I stopped drinking espresso after college. When I was still a student, I’d worked myself up to a four-shot-a-day habit and spent a lot of time in cafés drinking the less potent version. But after I hit the working world I reduced down to perhaps a cup of coffee a day and only rarely did I ever get a cappuccino.
By the time I’d lost my job, collected unemployment and traveled a bit I was pretty much weaned off the stuff altogether.
Part of the reason was the fact that Oliver made coffee with a hand press and I didn’t know how to use it properly. Every time I tried, the coffee came out tasting like acid. The espresso maker Olli and his roommates used was actually one of those stovetop varieties. I was intimidated after hearing that if you didn’t screw it together properly the thing could blow apart during percolation and decapitate you.
After Olli and I moved in together in our own place he brought out and dusted off an espresso machine…with a plug!
This machine had a story.
It actually belonged to the then-girlfriend of Sierk (one of Olli’s best friends), Marion. She had received it from a couple that had gotten it as a wedding present. This couple was married in the USA and someone from Europe had given them the machine not realizing the difference in voltage over there. For them the machine was completely useless in the States, so they sort of lent it to Marion. The idea was that if they ever came over to ‘Old’ Europe they could reclaim it.
Marion and Sierk moved to the States for a while, so the machine traveled over to Oliver. He finally took it out and used it over a year later when we set-up house in our own apartment.
He was in a state of bliss.
All of a sudden we were looking for nice espresso and doing tastings. When I was still unemployed, I would get up with Oliver in the morning and make us espresso while he showered, as nice jump start to our day.
Not too far from our current apartment there is a nice ‘old school’ Italian espresso machine store. In the window you can see rows and rows of machines of all sizes and styles. We spent some time with our noses pressed to the glass deciding which one we liked and talked about saving up for a new machine one day. I told my parents this story and my mother said, “if he proposes to you, I’ll buy him one!”. But bribes weren’t tempting, the machine we had was chugging away nicely. Not too long after discovering the store Oliver made the mistake of extolling the virtues of an espresso machine to our friend Nina’s new boyfriend. It was no coincidence that about a month later (while Oliver was lying in the hospital with a burst appendix) this guy got a huge automatic espresso machine for his birthday.
Oliver was jealous until he saw it and realized it was one of those ‘just-push-a-button’ types that are totally automatic.
No thanks, he’s a purist.
Then one day we stopped making espresso in the mornings. It tasted sour.
We cleaned the machine.
Still tasted sour.
We bought new beans, cleaned all utensils carefully, checked the settings, but it still wasn’t right.
We were very sad, but soon mostly forgot about the machine except when we would go past the dream machine store or look at our half empty can of espresso on the shelf. Every once in a while we would try it again and see if magically the machine had cured itself.