Budding up to a Gimoka barista

It’s 2017 and we’re grumbling our way back to work after the holidays. Well, not all of us. Alessandro from Gimoka’s home cafe on Lake Como and is pretty chuffed about his job. Making coffee for beautiful women all day ain’t that bad, he says. We caught up with him on our recent trip to Italy and chatted not about the ladies, but about the coffee culture in Italy and the perfect espresso. Here’s what he had to say.

Alessandro, you’ve been working at Gimoka’s Como café for almost 4 years, tell us, is the Italian love of coffee a stereotype or do the locals really obsess over their cup of Jo?

Coffee is quintessentially Italian. In America, there is a huge push for flavoured coffees, for beans that taste like chocolate and almonds and strawberries, but in Italy, the emphasis is still on an espresso that is made well and well, tastes like coffee.

What do you mean, tastes like coffee?

The perfect Italian coffee is hot, bitter and short. The flavour notes are subtle and accent the coffee rather than hide the flavour of the beans. If I want a coffee that tastes like chocolate, I’ll eat a piece of chocolate with my espresso. I don’t need to combine the two with artificial flavourings and sweeteners.

We’re a little biased, but we don’t think the perfect espresso necessarily needs to be made by a barista like yourself. What do the Italians think?

There are some terrible baristas out there, I’m not one of them (lol), so I agree. You can have terrible coffee at a bar and you can have terrible coffee at home. It’s all about the products you’re using and how you go about making your coffee. Italians don’t exclusively drink espressos at the local bar. They know how to make a good espresso at home.

Now Alessandro, a few barista tips for making that perfect espresso at home? 

Ah, well it’s not all about the machine. You don’t need to go out and buy a really expensive machine. Whether you’re using pods or beans, it’s about understanding your machine’s capabilities and following a few general rules. Always let your machine heat up, never use a cold glass, don’t pull too much coffee and remember to tilt the glass as it pours out for the perfect cream.

You work at Gimoka, but you can still be honest with us. How do Italians feel about coffee pods? 

Italians have embraced them almost more than anywhere else in the world. They’re a convenient way to get a consistently good coffee. Italians drink 3-4 coffees a day, so they know what a good coffee tastes like. They hold their coffee brands to the highest standard and companies like Gimoka know that. They’re not going to sell them a substandard product. They’re going to make pods that deliver on an authentically good Italian espresso, otherwise they would have gone out of business years ago.

Favourite Gimoka coffee?

The one everyone at the café always asks for, Gimoka’s Intenso. It might be the red packaging, but it’s the local favourite. I like how intense it is (hence the name Intenso). It packs a real punch. It’ll wake you up with its richness and bitterness. It’s a medium roast, so it’s dark, but you don’t get those almost burnt notes that turn some people off a traditional dark roast. It holds its own when you add a drop of milk or when making a cappuccino, which is nice. I don’t like watered down coffee.

So you drink cappuccinos? 

Sure! Most Italians have them for breakfast, although I make a few in the afternoon here at the café too and I’ve never yelled at someone for ordering one after 11am. Milk isn’t coffee’s enemy. A cappuccino can be as delicious as an espresso, especially if you’re not a heavy hitting coffee drinker and some Italians aren’t. I still wouldn’t add sugar though. Italians never add sugar to their coffees.

Ever been to Australia?

No, but I would love to go. Australians sometime stop by the café and they say places like Sydney and Melbourne have amazing cafés. I’d love to try the Aussie take on coffee. See whether it shapes up to ours!

You can visit Alessandro at Gimoka’s in-house café on Lake Como. 

 

 

Christmas coffee cocktail recipe: Caffè Siciliano

This week’s coffee cocktail is another Italian classic. It lives and breathes the ’50s. Basically, if we could marry this cocktail, we would. It’s that sophisticated and smooth and graceful.

The Caffè Siciliano is named after the place that invented it. It’s an after dinner cocktail, but it has none of the sweetness you’d expect. A combination of amaro (the go to Italian herbal liqueur), Grand Marnier and sugar syrup, it’s bitter, but refreshing. Kind of like a Christmas martini. You serve it with a orange draped on the side and channel your inner Mad Men.

We’re using Gran Caffe Garibaldi’s Gusto Top blend for this one. It’s our high-end coffee, so you know it goes down a treat here. You want the coffee to stand up to the liqueurs, which is why we’re using the cold brew technique. It preserves the coffee’s aroma better than a hot espresso that’s been chilled to room temperature. You can get our cold brew recipe here.

 

shop our Gran Caffe Garibaldi Gusto Top Coffee

Christmas coffee cocktail video recipe: The B-52

We’re kicking off the Christmas season and the countdown to the end of 2016 (finally) with a retro coffee cocktail – the B-52!

A favourite on the ’70s club scene, the B-52 was invented by Peter Fich, a head bartender at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta. He named all his new drinks after his favourite bands, albums and songs. This drink was, of course, named after the band, the B-52s!

