Coffee Break

Espresso Romano

When life gives you lemons, I guess make lemonade. When your friend gives you fresh Meyer lemons from their garden you should do something better, probably. 

Meyer lemons are native to China and are thought to be a cross between oranges and lemons. They are sweeter than run of the mill lemons and have a depth of flavor that is citrusy with pronounced herbal and floral notes. The skin is thinner and softer, and the fruit is incredibly juicy. The subdued tartness and complexity of flavor makes the Meyer lemon perfect for espresso Romano.

Espresso Romano (Roman espresso) is espresso with a twist of lemon zest and a little lemon juice. Awkwardly, it is actually not done in Rome (or Italy) at all. I asked several of my Italian friends from various parts of Italy and none of them had ever heard of it. The closest thing I found in Italy was moretta fanese which is a coffee based drink that features the lemon twist but aso anise, rum, and brandy. My friend Marco says this is a drink for sailors and seemed to think I'm too much of a featherweight to drink it. He's probably right. 

Preparing espresso Romano is pretty simple. Pull a shot or two of espresso (use a moka pot if you don't have an espresso machine) and serve with a twist of Meyer lemon and sugar. You can also squeeze a bit of the lemon juice into the demitasse and rub a bit around the rim. That little bit of lemon adds brightness to the espresso and softens the bitterness somewhat. It also looks classy. So sit back, enjoy a break in the afternoon, and enjoy. 

Meyer Lemons (preserves) PS-20.jpg

Serve with Perrier sparking water

Pair with Unstoppable, Lianne La Havas

Latté de Calabaza

I was talking with a friend the other day about how excited we both are about fall arriving. It didn't take long before the ubiquitous Pumpkin Spice Latte was mentioned. "I really like pumpkin spice lattes," she confessed. "But I don't feel like I should be judged for that." Call me basic, but I totally agree. The truth is, the pumpkin spice latte has reigned as fall's most popular beverage because it's freakin' delicious, and there should be no shame in enjoying it. Besides, who's going to tell you you can't like it? A bunch of white girls on Instagram drinking matcha lattes? Por favor

That said, don't go crazy. Pumpkin spice is delicious in some things, but that does not mean it should be put into all things. Pumpkin Spice salsa, Pumpkin Spice tortilla chips, Pumpkin Spice juice (whatever that is), Pumpkin Spice crackers, Pumpkin Spice "butter spread", Pumpkin Spice peanut butter, Pumpkin Spice beer, Pumpkin Spice soda. Stop it. 

Without a doubt the greatest of all pumpkin spice treats is the pumpkin spice latte, but not the one from Starbucks which, by the way, is really, really bad for you. A 16oz PSL from Starbucks has 50 grams of sugar (that's 1/4 of a cup!), 240 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of total fat (8 of them being saturated fat, 40% of your recommended daily intake according to the label, and that's if you use 2% milk), and over 20 different ingredients, some of them less than natural. Just to avoid the insane amounts of sugar alone I would make this at home. And lucky for us, it's pretty easy to do. All you need is pureed pumpkin and a pumpkin pie spice blend. Now you can use a store bought spice spend but if you want it to be amazing it only takes about 5 minutes to make your own.

For this blend I used all spice, pumpkin seeds, cloves, black pepper corns, nutmeg, Mexican cinnamon, and fresh ground ginger. (NOTE: Mexican cinnamon is more like tree bark than a ridged stick and will break down much easier in your spice grinder than other kinds of cinnamon.) Place all your spices in a dry pan and toast on medium low for about a minute, or until fragrant and toasted (be careful not to get them too dark or burn any of the spices).

Next put your toasted spices in a spice grinder and and blend until well combined.

Pumpkin Spice WK - PS-7.jpg

Next, the coffee. For this to be delicious you just need good coffee, for this to be a latté you need an espresso machine. We'll get into that in another post.  If you don't have an espresso machine, don't sweat it, try using a moka pot. It's the closest you will get to espresso without laying down some serious cash. If you don't have one of those, just use your regular coffee maker.

Once you have your coffee ready,  mix about a tablespoon or so of your spice blend into one can of pumpkin puree and about a two teaspoons of vanilla extract and sauté for a few minutes until slightly darker and most of the squashy taste of the pumpkin is gone. Remember that pumpkin is a vegetable and definitely tastes like one until you doctor it up. 

Pumpkin Spice WK - PS-11.jpg

Next, blend some of this mixture with your espresso or hot coffee. If you have an espresso machine, steam your milk and your done. If you don't, warm your milk and mix in the blender with the coffee and pumpkin mixture until well combined. Now sit back, relax and enjoy. 

Serve with Topo Chico mineral water

Pair with Love Somebody, Ta-Ku + Wafia, (m)edian EP

Renato Bialetti

Renato Bialetti died today at age 93. 

