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My great mistake, the fault for which I can't forgive myself, is that one day I ceased my obstinate pursuit of my own individuality // Oscar Wilde

Tag: coffee

// ROK Espresso Machine Review.

So, as all of you know, my life basically revolves around coffee. So, when Whole Latte Love asked me to review ROK’s new non-electric, manual espresso machine, I WAS SO EXCITED. These days, I’ve been making fewer trips to my usual coffee shops and spending snowy days inside, with my own cappuccinos.

I will eventually have a video explaining everything about my process with a tutorial, as well as shots of the machine in action! But for now, these will have to do. For more reviews of the ROK Espresso Machine, check it out on Whole Latte Love. I used my go-to espresso beans, from none other than Mama Mocha. Her Brass Knuckle Espresso can be found here; but be forewarned, once you start ordering Sarah’s sweet and smooth espresso, you will basically be addicted. It’s like crack and you will have a hard time ordering any other coffee, ever.

REVIEW

There are so many factors when pulling a single shot of espresso: water temperature, coarseness or fineness of bean grind, pressure applied while tamping, pressure applied by the machine, freshness of espresso beans, and amount of time to pull the shot from start to finish. So, when I first read about the completely non-electric ROK Espresso Machine, I have to say, I was a little bit uncertain of its ability to pull a remotely professional-level espresso shot. The fact that the machine does not heat water on its own was baffling to me and I was even more concerned about the aerating mechanism for the milk. I was more than thrilled with the results! 

For my first effort, I made quite a mess. Honestly, that is to be expected when adjusting to any new machine. I was surprised at how easy the ROK Espresso machine is to use, but it should be noted that in order to brew espresso with moderate consistency from drink to drink, you will likely want to make an additional purchase or two. I wound up buying a burr grinder to go along with my machine. I also bought a kettle so that I could maintain a consistent heat for my water. But, with the machine ringing in at $200, it’s quite a bargain. Even with the additional tools, I spent far less than I would have on the top-rated home brewing machines.

I was a little bit disappointed with the type of foam that is produced with the included milk frother (the bubbles were fairly large), but I think that if you were to use a metal pitcher and give it a few taps on the counter after it is aerated, it has potential for making the microfoam required to produce latte art. 

All in all, this is the best home espresso machine I have used. Well, it is the best one I have used that is not $500-$1200. The external factors — heating your own water, primarily — can be a bit of a hassle, but if you do not mind making your espresso next to the stove, it isn’t a problem at all. 

The machine truly is portable. It is extremely light and comes with a really awesome tin container so that you can keep all of the pieces in one place and travel with it. I think I could/would even take it camping as long as I had a hot plate or something similar to heat the water. The fact that there is no electricity required is a huge bonus and keeps you from cluttering your countertops with heavy equipment.

Another bonus of the machine is that it is extremely easy to clean. You can run water through an empty portafilter and that removes most of the remaining residue left from the coffee grinds. 

My method is posted after these lovely photos:

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METHOD

Grinding coffee beans

Because making espresso can be fairly complicated, I really wanted to focus on consistency in the variables that I could control. I purchased a burr grinder that had multiple settings, was in my price range, and had decent reviews for home use (Krups GVX2-12 Grinder). 

Pre-ground beans

You definitely have the option of buying pre-ground espresso, but coffee has a fairly short shelf-life. So if you are going to buy pre-ground coffee, I would recommend buying by the half-pound so that you can maintain the great taste of fresh beans.

Burr grinder vs blade grinder

I was pretty adamant about buying a burr grinder primarily because it has adjustable settings. When using a blade grinder, the only method of adjusting the grind is by the length of time it takes to grind the beans. Timing is not consistent if you change the quantity of beans in the cup. With a burr grinder, the fineness or coarseness of the grind is not dependent on time or the quantity of beans in the hopper.

Heating methods

The ROK Espresso Machine focuses on the pressure needed to pull a shot of espresso. Originally, I was a little miffed by the lack of a boiler on the machine (you don’t have to plug it in at all!). But once I came up with a way to keep the water temperature consistent, I actually really like that I do not have to worry about finding an empty outlet in my already crammed kitchen.

