Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Espresso Part 11 - The Machine

I just re-read one of my favorite coffee guys 180 page book on espresso. He does a great job of explaining the complexities of espresso coffee, the machine and espresso drinks. I’ll try to cover espresso machines (sometimes incorrectly called cappuccino machines) in a condensed version.

There are 4 basic ways to produce espresso, the coffee that can be consumed either “straight” or mixed with milk to make Cappuccino, Caffé Latte or when mixed with milk and chocolate a caffé Mocha. There are a number of other drinks that are made with espresso and we’ll cover drinks in the next edition of our Blog.

The ways to make espresso are; stove top, lever, pump, or steam machines. There are several other ways but discussing them is a waste of time since no American would use them.

Stove top makers are called Moka or Bialetti. I think ever home in Italy has at least one on the stove at all times. The downside is that you have to have a separate steamer to make frothed milk and the “pot” only makes espresso an Italian or a died in the wool espresso drinker would drink. I don’t have one but have put it on my Christmas list.

Steam machines, $29 to $150 or more are a waste of money. They cannot produce a proper espresso and do not have enough pressure to make steamed, frothed or textured milk. You can buy them at spring garage sales for 5 bucks. The owners have given up on them.

Lever machines are great but for my money are too much trouble and good ones cost at least a $1000.

Pump machines are the way to go. There are two kinds, automatic & semi automatic. It is a matter of personal choice. They come with and without a built-in grinder. My choice is a semi-automatic with a separate grinder. My reason is that I can better control the end product and if the grinder fails as happens I can have the grinder repaired or buy a new one & I still have my machine. Likewise if the machine fails I still have a grinder. Remember keeping your equipment clean is paramount to making great drinks and it is much easier with two pieces of equipment. I preach all the time “All Coffee Has Oil and All Oil Turns Rancid”. Clean equipment is a must. As is fresh coffee. Another reason to have a separate grinder so you only grind enough coffee to make your drinks. In the case of espresso blends it is most important to keep you coffee in an airtight container and only grind as much coffee as you are going to use. Buy smaller quantities more often.

OK, so now we are down to the cost question. Unless you are willing to spend $750 to $2000 for a set you are wasting your time and money. It takes steam pressure to make espresso that is drinkable. It takes steam pressure to froth, steam, or texture milk. And most inexpensive pump machines don’t have the horsepower to get the job done. And it is a messy job that takes time and practice to perfect. If you are an occasional Cappuccino drinker you are better off at your local café. On the other hand if you like the idea of having a great espresso or a cappuccino after dinner or a morning Latte made the correct way then it is worth the time, effort, and money.

I hesitate to make brand recommendations. There are several manufactures that I can tell you about and at several price points. You can also search the web. Since I don’t sell equipment it will be my honest unbiased opinion..
Just send me an email; and I be happy to give you my take in your price range.

As always I love hearing from my friends and customers. I am in the business of selling the best coffee available. My goal is to help you have a great coffee experience. Please let me know how I can help you achieve the pleasure of drinking great coffee.

In the year 1587 Sheikh Ansair Djerzeri Hanball Abd-Al-Kadir said; “Where coffee is served, there is grace and splendor and friendship and happiness.

May you enjoy all four blessings,


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1 comment:

Logan Weiler III said...

My family and I are enjoying your "Arnold's Special Blend," -- absolutely fantastic. You truly are THE coffee guy.