Contrary to the bold and bright magnet on my fridge, I am not a coffee slut.
I don’t think.
I’m pretty sure what I actually am is a coffee snob.
If you ask Johnathan, he’ll tell you that I’m snobby about a lot of things, but I continue to maintain that I merely have discriminating taste. And, sometimes, I’m a snob.
Coffee is one of those cases.
It’s not that I want to hate sub-par coffees. I have just been ruined for the ordinary.
I blame someone named Dan for introducing me to awesome coffee, back when I lived in Mexico. Then there grew to be a wee gang of us: Dan, Roger, Matt, and I. Not sure why none of the other ladies really got on board. Hmm.
Funny thing is that Dan no longer drinks coffee. Go figure.
Dan et al introduced me to what I like to call “real” coffee: fair trade, organic, freshly-roasted, freshly-ground, strong, French press, and all that good stuff. They introduced me to Cuban coffee. And to Jamaican Blue Mountain. And to Kona coffee, which I believe is the best in the world. Alright, alright, it can share the limelight with Jamaican Blue Mountain.
Thus began my true love affair with “black gold,” and it continues unabated years later.
These days, I find myself unimpressed with most drip-brewed coffees (that’s your regular everyday coffee, if you’re not up on your java terminology). It’s too weak. It doesn’t have enough flavour, enough depth, enough richness. (Told you I was a snob!)
I haven’t used my fancy-schmancy coffee maker for months and months now.
What I am using surprises even me: a cheap espresso maker and a handful of other implements.
Every morning, I grind up a mix of 2/3 decaf and 1/3 “high-test” Coastal Coffee Company (fair trade/direct trade, organic) beans (not “espresso” beans, but usually dark roast beans) until they are very finely ground. I would highly recommend grinding your own coffee beans at home. It’s a cheap, easy way of boosting the flavour and freshness in your cup. You can get a basic grinder for about $10-$15 at your local department store. Mine looks like this.
I then use a heavy-duty coffee measuring spoon that I got at Starbuck’s to scoop the ground coffee into the part of the espresso maker where the grounds go (highly technical language here). You don’t need any fancy spoons. Any spoon will do.
Part of the brilliance of espresso has to do with tamping the coffee down tightly into a disc. Some fancy-schmancy espresso makers or espresso grinders come with these, but I don’t have one. So I make do with a straight-sided shot glass. True story. It’s fiddly and a touch messy, but it works. I do it over the sink ’cause I always spill grounds over the side.
While my little espresso machine heats its water and spits out a shot or two of “espresso”, I turn the kettle on.
The final product is what I call a Reductionist Americano: roughly equal parts “espresso” and hot water, depending on how strong the brew is that my little machine produces (read: the stronger the better).
When I need a coffee fix away from home, I wish I could just say “reductionist Americano” and know that the barista will understand, but alas! such an official name doesn’t exist yet. So I continue to ask for an Americano with just as much water as espresso and no more.
They don’t always get it right, but 95% of the time, it’s better than a drip coffee any day.