In Search of the Best Coffee Makers

Coffee may be the most popular beverage in the world. Recent statistics indicate that over 50% of the American population are coffee drinkers and this number would more than likely hold true in many other countries as well. This more than any thing else helps to explain why there is such a wide range of coffee makers available for purchase today.

With such a diverse range of coffee machines, there is more choice for the coffee drinking public than ever before. Main stream popular styles include the Automatic and Manual Drip, Pod, Automatic Espresso, French Press, Percolator, Stovetop Espresso and the Vacuum. Each one of these styles has some unique characteristic that are sure to appeal to a certain segment of the coffee drinking public.

Automatic and Manual Drip Coffee Machines

The most popular style of coffee maker continues to be the automatic drip coffee maker. The basic design is very simple and efficient. Add fresh water to the built-in reservoir, insert a filter in to the handy filter holder, measure your favorite coffee grounds and pour into the filter and then press the start button. Within minutes your senses are excited by the smell of freshly brewed hot coffee! Most models also have a built-in timer and a pot warmer included so that you can set your coffee to brew and be ready at any hour of the day or night, and kept constantly warm as well.

Manual drip coffee brewers do take a bit more work since you need to boil the water using another heat source, but after that it is basically the same coffee making process of putting coffee grounds in the filter and pouring the hot water through the filter so that the coffee liquid is collected in the pot or container below. One great advantage of the manual drip coffee machine is that is can go most any where with you as it is not dependent upon having electricity to operate so it is great for camping and other outdoor activities.

Pod Coffee Machines

These are becoming very trendy and popular in recent years. Working similar to the automatic drip machines, they feature the ability to use pre-packaged containers or pods of specialty coffees to brew great tasting coffee. With many reputable coffee chains such as Starbucks now selling their most popular coffee blends in the pod format, consumers can get the same tasting cup of specialty coffee at home that they had to go out and purchase before at a much higher price.

Automatic Espresso Coffee Brewer

Espresso coffee makers have become much more affordable in recent years and because of this, they are gaining in popularity amongst serious coffee drinkers wanting something more than just a normal cup of coffee. There are currently three types of espresso coffee brewers to choose from, namely semi automatic, fully automatic, and super automatic. As a rule, the more automatic the espresso maker is, the less you need to do to brew your coffee, but unfortunately the more expensive it is to purchase. For example, where a semi-automatic model will tamp the coffee grounds, brew the coffee, fill your cup and eject the old grounds, an entirely automatic model will also grind the coffee for you as well, and the super automatic espresso coffee maker will do all of the above plus having additional features such as built-in water filters and self-cleaning.

Stovetop Espresso Coffee Maker

The stovetop espresso coffee brewers are basically a manual method for preparing espresso coffee when you do not have access to an automatic version or an electrical source of energy. This makes it an ideal coffee maker for taking outdoors on camping or fishing trips if you feel the need to make an espresso cup of coffee. First water is placed inside the underside boiler and then a cone filter is situated inside the boiler and filled with coffee grounds. Next the top is lightly tightened and the brewer is place over the heat source. After a few minutes, once the top of the boiler is filled with the freshly brewed coffee it is removed from the heat supply and the coffee is ready to be served. Here again, the absence of any warming feature means the coffee has to be served immediately.

French Press Coffee Maker

Also known as “press pots” or “plunger pots”, the French Press coffee makers are not as common as they once were. Preparing coffee is more work than it would be using any of the coffee makers already discussed as it is a manual coffee machine. The pot is actually a glass or porcelain tube consisted of a stainless, mesh plunger that acts like a filter. To make the coffee you must first measure the coffee grounds into the pot, then pour in almost boiling water. After allowing the coffee mixture to steep for a few minutes, the plunger is then pushed downwards and the liquid beverage is forced into the waiting cup or container. As there is no built-in heating plate or element beneath the coffee container, you must serve the coffee beverage immediately or place it into an insulated container to keep it hot for later.

