Chapter 1: From no coffee to terrible coffee
It's mid 2008. My wife, Heidi, and I are living in Brownsville, commuting to OSU in Corvallis every day. We are not
coffee drinkers. Our survival of my engineering and her biology classes consists of blending a 16 oz can of Rockstar in with a bag of frozen fruit every morning. It's healthy 'cause it's fruit.
We're renting our college home from a family friend, so we inherited quite a few appliances with the place. One day, for reasons I can't remember nor explain, we stumbled across the machine that forever changed our life. It exuded quality from every facet of being. From the delicate glass carafe (yep, I somehow broke it) to the sturdy cap that sealed in the boiling water. We found ourselves a Mr. Coffee steam powered espresso machine.
Caffé au lait, anyone? There was nothing that could keep us away from pouring pre-ground black-as-death oily beans into our new found contraption. They were fresh because they came from from those bins in the bulk section of your local warehouse grocery store (Winco, anyone?) and got freshly ground in a giant, communal Grindmaster. After making a pitcher of yummy "espresso", we'd pop in the blank portafilter disk and scald us some milk to pour into our bowl-cups. One part coffee, two parts sugar, four parts hot, bubbly milk. We knew we had reached a precipice of excellence few before us had found, because our brews tasted just like Starbucks.
Later (after breaking the aforementioned glass carafe) we upgraded to a Krups Il Caffé Duomo that we found for $5 while garage saleing(this doesn't seem to be a word. It should be a word). It could make drip coffee AND terrible burnt pressurised coffee sludge stuff... This worrisome chapter of our lives lasted the better part of a year. Its sad.
Not until we go visit my brother in Melbourne, Australia in March of 2010 do we receive our first meaningful lesson. On the way, my dad explains that he has a "burr" grinder in his suitcase that my brother just has to have.
"What's a burr grinder?"
"I don't know, but he has
to have one."
You see, my older brother, he has a pump
driven espresso machine. He explains to me the virtue of reaching the optimum pressure to release all the aromatic oils from the freshly ground beans without getting the water hot enough to burn the coffee. I'm intrigued...
We get home and pretty quickly find us a Capresso Café pump espresso machine with a Krups burr grinder for $20 for the pair on Craigslist. Score! One thing I will say for Capresso: Our unit dribbled water out of the steam wand the second you tried to steam. Being the clever chap I am, I pulled it apart and found NOTHING wrong.
. So, I called up Capresso customer service and explained that I recently acquired one of their Café units. The friendly CSR took a couple of notes and asked me for the serial number. I looked it up and rattled it off to her...
"Sir, can you please hold?"
"Can I get your shipping address? We're going to send you a new unit. Just send the old one back in the same box, there will be a prepaid shipping label in the box."
"I mean, um. Thanks!"
Talk about standing behind their product. It wasn't a good product, but still! The Capresso Café sports a thermoblock for quick warm up, and even has a valve in the water path for purging steam pressure back into the drip tray when brewing your second cup. It has a heating element in the cup warming tray and a clever cantilevered design so it looks neat. We hung on to that guy for more than a few months while we slowly added less sugar to our morning bowls of milk and coffee. A year and a half had passed since we found that Mr. Coffee steam machine. At this point, we don't know what preinfusion is. I am pretty sure pressure profiling is a fundamental principle in aerodynamic lift and necessary for flight. And our coffee is still utterly terrible...