So, all that marketing has finally gotten to me and I've developed a taste for good espresso. The best I've ever had was not in Italy but at a shmancy Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side called Centolire. Yeah, the food is pretty good too, but when they brought me that cup of espresso I just couldn't shut up to the waiter about how great it was.
It was the Illy espresso pod machine, he said, and they were very proud of how they took care of theirs. Apparently regular maintenance, cleaning and fine-tuning of these machines are pretty important to the quality of the brew. (I recall that Grimes wrote an article about this some time ago.)
Now, I have at home one of those Italian aluminum stovetop espresso thingies, but the results have always been disappointing to me. I used Lavazza coffee, Illy ground coffee, the brew was always too bitter or too watery or too off-tasting. Mostly there seemed to be a burnt or dirty undertaste, although I always took the thing apart and scrubbed rigorously after use. Hardly any crema, too.
People say that the pressure produced by a real espresso machine is essential to the taste, and can never be reproduced by a stovetop contraption. Yeah, but the person who told me that was a geeky engineer type who doesn't care a fig about quality coffee. Was he right though? Is is true that I have to buy another $20 lunch special to get this great coffee, or else a $600 machine?
I await your sagacious advice. If you have a blow-by-blow foolproof method for making a great cup of stovetop espresso, I want to hear it.
Oh yeah, and to my distress I've read in the "80s food" thread below that lemon zest in espresso is totally 80s, and considered to be in bad taste in these enlightened times. I admit, I do love a bit of zest in my espresso, or squirting a few drops of its oil on the crema. It gives it a nice extra dimension. Is this, like, really tacky and crass, and should I resort to such prectices only in the privacy of my ill-equipped, murky kitchen?
If there are any serious espresso aficionados here, please come forward and educate me. Thanks!