I was in a hurry.
I needed to get to the office, I was running late, but I still felt the need for a good cup of coffee. I knew I should have left 5 minutes ago, but I was confident that a good cup of coffee would set the tone for the rest of my workday.
So I made the preparations—but not only that, I decided to try something different.
Just a couple of weeks ago my parents were out for a visit, and they bought me a small stovetop espresso maker while they were here. We saw it in a store and I commented about how Cubans I used to work with would make the best coffee in the world using those particular coffee pots (this was before I knew to call it espresso). So they bought me one.
Since then I’ve made espresso maybe 4 or 5 times. Just enough to get a little too comfortable with the process.
So this morning I thought I’d try making good regular coffee and adding 3 shots of espresso to the insulated travel mug that frequently comes with me to the office.
I figured I could nurse it all morning that way without a reheat.
So I made the regular coffee. No problem.
Then I loaded up my espresso maker and fired up the stove to get it to boil.
It’s not rocket science. There’s a chamber in the bottom where the water boils. When it boils, it produces steam. The steam pressure forces the water through a tube into another chamber where the coffee is packed and the espresso is made. Finally the resulting concoction bubbles into a third chamber, ready to drink as espresso.
Like I said, I was in a hurry.
So I had the heat a little high, to get it to boil faster. I heard it start to bubble through and I was confident I was on my way to a caffeine-induced frenzy of activity.
I checked the top chamber. It was filling up nicely. I could almost taste it.
There must have been less than a half inch of water left to run through the system when I learned an important lesson about safety valves.
Maybe I had the heat too high.
Maybe the sugar I added to the grounds (my attempt at a ‘café cubana’) somehow gummed up the works.
Maybe someone planted a little C-4 in my beloved coffee pot.
All I really know is that for whatever reason, the contents of that lowest chamber couldn’t get out fast enough towards the end of the cycle.
Thank God for safety valves.
Mine literally shot out of the pot like a bullet from a gun.
It did exactly what it was designed to do—it gave away under pressure.
All was not lost, however. I had a mess to clean up, but I also had a nearly-full chamber of espresso that was ready to drink (a little later, after my heart stopped racing and after explaining to my sick wife who was in bed why she heard a gunshot and a yelp from the kitchen).
What is there to learn from this experience? Never aim a loaded espresso maker at anyone when making espresso? Try not to hurry life’s simple pleasures? Invest in ‘steam damage insurance’?
I did nurse my blackened beverage all morning. I enjoyed it for all it was worth.
But more importantly I learned not to rush a good thing.