Archive for August, 2010
Nowadays people are quite intimidated by the prospect of performing maintenance on their vehicles and appliances. Something as simple as changing a headlight has evolved into an arcane process which requires the expertise of a trained mechanic. But some technologies are still easy for anyone to maintain, and if you’re willing to make the extra effort, the improved performance is palpable.
Take coffee makers for instance. Most Americans are constantly running their machine, but how often do you see someone take the time to clean it? You may think that this process is complex and superfluous, but it only takes a few minutes and your coffee is guaranteed to taste better. All you need a descaler product, which effortlessly removes buildup and deposits from your machine without leaving any residue or aftertaste.
For the last several months I’ve been writing about the merits of various espresso machines, but it wasn’t until last week that I had the opportunity to experience espresso in its truest form for the first time. During a trip to Italy I discovered why the drink is so inextricably tied to the region—everyone there drinks it. I try to shy away from stereotypes, but in this instance, it’s true. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an energy drink—which have become ubiquitous in the US—anywhere in Italy, as all of the citizens are getting their caffeine fix from these miniature brews.
While cappuccino is the drink of choice in the early morning, when people are looking for something sweet, espresso is consumed throughout the day and night. Unlike coffee shops in the US, in Italy are fast-paced establishments. Once you order your espresso, you’re served at a standing bar, and if you spend more than twenty seconds over your cup, you’re dawdling
Many people leave a small container of salt out on the counter so they can literally “add a pinch” when they need to. Since I like kosher salt and large-grain sea salt, I keep one of these dishes on my counter for salting large amounts of water or applying a crust of seasoning to proteins. But for many dishes, the large grains can ruin the dish.
If the salt isn’t going to have a chance to breakdown during the cooking process, like in baking for example, it’s important to use fine grains. Personally, I prefer the taste of kosher and sea salt, so instead of substituting regular table salt I use a Cilio salt mill. This allows me to get the depth of flavor that kosher and sea salts offer with the benefits of tiny granules.
Simply put, hard water is water with a high mineral content relative to normal, soft water. The minerals most common in hard water are calcium and magnesium, which usually make their way into the water from limestone, chalk and dolomite. Although hard water isn’t a health risk, it can cause some headaches around the house.
First, hard water stinks, literally. This means your laundry and dishwasher may emit a strange odor when you have hard water. It also can cause mineral damage and buildup in the tub and other areas. Mineral buildup is particularly common when the water is hot, such as in coffee makers. So if you have hard water and love your coffee, I suggest always having some espresso decalcifier on hand.
Admittedly, I’m not the best person when it comes to keeping things clean. I tend to wait until my house is borderline unbearable, at which time I do a comprehensive cleansing of the entire house, then neglect my chores once again for the next couple of months. My appliances tend to be in the worst condition when cleaning time rolls around, especially my coffee machine, which I use at least twice a day.
The hard water in my neighborhood simply wreaks havoc on the inner workings of the machine, and for the last few days, the flow of coffee has been dawdling. Yesterday I finally decided to clean the machine, so I pulled out my Durgol. You may be accustomed to the old vinegar method of cleaning coffee makers, but Durgol works much better and there isn’t any weird smell or aftertaste to worry about.
An increasing number of people in the US, and around the globe, are paying more attention to what they eat, which is certainly a good thing. Some people take their healthy lifestyle to the extreme, eliminating certain foodstuffs from their diet. And while you certainly don’t need trans fats or artificial sweeteners, many things we consider bad are necessary in moderation.
Good fats, for example, are essential to a healthy diet, as they contain a plethora of nutrients and some level of fat is necessary for our normal biological processes. Sodium is another thing that people often cut excessively; large amounts are detrimental, but your body needs it to a certain degree. So don’t be afraid to use your salt mills, just remember the mantra of every good diet: everything in moderation.
Nobody—and I mean nobody—wants to be in the kitchen when the weather is scorching. When it’s already in the 80s in your kitchen, the last thing you want to do is turn on the over or spend an hour standing over the stove. This is why I always fire up the grill during the summertime.
You can cook virtually any protein, fruits or vegetables on the grill, plus you don’t have to suffuse your home with extra heat. Many people make the mistake of simply throwing their meat straight on the grill. While the open flame will lend your food more natural flavor, it’s still important to at least break out your Cilio pepper mill and salt mill and season both sides liberally.
Indonesia: Indonesia is comprised of thousands of islands, many of which—like Sumatra and Java—have literally become synonymous with premium coffee. Most coffee production takes place on small farms of just 1-2 acres. One distinct product from Indonesia is their aged coffee, which as a deeper flavor than traditional brews.
Vietnam: In recent years, coffee production in Vietnam has grown exponentially, leading them to become one of the world’s leading producers. Many of the beans grown in the island nation of Robustas, which are best used in a cappuccino maker where you can use the heated milk and flavor add-ins to mask the subpar flavor.
Ethiopia: Many legends trace the origins of the coffee tree to Ethiopia. The beans from this region have an incredibly rich, bold flavor, making them ideal for use in an espresso coffee maker.
Kenya: Unlike many countries, Kenya has its own grading system for beans to ensure quality. By using this grading system, you can learn the size of the bean and whether or not it was grown on an estate.
Ivory Coast: As one of the world’s leading producers of Robusta coffee, beans from the Ivory Coast typically aren’t considered gourmet and usually find there way into espresso blends.
Guatemala: Somewhat of a dark horse in the coffee industry, Guatemala boasts three distinct growing regions with incredibly fertile soil. Guatemalan coffees are known for their complexity, often having spicy or chocolaty undertones.
Costa Rica: There is a reason Costa Rica has gained worldwide acclaim for their coffee—they use only the finest beans and have a well-refined processing method.
Colombia: The natural terrain in Colombia is quite conducive to coffee production, but the rugged landscape also makes transportation an issue.
Brazil: As the biggest coffee producing country in the world, Brazil grows and sells both Arabica and Robusta beans, and there’s a good chance you’ve used them in your automatic espresso machine before. Clean, mild flavor and low levels of acidity characterize fine Brazilian coffees.