I’m going to write about something I don’t know. At least, something I don’t do. I know a bit about it because I witness it every morning (and sometimes afternoon or evening), but I don’t participate, as such. I am an educated bystander.

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It’s terrible, really. Here I am, lucky enough to have a live-in barista, geeky and brilliant in equal measure, and I don’t take advantage of it. DH is an untapped coffee resource. And when he makes the perfect cappuccino or macchiato, holding it out to me to admire and sample, I can only do the first one. I don’t like the taste of coffee. It reminds me of cigarettes. Even the good stuff, which DH is very fastidious about. [I know there are no cigarettes in the coffee. I know that’s the carbony aroma that reminds my brain of tobacco (see flavour wheel below!), but still. It stands between me and the perfect pour-over.]

But, I can write about it. Because even if I don’t imbibe, I can gush, describe, photograph and praise the beautiful coffee that is created in our house every day. It’s well worth a tour.

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A few years ago I bought DH a poster of the coffee taster’s flavour wheel. I love to peruse the rainbowed slices with descriptions like citrus, smoky and roasted almond. But those are expected ones. Here’s a shortlist of my favourite unexpected tastes and aromas that can apparently be found in coffee done right, but also coffee done wrong:

Blackberry, tea rose, butter. Pine, garden peas, garlic, cedar, cooked beef. Humus (soil; no chickpeas here), mildew, wet paper. Kerosene, raw potato. Do you get any of those in your cup of Joe?


When we bought our house a few years ago, one of the things that made us fall in love with the place was what the realtor charmingly called a butler’s pantry. I’m not sure how that’s different from a regular pantry, but it does sound quaint. And useful–in many ways. DH was inspired by the space to seek out the perfect tool to achieve his coffee dreams. The butler’s pantry still stores all our dry goods, small appliances and baking ingredients, but it is now the Coffee Lab. The machine reigns supreme.

There are at least six ways DH can make you a cup of coffee if you come to our house, but the workhorse of the whole show is The Vetrano. She of the ‘Spro. Our Lady of Coffee Grounds. La Macchina. It’s a prosumer espresso machine, which basically means you need to want to a) have a high maintenance coffee shop in your house and b) take out a small loan to fund your habit. The sound of it warming up in the morning–the whirrs and drones and hiss of steam–is, well, morning to me. Little e hasn’t known any different, and I love the idea of her growing up believing that too, just like the sound of my father’s hand-cranked coffee grinder woke me and my sister up on Sunday mornings.


She and he already have a morning tradition going. She climbs up on the step stool beside The Vetrano and watches while he measures and pours the beans into the grinder. She roars along with it as it grinds the coffee. She watches him fill the basket of the portafilter with the grounds and says, “Tamp! Tamp!” when it’s time to press the grounds into a dense puck. He lets her try, and she grunts enthusiastically as she pushes the tamper into the coffee. Then he sets the portafilter under the machine and turns the water on. She watches, makes the humming sound the machine makes as the water flows through the pipes. And once the shot is poured, the fun starts–the milk steaming begins. She is most interested in this because this is what her “coffee” is. We call the steamed milk latte (which it is) and as DH drinks his cappuccino, Little e drinks her steamed latte (out of her own espresso cup, of course).




There is something sexy about having a coffee lab in your house. I won’t lie. I’d take a barista over a homebrewer any day. The coffee DH makes is beautiful. It sounds good. The attention to detail and respect for process and art astonishes me. I’m really proud of his skill and dedication.

It’s the best food culture I’ll ever not partake in.