Reclaiming my life…

Well, sort of, anyway.

Since I went down with what was eventually diagnosed as ME, but might equally be the long-term effects of being struck by lightning or even the earliest stages of Addison’s Disease, I lost a chunk of every day to enforced “rest” – by which I mean I was pretty much unconscious for much of the afternoon, and often the evening, every day.

I eventually figured out that by not eating lunch this didn’t happen in the afternoon, and so I got back to some semblance of normality. However, this year the problem has not only returned, it’s expanded into every evening, the end result being – aside from losing a large part of my day – that I couldn’t sleep at night (I’ll gloss over the perversity of the severe pain that kept me awake at night failing to do so during the day/evening!).

So I thought – COFFEE! That keeps people awake…

Trouble is, from past experience, even when my heart was working normally, coffee would drive my heart rate deep into tachycardia territory – not really wise now, given how buggered it is, but lacking an alternative, I decided to give it a try, and bought a cheap espresso machine.

I also knew that coffee irritated the hell out of my stomach, but remembered from a flirtation with espresso four years ago that Old Brown Java beans caused me no grief at all, so I ordered 500g of those, too. And a grinder, an Ascaso i-1, covered here recently.

Long story short – success. Three coffees during the afternoon and evening, and I can stay awake, and not only do I have my days back, I can sleep at night again too (though that’s probably due to the reintroduction of Amitriptyline to my meds as well).

Thing is, I wanted a domestic espresso machine that complied with commercial standards, which would give me access to a whole range of accessories which would mean better coffee. It would also be easier to clean (the innards of espresso machines tend to get gummed up with oily coffee residue).

So I ordered a machine – and screwed up. I looked at so many, I opted for the wrong model. Until fairly recently that wouldn’t have been a problem as the Distance Selling Regulations allowed people to send back things ordered in error, or for any other reason, or even no reason at all, and get a full refund. That’s no longer the case (I’ve reported on that, too).

However, the machine, bought from was supplied from Italy (they’re doing that a hell of a lot lately I wonder why?), and the promised Euro to UK mains adapter failed to materialise (and no, with these things it’s not simply a matter of popping to Sainsbury’s and buying a shaver adapter). Anyway, as luck would have it I already had a suitable adapter, so I used that.

I also emailed Amazon pointing out the omission, and saying that, even though I had one, I’d still like the adapter I’d paid for.

Cue an exchange of emails that showed that they’d not even read mine – I won’t bore you with the tedium – which culminated in an email from them saying they’d arranged – without bothering to consult me – for the machine to be returned to Italy and I would be refunded as, contractually, they couldn’t supply me with the requisite adapter.

Given that they sell the buggers, and the cost to them would be close to zero, I suspect they’re more concerned with making a point to their supplier than with helping me – but it played into my hands nicely, the wrong machine was off my hands, collected on Monday morning.

Had an email saying they’d processed my refund, so all is well.

I’d planned, when I went to bed last Saturday night, to order a Gaggia Classic machine from Amazon on Sunday, as that suited my needs perfectly.


At £235 it would do some damage to my overdraft while I waited for my refund, but I could live with that. What I had no intention of living with was the fact that, overnight, Amazon had jacked up the price to £260. There could be no excuse for that, as the machines were in stock, and clearly marked “Stocked and supplied by Amazon” – no grasping third party was involved.

So, I had a rummage online and wound up at Caffè Italia, where I bought my La Pavoni machine 4 years ago. They had the Classic – this year’s model, too** – for £229 with free delivery (plus £4.00 insurance – worth it as it came half-way across Europe).

**I had no idea which model Amazon had in stock, the photo on their website was of an earlier model, and they didn’t say. Caffé Italia were quite specific, they had the Mk II 2014 model. They also promised a UK plug – which is where, last time, I got the adapter I’d been using. Order placed.

Anyway, it’s now Saturday and the machine was delivered at about 10.00 Friday morning, and I spent the day setting it up and getting it ready for its first use this afternoon. It should have been yesterday afternoon, but by then I was wiped out.

Coffee station

It’s not dirty, by the way, it’s polished stainless steel, and picking up all sorts of reflections, which make it look shabby when it’s really not. It’s mounted on an anti-vibration plinth – a high-density polyethylene chopping board mounted on a slab of expanded polyurethane – as espresso machines can be noisy buggers. The grinder, being quieter, just gets a slice of camping mat foam under a smaller chopping board (the perceptive among you will have spotted that I’ll have to remove the grinder’s hopper and top moulding to open my microwave – such is life…). That’s not a lever on top of the Classic, by the way, it’s my tamper.

And that little torch in front of the grinder? Well, the geniuses at Gaggia think that smoked plastic is a good material for a water tank but, despite the maximum level being clearly marked, you can’t actually see the water without shining a light into the tank! And even then it’s not easy without jiggling the machine so the water moves.

Add to that the fact that there is no minimum mark and it becomes very easy to run out of water for the inattentive among us, and that will destroy the pump. Pump failure due to lack of water, Gaggia make quite clear, is NOT covered by the warranty – so why, morons, do you make it so difficult to see how much water is in the bloody tank?

A caveat: If, like me, you download a manual prior to buying, the one you get with the machine will be different (well, it will if you get new stock – I don’t know how far back they go). In addition, there will be two documents updating the initial set-up procedure as detailed in the manual. Confused? You will be, especially as the English translation is less than great. Anyway, my point is, read everything you get. If you don’t, you might regret it.

Finally, for those of us with COPD, coffee can be beneficial as it naturally contains Theophylline. Not enough to mess with our meds but, on the days when the drugs prove inadequate (or I’ve foolishly run out), increasing my coffee intake has helped. This, by the way, refers to coffee made with freshly ground beans. Whether it also applies to pod coffee or instant, I can’t say.


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