I feel like I’ve come to a point where I have nothing entertaining, educational, humorous or useful to say on this blog. I have no idea whether more than one or two people still read it– it’s not like the early days of blogging. These days, blogs are mostly (with a few exceptions, of course) about people trying to make money by blogging. Blogs with more than one flashing ad, more than 3 or 4 still ads? I pass them on by. Blogs with buttons for donations? If I like them, I’ll donate. Blogs that repeat the same phrases over and over in hopes of getting higher search engine prominence? I detest them. Blogs that teach competently without superfluous ads? I love them when the subject matter is of interest to me.

Because of the sad state of blogs in general, or as an answer to them, the prevailing trend is that people are glued to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. While these platforms encourage interactivity, they kill individualism (and time) and can promote mistruth. Everyone says the same things, posts the same memes, uses the same trendy phrases. Even if they do have differing thoughts or opinions, they don’t dare to express them outside the exact group of people who reflect them. If they do express an opinion that doesn’t happen to click positively with everyone, they are mercilessly, immediately and thoroughly condemned by one person, and then more people pile on like bullies. Whatever happened to polite discourse? You can make your own point without belittling others. You can respect and love other people even if you don’t agree with them. If you wouldn’t say something in person in front of others, you should not say it in writing on social media. And I am happy to tell you that in person!

As a side point — One of my typical rants is about the focus on teamwork these days (in education and technical jobs anyway) to the exclusion of allowing an individual to maximize their talents. An employee is less likely to truly excel if they care about their team and fear their team members will resent them for it. There is nothing wrong with being a team player. There are definitely things wrong with not letting talent shine.

If you have a moment, I encourage you to watch this video: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose if you haven’t already. If more teachers and employers understood this, more students and employees would be happy and productive.

I plan to put the blog on pause until after the election and focus on working on ongoing projects. You don’t need to see 3 rounds of knitting on a gansey every couple of days. You aren’t interested in how I adjust my coffee grinder on a bean by bean basis to get the best cup of espresso. And there is no way I can put you inside my head to understand an ongoing coding challenge. In short, I will bore you to death if I continue in the short run.

If there is anything you are interested in that you think I have something to say about, I’m always happy to write about it. I’m not a teacher, but I’m happy to share knowledge and opinions. Otherwise, I hope to see you after a joyful celebration of the results of the presidential election. Please vote, and stay well!

Fall from the North View
Coffee · Forgotten Projects · Mrs. Laidlow

Coffee Thrums

I think I’m a peaberry. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I might have preferred to be a normal coffee bean. You see, most coffee beans are twins inside the coffee fruit. A peaberry is a single bean that somehow lost its twin or never had it in the first place. A lonely little seed with a slightly different flavor than normal twin beans. Not exactly an outcast, but a bean with a different role in life. I believe this explains my difficulty in finishing the second of a pair of anything: socks, sleeves, gloves. And sometimes the first of anything (she says sheepishly).

I’ve been tending my stash for a little while each day, trying to make sense of it and weed out that which shall not be knit. Every once in a while a huge question mark floats above something on the needles. By every once in a while I really mean practically every day. Like this sweet little… something. A headscratcher.

What was I knitting?

Through many distractions, I’ve managed to add another inch to Mrs. Laidlow.

Slow Growth Tree of Life Forest

And after many days of waiting, our new friend Brunello arrived. Brunello Bianucci is an Izzo Alex Duetto IV here to serve up espresso drinks for the next 20 years.

He came with his own wardrobe, but just one piece is missing, the blind basket, which the seller will make right forthwith. For now, we’re using his reservoir, but Brian will plumb him into the main water in due course, and that is what the hoses are for.

