Illy Mini cup collection

I have always had a taste for good coffee since a co-worker brought some Kona coffee into the office way back in the early 1970’s. After tasting that smooth and flavourful coffee from the mountains of the Big Island of Hawaii, I was hooked on good quality coffee. About the same time, Melitta cone filter drip systems hit the market in Vancouver (where I was living at the time), and I found a new way to brew coffee that tasted appreciably better than the old methods. In the intervening years, I have migrated from one cone filter drip coffee machine to another. I also tried many coffees from around the world, but still preferred pure Kona when I could get it.

Coffee beans on a granite countertop
Coffee beans on a granite countertop

I like a strong brew of coffee, and even when drinking Kona I would make it stronger than most would like. I always add some milk and a bit of sugar – not too much of either to overpower the coffee, but just enough to give it a rich and smooth taste. I can drink coffee without sugar, but not without milk. I prefer milk over cream, since I find the cream kills too much of the coffee flavour. Hot milk is preferred over cold milk, but I’m not above adding cold milk then microwaving the coffee for 20 seconds or so to restore the temperature. Some would say that is sacrilege, but hey…I like hot coffee, and I don’t always want to bother heating the milk up first!

In 2003 I started researching the new wave of super automatic espresso machines hitting the market. These have been very popular in Europe for several years now, but they are not yet too popular over here in North America. The more manual varieties of espresso machines also have a limited market here in North America. I find this quite curious, considering the virtual explosion of coffee shops and emporiums all over North America, particularly in the Pacific Northwest (Washington State, Oregon, and British Columbia) region where I live. After all, in Vancouver and Seattle, Starbucks have coffee shops on all four corners of some downtown blocks! (By the way, I’m not a fan of Starbucks coffee. I find it roasted to the point of being burnt. Nonetheless, I wish the company well.)

Solis Master 5000 Digital superautomatic espresso machine
Solis Master 5000 Digital superautomatic espresso machine

Anyway, back to the super automatics. After a great deal of research, I decided to purchase a Swiss-made machine: the Solis Master 5000 Digital. This super automatic brews espresso with a single press of a button. The machine grinds the beans, doses and tamps the grounds, brews the espresso, and ejects the spent puck of coffee into a waste container. The only thing left to do manually is steam the milk for a cappuccino, and the machine even makes that task a snap – it will pump steam all day (to quote my dealer). It also has an auto-clean cycle, so you can depend on this machine to deliver consistently good shots of espresso day after day, week after week.

My taste in coffee has evolved in recent years. Kona is still a favourite of mine for filter brew coffee, but using pure Kona is proving to be impractical since it is just too expensive and is in such short supply (outside of Hawaii).

Torrefazione Italia's Palermo blend coffee label
Torrefazione Italia’s Palermo blend coffee label

There are many other good quality coffees to choose from. For several years while I was drinking filter brew coffee, I bought nothing but Torrefazione Italia’s Palermo blend – a rich and dark southern Italian style coffee. Torrefazione was bought by Starbucks, and they have since dropped my favourite blend and gone out of business at this location. I have also favoured a Fair Trade coffee roasted here in Victoria by Level Ground. I purchased their Café San Miguel dark roast from a local shop for several years, but they changed their product lineup, so I was seeking a new coffee once more!

Saeco Talea Giro Plus II espresso machine
Saeco Talea Giro Plus II espresso machine

In 2013 I realized that my Solis Master 5000 was now 10 years old, and although it was still brewing great coffee, spare parts for repairs were becoming an issue. So I sold it and investigated new super-automatic espresso machines. Some features had been added over the years, but I decided to keep the same features/functions as my last machine with one exception. I had to manually cool down the boiler between frothing the milk for my cappuccinos and brewing the espresso shot with my old machine. I wanted to find a machine that would automate this process, and hopefully cycle through faster as well. I found the solution in another Swiss-made super-automatic, the Saeco Talea Giro Plus II espresso machine. I got an amazing deal on this machine at an online retailer who’s main business isn’t coffee or appliances, so I guess they must have grabbed an end-of-line deal from a distributor…bonus for me!

Caffe Fantastico logo

I also use Causeway roast from Caffé Fantastico, a local roastery in my neigbourhood, who are fanatical about the quality of the coffee they serve and the beans they roast. They use this roast to brew espresso drinks they serve their customers, so I know the beans are not sitting around long.

Kicking Horse Coffee Company is based in Invermere, BC, Canada, and produces one of my favourite espresso roasts called Cliff Hanger, which brews into a great-tasting espresso in my Breville Barista Express semi-automatic machine. This coffee is discounted regularly by and my local Thrifty Foods, so it offers great value along with the wonderful taste and aroma!

My journey with coffee drinking started in Vancouver in 1972 with Melitta cone filter drip systems and ground Kona coffee, and has evolved over the years to locally-roasted espresso beans and super-automatic brewing systems. My taste in coffee evolves…slowly, every slowly.

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