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Espresso in America: diverse uses satisfy eclectic tastes.

Espresso in America: Diverse uses satisfy eclectic tastes

Traditional espresso is my drink of choice. Dark, pungent, and full-bodied, good espresso has a wonderful and unique appearance, aroma and taste. In my travels across the country, I have been amazed at the way this traditional coffee beverage is being used in so many different ways.

Pick up a magzine, you read about how espresso is made; leaf through a food magazine and you get recipes for espresso drinks; read a newspaper and hear all about the local coffeehouses and how they roast their own coffee and blend it especially for espresso; walk to the nearest busy corner in a major metropolitan city and get espresso or cappuccino from a coffee cart--espresso is everywhere.

No longer a drink for coffee purists, espresso is being served in different and imaginative ways to appeal to the general consumer.

Espresso has always been versatile . . . Cappuccino, Latte, Mochas, Borgia . . . the list can go on and on. These types of frothy drinks with espresso served as an accent flavor rather than the primary taste are attracting a segment of the coffee consuming public who would have no interest in traditional espresso.

Bill Morweis of Veneto's Coffee in Seattle told me about a new espresso-based drink that he thought tasted just great. He called it a Granita Latte and told me that "it had been around the Seattle market for about a year and the sales had just been tremendous." Seattle is a hub of espresso and coffee sales and I think it would be safe to say that if it is popular in Seattle, look for it to become popular elsewhere.

Granita is an Italian word and "gran" refers to granular ice and "ita" refers to soft drink hence granita means granular ice drink. Bill serves Granita Lattes at Veneto's combining his own secret recipe of espresso, sugar, and milk, loading the mixture into a granita machine and chilling it to the consistency of crystallized ice. Although I've never tasted one, it sounds great and when Bill was describing one to me the image that came to my mind was of an adult slushy.

I talked to Bill Jahn, president of Frozen Dessert Concepts to get his opinion about the future of Granitas. His company distributes the granita machines as well as the ingredients should you choose not to make your own. As to the future of the Granita Latte, Bill Jahn said that "sales are great" and gives credit to Torrefazione Italia who Bill says deserves credit for "starting the Granita Latte in Seattle" as well as Mike Abrams of Melchers Coffee Flavorings.

As the versatile espresso attracts more consumers, home espresso units will become more sophisticated.

You get what you pay for and if you are willing to pay a respectable amount of money for a home expresso machine, you can get a very respectable machine.

One machine that I have used and consider very respectable is the SAECO Rio Automatica. It is fully automatic and grinds the coffee bean, makes the espresso and then disposes of the coffee grounds. The machine itself is made of enameled steel and the entire coffee unit is easily removable for cleaning. The quantity of coffee is electronically adjustable, steam is generated by a brass boiler and is controlled electronically. The machine has a drawer for coffee disposal and a large drip tray. It can produce instant hot water and a large quantity of steam for cappuccino. It does not require plumbing, holds 98 oz. of water and is only 13.5" wide, 16" high, 13.5" deep, weighs just under 34 pounds and can be plugged right into any household plug.

I have found that from the time you press the switch to begin grinding the coffee until the machine drops the spent grounds takes right about 25 seconds. To get steam for cappuccino, you press another button, wait 20 to 25 seconds and then open a steam valve to froth milk. If you doubt your ability to froth milk, the Rio Automatica also comes with a "Whipper" that attaches to the steam wand to double the volume of the milk with less steam.

The versatile espresso will become firmly entrenched in restaurants as simple, Foodservice units are developed.

Restaurants have always been a natural for espresso especially now when so many wonderful drinks are being made with it. The only handicap has been the espresso equipment. Many waiters and bartenders consider an espresso machine a pain and will all but refuse to use it. This will change as simpler machines are developed.

The Illycaffe 516 Automatic espresso system has been developed for foodservice. The "516" is used exclusively for espresso and does not provide steam for frothing milk. Illycaffe has a steamer, the "Il Vaporetto" that complements the "516" and is sold separately.

The main feature of this little machine is that it uses Illycaffe's pod system of coffee. Espresso is freshly roasted and ground and then packed in a pod shape between filter paper. It is then stored in an oxygen free environment until ready to use. The espresso pods negate the need for a grinder and give consistent delicious espresso.

When you first see the machine, it looks so cute that you might think it is a toy--but in this instance, powerful things come in small packages. The "516" only weighs about 24 pounds, stands under a foot high, is under 10 inches deep and less than 8 inches wide, but it can make 120 espresso per hour. When I spoke to Mark Romano, of Illycaffe U.S.A. in Scottsdale, Arizona, he also pointed out that you could add water to the water reservoir and actually run it continuously. The unit does not have to be plumbed and the reservoir holds approximately one half gallon or water.

As Foodservice sales of espresso promise big bucks, watch out for imitation espresso.

While I applaud efforts to think of new and inventive ways to use freshly brewed espresso, I have no patience with fake espresso. By fake espresso, I mean, instant espresso and powdered milk or drip brewed dark roasted coffee passed off as espresso. With the economical espresso units available for heavy duty foodservice work, there is no excuse for imitation espresso.

Consumers will be more discriminating with their espresso and will begin to blend their own.

As consumers learn more about espresso and the joy of creating unique coffee blends, they will be more inclined to experiment with different beans. This is especially good news for the local retailers who roasts his/her own coffee. Be prepared to be questioned about your beans and asked for your guidance.

Be prepared to see espresso anytime and anywhere--even at the dentist.

Last October, I read about a dentist in Seattle who served espresso in an effort to help his patients get over their fear of the dentist. He said that espresso meant leisure time, friends, and conversation. Of course, in addition to espresso, the dentist had a licensed massage therapist in the office to give patients a relaxing massage before encountering the drill. Espresso and a massage at the dentist ... what will they think of next.

PHOTO : Granita Latte is popular in Seattle.

PHOTO : The SEACO Rio Automatica.

PHOTO : Note pods at right for Illycaffe Espresso Machine "Il Vaporetto."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:espresso machines for home use
Author:Sturdivant, Shea
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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