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This is from Giorgio Milos, the 36-year-old is a professor at Illycaffe Universita del Caffe in Trieste, Italy.

Milos is an Italian barista champion who currently lives in New York and will be spending the rest of this year travelling North America representing Illycaffe.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen is an enormous quantity of coffee being used—way too much. I’m talking about 20 to 25 grams of coffee for a single espresso shot! It is like making a mojito with half a mint leaf, one ice cube, a few grains of sugar, and a gallon of rum. Undrinkable!

Espresso made this way—well, it’s not espresso, but I’ll call it that—turns out overly concentrated, and because of that it cannot delight the drinker with the magnificent aromas of toasted bread, chocolate, red fruit, orange, and jasmine flowers that are all present in a high-quality blend.

The beverages I tasted were almost syrups, full-bodied but with a very sour, almost salty taste. I suspect that beans that were roasted too recently played a part. After roasting, beans need a few days to breathe and mature. These too-young beans are a big problem. Also, I’ve visited too many coffee bars that don’t heat cups before serving, and in the process sacrifice flavor and aroma. Or that serve in wet cups, an espresso sin.

An espresso, a real one, requires seven to eight grams of freshly ground coffee roasted two to three days in advance, or preserved using pressurization. The water can’t be too soft, and must not exceed 200 degrees F to avoid burning, nor be lower than 190 F in order to extract all the best aromatic components.

The grind is also fundamental. A too-fine grind can create burnt coffee and extract unpleasantly bitter and woody flavors. This is why so many people describe espresso’s taste as “bitter.” An overly coarse grind doesn’t permit full extraction of certain key elements. The proper, medium grind permits extraction of one ounce of aromatic black liquid in 25 to 30 seconds, the ideal amount of time.

If all these variables are respected (amount of coffee, temperature, time, and volume), along with the right pressure (around nine atmospheric units or 130 psi), you get an opaque, perfumed liquid containing microscopic oil droplets releasing precious coffee aroma, set fully free on your taste buds.

A silky, persistent foam (“crema”) will appear on top, nut brown with red stripes, protecting the liquid underneath for a few minutes—just enough time to hold that ceramic cup in hand, feel the warmth, move it to the lips, and sense those freed aromas in the mouth, where they will combine to create a unique taste experience.

Otherwise known as espresso. A real espresso.

via A Winning Formula for Traditional Espresso – Food – The Atlantic.


Yes, it is true. After about 12 years, I’ve finally decided to move the guide to using a La Pavoni manual lever espresso machine to another home.

The site has generated quite a bit of traffic over to years and I’ve met some great people through it, but various bits of functionality have stopped working. So, the decision was made a few years to move it to a more modern platform. Well, it took a while, but the new site is at Coffee Gurus

The site is still a work in progress. For now, you can add comments with tricks and tips etc. Have fun! Let me know if you have any suggestions.

As some of you may know, I’m traveling on business in New York City for the week.  NYC has got to be one of the foodie capitals of the world.  With the all the cosmopolitan flavours, the high density of people from all backgrounds, and the amount of cash (still) flowing here…it all adds up to the ability to find great eats at all price levels.

One envious colleague knows about my coffee fetish, and was wondered out loud whether even the coffee tastes better in NYC.  At first, I thought it was a silly comment, but you know what?  IT DOES!  Even your average cup from a street vendor tastes pretty good.

Sure there are artisanal roasting of superior beans here and yes, there are great barristas that care about their craft.  But do you know what I think makes the biggest difference???

The WATER.  Yep, the tap water here tastes great!  This goes against most people’s idea of the state of tap water in this bustling metropolis, but it is true.

I always thought the tap water tasted good, but never really put too much thought into it.  But, while at dinner with a friend that’s a local, she mentioned that NYC’s tap water consistently rates extremely highly as the healthiest and best tasting in the nation.

A bit of research shows that the municipal water system is fed by 19 reservoirs and three lakes in upstate New York.  Most of the supply is protected and filtered by the natural processes of the upstate ecosystems.  In blind taste tastes, NYC’s water frequently rates right at the very top.

So, it makes sense.  If, the main part of a cup of coffee is water, then BETTER WATER = BETTER COFFEE

For those of us that don’t have the luxury of having best tasting tap water, or have municipal water systems that add a lot of chemicals for treatment, the best thing you can do for the taste of your coffee is to run the water through something like a Brita filter.

The fact that NYC’s water may not be kosher is another story…  🙂

I was sitting at a local Starbucks yesterday afternoon with my laptop in tow, a question occurred to me.  Has the modern day coffee shop taken away a social culture?

