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Coffee in America

I find it very strange that brewed coffee is the norm in America.
In Australia, we would balk at the idea that anything other than an espresso machine would be used.
We, certainly, have a migrant culture down here, so likewise Italian and Asian food are expected to be traditional.
However, brew coffee is never served in cafés and almost never served even at home these days.
Discuss.

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  1. Espresso is a late 19th century invention.
    Brewed coffee is more traditional than espresso.
    Arab and Turkish brewing styles are even more traditional.
    I think Australians probably drink espresso because they'll have tea when they want a longer sipping hot drink. For historical political reasons, Americans prefer coffee to tea.

    3 Replies
    1. re: caganer

      What did the swagman have in his tucker, tea or coffee? He only had a billy to boil water.

      1. re: paulj

        Coffee is a late import into Australia, really. We mostly came from English convicts, so tea was the go to drink back then.
        I watched a fascinating television program about espresso coffee which claimed the first espresso machine arrived here sometime in the 1940's, although there is dispute about where and when.

        1. re: cronker

          Where as 150 years ago, Americans were roasting and grinding their own coffee.
          http://arbucklecoffeetraders.com/lege...

          http://www.cowboycooking.com/antiques...
          A bolt on coffee grinder was an essential part of chuck wagon (ranch cook's wagon) equipment.

    2. Interesting. What about to-go coffee? Like from a convenience store or take out restaurant? Also espresso?

      6 Replies
      1. re: tcamp

        Yes, absolutely! Even in petrol stations. No brew coffee ever! Weird, huh?

        1. re: cronker

          Yes! The big, fancy gas stations here--such as Sheetz and Wawa--have multiple types of brewed coffee for sale but also usually a self serve machine with "espresso" drinks, e.g. cappuccino.

          Is the petrol station espresso made by an actual person or from a self serve machine?

          1. re: tcamp

            Our petrol stations in Australia normally have a coffee shop attached. So you buy your petrol and walk over to the coffee place and buy your latte or whatever.

            1. re: tcamp

              BTW, the self serve "espresso" is nothing more than a machine that mixes instant powder with hot water. It's not real coffee.

              1. re: tcamp

                Wawa has lattes and cappuccinos you can order now. They make them in espresso machines. I get one once in awhile, and they are good. I just wish they had more flavors besides mocha and caramel.

            2. re: tcamp

              Driving through Europe, pretty much all the gas stations that I've encountered have pretty great espresso-based beverages.

            3. In my American house we do not have a drip coffee maker. We have an espresso machine and use it to make Americana style coffee. We used to have a French press but I seem to have misplaced it.

              11 Replies
              1. re: jpc8015

                Yes, common in Australia too, however we have very inexpensive espresso home machines which can be quite good.
                They are almost a staple of most homes now, and you would be hard pressed to go to a dinner where espresso style coffee is not served.
                I'm not bagging over top brewed coffee, god knows I have survived on it when working it hospitality, I'm just sayin

                1. re: jpc8015

                  Question:
                  What is Americana coffee?

                  Over here, I believe it is a long black with cold milk on the side?

                  1. re: cronker

                    "Americano" is espresso diluted with hot water.

                      1. re: cronker

                        yes, though I've heard that at least theoretically, a long black has a higher espresso to water ratio than Americano. Also, long black is espresso added to hot water, and an Americano is hot water added to espresso (supposedly affects the crema).

                        I'm more into American-style brewed coffee than espresso drinks, so apologies if I get any of this wrong.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          No, you are correct. A long black involves two shots of espresso added to a cup with two thirds boiling water. It does give a nice crema.

                  2. re: jpc8015

                    Espresso diluted with hot Water does not taste anything like Filter or Drip Coffee

                      1. re: jpc8015

                        You said you make American style coffee with your Espresso Machine.

                        1. re: chefj

                          An Americano is espresso topped with hot water.

                          1. re: jpc8015

                            You said Americana. I thought you just added a stray "a"

                  3. Espresso isn't a "brew"?

                    Americans drink a lot of coffee. Drip brewing is a much faster and less labor-intensive way to produce coffee in large quantities than making espresso one or two shots at a time. We are nothing if not efficient.

                    On the other hand, espresso has become so popular in the US in the past thirty years or so that it can be found almost everywhere. You pay your money and you take your choice.

