Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Stopping for Espresso

The Wednesday morning club ride started out with sunny skies and a temperature of 12C (54F). We knew that the weather was going to turn colder with rain so we made a good pace to Bardolino. Frequently we stop at the same place in Bardolino for an espresso, at a coffee bar owned by Rosanna.

Making good espresso is serious business in Italy. Water heated to a precise temperature is forced at a precise pressure for a precise period of time through beans reduced to a precise grind. The liquid that emerges should be very dark, thick and rich, with a tan layer of emulsified oils and proteins on top that the Italians call crema.

More scientifically, the water must be heated to a temperature between 194 and 203 degrees Fahrenheit, then forced at nine bars of pressure, or about 135 pounds a square inch, through a quarter-ounce of finely ground coffee for 25 to 30 seconds, creating exactly one ounce of espresso.

Think of it this way, the 4 M's necessary for a good cup: Miscela (the blend), Macinatura (the grind), Macchina (the espresso machine), Mano (the skill of the machine operator).

In Italy, making espresso is a profession and an art.

After a good cup we rode to Boscomantico for lunch. The temperature was 48F when we arrived and it was getting colder by the minute. That didn't prevent us from having a long lunch in the Italian tradition.

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