Percolator Coffee Maker

At one time percolator coffee makers were the standard type of coffee brewers in most households, a role now held by the automatic drip machines. Although not as popular today, they still have their place when a coffee maker is required that can brew large volumes of coffee rather than the 10-14 cup limit or less in most other popular coffee machines sold these days. Modern percolators are available as stove top models and electric and can be programmed like other automatic coffee machines. The coffee making process is based on running water continuously over the coffee grounds, held within a metal filter, as the water is boiled. One drawback of this method is that the coffee often gets stronger and more bitter tasting the longer it goes through the brewing cycle.

Vacuum Coffee Maker

Perhaps the strangest looking type of coffee machine is the vacuum coffee maker. Looking like something from a science fiction movie, the apparatus is made up of two overlapping containers connect by a siphon tube. The filter is located in the bottom section of the upper container. To brew coffee, the user first adds coffee grounds to the upper container, then pours water into the lower container. Next the brewer is placed on top of a stove where the water is then boiled and the resulting steam is passed along through the siphon tube into the upper container. After about 3 minutes the container is removed from the heat source and the steam condenses back into liquid water which is forced through the filter and back into the lower unit. Your fresh pot of coffee is now sitting in the lower unit. An interesting way to brew a cup or pot of coffee!

Needless to say, coffee lovers can select from a wide variety of coffee makers. From cheap stove top coffee pots to high end super automatic coffee machines, there is a coffee machine for every inclination as well as for every budget. Fantastic news! Now here is the unpleasant news. With all the many coffee machines to choose from today, even knowing the style you favor is not enough. Within each of the coffee maker styles noted above there are numerous different brand names and models to choose from.

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Setting Up a Commercial Fitness Center at Hotels and Resorts

Onsite commercial fitness centers have become an expected offering at any high-end hotel or resort. But even mid-level and budget accommodations are now benefiting from offering their customers a place to exercise while staying at their establishments. For vacationers, onsite commercial fitness centers are important for working off all of those wonderful, but high calorie meals typically eaten while on vacation. It is not uncommon for people to look in advance to see if a hotel or resort offers a fitness center before choosing a hotel for their vacation. Business guests often prefer hotels with well-equipped gyms that enable them to unwind from a full day of business meetings. An onsite commercial fitness center is especially important for fitting their normal fitness regime into their busy travel schedules, and many won’t stay at a hotel or resort without one.

When developing a commercial fitness center in a hotel or resort environment, there are a number of things to consider:

What level of quality is expected?

If the hotel or resort is high-end, customers will expect the fitness center to match. Care should be taken to select high-end, commercial grade equipment that delivers the workout experience expected by customers. Many won’t return to a hotel, no matter how nice the accommodations, if the fitness center doesn’t meet their expectations. Also, hotels or resorts seeking a hip or forward-looking image should consider including specialized equipment that may be new on the market. This will help convey that the hotel knows its customers and is current with the trends.

Diet Fitness is Not What You Think

Health and fitness consciousness is nearly universal in nature; everywhere you turn, people are becoming concerned. For some people it is not so much a health issue as a desire to look like the latest super model or television star. The end result has been a surge in health spas, fitness centers and gyms popping up all over the world to cater to the needs of the health and fitness interested individuals. (more…)

Join 24-Hour Fitness Clubs – Best Way To Keep Fit

If you want to have and keep a healthy well-toned body, a good gym or health club can offer you a variety of equipment and services to help you meet your goals. But remember that not all fitness clubs are equal.

You want a fitness club that’s in it for more than your cash. It should be fully committed to health and quality service so that you see positive results as quickly as possible. It should offer an informed professional staff that can guide you through your workouts and show you how to use new equipment. And it should offer a variety of programs that focus on different aspects of fitness and health. Having a professional nutritionist on staff is another important feature you should look for.

One health and fitness club you can count on is 24 Hour Fitness, with have five types of clubs to meet your unique needs. The Ultra Sport club offers all the amenities and is set up for every type of workout you can imagine, from basketball and volleyball to saunas and spas. You can even sharpen your rock climbing skills. There’s a kids’ club, so you won’t have to hire a baby-sitter and a complete juice bar for dietary health. After your workout, you can get a wonderful massage or visit a tanning booth. 24 Hour Fitness’ Super Sport Clubs include many of the same amenities, without the massage or rock climbing. Similar to the Super Sport, the Sport Club doesn’t offer tanning. The Active club type focuses on the basic – weight training, cardio workouts, sauna, steam room, and a kids’ club. Finally, the Fitlite club offers a complete cardio workout and some group classes.

