I like coffee. I’m not addicted to coffee. I don’t drink multiple cups a day. I can’t drink it after 3PM unless I intend to stay awake past my normal bedtime. But I like coffee and prefer good coffee over bad. I would rather do without coffee if it is bad coffee. Which most out there is. Bad that is. One of Italy’s points of pride is coffee. And that pride is causing me some problems. Not life and death problems but problems non-the less.
Growing up in the USA I learned to like having a big mug of coffee, actually two, in the morning while reading or watching the news and to get me ready for my morning routines. In the USA you can buy commercial coffee like Folgers or buy beans from specialty roasters. Both are easy to do. The Fairway market typically has over a hundred different coffees to choose from. Even in normal supermarkets you can buy single origin coffees that are not too bad. The choices are excellent as long as you want “American” coffee.
Being culturally Italian I also like espresso. Espresso is a different world from “American” coffee. The best American coffees tend to be single plantation, varietal, coffees, most often of the Arabica type. Espresso is almost always a custom blend specific to the producer. That is why when you buy a bag of espresso it typically does not say where the coffee is from. In other words, coffee in Italy is the art of roasting and blending while in the USA the quality of the individual beans is paramount. You are not going to see Tanzanian Peaberry coffee in Italy. While blends in the USA are typically poor quality commercial coffees. Maxwell House for example.
If I had completely immersed myself in the Italian culture, then a couple espresso or a latte would be fine and there would not be any problem. Instead, both Alice and I want the two mugs in the morning. In France, which is about half way between the USA and Italy, with respect to coffee, I was able to get a very limited selection of decent single bean coffees and had them ground for a french press. It was a bit tedious but it was workable. It is almost impossible to find French press or even drip grind coffees in Italy. It’s all ground for the Moka coffee makers. That is a very fine grind which tends to plug the screen on a french press or causes water to overflow if you use a drip machine. It is suitable for pressure powered press coffee. Espresso
What is the solution? Unless you want to pay exorbitant shipping costs and customs fees for ordering coffee from Porto Rico Roaster on Bleeker Street, you have to deal with the coffee in Italy. And since Italy “has the best coffee”, why bother with other types of coffee. In Sicily we had an automatic espresso machine that made cafe americano. Espresso with extra hot water added. It is not an ideal solution but it is acceptable. That machine was actually a royal pain because it needed to be decalcified all too often. An extended process that had to be done once a week. Additionally, feeding the machine with good coffee suitable for American style coffee was very hard to do for reasons covered below. So when we left Sicily for France, the machine stayed behind. In France, as I mentioned, we used the French press which we brought with us to Chianti. We have been using that since we got here but it is a struggle every morning because the coffee is too fine. Coffee grounds and hot water have exploded out of the press more than once. So, today, Alice and I went out and bought a manual espresso machine. When in Rome……
We drove to a large mall outside of Florence and made the purchase. The machine is 165 euros and should do the trick. I paid using my American debit card. I was, as I usually am, in a different world during the transaction. After all it is a routine process and does not require my entire conscience to complete. So I can think of other things while the clerk is doing her thing. On the way home I started getting a tickle in the back of my mind. Something was not right. The number 300 something kept popping into my brain. I could hear the clerk say 300 something but I was thinking about something else. What did it mean. We stopped at a supermarket near home and I checked the receipt for the coffee machine. I had been charged twice. So back in the car for the 40 minute drive back to the mall. And I got an argument from customer service when I presented my case. “How do I know you didn’t buy two?”. Check your fucking inventory was my silent response. “It’s your responsibility to check the receipt when you pay”. It’s your responsibility to not cheat your customers, I responded. She gave me back the cash and I left.
The reason I bought this particular machine, once, is that it handles both ground coffee and coffee pods. Coffee pods and cartridges are very popular in Italy. Cartridges more than pods. They are convenient and no mess and Italians have very much embraced this method of making coffee. The coffee section in supermarkets is mostly cartridge and pods. The popularity of these units means that coffee manufactures have also taken to this technology so they are producing many coffees for it. That is the reason. I could buy a coffee grinder to grind the coffee to my needs, but whole bean coffees are a small part of what is available in stores so the selection is poor and the bean coffees tend to be older. People prefer to buy the already dosed packets of coffee. I chose pods because there is less waste and the filter cloth is compostable. No plastic. Looking forward to tomorrow morning.
I know, the title has the word patience in it. I tried to fit in a discussion about it, based on what happened today, during the above narrative but it got in the way of what I was writing. So you will have to be patient and wait.