Making coffee/espresso at home for tiramisu recipe
May 2, 2014 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to make tiramisu, which calls for espresso. But I'm not a coffee drinker, I don't keep coffee at home, and I don't own any coffee makers or espresso machines of any kind. What's the easiest way to get (make or buy) some espresso for my tiramisu recipe?

I just need about 1 cup of espresso for the recipe - this is not something I will drink every day. It doesn't need to be super-authentic either - most recipes say that a cup of super-strong coffee will do.

My kitchen is reasonably well-stocked with appliances - stove, microwave, pots, pans, a tea kettle, a french press tea infuser, etc. (Again, no coffee maker or espresso machine.) I have access to several supermarkets close by, as well as coffee shops like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts and some indie ones. I'm located in a major city in the U.S.

Could I just walk into Starbucks and get a cup of espresso for a reasonable price (say $2-4), or do they only sell it by the shot? If I go to the supermarket, what exactly should I buy, how much do I need, and how should I prepare it?

Please be as detailed as possible - don't just say "buy some coffee at the store," please tell me whole beans or ground, dark roast or light roast, etc. Tell me what to look for on the label, and what to do with it after I buy it.
posted by danceswithlight to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Instant espresso crystals?
posted by Swisstine at 2:21 PM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Option 1: make very strong coffee in the French Press.

Option 2: substitute a pre-prepared espresso like Starbucks Doubleshot. These usually have added sugar, so you may need to alter the recipe to account for that.
posted by Sara C. at 2:22 PM on May 2, 2014

this Is the one I've seen at my grocery store.
posted by Swisstine at 2:22 PM on May 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would just go to my local coffee place and ask for however many shots make one cup. But I am lazy, and sometimes feel that my time is worth more than my money. How much effort to you really want to put into this?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:24 PM on May 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

Okay, relax. I use instant coffee whenever I make Tiramisu. But you could just walk into any gas station/coffee shop/whatever and buy a cup of coffee. It needs to cool down before you put it on the ladyfingers anyway. It will be fine.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:24 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Swisstine - how do you prepare the instant espresso crystals?

Sara C. - how, exactly, do you make very strong coffee in the French Press? what kind of coffee should I buy if I go this route?

Y'all are seriously underestimating my lack of coffee knowledge here. I have never ever ever made coffee for myself because I do not drink it.
posted by danceswithlight at 2:26 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, yes, you could go to Starbucks and buy enough espresso to serve your needs. They will sell you as many shots as you want, and if you explain what it's for they'll be happy to just pull several shots into one cup.

Please tell them it's for a recipe -- when I was a barista we had a store policy of not doing "quads" for coffee drinks because the drinks made with that much espresso never tasted quite right, and the customer who ordered that would inevitably complain. Sometimes we would even pull triple shots and just let the customer believe they were getting that fourth shot of espresso.
posted by Sara C. at 2:26 PM on May 2, 2014

I'm not sure if Starbucks would do it, but I'd be really surprised if I couldn't walk into my local coffee shop and not just get two quads in the same cup. I'm not sure about under $4, but you could call around and ask. (I don't think it would be like ten bucks or anything, just not sure about under $4, I think a quad is usually ~$3.)
posted by Sequence at 2:27 PM on May 2, 2014

Seconding the Medaglia d'Oro instant espresso. This is the stuff Alice Medrich calls for in her pastry cookbooks.

You could also get a cup (the 8-ounce size, not listed on the menu board, is called "Short") of Starbucks's darkest-roast coffee. Getting enough espresso shots to fill a cup will be fairly expensive.
posted by payoto at 2:27 PM on May 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Instant coffee is prepared by pouring hot water over it. It dissolves instantly. Easy peasy.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:29 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Instant coffee for baking is pretty fantastic, and I say this as a professional coffee roaster. If you're cooking with it you're going to be losing the nuance of anything 'fancy.' I've had really good luck using cold brew concentrate.

Normally I tell people to actually use a today maker, but google 'cold brew coffee cheesecloth' and you'll have a solid cooking coffee.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:30 PM on May 2, 2014

Seriously though, I've made Tiramisu probably 50+ times. Regular coffee gives enough flavor. The darker the coffee the more bitter it will make your dessert, keep that in mind.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:32 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also use the instant coffee crystals for desserts that call for espresso. The package should have instructions on what ratio to use. Just put the crystals in a mug, pour hot water over them, and stir until dissolved.
posted by matcha action at 2:32 PM on May 2, 2014

I drink pour-over brewed coffee, and it's relatively easy to do: Just a filter and a sieve/strainer to hold it, and in a pinch you could probably use a piece of paper towel as your filter.
posted by straw at 2:33 PM on May 2, 2014

If you have a Starbucks nearby, you can get one of their little Via packets, which is instant coffee that is a notch above ordinary instant coffee. Or you can just say "Look, I'm making tiramisu, I need 8 oz of espresso, can you help me out?" and see what they say. Or you could just order an 8 oz. drip, which will run you about $1.50.
posted by KathrynT at 2:33 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

how, exactly, do you make very strong coffee in the French Press? what kind of coffee should I buy if I go this route?

