Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Espresso Machine

Yesterday I cleaned out the espresso machine (BRIEL ES35A) I bought from Harrods. Yes you heard me right. I bought an espresso machine from Harrods! It's definitely an idiotic thing to do but I had just arrived in London and the few people I knew were not helping me at all with their suggestions on where I could buy things - normal things like Melitta paper filters and non-electric Melitta coffee makers.

I didn't want to buy a generic coffee machine because those things have random grooves on them that make the coffee filter too quickly and you end-up with coffee that tastes like mud. A lot of people don't seem to realize this but you can make pretty good coffee with a paper filter if you have the right contraptions and pour the hot water over them with some sense of 'craft'. Depending on the type of ground coffee you can get your hands on, i.e. the type of beans, how they've been roasted and how coarsely or finely they've been ground - it can even taste better made this way than with an espresso machine, because an espresso machine also performs optimally with certain types of coffee beans roasted in a specific way and ground in a certain way.

You need to pay attention to detail when making coffee but since I can't be bothered to be on a mission from God to make the ultimate brew, I almost always settle for a coffee that's drinkable by my standards (which means it doesn't taste like mud) and this can be made via a Melitta non-electric coffee maker or my espresso machine.

Back in Tokyo I found purely by accident a funny little coffee/tea shop near Inadazutsumi Station on the Nambu line, that was owned by a former captain of the Honda motor racing team. Unlike me, he was on a mission from God to make the ultimate brew and his beans were picked, roasted and ground (or you could buy the whole beans) to perform optimally with a Melitta non-electric coffee maker and filter. This man imported blue mountain peaberry beans which he personally sorted out by hand and had a coffee manufacturer roast them to his specifications and sold them in his little store - just so he could drink it himself.

Because he wasn't making this coffee for commercial purposes and the store was just a way for him to help him indulge himself in this expensive habit of his, he sold his coffee beans for I'd say rock bottom prices considering what you were getting.

For years I only bought his coffee and made them with my Melitta contraptions but when I went away to London I ended-up buying an espresso machine because I couldn't for the life of me find a non-electric Melitta coffee maker in London and until I found Carluccio's, I bought my beans from Maison Blanc downstairs from my studio in St. John's Wood High Street. The only blend they had I could endure drinking was their Parisienne Blend.

Anyhow my move to Spain was a painful one riddled with 'incidents' and by the time I took my espressso machine out of its box, it wasn't working anymore. It was only a few years later when I found the right kind of limescale remover that I was able to get the machine up and running again.

I made this cup of coffee with a local coffee called Santa Christina and I have to say that although it's drinkable it's not my favorite blend at all. You can't really buy Lavazza here and although Bonka's Italian Blend was kind of nice - at least much better than Santa Christina, Nestlé have replaced most of their coffee beans on the shelf with....Nescafe instant coffee now, so it's back to Santa Christina.

For those of you who have never heard of Bonka, it's a coffee brand that used to be owned by the Spanish government that Nestlé bought-out.

Sometimes I have to say I miss having the extra income I used to have - the kind of income that ensured that it was going to be no big deal to mail order coffee beans from the other side of the world or just walk into Harrods and buy an espresso machine. Oh, well - unless you're a billionaire, you can't have everything and I wanted to live by the sea and this is what I had to give-up to move to this place near the beach...


Anonymous said...

I seriously need a machine, I have been hooked on the convenience of "blendy" coffee but a huge coffee snob... I should really, really get one... any suggestions?

Dorte said...

This is my first visit you your blog ... very nice and appetizing :-)
I understand your coffee problems. If you ever go to Fuengirola there is a small Coffee/Tea Shop in the MercaCentro with a quite good selection of coffees to buy - but no Lavazzo.

Murasaki Shikibu said...

Girl Japan: Maybe a Briel just like mine? j/k

Dorte: Thank you for leaving a comment. I do love it when people take the time to say hi to me here. :) Also thank you for the information. I think I know which one you mean. It's the one near the RENFE station right - in the indoor shopping center where they have vegetables stalls that sell parsnips and rutabaga?

Dorte said...

Yes it's located in the roundabout next to Renfe. The center is in two floors - upstairs they sell all kinds of food and downstairs it is more like a mix of souvenirs, health products and the coffee/tea shop. I think the owner is Swedish actually.

Murasaki Shikibu said...

Dorte: My partner's mother might be interested in their coffees as she gets a bad stomach from Santa Christina. She's not a fussy person so I think the coffee really doesn't agree with her. We'll maybe go on a shopping trip there next week and she can discuss local coffees with the Swedish owner. This is great since she only speaks Swedish. :)