I have been a coffee geek for a long time. I have a decent espresso machine, a Gaggia Espresso, and a lot of experience as an espresso drinker, not to mention a degree in chemistry, which helps me understand some of the fine points of making good espresso.
I lack one thing, though…. a good grinder and fresh beans. To a point, all espresso machines that create the requisite amount of pressure to make true espresso are going to do about the same job… the really important links in the chain are the quality and freshness of the beans and the grind. Sure, sure, tamping and all that is an art form, too, but let’s not micromanage overdo it!
Up to now I’ve been using pre-ground cans of various Italian espressos. These suck. They’re good for about 1-2 days, maybe, then the espresso is flat, the extraction is way too fast, there is no crema, no depth. The espresso is watery and sour. So, I need fresh beans. Unfortunately, with fresh beans, one needs a good burr grinder, an investment of minimally $100 and usually more like $200 or so for one really worth buying. Then there are the beans themselves…
Beans are at their optimal a handful of days after being roasted (for 2-5 days after roasting, they “degas” and release CO2, a process that should be left to happen). This means a trip to the coffee shop, most likely, to get new fresh beans every few days or at least once a week, and that’s assuming you can get good, fresh beans from the shop. Here in Kansas City we’re lucky to have the likes of The Roasterie and Broadway Cafe, but fresh beans are expensive and it’s a PITA to be running around town all damn day to buy the beans!
So, that leads to the ultimate in coffee nerditude… roasting your own. There are a lot of ways to do this… low tech, in a pan on the stove, slightly higher tech using an air popcorn popper, and the real way, using a real temperature controlled roaster.
Me being me, I have to go cheap, but I know what roasting coffee smells like and the mess of a chaff, so I will be doing the popcorn popper method, outside. First I have to collect the grinder (probably from Whole Latte Love), the beans (probably from Sweet Maria’s) and the popper (probably from a soulless box store). Stay tuned for more info on how the experiment goes throughout the next few weeks!