Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Coffee Geek

Those results are apparent as soon as you pick up the cup. The crema that crowns these espressos is a ruddy, alluring come-on that persists as you decide whether it’s closer to the color of terra cotta or burnt sienna. It’s not the pale froth that quickly dissipates on lesser espressos. And it’s evidence that the sugars and oils in the coffee have been properly emulsified through careful brewing.

The aroma will be more nuanced — with suggestions of scents like jasmine and orange — reflecting the pedigree of the beans it’s made with, and the care and precision with which it was brewed.

It will feel richer, fuller and more viscous in your mouth. The acidity of the coffee will be balanced; the tannins will contribute shape, not sting.

If you take milk, it will be steamed to order just for your drink — a top-quality cafe never uses the same milk twice. And it will be poured to create a pattern in the crema — a heart, a leaf — that not only makes the drink more appetizing, but demonstrates the attention paid to it.

I'm such a coffee geek.

I started noticing my different opinions about coffee when I was about 18. Well, back that up. Let me point out that my ancestors on my mother's side, via the grandmother, are Norwegian. Let's just say that Norwegian children are introduced to coffee at an early age via the process of dipping sugar cubes into coffee and giving them to the children.

My first recollection of drinking coffee was when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. My great aunt, Augut, lived in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and my cousins and my sister and I would spend summer vacations at Augut and Fred's farm. This was a family that went to bed shortly after sunset, and rose before sunrise. I remember my first coffee was in a large bowl, with lots and lots of milk (probably from one of the cows on the farm) with an abundance of sugar.

Suffice it to say that by the time I was in high school, and about the age of 16, I was drinking that crap called American coffee quite regularly. Back then, you "percolated" your coffee, that is, the pot contained a stem that had a basket on the top. Water as it heated up was drawn up the stem, and the poured over the coffee grinds, which dripped back into the pot. The pot regurgetated the coffee water over the grinds again (ick), but that was coffee circa the 1950's. The 1960's brought the drip method, which I believe Melita spearheaded in the United States. By then, I was getting into the pyrex glass coffee percolators as well as the drip by Melita. I started adding spices to the coffee, and looked for the off beat brands sold in the store, instead of the general Folgers, Maxwell House, and other brands available at that time. (Don't EVEN get me started on those fucking instant coffees).

I first encountered espresso in the early 1970's in Berkeley. I didn't take to it quite in the beginning. When I moved to Cardiff (in the North County area of San Diego), I began frequenting a coffe beanery called Pannikins, where you could buy coffee beans, a grinder, and coffee paraphanalia. That is when I began to order up espressos, usually a triple, and then I would add my cream and sugar. I eventually gave up the sugar, and lessened the amount of cream, but to this day, at Starbucks, I'll order a quad, half caf, over ice, and then add my cream!

I had an opportunity to buy an espresso bar in 1981 in Cardiff, but once my partner and I proposed a real offer, the sellers backed off. When I moved back to Los Angeles in 1984, I managed a friends espresso bar in Silverlake on Sunset Blvd., called The Go Between.

Although I never really matured as a barrista in the employment world, I have always owned pretty decent coffee machines, including espresso machines. I have always had espresso machines at my work place (brought in by me). My foam on a cappuccino is to die for!

Read the article, if you are a coffee geek like me.


Bob said...

I drink 1 1/2 mugs of coffee a day. Chock Full O Nuts New York grind. Gave up everything else. It sure looks great,tho.

Carrie said...

I can't stand Chock Full O Nuts.