There are plenty of different versions. We’re using coffee liquor, Irish creme whisky and Grand Marnier. As for the perfect layers. The trick is to pour your liquors over the back of a dessert spoon and into your shot glass.

Three different liquors, no ice – what could possibly go wrong?

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Sale!

Win one of these $100 Italian Christmas hampers

 We all love Christmas hampers, right? Well to celebrate our first L’Emporio Christmas, we’re giving you the chance to win this $100 food hamper of imported Italian products. All you need to do is order between now and December 20. It doesn’t matter how much you spend or what you buy, you will automatically go into the running to win. This Christmas food hamper contains all the classic Italian Christmas treats, so you can bring a little dolce vita to your table this festive season.

Our gourmet Christmas hampers contain:

– A box of amaretti cookies by artisan Tuscan bakers, Corsini

– 2 boxes of our premium Gran Caffè Garibaldi espresso

– 2 hand-painted ceramic espresso cups

– A packet of organic porcini mushrooms, picked & dried in Tuscany

– A jar of gianduia, a sweet chocolate & hazelnut spread invented in Turin during Napoléon’s reign

– A bottle of white truffle oil

– A traditional Tuscan panforte cake flavoured with figs and walnuts

– A hand-crafted tea towel, designed in Siena

How to: Caffe Shakerato video recipe

It might still be freezing cold in most of the country (Melbourne), but we’re starting summer anyway, Italian style. When the weather heats up, Caffe Shakerato is the drink of the season. It’s a cinch to make – all you need is ice cubes, cold espresso coffee and sugar syrup (2:1 sugar water ratio)

Since its invention in the 1960s, Caffe Shakerato has been a bar favourite in Italy, where 40°C heat is no excuse to skip your daily caffeine fix.

So grab a mason jar, call over some friends, add a shot of Baileys or vanilla liquor and get those summer parties started.

We’re using Gimoka’s Deciso blend for this one. Its dark roast and bitter cacao notes provide the perfect balance to the sweet sugar syrup.

shop our Deciso coffee

How to make an Italian espresso at home video recipe

A true Italian espresso is short, naturally sweet and easy to brew. And you don’t need an expensive barista-approved coffee machine to make it at home.

The first espresso was brewed in Turin, Italy, at the end of the 19th century, but it wasn’t until Gaggia released their Gilda machine in the 1940s that Italians started making espresso at home.

Nowadays, most Italians use a pod machine to make their espresso not because they’re in a hurry – coffee is still a ritual in Italy – but because it promises a great espresso time after time without barista training. When you’re looking for a short shot of coffee flavour that best accentuates the notes of the beans, you can’t go past an espresso.

To brew an authentic espresso, you will need:

POD MACHINE

ITALIAN-MADE ESPRESSO PODS

A SMALL DOUBLE BARRELED SHOT GLASS

The trick to the perfect cappuccino

Myth: Cappuccino’s silky magic is beyond the grasp of home baristas.  It’s just too delicate of a dance, best left to the cafe.

Nonsense, the perfect Italian cappuccino is a cinch. All you need is a little practise and some great Italian coffee…

cappuccino

Said great Italian coffee: We’re using Gimoka’s Deciso. A decisive and intense coffee, it can stand up to all that milk, ensuring you won’t be drinking a watered down mess, while its woody aroma with hints of bitter cacao is just what you want in a cappuccino.

cappuccino

The ratio: The perfect Italian cappuccino is 25ml espresso and 85ml fresh whole milk. Yep, sorry dieters, it has to be whole milk or you won’t get that great cafe froth.

The recipe:

  • Pour cold milk into your electric milk frother, about a third full and get frothing
  • Once it’s has finished, tap the base of the frothing jug firmly on the countertop to compress the foam
  • Prepare your Gimoka Deciso pod espresso in a large cup
  • Pour the foamed milk directly into the cup, first aiming for the centre, then continuing in a circular motion out toward the rim
  • Dust with bitter cacao

 

How it works: Decaf

It might come as a surprise, but one our most popular products is actually our Gran Caffè Garibaldi Decaf. Don’t believe the memes. Decaf coffee isn’t the devil. A lot of Italians drink it, especially if they, like the little guy below, have had a few too many with caffeine. Curious to figure out exactly how decaf coffee is made, we headed to the Gimoka roasting house on Lake Como to take a sneak peak. And it was fascinating.

First step: steaming

There are a lot of different decaffeination processes out there. At Gimoka, they use “natural decaffeination”, which basically means they don’t use any chemicals. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The first step is to steam the beans. For the Gran Caffè Garibaldi, only Arabica beans are used. They’re sourced from small Fairtrade producers in Central and South America. Since Gran Caffè Garibaldi is a craft label, they only make small batches of each coffee at a time. The beans arrive at the Lake Como roasting house green and are steamed for about half an hour. Cleaned and hydrated, they’re ready for the next step – caffeine removal!

