Fall this year for us has felt like a long time coming. The air here has been faltering from hot to chilly and finally it feels like a chill that's sticking. In lieu of the new arrived weather, I shared with Amanda a drink I've been stuck on for the past few weeks. It's creamy, sweet (but not too sweet), and incredibly comforting--the ultimate and very simple, "It's getting cold outside and I can wear sweatpants and socks around the house now" sort of drink. The sort of alternative to hot chocolate that you imagine when you're pining for the reprieve of fall.
I like coffee, and to say I'm good at coffee is an over-statement. I know a little bit. I know the fundamental should and should-nots of espresso and pour-overs. I know how my drinks are supposed to taste, how they should feel, but to say I'm good at this in the way that well-taught, educated roasters and baristas are good at coffee is a title I don't deserve and something that I will not claim here. So with that said, I'm pretty good and I know how to make a decent drink on my borrowed-from-mom, at home espresso machine.
I stopped drinking flavored coffees after experiencing well roasted and well prepared black coffee. It turns out that black coffee, when it's done with care and excellence, can taste exceptional and has a variety of its own flavor profiles. When you drink a good cup, you don't necessarily need sugar or milk to get good flavor, it's already expressed through quality roasting and brewing techniques. Yet still I find in my pallet room for an espresso drink that has a little something to it. This cup is just that.
Your choice in espresso will determine the way that the cinnamon and honey interact with the over-all flavors of your beverage. If you're using a sun-dried, single origin African bean, your latte will very likely have touches of berry, which is not necessarily what I want for a cinnamon honey drink, but to each their own. I go for a single origin, or blend of origins--such as Counter Culture's "Hologram"--that has overall darker, smokier, and subtle fruit notes. Hear me, I love sun-dried African beans, but I prefer a coffee that isn't so bright for this particular recipe. You don't want your flavor combinations to be combative.
You must also pay attention to the grind of your beans. All espresso machines are different. Many folks who have worked with coffee as a barista or have worked with at home espresso machines know that these can work far differently from one another. That said, the grind of your bean matters. For in-home espresso machines I suggest some experimentation. Asking a coffee shop to grind your beans for you will compromise the freshness of your coffee once its brewed and the grind may not even allow your espresso shots to pull. With this said, you want your espresso beans to be ground pretty fine--a good middle between granulated sugar and powdered sugar, as far as consistency and texture goes. Do this right before you tamp and pull. This promotes a fresher tasting shot. Also keep in mind that a standard electric coffee grinder may burn your beans in the heat of the grinding.
As far as the rest of your ingredients go, I suggest a local and trusted source of honey from someone who you know nourishes their bees and their land, and a good quality cinnamon. I use Vietnamese cinnamon due to personal taste, but do some playing!
Paying attention to your milk is important as well. Standard store bought milk and milk from the farmer's market can be vastly different. The variables can range anywhere from actual milk contents to natural fat and proteins available in the milk, taste depending on the time of year, temperature stored at, etc. All of this can effect the taste of cold milk all the way to the texture and flavor after it's steamed. If you're buying your dairy milk from the store, I suggest Organic Valley (go read about their farms!). Their half&half goes well with this recipe for a creamier, heavier and a little sweeter finish. If you're a nut milk drinker, I suggest using homemade, though if you have to buy from the store look into how much actual nut content is in the product. Be sure to also pay attention to when your milk is separating, especially those making homemade. Many of us know how fast homemade nut milk can spoil.
This recipe allows a lot of room for variables, drinking vessel sizes, etc. Much of this is on a to taste basis, though remember that lattes are a little espresso and a lot of milk. That ratio stands.
So without anymore extended commentary regarding your ingredients and how to choose them and use them (though it's so important!), my Cinnamon Honey Latte:
-Freshly ground coffee. This measurement should be fixed to your espresso machine's pull capability. I use "Hologram" from Counter Culture.
-Honey, approximately 5 tbsp, to taste
-Spoonful of cinnamon, to taste
-Quality dairy milk or nut milk
-In a chosen mug (or glass if iced), pour in about 5 tbsp of honey, to taste. Follow this with a spoonful of cinnamon. The honey should be coating the bottom of your drinking vessel and the cinnamon should be sticking to the top of the honey.
-Grind your chosen espresso to a consistency compatible with your machine. I suggest something in-between the texture and consistency of granulated sugar and powdered sugar.
-Fill portafilter basket and tamp. Experiment with your machine's most compatible tamping pressure. I have to be pretty light with mine. Also be sure that your tamper is completely dry, otherwise the espresso will stick to the metal and your packed espresso will be uneven, effecting the shot's body and taste.
-Pull your shot--hopefully it's a full bodied, creamy caramel color, though these things take practice and aren't always consistent when using lower-end in-home machines--and immediately pour on top of your honey and cinnamon. Stir.
-Steam an appropriate amount of milk to desired temperature. I suggest no more than 145o for dairy milk and no more than 130o for nut milk, especially almond milk. If you're using almond milk and choose to steam to a higher temperature, the flavor of your almond milk could be compromised.
-Pour the steamed milk over your espresso, honey and cinnamon mixture and enjoy!
*If you're making the iced version, simply skip the milk steaming and pour your cold milk over your espresso and honey mixture. Put your ice in last. If you don't, the flavor of your espresso will change heavily.
Pictured products you can find at Fadales include:
-Mini candle by PF Candle
-Coasters by Xenia Taler