Change is hard.
All while pondering, plotting and putting into action this cross country move, I knew making this change would not be easy. After all, I was moving from Los Angeles, a sprawling, insanely large metropolitan city where most of my friends reside, to a tiny (pop. <1,500), rural town in upstate New York to live near my dad who I met only a year ago.
My town is beautiful and quaint. There’s no traffic or wait times at restaurants. Typical city sounds, like helicopters, police sirens and honking cars, are non-existent. Nature is everywhere; trees, mountains and animals abound. I’ve seen deer, wild turkeys and rabbits without trying. The fall colors really are as amazing as they say. It takes approximately two minutes to get from one end of town to the other, so running errands in town is so easy. I laugh when people say they are going “downtown”.
A quiet fall morning before it got too cold to sit with the windows open:
I have been able to see my dad just about every day since arriving in New York. And that is priceless after missing out on so many years. This experience feels like a luxury after spending the past year building a relationship with my dad via Skype and the occasional visit. Moving here has made things possible that could never have worked via Skype, like my dad teaching me how to change the brake pads on my car or collaborating with him on how to refinish a piece of furniture.
Here we are in St. Louis while driving across country from Los Angeles to New York.
At the same time it can feel lonely and isolating here, especially when it’s cold and snowy. Now that winter has stolen the leaves from the trees, I miss the reliable palm trees of Southern California. The wind often howls and blows so hard that the three-story building I live in shakes, feeling like an earthquake. If there’s something I need that can’t be purchased at Rite Aid, the grocery store or the dollar store, it’s a 30 mile drive or longer. To visit friends I’ve known for what seems like forever, I can’t simply brave traffic on the 101, now I have to get on a plane. I am homesick for my friends at Camp Laurel and can’t believe I am about to miss my first camp in 10 years.
There have been ups and downs, but nothing could prepare me for a lack of lattes.
If you are a city dweller, you might scoff at the idea that there could be a lack of lattes available in my town. I present to you the following evidence from the one coffee shop in town:
For those of you have not been able to do the math yet because you’re still stuck on the fact that Saturday and Sunday are not even listed, this coffee shop is open for a grand total of 16 hours per WEEK, with the vague possibility that you might get lucky at other times. I think most coffee shops in the city are open almost that long every single day. This simply would’t do. I had to figure out a way to support my latte addiction. I have a cheap espresso machine, but let’s just say the results are less than stellar.
As with packing and moving, this led to extensive research. It was a dark hole of endless googling and reading (such as this, this, and this) and successive scouring of reviews at amazon.com.
The Chosen Ones: Capresso Infinity and Bialetti Moka Express
The thing I’ve learned about good coffee is that it basically takes a trifecta of fabulous– you need good beans, a good grinder, along with a decent coffee machine. I’ll get to the beans, but I’ll start with the grinder and coffee maker.
For great coffee, you need a burr grinder, which crushes the beans into a consistent grind, rather than a blade grinder that just mangles the beans into an inconsistent mess. With the blade grinder, your coffee will suffer. The blade grinder causes even more havoc on your coffee, as it produces excessive heat as you keep grinding away at the beans. Then you get burnt tasting coffee. Yuck. Burr grinders range in price from under $100 to the thousands of dollars. I went with an entry level burr grinder, the Capresso Infinity, mainly because I am not making true espresso (more on that in a minute), which requires a very fine grind that is impossible to get from a grinder that costs less than several hundred dollars.
Now for the coffee machine! I wanted something easy and relatively inexpensive, but that delivered nirvana in a cup. And good espresso machines are expensive, like thousands of dollars expensive.
I decided on the Bialetti Moka Express partly because it seemed unbreakable, which is a necessity in my kitchen where nothing is safe. It was designed in the 1930s, and I liked its sense of history. Its design is so classic that the original blueprints are on display at the Design Museum in London. The Bialetti is often referred to as a stovetop espresso maker, and while that isn’t quite accurate, it does produce very strong, espresso style coffee. It comes in different sizes, and I chose the 3-cup version which makes the equivalent of three shots.
It couldn’t be easier to use and at under $25, I could not possibly resist the Bialetti’s charm.
It’s so easy:
1. Fill the bottom until you reach the valve on the side.
2. Insert the filter
3. Fill filter with ground coffee.
4. Screw the top back on.
5. Heat on the stove top. Water from the bottom container is somehow magically pushed through the filter into the top container. Voila! You have coffee.
I use my cheap espresso maker to steam the milk to make fabulous lattes. When I’m lazy, I make an Americano by just adding hot water. I am ⅔ of the way to coffee heaven.
The problem now, of course, is that I lack access to great beans in my town. I could do the mail order thing, but it gets expensive with shipping. So, now I’m thinking of roasting my own beans, which you can do in a popcorn popper!
What do you think? Should I take the roasting road to further my search for coffee nirvana?
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