This post is sponsored by Comet.
As tomorrow is International Coffee Day, what better topic for a post on a blog whose title pays homage to the humble latte than coffee?
You may remember a post I did a few months ago when I revealed I had finally bought myself a home espresso machine. It has transformed my life! There's something almost decadent about making myself a proper coffee in the morning and then sitting down at my computer to start the day...and it makes the house smells lovely too. I adore the smell of fresh coffee.
One of the reasons I put off getting a coffee machine for so long was because I was convinced that using one would be quite technical and difficult, as I am not a gadget girl at all. Now that I have my machine I can't believe what I was so worried about!
I have a DeLonghi espresso machine, the exact model of which appears to have now been replaced by this one. I would be confident with any of the Comet Delonghi Coffee Machine range as they're really easy to use, especially for beginners like me!
While I can't claim to be an expert and am yet to master latte foam art (!) here's a few of my tips for happy coffee machine usage and making great coffee at home :)
Tip 1: Make friends with the instruction manual.
Sounds obvious I know but I am one of those people who tends not read instructions until she hits a snag and then finds out she's been doing it wrong all along! ;)
So the first thing to do when you buy an espresso machine is read the instruction manual thoroughly because they're all different. Get to know your machine inside and out and follow the instructions to the letter until you get the hang of how it works.
But you'll commonly find that with most machines before making any coffee you need to let it heat up plain water and let it pass through the pipes and filter to clean them and get everything cranked up and ready to get to work. My machine instruction manual recommended filling and emptying the tank twice before making any coffee. I duly obeyed!
Tip 2: Buy good coffee and get it freshly ground.
Tom keeps saying we should get a grinder and grind beans when we need them. I would love that but our kitchen is so tiny I don't know where we'd put a grinder ;) At the moment I buy my beans whole and then get them ground where I buy them. The ground beans are then stored in an airtight jar in the pantry. The important thing, as my mate Nic pointed out to me, is to get the beans ground specifically for an espresso machine because it needs a very fine grind. Don't put coffee that's been ground for a plunger/french press in if you can help it, the results will be quite different and not always drinkable!
There's not a lot of choice out where I live to buy coffee beans so I tend to rely on Starbucks, whose Fairtrade blends are reliably very good. But my absolute favourite is the house espresso blend from Monmouth in London. They have an eye-widening variety of beans available so I may be daring and get something bolder next time. The Monmouth coffee also has produced a superior crema in my DeLonghi machine too, so far.
Tip 3: Keep the milk frothing arm fastidiously clean!
This is a tip from my barista friend Bill Lark. If you just drink espressos you won't need to worry about this but if you're a latte, cappuccino or macchiato lover, you want the milk to froth up just right. If the frothing arm isn't kept clean, not only will any caked-on milk scunge make any fresh milk taste a bit sour and gross, but hot milk can clog up the tube the steam travels through which may mean you turn on the steaming dial one day and nothing happens! So keep a clean cloth handy and wipe the nozzle down straight away after you've steamed the milk, it's a good habit to get into.
To clean the milk frother, fill your frothing jug with cold water and immerse the steam tube completely in the water. Turn the steamer on and run for about 20 seconds or until the water is boiling. This should dislodge any dried milk build up inside. If the steam is still blocked you can use a toothpick or bamboo skewer to unclog the small holes at the bottom.
Also, another milk tip from my mate Bill: for a creamy velvety latte, steam the milk first and put to one side while you make the espresso. When ready, stir the milk and fold the foam through gently and then add it to the coffee.
As most of you would know, the majority of luxuries in my household have been curtailed this year as I've embarked on life as a full time writer. While it's been completely worth it, it has not been easy. Having a really good cup of coffee to start most days is a luxury I really appreciate, and it hasn't hit the hip pocket anywhere near as much as I thought it would. I'm so glad I bought it. As well as helping to jolt me awake most mornings, it's been good for the soul too.
So if you too secretly long for home brewed espresso and foamy lattes in your pyjamas but worry it's too difficult, never fear. It's so much easier than you think!
Do you have a coffee machine? What are your tips for making great coffee at home? :)