Operating since 1983, 24 Hour Fitness is the biggest privately owned and operated fitness center chain in the world with over 385 clubs. For years, they’ve maintained a expert staff to help their clients get the most out of their exercise program, and they use qualified nutritionists to complement working out with great advice on the foods you should – and should not – eat.

Signing up to a new club only to find that they have incomplete facilities and gaps in their equipment offering is a real disappointment and a waste of time and money. You won’t be disappointed at 24 Hour Fitness. They maintain state-of-the-art fitness equipment for every workout need. You’ll never have to stop your workout because the equipment broke down, and you won’t have to wait until a machine becomes available to get the exercise you need.

They offer team sports facilities and group classes to help you learn new skills and enjoy your friends at the same time. 24 Hour Fitness classes cover a wide range of exercise interests, such as pilates, strength training, aerobic workouts, yoga, and water workouts. Their worldwide instructor team includes over 7000 professionals, and 24 Hour Fitness keeps them up on the latest techniques by offering in-house training for Group Trainers.

You can choose from a range of membership types to meet your schedule and your budget at 24 Hour Fitness. Four types of all-club memberships give you privileges at facilities everywhere, and three different one-club options allow for savings, great workouts, and short-term fitness programs.

Since they have facilities all over the world, travelers will want to take advantage of the Passport Program, where you can workout at other private fitness centers as part of your membership in 24 Hour Fitness. All you need is your 24 Hour Fitness Passport Program ID and a reasonable fee to get a great workout at any Passport Program member’s facility.

In 2000, 24 Hour Fitness made a bold move when they entered into partnerships with five world-famous athletes to advocate fitness and make fitness a way of life for all of us. Representing the qualities 24 Hour Fitness values (determination, hard work, persistence, and a positive attitude), these sports super stars are role models and living proof of the benefits of exercise and good health. Lance Armstrong, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, Andre Agassi, and Jackie Chan signed on to represent 24 Hour Fitness and bring good health to the people.

In 2004, 24 Hour Fitness became the first official fitness center sponsor for U.S. Olympic Teams, offering grants to help Olympic hopefuls follow their dreams and upgrading Olympic Training Centers across the country. Their commitment to good health is clear.

Your workout at 24 Hour Fitness will be fun, easy, and personally rewarding. You’ll find a wide range of exercise options and equipment, complete modern facilities and amenities, and a professional staff to help you achieve your goals in record time.

The Best Coffees in the World

When considering the best coffees in the world, I went to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) for research. They are the organization that sets the quality standards for specialty coffee, which the public calls “gourmet” coffee. All specialty coffees use arabica beans. The other category of is the robusta bean, which is of inferior taste quality to arabica. Within these categories, there are several varieties of bean. Arabica beans are grown at a higher altitude than robusta.

Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world and is graded in a similar manner as wine. This event is called a “cupping” and has a set of strict standards. Winning a cupping is very prestigious and has a direct effect on the prices a coffee grower can get for his crop.

History of these “cupping” winners has shown that three areas of the world produce the most winners. Interestingly, these regions have a very similar latitude when looking at the world map. The three regions are Ethiopia, Sumatra and Panama.

Ethiopian/Kenyan Coffee (Africa)

Ethiopian coffee is aromatic, highly flavorful, and also known to be some of the best coffees in the world. It is also the origin of all coffee. The Ethiopian people have a legend that says that a goat herder discovered Ethiopian coffee around 850 AD. This legend claims that the goat herder noticed that his sheep were very excited and nearly dancing after eating red berries from a tree. The legend of the founder goes on to say that the herder sampled the red berries for himself and took some of the berries home to his wife who insisted that he take them to the monks. The monks supposedly threw the berries into a fire and noticed the delicious smell that the berries produced. The monks are said to have removed the berries from the fire and boiled the berries in water to create the beverage that we now know as Ethiopian coffee.

Whether this legend is true, or in fact just a legend is forever a mystery. Regardless, Ethiopian coffee has been used for religious ceremonies. These ceremonies are still held today and if a guest is invited to participate in the ceremony, it is well known to be a very beautiful experience.

