Tag Archives: coffee

Homemade espresso soda

25 Feb
If I drink more than a six-pack of soft drinks in a year, that’s a lot. Odd considering that I grew up mixing all kinds of sodas in my family’s fountain service store in East New York.
But when my friend Dante shipped me a really swell beverage carbonator a few weeks back, for the purpose of trying my hand at carbonated cocktails, all I was able to think about was making some soda.
And not just any soda. It had to be this one: Manhattan Special.
Not exactly a household name, I know. But they’ve been making this stuff since 1895. The company that produces it is still family owned, and the manufacturing plant is where it has always been: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Here’s a story the Times did a while back.
I used to drink a ton of Manhattan Special (we just called it “coffee soda”) when I was a kid, but now only treat myself to a taste occasionally. 
Dante’s very cool gift seemed the right occasion. (Sorry, man, but I don’t do cocktails. I’m a straight-up kinda guy when it comes to my whiskey.)
So, here you’ve got the contraption. It’s called Twist ‘n Sparkle.
It’s a snap to use. All you do is insert a CO2 cartridge into this wand here, then drop the wand into the plastic bottle.
When you screw the wand into the bottle the gas is automatically released from the cartridge. To make my coffee soda I brewed about three and a half cups of espresso in a regular coffee maker and added 6 tablespoons of sugar. The sugar part was a little hard to cope with, as I never use it in my coffee. Oh, and the whole thing needed to be chilled before carbonating.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wound up with a drink that really was very close to the original. I think that if I played around with the coffee-to-sugar ratio a bit more I might even get it precisely right.
Or, I could just head on over to Williamsburg and get the real thing. 
Tough call.

The colors of coffee

7 Feb
These are my parents. It is their wedding day. Mom wore a blue dress, dad a grey sport jacket. Nothing fancy.
You can see by the classic Neopolitan (flip and drip) espresso pot that their celebration is nearing its completion. It is how a lot of our family gatherings end, even today.
You may not think anything mysterious or unusual here. However, listen to the language and then decide.
“Do you want brown coffee,” members of my family will ask at meal’s end, “or demitasse?”
This is when first-time guests begin to scour the room, searching for a kindly face who might provide them with a freaking clue.
Literally, you are being asked to choose between a hot American coffee and an empty “half cup,” or demitasse. It’s a French word. Why my Italian-American family used it so determinedly I cannot say.
Practically, of course, my people would never be so rude as to offer a person, well, nothing. What they are really asking is whether you would like a regular coffee or an espresso that is served in a demitasse.
As time has passed the language has changed somewhat. Rarely is the French term employed, but neither is the proper espresso.
“Brown coffee or black?” became quite commonly used, or the even simpler “Brown or black?” Once it became evident that brown attracted more takers, a simple “Black?” whispered to those who exhibited such tendencies sufficed.
I align myself strongly with the whispered-to crowd. Even my house “brown,” sourced from the same small coffee roaster in Brooklyn for many years, is, at my direction, 80 percent espresso beans.
Which, as you might imagine, can make the brown versus black coffee debate a murky topic around my house. 
And don’t even get me started again on the whole demitasse thing.