I have been an avid coffee drinker ever since my husband (boyfriend at the time) introduced me to this ingenious legal high four years ago when he worked as a barista. I soon became a part-time barista myself whilst studying, learning the tricks of the trade. Little did we know at the time this work experience would stand us in good stead for the coming years.
Back in the day, we first started drinking coffee because we enjoyed it. We would visit various coffee shops, rating them on their service, skill and the end product. There were a number of things I would look out for:
– If the grind in the portafilter was left in the grouphead for longer than 3-5 seconds, causing the coffee to burn. Once in the grouphead, the espresso should be poured almost instantly.
– If the barista has prepared the grind in the portafilter and left it in the grouphead, for the same reason as above.
– If the espresso shot has been pre-poured and left standing. After 30 seconds, the espresso shot is dead and should not be served.
– If I have ordered soya (which I often do as I am lactose intolerant to milk), it should be heated to 60 degrees Centigrade otherwise it burns. Soya heats up much quicker than ordinary milk, which is often missed by untrained baristas.
My usual preference is a black Americano, which is not hard to make at all. You can usually judge how good/bad a coffee shop is just from examining their black coffees; if you are capable of ruining a drink which only consists of an espresso shot and water, you really should find another profession.
We still enjoy the luxury of drinking coffee from a shop, however our coffee intake has increased since baby DS arrived. We obviously cannot visit a coffee shop numerous times in a day, the expense of that would be ridiculous. We have had a Russell Hobbs espresso machine for approximately two years now, but it has recently died on us. It was good whilst it lasted, producing a fast and efficient way of drinking coffee without the grind you would find at the end of a cafetiere. It had a 10 bar pump, meaning the pressure was not great enough to make more than one milk based drink. Costing £79 placed it in the lower price band of coffee machines; they usually range from £70ish to well over £1000. Though it is worth mentioning that the machines priced £500-£1000+ are bulky, awkward to clean and could probably perform just as well as one a little cheaper.
It is now time to invest in a solid machine, which hopefully will last a bit longer. We have opted for the Gaggia Baby, an upgrade from our previous machine. After much research, reading reviews on various websites, making price comparisons and visiting Bluewater to see the products in three dimension, I think we have found the one. It is sturdy, has a 1300W output to ensure the water is heated quickly, 15 bar pressure and it comes with a professional portafilter. Gaggia produced the first espresso machine and supply companies such as Caffè Nero. The machines are meant to be reliable and are renowned for its durability.
I hope this investment pays off. We have bought a Brita water filter to prevent lime scale and ensure our machine runs as smoothly as possible. I cannot wait until it arrives, because life is more fun with a kick.