Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who Needs Starbucks?

It's probably a good thing, for my wallet and my waist, that there isn't a Starbucks conveniently down the road. The closest few are about 25 minutes away - just beyond reasonable justification. When I was younger, one of my first jobs was as a barista at one of the local shops and to be honest, I loved it! The free drinks and coffee were great perks, but I loved the people! It was fast-paced, fun and really let you get to know the locals. I mean when you're up to open a coffee shop at 5 am, you very quickly get to know everyone in need of caffeine!
I've always wanted to have an espresso machine of my own. You know the really pretty silver, retro looking ones? I have a little spot picked out right on my counter. The problem is, they are just so darn expensive! Until I can convince my husband that it's a necessary purchase - similar to his record machine repairs or his surround sound recently - I'm using an inexpensive model that I got as a gift a while ago.
It's a little espresso machine that has two features - brew or steam. There are no buttons and it's as basic as basic can be. But it works! It's taken me a little bit of practising to get silky smooth foam but I think I've finally mastered it.
I figured I would do a little tutorial on how to make a simple latte for anyone who has a machine collecting dust on their counter. Or, even for those of you who spend a decent amount on coffee each morning, when you could just make your own. I know that sounds absolutely ludicrous, but think of all the money you'd be saving... then think about that list of fabulous vintage things you've been waiting to get. Mhmmm. I know. Makes, it a little easier to swallow.
Anyway, here it is! It's super easy, it just takes a few tries.
So, first, pick out some coffee beans in a very dark roast. I always pick Starbucks Espresso Roast. Make sure it's ground for an espresso machine! I get mine from Walmart in the States because it's honestly less than half the price for a pound of coffee, then if you purchased it from Starbucks here in Canada. It already comes ground, but for a drip coffee maker, so I just whirl it around in my food processor a few times.
Add the appropriate level of grinds to your machine (mine is in a little handled holder) and lock in place. Make sure the machine is full of water and that the espresso pot is in place as well. Once everything is good to go, fill a 2 cup measuring glass or a proper milk foaming pitcher, with about 3/4 cup of milk. I typically use 1% milk but the higher the fat content, the denser your foam.
When the machine is ready to start steaming, place your pitcher under the steam wand (careful to avoid touching it since it's so hot) and begin steaming your milk. Once your milk starts bubbling away, slowly lower the pitcher just enough until the crazy bubbling turns into a quieter sucking sound. Continue for a minute or so (you'll feel the milk heating up) before you stop steaming. Then, set your milk aside and brew your shot of espresso.
While brewing your espresso, pour your hot milk (holding back the foam with a spoon) into your cup. Fill it about 2/3 of the way.

Working quickly, so your shot doesn't spoil, pour the shot of espresso into the cup.

Next, gently fold over your foam a few times to make it silkier, and then spoon it on top of your latte.

Tada! A perfect latte in minutes, right from the comfort of your own home. You can work on some variations too, like adding flavoured syrups to your cup before adding your milk making it a flavoured latte. Or, add some chocolate syrup to it for a mocha. My favourite is a pump of vanilla and some caramel drizzle on top for a Caramel Machiatto (which, by the way, only means the shot of espresso is poured through the foam). To make it a cappuchino, just do a about 1/4 milk, a shot of espresso and the rest foam. It's really a lot of fun - and makes your morning coffee that much more exciting. Plus, what a fabulous way to end a dinner party! And, as for the machine, I've seen some for about $50 at a Target or something similar. It will pay for itself in 2 weeks if you get a latte each day from Starbucks!

Anyway, try one! Before you know it you'll be able to whip up even the most intimidating orders:

- solo grande, non-fat, extra-hot, light foam, caramel drizzle latte anyone? Sadly, that's actually my usual.

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Thanks for leaving your comments! I always love reading them. - Maria