Archive for September, 2007

Buston drops by.

September 12, 2007

Edmund Buston popped into the plan yesterday, which was nice.

Unfortunately it was simply a random sales call promoting Lavazza coffees, rather than him having heard about my work and wanting to make my acquaintance! But it was good all the same.

We had a bit of a chat about the championships – Edmund’s bristling with confidence that he’ll win the 2008 UKBC’s – especially now James Hoffmann is out of the running – so there’s a challenge to anyone else who’s competing! I won’t be entering this time around as I discovered the Bristol and Wales heat will be mid-January: I’m currently preparing to get married at the beginning of February, as well as trying to buy a house, and working full time – I think it would be a bit too much to try and enter the championships as well! I simply haven’t got time to prepare a decent set, and don’t feel I’d do myself justice, so I’ll set my sights on embarking on the competitions in 2009.

My boss was keen to show-off his barista’s abilities, and Edmund wanted to demonstrate the Lavazza, so we both made some coffee. I have to admit the pressure got to me a little; my arm seized-up for the pour and, although happy with my espresso and my milk, I poured a bit of a rubbish rosetta (wobbly and unsymmetrical, but still quite sharp and crisp) on my latte – which was a disappointment! Edmund poured a couple of nice hearts a better rosetta.

 Most entertaining quote from Buston?

“People don’t give a s**t about coffee”

Generally speaking, he’s right, of course. My response was that I felt people would at least subconsciously notice the difference between a nicely made cup of coffee and a badly made one from somewhere else down the road – even if they don’t know what to look/taste for, or care about what they’re drinking.

I can only hope that’s true …otherwise, I really don’t know why I bother! I would make life a lot less frustrating and disheartening for myself if I adopted the same outlook, but I just can’t help hoping that, with the intervention of a skilled hand and a little gentle persuasion, people will begin to care more about their coffee…

…Sweet Anticipation

September 9, 2007

                        pavoni-1.jpg                pavoni-2.jpg

I have recently acquired a second-hand Pavoni Europiccola lever espresso machine – and given that I currently have no means of making decent espresso at home, I’m eagerly awaiting the first results.

First, however, I have to wait for the delivery of some missing parts – a portafilter and a handle for the lever, which are on the way from Espresso Services. The only problem is that the design and size of the Europiccola’s group head was changed around 2001, and despite extensive research online, I cannot be sure which model I have (without taking it apart) and so can only wait to see if the portafilter actually fits – if not I will have to try and exchange it. Let me know if you can tell its vintage from the pictures! It also needs a bit of a descale, but the powder’s ready and waiting, and then I can start experimenting!

I have read some good and bad reviews of the machine online – and seen a photo of some lovely-looking espresso pouring from one. There are a few problems that I anticipate, such as the water temperature being too hot/unstable and imperfect brewing pressure. The steaming wand could be tricky – it’s sited very close to the body of the machine, and it will be awkward to hold a pitcher at a nice angle to texture milk properly – also, the steamer tip has only three holes instead of four which will not be ideal, and I don’t yet know whether the machine will generate sufficient steam to achieve a good whirlpool. There may be an issue with the stability of the base for ease of operation as well – but I don’t think this will be too much of a problem.

The other main problem I’ll face is that I don’t have any sort of decent home espresso grinder yet, and so need to invest in something. I know it’s a contradiction, but I really do need the best quality at the cheapest price! – any suggestions for a compromise would be appreciated; I’m considering a KitchenAid conical burr grinder as a possibility.

I suppose it wouldn’t be the worst situation in the world to take beans into work every week and grind them there on our La Spaziale Astro 12 – but I’m so used to grinding by the cup for ultimate freshness for espresso that this would be quite a compromise. I’ll certainly do this in the short term though, until I’ve sussed-out the Pavoni’s potential; I got it for a song (the parts I’ve ordered at 40.00 cost me much more than the actual machine!) so I don’t really want to spend huge sums of money on a grinder to accompany it just yet.

I understand there’s quite an art to achieving good espresso with this more manual type of machine (what – more than usual? Good God!), but hope that with some practice and investment it will make something really nice…