27 June 2008

Serious about coffee

Now that I’m married to a professional barista, it became time to upgrade our coffee machine. Our Starbucks pump espressio machine had offered loyal service for several years, but rothko wanted something with a full size brewhead, like you’d find on a professional machine in an Italian espresso bar. Fortunately her job, plus a tax refund and bonus from work, meant we could afford to spend a bit.

After a ton of research, we settled on the Expobar Brewtus II. It has a solid brass steam-heated E61 brewhead, a microprocessor with digital temperature gauge to control heating, and dual boilers so you can make coffee and steam milk without ever having to wait to switch mode.

We bought from Whole Latte Love, a specialist Internet store. The first machine they sent us, sadly, had some kind of pump or valve problem, and they didn’t have a spare valve in stock. We ended up having to ship the entire machine back and get it replaced. This was particularly painful because the machine is encased in solid steel; it’s probably the second heaviest appliance I’ve had to move, after the laser printer.

The second machine, happily, is working fine.

This is a serious machine. Whereas the Starbucks machine will automatically put pressure on the grounds so all you have to do is push a button, this beast requires proper barista skills. But with the right beans, the right grind, the right amount of coffee, the right tamping pressure, correct pre-heating of the basket, and so on, it can deliver a latte that puts the previous machine to shame. The shots of espresso look like Guinness, foamy crema all the way down that gradually rises to leave a thick black coffee beneath. When I get it just right, it’s an espresso that has no bitterness, just a rich smooth flavor.

And yes, that’s the grinder on the left. There’s no point spending mad cash on a coffee machine if you don’t have a grinder of similar quality. It may seem like we’ve spent an insane amount on coffee machines, but as I’ve mentioned before, if you’re going to drink a latte each every day, it doesn’t take long to get ROI by not dropping $4 a cup at Starbucks.

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