The Art of Coffee Making
by Sudha Hamilton
I stand before my three espresso machines like a conductor before his orchestra. Two are gurgling out hot black liquid and one is issuing forth vaporous steam. The aroma is sweet and aromatic. My hands move swiftly to cease the flow on my machine to the left, and then the one on the right, before bringing up my stainless steel jug of milk to froth at the spout of my central machine. The air is pierced by a high pitch scream, as the steam meets chilled white milk, and then I plunge it further in.
Frothing is an Art form in itself, warming the milk with hand cupping my little jug’s posterior, to sense the temperature of the contents within. Here, I am seeking the Goldilocks moment – the not too hot, not too cold, but just right moment – to end the frothing process. Setting my cups before me, and visually appreciating the crema within each ceramic vessel, I begin to pour slowly the frothy viscous milk. As it tops each cup, forming involuntary heart shapes, I smile to see a job well done, and call out, “darling, your coffee’s ready!” The day has begun.
I often think back, to my dear old mum and dad, and their appalling Nescafe, instant coffee. Especially when I am carefully scooping espresso roasted Arabica beans into my grinder and then timing my grind to perfection, before tamping the grind into the basket of my hand held portafilter and locking it into place within the machine. Then taking my warmed cups I humbly set them beneath the dual orifices of my stainless steel portafilter and then switch on the pressured flow. Yes it is at this time I think about how mum would just unscrew the lid of the jar, take a teaspoon of granulated, disgusting instant coffee and drop it in the cup. Pour the boiled kettle of water over and then a slurp of cold milk, and bingo bango, it was all done. Dreadful concoction but a speedy birth just the same.
I suppose this contrast is at the heart of where we stand today – with the white good’s gadgets lined up, before us, and processed, pre-packaged, fast foods decking the groaning supermarket shelves. An army of white coated, lab infesting, technical engineers, who are obsessively inventing time saving devices and’ just add water,’ developed at NASA, meals. You can have instant anything, but where do all these short cuts lead to? They lead to bland, unappetising, food, and ultimately to poor health.
So we turn back the clock and take the time to make something properly, like maybe our grandfathers did – maybe? We can embrace the central premise of the slow food movement, and lovingly grind our beans, froth our milk and warm our cups. For this is the Art of coffee making after all.