Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Breaking in Brikka

The previous entry gave a brief rundown of receiving the Brikka and running some "break-in" pots. It's pretty obvious that I was excited, but I did want to expand on getting familiar with it.

As I wrote earlier, the Bialetti Brikka 2-cup had to be ordered from Italy. It ordered May 22, was shipped May 29 and the first delivery attempt was June 4. Whoa, that's pretty fast for the actual delivery time. Not sure of the delay in actually shipping it out, but it's not of great concern.

The packaging was a cardboad box of medium strength and durability. You may be able to detect that the right side was somewhat crushed. It didn't affect the product, and I certainly understnad that being delivered through the postal system, gentle handling is not guaranteed.

No duty or taxes were assessed, which didn't particularly surprise me, but was certainly welcome.

The packing material was crumpled newspaper. Since the Brikka itself was in its retail box, this proved to be adequate but not ideal. Given the rough handling in transit, newspaper for packing material didn't give much protection; the retail box had a tear in it, which may be the result of less than ideal packing material. Without a sturdy inner box, the Brikka itself might have been marred if not damaged.

You can't see the tear damage in this shot. But it is an attractive box. I'm storing it away for safekeeping; I don't throw out boxes for appliances.

The 2-cup Brikka is positively tiny. It's a little jewel, IMO. Next to the Turkish grinder, it looks so diminutive you wonder if the amount of café that can be made is worth the effort. More on that later.

The instruction leaflet is packed in the box. Opening up the lid (note the lid has a window in it, something I was not expecting in the 2-cup version,) you find the water measuring cup, a notice tag and a very small quick guide to the use of the Brikka.

While this quick guide has a cute format, what caught my eye was under the "Absolutely Don't Forget" heading. Keep the lid open? That certainly isn't intuitive, but when you follow this guidline you see there isn't any danger of hot, black liquid shooting out and inflicting 2nd degree burns on your face. So this begs the question, why the window in the lid? Granted you need to close the lid when you pour the coffee, but at that point the see-through window doesn't seem to have much utility. Any ideas?

After pouring the correct amount of water into the boil pot, grinding some beans and loading them into the grounds filter, I screwed the receiving chamber onto the boil pot, placed the unit onto the stove and adjusted the flame to not extend beyond the circumferance of the pot. Now it was wait time. The instruction leaflet indicates prep time is 3-4 minutes. I didn't keep exact time, after all I was anxious plus focused on capturing creama production with the camera.

And there it is ... the "pre-produciton run" of Brikka coffee ... with crema indeed! Some comments online have stated that Brikka crema will dissipate quickly, especially if not poured immediately. I didn't notice the former, but the may dissipate quickly in the cup. I say may because I don't own any espresso cups, so poured into a normal-sized coffee cup. My theory is that enlarged surface area of the relatively large diameter of cup will hasten crema dissipation. OK, so there's something I didn't think of when buying the Brikka, grinder, etc.... you really do need proper cups!

The next two preps produced roughly the same results, so the Brikka is now officially prepared for full production. I've purchased some beans from Finger Lakes Coffee, and tomorrow morning will be the first "real" pot. Due to a recent kitchen reno, I couldn't find the sugar when I ran the condition runs, so even if I'd had good beans for that, any taste experience would have been less than optimal. Some people may take their espresso naked (I don't add anything to "regular" coffee), but not me!

The only drawback so far is that amount of cafe produced will be enough for one person. When I have guests, this will be a problem, since the pot has to cool down before you unscrew the two parts. If only the 4-cup model made crema as well as the 2-cupper. Oh well, such are the laws of physics; but so far the results justify the choice. If Santa were to bring me a 4-cup model, I certainly could compare results...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

We have crema!

My pot arrived today. Well, the postman rang once yesterday but no one was home, so I picked it up today. More film at 11, but it is a cute little unit! The photos show the first stage of crema production, then the at the end stage.

I had to run it at 3/4 capacity 3 times to "break it in", so I used whatever beans I had lying around, which were not espresso/Italian roast. It DOES produce crema, and the flavour is pretty good for break-in period and ordinary beans. I think I lucked out setting the grinder burrs correctly.

I'll post a follow-up with details and will include more photos. So far, a success!