Has the everyday monotonous routine of life getting you down? The tedious pattern of work, the drudgery, the rut, the rat race. Italians working laboriously (lavorare sodo) look for a brief escape from the daily grind in a perfectly ground cup of espresso.
Al solito tran tran (the usual routine) the monotonous work of life, is always made better with a good cup of espresso. Problems and small worries seem to disappear into the crema. But to make a life-changing cup of coffee you need the right grind of beans to release the aroma and flavor, the bitterness and mellowness that provides a lingering, satisfying aftertaste – an espresso inspired metaphor for life.
According to Ernesto Illy, president of Illycaffe’ and a chemist by training, texture (i.e. grind) counts. Espresso is not made with coffee that has been ground to a powder. The espresso grind should feel like fine sand, smooth to the touch. Slightly finer than granulated sugar. Illy’s analysis after studying the passage of water through coffee with a supercomputer is that “there should be 35 million particles of coffee per gram“.
Here are a few precision machines recommended to ensure the perfect grind size. All will cost a hundred or so dollars but worth the investment if you are serious about your caffe‘.
- the semi-commercial grinder by Anfim – several sites like the Coffee Geek consider it to be one of the best
- the Illy Baratza Maestro grinder – described by Gear Patrol as being at the beginning of the “prosumer range”, Baratza grinders are known for their excellent grind consistency; I have a this grinder, it is fast and relatively quiet with no mess; good quality blade for the money
- Capresso Infinity – another burr grinder by Illy that “cuts” the beans into a perfect grind
- the Rancilio Rocky Doser – legendary heavy-duty motor; designed to dispense the ground coffee directly into your espresso machine portafitler
When we think about the color of coffee we think about warm brown, deep rich chocolate or dark espresso but the birth of the bean begins green.
Green coffee beans arrive at the roasting facility in large burlap bags to begin a life changing process that will alter their taste, color and aroma making them into a world-wide cultural icon. When roasted, the green coffee beans expand and change in color, taste, smell, and density. Sugars begin to caramelize; colors begin to change from light to golden brown, to medium brown, dark chocolate then black. Science and art combine to bring the best characteristics out of each bean. Dark espresso roasts maximize the sweetness and aroma while minimizing the bitterness and acidity. Italian roasters like Lavazza and Illy seem to be able to coax the best of the beans creating a true metamorphosis.
Good ideas like ground coffee don’t last very long. Coffee-maker importer Jack Grieve talks about the Rule of Threes -“Green beans last for three years. Roasted beans last for three weeks. Ground beans last for three minutes.” Fresh ground beans make all the difference in the quality of the coffee but their aroma and flavor don’t last very long.
So what about good ideas – how long do they last? According to Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation, our creativity sometimes grows in leaps and bounds. So if you have a good idea or intention, don’t let it sit around too long. Take it to the next step. Models of organizational leadership show that a lot of us spend time working on a good idea and then take very little time working out the best way to implement them.
Gone off ideas don’t move us forward and stale beans don’t make good coffee.
It takes 42 beans to make an espresso. But before the beans begin their grind to end up in your cup they follow a developmental process of growth and maturation that rivals an epic saga.
With ideal conditions, it takes 5 to 8 weeks for germinated coffee bean seedlings to make their way to the surface of the soil. 6 months later they are transplanted to the coffee plantation. Within 9 to 18 months the coffee tree will only be about 12 inches tall. It will take another 5 or 6 years for the coffee seed to grow to full maturity, producing its first full crop of coffee berries. The life span of a coffee tree is 20 -25 years.
Respect the bean.