As I sat there sipping my coffee, I looked around and saw how many people were like me, taking advantage of the WiFi there and not so much being there for the coffee. This is definitely not the way it was or the way we see it on TV shows like Friends or Seinfeld where a group of friends would gather at a local coffee shop to engage in meaningful or meaningless conversation and enjoy a cup of coffee together. Instead, a new culture has been created where the norm seems to be engaging in conversation through an instant messaging service of some sort rather than with someone a couple of feet away.

What’s the worst part of all of this? I went to a coffee shop to use the Internet and I really can’t recall if the coffee was good or not… My suggestion to us all is that the next time we want to visit a coffee shop, try bringing a friend instead of your laptop.

While the ECM Giotto is out of service waiting for a small part, I’ve been using the Pavoni and for a change took out the Bialetti Moka Express.
I have the medium sized one that holds 6 cups and while it isn’t technically espresso, I like the rich full bodied moka that it makes with Lavazza “Qualita Oro” out of a vac pack.
For those that don’t know, Bialetti has been making this stove top coffee maker since 1933.  In Italy, where these are still made (although I’ve seen some steel Bialetti made in China…a shame), it is an iconic fixture in almost every home.
The original model was and is made of aluminum–a material popular at the time as a sign of Italy’s modernity.  They pots are also made by other vendors as well in both aluminum and other materials such as steel, glass, etc.  Being a traditionalist, mine is aluminum.
Some tips:
– Use coffee that is ground a bit coarser than you’d normally use in your espresso machine.
– The instructions say to not tamp, but I do…lightly using the bottom of a plastic baby bottle.  YMMV.
– Italians swear that the more you use the pot, the better the brew.  I’m not sure why they think this, but my guess is that after a while without scrubbing with steel wool etc., that the pots start to oxidize a bit…and over time, this makes the metal more neutral to the coffee being brewed.  So, I only rise the pot out with water and wipe off the residual coffee with a wet cloth.  So far so good.
Try it, you’ll like it.  These coffee makers are relatively cheap and widely available.

In my never ending quest for a good deal, I wandered by my friendly neighborhood Loblaws (a large grocery chain in my neck of the woods). Along with foodstuffs, they are starting to sell VERY stylish small appliances and other household items for very low prices under the PC (President’s Choice) brand.

For instance, I bought a beautiful chrome toaster with bagel sized slots and even a defrost setting for $12. It works great and is on par with a toaster 10x as much. So, needless to say, I was quite excited to see a burr grinder for $29. Well, let’s just say that my enthusiasm was a bit misplaced.

The grinder looks good, has nice burrs, but the plastic bits aren’t up to snuff. The top hopper area attaches to the metal base with a few plastic prongs. Either while using the hopper to twist the grind settings (like I do on my Gaggia MDF) or just normal regular grinding, the plastic prongs snapped off…and probably got ground into smithereens.

Other than that, the coffee comes out of the chute and sprays coffee all over the counter unless the rubber seal is perfectly seated into the receptacle. I don’t know about you, but when I need a cup of coffee in the morning, I’m not exactly in a mood to be messing with aligning plastic bits with rubber bits yada yada.

The coffee that comes out is very nicely ground though, and not simply pulverized as in a whirlyblade grinder. This makes a big difference in the level of silt you get in a cup from using a french press.

I’m thinking of modifying the grinder to accept a glass hopper that is permanently affixed along with a longer chute into a metal coffee catcher. For now, my wife is using it but it is slowly driving me nuts.

Overall, I wouldn’t buy the grinder again. Looks great, has great features at a great price….but the performance and durability just isn’t there. $29 isn’t a bargain in this case, it is money misspent… 🙁

Paul Martinetti writes:

“Yesterday I bought a Capresso Infinity grinder at Williams-Sonoma for $140. They will refund me if it doesn’t grind fine or consistent enough for the pump machine..haven’t tried it yet. If it is unsatisfactory I will look into the Rancillio.”

Later, he reports:

“I’m pleased with the grinder’s consistency and fineness. The dark oily beans ground in the extra-fine settings stalled my La Pavoni, but the fine settings are perfect. Most important it lets me pull a great decaf for my wife, because it grinds more fine than the Turkish setting at my local Starbucks.

The reviews were accurate that it is tough to clean. There is a groove between the spinning disk and the well wall that is impossible to clean thoroughly. The blunt teeth on the disk push ground coffee out the shoot, but the fine grounds cake up easily and cling to every surface. It’s also a bit clumsy scooping the powdery fine ground coffee from the collection bin to load the portafilter. And I think the motor spins a bit too fast to allow beans to easily drop into the burrs in extra fine settings, beans bounce around quite a bit.

Overall I’m pleased not to have to buy ground coffee, and the improved flavor seems worth the extra cleaning effort. If I were to upgrade grinders I would want an improved dispenser for the ground coffee, and a machine that cleans thoroughly in less time.”

Hmmm…you might want to check this out. It seems cheap from Amazon.