Katie looks to sky cat for answers about this strange new beast

Why Brunello? It’s an Italianization of Bruno, our favorite French gourmand from the “Bruno, Chief of Police” book series, and an ode to the divine Italian wine, Brunello di Montalcino. Bianucci? That was the name of a classmate of mine growing up, and I just always liked the sound of it. There was a famous Italian restaurant in Chicago run by Fanny Bianucci. Legend has it that Kraft offered her $75K for her salad dressing recipe back in the middle of the last century, but she refused to sell. A woman of principle

It took a while to figure out Brunello’s preference for grind fineness. I wrote my friend that I had wasted a lot of coffee in the process, and she pointed out this was simply the by-product of “swatching”. Loom waste! Coffee thrums! Here’s a shot of a double shot that wasn’t expressing itself. I love all the gauges! The digital readout is the shot timer when the lever is up, and shows the temperatures of the boilers when it is down. The paddle at the top, combined with the gauge at the front, is a flow control device– this was an additionally purchased part that doesn’t come with this espresso machine but is designed to work with this “group”, which is the assembly that holds the portafilter and forces the water through the grinds.

Brian is installing a new outlet under the sink while Brunello tries to make a shot

Back to the beans: the Bean surname is in fact one in my ancestry. I believe it was pronounced ‘bain” and was Scottish, but what do I know? The MacBean motto was ‘ Touch not a catt bot a targe’ which means ‘don’t touch this cat without a shield’. I should embroider that on a collar and put it on Stonewall as a warning to all. I’m not certain whether there was ever a clan for the MacPeaberrys. Probably its last lone kiltbearer touched the wrong cat, without a shield.

Sunset October 2, 2020, the end of a perfect day
Coffee · Mrs. Laidlow

Train in the Distance

According to the apostle Paul, “Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance.” Of course I’m referring to Paul Simon, who is to me a person whose music can be listened to repeatedly without ever becoming dull. It has a pulse to it, melodies and harmonies and weird lyrics that sometimes almost make sense.

Beo does yoga

Mrs. Laidlow is well begun, and working with this violet Frangipani is a real pleasure. It’s on a cone, which is on a spinner meant for balls of yarn though it works fine for allowing me to pull the yarn off the cone from the side, thereby avoiding putting more twist into it.

modeled by the back end of Stonewall
What’s going on here?

Fall is creeping in, the chameleon-like mountain ridges shifting to gold ever so slowly. The sunny days are still in the low 70’s, the cloudy and rainy ones more chilly. I love the four seasons here, and when I think about it I realize that my years growing up in central Illinois were the last time I had four seasons until we moved here.

Seattle had two seasons: summer and cloud. Mississippi, California, Colorado, Texas, Alcala de Henares (Spain) all managed to skip at least one definite season. Apart from the season thing, they each missed some important element. Trees but no mountains. Mountains but no trees. Trees but only evergreens. Sun but never clouds. I feel like everything is finally in its place.

impending sunset with blue ghostly flying critter

The sound of the train in the distance that everybody loves is the thing we look forward to, the next thing to be anticipated. Without anticipation, life is dull. Currently that train sounds a lot like a FedEx truck upon which a certain espresso machine is said to be riding on its final journey today, right up to my house on the golden ridge. I’m ready and waiting. And reading the epistle of St. James, one of the latte day saints.

Absentminded Gansey · Knitting · Mrs. Laidlow · Pets

Gansey Brain

Ever since I saw and acquired the dark violet Frangipani 5-ply gansey wool I’ve had gansey brain. I think that the Net Loft sent some extra special little creatures with my order. They have infiltrated my psyche and whisper to me non-stop of ganseys, gansey patterns, shoulder straps and gussets.

Despite the fact that I put the Bebbanburg gansey into timeout, I’ve proceeded with other fisherman gansey forays. Firstly, I have to admit that I brought out one gansey that had been in timeout for so long that I had forgotten when or why I designed it or knitted half of it. I’m going to blame in on chemo brain and put its origin around 2012 when chemo brain was a thing for me. Fortunately, it was easy enough to figure out how to proceed. I’ve dubbed it the “Absentminded Gansey”.

Meanwhile, the dark violet yarn was eyeing me with great anticipation. What would I do with her; what was her fate to be? I pored over my gansey books, searched through online photos of old ganseys, looked through hundreds of examples of ganseys knitted by Ravelry users, and finally came up with a plan. A plan is more likely to succeed with a swatch, so a swatch ensued, and on 2.25mm needles my gauge is 8.57 stitches per inch.