Locally, Ethiopian coffee is served with either sugar, or in some parts of Ethiopia, salt. Milk or any type of creamer is never used in traditionally brewing. The process of making the coffee varies by region. In some regions it is dry processed and in some other regions it is washed. The Ethiopian coffee found in stores today is dry processed.

The process is often grueling and coupled with with importing adds to the reason of why Ethiopian coffee can be expensive.

When consumers purchase Ethiopian coffee to be brewed at home, it is wise to consider fair trade Ethiopian coffee. The obvious reason to consider fair trade is so that the producers of this wonderful product can reap the benefits of their hard work. Ethiopian coffee has a rich, bold, and exciting history and a taste that has been favored by many people for a long time.

Sumatran Coffee (Indonesia)

Sumatran coffee comes from the island in Indonesia called Sumatra. The taste of Sumatran coffee is spicy, herbal, and very distinct. It is considered to be one of the best coffees in the world and was first introduced by the Dutch around 1699 when the Dutch wanted to keep up with the demand of coffee to Europe. The Dutch traders knew the difference between Sumatran coffee beans and other coffee beans by the appearance, which are irregularly shaped and bright green.

Sumatran coffee is one of the best coffees in the world and has a low acidity which makes it highly favored among other types of coffee. The beans are usually grown in full sunlight and with no chemicals. A highly popular type of Sumatran coffee, yet thoroughly disgusting in many peoples opinion, is the kopi luwak Sumatran coffee. The kopi luwak coffee is coffee beans that have been eaten by the small animal known as a luwak. After the luwak digests and excretes the coffee beans, local villagers collect the excreted beans and roast them. These excreted and roasted beans are said to cost about $300 a pound. Of course, not all of Sumatran coffee comes from the excrement of the luwak. There are many other varieties of Sumatran coffee as well.

Most of the Sumatran coffee beans are processed using the wet and dry processing method. This processing method is another reason why Sumatran coffee is so popular. Most other types of coffee beans are processed by using either a wet method or a dry method, hardly ever both.

When purchasing Sumatran coffee for use at home, a person should try to purchase fair trade Sumatran coffee. Fair trade beans can be found at various online retailers and also at gourmet coffee retailers. This insures that the growers benefit from all of the hard work that they put into growing this delicious coffee.

Sumatran coffee has a taste unlike any other and once you try it for yourself, you may find that it will quickly replace your current brand or at least be a coffee that becomes one of your favorites.

Panamanian Coffee (Central America)

Although Panama is the smallest of all coffee producing countries, they grow most of the best rated coffees every year. The coffee region surrounds the town of Boquete in the western province of Chiriqui close to the Costa Rican border. Some say Panama has the ideal micro climate to grow coffee receiving winds from the north along with a light mist and cool breeze. Most of the coffee is grown on farms and is called an Estate coffee which signifies the farm it is from.

The process includes hand picking, washing and sun drying. The farms work closely with the indigenous people enhancing the community with social, medical and educational services. Because of this, fair trade is not a concern. It is a harmonious relationship between farm and worker.

For years, coffee from Panama was not well known amongst the public but the quality was apparent to the traders. So much so, that one trader was caught selling the lower cost Panamanian coffee beans as Hawaiian Kona beans, a much well known high end arabica bean.

Currently, Panamanian coffee has come of age winning numerous cuppings to the point in 2003 when the competition was changed. Previously, each entry was individual and Panamanian entrants would win up to five of ten awards. Now, they have groupings and each group can produce up to two winners that move up to the next level.

It should be noted that although Panamanian coffee has been established as the best in the region, wonderful coffees do come from Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Columbia.

Even though most of the world favors the western coffees, a true coffee lover should be adventurous and taste the best coffees of the world. Try Ethiopian and Sumatran coffees along with those that are in close proximity to those regions. You may be surprised at what you have been missing.

Raw Food Diet Detox

A diet comprised of 100% uncooked food when used for the purpose of detoxification of the body is referred to as a raw food detox diet. Detoxification or detox refers to the process of elimination of toxins, produced either internally from metabolic wastes or coming from external sources such food and environment, that get accumulated in the body over a period of time, giving rise to a host of diseases.

