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Taking the plunge

Arthur Nelson attempts to make a cup of coffee

I wouldn’t say that I am a caffeine addict, but when I first rise in the morning – rarely outside the period 0001 to 0400 hours – I first fire up my computer and then habitually make myself a sizeable slug of black coffee.

I would go so far as to claim that, for me, drinking it – usually out of one of those ‘hot water’ camping seal-able drinking containers to ensure it remains piping hot as long as possible – is a routine perfectly calculated to kick-start my brain’s vital functions. This might not work for other people, but it certainly works for me.

Sadly I am easily confused by technical terms and cannot pronounce with certainty how a coffee-drinking expert would describe the syrup I imbibe. I very much doubt it would qualify as expresso. It might possibly be closer to an ‘Americano’, if indeed that is the cup which consists of a ‘one or two shot’ expresso with additional hot water. One of my readers who perhaps pays greater attention to life’s little details than I do might be able to assist on the point.

Quite often when out and about, e.g. having arrived early for lunch at a restaurant and sought out a coffee shop for the purpose, or alternatively towards the end of a luncheon or dinner (I do not eat desserts), I order a ‘double expresso’ – this because I enjoy taking the ‘hit’ of the caffeine, but also because I presume that it will provide a significant beneficial effect in the greater cause of keeping me awake until the conclusion of my return journey home, especially if the nearest clock or watch is showing 9.00pm or later [see the opening sentence of this piece for why].

I don’t deal in ‘bucket lists’ but for as long as I can remember (and I’ll leave you to have fun speculating as to how short my recallable memories are) one of my little ambitions – had I ever written a hit single, become a best-selling novelist, a hedge fund manager or possibly won £50 million on the Euromillions lottery – has always been to own one of those ‘eff off’ barista-style ‘professional’ coffee-making machines that form the centrepiece of every coffee bar and restaurant in this fair land as well as many others.

The concept of being experienced enough to offer any and all styles of coffee drinks to my home guests – and then stroll purposefully to said Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory-style monstrosity … flick a series of switches, produce coffee cups from the cupboard, set up to go and then set the process in motion – all the while discussing the finer points of the latest production of Le Sacre du Printemps [The Rite of Spring], music by Igor Stravinsky, choreography by Vaslav Nijinski at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, excites me greatly.

Over the Easter weekend I finally took the plunge.

gaggia2After about six weeks of walking wistfully past the window of the new coffee shop in the alley situated behind my local department store, I finally went in and, having sought advice from the shop assistant, bought a medium-sized Gaggia coffee-making machine complete with coffee bean grinder, two little ‘one shot’ glasses, a milk container and various other accessories (whose purpose I have yet to discover from the instructions booklet) for not far short of £350.

Back home, setting it up, plugging it in, and trying to produce my first perfect shot of expresso has proved a quest so far beyond me.

I’ve had two supervised rehearsals with assistance from someone more versed in coffee-making than I am and then several solo attempts to work step-by-step through the instructions, all of which have resulted in either nothing – or the wrong thing – happening.

Part of the problem is that the instructions set great store by a sequence of acts that includes (1) ‘turning the steamer knob to release steam and then water’; (2) the machine automatically priming itself; (3) sorting out the coffee into the handled dispenser, patting it down and then the classic routine of ‘screwing’ it upwards into the middle of the machine; and (4) pressing the correct one of the four little ‘tits’ on the front to set the whole process in motion.

I made a small breakthrough this morning. I managed, after three attempts and one catastrophic over-spill [I had thought that, once you’d asked it to make you a ‘two shot’ expresso, it dispensed coffee to that measure of its own accord and then automatically stopped, but that is plainly not the case … and, not knowing this, by the time I’d realised it was going on dispensing forever, I didn’t know which button to press in order to stop it!], to make a cup of something that … from a distance on a dark evening … would have looked to an ordinary spectator as recognisably a double-shot coffee, even though it didn’t quite taste like one.

It’s progress.

Watch this space.

 

About Arthur Nelson

Looking forward to his retirement in 2015, Arthur has written poetry since childhood and regularly takes part in poetry workshops and ‘open mike’ evenings. More Posts