This is an adaptation of Mrs. Laidlaw’s pattern from Seahouses (which is a place, in case you didn’t know, on the northeast coast of England, not too far from Scotland, and north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne). It’s essentially a tree of life motif topped by a “crab” motif and flanked by “flags”, which are purl triangles. I’ve put some ropes (cables) around it and added a ladder motif… salmon ladder? I love Alaska salmon! I’ve named this “Mrs. Laidlow’s Gansey” because I am laying low due to covid-19.

I have a special place in my heart for England, Scotland and Ireland, because that’s where most of my dna comes from (except for the bit from France and Bavaria). It is therefore special to me that I can learn about and recreate the knitting from these places. Although my English/Scottish/Irish progenitors came to North America far before ganseys were a thing, I am sure that they left family behind who became part of that creative and practical tradition. It was surely a hard life, making one’s living by the sea– and likewise hard for the wives and daughters, waiting for their men for months on end, hoping there were no accidents; praying for good catches. You can tell by the number of times ganseys were mended how hard these men worked, and how important to them were the sweaters that kept them warm.

I love this photo, taken in the ’30s, of a 3-year-old girl knitting with a knitting belt. How spoiled I am, sitting in my big comfortable air-conditioned or heated house on a padded sofa with good lighting and plenty of food. But the delight in a furry companion transcends time, does it not?

Gisela says yes
Bebbanburg Gansey · Coffee · Housewarming Rag Rug · Knitting · Weaving

Ironing Made Easier

We adopted another Swiss immigrant this week, one who breathes fire from her very large mouth. (Ursula, the big tapestry loom was our first Swiss immigrant.) Elna will help immensely with the big pile of fabric to be ironed for the rag rug. She is around the same age as I am, but a much better and faster ironer.

When I signed Elna’s adoption papers on eBay, I started thinking about where I could put her… and realized we had the perfect solution. All it needed was a little work and of course that fell on Brian due to its nature.

When we moved into our house, it had a built-in ironing cabinet in the great room. Yes, you read that right– in the living area. We removed it, and it had been sitting in the garage awaiting its fate lo these many months. I found a place for it in the hall just outside the sewing room, and Brian cut out a piece of the drywall, nestled it in between two studs and wired it up to an existing outlet. Sweet! It has a timer for the electricity, and when the timer is on, electricity flows so that iron that is plugged in will work and the light, the wonderful bright light, comes on. Elna can sit on top of the fold-out ironing board while working, and can be removed and put elsewhere when she is not. When the ironing board is stowed, the door can be closed and everything hidden.

I put her to work earlier today– she’s fabulous! I got so much fabric ironed it was amazing. This is my progress altogether.

And this, other than what is in the washer right now, is what I have left to do before starting my strip cutting. There are probably 3 or 4 loads of wash in that pile– it’s deceiving!

The fate of the claret gansey is hanging by a thread. I am now convinced that this lot of Frangipani is a dud. It is so tightly twisted that it resembles string more than yarn, and in spots one or two strands have even frayed due to the tightness. At first I thought it might be due to moths, but moth damage is much different, and these spots were buried deep inside the skein. I know this is not the true nature of Frangipani. I proved that to myself yesterday by cracking open the new violet Frangipani and starting a swatch. Oh my, the difference was a huge relief. It was as if you had been itching madly from poison ivy and then all of a sudden the itch was gone. Pure bliss. There is also something about knitting with red yarns that is not as pleasurable as other colors. Why is this? I love knitting with blues and purples and teals, with multiple colors in stranded designs. But knitting an entire sweater in red is hard, even though I love the color red and enjoy wearing it.

So, the trifecta of red yarn, stringy yarn, and fighting twist may be the downfall of this gansey. For now it has been put in timeout. Turns out there’s an entire drawer dedicated to ganseys in timeout. But I love wearing my Flying Geese gansey and know that I will love wearing these (or Brian will) once they are finished.

Speaking of red, look what came knocking at our door last night! Isn’t she adorable? And yes, we still need to install a backsplash.

