As a professional barista, I've thought about how non-baristas can get the most out of that simple, beautiful bag of beans. Personally, I achieve sensory overload every time I see those fateful commercials of espresso-making at home.
The truth is, making espresso at home to replicate a commercial environment is near impossible, even for the serious home baristas. The water filtration is incredibly different, the home brewing machines are not designed similarly (for the most part) to commercial espresso machines, professional coffee grinders are a breed of their own, and—let's face it—the home barista just plain doesn't have eight hours a day to perfect that great technique, let alone get paid to do it.
So what's the big idea? How do we get that great shot of espresso, or that award-winning cappuccino, at home? Well folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it takes some serious cash. Don't worry however—there's light at the end of this tunnel.
Why Skip Professional Equipment?
A serious espresso machine can cost upwards of $5,000 to recreate similar brewing parameters and temperature stability as those big hunks of precious metal sitting on your favorite cafe's counter. Settle for less? Sure, you could, but if we're talking about brewing perfect espresso at home, what's the point of spending a few hundred on a machine that won't make the same product you receive at your favorite coffeehouse?
As for a grinder, that big hunk of blades, plastic, and iron looks sexy with all those barstools and open ceiling around it, but wait until that monster gets home—it can reduce your livable space significantly, especially next to a 70-pound espresso machine. All this insanity and electricity for the perfect espresso and cappuccino at home?
Let's say that you do get to the point where you can finally sit back and experience the ultimate in quality and detail from the comfort of your favorite couch. But wait—the electricity bill just jumped up, and the house is getting warmer! Realistically, high volume environments are the only feasible espresso-making locations. So what's the passionate home barista to do?
5 Ways to Hand-Craft Your Coffee At Home
Handmade coffee. Some would say that making a delicious cup at home can be therapeutic, almost a daily ritual. Variables are easily controlled and equipment is incredibly affordable, even for professional quality. Here's a list of five great home-brewing methods and equipment for making that perfect cup every morning:
- Thermometer: Needed for double checking water temperature precision. You can get a waterproof pocket digital thermometer from Sur La Table for $15.
- Water Kettle: Thompson Owens from Sweet Maria's suggest the $69.95 PINO Temperature Stable Water Kettle. Hot water is important—this guy won't you down.
- Coffee Grinder: Grinders can get expensive, but if you don't mind the elbow grease the Hario Skerton is incredibly handy with ceramic conical burrs that make beautifully aromatic coffee, for about $50.
- Food Grade Gram Scale: Much needed for measuring exact amounts of coffee per cup made. This saves you money in the long run and you can guarantee repeatable results when measuring all aspects of your cup: coffee beans, water, and brewed coffee. Get a Salter Electronic Scale from Sweet Maria's for $35.
- Brewer: This is where the fun comes in. I suggest starting with a Chemex brewer and checking out different brewing styles for later entertainment. A 6-cup maker is available from Espresso Parts for $33.90.
There's a wealth of information out there on each brew method and I imagine once hooked, you'll be excited to try them all. It may seem like a large investment, but once you have all the tools to hand-craft coffee at home, the amazing coffee makes it all worth it.
About the author: David Buehrer a.k.a. Greenway Barista has been a barista since his high school days in Houston, Texas. After taking a few coffee-oriented trips to Seattle, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and New York City, David began to learn about the science behind the bean. Former HoustonPress.com coffee and food reviewer, owner-barista of Greenway Coffee and Tea in Houston, and resident barista of Anvil Bar and Refuge. Part cocktail nerd, part food dork, part coffee geek, all passion.
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