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A Tale of Two Coffeepots

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When Fuzzy and I got married, one of the best gifts we received was a Bialetti Aluminum Stovetop Espresso Pot from our friends Becky and Andy. We didn't register for it, so we didn't know what to do with it at first. Becky and Andy were visionaries--they knew we would love it before we did--and now we use it all the time. I will most always choose espresso over regular coffee, so our Bialetti has been through the ringer over the years. Especially when we got our milk frothing methods down to a science.

The pot we have is I think a 4 cup pot or something, and we all know how a "cup" in coffee terms is something teeny-tiny like 6 oz. And if you are someone like me, you always want a LOT of coffee, so we were finding that we were making multiple pots of coffee on the weekends. We decided that it was time to upgrade and get a larger pot.

One night, after a meal at the Clybourn Goose Island and working on our MBAs (Masters of Beer Appreciation--you drink a certain number of beers, you get your name on a plaque. I can't WAIT to get my name on that plaque.), we found ourselves a little too inebriated to drive home. So we did the only logical thing--we went shopping at the Patagonia and Bed Bath and Beyond that share a parking lot with the brewery!!!  As we were standing in the coffee pot aisle, we were looking at the different size pots, and I was opening the boxes to see how big each one was. The cup sizes (sexy) aren't listed on the sides of the boxes, so we were going on looks only. I picked out a nice size pot, but Fuzzy said it looked too big and that we would probably end up wasting a lot of coffee (though I wouldn't throw it out--I would put the leftover espresso in the fridge for homemade iced lattes.) He picked out one that we thought looked like a 6 cup pot--not too much more, but a little wider, so it would satisfy our need for "just a little more coffee."  We agreed that I would take the smaller pot to work with me, so to guarantee the quality of my morning coffees.

That weekend, we excitedly put the pot to work. I made a lot of milk foam for the cappuccinos, and when we drank it, it just tasted more milky. We had such high expectations, and we were just a little...not impressed. We made lots of "Huh" and "Hrmm" sounds. We tried again the next day....and we still didn't have enough coffee. We were like "well, one cup extra each is a negligible difference." We were determined to be excited by our newest kitchen addition.

One weekend morning, while I was lolling about in the tub, which is one of my favorite activities on the planet, my amazing darling husband came in with a cappuccino for me (sidenote: I cannot tell you how amazing this is....sometimes while I am in my "hot water room", Fuzzy will bring me coffee or beer or wine to enjoy. It's just about the closest thing to Heaven on Earth that I can imagine....Ok, well, maybe if the bathtub was full of kittens, it would be MORE like Heaven to me.). Settling the coffee on the sink basin he says "That new coffee pot we bought? Yeah, it's the same size as the other one. It's just a lot shinier."

Same size, just shinier.

Here is proof:

A tale of 2 coffee pots

What's the moral here? Don't drink and shop? Trust your wife's instincts when she picks something out? Drink less coffee? Who knows.  But the last time I made coffee at home, I made it in both pots, and put the leftover coffee in the fridge and had a kickass iced latte a few days later.

(Originally posted on

Replacement Milk Frother

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If you're going to make cappuccinos at home, you're going to need to froth some milk. The steam pressure on most home cappuccino machines is so weak, you're not going to get great foam that way. And if you're using an Aeropress or a stovetop Bialetti Moka pot, you don't even have that option. A couple years ago, I picked up a Bodum battery-powered milk frother on sale at World Market. It was alright, although it ate batteries constantly and the frother arm kept getting bent. And then I broke the beaker. I went to the store to see if I could find a replacement beaker and ended up getting a Bodum manual milk frother. It's great! If you start with cold, whole milk it just takes a few plunges to foam the milk all the way up the beaker. And then you can toss the beaker in the microwave for 30 seconds to heat it up for a cappuccino. I love my frother! And then I broke the beaker. Before I went back to the store, I thought I'd see if we had any glasses in the cabinet that would fit the frother. Our normal drinking glasses are too skinny, and pint glasses are too angled. But then I found a glass that fit just perfectly: Replacement milk frother glass A "Great Muppet Caper" collectable McDonald's glass from 1981. I'm never going to stick this family heirloom in the microwave, so I pour the foam into a Pyrex measuring cup to heat up. And I want to replace it, before I once again break the 'beaker'. But it's a great stop gap. Replacement milk frother glass

All I Want Is a Perfect Cappuccino, Just Like the Ones I Had as a Youth, Is That Too Much to Ask?

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You can't try everything on every menu at every restaurant, so it's good to have indicator dishes that you can try out to see if they meet your tastes or specifications, I think. I heard somewhere, for example, that you should always get a tamago nigiri at a new sushi restaurant. The cooking of an omelet isn't, of course, exactly related to the handling of raw fish, but it's just complicated enough that if a restaurant can't handle this staple of Japanese cuisine then you might want to be wary of the rest of their offerings. (That's the theory, anyway.)

Aside: This is the same idea, by the way, behind Van Halen's (in)famous "no brown M&Ms" tour contract provision. Rather than being evidence of rock star diva-ness, the line was a test. If a venue didn't read the contract carefully enough to handle this odd-but-easily-accomplished request then it was a warning sign that they might not have complied with more serious sections of the contract, like those dealing with electrical power or the load-bearing requirements of the stage.

Eating at so many different kinds of restaurants, as we lucky big-city dwellers do, I don't have any universal indicator foods. But I'll definitely always go for something called a 'specialty of the house' or named after the place itself. "You say this is what you're good at? Bring it on!"

These musings are inspired by a cappuccino I had this morning. Cappuccinos are, in themselves, my favorite coffee drink, but they're also my test beverage for a coffee place. Anybody can make drip coffee, and espresso is usually a push-button affair on most modern machines. But a cappuccino actually requires mixing some elements in some semblance of care. A properly made cappuccino is a delicate balance of the earthly espresso, the sweetness of the milk, and the airiness of the foam. The biggest flaw in most places' cappuccinos, in my opinion, is a more-is-better philosophy that leads to huge, milky cappuccinos that might as well be a latte-with-a-touch-of-foam. Sometimes I can tweak my order by asking for a "dry" cappuccino (if the barista is worthy of the name and knows what that means), but at Starbucks, at least, I've given up and I just get macchiatos that are themselves over-milked for what that drink should be, which then approaches my cappuccino ideal.

All this, just because I had a bad cappuccino at the new coffee shop in my office building this morning, which doesn't bode well for coffee runs of the future. Oh well.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Coffee category.

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