at . We’re here to help!





Drinking Turmeric for Health Benefits

We all know turmeric as that vibrant golden-yellow spice used in curry dishes. But did you know that turmeric is loaded with health benefits? Turmeric contains antioxidants that fend off diseases, slow the aging process, and reduce inflammation. Best of all, it makes a delicious herbal tea.

Let’s face it: sometimes we have to go off coffee for a while. If you overdo it, coffee and caffeine in general can be addictive and lead to withdrawal and headaches. For some, it can also cause heartburn and jitters if you’re drinking multiple cups a day. If you need to lay off coffee for a while, our Idle Golden Turmeric Latte powder could be the fix for you. Just mix it up in some hot milk or a non-dairy alternative, and you’ll have a perfectly sweet and savoury warm bevvy. 

Let’s take a quick look at the main ingredient of our herbal tea blend: turmeric.

Turmeric health benefits

Turmeric contains high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances found in plants that reduce oxidative stress in the human body. Oxidative stress leads to cell damage, and over time, cell damage in our bodies can lead to disease. Oxidation is caused by free radicals that roam around our bodies. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, halting the oxidation process.

If you live in the big city, trying to get antioxidant rich foods in your diet is a great idea. Big cities expose us to poor air quality, as we walk past traffic-dense areas and inhale second-hand tobacco smoke. Poor air quality is one of the biggest causes of oxidative stress. You can combat it, in part, by eating antioxidant rich foods.

Curcumin

The active ingredient in turmeric is a powerful antioxidant called curcumin. This particular antioxidant is an anti-inflammatory. While inflammation in the body is a natural occurrence, it’s chronic inflammation that we want to avoid. When we get an infection or we’re hurt, inflammation kicks in to speed up the healing process. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, causes a number of diseases over time. It can lead to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and regenerative conditions.

Health experts are particularly interested in the effects of turmeric on cancer patients. Early trials show that curcumin contributes to cancer cell death, reduced growth of blood vessels in tumors, and reduced metastasis (spread). While studies are still underway, there is evidence that curcumin neutralizes free radicals that cause cancer. 

Curcumin may also promote brain health and reduce depression. It is shown to improve the levels of BDNF, a protein that repairs and regenerates neurons in the brain. 

There is evidence that black pepper may enhance and activate the powerful antioxidants in turmeric. Black pepper contains the natural compound piperine, which itself has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. 

Do cinnamon and ginger have health benefits, too?

Our Idle Golden Turmeric Latte powder also contains two other antioxidant rich spices: ginger and cinnamon. 

Ginger contains a natural oil called gingerol, a known antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, ginger is known to help with tummy trouble, in particular indigestion, nausea, and intestinal inflammation. Ginger happens to be in the same plant family as turmeric, which may explain why the flavours complement each other. 

Cinnamon also contains antioxidants in the form of polyphenols, which perform similarly to curcumin and gingerol. In addition, cinnamon contains the natural compound cinnamaldehyde, which may fight bacterial and fungal infections. It not only provides a delicious flavour, but it also provides sweetness without any added sugar. 

This leads us to the final ingredient on the list: coconut sugar.

Is coconut sugar healthier than table sugar?

While coconut sugar has the same amount of calories, it has a few benefits over table sugar. Coconut sugar is the dehydrated sap of coconut trees, making it a natural, unprocessed form of sugar. 

It’s also lower on the glycemic index than table sugar, meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar like table sugar. It contains a fibre called inulin, which is responsible for keeping the blood

sugar low. This can be helpful for people with both types of diabetes. And, unlike table sugar, it contains iron, zinc, calcium and potassium. While coconut sugar has some benefits, it’s still sugar after all, so don’t go overboard with it. 

In a nutshell

Here are your health benefits in one neat package. Turmeric contains a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation, slowing the aging process and preventing disease. Ginger offers antioxidants too, and maintains a healthy gut. Cinnamon also contains antioxidants, it can help us fight chest infections, and it provides sweetness without any added sugar. Coconut sugar is a natural alternative to table sugar, and it won’t spike blood sugars as high as regular sugar. 

What are some other antioxidant rich foods?

Other antioxidant rich foods that fight free radicals include blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. You can also find them in dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and broccoli. If you’re looking for another antioxidant rich beverage, try out our Idle Matcha Tea Powder

How do I make a golden milk latte?

Place 1 teaspoon of the Idle Golden Turmeric Latte powder in a mug, followed by 30 ml of water. Stir it together to make a syrup, and set aside. Heat 200 mL of milk or a non-dairy alternative to 160 degrees F (hot, but not boiling). Stir the hot milk into the syrup, and mix well. Sprinkle some more of the powder on top for garnish, and enjoy.

What are some other uses for this powder?

Our Idle Golden Turmeric Latte powder can be used in hot and cold beverages. You can easily ice your golden turmeric latte by pouring cold milk into the syrup instead. The powder dissolves well in frozen smoothies as well.