                    1. There are a number of regional variations in America, in addition to what other posters have said about who's doing the brewing. There are road warriors in New England that won't start the day without a "regular" coffee from a big coffee chain--shorthand for brewed coffee lightened with cream, and with sugar added. And there are my cousins who have a percolator pot of coffee on the stove almost 24/7

                      In smaller coffee houses, you'll see a lot more folks drinking espresso...elsewhere, you'll also see a lot of teens drinking flavored espresso based drinks (like caramel macchiatos, mint blueberry lattes, etc)

                      And, in my office, brewed coffee is the preferred method because it's the most economical. We make a big fresh pot of coffee in the morning, and one in the afternoon, and everyone is happy.

                        1. re: waitress

                          How do you define a flat white? I know what I think it is but everybody seems to have their own opinion.

                        2. I French press or percolate at home but dink drip at work and as takeout from coffee shops. My big cup of joe is one of the only American things I miss when traveling.

                          Drip coffee is less labor intensive than espresso and can be scaled up easier than percolating or pressing. It fit its way neatly into American culture
                          Works with office culture - no time for breaks keep you fuled,
                          works with diner/fast food culture - low labor immediately ready -
                          works while driving - hard to drink espresso in the car.

                          Just one of those things where technology and culture favor one thing

                          I am sure someone has studied how brewing methods of coffee combine with culture all over the world it would be an interesting story

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: JTPhilly

                            I have an amazing book about it if you want to borrow it!

                            1. re: cronker

                              Would appreciate the citation to the book.

                              1. re: cronker

                                I would love to know the name of the book - I will put it on my list

                                1. re: JTPhilly

                                  Here 'tis

                                  The World Encyclopedia of Coffee: Mary Banks: 9780754810933 ...
                                  www.amazon.com/World-Encyclopedia-Cof......
                                  The World Encyclopedia of Coffee [Mary Banks] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Explore coffee's many different uses from aromatic ...

                            2. It is relatively affordable for me to make very high quality brewed coffee at home. It would be more expensive and more difficult for me to brew very high quality espresso at home.

                              And also, I just like American-style brewed coffee. At any rate, it has relatively deep roots in the US.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Interesting.
                                Over here, you can buy a low-end espresso machine for about $100. Obviously, you can spend up to as much as you want for a decent machine, but a good one runs at about $300.
                                We have specialty bean shops where a kilo of beans runs at about $30, but you can get a kilo for about $15 generally.
                                Good beans can cost you upwards of $60 to $100+
                                There are many appliance stores whereby you get a machine and a grinder into the price.

                                Over the top pour machines are seen as very old school now, there are even some places that don't sell the filters etc. Ground coffee is not the norm when buying these days.

                                I'm not dissing either method, just find it interesting that cultures have diversified between us and the US.
                                I used to demolish a pot of over the top pour in my day!

                                (Oh, and my $$ figures shouldn't be too hard, we have been close to parity for a while)

                                1. re: cronker

                                  Excellent coffee in the US runs as low as about $10/pound but can get significantly more expensive for some specialty beans. My personal favorites are in the $12-20/lb range.

                                  You can spend $300 on a technivorm or I guess you could even spend some absurd amount of money on a Clover machine (if you're somehow able to find one for sale), but you can also brew coffee that is absolutely top notch using a $30 Aeropress or a $20 pour-over cone or French press. I'm under the impression that the less expensive methods of making espresso don't compare especially well against more expensive professional set ups. That's not the case with brewed coffee.

                                  All that said, the main factor in my preference for brewed coffee is still just that I like it and have been drinking it since I was a teenager.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    Thank you so much, Cowboy!
                                    Your insight is exactly what my original post was all about.

                                    I was trying to understand why American folk enjoy top over brews against our Australian way of demanding good espresso.
                                    I paid over $4000 for a lovely Expobar machine that failed every time. It broke down even when I had just spent $500 getting it fixed! Ended up being used for spare parts for another sucker.

                                    I work in hospitality, especially large function work, whereby brewed coffee is the norm. We use a massive machine that has 200 cup capacity. I drink the shit, but much prefer my own, home brewed espresso out of my machine.

                                    Thanks again!

                                    1. re: cronker

                                      I have a commercial, heinously expensive italian Brasilia machine. I use it on weekends only.

                                      My drip machine is brewing a pot each morning. I do NOT prefer drip, but it gets made daily because it is easy.

