Thursday, March 20, 2014

Espresso Week: Other Supplies

It's Espresso Week here at Writer Adept!

Last week, I discussed the financial implications of a daily (or even weekly) espresso habit and how it made sense to me to invest in my own equipment rather than paying the big bucks out to a local coffee shop. Then, on Tuesday, I discussed some tips about buying the best espresso machine for your dollar and reviewed my top three choices. Today, I want to talk about about the other equipment and supplies you'll need to get started on your daily espresso habit.

After your espresso machine, the next most important piece of equipment is your grinder. Like espresso machines, there are a host of options and price ranges for coffee grinders, and when you first start looking, it can seem pretty overwhelming. Fortunately, two pieces of simple advice go a long way. First, make sure you choose a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder, as the latter can't produce either the uniformity or size you'll need for espresso. Second, you don't need to pay the extra expense for a flat-burr grinder, for ceramic parts, fancy dosing attachments, or micro- grind adjustments. For your money, I highly recommend the Capresso 560.01 Infinity Burr Grinder, available for less than $100. It's relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and perfectly capable of grinding your espresso beans to the right size, shape, and consistency.

So what else do you need? Fortunately, once you have the espresso machine and grinder, all of the major expenses (as well as difficult choices) are out  of the way. However, you will need a few basic supplies to get you started.
  •  An espresso tamper - this is a barbel-shaped object, usually made of stainless steel or plastic, that you use to press down on the ground espresso in the portafilter before brewing.  Many espresso machines come with a plastic tamper, but I recommend tossing these away and purchasing one made of metal.
  • A frothing pitcher - this is a medium sized stainless steel vessel with a handle that is used to steam the milk up to temperature. The metal is essentially, as it allows a uniform temperature for the milk as it heats up.
  • A thermometer - while not strictly necessary, most baristas prefer to steam their milk to a particular temperature (140 - 160 degrees is typical). A simple candy thermometer is more than sufficient.
  • espresso cups - these are glass or plastic graduated cups that are small enough to sit below your portafilter and will hold the espresso as it is extracted.
With those things in hand, you've got everything you need to start making your daily espresso - well, everything except the coffee beans themselves, the milk, and whatever flavorings you wish!

But the very last thing you'll need to do is master all this great equipment you've invested in. While it's not difficult, it does take some practice before you're ready to produce a quality daily espresso. For my final post of the week, I'll point you towards some great resources that will help you become a great barista in no time!

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