The first time...

I still remember the first time I'd pulled a shot of espresso at home.  The whole point of having an espresso machine to begin with was to recreate a caramel macchiato from Starbucks. My friend, who was a Starbucks employee at the time, had come over and was basically going to show me how to do it step-by-step on my machine.  Bear in mind that this was back when Starbucks was still using the La Marzocco Linea, so my friend had received some proper barista training." width="200" height="200" align="middle" border="0" vspace="0" hspace="-1" />

The machine was a Delonghi Bar32, which I've mentioned before.  At this point, it was fresh out of the box and looked more than capable. I had bought some 'espresso' beans from Starbucks which were ground to espresso fineness. The beans were arabica!  I knew that robusta was no good.  Also, I knew that the beans would be more flavorful if I left them in the freezer after I had finished with them.  As for the espresso itself, I knew that there had to be 'crema' (the frothy stuff on top)." width="485" height="475" title="Still in my cupboard." alt="Still in my cupboard." border="0" vspace="0" hspace="-1" />

The Bar32's directions said that optimal espresso could be had if I allowed the machine to heat up for 20 minutes, which I did. My friend then took the grinds from the Starbucks bag and put them in the 'portafilter' (new lexicon at the time). There was a stubby thing on the side of the machine that he used to compress the grinds in the 'portafilter.' He then attached the 'portafilter' to the machine and flipped the brew switch. Goodness, there was all sorts of 'crema' coming out of the 'portafilter.'  The first step towards a caramel macchiato had been taken.  The instructions had said that the super special pressurized portafilter basket would make my espresso crema-tastic.  I couldn't fail.

Following the shot, my friend and I attempted to steam some whole milk, just like Starbucks at the time.  We needed that foam so the caramel could sit on top of it.  This was really our only concern.  The Bar32 required additional heat-up time for steam, otherwise it would only spit out water.  It took about another 5-10 minutes, but the machine was now ready for steaming.  We put the big plastic frothing tip into a cup of milk (in a Friends-style ginormous latte cup).  We got some foam up top and promptly put our 20 minute old shot into the milk along with some caramel syrup from (can you guess?) Starbucks!  To make things even more fattening, we put some of the butter-based Starbucks syrup over top the big soap-bubbly foam. Delicious!" width="300" height="229" title="Remarkably close to what my latte looked like." alt="Remarkably close to what my latte looked like." border="0" vspace="0" hspace="-1" />

Moral of the story? Sugar and fat make everything better. 

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