Saturday, January 30, 2010

Great Espresso at Home on a Budget

I am seriously addicted to caffeine. There is a subtle difference between caffeine that comes from coffee, tea or carbonated beverages. The effect is different when the coffee or tea is iced instead of hot. I'm not a scientist. So don't ask me why.

Instant coffee is not my favourite. I have Turkish coffee moods and espresso moods. I'll expand more on that another time. Because today my focus is espresso.

I have friends with families abroad. One of my most amazing discoveries is that Nescafe varies from country to country. I was at a friend's house whose wife is from France. She put out a jar of Nescafe that her parents brought from France when they came to visit. It was unbelievably rich tasting. I have a high tolerance for caffeine, but I had a hard time falling asleep afterwards. I checked around with my other friends who have relatives in the Moroccan Jewish community in Paris. They told me it was not my imagination and that they also ask visiting relatives to bring French Nescafe with them. I would be real happy if they started making that particular blend over in the US. I think there is a real market for it.

The best and easiest way to make coffee is with an espresso maker. I am not talking about the machines that cost hundreds of dollars. I am talking about the espresso pot that you heat up to a boil on your stove. That is how it is done in working class homes throughout Italy, which is the home of espresso. You can order such pots on line at a range of prices that is far lower than the electric machines, or find them locally. They come with instructions. There are five pieces to a basic espresso pot. The bottom is where you put the water. There is a little hole on the side that releases a jet of steam. Fill it up to BELOW that hole.

Then there is a basket with holes in it and a hollow stem. You fill that up with ground coffee and pack it down a bit. Make sure there is no coffee grains on the lip of the basket. This way, the rubber gasket on the top piece of the espresso pot will have a good seal. You really should use espresso ground coffee, which is finer than American style percolator coffee. You can buy espresso ground coffee in the can or bag, grind it at the store to espresso fineness or get a grinder and grind it yourself.

The next step is to screw the top on. The top has a rubber gasket to seal the three pieces together. In the middle of the gasket is the filter plate.The water will come to a boil, be forced through the coffee grounds, through the filter plate and through a pipe in the centre of the top piece of the espresso pot with holes at the top on the sides of the pipe. You will be able to hear the coffee coming to a boil. As soon as the coffee pot is full, take it off the flame. If you leave it on too long, the coffee will scald and taste awful. If you forget about the coffee and come back 25 minutes later, the coffee will be boiled off and the gasket in the pot can get ruined. Once your gasket is ruined, you may as well get a new espresso pot. That is why my last cup of coffee was instant instead of espresso. I left my espresso on the stove and forgot about it. The stakes are higher than if you do the same thing with a tea kettle. If you remember to clean and use your espresso pot properly, it will last a good while.

If you do the arithmetic, espresso is a much higher quality cup of coffee than your average instant coffee. If you are bringing the water to a boil to make your coffee, then the time is almost the same to make a high quality cup of espresso. I still like the ambiance of Starbucks, but I am not dependent upon them for coffee that is of high quality.

There is another advantage to home made espresso if you have health considerations that limit your caffeine intake. I get decaf French roast coffee beans and mix two parts decaf French Roast to one part regular French roast coffee. This way I can drink a couple extra cups without cranking up my blood pressure to dangerous levels. At home, you can make your own blend.

One last word of caution. A cup of espresso is a lot smaller than a cup of regular coffee. But it still delivers the same caffeine. So don't try to fill up a regular coffee cup with espresso. Even though espresso tastes best without milk, if you do prefer milk with it, add it slowly, because it will cool down quickly.

I prefer to drink my espresso out of the tiny cups. They lose their heat at a more acceptable rate than if I drink out of a regular tea mug. There is a selection of espresso cups on line for all budgets. Amazon has a decent selection.

I'll be real happy if Nescafe sells their French Nescafe in the US. But until that happens, I am going to replace the espresso pot that I left on the stove for too long. If my readers can benefit from my mistakes, it will be work my while.


PS Search words to use at the Amazon site are "espresso pot", "espresso cups", and "coffee grinder". They will all bring up decent selections in a general search. Sphere: Related Content

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