The at-home unicorn (a great home espresso machine) and a sidekick hand grinder
I received two follow up questions to my post on getting started in coffee, that I will do my best to answer here.
Question #1: there are a couple of things I've been wanting, such as a good hand grinder. I don't know if you have a link to such a thing, but I'm curious about what you do link to?
Question #2: So, we want to get a 'good' home espresso machine to make our own cappuccino. Does such a thing exist under $300?
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First, let's talk about hand grinders. People love them. I am not one of those people. I am one of those people that if I could have an immediate transfusion of coffee-fluid into my body at the moment of waking, I would do it. I still like it to taste good, so I do use a burr grinder and then wait the whole 5 minutes (ish) it takes to make a cup of fresh coffee. But anything beyond that in terms of time prior to first cup of coffee really puts me in a grumpy mood.
That said, people who have more patience than me really appreciate the low price point combined with a much more consistent grind size than a blade grinder. Hand grinding also really doesn't take that much more time. It's just more than I'm prepared to give.
I recommend two models: The Hario Mini Mill Slim Hand Coffee Grinder* and the BrewGlobal Rhinoware Hand Coffee Grinder*. I slightly prefer the Hario, but both are fine at what they do. Eater did a review of six grinders last year if you want to get any more into it!
Next up! Low-Priced. Home. Espresso. Machines.
As far as most coffee professionals can tell, these are mythical beasts that do not truly exist in our universe. Yes, a lot of them are for sale in that scary scary kitchen-gadget market, but so are asparagus peelers and the iPerfect Kitchen Meat Handling & Shredding Claws. So, not everything that's sold is meant to be bought.
That said, I was asked if there was an under $300 model of home espresso machine I could recommend. Nothing immediately came to mind, so I headed to my crowd-source gurus. A Mr. Maxwell Mooney of Narrative Coffee recommended the Cuisinart EM-200 Programmable 15-Bar Espresso Maker*, saying, "Depends on how much you want to modify, but after a considerable deal of effort I got good results with the Cuisinart EM-200. It's a thermoblock but I found it to do a nice job with espresso once I replaced the pressurized basket with a Breville 51mm basket."
So... if that sounds like fun, go for it. It also reminded me that I've had decent experience with the Breville brand of home espresso machines, and they can run in a similar price range. Also, the kind folks at CoffeeGeek and LaMarzocco home would be way more happy to give you advice on this topic!
But see, now the other tricky thing about espresso is that it's hard to make, in general, even on the totally best equipment. And even if you get the machine, you still have to get the grinder, and then the coffee, and then try to make it taste good... Much like hand grinders, this whole idea sounds perfectly exhausting to me pre-coffee. So, I happily spend my $300 per year on going out when I need a nice cappuccino. (psst. a quick check on Yelp turns up Bean Counter in Worcester, MA. I'd give that a try if I asked that question and lived near there... Also - why do all the coffee shops in Worcester have bad coffee puns in their names?! That's not a great sign).
So, there you have it. Home coffee gadget questions, reluctantly answered. Proceed with caution, and happy holidays!