Better Than Fruitcake

One of my favorite stores to waste some time is Big Lots, a place that sells some discontinued and overstock items. Bunch of junk really, but I like going there.

Last spring I found a case of Illy cappuccino drinks (cans, for the fridge) for about 75 cents each. Amazing drinks, way better than the Starbucks brand. After we ran out, I looked at every grocery store for them, even looked on the internet to see where I could buy more.

No luck.

A couple of months later we were in Italy and they were everywhere for about $3 a can. Totally got hooked on those damn things.

Since then I peek in every one of those glass fridges by the checkout of every store I shop looking for Illy.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Illy (I buy their whole beans), they are selling these drinks on their website now. The price is excellent, 12 cans for $20, so I stocked up. The shipping isn’t as bad as you’d think.

They make great gifts, I think, especially for those out of town people on our list. I hope they like coffee. Ho ho hooooooooooooo.

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Back to Blak

I’m still looking all over the place for Blak, that new fusion crazy soda drink. This chick, a real clown, Bozoette tried it after reading about it here and she posted a hilarious review of her first Blak experience in this post.

It was this chick, though who left a comment on my “Where’s The New Blak” post with her bright idea to just make it at home. Well I am a DIY type, had thought of it before, but there’s just something about being egged on that made me actually try it.

Should be easy enough, get some Coke, a shot of espresso with a pinch of artificial sweetner, and a glass:

Pour in a decent amount of Coke:

Now a little espresso:

A violent reaction, like those volcano science projects we all do for school. Quick, run, get some towels!

Oh, would I drink this botched experimental liquid? You bet. It was the nastiest thing I have ever tasted and I’m pretty sure it is what made me turn into a little green monster. True, I’m tap dancing out this post with my tiny little feet.

And little green monsters can make a mean creme brulee:

That’s it for today’s kitchen experiments. Tomorrow I will tell you all about our wicked bookcase/DVD shelf in that room upstairs.

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?

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.