Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Authentic Italian espresso

Prepare yourself Food-ology friends, today is a day I will not blog about cake.


I know, I know, cake is all I post these days. And that's because it's the only thing I've been making in the kitchen since my move back to Chicago. But I've got a little treat today, and it isn't sweet.

Espresso in an itsy-bitsy teeny-tiny cup about the size of my pinky.

Turns out I have a mini-stash of recipes made and photos taken while visiting friends during my last few weeks in California. And I think it's time to breath life back into them. One of these people I saw was my Italian friend Silvia. (You may recognize her name from a simple pasta dish I've made that is appropriately named after her.)

I went to visit Silvia at her house in Napa where we played with her cute girls, cooked more delicious pasta (recipe to come soon) and got a little wet while wine tasting and museum visiting at Hess Winery.

Misty day at Hess Winery makes for some cool photos...

We also made espresso. The real, Italian way. And that means the teeniest, tiniest cup of intense flavor.

It's ridiculously simple, but I took some step-by-step photos to remind myself (and show you) how it's done. The real, Italian way, as told to me by Silvia*.

*Note: I am not an expert in this process, I'm just relaying you the information that was given to me. If you don't like what I'm saying- don't shoot the messenger!

Step 1: Purchase the proper equipment.

Bialetti or bust...

This means a small Bialetti Moka pot. Apparently (Silvia says) no other brand will do. And (Silvia says) no other size will do either. So that means you need to purchase the small one, not the big giant one. But don't worry, the small size will suffice; you'll get ~2-3 small espressos per preparation. (I'll get into the details of why it has to be the small one in a few steps...)

The espresso maker has three parts: a bottom receptacle (filled with water), the metal filter that sits on top of this bottom piece (filled with finely ground coffee beans), and the upper receptacle, which will fill up with your finished espresso after heating.

Step 2: Fill the bottom receptacle with water.

There's a fill line on the inside of the container, so you'll know when to stop. 

Step 3: Place the filter insert back the bottom receptacle.

This is where your espresso grounds will sit. No paper filter required.

Step 4: Spoon ground espresso beans into the filter

Even when you think its full, keep filling...

... you want it to be heaping full o' powder

Apparently in this step people fall into two major groups: those who pack their espresso and those who don't. Silvia doesn't (that's all I'm sayin'...) Just a small tap will do.

But whether you're a packer or not, you have to fill this filter with a lot of beans, otherwise the espresso will come out weak. Which is one reason why Silvia recommends getting the smaller machine. If you buy the bigger one you can't chose to make 1-2 servings of espresso, you have to make the whole shebang. So unless you're drinking 6+ espressos a day, it'll be a waste.

Step 5: Screw the top part of the espresso machine to the lower half and heat on a stove.

All full and ready to go.

Normally this part is done with the lid closed, but we opened it so you could see exactly what happens.

At first, the top receptacle is empty while the water is still heating up.

Still have a few minutes to go...

But as the water heats up, sciency stuff starts to happen and liquid bubbles up through that little spout in the center.

Espresso starting to bubble through!

And finally, once all the water has finished bubbling its way through the espresso grounds, you'll hear a funny little gurgling noise and the espresso will appear a little frothy.


Step 6: Stir the espresso before pouring.

The last bits of espresso bubbling through aren't as strong so you want to make sure to mix it up.

Step 7: Pour and enjoy. 

And a few more notes to help you make your perfect cup of espresso at home:

* When you first purchase the machine, make a few batches of espresso and throw them out. Apparently the metal on the inside needs to be "seasoned" a bit, and the first few batches might taste weird. On the plus side this means that like me, the espresso machine only gets better with age. ;)

* If you use the machine regularly, a simple rinse with warm water will suffice in cleaning the pot. If it's been a while perhaps you could use a little bit of soap, but not much and don't go crazy trying to scrub it clean. It won't and shouldn't look spanking new on the inside.

* Don't use regular coffee grinds with this machine, it won't come out the same. Make sure your coffee is ground specifically for espresso.

And there you have it, a perfect espresso!

Yours in making foods the real, Italian way,


Sarah Aerni said...

That looks delicious!!! And you also are a lucky girl since you can go enjoy Intelligentsia Coffee anytime in Chicago :)

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