It’s been a good day. I got up at 6 AM this morning, and by 8 I had
picked up breakfast and a few other necessities and was headed west.
I drove to Cowan’s
Gap State Park, west of Chambersburg. And I spent the next couple
I only hiked a paltry 4 miles, but it was a pretty challenging route,
including a 750 ft. ascent striaght up the side of Tuscarora
Mountain. It brought back memories of the Mt.
Liberty hike. It never reached quite as steep a grade, and of
course it was far shorter, but it stil had me stopping periodically to
catch my breath. Which was exactly what I needed. A strenuous hike
in the mountains, on a clear autumn day – just what the doctor
ordered. I was grinning with the sheer joy of life by the time I
started the descent.
Some might question the sanity of driving for 5+ hours for two hours of
hiking, but they don’t know me. Mountain hikes are like lifeblood to
me, and in this season the need becomes impossible to ignore.
I’d post some photos, but I’ve mislaid my USB cable. Hopefully
The trip back is best left undescribed. Let’s just say I have no love
for PennDOT. Although there was one incident worth relating…
I stopped for coffee at the Ragged Edge coffeehouse, because the
combination of slow traffic, fatigue, and my usually afternoon malaise
was making me sleepy. As I was waiting in line, I heard the clerk (I
hesitate to grant him the title “barista”) say:
make cappucino, because our milk-steaming machine is broken. I can
make you a latte, though.
Can anyone in the class tell me what’s wrong with that statement?
Let’s review the ingredients of a latte:
- A whole lot of steamed milk
I’m now afraid to ever buy a latte there again.
That makes NO sense.
Actually, a latte primarily involves heated milk, whereas with a cappuccino the milk must be foamed as well as heated. So I can easily imagine a machine where the heating works, but the foaming does not – i.e., trying to foam the milk makes it all explode. This happens in my coffeeshop occassionally.
Steaming is not the same as foaming, aka frothing. Steaming heats the milk as well as filling it with millions of microscopic bubbles, resulting in a smooth, warm product which is similar too, but quite distinct from, milk which has been merely heated. Frothing produces the bubbly foam which you refer to above. However, both steaming and frothing are performed with the same instrument – either a steam tube attached to the espresso machine which diverts steam away from the espresso process, or a dedicated steamer. The difference is in how you use it – for a cappucino, the steam head is moved near the surface of the milk towards the end of the cycle (once the milk rises above 100 degrees F), ideally winding up with equal parts steamed milk and froth. For a latte, on the other hand, the steam head is kept deep in the milk for the entire time, producing almost no froth at all. There is a common misconception that there’s a special doodad which froths the milk, but in fact the froth is produced with nothing more than high-pressure steam and a steady hand. You can buy various consumer-oriented frothing devices – I have one of these in my collection – but while they can be useful, what they produce is not the same as real steam-generated froth, and you won’t see them used in a coffeeshop.
When coffee is served with heated milk, it is generally known as a “Cafe o’lait”, although the Cubans refer to it as “Cafe con Leche”. In my years of researching the subject, I have never seen any dispute that a latte is a shot (or two) of espresso with the rest of the mug filled with steamed, but not frothed, milk, and I doubt that any coffee connoisseur would accept anything other as the genuine article.
If your coffeeshop has trouble with their frothing from time to time, that would mean that their steamer is out of whack, which would prevent them from creating both steamed and frothed milk. Anything they serve as a latte while their steamer is out of order I would consider deeply suspect; but then, I’m a snob.
Pardon me for being nit-picky, please. It’s “café au lait”
And Cuban café con leche isn’t exactly the same as café au lait. Cuban café con leche is more akin to what you and I know as a “macchiatto.” Otherwise café con leche is not much more than equal parts coffee and heated or steamed milk.
I re-read what I just wrote, and realized it might be a little confusing. So, to summarize:
There are three things you can do with milk (besides just dumping it into the coffee cold):
– Heat it
– Steam it, which uses steam to heat and aerate the milk, but doesn’t make it bubbly or add substantial volume to it
– Froth it, which also uses steam but makes it foamy and increases it’s volume dramatically.
A cappucino is (classically): 1 part espresso, 1 part steamed milk, 1 part frothed milk
A latte is: 1 part espresso, and the rest of the mug filled with steamed milk. Little or no froth.
A Cafe o’lait is: Espresso, or maybe just regular coffee, combined with large portion of warmed milk.
Hopefully that’s clear enough.
A café au lait is equal parts dark-roasted, strong coffee (likely French-press style) and heated or steamed milk. Possibly espresso depending on what part of France you’re in. Of course, if you’re here in the states you’re most likely to get standard coffee-machine coffee with steamed or heated milk.
Ahh wow it’s been a long time since I’ve been there. We went in boy scouts one time. I must’ve passed the place a zillion times during treks out west for whatever reason but haven’t stopped to hike.
I still dig it every time I see the “TUSCARORA SUMMIT” sign on US30 though 😀 There really is something about the mountains around Franklin county and such that just… feels magical to me.
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