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Want to know more about espresso? September Imbibe Magazine then!
Want to know more about espresso? September Imbibe Magazine then!
Posted August 27, 2006 12:20am
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Shameless, absolutely shameless plug.

But an article I worked very hard on, and took over 300 photos for (I think something like 30 or more ended up being used in the feature spread - the photo to the right is one of the unused images) is now on the newstands in the September / October issue of Imbibe Magazine.

The working title was "the anatomy of espresso", but I'm not sure if it's changed or not (still haven't seen the final copy yet myself!). Many drafts too - the first was much more wordy - about 3,500 words and about 20 planned photos, but during the article "build" it was mutally decided to move it to a more visual article with much less words. Initially, I was opposed to doing a step by step how to about espresso (instead, preferring to develop a "feel for what espresso is" with words, and REALLY focusing on the Four M mantra of Italian espresso), but after a lot of discussion, I caved and a major part of the article now is a visual step by step - however, the four Ms (miscela, mano, macchina, macinzaione) are still in the article.

I think it's at least six pages, but it could be more. Again, haven't seen the final layout yet.

The article was designed with complete newbies in mind, and the "Starbucks crowd" so please, hardcore folks, forgive me ;) At one point, I even had to build a caramel macchiato (20oz no less too) to compare to a traditional macch in photos, but that ended up not being used.

But, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, and I think Karen Foley, the publisher is as well. Check it out! And if you are around the GVRD, I'll personally sign your copy with an espresso cup ring stain from a couple of shots we'll share together ;)

Here's a very short snippet of the content, to whet your appetite:

There are places in the world where espresso just happens. It’s immediate, it’s intuitive, it’s part of life. In places like Vicenza in Italy or Porto, Portugal, for example, espresso can be quick to the cup and balanced in flavor, with natural sweet and bitter notes. In these cultures, espresso is not just a drink, it’s a culinary exploration and an ode to the complex coffee bean. In Milan, for example, there’s a cafe every taxi driver will point you to – Torrafazione Il Caffé Ambrosiano – where a seasoned barista produces 20 drinks every fifteen minutes or so – macchiatos, caffé normale, caffé crème – it doesn’t matter. Each one just happens, and happens exquisitely. Home espresso can be just as artful and easy. But getting there is a journey. To make espresso “just happen” at home, it’s necessary to first understand the anatomy of the drink.

The Four M’s
In Italy, arguably the heart and soul of espresso culture, a set of simple rules steers the craft of the beverage. The process is broken down into four equally important components known as the Four M’s: macchina (espresso machine), macinzaione (grinder), miscela (coffee blend) and mano (the person making the shot).

Macchina—The Machine
There are hundreds of espresso machines on the market, ranging from $200 starter machines to $4,500 units that can do some things better than many commercial machines. When shopping for a machine, consider your budget and your goals. Are you looking for a long-term investment or a quick fix? Do you want a machine that’s simple to use or one that offers more precision? The best machines have a durable portafilter and filter basket, a good-sized boiler (up to a liter or more) and a traditional frothing wand without “convenient” gizmos. If you hit Google looking for guidance, check out consumer-written machine reviews and look for notes on durability, capability and ease of use.

Macinzaione—The Grinder
The grinder is the “roadie” of the espresso world—often overlooked, but the show couldn’t go on without it. Truth is, the grinder is just as important as the espresso machine. You can make better espresso with a $200 espresso machine and a $300 grinder than you can with a $4,500 machine and a simple blade grinder or coffee bought pre-ground. Espresso is best when its sub-processes are quick and efficient. Coffee beans should be ground mere moments before brewing, with a grind that is as uniform and as even as possible.

Miscela—The Blend
Like your favorite fruits and vegetables, coffee is seasonal. It has a short shelf life and, in its best forms, can taste wildly different depending on its origin, roast level and blend components. Visit a local roaster and try their espresso; if you like it, consider buying their beans. Or seek out artisan roasters on the Internet, where you can read espresso blend reviews written by other home espresso enthusiasts. Beans can be shipped in three days or less so, when they arrive on your doorstep, they’re often as fresh as four or five days old. Here’s another tip: if you see talk on a roaster’s website about pulling “single origin” shots (making espresso with beans from one farm) during the process of crafting their blends – those people are cutting edge, and a good bet for a great blend.

Mano—It’s All You
Even with the best equipment and the finest beans, espresso doesn’t make itself. Whether your shot is bitter or sour, or a creamy, balanced elixir with a lovely lingering aftertaste, is up to you. You’ve selected your tools. You’ve kept them clean and well maintained. You’ve bought fresh beans and ground them just moments before brewing. You’ve preheated your cups. Now it’s time to pull that perfect shot.


Anyway, I know I can't say this without people being cynical about it, but I really do think Imbibe is just a fantastic magazine, and very unique, and I'd say that even if I didn't write articles for it. The first two issues out featured everything from CoE coffees to infusing vodkas, and everything beverage in between. The very first issue had a feature on the Third Wave, with the fine folks at Ritual Cafe and Roastery in San Fran prominently featured. If you're into quality beverages (not just coffee and espresso), definitely check the mag out, and subscribe!

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