“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
It is seriously sad how much time and thought I have put into solving what I’ll call my “coffee conundrum”. Ever since I discovered what real, fresh roasted and ground, single-pulled espresso tasted like it opened my eyes, and my palate, to a world of what can only be described as coffee snobbery. While I used to happily consume Starbucks or Caribou lattes with all of their yummy flavor syrups, I was forced to realize that those sugary syrups just mask the fact that the actual coffee in the drink is very blah. I longed for the delicate, smooth, fresh, almost floral and berry-like flavor of the perfect bean!
It was the local Dogwood Coffee (served many places in the Twin Cities, my favorites are at the Dogwood Cafe in Uptown, Rustica Bakery near Lake Calhoun, and Yo-Yo Donuts in Minnetonka) that convinced me of this truth. So, upon experiencing this latte enlightenment I would trek over to one of these spots at least weekly for just a taste of this sweet nectar. This had a negative impact in that: (1) I was going broke on my latte habit, because undoubtedly you cannot stop at Rustica or Yo-Yo with kids in tow without purchasing a few sweets (if you wonder, the butter cake or vanilla bean scone at Rustica are our faves, and the maple bacon donut or the simply airy plain glazed donut at Yo-Yo) and (2) it’s not exactly a low cal habit I had going either.
So, I began in-depth research online for a way to make awesome coffee at home, where it would be more convenient, less expensive (I hoped!) and unaccompanied by the caloric sides of baked treats. What I learned is that it is darned hard to make a good espresso at home — especially if you are not trained in the ways of a barista (I’m not) and if you don’t want to drop a few thousand on the pro-style equipment (I don’t).
What was recommended is a simple and manual approach to a good, strong cup of coffee that could be espresso like in its bold but smooth flavor and crema. Several sources also encouraged the home brewer to invest in a good grinder, as that might make more of a difference than the coffee machine itself. It was through this research that I learned about the Aerobie AeroPress coffee press and the Acaso i-Mini burr grinder. I let my family know about it and received these as a birthday present. I even got the Aerolatte milk frothing wand, a small, battery-operated wand that froths warm milk to add to your coffee – a must if I really wanted to replicate the coffee shop experience (and I did). And voila, my first attempt at home-brewed coffee was an unqualified success!
The Acaso is great because it grinds such a fine and even texture, which results in a better tasting coffee or espresso, it seemed like the best in its class for the price (at $250 it is not cheap, but worth it if it doesn’t break or give me trouble). The AeroPress is excellent because unlike other presses or fancy espresso machines it is easy to use AND easy to clean, and did I mention it is $25?!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still visit our usual haunts as a special treat, but at least now I can get a coffee first thing in the morning that doesn’t involve having to dress and make myself semi-presentable to leave the house. 🙂