a.:.proper.:.fool

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: espresso

// 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.

// 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 //

// 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!

Ninesday // things NYC has taught me.

9. Let’s get things started off with this song, which Kelsey and I listened to on my very first visit to NYC, circa 2009.

8. Even when it says it isn’t going to rain, it is going to rain. And when you actually bring a second pair of shoes, an umbrella, your rain jacket, and your waterproof laptop case, it will not rain. And no, hailing a cab will not keep you any drier. Best bet: hide out under an overhang, be a few minutes late for work, and save your $10.

7. Two hours of commuting is normal (30 minutes- 1 hour to go most anywhere–from my house, at least). Reading is mandatory for saving sanity. I have this little problem…I basically only like to buy used books. I will go weeks, months, and occasionally years without buying a book until I find a used copy. It’s weird and not very productive, I know. I gave in and finally picked up the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for my plane ride to Texas.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

6. If you don’t have your weekend nights planned out, you should probably pack an extra shirt, makeup, and a pair of comfy shoes. Because it seems like it’s only those nights that you’ll wind up sleeping on a friend’s couch, taking an impromptu jog, get rained on a when  the forecast didn’t predict the monsoon, or get an invite to a dinner that is fancier than whatever you’ve been sweating in all day.

5. Rooftops are my new favorite thing. Talk about an under-utilized part of the buildings back home. My favorite moments have been unplanned hours spent on someone’s roof.

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4. You can either pay $7.50+ for a dinner at McDonald’s or $10 for a really good bowl of Pho at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

3. It is completely worthwhile to walk an extra six blocks to that coffee shop you actually like. These are the one’s I have been frequenting: Everyman Espresso, O Cafe, Zibetto, Culture Espresso Bar, Stumptown, Kahve, Konditori, and probs a hundred more that I can’t think of right now.

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2. DOING LAUNDRY IS A CHORE. I mean, that’s obvious. But it is nearly impossible to take my laundry downstairs to an open washer and/or dryer. It’s a lot of waiting, a lot of money, and a lot of trouble. Especially if you only have one of some crucial items, like towels. This is nearly my least favorite thing to do, as a close second to grocery shopping. Why can’t I make a functional list??!

1. I’ve learned that you can’t really experience the city if you say “no” too often. You’ll miss out on spontaneous, long nights. You’ll miss out on meeting new people who you have a lot in common with. You’ll miss the dancing, you’ll miss the thrift store finds, you’ll miss the free concerts, you’ll miss the fun.

So here’s to saying “yes” as often as possible. Even when it is dreadfully inconvenient.

// 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.

NYC: snapshots and blurry memories.

 

 

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