Aug 4, 2009

Express Yourself

I was going to use an image from Madonna’s Express Yourself video, but I couldn’t find one that I thought would be acceptable to my primary audience, insofar as I have one. So there’s a steamy, sensuous shot or two of espresso up above.

A lady was telling me that she had looked at espresso machines, but that they were very expensive. So before we get down to discussing machines lets get a few things out on the table.

First off, espresso does not have more caffeine than regular coffee. It has the same amount, but it is more concentrated. I assume that it also has the same amount of other chemicals, except more highly concentrated, as in regular coffee. So if you’re drinking coffee because it is supposed to afford some protection against Alzheimer’s and other illnesses, you can probably get the same benefits from espresso, but with less liquid.

Second, there are coffee snobs. They’ll tell you all sorts of things about coffee, but what you really need to make good espresso are three things:

Good coffee. You’ll find arguments over Starbuck’s vs. Peets, or over other brands. Some people love Blue Mountain, and others like coffees from other regions. Experiment, try different regions and brands. I’m selling Mystic Monks coffee over there on the right. I’ve tried it, and it’s a good coffee. Buy some, and send me a note if you like it. A burr grinder. The cheap blade grinders produce irregularly sized grounds, with the burr you get regular, evenly sized grounds. That’s important for getting the full flavor of the coffee. I’ve used a Capresso grinder, which is no longer made, that gives decent results. I’ve put up a link to a moderately priced grinder over on the right. I haven’t tried it, but the reviews on Amazon seem to be relatively decent. An espresso machine. There are cheap ones on the market. These are the steam driven machines. You can tell them apart from the pump models because they have big caps on the water tank. For some reason the steam models do not produce as good a cup of espresso as the pump models. For one thing the coffee is hotter, and I don’t think the pressure is as consistent as it is with the pump models. I’ve been using the DeLonghi model over on the right for the past year with decent results. It manages to produce a decent crema, the brown froth on the coffee, and is very good at frothing milk for cappucino. It’s been on sale for a long while, and at $132 is a bargain.

The more expensive models of these things may have more features. They may even be better made, but if you’re budget conscious, and want to get started making a decent cup of espresso, these will get you off to a start.

Happy drinking.