Out of the Humidor
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Editor's response: We have always welcomed women cigar smokers, and we have published articles focused on them (Summer 1995) and on women tobacconists (February 1998). That said, our magazine's mission has always been to explore the world of cigars and the good life from the male perspective (men make up roughly 95 percent of the U.S. cigar-smoking population). As for those who disapprove of women cigar smokers, I'm willing to wager that there are at least 10 times as many men who find such women a welcome addition to the cigar-smoking community.
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I wish to make a couple of additions and comments to Sam Gugino's article, "The Perfect Cup," in your December 1999 issue. Mr. Gugino certainly hits the spot regarding the poor extraction of espresso and the "abuse" of a fine product. We moved to Wisconsin (30 miles south of Green Bay and "Packerland") three years ago and found that two of my vices were nonexistent and scoffed at. There were little or no espresso services and virtually no public places to smoke my cigars. Although a couple of neighborhood taverns now tolerate my cigar smoking ("please smoke those smelly things in the corner by the open window") and a couple of "espresso" houses have opened, we decided to open our own espresso service in the form of Wisconsin's first mobile espresso van. As we both work full time, we have been operating part time, attending charitable and nonprofit special events.
We received our barista training from the nonprofit Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and are committed to the same quality of excellence that they have taught us. Mr. Gugino should have mentioned that besides the fact of using filtered water for your espresso machine, you should use a water softener also. This will keep your machine's internal parts from calcifying, and in commercial applications it is a must to maintain the machine's warranty.
Regarding the purchasing of quality beans, try to buy your beans from the roaster. Make sure the bean bag is vacuum-sealed. Use the beans (if unopened) within three weeks of purchase. When opened, use the beans within seven days of opening and keep the beans in an airtight container, stored in a dry, room-temperature environment. Like cigars, do not put your beans in the refrigerator. Also do not make the assumption when you buy your usual brand of beans at a local coffeehouse that they will be fresh. We discovered that the beans might be "brokered" and months old by the time they are sold. Our beans are typically roasted within three days of our placing an order.