Me and coffee

First, a bit of history. I drank my first cup of coffee somewhere around 6-8 years old. It didn't taste good, and even after adding milk I couldn't drink the whole cup. The second cup followed almost immediately, about 5 years later. With similar results.

At the age of 20, during the military service on a week long mid-winter forest excercise, I was given my third cup of coffee accidentally instead of morning tea. After the first sip I threw the coffee away and "politely" asked the rifleman if he was trying to poison me. Lucky for him my supervising sergeant was fast to react, gave me tea and ended the potential situation.

About 8 years later those 3 attempts were still my total lifetime coffee intake. Then I stumbled upon an article about espresso, and how it is almost completely unlike drip coffee, it doesn't have the same stench, it doesn't have the rancid bitterness, it's full of flavors and brings out the best of coffee. That sounded like something that needs more investigation.

On a trip to Tallinn I bravely ordered an espresso from a cafe in the old town. It wasn't bad. Not exactly what I expected, but not bad. The next day I tried another one, and it was pretty much the same. When I got back to Finland I was too busy rennovating my new apartment to drink more espresso for a while. Then I read more about espresso, how to make it and how it should taste and look like. I was finally able to get a few more cups of espresso, and I started to like the stuff. I tried drip coffee, and was immediatly disgusted just by the smell of it, a small sip was all I could drink.

When I finally moved to my new apartment, my sister gave me her old steam powered espresso machine. It didn't taste right. It was bitter, had no crema and even with sugar it just didn't do justice to the drink. I decided to get a real espresso machine.

After a bit of reading, going to a few friends for tasting their espresso machine results, more reading, and trying a few more shots I finally made up my mind. I ordered a Gaggia Paros. It's supposedly one of the best for the money, and it has a built-in burr grinder. And it looks good, really good. The Gaggia arrived yesterday evening, and cleaned it up, primed it, and since it was late at night, decided to wait till morning for the first shot. Instead, I played a little with the milk frother. It makes froth, but the consistency after 2 attempts shows that I need a lot of practice. Frothed milked makes a killer hot chocolate btw. A large mug, 2 tsp dutch processed cocoa powder and 2 tsp sugar, filled with frothed milk is delicious.

Morning arrived, and it was time to make espresso. I turned the machine on, primed the pump with fresh water and went about with the morning routines as it heated up. After a few minutes I estimated that it should be warm enough, dosed a double shot into the filter basket, tampped, placed it into the portafilter, attached that into the machine, placed an espresso cup on the drip tray, and pressed the brewing button. When the first black drop fell from into the cup I started the timer. After 25 seconds I toggled the switch off, the 3-way solenoid valve popped the excess pressure off, and I had a cup of espresso.

It looked completely different than the stuff that I ever got from the steam pressure coffee cooker. So different that I thought I have to take picture of it. It took ages to find my camera, but even after at least half a minute of frantic searching the crema was still there. A few quick shots of the cup... Can't autofocus the camera. Retry. Focus fails. Focus on the rim, focus lock, click. A few more, with and without flash, and it was time to taste the stuff.

I had placed the cup on top of the Paros, as the top heats up nicely and can act as a cup warmer. So the espresso was still nice and hot after all that fiddling around, and the scent filled the kitchen. I took a closer sniff of the thing. Yup, smells pleasant and aromatic. First sip, and the flavors filled the mouth and nose. The taste was full bodied, almost sweet, slightly acidic with no bitterness or the evilness of drip coffee.

As far the your first self made cup of espresso goes, I considered this a good one. It showed some signs of passing too much water thru, but I still haven't got the touch for tamping it right. This espresso machine definitely has potential once I figure out how to use it properly. And I still haven't tried it with fresh ground coffee from beans, this espresso was done from a pre-ground blend in a can, that had been opened over 2 weeks ago. Now "all" I have to do is learn how to grind and tamp, and how to froth the milk right for a cappuccino, and get a better milk jug so I can try pouring latte with a rosetta.

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