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Beyond the Basics 

Mix up your standby caffeine fix with these less-mainstream coffee creations

click to enlarge Pour-over brewing
  • Pour-over brewing

We're all guilty of breaking the coffee commandments: adding artificially flavored creamer to our homemade drip, dropping more than $5 for one sugar-loaded drink from a café chain, and sometimes even resorting to instant (gasp!). So when that double-shot-iced-vanilla-soy latte starts to lose its luster, try these twists on the typical java.

POUR OVER

This single-cup, hand-brew method has become a trend in the U.S. over the past five or so years, but pour-over brewing goes back much further than its adaptation by hip, urban coffee shops filled with spectacled folks on laptops and Bon Iver playing in the background. Originating in Japan, pour-over coffee is precise (to the gram) in its adherence to the perfect amount of freshly ground beans, boiling water and time. It takes about four minutes from start to finish for a pour-over cup, but this patience is rewarded. By pouring water from a long-necked kettle in a gentle swirling pattern over the grounds to make them "bloom," the resulting flavor is light, smooth and slightly fruity.

COST: $3.50/12 oz.

WHY WE LOVE IT: This back-to-basics coffee is simple enough to make at home with just a few pieces of affordable equipment.

FIND IT AT: Revel 77, 3223 E. 57th Ave.

FLAT WHITE

Contrary to the popular misnomer, Starbucks did not invent the flat white. It's (purportedly) thanks to our Australian friends that this drink exists and has become the next big trend. Very similar to a cappuccino, a flat white is prepared by pouring microfoam — steamed milk with tiny air bubbles — over a shot or two of espresso. The main difference from its cousin, the cappuccino, is the consistency of the milk foam. Served in a small cup, 5 or 6 ounces, the flat white's ratio of milk to espresso creates a soft, velvety consistency and allows the espresso flavors to shine through. The milk foam's tiny bubbles create a much thinner layer than the stiff milk foam floating atop other drinks, and this thin, "flat" layer gives the drink its name.

COST: $4/6 oz.

WHY WE LOVE IT: Food guru Alton Brown tried Indaba's version of the flat white when in town in early 2015, and gave them praise for making a "real" flat white.

FIND IT AT: Indaba Coffee, 210 N. Howard St. and 1425 W. Broadway Ave.

NITRO COFFEE

Just when we thought the myriad ways to make and consume coffee couldn't get any wilder, here comes the next trend (and one we hope is here to stay): Nitro coffee. The qualities of nitrogen-infused, cold-brew coffee range from slightly effervescent — but not a carbonation-like fizzy — to silky smooth. It's also less acidic and unexpectedly sweet compared to the average drip coffee or Americano without cream or sugar. The process to make it is time-intensive (up to a week), but the payoff is well worth it.

COST: $5/12 oz.

WHY WE LOVE IT: It's smooth, creamy and slightly sweet, but without any cream or sugar.

FIND IT AT: Beautiful Grounds, 203 N. Washington St.

COLD BREW

For many of us, cold brew is the best thing to happen to coffee. It's totally low-effort if you're going to make it at home, but also very convenient and cost-effective it you want to let the pros prep it for you. It's made by steeping coarse-ground beans in room-temperature or chilled water for 12 hours or more; throw some it in the fridge overnight, and boom — coffee's ready when you wake up. Just strain and go! Cold brew is also totally customizable — drink it super strong if you like, since most places, like Roast House Coffee, sell to-go growlers as a concentrate. Or, bring it down to your preferred level by adding water or milk. Because of the way it's brewed, cold brew has a lower acidity, thus tasting naturally sweeter and fruity. Another plus — the caffeine content is higher than hot-brewed coffee.

COST: $15/32 oz. growler (bottle included) or $10/refill

WHY WE LOVE IT: It's low-maintenance and totally customizable, not to mention refreshing on those hot summer days.

FIND IT AT: Roast House Coffee, 423 E. Cleveland Ave.; also at many other local coffee shops


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