Espresso anyone?



This isn’t a good look on the face of a guest when you pour their filter coffee at breakfast at Bitou River Lodge, Plettenberg Bay. So off you go to try again. Five tablespoons of Bootlegger’s finest filter coffee in a two-cup plunger, this time? Hmmm, they say. Not bad. Just missing that special something…. it’s called espresso.

So how was I going to up my game and provide quality espresso for my guests?

I’d heard stories from other guest-house owners about disasters caused by guests operating self-help coffee machines unsupervised, about the loud noise from the beans being ground, about the problems with cleaning machines effectively.

Sadly I crossed the Smeg coffee machine (red!) off my list.

How about a Nespresso machine then? But … those pods are not at all eco-friendly and our Lodge is committed to green solutions.

What else? I was stumped.

Then I had not one but five Italian guests arrive, along with an espresso-fanatic German who travels everywhere with her own tiny Moka pot which makes one cup of espresso, stove-top. I was fascinated. The traditional Italian method of percolating coffee on the stove made perfect cups of espresso over and over again.

So I found a family of Bialetti Moka Pots: Papa Bialetti, Mamma Bialetti and Bambino Bialetti. Between them they can make sixteen cups of strong, black espresso at a sitting, or can serve just one guest or two.

I received rigorous training from my experienced team of six guests (it’s not as straightforward as you might think).  I asked some horrifyingly naive questions: Can you use boiling water in the bottom chamber? A shocked chorus of NO’s!  I thought it would speed things up, but speed, I learnt, is Not The Point. Even if you do have a polo match to get to. Why won’t the Mamma Pot function at all on the large gas burner? Because it’s not hot enough, go figure. You have to have a blast of heat directly under the pot – and again, Speed Is Not The Point. Are espresso cups an essential part of drinking espresso? YES!  Right, got it – and also got the cute little cups.

Even with the cute little cups I don’t think I’ll ever get used to drinking such strong coffee – but it was so much fun learning how to make it properly and seeing the new look on my guests’ faces…


Big up to Rudston, Nadia, Diego, Gillian, Patrizia and Regine, who got my year off to a stylish start!