Articles From Whole Latte Love

Confessions of an Espresso Novice: Part I

Posted: 05/27/04

I came home one day and was greeted by a stainless steel beast on my kitchen counter. To its left stood a smaller machine, guarding the first like a sentinel, Rancilio Silvia and Rockyand scattered around I saw other vaguely familiar objects: a stainless steel pitcher, large glass bottles full of colored syrups, bags of coffee beans, and a small set of porcelain cups and saucers that looked like they came along with my childhood friend, Barbie. As my eyes scanned the kitchen, I saw my roommate with her sleeves rolled up and a devilish grin on her face. "This," she said, as she pointed to the beast, "is Silvia."

Allow me to backtrack for a moment. About a month ago, my roommate started working at a company in our area called Whole Latte Love. Now, my roommate had previously sold television sets for a living and it wasn’t too long before a brand new Sony flat screen walked into our apartment, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when I found her at home playing with this machine. Apparently, she saw the look of concern cross my face when I realized that next month’s rent might have already been spent, because she immediately explained that it was part of a WLL training program. They actually let their employees take the machines home so they know how they work and what goes into the whole process of espresso making. My first question was "Where do I sign up?" My second, "How the heck does this thing work?" Little did I realize, that was a loaded question.

Rancilio Silvia and Rocky "It’s really simple," she said. "All you do is put beans in the hopper, grind them into the portafilter, tamp it down, attach it to the brew group, and hit the brew button. When it’s done, hit the button again and you’re set." Back the Soul Train up! Do what with the what and attach it to the where?! I was beginning to realize that this wasn’t your run of the mill coffee making experience. This was a science, a technique, and above all, a culture.

There was a long period of time when I thought I was fairly experienced in the ways of coffee. I (almost) never drink coffee from gas stations, I keep my coffee in the freezer, I’ve been known to frequent Starbucks, and if you leave me alone in a room with a Mr. Coffee, I can produce a pretty impressive brew-or so I thought. As I did the mental calculations of my coffee achievements, I discovered that I didn’t really know as much as I’d previously believed. In fact, most of the things I thought I was doing to make my coffee better (like putting my coffee in the freezer) were actually doing the opposite (d’oh!)! I needed a crash course in all things coffee, and my roommate and Miss Sylvia were just the two to teach me.

In the coming months, I’ll be using this little column as a way to share all of my espresso "firsts". I hope you’ll join me on my journey and share in my experiences, good and bad. Until then, keep caffeinated!

Read All Installments - Confessions of an Espresso Novice
A. Part I: In the Beginning (You are here.)
B. Part II: Finding the Grind
C. Part III: Striking Gold
D. Part IV: Emily Post & Inspector Gadget
E. Part V: Work it! The milk, that is.
F. Part VI: The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
G. Part VII: Give Me A Cup Cake Prison.
H. Part VIII: To The Espresso Machine I Loved Before.