"Forever: Time it takes to brew the first pot of coffee in the morning." ~Author Unknown
As an adult I didn't really start drinking coffee as a regular part of my daily routine until the early 1980's. Since then I have managed to explore the gamut of coffees and coffee-making equipment. In truth, I have spent a small fortune purchasing all of my coffee accoutrements over the years in the quest to make great coffee and espresso at home. The assemblage of coffee making paraphernalia in the photo represents just my purchases over the past six years.
Later, I bought a fancier model, a Breville that foams milk a whole lot better, but in truth didn't make any better espresso than the Saeco. Later, I experimented with using a French Press for making coffee, which is definitely the way to go for brewing coffee at home. A simple French Press out performs any electric coffee maker that I have ever used...and there have been many. The flavor of French Press coffee is terrific, and the coffee is served really hot - a must in my book, and cannot be achieved with an automatic drip machine.
My espresso drink of choice over the years has become a mocha piled high with milk foam instead of whipped cream. And, in the last two years I have scrapped the more complicated production method required in using my espresso machine in favor of using a stove top Bialetti espresso maker for preparing the espresso, and a sauce pan and immersion blender to foam the milk. There is a small sacrifice of flavor. The espresso produced by the Bialetti is not as rich and pronounced as made by an espresso machine, but the ease and quickness in making, as well requiring much less clean up, makes it a winner for me.
I remember my friend Richard singing the praises of this simple espresso maker from his days of living in Paris, as well as it being the choice to bring along on backpacking trips, but it took me twenty years to try it, and turns out, he was right. It makes a quality portion of what I would call a cross between coffee and espresso, just perfect for coffee drinks, or a nice strong cup of coffee.
If you like to drink your shots of espresso neat, then the stove top Bialetti is not the technique for you, but if you enjoy starting your morning with a latte or mocha, you can have a delicious drink at home in a jiff. Oh, and a thanks to my Food Network "boyfriend", Tyler Florence who featured this method on one of his "Ultimate Breakfast" shows. This method is a much easier way to fix coffee drinks for more than one. You can foam all of the milk at once, as well as brew a larger quantity of espresso, and the drinks are ready at the same time, instead of having to make them one by one.
Don't have time to enjoy coffee at home most mornings? I don't know about you, but shelling out $5 for my coffee drink at a Peet's or Starbucks and having to stop on my way to work is not only inconvenient, but really expensive as well. It just isn't in my monthly budget, so I have found a great solution. Bodum makes a nifty French Press Travel Mug in which I can brew my coffee, add chocolate and a splash of half and half, depress the plunger, and I am good to go.
One last observation. I have found grinding my own coffee to be time consuming and very messy. After purchasing an expensive burr grinder because my other Food Network crush, Alton Brown insisted it was necessary to have great coffee at home, I found it took up too much space on my kitchen counter, and I found myself greatly irritated after I used it. As careful as I tried to be, I found that I had ground coffee all over my counter and kitchen floor every single time. In addition, honestly, I was never able to discern that great of a difference in the taste of the coffee or espresso. For this reason I buy Peet's or Illy's ground coffee. It saves me time, mess and frustration. I am partial to French or Italian roast. I use the Illy canisters to store the ground coffee of any brand because they are air-tight, and compact.
As for me, I switched to decaf coffee quite some time ago. Caffeine is a stimulant, which should be used with caution and with reverence. Caffeine increases cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body, and I don't know about you, but I have enough stress without taxing my body with more. So I made the switch to decaf, and I can say with certainty that don't miss the heart palpitations, jittery hands, or afternoon headaches one bit.
1. Fill the bottom carafe of the Bialetti espresso maker with filtered water to the line indicated inside the carafe.
2. Place the metal coffee filter on top of the carafe filled with water. Add coffee, roughly 2 tablespoons, leaving space for expansion.
3. Screw the lid onto the carafe base. Place on burner and turn flame to medium.
4. Pour amount of milk to be used into a sauce pan. Heat milk. When milk is hot
reduce the flame and blend with an immersion hand blender until there is an
abundant amount of foam. Turn off heat.
5. When you do not hear coffee percolating out of the spout into the holding chamber of the espresso pot, the espresso is ready. The top will be full.
6. Add chocolate mix to the bottom of your cup. I prefer Traditional Hot Cocoa Mix by Lake Champlain, but Ghiradelli makes a mocha mix that is very good, also.
7. Pour the hot espresso into the mug. Stir well, I add a couple squeezes of Agave nectar and then I pour in the hot milk, topping with a huge mound of the milk foam that I sprinkle liberally with cinnamon.