I am often caught in the act of using a butter knife as a screwdriver, and a little voice inside my head, which sounds strangely like my husband says “is that really the right tool for the job”. I say “no”, voice, “because I’ll probably soon slip and gouge my left arm with the rounded tip and somehow manage to pierce my skin, or have to explain at my next dinner party why the tip of 8 of my knives are slightly twisted to the right.”
So inevitably, I put the butter knife down, walk the 8 billion steps out to the garage to get the right tool, and resume the project. I have to admit to myself once again, that with the right tool in hand tasks always work lickity split, just like they should, without damage to my arm or an innocent utensil.
So if you find yourself at home attempting to make an espresso beverage with the wrong tool (machine) for the job, you may want to read on. I’m not saying we have to buy the equivalant of a sixty piece screwdriver kit with color coded tips and ergo handles. No, we just need a Phillips and a flathead, in maybe a couple sizes. This piece of equipment will be meant to do the job we�re asking of it, it will be built to last, and it will be easy enough to understand that we�ll actually use it.
I’m pretty much convinced that it’s nearly impossible to get anything good enough for under $800, but I could certainly be very wrong. What I do know is that many people aren�t going to enjoy going through the process of making an espresso beverage, such as the ever popular caf� latte, at home at 6:30 a.m. if there’s a ton of work to be done. We’re also not going to go through any process if the drink doesn�t taste good to us. We�re about being easy and yummy. This is why I�m a big fan of the super-automatic espresso machine for the home espresso drink lover. Yes, it’s not going to be by-the-book perfect in every way, but it can be very good, and honestly as good or better than what you may be buying out of the home right now.
Here’s what to look for in the machine you look to buy:
It’s capable of producing 135 PSI, and 198-201 degrees Fahrenheit water temperature, it’s able to adjust the degree of grind and the volume of coffee per dose, and it has other fine tuning programming options, like pre-brewing, water temperature control, and an automatic on/off timer.
If you get all of the above, you’re sure to have all of the other necessary details. Don’t be sucked in by machines that offer complex frothing contraptions, or have internal milk compartments that spit out foam. The mess and ick created by the perceived convenience won�t be worth it. When you bring your new baby home, read the manual (which may be against all natural instints but you’ll be much better off if you understand your machine) and make the adjustments to your machine as you practice making shots. Here are my drink making directions to help you get up to speed, and to help you figure out how to program your machine:
Steaming milk (do this first on a home machine because you can�t pull a shot and steam at the same time in units in this price range)
1. For a latte, pour about 2/3rds of the volume you�ll want to end up with into a frothing pitcher to steam.
2. Steam the milk just under the surface, just off center to “stretch” it up until it’s 100 degrees in temperature. You can always do less foam, but don’t do longer.
3. Once 100 degrees, lower the wand into the milk and angle it so that the milk circles in a whirlpool and heat up to 150 degrees. There should be no big bubbles, just a smooth silky, foamy milk.
1. Use fresh coffee, and choose a blend that is recommended to brew as espresso. Fresh coffee alone will help you produce an amazing drink!
2. Use clean, filtered water (yucky water = yucky coffee)
3. Each shot should be about 1 oz in volume, and should take 20-30 seconds to pour. The coffee should stream, or stream with breaks like thin shoelaces..or maybe like warm honey dripping. The coffee will pour out dark brown, and then evolve into a soft creamy consistency and lighter red/brown color (known as crema).
Assemble the drink:
1. Coffee in the cup first, swirl your foamed milk around in the pitcher a few times to make sure it�s slippery and uniform in texture, and then pour into the cup. We could have lots of words about foaming, latte art, and other stuff, but we’re just trying to make it good here. Extra pretty can come later.
2. If you want, you can even pour the espresso shots into a waiting cup of steamed milk…again, no latte art is possible this way, but it’s perfectly acceptable, and after a couple swirls will be nearly as incorporated into the milk as doing it the other way round. Yes, rule breaking, but reality rules at 6:30 a.m.
So that’s it. It sounds so much more complicated than it actually is. Here�s a little snippit of me making a Latte “to go” on my own home Gaggia Titanium machine. Check it out, and see if you think you can do this yourself (this link will take you YouTube) Making a “to-go” cafe latte at home