In espresso machine news, we have a FedEx tracking number but the package hasn’t started moving yet. I’m hoping he (the espresso machine) arrives by Saturday but he will get here when he gets here and not a moment sooner. I think we are prepared for his entry. From Clive Coffee, another online vendor that was quite helpful with its videos and reviews, we got a “starter kit” consisting of a knock box (this is to knock the puck of used coffee grounds out of the portafilter after the espresso has been made), a tamping mat (a rubber guard for the countertop used to shield it from the portafilter when you are pressing the grounds into it with force), a milk frothing pitcher, and a brewing scale. Also from Clive came end panels for our used grinder (a Profitec), so that it will match the walnut knobs on the new guy (though he’s not a Profitec). In the background you see our good old Bonnie, the Bonavita, who produces the best drip coffee I’ve ever had.

waiting not so patiently

Bebbanburg Gansey · Coffee · Knitting · Pets · Weaving

It’s Chewsday!

Once a week we give the poodles each an Earth Animal no-hide chew. It’s easy to remember, because of Chewsday! After their mid-morning trip outside to do the necessary, I ask them what day it is. Their ears perk up. I name some days– is it Monday? Is it Friday? but when I get to Chewsday (Tuesday of course), Beo barks. I ask him to show me where the chews are, and he, prancing as usual, leads me to the correct drawer in the kitchen. It’s really fun to watch their excitement, week after week. For the next hour or so they are content to gnaw on their own chew, then steal the other ones’ chew, and continue.

I’ve pressed on with the gansey despite small annoyances. I bought this particular lot of Frangipani from Churchmouse Yarns & Tea on Bainbridge Island. I have fond memories day trips with friends, taking the ferry over. We’d hang out with a nice cinnamon bun and coffee at the Black Bird Bakery waiting for Churchmouse to open, then peruse the wares until lunchtime, when we’d wander over to the French restaurant nearby and have a delectable lunch.

As I said, this claret Frangipani came from Churchmouse, and was put up in 100g skeins. Normally Frangipani comes on 500g cones, and I’ve never had issues with it twisting so badly when knit from a cone. Maybe when it was wound into skeins more twist was added. I find myself fighting with it, pulling out many yards of yarn in order to give it room to work the twist out enough to knit. There are spots in the sweater where you can tell that the twist was too tight. I’ve contemplated winding the skeins into balls in order to take out some of the twist, and I may do that yet.

Four of six diamonds done!

I have a 1×1 cable that runs between each vertical motif. These are crossed every other row. Although I normally don’t use a cable needle, these are close cables at a fine gauge and I find it’s just easier to use an extra needle to cross them rather than worry that I”m going to drop that stitch. But instead of a cable needle, I attached a darning needle by a piece of waste yarn to the sweater so that it doesn’t get lost. And, on the rounds where I am actually crossing the cables, I can tuck that needle into my wedding band so that it is really handy. It’s just short enough that it doesn’t poke into the palm of my hand.

When I’m ready to lift the stitch off the knitting needle, I slide the darning needle from left to right through the stitch (from the back, since the cables are crossed to the right) so that after I knit the stitch from the main needle I can then just knit the next one off the darning needle. If I had lifted it from right to left, I would have to transfer it back to the main needle because, unlike with a cable needle, I can’t just slide the stitch over to the other side of the needle.

We’ve begun to refer to the coming espresso maker as “our trip to Italy”. Of course it cost way less than an actual trip to Italy would be for the two of us, but if we had taken that trip we wouldn’t be able to afford an espresso maker. Our trip to Italy hasn’t been shipped yet as far as I know, but we have certainly been packing for it.

Espresso, Cappucino and Caffè Latte sized cups await the opportunity to be filled with a coffee drink appropriate to their size. I ordered these cups from Seattle Coffee Gear as a consolation for not buying a machine from them but a thank you for all the video reviews that helped me make a decision. They are well designed, nicely weighted with that flat handle top on which you can rest your thumb.

Downstairs, I’ve been washing and ironing more batik fabric for the rag rug, and upstairs I’ve been washing the drapes. I placed a chair upon which to stand to reach the curtain rod. The cats have been using it as prime front row seating to watch the drama of the birds.