Green beans awaiting their journey to the roaster!

Step two: rinsing

The hydrated green beans are then rinsed with ethyl acetate. Ethyal acetate is an ester found naturally in fruits and vegetables such as bananas, apples, and, unsurprisingly, coffee. It draws out the caffeine a bit like salt draws out moisture. The beans are churned with the ethyl acetate, rinsed, emptied and churned again a couple of times to remove 97 per cent of the caffeine. The entire process can take up to 10 hours, during which the coffee is constantly checked to ensure it maintains the perfect temperature and doesn’t lose its coffee goodness – now that’s what we call love!

the green beans on their way to steaming

a close up

Step three: roasting & packaging

The last step on these beautiful beans’ journey is to the roaster. At the Gimoka roasting house, they combine innovation with tradition, so the roasters they use for their craft coffee label are gorgeous brass R2-D2 lookalikes with all the latest technology to ensure the perfect roast. Coffee has more than 2,000 flavour notes. For this decaf, the intense flavour of coffee is softened with sweet notes of apricot and caramel. These are brought out with a light roast. The beans are roasted at around 200°C until “first crack” – that’s when the beans first start popping. To be honest, it sounded a bit like when you make microwave popcorn… and just as delicious.

The roasted beans are immediately heat sealed in their oxygen and moisture free individual pods and then packed 10 per pack into the slimline boxes. All of the packaging from pod to box is minimalist and recyclable, so you don’t have to feel guilty about your morning cuppa.

Sale!

shop our Gran Caffè Garibaldi decaf coffee!

A word from an expert

We asked Gimoka’s head roaster, Gino, why they chose the “naturally decaffeinated” process. He summed it up pretty simply: “It’s was the only option for us. We’re a fairtrade, environmentally conscientious company, so we weren’t going to use chemical solvents to remove the caffeine. As an added bonus, this method works to preserve the coffee flavour and remove almost all the caffeine, leaving you with a decaf coffee that actually tastes like coffee”.

We can’t argue with that!

 

Pumpkin spice latte recipe

We blogged about it in our hot drinks post. We moaned because Starbucks doesn’t sell it in Oz. We got off our behinds and decided to make it for ourselves. And it was awesome.

THE COFFEE

We’ve chosen Gran Caffè Garibaldi’s Dolce Aroma for our pumpkin spiced latte. Its notes of caramel, apricot and coriander are the perfect match for the savoury hit of pumpkin and its natural sweetness keeps this from becoming your grandma’s pumpkin soup recipe with coffee.

THE RECIPE

1/4 pumpkin, skin removed and cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon sugar
sprinkle of nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper & ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 Dolce Aroma espresso shot

Place your pumpkin in a pan, cover with water and boil until soft. Mash.

Return the mush to the saucepan with the sugar and spices. Cook until the sugar is caramelised. Add the milk and bring almost to the boil.

Pull our your stick blender or normal blender. Pour the milk mix in and blend until frothy. Be very careful if you use a blender. The lid will explode off if you don’t hold it down with a tea towel and Hulk like strength.

Brew your espresso shot and pour the pumpkin-spiced froth on top!

Incredible coffee drinks we need now

Winter is almost over, but we’re not out of the cold just yet. So here are few of our favourite must-have hot coffee drinks to get you through the last of the freeze… because who says espresso can’t be versatile?

Irish Coffee

Getting Irishmen (and women) through St Patrick’s Day for generations. And it couldn’t be easier. Brew a shot of hot espresso, spike it with as much whiskey as you can handle and dump a few tablespoons of whipped cream on top. If anyone asks, it’s a Frappuccino! God bless the Irish!

@haewonkwon

Peanut butter mocha cappuccino

Because everything is better with peanut butter. Froth the milk, pour it over your espresso shot and stir in a teaspoon of peanut butter before you roll your eyes. YOLO!

@ipopam

Dirty chai

Confessions, we had to google what a dirty chai was. Turns out it’s a chai latte with a shot of espresso. Why didn’t anyone tell us about this before??? Mind blown. Add a dash of honey for extra sweetness.

@nutrimentum_sydney

 

Caffe gommosa

A shot of espresso poured straight over a marshmallow. Sounds like heaven. Thank you Japan!

@juncolors

 

Pumpkin spiced latte

Starbucks has deemed that we don’t deserve to try the drink that is sweeping the globe. No joke. People are losing their minds over pumpkin spiced lattes. Since a flight to the US just to try their autumn special is out of the question, we’re making our own with real pumpkin. Take note Starbucks.

You’ll need to boil a few cubes of pumpkin in a pan with some water until they’re soft. Drain, mash and return 2 tablespoons of the mush to the pan with a sprinkle of powdered cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Toast for a few minutes to cook the spices. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar, a cup of milk and a drizzle of vanilla essence. When the milk is bubbling, froth it with a hand blender and pour over a shot of espresso. Add whipped cream if you’re feeling luxurious!

@Owl and Lark