Heating the water

I personally used a tea kettle for heating the water, but you can easily microwave a cup of water and achieve the same results. If you are going to use the microwave, I would recommend using a measuring cup or something that has a spout for pouring and heat the water until it is boiling. When making espresso, the temperature should be between 200F. The temperature will drop fairly quickly when adding it to the cool water chamber of the ROK Espresso Machine, so heating the water to 212F (boiling) was not a problem for me.

Heating the milk

ROK Espresso Machine recommends that you microwave the milk, but because I wasn’t sure of how long to microwave it, I heated the milk on the stove. The milk temperature should be 150-155 — at this temperature, the milk has a sweeter taste. After heating the milk, I moved it into a slightly warmed mug, where I began to use the aerating mechanism. It does create foam, but it does not create the microfoam you might be used to getting at a coffee shop (also the texture needed for latte art). As I mentioned in the review, I think that with a metal pitcher, you might be able to achieve a better microfoam.

Brewing the espresso

I would definitely recommend warming the machine before you begin brewing the espresso. You can do that by pouring boiling water into the water chamber and pushing it through an empty portafilter. Otherwise, the machine will cool the water too quickly when you fill the water chamber. Also, brewing espresso into a cold cup will make the crema disperse faster, so just let the hot water pour through the machine, the portafilter, and directly into the cup you will be using.  

Fill the portafilter 

The portafilter needs to be completely dry before adding the espresso. I used the same method for filling the portafilter that I would use while using a professional machine — fill the filter evenly and create a small mound on top, use your finger to push the espresso machine clockwise around the portafilter so that you have a flat surface on top, prior to tamping. While it is important not to over-fill the filter, it is equally important not to under-fill. Without even distribution of the grinds and a full basket, you cannot create an evenly packed flat surface. When the water moves through the espresso, you want it to seep through all of it at an even pace; otherwise, the shot will pull too fast and be under-extracted.

Tamp

The coffee scoop that is included with the ROK Espresso Machine doubles as a tamp and works well if you have used the correct amount of coffee. If you used too little coffee, the curved edge of the spoon handle will prevent you from creating a flat surface on top of the espresso. You should be applying about 40 lbs of pressure, so I would recommend putting something soft under the portafilter to keep it from digging into the countertop!

 Lock the portafilter into place

Add water to chamber

With the arms of the machine fully down, add water to the chamber. I added about 2.5-3 ounces of water, which is roughly 1 cm above the metal line. No need to fill the chamber all of the way! I created a pretty big mess when I used too much water.

Pull arms all the way to the top and pause. Push arms down slightly, until you feel the pressure increase, then pause. Push arms all of the way down. Pull arms all the way to the top and push them down again. Voila!

I would recommend brewing your espresso directly into your mug of frothed milk, or a warmed espresso cup. This will help the espresso to maintain it’s flavor!

**this method was used to brew a ristretto shot.

// nearly an Indian summer, and we walked.

Hannah (one of my friends from Auburn that also interned in NYC this summer) came to visit last weekend! We walked. A lot. We walked to the coffee shop, we walked on the HIgh Line, we walked to the #Eccentrico Armani Exhibit, we walked to Chelsea Market, we walked to Nordstrom Rack, we walked, we walked, we walked. Because there was just a bit of chill in the air–a light jacket and a hat, and you’re set.

There is something magical about being as close to November as we were, wearing light jackets, and warming up with hot coffee (or hot chocolate, like Hannah). The leaves were changing, the wind was blowing, we soaked up the last teensy bit of warmth there was…and we walked.DSC_0126 DSC_0140 DSC_0128 DSC_0086 DSC_0061

// working from home.

I don’t know if I formally announced this here, but I am officially a real part of the workforce! Yes, post-college, one of my internships turned into a job. I am currently the first full-time employee at Wendy Brandes Fine Jewelry. Now, I know what you’re thinking–what on earth is Eryn doing with her time? Is it fun to work for a small company? Wait, where does Eryn even work? IS THERE COFFEE INVOLVED? And if so, how many cappuccinos does Eryn drink in a week?

And I’ll not pretend that any of you are actually that curious about my day-to-day life. But you might actually be curious about how to stay motivated when working from home, on your own schedule, and starting from the ground up. So I’ll share the very minimal insight I have on those things. By that, I obviously mean that I intend to begin filling you in on the trials of now owning my own schedule.

But first, let me answer those pivotal questions.