Stonewall and Katie watch the incoming bird

And when the afternoon sun gets in my eyes and I pull one drape across to block it, Spencer is convinced he is hiding behind that curtain.

Pay no attention to the cat behind the curtain!
Coffee · Events · U.S.

Actually Important

I love Amazon, especially amid this pandemic. I know that I have supported a lot of third-party sellers through them and that makes me happy. Rarely have I had a problem, until the Curious Case of the Moka Pot. I stalked my UPS delivery closely, and the truck finally arrived around 6pm Friday. But, instead of a moka-pot-shaped package, I received a flattish envelope around 16 inches long and 12 wide inside of which was a pack of mesh drawstring bags, in 3 different sizes. Included was a gift receipt, so for a moment I was quite puzzled.

The logical part of me promptly pointed out that I expected a package that I did not receive, and I received a package I did not expect. (I think, actually, that this perfectly describes the feelings of millions of people who voted for the man currently holding the office of President of the U.S.) I was very disappointed and feeling sorry for myself. And then I learned of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg– there are much bigger things to be concerned about than the lack of a little red moka pot. I hope that RBG’s dying wish– that she not be replaced until there is a new president– will be granted. She was a very wise woman and dedicated not only to her country but also to her gender.

Even as a feminist, she dared to be feminine

Who among us would really, sincerely like to go back to when it is said that America was great? Would we like to be told we can’t work as a teacher because we are pregnant? Would we be ok with companies offering jobs to a man when a woman is better qualified, even if that woman is a single mother because her husband left her with no support? Would we like to be told we have to stay at home and do the cooking and cleaning even if we have the brain and abilities to build and fly spaceships and don’t even enjoy cooking? And men, would you be ok with giving up your wife’s salary when she loses her job because she’s female? Or would you think it’s just fine if your wife or daughter is sexually harassed at work and can’t do a thing about it? And if she is pregnant due to rape, you’d be fine with not having the right to make her own decision? These are the things that dedicated, tough people like RBG have fought to correct over multiples of years. Let’s not forget how far we’ve come, and how much greater America is because of it. Let’s not forget how crucial RBG was to our evolution. Think. Vote. Mourn.

Imagine what she had to overcome

Bebbanburg Gansey · Coffee · Knitting · Tapestry · Weaving

Thistledown Averted

“There are intersections of integrity and temptation in every career and every life. The challenge is to do the right thing no matter what.” 

Bill Gates, Sr.

We read of the passing of Bill Gates, Sr. this past week. Mr. Gates has a special place in my heart. In 2007, several years after having worked as a software developer for Microsoft in Redmond, I was working a contract for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. The foundation’s holiday party that year was a glorious event. Mr. Gates Sr. was in attendance. Though neither Brian nor I are easily impressed, we were quite positively affected by his humble bearing and behavior. He was unfailingly polite and unassuming, friendly and low-key. There were long lines at some of the catering stations, and he was given the opportunity to go to the head of these lines, but he stood waiting for his turn just like everyone else, chatting amiably and mixing with everyone no matter their age, position, or social standing. The world has lost a man of rare class.

creature comforts

In knitting news– as predicted, the needle that was bent by the rigors of gansey production broke mere moments after I published the post that mentioned its imminent demise. The often poetic Gordon of talks about needles breaking and the stitches falling off “like thistledown”. Since I was quite aware that a break was likely, I was able to avoid situation thistledown. Thanks to my overenthusiastic collection of circular needles, I was able to locate one to replace it, since I had not had time to receive the new ones I ordered. This particular circular has the bended tip design which I normally do not like, but maybe it is better for ganseys since the weight of the knitting is less focused on the join due to that bend.