A raw food detox diet primarily includes vegetarian or vegan foods, though sometimes meat and fish may be allowed too if one can manage to eat them raw. Such a diet promotes the elimination of harmful substances from the body through the body’s excretory organs like kidneys, bowel and skin.

How a raw food diet detox works?

The principle behind a raw food detox diet is the belief that food in its natural uncooked form has all the vital nutrients and enzymes intact, whereas cooking by conventional methods devitalizes the food due to breakdown of these substances. In a sense, raw food is a kind of living food, with a latent life force that under appropriate conditions facilitates germination and growth of a new plant from a seed.

Advocates of the raw food diet detox believe that when the body is fed with foods that are rich in life force, digestive enzymes, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, while at the same time being deprived of devitalized and toxin-laden foods, it gets into the self-detoxification and cleansing mode.

What goes wrong during cooking?

When food is heated to temperatures above 117 ºF (47 ºC) for more than a few minutes: (i) a substantial amount of vital digestive enzymes and nutrients get destroyed; (ii) proteins get denatured and coagulated, causing deficiency of many amino acids; (iii) fats when overheated result in the formation of carcinogenic substances.

When the food is cooked in water, the water-soluble minerals get lost due to leaching (even more intensely if one adds salt while cooking), unless one uses the leftover water for gravies or soups. In fact, scientific studies have shown that many of the vegetables lose their antioxidant benefits when boiled or microwaved.

It only gets worse when it comes to ready-to-eat commercially manufactured foods, which may even contain highly detrimental substances like acrylamides. It is for all these reasons that a raw food diet has emerged as the favorite detox diet.

Clean and Conscious Dining With Halal Foods

The process of preparing halal foods can be said to be multidisciplinary. The foods should not only be from good sources but they should also taste good. For example, the true taste of chicken biriani cannot be compromised. The spices must be in the right proportions and prepared at the right temperature. Presentation is also important especially for gourmet food and specialty food. Zabihah halal food distributors do justice to the ingredients they work with bringing out the true flavor.

Considerations must be made whether to have fully cooked or precooked meals. This is important with regards to frozen food which must be reheated. Some dishes go especially well with specific sauces. For obvious reasons, they are packed separately but they should be served in one dish. Some of the halal food like chicken nuggets can be taken as snacks. Others are the variety of gourmet food and so are served as appetizing entrees.

Frozen food is convenient for individuals and also for parties. You don’t have to be worried that guests will reject the food at the event you are hosting. The halal food is enjoyed both by vegetarians and beef eaters. The logistics of preparing food en masse is beaten hands down by the availability of frozen food. Call it modern convenience; you can now be the perfect host without having a clue on culinary matters. The makers of frozen food have explored the intricacies of world cuisine. They have the knack of producing the family meal that can bring a sense of nostalgia to many people.

Apart from the gastronomic experience, halal food is a health plus and a credit to the reduction of green house gases. This comes about due to the fact that halal food originates from farms that run on sustainable energy. Taking the entire subject of conservation and social responsibility to another level, bio-digestors and other sustainable energy sources are used. The source farms are a haven for clean energy. The animals themselves can be considered clean because they are never given antibiotics. The animals are of a natural size since they don’t have growth enhancers such as hormones. The goal is to culture food sources which are less fattening or pegged with risk indicators to cancers and other health issues. For the same reason, the sauces have no preservatives as they come from fresh produce which is not processed.

It is worth mentioning that meat from halal food is from animals that were not abused neither did they face animal cruelty. It thus gives consumers a clean conscious when choosing halal food from the frozen food section. The livestock such as lamb, cow and chicken are well treated and their animal rights are respected. The farms that are certified for halal food are currently small farms. However with the endorsement of conscious consumers they are growing larger and larger. For the health freaks or for persons who are ill, specialty food is also available. Many have seen the benefits of specialty food when they are ill and have continued taking it after full recovery.

Diet And Fitness Programs

Diet refers to the intake of food and nourishment for the growth and maintenance of the body. Dieticians or nutritionists consider a diet as a balanced meal that contains appropriate portions of all nutrients. A good diet helps a person to maintain good health. Fitness is the overall well being of the body. Diet is a therefore an important part of fitness. (more…)