1. I am OBVS doing a lot of research. My official title is “Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator.” And when working for a small business, that means that I do everything from searching for buyers on Linkedin, to making what some would consider a “sales pitch,” to convincing my boss that I’m extremely trustworthy.

2. Working for a small company can be a lot of fun! I get along great with my boss, and really, that is the only thing that matters. Yes, the ONLY thing. I work with the owner/designer/CEO of the company, so when she is working on a new design or coming up with a new way to market materials, I get to learn about it. And! I even get to make suggestions. We have a good team effort going.

3. I work from home on most days. As I am settling into my position, I will begin to schedule more meetings out of the house and attend PR events and whatnot. But for now, my efforts are in researching. Remembering a person’s name or title in an organization goes a long way in a phone call with someone who really had no desire to speak to you in the first place.

4. Yes, I know this was the most important question. There is a lot of coffee involved. During our weekly meetings, if I am going to be even one minute late, I spring for coffee and doughnuts. Because everyone needs that extra boost in the morning. And the bus is only sort of a reliable method of getting to work. I make an effort to drink coffee at home, but will go out for a cappuccino and a morning set-up session at least three days per week. This is mostly to keep me from being so spoiled that I work in my pajamas.

I just finished setting up my home office! It’s really basic right now, with only a desk. And I decided that paying $15 for the trash can that was really cute was silly. So paper bag it is.

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// Gap zippered denim leggings / Sam Edelman suede “Petty” booties / thrifted camouflage jacket / Warby Parker glasses / Madewell bracelet / bag found at TJ Maxx / Gap striped shirt //

So I am definitely still adjusting to being my own boss (when it comes to the way I spend my days, anyway). In fact, because I was home for my sister’s wedding for the past five days, I decided not to get dressed until roughly 2 pm. Of course, work began at 9. But I wasn’t required to be up and about. And I therefore wasn’t. But! From research I’ve been doing on how to make the most of your work from home and really learn to be your own boss, in a sense, here is what I have found:

1. Set-up an area that you will work from every day. Preferably not where you eat your meals, if possible. Having boundaries is a good thing!

2. Surround yourself with inspirational/pretty items.

3. Wake up early and get ready for the day! It gives you more motivation to be social, even over the phone.

4. DO NOT SNACK ON ALL OF THE GROCERIES YOU BOUGHT. That would end badly for a number of reasons; your budget will decrease, while your waist increases. No bueno.

5. Follow-up on everything. Whether it was a random meeting, realizing you have a mutual friend who also likes luxury jewelry, or you made a phone call to a buyer who doesn’t seem to care. At all. Remembering to call or email and say thank you makes all of the difference when you are speaking to them the next time around!

I had grand plans of making that into an infographic. A really cute one. But the boy got free tickets to this show. So that clearly took precedence. Next time!

Also, if you haven’t checked out the company I work for yet, you probably should. Wendy blogs a lot and is generally hilarious, I am in charge of the PR Instagram, and we are amping up our Pinterest presence. Oh yeah, and there’s Facebook. Of course.

// lazy Monday wear.

On Monday morning, Allison and I dragged ourselves out of bed for an early breakfast at Crema (THE TOMATO THREE CHEESE QUICHE IS HEAVEN). After breakfast, we visited Cumberland Park for a little fun! Not pictured: the rock climbing attempt and repelling rope. It should be noted that I played with a new lens for these photos! It didn’t go quite as planned. But I did get a few that weren’t blurry out of it!

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Outfit details // Gap Boyfriend fit denim // Dolce Vita blue suede oxfords // T-shirt, hat, & belt thrifted //

// Nashville, a 12-hour affair.

After much deliberation, coaxing, and begging (really, it didn’t require any of that), I took a short trip up to Nashville to visit Allison, Roger, and their pups, Luna & Bermuda. So what does one do when only visiting a city for 12 hours? As much as you can, of course.

We started off with mandatory caffeination–Barista Parlor was closest, so that hit the spot! Next up, the collaboration between pop-up ramen shop Otaku South and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. And it was. Amazing. Perfect noodles, crunchy and spicy chicken, all floating in a well-seasoned broth. It should also be mentioned that even though I ordered the “hot” bowl, it wasn’t so hot that you could not enjoy the meal. The spices on the chicken were mild enough to enhance the sweetness of the batter, leaving your mouth prickling and excited for more.

