(* These are recaps of our “Hidden Apron at Home” Instagram Live sessions filmed under quarantine and held on my @errant_diner account. I focus on the fundamentals of cooking as I, a non-chef, understand them. They are based on my experiences learning how to cook and deal with systems and ways of thinking vs. just recipes. This fifth session covers all things Espresso and features my friend Mario Nnani.)
IG Live Recording can be found below (split into two parts due to some technical issues). As with our prior episodes, they’re best viewed full-screen and vertically on your mobile phone.
Despite having said Hidden Apron at Home was going to be a limited-run series covering some basic kitchen concepts that I think would be helpful for anyone looking to get started/better at cooking, the people have asked for more! This week, we’re featuring an ingredient I consume almost daily and yet have little knowledge of: Espresso. Is it a type of bean? A grind setting? A degree of roasting? All I knew was that it was the comfort I needed in the morning and the jolt was a bonus. Going over this with me was my friend Mario who’s been an early supporter of Hidden Apron at Home and happens to have a growing passion for Espresso (evidenced by the La Marzocco espresso machine he has at home).
Mario has been telling me about his plans to open a coffee cart / shop and so was the perfect guest for the show: knowledgeable enough to pull a proper shot and yet still enough of a beginner to be able to relate to an espresso noob like myself. He walked us through the basics of an espresso and how it’s actually pulled at cafés. More than just a geeky deep dive, I think knowing how something’s actually made increases one’s appreciation and enjoyment of it. Who wants to pay $5 for a crappy latte and not know what was wrong with it eh?
After the behind-the-scenes walkthrough, I showed folks how to make their enjoy their own espresso at home using an affordable Moka Pot and how to steam/froth their own milk using a French Press. Afterwards, I asked Mario for his “Top 5 Takeways”:
- Espresso that’s too sour is a sign of brewing too quickly, too bitter a sign of brewing too long.
- Espresso should generally be brewed for 20-30 seconds though preference can cause this to vary. This is true whether pulled on a commercial machine or on a stovetop Moka Pot.
- A double shot of Espresso (~2 oz.) actually has less caffeine than a 12 oz. cup of coffee even though the former might “feel” stronger. 80 mg. vs. 120 mg. for the coffee.
- Dark Roasts are most commonly used for Espressos though lighter roasts will work too.
- Coffee beans are usually good up to two months post-roast date provided they’re stored properly in an airtight container away from sunlight.
Applying our template approach to Espresso, Mario says you can tweak your own personal Espresso “recipe” based on the following variables:
- Brew time
- Bean type
- Amount of beans (by weight)
- Degree of grind (coarse vs. fine)
- Water (filtered, hard, etc.)
Modified Espresso Martini
* The original recipe calls for vodka and some type of coffee liqueur like Kahlua. I modified this based on what I had on hand. You can tweak the ratio of vodka to espresso to 2:1 if you prefer a stronger drink.
1) Pour the following ingredients into a shaker or tupperware:
1.5 oz. of vodka (gin in my case)
1.5 oz. of room temperature espresso
0.5 oz. of simple syrup (ginger syrup in my case)
0.5 oz. coffee liqueur (velvet falernum in my case)
2) Shake with ice rapidly until the container is cold.
3) Pour into frozen glass and garnish with 3 coffee beans.
* For some unexplainable reason, the quinine-flavored tonic works well with the bitter espresso and the juniper-forward gin. I won’t ask questions.
1) In a glass filled with ice, mix the following:
1.5 oz. of gin (I prefer a London Dry Gin like Tanqueray)
1.5 oz. of room temperature espresso
0.5 oz. of simple/any syrup
2) Top with tonic water.
Espresso Old-Fashioned (based on Bon Appétit’s recipe)
1) In a lowball glass filled with ice, mix the following:
1 oz. of bourbon or rye whiskey (Mario used Jameson Triple Triple)
2 oz. of room temperature espresso
0.25 oz. of simple syrup
Dash of Angostura Orange Bitters
2) Twist lemon/orange peel over glass and drop in or discard.
Espresso Ice Cream (based on New York Time’s recipe)
* This recipe makes ~ 2 c. of ice cream so just about enough for one person.
1) Heat 1 c. each of condensed milk and whole milk (add a touch more whole milk so that there’s slightly more of it in the pot) over medium until steam begins to rise. Do not boil or else the milk will begin to curdle and a skin will form. Turn off heat.
2) Stir in 1 heaping tsp. of espresso or more if you’d like a stronger flavor. Let sit for at least 30 mins.
3) Strain the ice cream base into a container and refrigerate. You can leave the grounds in for a stronger flavor. Once cold, it can be made in your ice cream machine.