                                      Convenience is my only reason. I like my chromed vintage percolator and my french press too- but the crappy auto drip is used daily. Clean up is nothing on the auto drip, not so on any of the others...and I have enough clean up from cooking.

                                      1. re: cronker

                                        If you are comparing what Americans make at home in small quantities with freshly ground beans to the swill that would come out of some 200 cups machine, its no wonder you are wondering. Not even close to my chemex brew during the week or the french press on the weekend.
                                        and I bet that are alot of Americans that demand quality just as some Australians do when it comes to coffee.

                                        1. re: grumpyspatient

                                          We use an espresso machine in my house only because it is easy to brew one cup at a time. If we brewed a pot of coffee half of it would go down the drain. This conversation makes me miss my old French press though. Some of the best coffee I ever had came from that thing.

                                          1. re: jpc8015

                                            You could brew half a pot of coffee, no?

                                            1. re: grampart

                                              I could, but now I have this fancy espresso machine so I just make one cup of Americano at a time.

                                            2. re: jpc8015

                                              I would be better off if half the pot went down the drain!

                                  2. As far as "regular" coffee, Mrs. Potato has a French Press and prefers it and I have an automatic drip-style coffee maker. We also have an espresso machine.

                                    1. I live in Taiwan, where coffee culture is fairly new. And espresso-based drinks dominate. Even the 7-11 has a machine only - you can get an americano, but not a drip coffee. The coffee machine at work is one of the grind and brew types. Starbucks is one of the only chains that regularly sells drip coffee.

                                      I'm Canadian, and to me, 'coffee' means a basic brewed coffee - drip or French press. That's what I like best, and that's what I drink at home. My preference is a fairly strongly brewed medium roast, with cream, which is not duplicable with an espresso based drink.

                                      I'm also a total espresso snob, though, courtesy of a visit to Italy. I'll happily have an espresso after dinner, if it's a really good, Italian style and quality espresso - hot, bitter, and the size of a small shot glass. 99.9% of what I've seen outside of Italy is not. Lattes and cappucinos, to me, taste like watered down coffee - it's the milk vs cream effect.

                                      My experience is that making good espresso drinks is not a simple matter. You need decent equipment, high quality ingredients and a lot of practice. Mind you, terrible drip coffee abounds, but it doesn't involve hundreds of dollars of equipment.

                                      1. when you know you are going to have a steady line of customers buying coffee you don't have time to do single shots. Its been 'the norm' for a very long time. Much more so then espresso. You can also make a lot more coffee with less beans.

                                        In breakfast diners there you don't have brewed pots? Now that is strange lol

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: daislander

                                          No. Even in breakfast places, coffee is still made with an espresso machine. There is always a bit of a wait for your coffee, but we accept that. Even when very busy, customers will line up and wait for their order.

                                          As mentioned above, I really only see brewed coffee being served at large function type events. And there is a growing prevalence for the newer espresso self serve machines, that grind and brew the espresso automatically. It's not barista quality, but it's a decent representation in most cases.

                                        2. Look at sets of dishes---they may carry a message. Cups intended for breakfast coffee are 'way bigger than cups intended for espresso.

                                          1. Brewed coffee is traditional in America. If you've ever watched coffee commercials here, you've heard the classic Folger's slogan, and that coffee is usually brewed in a drip coffee maker. Espresso is considered more of a luxury, something you go to the coffee shop to enjoy. I think for the most part, drip coffee has become an American staple, something the working man/woman looks forward to drinking every morning before work. Personally, I prefer regular coffee brewed in an espresso maker for health reasons. Dark roasts like espresso upset my stomach. I have a coffee maker and an espresso maker. The coffee maker is used during the week and the espresso maker is usually only used on the weekends/for entertaining.

                                            1. That's just the way we roll, here in America! I love all kinds of coffee (perhaps except for the Middle Eastern, syrupy thick kind), and love espresso, but still love my American brewed coffee. In fact, sometimes I prefer it. It must be a cultural thing, I guess.

                                              1. Because America's coffee habit began during its colonial era and became the dominant national cultural habit (compared to a habit for tea drinking) during our struggle for independence.

                                                1. The pour-over paper-filtered drip coffee method is a German invention so I'd imagine it's initial popularity here had something to do with the large number of immigrants from that part of the world in the US.

                                                  Drip-brewed coffee also seems to have much more caffeine than other types which also seems to be an important factor...