Posted Fri Apr 20, 2012, 7:02pm Subject: The search for the purest forms of coffee: A newbie's perspective.
As I sit in my kitchen typing on my mac and sipping an absolutely delicious espresso and smoking this fine hand rolled dutch masters cigar I began to think back where my journey began...
It was several months ago that I started an investigation into espresso machines, but I began to question my daily cup of coffee for a number of years. At first coffee was coffee--but as I began to drink it more and rely on that extra pep in my step in the morning I began to differentiate between a strong cup of coffee to a weak cup of coffee. Subtly I started noticing the tangy metallic taste of "Coffee Truck" coffee. Let's not forget the coffee that doesn't taste like anything at all.
Fast forward to the day I signed up for coffeegeek. I had begun my search for the espresso machine of my dreams--they ranged from cheap to "c'mon really?". There had to be a reason for this vast span of pricing for what seemed a simple machine: my search results led to an overwhelming tsunami of information to filter through. Amazon reviews are good for keeping in touch with the average person but sometimes the average person doesn't know what they're talking about. Google led me to this website that I still continue to use: it says I'm a senior member but I'm just a rook to these older cats.
I just pulled an awesome shot, and I couldn't have done it without the help of coffeegeek and the members therein. But to the newbie, the hobbiest, and hell even the dude who just has the money to blow, it can be tough picking out the machine that fits your needs. Some of us actually have budgets, and some of us have VERY strict budgets. I've taken so much advice from coffeegeek: and I feel like it was time to give back some of that knowledge. Call it "Espresso for Dummies" if you will (Unless that already exists--guy with the money to blow should think about purchasing this if it does).
-Budget We all have our limitations--and if you're just getting into this as I was it can be tough to balance cost and quality. You obviously know what your budget is at this point: expect to spend more. Sorry to say it but no matter how tight your budget is: the more you research and question your mind instantly begins justifying "expanding" your allowance. If you haven't already thought of it: you're gonna need a few other items like cups: most espresso machines are not great with big mugs. Just another one of those rookie mistakes I made. If you're doing cappuccinos look into frothing pitchers. I ended up with the espro toroid--little pricier than some--but my mind instantly began justifying expansion of funds when I read it was the perfect pitcher for newbies. Don't forget to budget the extra money per month on electricity--these bad boys draw some amps if you want to really let your machine heat up. Now I just get it to temp and pull a shot after 15 minutes. I then shut off the power and kill the surge protector. Within the first to second month of owning my machine that diligence of turning it on for only as long as necessary was significant savings in the end.
-Quality Quality in espresso machines is about as diverse as quality in cars--there are many factors to look at. Firstly do you wanna be hands on and be gangster with the pump action? Or would you rather push a button and move on to more pressing matters? I wanted somewhere right in between--you probably do too (If not ignore the next sentence). As helpful as the senior members and other coffee enthusiasts are--don't be so quick to listen to everything someone else tells you. Some of them are already entranced in further stages of this obsession: and if you too become a victim of upgrade syndrome you've already justified spending the extra on the next machine. My point is: remember to keep the first topic (Budget) in mind. If you have less money to spend there are decent espresso makers out there: but none of the automatic pod machines I've tried haven't been very good--best to brew the coffee yourself and control more factors of how your shot pours. Also keep in mind the quality of your beans: the most important factor of good coffee. You want to drink all your roasted beans within two weeks--freezing is ok despite some reviews--it may lose a hint of quality but not much. Fresh coffee espresso has crema--an equivalent to the head of a hoppy beer. However if the only espresso you've ever had was from a Starbucks or an Italian restaurant you've never had a real shot of espresso.
-Knowledge Research is key in getting the perfect cup of coffee. If you're trying to make a cappuccino you'll want to look up frothing technique and getting a good shot of espresso will determine the taste and texture of a good cappuccino. Heat is the second most important factor in any coffee brewing: The heat of the water will determine the flavors--and being too hot or too cold will make your coffee taste awful. Even your cups should be heated--I don't think my Silvano heats the cups very well: so I pull a blank shot (just hot water) into the cup/cups prior to my shot--usually while grinding the coffee at the same time so the shot is at its freshest and also to limit the noise while my son is sleeping on the other side of the wall. If you're roasting yourself you can temperature surf. If you're buying from a roaster--ask them what temperature they like to brew their coffee at: they'll tell you the flavors that are brought out by warmer/cooler temperatures Be sure to read everything you can until you feel like you wasted more time than you should on researching coffee: and you're girlfriend looks at you and shakes her head. Then later when she's not around ask some questions and make a few phone calls to companies to get a better idea of what you want. Chris' Coffee got astonishing reviews on here so that's who I started talking to: and I asked plenty of questions that were all kindly and happily answered. They recommended the same product I had heard about on coffeegeek and I was sold. The only regret I have is that the QuickMill Silvano doesn't have a hot water spout for americanos. But I had no idea what an americano was until I made one for the first time. It basically tastes like a cup of coffee... like better than any cup of coffee you've gotten from anywhere else. You'll figure out all these minor details after owning a machine for a while--but the more you research now the more of an educated decision you'll make when it comes time to make a purchase.
I hope this helps anyone who stumbles upon it looking to take up a hobby or pursue a passion; lost in the websites and reviews with no idea what to look for--I hope this post gives you somewhere to start. And for the true seasoned veterans of coffeegeek reading these posts and looking to dropping some knowledge: thank you for all the help, and I hope this was at least somewhat entertaining to read.
Posted Tue Apr 24, 2012, 7:02am Subject: Re: The search for the purest forms of coffee: A newbie's perspective.
Jason: I crack them open and roll my own "special blend" inside: so in a sense I hand roll them myself: or re-rolled I should say. We youngin's call it a blunt. Thanks for the positive feedback guys: from two of the people who helped me out most it means a lot.
"Coffee should be black as Hell, strong as Death, and as sweet as Love."
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