I had my first cup years ago somewhere in Europe. I fell in love with it even though at the time I was not a coffee drinker and had never been to Starbucks.
After getting back, I tried Starbucks but the quality just wasn’t there. So I did a little research and bought this Italian machine, a Pavoni.
It’s not a machine for beginners. It took about six months before I could pull a perfect shot.
There are so many factors in making it just right. The bean, some people roast their own. Illy is just perfect although I often make do with Starbuck’s Italian roast beans. A lot of people swear by Lavazza, but I don’t like it.
The grind must be of the texture between sugar and flour. I’ve bought a ton of grinders and never was satisfied with any until I splurged on a Mazzer grinder.
The amout of coffee grinds has to be perfect. Some people weigh it in grams; I can tell the right amount by eye. The Mazzer has a doser, but it has to be set. The grind and the amount. Next, the tamp has to be done at about 30 pounds of pressure.
Still, even with all this prep, I could only pull a perfect shot 25% of the time. The bars of pressure has to be just right, and even with the guage, it doesn’t always come out right. The water tank needs to be 3/4 full. The time of the pull and the amount of pressure on the pull handle, that has to be the same every time. So after years of this, I moved up to the next level.
I got this semi-automatic Expobar Athena (in copper, the silver thing is the Mazzer grinder).
The machine is made in Spain, much of it hammered by hand. I’ve had to take it apart to work on it (it weighs 70 lbs, forget shipping it off and who the hell around here works on these things, anyway?)
Parts of the inside were made of old metal signs. I like that.
I still have to grind, dose and tamp the coffee, and that is good, it allows more control over the process than the fully automatic machines. It pulls a pretty good shot consistently, but never the sort of best shot as with the Pavoni. I don’t use the auto frother for the milk, I do that by hand with the wand attached to the machine. Again, more control.
So here is what a good cup of espresso looks like coming out, see that crema?
Why go through all this trouble for a cup of coffee? It’s a picky methodical process with too many extraneous factors. Keeping things simple is my usual motto. But this is how I start my day.
It’s a reminder that some things, special things, they do not happen easily. Human touch and even the stars have to line up just right for it all to work. Like making movies. It’s amazing that they happen, but they do. I hope to be a part of that magical process with my writing. Someday.