You can also use the powder as a health boost to baked goods. Just place a teaspoon of the powder into shortbread cookie dough, muffin batter and pancake batter, for a beautiful, golden hue. 

Want to learn more about antioxidants and how they can benefit you? Check out our blog post about the benefits of matcha powder.





Starting a Gratitude Journal : The Science of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a great reminder to be thankful for what we have, but science tells us that gratitude is important year-round. The act of practising gratitude is great for our overall health.  Intentionally going out of our way to bring to mind the things we’re grateful for helps us stay healthy and happy. 

Happy couple

Studies show that keeping a gratitude journal can ease depression and anxiety and actually improve your physical health. Neuroscience shows that the brain is a lot more changeable than previously thought, and carrying out practises actually creates new pathways, or “rewires” our brains. (You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!)

In today’s day and age, there are constant stressors all around us. Raising kids, full-time work, and excessive screen time can all bring our moods down and make us constantly feel stressed out. Not only does stress affect our quality of life, but studies show it actually makes us sick. Higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that upticks when we’re feeling stressed, has been linked to cancer and heart disease. Starting a gratitude journal eases a lot of this stress. 

Let’s take a look at how practising gratitude affects the brain. 

Gratitude Journal

Your brain on gratitude

The modern human is not subject to the same stressors as in the past. We no longer have to defend against bears and tigers or hunt and gather to provide food for our families. The modern human still has the fight-or-flight response, but it’s triggered by other things. Things like work stress, gridlock, and overdue bills can all get our heart racing and our cortisol flowing. 

While danger looks a little different now, humans are hard-wired to look for danger at every turn.

While this may have helped us escape real danger when we were hunter-gatherers, it doesn’t serve us anymore. Just because negative, catastrophizing thought patterns are our default, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

Humans can inject positive thinking into their brains, achieving a state of calm and well-being. The more we introduce positive thoughts into our brains, the more we flex this positivity muscle.

Similar to mindfulness, where we practise focusing on the present to achieve calm, practising gratitude creates equally strong pathways. Check out our post about parental burnout to learn more ways to deal with anxiety and stress. 

Practising gratitude has some real benefits and changes our brains in many ways. Gratitude can decrease materialism, help us work through personal problems, fight disease and sickness, and decrease feelings of envy and resentment.

journaling

How to practise gratitude

There are various ways that you can practise gratitude, and they all involve a pen and paper. 

A common gratitude journal exercise is to name 3 things you’re grateful for. Then, elaborate on those 3 things and muse about what life would be like without them. It can be anything from a supportive spouse, to a roof over your head, to your brand new dishwasher. 

You can also pick one thing that you’re grateful for, and take time to explore why you’re grateful for it. Let’s take running water, for example. Running water keeps you hydrated, saves you the effort and time of having to fetch it from the lake, allows you to bathe and brush your teeth, and waters your flowers. 

While it may sound like child’s play, you’ll notice a shift in your thinking after a few weeks of doing this consistently.

I don’t have time to write a gratitude journal!

It can be hard to justify the practise when you’re skeptical of it in the first place. You’ll reap the most benefits if you spend about 30 minutes everyday. However, even doing it 5 minutes a day can have a profound effect. When you’re first starting out, start small so you can realistically commit to the practise everyday. Deciding when and where you’re going to complete your gratitude journal can help you stay committed, too. 

If you’re a busy parent and your life gets busy in the evening, commit to waking up 5 minutes earlier than usual to complete your journal. 

If you plan to do your journal on the train or at your office desk, write in a pocket-sized notebook that’s easy to toss in your bag. If you prefer to journal digitally, you can keep a note in your phone, or you can even use a gratitude journal app

How long do I have to carry on with this practise?

When it comes to mindset work, such as practising gratitude or mindfulness, you should never stop! Think of a gratitude journal like working out or practising an instrument. When you stop working out for a while, you quickly run out of breath when you try to get back into it. Then, you have to play catch-up to get fit again. It’s the exact same thing with practising gratitude, and you should aim to stay “fit” your whole life. 

It might sound like a drag to have to do this constantly to reap the benefits. But choosing a set time, day of the week, and place to do it will significantly increase your chances of sticking to your routine. It’s actually more beneficial to practise it in short bursts over a period of time than it is to binge-practise it for hours all at once. Consistency is key. 

You don’t have to do it every single day if you don’t want to. But if you’re giving yourself a rest, make sure you do it consistently. For example, choose Sunday as your rest day instead of randomly taking off-days as you need them. 

be thankful

The greatest gift of all

Sometimes life will present unfair, cruel circumstances. On the other hand, you can have everything you could ever want in the world, and still be unhappy and unfulfilled. Living joyfully doesn’t happen by accident or to those who can afford it; it happens to those who are intentional. You have to have the imagination and the diligence to live the life you want. 

Let this Thanksgiving be the year you start your gratitude journal, and never look back!

Looking for more health & wellness content? Check out our previous post about drinking turmeric for health benefits