A corner of my kitchen

I have a spot in my kitchen that is all set up for making espresso drinks. I can remember how, when I was growing up in the 70s, my mother would sit for hours and hours at the kitchen table with her sister and their friends, laughing, talking, and pouring and sipping their coffee. Mama drank hers black. She liked good strong coffee! Coffee for her was something to be savored and enjoyed and crafted. As an adult I liked the coffee she made, but I never had a big cup, a small cup was plenty for me — and I definitely had it black, too. I like to taste it!

That’s why an espresso machine is perfect for my taste in coffee. It’s just a small amount at a time, and it’s nice & rich. It’s crafted. I like it.

About 6 years ago I got my first espresso machine. I paid $5 for it at a thrift shop. It was a little Krups machine that probably cost $99 new. I wasn’t fancy. It just had one button and one knob, and a steam wand for the milk. It was a perfect intro to espresso making. Through trial and error I learned how to make a good espresso and I enjoyed that machine for a few years.

Usually when I’m having a latte, I brew the espresso directly into the cup then pour the steamed milk on top.

This time, with my Krups machine, I steamed the milk first, poured it into my cup, and then brewed the espresso into the milk, just to see what it would be like. This is what appeared: an image of Mother and Child. I couldn’t have designed this myself if I’d tried!

Eventually the portafilter (where the grounds sit) started leaking, so I gave it to my son, who took it to our basement workshop where it will be taken apart (probably for the pump inside). 

I spent some time (ok, a LOT of time) online, researching espresso machines. I wanted a new one that was simple to use, with not too many bells and whistles, that was affordable, and one that would be a step up from the Krups. I did find a great machine — the Italian-made Gaggia Classic.

It makes terrific espresso shots, and the steamed milk is pretty decent, although I think the newer models have improved the technology in that area. Anyway I don’t have lattes too often — I usually just enjoy just having a simple espresso shot in the morning.

I upped my game and got a fancy grinder Christmas 2019. That was fun! It’s niiiiiice.

I have some lovely accoutrements which bring me great pleasure while I have my coffee. This little café caddy belonged to my late mother and houses my collection of special cups and mugs and flavorings.

Some are thrifted, some were gifts, and some were Mama’s. I bought the two pretty glasses in Valencia, Spain and they cost about 50 cents each. The shop owner recalled to me how her father and his friends used to drink their coffee out of those exact kinds of glasses every day. I liked the idea of that! (Why didn’t I buy more than two??)

One of my favorite things in the caddy is this little coffee pot salt & pepper set I inherited. Mama bought it online about 15 years ago. She was very surprised when the set arrived, because she was expecting a full-sized double-burner coffee warmer! She didn’t know it was a miniature salt & pepper set. “I wondered why it was so cheap…” she mused! Mama had such a great sense of humor and she didn’t mind laughing at herself. She always kept the little Lockhorns cartoon with it, tucked underneath!

The very best part of my espresso experience is the coffee itself. No matter how awesome the equipment is, if you don’t have good coffee beans, it won’t taste good. It just won’t. I am very lucky because my brother Rob owns a coffee shop, Java Lords Coffee House & Bar, in Little 5 Points, Atlanta, GA. He roasts the coffee beans himself — they are super fresh and Fair Trade, too.

My favorites are the beans from Yirgacheffe and Tanzania. There is a natural, subtle variation with every batch Rob roasts, but these particular beans tend to have a warm, sweet, fruity aroma! Rob always has a terrific house blend on hand, which he calls “Lord’s House”.

Other special roasts include Mourning Blend (that “u” changes the meaning, right) Dead Souls’, and Darkness Blend. He also roasts beans from Sumatra, Thailand, Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Brazil, Nicaragua, and other places as well. In my opinion, Java Lords sells the best coffee beans. When I can’t get over L5P to replenish, I do like to buy Allegra Coffee Beans from Whole Foods. They are pretty good and I enjoy those espressos, but when I get back to my Java Lords beans…it’s just soooo good! 

I’m lucky to have come up with a great combination of elevated equipment, my pretty tableware, and the unparalleled coffee beans. It’s a nice start to my day and I just love it! Do you have a coffee ritual, or a machine you love? Do you have special mugs or other accoutrements that give you warm feelings? Leave me a comment! I’d love to hear…

7 responses to “A corner of my kitchen”

  1. Hi Elizabeth:
    Your article on coffee really perked me up.😜. I have been doing a little research on purchasing an espresso maker ever since I read an article about the one Martha Stewart has in her kitchen. Your article was so much more informative and fun to read. I grew up in an Italian home and espresso was served after our big Sunday dinners. We had those adorable Espresso cups , probably one shots. Thanks for sharing .


    • Hi Rita! Big Italian Sunday Dinners! What wonderful memories you must have. The little cups are a must, no?! I really do love my machine. It’s rewarding to use because it’s so simple. I suspect Martha has the Breville machine. It’s good for home use, but I think it’s pricier and I don’t know if it’s any better. It does have more options, I think, but I just wanted that SHOT of espresso! Just the good stuff! Hope to see you soon. Thank you so much for reading, and for the fun comment…big Sunday Italian Dinners, those must have been terrific…


  2. I remember coffee time with family, All of us tucked around a small round table in the breakfast area with mixed matched cups and a loaf of warm homemade shortening bread. The bread was always piping hot and served with butter and jam. We exchanged conversation about life, we laughed, we cried and bonded in this tiny wood paneled room with handmade shutters from the seventies on the windows. Our coffee cream was always evaporated milk, the coffee was brewed in an electric pot, I believe it was called a percolator! The sugar sat sweet in a crystal cup with a lid. I always drank my coffee with cream and sugar back then. I truly believe the strength and confidence I have now grew from those conversations with my aunts and Grandmother. Your post reminded me of those priceless times, and one of those aunts was your mother.


  3. Yes, Renée, I have these same memories! You paint the picture so beautifully, so perfectly! That was a good, safe place we had at our grandparents’ house. We had so many conversations around that table, and Mama and her siblings had them with their friends right there, too, when they were growing up! No doubt Mama had the same feelings in that space, growing up. I remember that percolator! I wonder what happened to the sugar dish…do you have it? Thank you so much for sharing these memories here. I will always hold all my memories of Warren Drive dearly in my heart! I also love picturing in my mind the wooden open shelves in the kitchen that our grandfather built. Lovingly built, and well stocked, not with expensive or fancy things, but with all the right ingredients for the best meals!


  4. Great memories. i remember having my first cups of coffee — half evaporated milk with quite a bit of sugar in them. But they always came with buttered toast cut into three long strips for dipping into the coffee. Some strange kind of magic happened to the texture of the butter once the bread was soaked through. These were the days long before wheat bread. I, too, remember sitting with my aunts and grandmother at the same table, instead of running around outside with my decidedly-less-mature cousins, soaking up the wisdom and gossip. Today is the birthday and anniversary of the death of Aunt Jeri — she and Judy and Mawmaw and my mom are all gone now. What amazing women. And we are left to carry on. I’ll certainly think about them tomorrow morning when I am drinking my coffee.

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