cooking with louis Caffeine, Visine & Nicotine. Breakfast of Champions. Part Deux STORY BY LOUIS BERKMAN
his month’s article brings us to the real heavy hitters of the coffee world; Espresso and all its iterations. From its humble beginnings in the early 20th century as a way to cut the time needed for employee coffee breaks to its ascendance to the pinnacle of coffee culture, espresso has always been unique. To begin, I want to clarify a common misconception. Espresso is NOT a particular coffee or blend of coffees but a method of BREWING coffee. Using high pressure and controlled temperature, a wonderful cup of “the heart of coffee” can be yours in 30 to 60 seconds; ergo the name espresso (express). Equipment needed to brew espresso runs the gamut from simple and inexpensive to simple and VERY expensive with a stop in between. The simplest way to brew espresso is using the Bialetti MOKA stovetop espresso maker. I am certain that EVERY household in Italy has at least one of these. They are simplicity itself to use. Place water in the bottom chamber, fine grind (NOT espresso grind) in the middle chamber, screw the pieces together with the top chamber and place over medium heat. In a few minutes a thick, strong espresso will bubble up from the center shaft. When there is no more water in the bottom, remove the MOKA from the heat and pour your espresso. While this coffee is classified as espresso, since it is not brewed with high pressure a lot of the subtle flavors are not captured during brewing. To achieve the fullest expression of coffee flavor you will need to move on to the next step up in brewing technology. This means using an electric pump driven espresso machine with a handle type of “group” where the actual brewing takes place. I recommend the Pasquini Livia 90 for this purpose. This heavy duty machine
uses a high pressure pump and a temperature controlled group to produce superb espresso. It also has terrific pressure available for steaming milk for making cappuccinos, café lattes, and macchiatos. Since milk based drinks are by far the greatest preference in the United States, this ability is important. It is also where virtually EVERY other lesser espresso machine fails to deliver. While not inexpensive at $2000, the Livia 90 delivers excellent value by producing superior espresso and milk foaming ability. We now move onto the big kahuna of the espresso brewing world – The Superautomatic espresso machine. The Superautomatic espresso machine takes whole bean coffee, grinds it, packs it and brews it at the touch of a single button. You can find models that even automatically heat and froth the milk and pour it into the same cup that espresso was just brewed into. To be clear, I am not talking about the home rated Saeco’s, Gaggia’s , Jura’s, DeLonghi’s and other consumer rated Superautomatic machines. I am referring to a brand new model from commercial espresso machine manufacturer LaCimbali, the Q10. The LaCimbali Q10 is the latest technology from long time manufacturer LaCimbali of Italy. This is a moderate duty commercial machine that produces exquisite espresso and perfectly frothed milk EVERY time, something even the best barista cannot do. It is large but not huge, requires 220 volts ac and needs to be plumbed into a specialized water system. It is quite expensive ($8000 – $9000 depending on accessories) and simply impossible to justify having. This being said, justification is only a part of why someone would want a machine of this caliber in their home. Since I have its predecessor in my kitchen for the past 15 years I am well versed in this par-
ticular conundrum. Forget about justification; having something that is as well designed and built as the Q10 to perform this seemingly mundane task is reason enough to have it. You know that hackneyed advertising catchphrase “when only the best will do,” this really IS the best and once you use it, you quickly realize it is the ONLY one that will do. An added bonus is that with proper care and the occasional maintenance it will be the last espresso machine you will purchase. As I said, mine is 15 years old and still going strong. As an aside to the machine itself, the Superautomatic is the only kind of espresso machine that makes sense when you entertain. It is highly productive, consistent, and will not remove you or someone else from your gathering just to make coffee. In this way it is actually a very SOCIAL machine. People gather around it, watch their coffee being made, ooh and ah at how wonderful it is and then rejoin you’re other guests as you will also be able to do. I feel the Superautomatic espresso machine is a truly wonderful social lubricant. There are virtually unlimited choices available in espresso making equipment. Some are good, some are great and unfortunately too many are simply unacceptable. The secret is deciding BEFORE you purchase what level of performance will scratch your coffee itch. While $2000 is a lot of money and $9000 is an obscene amount of money for what is in essence a coffee maker, excellent value is available with either choice. Knowing that you are using the best available equipment only adds to the tremendous pleasure that a properly brewed espresso supplies. And you will be secure in the knowledge that you can produce coffee beverages that greatly exceed anything produced by any of the coffee chains.
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