How An Espresso Machine Kept Me Grounded During the Pandemic

·2 min read
Photo credit: Sarah Ceniceros
Photo credit: Sarah Ceniceros

A high school friend is the one who got me hooked. I started drinking coffee not to stay awake or study but when I accompanied her to Starbucks, where we drank only the sweetest drinks on the menu: Caramel Macchiatos, Cinnamon Dolce Lattes, you know the type. Now, I stick to the strong stuff, usually from local spots. (New York City's coffee scene is vast, so I make an effort to order from a new spot every time. And yes, I keep a list!)

Then came the pandemic. Some adopted dogs, others took up knitting—I brought home a Smeg.

Going from my usual at-home cup—strongly brewed using a Keurig topped with frothed milk—to drinks with high-quality espresso that produces a crema (the golden brown mixture on top) has been, not to be dramatic, life-changing. I use the retro-style manual machine almost every day, going through all the motions: filling the portafilter with espresso (I love illy), using a tamper to pack it into a little cake, attaching the portafilter to the machine, and so on. It's become somewhat of a sacred morning ritual. (Not to mention one that makes me feel like a true barista.) During the pandemic, it was nice to have some control over...something...when everything else about life was and is still pretty unpredictable. It became this routine I could always count on—one that's soothing and makes me feel like I've already accomplished something; my version of making the bed.

While the machine makes a humming noise, the sound is nothing outrageous…though, I may be used to it by now. It’s also incredibly sleek compared to other fancy espresso machines, which makes it ideal for the roughly 2.5 feet of counter space in my kitchen. Oh, and it even has a warming pad on top for prepping mugs. How could it get any better than that? Until I can actually hang out in coffee shops again (and perhaps after that), I’ll continue to rely on my Smeg to get my daily espresso fix.

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