Caffeine extraction

When we used to live in Broad Ripple I would buy coffee beans from Hubbard & Cravens’ roasting plant on 52nd Street next to the Monon once in a while. Their roast was a little too dark for my preference, and their hours were such that we started calling them Hubbard & Closed, so it wasn’t always at the top of my list of places to buy beans back then.

I was in the neighborhood, loosely speaking, earlier this week to pick up this month’s Bacon of the Month Club treat from Goose the Market, and I was low on coffee, so I stopped in the Carrollton location to pick up some beans.

Caffeine does not usually have much effect on me, but last night I was awake until 2:00. What happened?

When I got home I eagerly flipped on Miss Silvia, the espresso machine, in anticipation of a rich, invigorating beverage. I was immediately distracted by the dog’s silliness and other chores that needed attention. Some time later, I got around to making the shot of espresso that I had been looking forward to. It was good, so maybe I am coming around on my opinion of Hubbard & Cravens’ roast level.

Fast forward to this morning when I was laying in bed, unable to sleep. I had plenty of time to think about the cause of my insomnia.

Silvia’s boiler temperature is controlled by two simple bimetallic thermostats, so temperature regulation is not very precise. Temperature swings of 40° are not unheard of with this type of thermostat. When I brewed my espresso yesterday evening, I noticed that it was extremely hot. The thermostat must have just cycled off at the very top of its 110°C (230°F) range. (I am certain that I had not left the steam switch on, which brings the boiler to 140°C [284°F].) The espresso even appeared to be boiling as it came out of the portafilter.

Wikipedia says that caffeine’s solubility in water increases dramatically with temperature.

Not being a chemist, I have to assume that caffeine’s solubility would continue to increase with temperature. So, it is definitely plausible that if the water was much hotter than normal for that fateful shot, the machine could have extracted much more caffeine than normal into my espresso.

If the solution to this is better temperature control, am I trying to talk myself into joining the ranks of people who have hacked their espresso machines to include a PID controller? Uh-oh.

Brewing with Miss Silvia

814Politics aside, one of the things I will give George W. Bush credit for is chipping in for my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine with that tax rebate back in 2001. I love this machine. It’s built like a tank and brews excellent coffee.

Looking back, it’s been a superb value, even at $395. Amortizing the cost of the machine over 8 years and adding the cost of ingredients, our latte habit has cost 65¢ per day. Compare this with a $3 latte at Starbuck’s, and there’s just no contest.

Today, the going rate for a Silvia is $595. Add in the essential accessories, and the price probably comes closer to $650. This sounds like an awfully large investment, but the break even point is just 275 lattes — less than a year for most folks. My advice for anyone looking for an espresso machine has always been to get a good one. If you don’t get a good one, then it you won’t enjoy using it, you won’t be as happy with what you make, and the result will be that you won’t get much use out of it. So you will have wasted your money. 

I stumbled on a video made by Mark Prince of that shows how satisfying it is to make your own espresso based beverages. He published a detailed review of the most recent revision of the Silvia a while back. If I had to get another espresso machine today, I wouldn’t hesitate to replace ours with another Silvia.

So, I’ve been saying ran-silly‑o all these years, but apparently it’s ran-chilly‑o. I find the rules of Italian pronunciation to be elusive.

This is really strong!

To the person who put this post-it on the coffee maker at work: don’t be sorry, no problem here. I like it when my coffee actually tastes like something!


Gelato Da Vinci

I first sampled this gelato while working at Zoobilation. There, I tried the mango (something fruity and refreshing), but this evening I was feeling particularly decadent and opted for the slightly more fattening “Tuscano Turtle”. Yikes. Three scoops of delicious Creme Brulee gelato (all flavors are made on the premises each day, by the way), hot fudge, caramel, and pecans. A rare splurge, even for me.

Chris tried the cherries and almonds gelato, equally as tasty. Every flavor, from the creamy gelatos to the lighter, fruiter sorbets, are homemade fresh and without any artificial ingredients.

This gelato is a tasty alternative to your typical cup of ice cream (even if we’re talking Ben & Jerry’s) and the owners are very friendly people. They’re pretty excited about their business, and if you can brave the construction road blocks at the Fishers location, it’s totally worth it. Plus, they’re open until 10pm on weeknights, so it makes for a great later-evening treat.

Cath, Inc

Coffee And Tea House. Local art for sale, and a rocking horse for adults. Closes too early, but we make an effort to get there to pick up espresso. The guy who is always working on Alice in Wonderland arts and crafts is pretty nice, too.

Update: Horrors! Cath has closed its Broad Ripple location as of late October 2004. Alas, you can still get your caffeine fix across the intersection at Cornerstone. Fortunately, the City Market location remains open for business.

The Abbey Coffeehouse

Even my parents like this place! Creative dishes (many of them vegetarian-friendly) include wraps, sandwiches on wonderful breads, and stuffed pitas. Nathan’s Famous (with feta, chicken, spinach, onions, and barbecue sauce) is awesome, but don’t expect any kisses afterwards. Same goes for the buffalo melt; the garlic mayonnaise is so garlicky it’s spicy. Yum! The Zoobilation roll is great, as is the vegetarian Asian wrap (or something like that). Just ask them to heat the rice that accompanies all sandwiches…it tastes better that way. Also make sure you save room for dessert and coffee; the tiramisu is huge and delicious! If you’re up early enough for breakfast, the abbey serves some decent omelettes and French toast dishes. Most of them look ugly but taste great in the a.m.

Update: Sadly (sniff!) the Mass Ave location is no longer, but they’ve relocated to somewhere on Pennsylvania.

Cornerstone Coffee House

Mostly-friendly neighborhood coffee joint. A good place for Sunday brunch (stuffed french toast…mmm) or late-evening coffee. They’re open until “whenever” and there’s a two-for-one pastry special on Mondays when you buy a coffee drink.

Hubbard & Cravens Coffee Co.

Strangest hours known to (this) man, hence the nickname “Hubbard and Closed”, but when you do manage to sneak in during business hours, you’re rewarded with tasty coffee and baked goods.