I used to hate coffee. I thought it was Camp. It was on one of my visits to the USA where I figured that so many people drink coffee there must be something OK about it so I tried a “froffy coffee” at a shopping mall and I liked it. Because of the sweetness added by the milk in toning down the bitterness, and the variety of textures between foam and liquid it seemed more than just a hot beverage. I honed down the taste because I like my coffee to tell me its actually there so I found out you could ask for a double-shot. That also has a meaning in a Miami or Chicago shopping mall. I hate Cappuccino so I order a flat white or a latte, which I have renamed Latt.
A thought struck me that in the USA, and UK, we take largish cups of coffee in paper cups and sip for several minutes whereas sur le continent they buy a thimble full of black coffee and down it in one.
At home I tried the French Press method but since I couldn’t read French very well I just looked at the photos in L’Equipe. Initially you choose ground up beans based solely on a packet description and marketing, and because you don’t have a grinder. Columbian, Brazilian, Arabica, Robusta, a blend of both, chocolate notes, hazelnuts, hints of smoke and black pepper, dark, conservation, …….. the descriptions seem endless. And then there’s the Strength:- 1, 2, 3 ……. 11. Personally anything less than 9 is pish.
Having bought the coffee you now boil your water, spoon-in the grounds. how many spoonful’s and what size is the spoon? Pour water, insert plunger and wait. Wait for how long? Do I plunge too soon and the flavour doesn’t develop or too late and it goes strong and bitter. Then the milk, because I don’t drink it black. But skimmed or full fat? I would heat the milk in the microwave. If you caught it in time it didn’t boil over inside leaving you with a cleaning job. Paper towels at the ready.
Microwaved milk doesn’t have a good taste. Once you put together your sweetener, coffee and milk there it is, your cup of coffee. Well, today’s cup of coffee. Because tomorrow the same chemistry will result in a different taste. And then the ground coffee deteriorates. I have used vacuum pump storage and the refrigerator. But it was never consistent. The vacuum pump was useful, however, for storing perishable food of course.
How about real beans and a grinder? I tried that but then the mistake is you leave the beans in the grinder hopper and they degrade too. (Camp and Grindr, in the same article. Is it Friday?)
I feel like it’s a Claudia Winkleman hushed moment, “can we be frank? Coffee drinkers, is your crema weak or spotty?”
Crema is a creamy top that floats on your black coffee, which are the extracted oil from your ground beans. The better your crema, the longer it stays without going “spotty” and the better you have done in the process. Imagine a sad looking Lugosi, in silhouette admitting “Yes, I suffered from bad crema until I switched to Nespresso”. Crema is your sign of coffee virility. Spotty crema is a sign of coffee virginity.
In 1976 Nestle (pronounced Ness Alls) patented the Nespresso pod. Wikipedia has all the information Nespresso – Wikipedia.
The idea is if you fill the pod with ground coffee, apply the same pressure to it every day then you will get the same result. True to a certain extent. I had one of the early Nespresso machines and it was OK. Single function, insert pod, press button and decide when to stop.
But pods were expensive. 35-40p each if I remember correctly. The range of strengths was OK but you could only buy them from Nespresso.
So, you read up on the internet how to re-use your pod and fill with your own coffee. Basically, you remove the now perforated foil on the pod, scoop your ground coffee into it, reseal it with foil and shove it in the machine. In practice it’s a disaster because the grind size and foil thickness Nespresso use is designed to work whereas your guess about grind and foil offered too much or too little resistance to make it work. A messy waste of time.
I decided to try other machines. A traditional espresso machine where you fill the puck yourself and tamp down with ground coffee and you also have a steam wand to froth the milk. Too messy and variable results.
I advanced to a Bean to Cup machine, that automatically loaded the puck, but that had the variance of beans in the hopper degrading and you had to empty the hopper to change the grind size if the result didn’t taste the way you wanted. You then try different types of bean and supplier and then had to experiment all over again. I ended-up never getting a decent cup of coffee consistently.
I tried a Bean to Cup drip filter machine but hated getting back to messy filters and having to wait for the drip to end before drinking coffee.
I like gadgets so I was attracted to a Nespresso Creatista. I still believed in the concept that if you use the same pod and apply the same pressure to it you will always get the same cup of coffee. At the same time the supermarkets, and now Amazon, started selling compatible pods so the cost came down.
The Creatista (old model that I have) has three buttons to determine size of coffee delivery and two buttons to determine how much froth you want in your milk and how hot it will be. At last I can get the same cup of coffee every time.
The steam wand is smart. It will do a clean cycle after you use it to unclog the nozzle. You are supposed to use a small metal jug to froth the milk. Sod that! Another thing to clean? No, I use insulated glass mugs, full fat milk and froth in the cup, then add the coffee.
But now I have evolved to a different formula. Froffing milk is for guests. I now use these 200ml insulated cups:-
I use the steam wand to clean and heat the cup. Then add two sweeteners and about 6mm deep of double cream. I use the strongest coffee pod and deliver the big cup and then the medium into the glass, then 20 seconds into the microwave to put back some of the heat and its perfect for me.
Actually, I don’t clean the cup afterwards. That’s because I steam clean and wipe with a paper towel it as I am about to use it next time.
And, I no longer suffer from spotty crema. (insert smutty comments)
With competition the price of pods has come down as variety and availability has gone up. Ignore that this week Starbucks want £3.90 for ten pods because next week it will be £2.50 in Tesco. Even in Waitrose you can get an offer around £2.50-£2.75. My favourite BTW is L’Or.
Costa, Starbucks and Nero have pods, trading on the idea that you will get t home what you buy at their establishment. I doubt it, but their pods are OK. Each supermarket does its own brands. Tesco is OK for strength 9-11 when they are on special.
Beware though. I bought some other supplier pods that turned out that 20% of the fill was freeze-dried coffee.
The bonus of the Creatista is time. You can have a quality coffee in the cup inside 30 seconds. No fiddling about with coffee grounds all over the place and the same coffee every time.
Ignore the cheesy Nespresso adverts. You are unlikely to get a two inch crema in your coffee cup but the whole concept is excellent.
Featured image: Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash
© Lugosi – feeling strangely hyper. November 2022