Friday, February 10, 2012

The Espresso Machine

This tale begins in Brazil, winter time. I mean winter on the north hemisphere. Naturally it was summer in South-America, where we fled to escape the peak of Canada's cold (turns out that the winter was not that bad this year). Anyway, my wife and I were in vacations visiting our relatives there. While my wife went to the north-east part of the country, I had to go to the the capital of Minas-Gerais state, the city of Belo Horizonte. There is where my younger sister has being living.

I won't say that I do not appreciate a good espresso coffee, I'm more like a tea kind of guy. But even someone as inexperienced as I am, have to admit, that there is something rather pleasant in the taste of a good coffee extracted by a skilled barista. That was sure the case when we went to a coffee shop called KahlĂșa. By the recommendation of my brother-in-law, as well as my sister, I tasted two 'single origin' ('sigle origin' being in opposition of 'blends' as I learned from them). The first one called Araponga and the other one being Sul-de-Minas Especial(South of Minas Gerais Special), to be more precise we tasted the later first. I may fail to describe the sensation of smelling the 'exquisite' aroma, a mixing of the brew and the freshly roasted beans. They where roasting the coffee while we are at the store.  All that I can say is that the coffees were amazing, no bitter nor soar, just perfect. So much so that I couldn't help my self but to buy right away two packets. One to myself, my wife and dog (you have to know the dog to understand), and the other one for a couple of friends who were 'dog sitting' our little cockapoo. It is worth mentioning that the beans were medium roasted, packed and sealed as we were in the store. This allows to preserve most of the characteristics of the coffee, I suppose.

All very well, except by the fact that, we didn't have the grinder to get a coffee powder, nor the espresso machine to brew it into something worth drinking. Returning to Toronto the first thing I did was to look for machines and learn a little bit about the art of espresso making. Well, there is a plethora of ways to brew coffee and a lot of different types of machines to do espresso variants. The choice of a particular type of machine will depend, as we learned, on how much you want to be involved in the process of coffee making. Tt can range from completely manual to fully automated ones. In some matters, as food and beverages, I like to be in control of the preparation whenever is possible, or at least be part of it. Besides of the fact that, I don't classify myself as gourmet, I like to fancy of being a reasonable cook. So I decided to venture into this new endeavour of espresso making.

After some googling around, I settled for the Rancillio Silvia espresso machine and the
Baratza Vario grinder. The main reasons being, the good reviews of both machines in several sites like CoffeGeek (, as well as the bundle was in the budget we had available. I located a store ( in Mississauga (a city nearby Toronto)  which have this particular combination in a promotional package, along with some accessories and 1Kg of coffee beans. The first Saturday, just after arriving home, we went there. I must say that I was very impressed by the store, that turns out being much larger than I expected. The person who took care of us there was very kind and knowledgeable. We had the opportunity to test the machines on the spot, clarify some doubts and taste coffees. Needless to say, we bought the package and other stuff we deemed necessary to complete the espresso experience. These included: a calibrated tamper, a knock box, some 'vacuum' sealed containers for the beans and a new water filter. In the picture bellow you can see how the two machines are happily installed in our dining room.

Rancilio Silvia and Baratza Vario

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