Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My husband, My barista

The coffee in Italy was really, really awesome. I loved how you could walk into any locally owned bar, and get a wonderful cup of cappucino or espresso or latte -- it was always perfectly smooth, perfectly hot, perfectly SCRUMPTIOUS -- and you didn't have to go to some overpriced chain to get it. The coffee in France and Spain was good, but it was not divine like it was in Italia.

Also, staying in a native Italian's home also showed us how coffee is simple and delicious there, too -- no Italian would stand for bad coffee, but with their low per capita income, neither can they all afford the big impressive machines they have in all the bars.

Every Italian home has a small, 2 cylinder coffee maker, that makes perfect "short coffee" (espresso) on your stovetop. There is no Mr Coffee drip machine. In the mornings, they simply heat a pan of milk along side the espresso to dilute the strong yet smooth brew, and later in the day they drink it straight, with a little zucchero. Anthony knew he had to have one of these when we returned. It is a little boiler, after all!

Anyone who knows my husband knows he gets very passionate about certain subjects - alternative energy, wine, and coffee for sure. Upon returning home, Anthony spent countless hours researching the best espresso makers. He also found an ingenious, cheap device for making the foamy milk. He researched coffee beans - why Italian blends are so smooth, what are good brands, how to load the filter but not pack it... It bordered on obsession. Here are the results:

On the left you see the milk foamer, an aluminum vessel that heats the milk on the stove, then with a butterchurning paddle, whips it up into shaving cream foam. In the center is the classic espresso maker, and on the right, a small assortment of Italian grinds Anthony bought to try.

Last night he made me a large cappucino. It was sublime. It was warm, smooth, foamy. After a couple of sips, I asked if it was caffeinated, and of course it was, but he assured me I didn't have to drink it all, he just wanted me to try it. As if I could resist such a perfect beverage! The milk was all thick and creamy and warm, not thin or diluted like sometimes happens in the steam foaming process. Changing the texture of the milk makes it so much better. And the coffee was dark but smooth, no bitter aftertaste, and tempting as the silver tongued devil. I drank it ALL, and stayed up until midnight as punishment.

So the next time you come to my house, let us whip you up a dreamy sip of Italy. Then you, too, can benefit from hours of meticulous research.


Grandad said...

Aren't we lucky, we already have the two-tier coffee maker! We need to find a milk whipper.....and some Italian style beans.
Sounds great and looking forward to enjoying Anth's brew.

Sinda said...


First off, it was nice to see you all yesterday - because of course, we cannot go to the pediatrician's without running into each other! How are Colin's hives? Hazel does indeed have a staph. infection, so we got more antibiotics, a stronger steroid cream, and the names of some dermatologists to visit.

Then Kristina said she ran into you across the street - you just missed Lisa, I had invited them both to meet us at the playground to further exhaust my tired and irascible children. it worked like a charm - Hazel slept from 6:00 PM on.

OK, now on to my main point. When we lived in Houston, there were three coffee shops on West gray within a mile of one another. Two Starbucs (across the street from each other, no less) and a Segafredo Zanetti. We eschewed the Starbucks in favor of the latter, have no doubt. Wow, was it good - just as you describe. This was pre-children, of course, so we could go at anytime, and linger as long as we liked. Usually right before going to see a movie across the street. Ok, now I'm getting a little sad - those were good times!

Thanks for reminding me - and enjoy your brew.


Emily said...

I love that he does all the research because then I can benefit! But alas, I have no husband barista, nor extra time in the morning to make my own coffee, so I visit the "overpriced chain."

messymama said...

I can't wait to try the coffee!! I'm sad we missed you at Central Market, hope Colin is all better. B.t.w. I laughed when I read the packaging on the salmon burgers. It says "Allergy information: contains fish."

EdamameMommy said...

Well, yes, I like the bialetti coffee maker too, but not as much as my espresso machine. That milk device looks like a GREAT Christmas gift for ALL your relatives...hint, hint.

Now the sad news...the Segafredo cafe in Houston is closed. It was the place our italian coffee maker friends in Dallas (Torrefazione, also shut down) recommended when we moved here. So sad...

And for a little glimmer on the horizon: I just ordered some blends from after reading an article in the NYT about them. I'll report back if it's worth the shipping charges!