Monday, March 29, 2010

Home Espresso Guide

Espresso is a method of making coffee. A small amount of water (~30ml) is forced through about a heaped tablespoon of ground coffee. With just the right grind, good technique, fresh beans, and a decent machine, magic happens. The coffee flavours become infused into the water along with aromatic oils from the bean. An emulsion is created, and it drips down like syrup into the cup. Done right, this syrup will be well balanced. Done wrong, it will be sour and/or bitter and just terrible to drink. I am convinced that a great majority of people have never tasted a proper, well extracted espresso made with fresh beans as commercial establishments are simply not up to scratch. I have tasted some good espresso though, at family owned Italian restaurants that rely on repeat customers every morning. They are not as flash and spunky as the new Starbucks across the street, but they genuinely make good espresso, with a seasoned hairy chested italian guy (who actually drinks the coffee he makes) behind the counter instead of some random part time highschool kid.

Add steamed milk to it and you have a flat white. Add steamed milk with a bit of foam and it becomes a latte. Add steamed milk with lots of foam and it becomes a cappucino. Stir in some chocolate sauce before pouring in the milk and it becomes a mocha. Pour it straight onto icecream and it becomes an affogato.

When was the last time you ordered an espresso ('short black') or an americano ('long black') from Starbucks or Gloria Jean? Most commercial outlets make barely passable espresso that is then diluted with heaps of milk to mask the bad flavour! The average size of a latte in Italy, the birthplace of espresso is only about 160ml. Compare that to the smallest 300ml cup at Starbucks and you get the idea.

This mega blog post (months in the making!) is going to be all about Espresso and contains what I've learnt from two years trying to make the best espresso possible at home. I live in a small room on campus. If I can do it, so can you!

TLDR: The Executive Summary
1) It's all about The Beans
2) The Grind
3) The Machine
4) The Art
5) Espresso Based Drinks
6) Getting Started (on the cheap)
7) Troubleshooting Guide With Pictures

Appendix: What is NOT an espresso machine.
Appendix: (under construction) Essential Accessories and Glassware.

Click below to read the full post:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Like Boiling Water

Medicine is like boiling water. It's simple really. Here's why...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Crema Conspiracy

A long black / Americano: 150ml hot water with a half teaspoon of sugar, topped with a shot of espresso made from freshly roasted week old Ethopian Harrar coffee beans. The crema floats on top.

Crema is the emulsion that floats on top of a properly made cup of espresso. It's like a foam containing all sorts of aromatics and coffee oils. Espresso fanatics worship it, and it seems to be present in every good espresso, but is crema really the holy grail of coffee? James Hoffman took a closer look, and discovered what many a coffee-geek will find difficult to accept.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

How To Study Medicine

It's really much simpler than this.