Monday, February 11, 2008

Fraught with risk

We all have our personal tastes and likes and dislikes. That much we know. Some are guilty pleasures, some are affections which headlong run counter to prevailing fashion. The rest of our circle look on bemusedly as we prattle on about them, crouched down, stalking, eagerly awaiting the moment to pounce and prattle on about their particular "thing."

One of mine is Italophilia. A lot of us have [insert nation here]philia. The extremely lovely and wildly gracious Poppy has Francophilia, and the lovely and gracious Shula has developed such an acute case of love for India it wouldn't surprise me if her fondest subconscious wish is to be swept off her feet by the leading Bollywood chiropractor. So I know kinda/sorta what they're thinking.

As a consequence of my happy Italophilia, I tend to surround myself with items Italian whenever practical. Cars, for example. In this place and time one must have a car and therefore, why not an Italian one, right? Another is my abiding love for espresso and who better to manufacture machines that afford me much excellent caffeinated goodness than the Italians?

Exactly.

Which leads me to the subject of this post, the trouble with the Italian espresso machine.

Italians, by and large, are a sophisticated people with equally sophisticated manufacturing culture, especially in items which matter so deeply to them. Like cars and, yes, espresso machines. In these fields, in the aspects that really matter, they are peerless. In the aspects that don't matter, well, they have peers by the truckload. In the case of the espresso machine this is manifested in how the manual is written.

The manual which came with this machine like every single other manual I have ever encountered for anything even remotely Italian is of, er, modest usefulness. A lot of times a message will pop up on the display of the unit and it will take some deciphering to ascertain what one ought do. The descaling operation is one such example where the manual falls rather short of ones desires. However, in a manly show of sophistication, the manual is printed in EIGHT languages, probably including cuneiform. As a consequence, all peoples of the world may be equally frustrated when their caffeinated goodness is unavailable with no forthcoming explanation or readily discernible remedy.

Eventually one puts together the aspects of the instructions and manages to effect the fix. Muttering a few profanities, all is forgiven when the espresso hits the cup and wrath is distracted by one's base longings.

Of course, one then hits the wall when something not even remotely mentioned in the manual shows up on the machine's display. In my case it has been the rather ominous "Purge." Without any additional clarification, one is left wondering WTF is going on. "Am I being warned of impending Stalinist action? Is Siberia cold in February?" or "Is there some demonic presence which has possessed this machine and which is goading me to develop a eating disorder?" Nobody knows, because on this issue, the manual is silent. In eight languages, including cuneiform.

So, if one is bound and determined to have one's dosage of the pinnacle of coffee, one must get creative. This is husbandese, incidentally, for twiddling all the knobs and dials and pushing all the buttons possible to see what happens. Calling tech support is specifically disallowed as only the truly hopeless or those who are completely at the end of their tether may do so. Therefore, in order to help any concerned husband I will offer up what works so that you may impress your beloved by looking as if you really know what you are doing. Much like I did this morning. (It helps to wake up 90 minutes earlier, that you may have time to sweat, bleed and possibly blaspheme, not that I suggest this latter action...you may live in a tornado/lightning zone.)

If you have a Saeco espresso machine and you get the "Purge" message in any language this is what you are to do. Turn on the hot water dispenser knob. (You won't be able to do much else.) The display will go from reading:

PURGE

to:

HOT WATER
PURGE

Hottish water will emerge and then it will stop. Then it will hiss and spit and issue a modest burst of steam. This is kind of like a 95 year old man with a cold yelling at you. It will then start dripping water slowly. Turn the knob off and quickly on. This will repeat the process. You do this a LOT. Eventually the display will go from

HOT WATER
PURGE

to merely:
HOT WATER

And you, fool, will think you have won. You turn the water knob off and the display will now read:

MACHINE READY
SELECT PRODUCT

Fool that you are, as determined above, and thinking you have won, will press the espresso button and the machine will whirr and just before it finishes dispensing your espresso of choice, it will halt and the display will read (you can see what's coming):

PURGE

So you repeat the process all over again, only this time it will be marginally shorter. You will make another espresso and you will get the same damned display message of:

PURGE

So you repeat what you repeated before (it SHOULD only be three times) and then, when you hit the "espresso" button you should get a larger and waterier amount than usual. That's when you know you have successfully banished the eating disorder to the gulag. Until next time.

You're welcome.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:22 AM

7 Comments

  • Blogger Badger posted at 8:41 PM, February 11, 2008  
    Dude. There has GOT to be a better way.
  • Blogger shula posted at 8:43 PM, February 11, 2008  
    Wot Badger says.

    Take it in for a service.

    Those manuals are written by lunatics.
  • Blogger bluemountainsmary posted at 9:16 PM, February 11, 2008  
    I loathed our Saeco ( a cheap model admittedly - we certainly got we paid for there) so now use on a daily and extremely happy basis - the stove top espresso maker.

    Call me old fashioned.
  • Blogger shula posted at 2:45 AM, February 12, 2008  
    And while I think of it, may I add that I have had nothing but trouble from the more fancy, automated machines, good coffee or not.

    I heart my Gaggia Classic. No bells. No whistles. No one telling you what to do in Swahili. Lots of pressure. Fabulous coffee.
  • Blogger Kim posted at 5:52 AM, February 12, 2008  
    I thought everyone in the developed world knows that anything from Saeco blows chunks?
  • OpenID becandcall posted at 6:41 AM, February 13, 2008  
    Fool.

    We have a bog-standard stainless steel Sunbeam.

    It makes multiple doses of excellent coffee every day.

    It's not worth enough to be traded for a goodly portion of an Italian sports car...

    But maybe the Saeco is?
  • OpenID becandcall posted at 6:49 AM, February 13, 2008  
    See? Now look what you've done.

    I've gone and been all rude about you being a fool, and trading in your wee espresso machine for a wee sports car and what do I find at the end of it?

    Only that, after the best part of six months of nagging, you've changed your comments so it's easy to stick a typepad url in there.

    That's all.

    And that, my friend, earns you an endless service of Sunbeam styled espresso at the Casa del Bec and Call.
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