Espresso Nirvana

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).

Expobar and 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.

Smile coffee

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.


19 thoughts on “Espresso Nirvana

  1. I was eyeing the espresso machine in your previous post. I’ve always wanted one but I don’t know very much about them. This one certainly looks nice and the finished cup looks good, too.

  2. Right, K! Right. Take that knife and stab it deeper and deeper. I’m such a sucker for coffee machines. And I’d literally kill to get one of those Expobar Athena’s. It. Is. So. Fine. I fall in love with kitchen appliances that are made of metal and they have this sort of old feeling. I think it’s more than a quarter that my screen is frozen on that picture and I’m staring at it like a three year old is drooling over a jar of candies.

    That cup of coffee is just so cute. Anyone who starts a day with a smile like this is absolutely going to witness magic happening in her life. Just wait… and listen to the stars (well… not Susan…. ) and you’ll see….

  3. Z, I ordered my machine and grinder from Whole Latte Love. There is a ton of info on there to help you figure out what sort of machine is best for you. The Athena is a commercial machine, a bit much, but I wanted it connected to water and the drain. I had no idea it would be this big until I got it.

    Sophia, you will just have to come over and have a cup of coffee. And then I’ll get you to clean my kitchen and even let you cook. Hey, you have that good stuff round the clock in those Greek coffee shops, if I had that, I wouldn’t have all these machines.

  4. Um, yeah, I haven’t thought of that. But still, this piece is just heaven. You got to promise you’ll let me give it a try when I come visit you. Oh… that is, after I’m done with the cleaning and cooking. LOL.

  5. That’s so cool that you want to try it, Soph. No one ever wants to touch it when they come over because it just looks complicated. My kids know how to use the thing, that’s how easy it is.
    Oh and I’m sure it’ll be a great cup because of your DNA.

  6. What Kitty is not mentioning is that espresso machine is also good for short space excursions on weekends. N.A.S.A. is still trying to figure out that weekend blip….

  7. Sophia, I love trouble. Come as soon as you can.

    Pooks, I guess you like my coffee?

    Max, when this machine came in I had to laugh. It looked like something they wore underwater in the old days. I can see the spacesuit too.

  8. I hate to admit it, but this is a wonderful post. Makes me think of “Chocolat,” one of my favourite movies. (Tell anyone and I’ll deny to my deathbed…and never mind that it’s listed on my web page…I’m the victim of a cheap forgery!) I hate to admit it because these coffee drinks are really unhealthy and addictive, but damn it you’ve managed to romanticize the whole business and thank God you don’t work for the marketing department at Starbucks.

    Now I want one of those machines. Sheesh….

  9. Hi Sam, you devil, you. I love that movie too, I have it on DVD. Hey, there are some gypsies in there, one of them Johnny Depp. You have good taste, what’s so bad about that?

    Espresso has hardly any caffeine, actually, because coffee is not too soluable in water. Drip coffee has way more caffeine in it because the hot water passes over the grinds for a longer period of time. It’s not addictive either, and we never build a tolerance to it. You will have the exact same reaction to a cup of java that you did the very first time you had it.

    Coffee should be guilt free. And so should “Chocolat.”

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