Here’s a question we often get asked on our coffee tours, ‘Is coffee in the US any good?’ People think US coffee is parallel to what the dog is doing on the fire hydrant. In short, however, there are some amazing coffees in the US. If you like brewed coffee – we don’t mean the stewed variety – the US is great. If you can find a coffee roaster or specialty coffee house, you will taste sublime coffee … you just have to be prepared to search … or check out our posts on New York Coffee spots.

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A recent visit to San Diego revealed a number of great coffee roasters and coffee shops with amazing coffees. But what about espressos? Good question – in general, they were pretty dodgy. So we discovered Cafe au lait was a great espresso alternative. It’s like a long black with hot milk in your coffee, not on the side. The milk is steamed using the steam wand on the espresso machine.

Tip: Look for a coffee shop that has medium roasted beans and you’re on your way. If the coffee beans look like they are lying in a vegemite-smeared hopper, get out quick … that’s a dark, dark roast and best avoided!

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On our Moreton Bay Coffee Tour, we went through the process of making a coffee at home without all the barista wizardry you may see at your local coffee shop. So, if you want to make an espresso alternative at home (or Cafe au lait if you wanna be a little bit fancy), here’s what you need:

  • your favourite espresso blend (ground if you don’t have a grinder)
  • a plunger (french press) or Aeropress
  • a tablespoon, kettle and milk.

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The process:

  • fire-up your kettle and turn off just before it boils – pour some water into the plunger to pre-heat
  • pour out the water and add 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for each person
  • add hot water to just cover the grounds, wait a few seconds and then stir
  • add remainder of the water (about 80-100mls/person)
  • let brew for 4-5 mins and then plunge
  • heat your milk to desired temp (you can use a steam wand, microwave or stove)
  • add coffee and then hot milk and hey presto – cafe au lait or homemade espresso-style coffee.

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The beauty of this method is that you can adjust the amount of coffee and or water, brew time and milk to suit your taste and your blend! Try it out and adjust things to create your perfect brew. And … if you do go to the states … try a cafe au lait and let us know if coffee in the US is any good!