Monday, 3 October 2011
Coffee on the move
Among the many things involved in buying and breaking in a new motorhome is the question of espresso. Although these mini palaces on wheels come with beds, air conditioning, a shower and loo, fridge freezer, TV aerial point, gas, electricity in multiple voltages, and a gas cooker, it is a sad fact that espresso is not built in.
We have discovered the solution, or at least a solution. The little machine in the picture makes a single cup of the right stuff. The thing is ingenuity itself, but understanding the way it works leads one to wonder what the prototypes were like.
It operates as follows; first, you pump up pressure, watching a gauge to ensure that you have it exactly right. You lock in the pressure, pour in a measured amour of hot water, add coffee in a small device that fits inside, screw on the cover, turn it upside down over the cup and release the pressure. Water is forced through the coffee and out drips a genuine espresso (for a video see this link). You can get a version that uses coffee pods or you can put your own grounds into little capsule filter devices that fit inside. I use the grounds because I usually mix my own blend.
Our machine is covered in elegant black plastic to add style.
So, what we have is a bicycle pump with a sieve in a box, to which is added boiling water. Trying to imagine the process through which this was invented opens up all sorts of possibilities. I picture some enterprising boy scout, or possibly an intrepid cyclist sitting by a campfire idly playing with his bicycle pump while a kettle boils.
What if I attached the pump to the spout? The pressure inside would rise and superheated water would result. Did he pour this onto coffee grounds? Or maybe he had one of those vicious little Italian devices where you put the water in and as it boils the steam forces it through a central chamber full of coffee grounds. Those things do make espresso. We used to have one when I was a kid, but we never did find a way of avoiding the boiling water coming up with explosive force. The flavour was hard to judge when you have to lick the coffee off the kitchen walls.
At higher altitude, say if you were on a skiing holiday, the water boils at a lower pressure, so the coffee might be nothing like as good. Perhaps our intrepid cyclist was up a mountain, making unsatisfactory espresso in the Italian style when it crossed his mind that a bicycle pump might just make all the difference. Maybe a tyre valve welded on to the side of a coffee pot; who knows.
Whilst I am fascinated to know how the inspiration came about, the main thing is, it makes good coffee and it is very portable. You don’t even need a kettle, hot water from a thermos will do.