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Friday, May 21, 2010

My Routine - New and Improved?

A few posts ago, I described my daily routine for morning espresso. It has worked very well at making delicious espresso. But some of you might wonder why I foam the milk first, then brew the espresso directly into the foam. This is probably not the most common way to do it, and the milk foam is secondary to the espresso itself.

This order of events came about because of my tinkering to get not only great tasting espresso, but also to do it quickly with minimal clean up time. By doing the foam first, I also thought the foam would keep the coffee cups warm until ready for the espresso, and the espresso would be piping hot as the last step in the process.

Now, however, I hava switched to brewing the espresso first and foaming the milk second! It turns out that, in the opinion of me and my wife, the espresso might be a little bit cooler, but this is far outweighed by the delicious creaminess. I don't know the scientific explanation for this, but I presume it has something to do with allowing the crema to form. This technique also allows me to practice creating cappuccino foam art - though I'm not very good at it yet. (Here is a good example of how to do it by someone more advanced at it than me.)

To clarify the details of this "new" routine ... it is essentially the same as the old except as indicated in BOLD below:

1. Wake up
2. Turn on the Baby Gaggia espresso machine
3. Let the machine warm up while I workout
[Moved milk frothing to step 14 below.]
4. Run water through the group head
5. Run water through the steam wand
6. Collect in the frothing pitcher
7. Pour hot water from frothing cup into espresso cups (this warms them)
8. Load the filter holder with espresso - tamp down
9. Brew into the espresso cups until the crema is just right (about a 20 count)
10. Drop the spent espresso puck into the knock box
11. Clean the filter holder with the purged steam water
12. Repeat steps 10 - 13 as needed to brew more espresso shots
13. Add sugar to your espresso as desired and stir (I like to add the sugar when the espresso is very hot because it dissolves better)
14. Froth milk in the frothing cup and pour into the espresso cups (this allows you to do cool cappuccino designs with the crema and foam)

15. Enjoy it HOT!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good Morning!

This is something to look forward to in the morning!

Phase 1: Crema
















Phase 2: Foam (before giving it a stir)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Brewing Equipment

Here is a picture of our brewing equipment. The most important additions to the espresso machine are the demi cups, milk frothing pitcher and knock box (a must have).

My next "after market" purchase will likely be a more ergonomic tamper.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Birth of an Espresso Obsession

After our honeymoon in Italy, my wife and I fell in love with the creamy and delicious blend of bitter and sweet better known as espresso. On our return home, we hoped that our wedding gift, the "Caffe Duomo" (Coffee Cathedral), would satisfy our espresso cravings - after all, it brewed both drip coffee and espresso.

Unfortunately, the Cathedral's espresso was very weak and a poor substitute for its Italian cousin. We quickly learned that it would be impossible for a steam driven machine like the Cathedral to duplicate, or even approximate, true espresso.

What to do? We were quite satisfied with ordering double espresso shots at the local Starbucks and Peets, but that started to get expensive. With some simple math, we realized that the $5 a day we spent getting our daily espresso fix could be applied to the purchase of our very own espresso machine - a pump driven one, of course.

Scouring the Internet for any information we could find choosing the right espresso machine, we ultimately chose the Baby Gaggia. Could there be a better espresso machine for the home brewer? Well, OK, there could be if you want a fully automated, self grinding one. Those, however, were outside our price range.

The Baby Gaggia fit the bill because it was relatively cheap -- around $300 (it's a little more now) vs. the $1,000 one might spend on a more fully-featured machine -- yet it produced high quality coffee. The big bonus with the Baby was its professional quality 3-solenoid dual-boiler. All the critical brewing components were metal while the housing was high impact plastic to save money.

We have loved this little machine for the last 3 years as it has faithfully served its raison d'etre - giving us a delicious start to our morning every morning! This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

My Routine

1. Wake up
2. Turn on the Baby Gaggia espresso machine
3. Let the machine warm up while I workout
4. Place frothing cup under steam wand to catch drips
5. Run water through the group head
6. Run water through the steam wand
7. Pour hot water from frothing cup into espresso cups (this warms them)
8. Froth milk in the frothing cup and pour into the espresso cups (after pouring out the water, of course)
9. Purge steam through frothing wand and collect in separate cup or glass (use it to clean the group head between multiple brews)
10. Load the filter holder with espresso - tamp down
11. Brew into the espresso cups until the crema is just right (about a 20 count)
12. Drop the spent espresso puck into the knock box
13. Clean the filter holder with the purged steam water
14. Repeat steps 10 - 13 as needed to brew more espresso shots
15. Add sugar to your espresso as desired and stir
16. Enjoy it HOT!

Extra Credit (for the kids):
1. Use left over foam to make "kids' coffee" - otherwise known as "foamy milk" or "milky foam"
2. Use the brown foamy crema/foam combination to draw pictures on the milky foam

-Popular (and easy) pictures include happy faces, sunshine, kitty cats, dogs, stick figures ... use your imagination!