It’s blustery, cold and did I mention mega-windy outside? That means…it is the perfect time for a morning latte!
It’s funny in the Pacific Northwest…if you are of a certain age, you probably have worked as a barista at some point. Espresso stands were our signature in the late 80’s and mid 90’s, then morphed into coffee shops. My first job as a barista was in college. All in total I worked as one for 9 years – most of my 20’s to be precise. I worked for most of those years at a coffee shop on The Island, working my way up to being the opening barista (which was the best shift, although the busiest). I liked the work, I liked my customers and my job was flexible (which as a single mom to my oldest son it was important – work early, get most of the day off and 3 days a week off to hike with him!) When I moved off the island, I retired from my espresso-pulling days. Kirk often “joked” about getting an espresso machine, so I could make him lattes like back when I met him 😉 Considering that the type of machine I would want was outrageously expensive then, we never got one. Well…until recently. Kirk surprised me with this machine as an early Christmas gift:
A Breville BES860XL Barista Express Espresso Machine with Grinder. A few years back, machines like this cost a lot more. Prices have come down, we got ours brand new for about 45% off MSRP. It seems to fit well in the realm between pro machines and lousy wastes of money (think cheap machines at Target that do NOT give real espresso, but rather give coffee with a bit of crema). More so, it is easy to learn how to use it, the machine can be run on auto settings (for grinding the beans and how long the shots run) or you can pick your own settings. Best of both worlds. Probably one of my few gripes is that you cannot steam milk while pulling shots, but really, that isn’t a huge issue when one is making lattes for only 2 people, and not an unending line of customers. Classy lines, nice design and it works. Being that I know my way around espresso machines my learning curve was short. First thing I do after coming into the kitchen is plug it in and turn it on. By the time I have the kids corralled and happy, the boiler is ready to go. I can’t say everyone will be able to pull perfect shots or steam velvety foam but ya never know. Lets just say there was a reason I helped win “Best of” for the shop a few years in a row (feels weird tooting my horn, but I really loved making coffee!). Now Kirk happily gets a hot latte every morning. And hey…..it doesn’t take that long to pay the machine back if you are a daily latte drinker. Two drinks a day could have it payed off in 2 to 3 months. But more so, if you are watching what you put into your mouth…well, you really want to read bottles of syrup for lattes. Which 10 years ago I can tell you I never did. One thing that made our shop stand out was the impressive collection of flavors we carried. I could make nearly any latte a customer could dream up (I made a Granola Bar Latte that was locally famous…..) So whenever a new syrup came out I’d whine at my boss to get it. Only thing is…most syrups have preservatives. One reason they can be shelf stable for up to 2 years. And they are over priced – consider this, at a restaurant supply store (they all carry espresso gear put here), a bottle runs for about half or less than what it is in a store. If you buy a bottle of Torani syrup without a coupon or on sale, you can spend $6 to $9 a bottle. A double batch below is a fraction of that. With no preservatives. Or caramel coloring. This for example is $7.95!
This is what syrup should be like – thick and delicious! It doesn’t need coloring. Nope!
Gingerbread Latte Syrup
- 2 cups water
- 1½ cups granulated sugar, preferably organic
- 2½ tsp ground dried ginger
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Add the ingredients to a heavy medium saucepan, bring to boil over high. Turn to medium-low, simmer for 15 minutes – do NOT leave while simmering as it can boil over easily.
Let cool, then transfer to a jar, store in refrigerator.
Makes about 1¾ cups.
PS: The jar I used? It is a recycled and sterilized Bhakti Chai bottle. They are beyond gorgeous bottles! Props to them for finding such pretty bottles.
- 1 to 1½ cups milk (favorite dairy or non-dairy, preferably unsweetened)
- 2 Tbsp Gingerbread syrup (or to taste)
- 2 shots espresso
Make sure your espresso machine is preheated properly, running hot water through the group head to warm up the portafilter, and heating one’s mug as well.
Steam milk to preferred temperature (I aim for 165° to 170°, I like it hot). Add syrup to warmed mug, mix with half of the hot milk. Pull 2 shots espresso, add to mug down the center, gently pour in the remaining milk and swirl foam on the top.
Serve and drink immediately.
On milk amount:
I prefer to use about 1¼ cups milk, once I add the espresso and syrup I have a tall drink. 1 cup will give you a very strong-tasting short latte, 1½ cups will give you closer to a Grande.