Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope: The Espresso Obsession Continues!

I ordered a new espresso machine.  Yes, I ordered a new one AGAIN, even though I just got a new one a couple of weeks ago...  In case you missed my earlier posts on the exciting topic of Latte Love, click here and here and then come on back to this post for my latest adventures in coffee obsession. 

So for the first week or so with my Expobar Office Pulser espresso machine, I was pulling consistently good espresso shots with a layer of crema on top.  The shots were running a little fast (ideally, it should take 20-25 seconds from the time I press the "go" button until the espresso is up to the little lines on the shot glasses.  If it takes longer for the shot glasses to fill, the shots taste bitter.  If they fill up faster, the espresso tastes weak and you don't get that caramelly crema on top).  The way you correct this problem is to adjust how finely the coffee is ground and/or how much pressure you're using to tamp (pack it down into the portofilter thing).  Not owning a coffee grinder, I always bought Starbucks' Espresso Roast a pound at a time and asked the store to grind it on #3 for my espresso machines.  But lately they keep screwing it up.  I wish I took pictures for you of what the espresso shots look like when you use coffee that is ground on #6 (particles the size of Folgers in a supermarket can for an automatic drip machine), but I was way too upset to think about getting the camera.  Anyway, after two separate Starbucks stores managed to screw up grinding my coffee beans three times in a row, I decided I'd had it with Starbucks and I needed to take the grind into my own hands! 

I headed back to my favorite online coffee store, Whole Latte Love, and read through numerous tutorials and reviews before selecting my grinder, the Mazzer Mini.  When I get my grinder, I will be able to grind just enough beans at a time to make one latte.  This means much better freshness, and it also means that I can make small adjustments to fine-tune the grind from one latte to the next until I get it exactly the way I want it.  I'm also not going to be limited to only Starbucks coffees anymore.  There are so many other beans out there, waiting to be discovered!  One key feature of this machine that appealed to me is that it's so quiet -- supposedly, when it's grinding beans, it's no louder than the interior sound level of a running BMW.  Since I have cathedral ceilings in my kitchen, sound ricochets off the walls and ceilings and amplifies considerably, so the last thing I wanted was a grinder that sounded like a jet plane taking off in my kitchen at 6 AM.

But wait, that's a grinder -- didn't I say I bought another espresso machine? 

Okay, so it turns out that when I was reading the manual for the Expobar Office Pulser machine and read the part about how the machine could be plumbed for a continuous water supply, I was reading about a different model, the Expobar Office Lever Plus.  It only costs $200 more than the machine I purchased, and when I made this discovery I was still within the return/exchange period.  Although I really enjoy the Office Pulser, the things I dislike about it are having to fill that water tank every day (which I can only manage with a funnel or else water splashes all over the place) and the fact that there's no way to tell how much water is left in the tank without removing the top of the machine.  There's a fabulous instant hot water dispenser on the machine that would be great for making hot tea or hot chocolate, except that it drains too much water out of the tank.  Plus, there's a little water softening filter thingy attached to the hose inside the water tank that I'm supposed to change every 300 lattes or so.  Who wants to remember to do that?  We're planning to change out the kitchen backsplash one of these days anyway, and Bernie wants to add a pot filler behind the stove, so adding a plumbing line for the espresso machine at the same time should not be a big huge deal.

This is the new EspressoBaby that's on its way, on some UPS truck somewhere between New York and North Carolina, carefully packaged and nestled in foam.  Isn't it beautiful?  I love how it's open at the top of the machine, too, for better visibility as well as aesthetics.  Plumbing the machine is optional, not required, so I can continue to fill the water tank with my funnel until we get around to replacing the backsplash tile.  I want to find some distressed terra cotta subway tiles, I think...  That will be another quest for another day.

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