A Cyclists Guide to Near Perfect Coffee


Coffee and cycling are old old friends. For as long as the Saturday club run has existed so has the inevitable cafe stop. Colnago, Illy, Pinarello, Lavazza; all of these brand names drum up images of style, sophistication and unrivalled quality. Cycling and coffee are so ingrained into Italian culture that never the two shall or can be separated.

Stopping for a espresso after 40 miles of through and off is not only a great reason to rest tired legs on a long club run but also an opportunity to inject some legal ‘juice’ into your veins. I don’t know about you but caffeine makes me ride faster. Leaving the house at 7am on a Saturday morning without firing in a cappuccino is like driving to work with the hand brake on, i’ll get there but it is a bit of a laboured effort for the engine.

Before i discovered cycling i always appreciated good coffee. After i discovered cycling i began to accept nothing less than good coffee. I look back on days when I was more than happy to sip at a mug of instant coffee (at any time of the day) with disbelief. From that low point, moving to London soon opened my eyes to the world of Americanos and Lattes from the many ‘sell out’ coffee shop chains you’ll find in most cities anywhere in the world.

My epiphany on coffee culture came in two doses. Firstly after staring a new job I was stunned by the amazement of an Italian work colleague after I went for a coffee with him after lunch and ordered a latte. He looked at me suspiciously before inquiring if i was ok.

Now I’m sure it varies from village to village in Italy, but he quickly informed me that where he came from you had Capacinno for breakfast and only espresso at any time of the day there after. According to him Latte was only to be administered to the body when your were bed ridden with fever, flu or any other illness. And so thanks to our afternoon strolls to a local coffee shop, I became an espresso convert.

Stage two of my coffee education was delivered by a former flat mate. Having spent a year living in Italy, flirting with both cycling culture and fiery women, he discovered that with the help of a stove top Bialetti and some good quality pre-ground coffee you could achieve an acceptable [by Italian standards] brew in the comfort of your own home. And so, on his return to Blighty he bestowed on me a Bialetti Mocha 3 cup.


image by Stoni

And so about 5 years on, and with a family of 4 Bialetti’s currently in service (1 cup, 2 x 3 cup and a 9 cup), I have began to flirt with the idea of upgrading my caffeine hit to a new level. Last week i stumbled upon the excellent post on In The Saddle called A Cyclists Guide to The Perfect Coffee. Having read it I immediately began debating whether I should start warming my better half up to the idea of investing £300 in a Gaggia espresso machine & mill, as well as the pair of new race shoes already on my list.

While i don’t doubt that the Gaggia seed has been sown and will inevitably germinate into a future purchase, i thought i should at least share my version of a roadie’s best friend:

The Cyclists Guide to the Near Perfect Coffee

1. Take the lower part of the Bialetti and fill with water (tap) until just bow the steam release valve.

2. Slip the filter in to place and add several teaspoons of coffee grounds (preferably Illy, Lavazza as a minimum). Be sure not to press down the coffee otherwise you may face a Bialetti explosion, instead aim for a ‘heaped filter’ full. Also if you’re grinding your own beans try to keep the grind fairly course to lower the risk of explosion.

3. Screw the top on and place onto the stove (electric, gas, halogen, whatever you have) and wait several minutes until the top chamber is full of coffee.

4. Meanwhile take 250 ml of full fat (this froths better than skimmed) milk and microwave for 1 minute or until hot (be sure not to burn it though).  Whisk the hot milk with a budget milk frother for 30 seconds, keeping the whisk near the surface of the milk for the best results. Meanwhile pop a cup of water into the kettle to boil.

5. Coffee brewed, milk heated and water boiled its time to assemble your very own bomba. First add your frothy milk to a low profile [please don’t use a mug] cappuccino cup. Next fill up with hot water until 1/2 cm from the rim. As the piece de resistance pour in your espresso from the Bialetti in a circular motion in the vein hope of a nice pattern appearing like when you favourite barista does it.

So there you have it. It may not be palatable to the most fussy Italians, but it is cheap, easy to prepare and will certainly give you an extra mph on a Saturday morning.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

coffee September 30, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Not to turn the subject, but don’t forget that is is National Coffee Day!. Free drinks from many of the bigger outfits. There is a listing of national and local stores participating!


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