Tuesday, January 8, 2013

All Revved Up

It's a well-known fact that I need coffee the same way I need oxygen.  I am happiest when I have a cup in my hand and would drink it all day long if I could figure out a way to get my brain to just go to sleep already, but I usually can't, so the fun has to stop somewhere around 4:00 PM.   The constant caffeine feed also needs to taste good and while I would love to be able to afford to be one of those people you see in Starbucks every morning (or in my case, Chestnut Hill Coffee Company) ordering a $4 grande non-fat latte (please), alas, the budget doesn't allow, so I have to satisfy the craving by grinding my own beans and now frothing my own milk.  I never quite got the hang of home-operated espresso machines, but Santa brought me a couple of nifty tools to play with this year that allow me to come up with my own frothy concoctions that are almost as good as the real deal.

The first one I tried was the Nespresso Aeroccino Plus.  It is one cool little gadget.  Little frother inside is held in place with a magnet so it stays where it should, but pops out easily for cleaning.  Actually, the whole device is very easy to clean.  You simply pour in the milk and press the button on the front, wait a couple minutes and ding!, it's done.  Frothy goodness lightning fast.  You can remove the pot from the base to set on the table if you're entertaining guests (I did this on Christmas Day and everyone enjoyed frothy milk in their coffee).  If this machine has a flaw, it's that it doesn't hold much milk and doesn't get it searing hot.  Great for coffee, not so great for making hot cocoa.

Next up on the list was the Breville Milk Frother.  This was the model that I originally had on my Christmas wish list, but it was impossible to find before the holidays, so LAM went for the Nespresso model.  I loved the Nespresso so much that I took it to the office and decided to try this one for home since it claimed to make great hot cocoa.  Among other nifty features, it has a dial that controls temperature and it does heat the milk sufficiently to make cocoa.  It also has a small inner lid that pops off so you can start heating/frothing the milk and then pour the chocolate packet in and presto! you have whipped cocoa.  The big flaw here is that there is a minimum level for it to work properly, so you end up frothing more milk than you want for just one cup of coffee and for whatever reason, it doesn't produce the same level of foam as the Nespresso.

It is also LARGE and takes up a good bit of room on my countertop, but it is relatively easy to clean.  The stainless steel has kind of a rough finish and reminds me of fingernails down a blackboard when I touch it.  I know that sounds awful, but the Nespresso has a lovely polished finish and is a delight to touch.

The end result is a lovely cup of cocoa--marshmallows are optional.

Whipped cream is NOT optional

In the meantime, I am happily caffeinated both at home and at the office.  Maybe some day I will figure out how to make these pretty designs!


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