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I finally got to meet the friends I’ve heard so much about! Mallory was a sweetheart and Nicole (Monday Mint) & Kelly were so fun! Post-dinner, we went to the Grassy Knoll Movie Night to see Easy Rider. Was anyone else kind of completely disturbed by this movie? I mean, initially, you’re just really confused about why you’ve been watching absolutely nothing happen for 45 minutes. Then, there’s young Jack Nicholson. THEN spoiler, everyone’s dead. BAM. Also, can we just talk for a second about this AMAZING vintage blanket Allison scored at a yard sale recently?

DSC_0023 DSC_0027 DSC_0033 DSC_0035 DSC_0040We finished off the evening with a girl’s trip to The Patterson House, where I ventured from my usual favorite cocktail, the Blinker, and tried the Hungarian Like the Wolf. I was not disappointed. In fact, one drink in, and I could feel it. So yes, those $12 cocktails are worth it. Luckily, Roger was kind enough to be our chauffeur/DD, so Allison and I weren’t stranded.

Partially because the next day required a super-early trip home and partially because Allison and I always have a habit of waking up obscenely early, we got up at 6:30 am to visit Crema and get some photos around the city. Photos of food, cappuccinos, and what to wear to feel like you’re still in pajamas (yet looking chic) are coming soon.

 

// first out-of-state visitor — Allison!

DSC_0259 DSC_0262 DSC_0263DSC_0264 DSC_0270 DSC_0273 DSC_0275 DSC_0277 DSC_0279 DSC_0280 DSC_0282 DSC_0283 DSC_0312DSC_0318 DSC_0320 DSC_0321 DSC_0329 DSC_0335Allison’s trip was fantastic! She had a Nashville friend recommend Pies -n- Thighs & O.M.G. fried chicken & waffles. I mean…I may be from the South, but I had never tried the iconic pairing. Imagine here: a cinnamon-y, buttery, fruity waffle. Sweet, but not too sweet. And with that, a salty, crunch, perfectly spiced piece of chicken. To say it was delicious is not giving it justice. Maybe I was starving, maybe it was actually mind numbingly good. Either way, I will definitely be going back.

Other visits that day included Blue Bottle Coffee (another recommendation from the Pies -n- Thighs gurus), the Brooklyn Flea Market, Dylan’s Candy Bar, a quick stop at the Met, and a second cup of joe at Sweetleaf. Of course there were thrifted finds, missed subway trains, bus mishaps, clothing malfunctions, hot dog debacles, and everything else that just happens in NYC that you forget to immortalize in writing.

Our first full day of the trip was such a success. Allison and I haven’t had a long visit in far too long and it was great to catch-up while touring the city.

It should also be mentioned that I found the rather strange jumper I am wearing for $10 at a street fair. I’m not crazy about the material, but it was so comfy!

// that’s what friends are for.

 

Untitled-2The only way to describe this past week was long. It started out with archiving shoes and other amazing pieces at Isaac Mizrahi, followed by a dead cell phone and taxi mishap on Tuesday (he dropped me off on the opposite side of town!), some marketing/social networking for Gabriela Moya, late dinner on Thursday, and finally, on Friday, a 10 hour day full of cutting threads, pinning samples, and stuffing a model into a pair of $700 boots for the Stacy Lomman F/W ’13 photo shoot (behind-the-scenes photos here).

By Friday night, I collapsed into bed, in a pile of fashion-overloaded bliss. Then, I got a package! But not just any package. A care package from Alyssa! I have never been so excited to get mail and so thankful for the friends I have. This thing was heavy. It was full of all of the things we used to cheer each other up when we lived together, from pretzel M&Ms to the ingredients for spaghetti, to a teeny box of wine, to some thrifting gold she found for me. A ton of miniature things: tiny deodorant, tiny notebooks, a tiny fan to deal with the sometimes un-airconditioned train, a teeny face wash, and some new lipstick. And to top it all off, she even included a teensy French press and coffee from Mama Mocha’s, for a little taste of home.

It should also be mentioned that on top of the excellent timing of the box, I received a card in the mail on the fateful Tuesday dinner debacle–and it made me laugh like a 12-year-old boy. Who knew you could even buy these?? Utter genius.

 

// life of an intern.

“We have this really disorganized, messy closet of clothes from previous lines–even some couture pieces. You guys are going to organize it.”