I hear reports from friends living in the northeast US that they are experiencing some of the smoke from the west coast fires, an amazing phenomenon that demonstrates exactly how conditions in one part of the world can affect others. They say their sunsets are enhanced by the smoke in the air. I’ve been watching our sunsets to see if they have been affected, since I’ve noticed no smoke. So far, I don’t see any obvious difference but our sunsets are always so varied that I’m not sure I could attribute any such changes with confidence.

the sun slips away

In coffee news, my shiny new espresso machine should ship either today or early next week, and I’m very excited. I’ve been auditioning names in my head, because I have to name everything. To tide me over while I wait for the big and shiny main event, I ordered a sweet little moka pot. This is a classic device that has been around for many many years. It doesn’t really make espresso, but it makes an espresso-like coffee that is not as strong as espresso but stronger than “normal” coffee. It is an inexpensive way to make a very nice cup. And it’s so cute, in this 3-cup size. And it’s red! It should be here by now, but UPS seems to be running behind.

I made my choice of this pot chiefly from watching an Alternative Brewing video comparing the range of Bialetti moka pots. For the more scientifically inclined among you, here is a very interesting video comparing methods of moka pot preparation in order to get the best coffee. Apparently I need to get my water to boiling in the lower chamber before I add the coffee and attach the upper chamber, since I have a classic moka pot without the pressure cap. Hurry up, UPS!

I’m pondering a small tapestry using my Big Sister Mirrix loom, based on Bialetti pots. Their classic octagonal shape and simplicity, while still incorporating shades of color and suggestion of dimensionality makes them more likely to be achievable for a non-artist like me. The vertical lines indicate they are a candidate for being woven sideways, as vertical lines are difficult to weave easily. I haven’t woven anything sideways before, so it might be a good challenge. Which do you like better? (I would leave the words out).

Other inspirations for tapestry are these rather more art nouveau posters. I particularly like the one on the right, but I don’t know how I could weave the fringe on the napkin, not that it is essential:

Bebbanburg Gansey · Coffee · Knitting · Wildlife

Proof of Life

Today I demonstrated that I still know how to apply makeup and wear earrings, and took the photos to prove it. I did this so that I could venture out to Asheville to buy a used coffee grinder from very nice person who had offered it via Craigslist. It was my first time out of the house since June 25– not that I’m counting. I was actually glad to get back home, after verifying that the rest of the world still exists in much the same way (on the surface) as it did three months ago.

We were making our way through a west Asheville neighborhood when we saw a creature walking across the road that at first we thought was a beaver, but then decided was a marmot. When I got home I looked up the marmot, and was surprised to see that a marmot = a woodchuck = a groundhog. How have I lived for so long without knowing this?

The next person who asks me how much wood I could chuck can just chuck off!

To keep you up to date on other wildlife around here, Auntie Maim, the injured/healed squirrel, has been scurrying around frequently, presumably stocking her larder before winter hits. Manny Bearilow hasn’t let us see him, but he has been around to knock the heavy timbers off of the compost bin (he still can’t get into it).

In fiber news, I discovered recently that Frangipani yarn had offered a limited colorway of their fabulous gansey yarn in a deep violet, and discovered that it was available at The Net Loft in Cordova, Alaska. I had read about the Cordova Gansey Project but hadn’t quite focused on it at the time– maybe I was busy moving or something. I managed to order my yarn before they ran out of the colorway, and ticked off the box for supporting LYS day (The Net Loft has to be somebody‘s LYS, right?!).

I was delighted when my order arrived. Not only did I receive the beautiful gansey yarn I ordered, but with it they sent a nice handwritten thank you note, the book “Fishing for Ganseys”, a real wood pencil, a wooden needle gauge that looks like a gansey, with holes for gansey-sized needles, a pin, a wonderful canvas bag, and a sticker. What an unexpected treasure!

the Cordova Gansey Project spoils

Of course, right away I measured the needles I am using in the Bebbanburg gansey using the sweet little gansey gauge. Perfect.

I love the color, too. It’s a bluish violet, not too bright. I’m dreaming about what to design for it.

Roses are red, dilly dilly…

Meanwhile, I’ve added a few rows to the claret gansey, but it’s hard to tell because it’s all same-same until I reach the horizontal band. I did manage to break one cable, and I’ve ordered new ones that are a little shorter in the hope I can relieve some strain on the join. I’ve been using my Chiao-goo mini, size 2.25mm, but the post onto which the cable join is screwed has bent (as you can see in the photo) and even though I could use a shorter cable, I fear the life of this needle tip is limited. Addi Rockets have been ordered in hopes they are the holy grail of gansey needles.

