I am sure if you asked any MasterChef NZ 2013 contestant what drove them mad about me, they would all mention at the top of their list – SHE IS OBSESSED WITH COFFEE. I had no idea how much I carried on about not being given access to coffee until I started to note other contestant’s catch each others eyes as they rolled them! Oh dear, my major vice, as with most of my emotions was right out there on my sleeve!
Well, they are right. I love a good coffee and I can’t start my day unless I have had one, or two………….. What I found disturbing at the studio was the lack of a coffee machine in our contestant room. We could make a cup of tea and a slice of toast but not a coffee, and naturally, with us being hot property we weren’t able to venture out for a long trek to find a coffee shop. I am not sure whether it was out of pity or just simply to keep my moaning at bay, that our wonderful minder finally succumbed and brought in his own personal coffee machine from home. I was ecstatic, and considering how long I lasted on MasterChef NZ, I truly was profoundly grateful! It was an awesome machine. It was huge and heavy and old. It had an industrial, ‘I have never been cleaned’ kind of look about it, and the first thing we did was give it a good and thorough descale. A bucket was found for the discharging water and we were under way. But, the secondary problem was the requirement of a seasoned barista. Kelly owns restaurants so we knew she would be good but she wasn’t thrilled to be standing in the tiny galley churning out coffee orders for 16 contestants. Thankfully, David’s innate desire for a decent coffee matched my own and I managed to entice him with compliments to send some gorgeous latte’s my way. As the weeks progressed, however, there were less and less of us and it became far more important to tap into each other’s knowledge incase these gems of wisdom were eliminated along with a contestant. Eventually, Kelly highlighted some tips about milk frothing and Aaron spent typically long Aaron hours pledging to master the perfect coffee, even though he himself had given up on caffeine!
I shall remain in gratitude to our MasterChef NZ babysitter for assisting me in my coffee life line during our filming and today I am indebted to Zafer at Eden Cafe, who has graciously invited me behind the counter to have a play with his coffee machine and to gain further insight into the perfect cup of coffee.
Zafer is a master in coffee. If you ever need any direction, you need to find him and have time up your sleeve. His knowledge is boundless and you do not want to be in a hurry, as he is so generous with his wisdom.
Here are some hot tips I learnt along the way:
You need a good grinder. Forget the money spent on the coffee machine – it’s all about the grinder! It is also all about the weather. The coffee grinder will need constant adjustments if you are not in a stable temperature (and unless you live in a mall, then that’s most of us). So, when your coffee is dripping or pouring like a tap, check your grind and readjust; and check how much you are popping into your portafilter (that’s the arm that holds your coffee!) – it needs to be the correct amount – exactly!
Next major tip is the tamping. I have just not been taking enough care with this. You should have your arm up at a 90 degree angle and you should be really placing around 15 kilos of pressure onto the tamper. If it is not even or there are bits of loose coffee you need to tap it and re tamp it until it is ‘clean’. Hmmm – this has not been happening at all precisely enough in my home!!
So, I had a practice and I have to say I was very excited to see the crema on the top of my espresso – and a good centimetre too. And, on top of that when I removed the coffee grinds, they came out clean (like a biscuit) and that is the sign of a very good espresso!!! So YAY!!
Now, of course is the real test for me – the milk. I make WAY too much foam at home. I mean, really, an Italian would be startled and would think I was making a milkshake. So, this was a huge moment for me – how to get the perfect milk. And, hey, it wasn’t too hard. A little lesson on the milk froth end of the machine, a 45 degree tilt towards you with the cup, a little noise for 2 seconds and then the lovely hum of creamy milk forming. Rest your finger under the milk jug and you should only be able to rest it there for just on 3 seconds (that will give you milk at the perfect 65 degrees!!). And, most importantly – use the correct milk jug for the job. Whatever jug you use you should fill it half way. Too little and you will have too many bubbles and froth. Too much and there is no where for the milk to expand. Makes sense – but I hadn’t really ever thought it through before!
So, as I always tell my boys – life is full of moments of learning. Grab at the opportunity and even if you only learn one thing, it will be worth the time. Today, I had a wonderful coffee journey with Zafer, Poppi and some of the regulars who shared in my genuine delight to be gaining some caffeine wisdom.
Now I just wish I could produce that NZ fern on the top of my coffee at home 🙁