What I heard, “Here is this closet of beautiful couture pieces; it’s kind of a mess. A glorious, inspiring mess. Have fun!”

tumblr_m37gy8VBVD1rsdyc4o1_1280Isaac-Mizrahi-Spring-Summer-2011-NYFWIsaac+Mizrahi+Spring+2011+Backstage+N_hteJyoE_0xisaac-mizhari-fashion-week-runway-new-york-09161000040hisaac-mizrahi-fall2010S11_NYC_Sheer_Isaac_Mizrahic1b7322ecc7f11e2ace922000a1f90f6_7“If you’re not busy, would you mind putting these photos together in this look book for our new store that opens next week?”

What I heard, “Would you like to gawk over the beautiful pictures get more familiar with the new line?”

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My schedule’s a little tight–M/TH: Isaac Mizrahi & T/W: Gabriela Moya & F: Stacy Lomman (or one of the other two, depending on the week’s workload). But I like to stay  busy, so it’s been great so far! This past weekend, I met up with Hannah and Barbara (who is just visiting) to tour the city. We went to the Brooklyn Flea and explored Williamsburg & Bushwick until we were too dehydrated to continue (photos here). I did pretty well with staying on budget–a $5 hat and a $10 shirt, plus an iced latte from Toby’s Estate.

// Philly on a Sunday.

On Sunday, Yoolee & I packed our day bags and took a trip to Philadelphia. Of course, in usual fashion, there were dozens of mishaps, from being dropped off in the middle of nowhere from a bus whose seats were decorated with a fabric that can only be described as something from Saved by the Bell, to getting lost while wandering, to eating french fries with what the bartender claimed was “cheese dip,” to splurging on a great vintage necklace.

By the end of the day, while we sat in a pungent bus with screaming children, the scent of someone else’s leftover seafood pasta (GROSS), mixed with the poor plumbing (pretty sure it was leaking), all we could do was laugh. And the first thing we did when we returned to Manhattan? Eat. Peruvian food, of course. Because in what other city can you find great, authentic Peruvian food at 11 pm?

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Things I’ve learned since my trip: there is actually a train that will take you to Philly, that will take less than 2 hours (we were on the bus for 5 hours total + taxi time), you probably should follow your taxi route on your smartphone if you have one; we paid $10 more than we should have to get into the city, check on public transportation options before you leave, pack a LOT of snacks, and last, but certainly not to be left out–MUST HAVE COFFEE PRIOR TO TRIP. NO EXCUSES.

Where did we go? The Irish Pol – don’t order the cheese fries; beer selection is great, though! // Art in the Age – adorable store; sells Imogene + Willie denim, Warby Parker glasses, and this necklace I fell in love with. // Bodhi Coffeeamazing. Baristas were very knowledgeable and made great recommendations for future wandering. // Mostly Books – so many great finds for really cheap! I got a copy of A Clockwork Orange and a photo of someone I don’t know (I collect them) // Wilbur: Vintage & Designer Clothing – this is by far the best stop of the day! All clothing was 50% off and the guy working was super helpful. //

 

Photos of my thrifted finds coming soon.

 

// Nashville, a few weeks late.

Recently, I took a couple of mini trips to Nashville. No, unfortunately, they weren’t quite long enough for me to visit Allison (other than a quick hello!), but they were just long enough to get some family time in–on the first trip, I did a cake tasting with my sister and her fiancée and for the second trip, we scoured shops for post-graduation clothing [oh yeah, I’M DONE WITH COLLEGE, YOU GUYS].

First stop on the wedding cake trip–Barista Parlor. Joe had fancy chocolate for breakfast, of course. I had a jam tart.

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For the cakes, we went to Sweet 16th Bakery. We tried several different desserts–the Elvis, a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, a lemon bar…and to cut the sugar, we had one of their famous breakfast sandwiches and Israeli cous cous salad [menu here].

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And on the more recent Nashville trip–a stop at my beloved Crema just before digging through designer castoffs at UAL. I didn’t carry my camera around for this trip, so I just have a few cell phone shots of the afternoon. We finished out the day with lunch at Silly Goose and a quick stop to see Allison at Eclectic Nashville. You can see photos on Instagram here and here.

It was nice to get a chance to get away from Auburn and Huntsville, even if for just a few hours!