In espresso news, I did change my mind about the machine to order thanks to the expertise and experience of the owner of the place I bought it from. More on them once the machine arrives. To pass the time until then, I’ve continued to consume videos about all things espresso. I discovered the youTube channel, and subsequently the blog, of James Hoffman, a guy whose devotion to coffee might rival mine to fiber arts, only he’s more successful at it. One youTube comment states “he looks like an Apple product”, which seems very fitting if one views Apple products as a good thing. Can you improve the flavor of really bad coffee by adding salt? He will tell you, and demonstrates using Nescafe. I rest my case.

Oh yeah– proof of life. Here it is.


Excuses, Espresso

Let’s play “word association”. If I say “flow control”, “rotary pump”, “puck”, “PID” and “portafilter”, what would come to mind?

If you had asked me that question a week ago, my answer might have been “water treatment” or possibly “toilets”. But for the last four days I have been immersed in researching and comparing… espresso machines.

not this one!

It all started innocently enough. A friend mentioned that she has recently bought a Nespresso. I congratulated her and related that I had been lusting after a Jura automatic espresso machine for many years. A friend in Seattle had one and I certainly enjoyed helping her use it.

I considered and then immediately dismissed the idea of buying a good espresso machine because I didn’t feel as if it were a justifiable expense. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be ideal in many ways. A shot of espresso has the least caffeine compared to any other method of coffee preparation (French press has the most, in case you are wondering). My recent spate of insomnia has led me to want to cut down on caffeine, but not coffee, without going to a decaffeinated solution.

another sunset captured

At times– times of the non-pandemic variety– we do like to have friends over, and friends like to drink espresso drinks. Knitting friends, spinning friends, flying friends, all and any friends. We have heretofore been unable to offer such drinks due to the lack of an espresso machine. Moreover, coffee is something we enjoy every single day of our lives.

Finally, we love espresso. Or at least I do, and Brian enjoys what he has actually tried (breve lattes) but I don’t believe he has ever experienced a truly wonderful cup of espresso such as what you get in Italy or Spain or even at truly good coffee places in the US (not necessarily Starbucks, although occasionally they can pull it together). We don’t know of any place at all around here to get good espresso, so why not make it ourselves? It’s a creative process, much like the fiber arts. There are 21 different common espresso drinks to perfect, which might take a very long time. (Wouldn’t this chart make a great tapestry?)

So it was that, within a day or two, I had justified the need for an espresso machine. I fired up the internet and started reading. I discarded my lust for the Jura based on recent reviews, and eliminated all combination grinder/brewers (so-called superautomatics). I watched literally hundreds of videos and now feel like I have a personal (though one-sided) relationship with Gail of Seattle Coffee Gear, “Java John” of 1st-Line, and Mark of Whole Latte Love, with honorable mentions going to various and sundry others.

Rockets and Profitecs and ECMs and Lelits and and and

I narrowed the field by establishing some basic criteria. If we were going to spend money we needed to be sure we got something with a good reputation that would last many, many years with minimal maintenance. A dual boiler (one for coffee, one for steam), PID control (keeps water steady at a specified temperature), a powerful steamer and good looks were essential. Flow control (allowing you to control how quickly and when the water is put through the espresso), a shot timer, quiet operation and economy modes were very desirable. Positive reviews from owners were critical. The ability to plumb the machine into our water line was ideal.

I created a decision matrix and recorded all the salient points for each contender. There are some beautiful machines out there, all very well made and reputable in the price range we were willing to consider, that produce exquisite espresso (with a learning curve, of course). We finally narrowed it down to two, and then to one. I can’t tell you which one because that might jinx it. When she arrives, which may not be for a few weeks, I’ll introduce you. Meanwhile, I need to study up on latte art.

And that, dear readers, is why I didn’t knit a stitch, weave a pick, or spin a thread since my last post.

Now it’s on to finding a grinder of equal quality worthy of good espresso.