Today is one of those days. I got started earlier than I would like and was going, going, going. I didn't even have time for my morning cup of coffee. But hey, who am I kidding? With two young kids, I rarely get to finish that anyway. I ended up being a grumpier mommy than I would like to have been today. Once the girls went down for a nap, I decided to take a nap. When I couldn't fall asleep, I decided to make a good cup of coffee. On days like these, I turn to my little friend - my Italian-style Stovetop Espresso Maker.
I first saw this contraption in my furnished apartment in France over a decade ago. I had no idea what it was or how to use it until one day my friend Carmen (a more worldly American) enlightened me. I am so glad she did! It makes delightfully strong coffee that is perfect to mix with milk for a homemade espresso drink. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for my recipe for Homemade Iced Coffee. But, if you're interested in how to use a Stovetop Espresso Maker, here's a little tutorial with pictures!
First off, there are three parts -- the bottom tank, the filter and the top tank/pitcher. Separate the pieces and pour fresh water into the bottom tank. You want to pour it just below the bottom of the valve on the inside. WARNING: Do not forget to put water in the tank! If you do, you can ruin the machine - the handle will eventually heat up so much that it melts right off. (You might be laughing, but it has been known to happen to people. Not me. But, people.)
Then, place the filter into the bottom tank and fill the filter with finely ground coffee beans of your choice. Lightly tap them down.
Then tightly screw on the pitcher and place over the flame to brew. DON'T WALK AWAY! It should only take a couple of minutes to brew. You'll know it is done or nearly done when it starts to make some noise. Carefully lift the lid of the pitcher and you'll find your freshly brewed espresso.
If you like your espresso drinks warm, heat up some milk and mix. You can easily make foam by whipping milk with a Magic Bullet or a milk frother (like this or this) and then heating it in the microwave. If COLD espresso drinks are your thing, cool the espresso and mix with cold milk for an iced coffee or blend it up with ice for a frappucino-style drink.
Homemade Iced Coffee
1/4 - 1/2 cup freshly brewed espresso (or very strong coffee)*
1 1/2 to 3 teaspoons sugar (or your preference)
3/4 cup cold, whole milk
- While the espresso is still hot, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool. (You can prepare this part in the morning and let it chill in the fridge until you want an afternoon coffee. OR, you can speed up the process by pouring the coffee into a bowl so it has greater surface area to cool quickly.)
- Add cold, whole milk and stir to combine. Serve over ice if you desire.
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UPDATE (8/27/09): Since I posted this recipe, I've been drinking a LOT more espresso and trying out different things. I've struck a system that works great for me:
- I make a pot of espresso (1/2 cup espresso) in the morning. I add 3 teaspoons sugar to the hot coffee. I use this to make TWO coffee drinks during the day.
- Morning Drink: I take half of it (1/4 cup) and add an equal amount of heated milk for a small, hot, morning beverage. This works well for me since I hardly ever get to finish a normal cup of coffee without it going cold. (I've got young kids - I blame it on them.) So, this size is just perfect - great taste and I can finish it while it's hot. I even have a cute little cup from France that I use.
- Afternoon Drink: Then, I refrigerate the other half of the sweetened espresso (1/4 cup). When I want an afternoon pick-me-up, I add 3/4 cold milk to the espresso. It's perfect. In the afternoon, a double-shot iced coffee is just a bit too much caffeine for me.