Nothing in this blog is presented as gospel or truth. Taste by definition is subjective. I don’t pretend to be an expert, and I don’t pretend to have a definitive palate. In fact, it was made very clear to me recently that I am still very much a dilettante when it comes to a coffee palate, but that will be the subject of another post sometime soon.
Let me try to explain what I like, and hopefully why.
The first time I had real espresso was on a trip with a few families to Sicily in my late 30s, where we stood at a simple bar and slurped down shockingly delicious little muddy cups. The caffeine fueled oomph was completely unlike the unappealing, flavorless drip/filter coffee I’d experienced growing up in the pre-Starbucks era (way back WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH). I still don’t drink ‘regular’ coffee for that reason; no judgment if you like it, I just need the rocket fuel. And of course I’ll cover Starbucks at some point soon, but let’s just say I’m not a fan.
I didn’t start drinking coffee regularly until about 10 years ago. Lattes were my gateway drink, but with so much milk the coffee taste was often overwhelmed, and a couple a day were way too filling.
So eventually I graduated to the macchiato (hence the url above). All the caffeine thrill of super-strong espresso, with a little bit of milk foam or steamed milk to take the edge off. I don’t add sugar or sweeteners.
The past couple years I started sliding willingly down the rabbit hole. A good friend had a beautiful espresso machine at home, along with a high-end grinder, and I started learning a lot from him, including recommendations on some great coffee shops and good roasters.
At home we had a Nespresso machine, which was a good way to get a consistently decent espresso. It was great, was gorgeous to look at and took up very little counter space, but I wanted a way to try different beans without going so far as a huge expensive set up. I did a little research, and ended up getting an AeroPress manual coffee maker, which is a neat little feat of engineering, and a small Porlex hand grinder (don’t let that link shock you; I’m not sure what currency they’re using, but I’m not insane). While the AeroPress made a great, strong cup of coffee, it’s not possible to make a real espresso with it because the human hand can’t generate the pressure necessary to develop the crema, or murky brown layer of foam on top. One nice thing the AeroPress and Porlex offered was portability, so I could make a nice cup in the office or if I were traveling someplace (another topic I hope to return to another day). I also try out coffee places wherever I travel, as seen in the directory of coffee purveyors in the post tagged at the top of the blog.
One time in a coffee shop I saw a neat little glass coffee cup with a cork ring about it and a sippy cup top. Portable and easily reusable, so I bought a KeepCup (my review) and now bring it with me everywhere. It helps baristas remember me when I come back, and while I guess it’s nice not to waste disposable cups, I just like the look and feel of the thing. Also works a trick with the AeroPress.
A year ago I bought a high-end grinder for home (entirely by coincidence, the same one as my friend had). I soon after started getting the itch for my own espresso machine, particularly since our Nespresso and its need for 220v didn’t make the cut when we moved back to the US from overseas.
I started looking around at various models, but the price point for something decent was just too much for my comfort. One day recently I was looking through the on-line catalog for my credit card points, and lo and behold I had more than enough points built up to grab the machine I wanted most (the Breville Infuser my review).
So I’m now learning the ropes of using an espresso machine, devouring instructional youtube videos from Seattle Coffee Gear and others, trying to figure out the milk steamer (no latte art yet), and having fun with all the various doodads and knick-knacks that come along with owning it.
As I said at the top, I don’t have the detailed palate by any means, so I can’t pick out tasting notes of different fruits or grains or florals or what have you. I don’t have the most developed vocab here, but overall I’m more partial to the robust tastes, perhaps more along the traditional Italian style, and I’ll always like tastes that are more toward chocolate than more of a super ‘clean’ taste. Another reason I’ll prefer espressos and macchiatos to pourover coffee, which is a big thing now, and why I find some cold brews underwhelming.
Sorry for a TL;DR, but I hope that helps mark my ground and explain some of what I hope to be posting here.