Amateur Professional Espresso Maker: The Prelude to the Daily Double Shot

Last week, S bought an exciting new appliance for our kitchen, the la Pavoni Manual Espresso Maker. S has been gaining a lot of interest in coffee, especially since her coworkers have been talking about their own endeavors in high-end coffee making. My interest was originally utilitarian, coffee was only used to stay up for work.

la Pavoni with my first finished latte

I remember the first time I started drinking coffee for taste in 2009. Blue Bottle was my first. I didn’t realize coffee could taste so unique. I drink my coffee black. The drip coffee was dark and potent. As a coffee novice, I didn’t really care what roast was being made for me, I just didn’t want weak coffee. Over the years, I’ve tried other local coffee boutiques like Philz Coffee, SightGlass, Cup, Curbside Coffee and Brown Owl. (I actually really enjoyed the Turkish coffee at Troya.)

It wasn’t until we went to Europe that I tried straight espresso. I’ll admit that I was deathly afraid of the effects of drinking a shot. S had ordered a Cafe au Lait almost everywhere we went, and I didn’t really know what I could order.  And so,  I had my first espresso at Giolitti in Rome.

Rome Giolittis Breakfast

Fast forward to April 2012, Sam had been talking about Lattes and Coffee all month, so I pulled out our old Krups XP 1500 Coffee and Espresso machine from college and started trying to make espressos at home. It worked for a week, and then it broke while I was trying to make a Cuban Latte (more on that later.) S had borrowed her coworker’s Kyocera Hand Grinder and purchased the Blue Bottle Roman Espresso beans that same week! Talk about Blue (Bottle) Balling.

This was the turning point. We decided we were going to get an espresso machine. Sam did all the research and debated on which one to get. On my birthday, the machine arrived. Check out my first week of espresso and latte experiments.

Failed Cups of Espressos

The first day, I pulled 8 test espressos with some Safeway Select Kona coffee beans. The cheap beans served as a way to test the technique in grinding and brewing a nice espresso. The variables were all there: temperature, grinds, and tamper pressure. The temperature is maintained by the machine. The grind was the first part I played around with. I started with a coarse grind using the borrowed Kyocera hand grinder mentioned earlier. Once I figured out the fine-ness, I messed around with the pressure of tampering the grinds. I didn’t get the perfect brew the first day, mostly because I didn’t know what it would look like.

First Finished Latte

It was nice to try frothing some milk. I’m terrible at it. I always get big bubbles and not enough froth.

The first time I experienced Crema!

That’s the first time I produced Crema. It was the first time I noticed that the drip should not arrive right away, and I needed to apply pressure on the lever.

Crema looking better and better

Third time after producing the first crema, I finally improved it! Getting consistent!

Safeway Select Kona on Left, Blue Bottle Roman Espresso on Right

The Kona test batch had a darker, sour taste. It wasn’t really about the taste at first, since it was just for a test. I compared the taste to the Roman Espresso from Blue Bottle, which turned out to be much lighter and more enjoyable.

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Brown Owl Coffee – San Francisco

Brown Owl Coffee Interior

Rated: ♣♣♣

I am in love with milk-based coffee drinks, and I’m pretty sure I have recently developed an addiction to coffee. K and I have become furniture scavengers ever since we purchased our house. After checking out an estate sale in the Sunset, we were on our way to Quickly to pick up some milk tea. On our way there, we ran into a brand new gourmet coffee shop called Brown Owl Coffee. And with my recent obsession with birds and coffee, I had to try out this place. If you’re interested in eating a little something with with coffee, they also serve baked goods made from local bakers.

Brown Owl Coffee Grinds

I ordered a latte, while K got a drip coffee. The latte was strong and dark, the way I like it. Though, the froth was a little too foamy for my taste. K loved his drip. The first thing he noticed was the roast (which Brown Owl does themselves). The flavors tasted like cocoa and spices. A very unique cup of coffee.

Brown Owl Coffee

Brown Owl Coffee
1131 Taraval St
(between 21st Ave & 22nd Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94116
Neighborhood: Parkside

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Special Xtra – San Francisco

Special Xtra Sign

Rated: ♣♣

Is there something extra special about Special Xtra? I’m sad to say, I personally don’t think so. I first heard about Special Xtra from SF Gate’s 92 Best Dishes in SF list. The same day I read the article, I rallied up my team at work and took a field trip to a little alleyway in the Financial District.

We each ordered the Macau Iced Coffee which was listed in SF Gate. Then we watched in anticipation as the barista mixed our drinks. She added (what seemed like) almost a cup and a half of whole milk, some simple syrup and a double shot of espresso made from Blue Bottle Coffee. The drink is served unmixed for aesthetic reasons, and I will admit that it looked very tasty.

Special Xtra Coffees

After a quick stir and a giant gulp, I was disappointed. It tasted like a cup of milk with a hint of coffee. I liked that it wasn’t too sweet, but it didn’t have much coffee flavor at all which was a shame. I was mainly disappointed because I was expecting something similar to a Vietnamese Iced Coffee and got something totally different. I personally enjoy being able to taste and sense all of the aromas and flavors of coffee, and this drink didn’t do it for me. But hey, if you’re not a coffee drinker or you like weaker coffee, this drink could be amazing for you.

Special Xtra Macau Coffee Mixed

I would prefer to take my $3.50 and spend it on a Vietnamese Ice Coffee from Curbside Coffee (truck on the corner of Spear and Folsom). Their coffee is liquid crack.

Special Xtra
46 Minna St
(between 1st St & Shaw Aly)
San Francisco, CA 94105
Neighborhood: SOMA

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Captain Crunch Frappuccino at Starbucks

Starbucks Captain Crunch Frap

After seeing this on the Huffington Post the other day, my coworker and I had to try out the Starbucks secret menu.

The first drink that caught our attention was the Captain Crunch Frappuccino. Whaa?? Captain Crunch in a Frappuccino? How does it work? So, we headed down to the Starbucks in our building to try it out. Apparently, it’s a strawberries and cream frap with toffee nut syrup. The strangest combination, but somehow they marry together and make the awesomeness that is a Captain Crunch flavor.

On my first sip, it tasted exactly like Captain Crunch or Berry Crunch. It’s funny because I don’t think there is strawberry or toffee flavoring in the children’s cereal. After getting over the weird combo of flavors, I started to really like the drink. I’m really excited to try the other items on the menu!

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Curbside Coffee – San Francisco

Curbside Coffee Truck

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

Wow, this place is dangerous. I discovered Curbside Coffee at the end of last week and I’ve already been back 4 times.

This little coffee truck on the corner of Spear and Folsom makes the BEST Vietnamese coffee I’ve ever had. I used to make Vietnamese coffee, and it never tasted this good. When I go out for pho, I usually order a Vietnamese coffee or a Thai Iced Tea, and they always taste the same. I did not realized how amazing Vietnamese coffee could taste until I took my first sip at Curbside Coffee. It blew my mind. It has the perfect balance of the strong coffee flavor, creamy condensed milk and sweet simple syrup. So good, I already have plans with my marketing team to get some later today!

Curbside Vietnamese Coffee

To top it off, their staff is very friendly. One visit, I came by and promised them I would be back a half hour later with a few other people. And, they made an extra batch of the coffee just for us! We were even able to try their morning bun and a bran muffin. My coworker snatched the morning bun before I got to try, but I really enjoyed the bran muffin. Moist, soft and slightly sweet. It was a tasty afternoon snack without the guilt.

Curbside Bran Muffin

I can’t wait to come back!

Curbside Coffee
Spear & Folsom
San Francisco, CA 94105
Neighborhood: SOMA

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