Renato Bialetti (the son of Alfonso Bialetti, inventor of the Moka Express in 1933) died today at age 93. I wouldn't have known about it but for my friend Marco (we'll see if he'll share some amazing Italian recipes with us later on in the blog). I was having a coffee this afternoon, and using my Bialetti Moka Express when Marco gave me a call. I had sent him a picture of the Moka Express a few minutes earlier. "Ah! So perché mi hai mandato questa foto" (I know why you sent me that photo) He said, "Bialetti!

Since I had know idea what he was talking about, he then sent me this article from Corriere della Sera (it's in Italian, but if you can read it I recommend it) which talks about the Bialetti family and their impact on home brewed coffee and style. While Renato didn't create the design (his father did) he was really the one who pioneered the business and make it popular worldwide.

La moka di Renato Bialetti, a suo modo assolutamente innovativa, è diventata un’icona in tutto il mondo, tanto da essere esposta come un’opera di design al Moma di New York e alla Triennale di Milano.
Renato Bialetti's Moka, and its absolutely innovative way [of making coffee], has become a worldwide icon and is to be exhibited as a design work at the MOMA in New York and Milan's Triennale.

Soon I will have a tutorial on how to use the Moka Express, but for tonight we will remember the family who created the brilliant device. 

Pour Over Coffee

If you have been Instagram for longer than 5 minutes, you have seen pour over coffee.

Pour over coffee is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It's simple to do at home, requires minimal equipment, and produces a great cup of coffee, which is probably why people have been using the pour over brewing method for over a century.

The first time I experienced pour over coffee was in London in an Honduran girl's house with two Argentine guys (most of what happens in my life sound like the start of a bar joke, welcome aboard). My buddy Adri asked if I wanted coffee and after a midnight flight from Spain, a two hour bus ride into town and a contemptibly short nap, I was quick to accept. He proceeded to make a pot of pour over coffee using a cloth bag and a stove top pan. "What in the world is that?" I thought. "I guess they make coffee like tea in England." Wrong. But I learned, that's the important thing. 

So let's make some coffee! First off, equipment. You are going to need the coffee dripper, a coffee filter, something to pour the water from, and I highly recommend a coffee grinder.

For the dripper, I love the Hario V60 which you can get on Amazon for about $15. There are metal, ceramic, and glass coffee drippers, choose whichever you like best as they will all produce a great cup of coffee.

Let's talk for a second about grinders and why you should get one. You can use a simple blade grinder not only for pour over but for regular drip and French press as well. I promise you will noticeably taste the difference in your coffee if you grind your own beans at home versus buying pre-ground. Plus, who doesn't love the smell of fresh ground coffee? You can get the Krups blade grinder I'm using today for about $20 on Amazon. 

As far as pouring the water, nothing special is needed. Most professionals will use a gooseneck kettle because it gives you a lot of control while pouring the water and will evenly brew the coffee (it also looks cool on Instagram). These will run for between $35 and $70, so if you don't want to shell out the extra cash just to pour water, a tea kettle or literally anything else that will pour the water and has a relatively thin spout will work just fine.

For the filter, you can use paper or cloth. Paper is easier to find and clean up, plus you don't have to worry about flavor contamination or molding as you do with cloth filters. There are filters specially designed to fit pour over drippers, but your standard coffee filter will work just fine.

Set up your coffee dripper on top of your cup or coffee receptacle and put the filter in place. Before you add the coffee, pour some of the hot water through the filter. This will eliminate any papery taste from the filter and also warm up your coffee cup.

Grind your coffee (about two tablespoons of whole beans for one individual cup should be fine) and place into coffee filter, using a brush if needed to get the coffee out of the grinder. You want a relatively coarse grind that will feel gritty like sand to the touch.

Slowly pour the water over the coffee, moving the spout around in a circle to evenly drench all the coffee. 

At this point the coffee will rise to the top. Stop pouring the coffee and wait about 30 seconds. You will see bubbles in the coffee and it will look kind of foamy, this is called "bloom" and is caused by the releasing of carbon dioxide gas when the ground coffee reacts with the hot water. The fresher your coffee, the more "bloom" you will see.

Continue slowly pouring the water over the coffee, pausing as needed to allow the water to drip down into the cup, until you have finished brewing.

One of the great things about pour over is that you can make a single cup and not waste any coffee. To really get a great coffee experience, try buying whole beans at your local roaster (ask the barista for help if you aren't sure what kind to get). If you want to order online, Madcap is one of my favorites. They have a great selection of seasonal coffees and ship the day after roasting ensuring that everything is really fresh. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the coffee.

Serve with breakfast, pastries, or your favorite book

Pair with American Girl, Ta-Ku fr. Wafia