This morning I was walking from the Lion Bookshop and Café (the oldest English bookstore in Roma) down near the Spanish Steps to the Scuderie del Quirinale for the magnificent Roma, La Pittura di un Impero exhibition. I took a short cut and as I walked past a very ordinary side-street cafe these implements caught my eye.
Before sachet packets and stylish George-Clooney-sleek power machines came into play these were the tools required for a perfect cup of caffeinated goodness: a hand grinder for the beans, a boiler, a hand puller and a metal vessel for heating and frothing the milk.
A few facts to assist if you were hand pulling your espresso:
- The Beans should be ground just before use.
- A dark roast is preferable though only in Southern Italy is it holy writ.
- Only the freshest water should be used and I have been assured by my friend Marco that the calcium loaded water here in Roma makes the best espresso.
- The equipment should be warmed before use.
- 7 oz of fine grind coffee should make a single 1-1.5 oz shot – 14 oz for a longo
- The grounds should be tamped into the portafilter with 20-50 pounds (depending on the grind) of pressure to make a compact cake for the water to flow through.
- The water should not be boiling but almost – 195F
- The water should be forced through the grinds at a high pressure – 135 PSI
- It should take between 23-28 seconds to extract the coffee – anything less or longer and the grind is wrong or an adjustment in tamping is necessary.
- There should be a dark golden brown crema floating on top
Can you imagine if today’s Barista at one of those – god help me – chains had to hand pull their espressos?
And to all anyone who recoils in horror from a shot of espresso after dinner or tells you how they would never sleep if they did that: a 30 mL (1 fluid ounce) shot of espresso has about half the caffeine of a standard 180 mL (6 fluid ounce) cup of drip brewed coffee. And if you think the coffee will keep you awake then have a shot of grappa or amaro to go with it.
12 decembre – Santa Giovanna Francesca Frémiot de Chantal