I'd opt for an "Italian Roast". Feel free to get pre-ground coffee. Use double or triple the amount of coffee you'd use to make an ordinary pot (you'll find instructions on the package). For a regular pot I'd let it steep for 3-5 minutes, and I don't think you should go much longer due to over-extraction, but you may want to go more like 5-8 minutes just because of the sheer amount of coffee.

In terms of how to make coffee in a French Press, it's exactly the same as you'd do for tea (boil water, add coffee to base of container, top with water, add filter/press/lid, steep, then press down to separate the grounds. There will be general coffee brewing instructions on the coffee packaging.
posted by Sara C. at 2:33 PM on May 2, 2014

Instant espresso is a great thing to have in the pantry if you like chocolate desserts. Adding it to chocolate-flavored dishes intensifies the chocolate taste. It won't spoil and the flavor tends to be superior to most instant coffees (in my opinion, as a lover of strong coffee).
posted by quince at 2:34 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

(FWIW I wouldn't use instant coffee -- even Via -- or regular pour-over or drip-brewed coffee for this recipe. That won't produce a strong enough brew for Tiramisu.)
posted by Sara C. at 2:34 PM on May 2, 2014

If you're not averse to spending some money (actually, this could probably end up being cheaper than going to a coffee shop), you could buy a little Moka pot and some pre-ground espresso from the supermarket. I remember doing this a few years back when I was on a serious budget and the results were tasty! The generic off-brand moka pot that my supermarket had worked fine and was around $6. A vacuum-sealed brick of espresso (such as Cafe Bustelo) shouldn't be that much money, either.

The moka pot is just a little stovetop quasi-espresso maker (it makes very concentrated coffee that'll probably be great for tiramisu but I don't think you can technically call it espresso) that's super simple to use, and something that you can do in your kitchen and have fresh coffee for your tiramisu.
posted by destructive cactus at 2:43 PM on May 2, 2014

Professional bakeries that I have worked in have been fine using instant espresso crystals for coffee-flavoring just about everything.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:45 PM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

From my Alice Medrich cookbook:

Instant espresso or coffee powder is my preferred coffee flavoring for desserts, and Medaglio d'Oro or Cafe Salvador instant (but not freeze dried) are my preferred brands. ... If you must substitute freeze-dried instant coffee for the powder, use about twenty-five percent more than the recipe calls for.
posted by payoto at 2:45 PM on May 2, 2014

Instant espresso is a baker's friend. Not only does it do the deed for tiramisu, but it adds an amazing dimension to brownies, chocolate cake and cookies, frosting, etc.

The instructions will be on the can.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:49 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Via packets work great for tiramisu - you can use only as much water as you want or need.
posted by Dashy at 2:59 PM on May 2, 2014

I'd absolutely suggest instant espresso as well. It will tell you exactly how much to use to make espresso, you can just multiply up for the recipe. It's fantastic in all sorts of recipes.
posted by jeather at 3:00 PM on May 2, 2014

The answer is to have one of the people eating the tiramisu supply the espresso.
posted by foodgeek at 4:47 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I worked in a cafe, a woman came in once and ordered a cup of several shots of espresso for this exact purpose, and we were more than happy to provide it!
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:35 PM on May 2, 2014

Just buy it. I find Starbucks' dark blend regular coffee is great for tiramisu. Enjoy!
posted by killy willy at 7:30 PM on May 2, 2014

I have the same problem. No-one in my household drinks coffee, so I use instant espresso that comes in single servings (one cup per little baggie of crystals) and dissolves in hot water. The tiramisu always is delicious! No need to make this more complicated.
posted by amf at 4:13 AM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

The instant espresso has instructions on the package.

If your recipe is calling for 1cup of made espresso, follow the instructions on the package of instant espresso to make 1 cups worth. The recipe factors in the liquid from mixing 1 cup up.

Some other recipes may call for the granuals in their dry form, not wanting the water part. So read your recipe carefully when using the instant espresso.

I do not drink coffee/espresso (yuck in my mouth!) but espresso/coffee are best buds with chocolate. Through some sort of magic coffee can make chocolate taste more chocolatey. So if you do buy a jar of instant espresso look out for ways to use some more of the bottle by reading chocolate cake recipes!
posted by Swisstine at 9:32 PM on May 3, 2014

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