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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Let’s talk coffee, shall we?

So what do you guys know about home espresso machines? We’re looking to purchase one and the choices, options, and price differences are kind of mind boggling. We want something that will make a good (dare I ask for foolproof?) latte. Any machines or features out there that are universally beloved (or hated)?

And because my family gets riled about any posts without pictures, here are a few random snapshots...

Ro (left) and Ree at their fave Japanese restaurant, Nijo Castle, wearing their new Mulan costumes:IMG_0853LR

We went shopping for some winter boots and the girls chose these hot pink numbers from Old Navy. SOOOO not my style, but SOOOO cute on them. Ro left, Ree right:

On a recent dinner trip I was amused to see that Ro found it necessary to tote two bulging extremely heavy bags into the restaurant while Ree carried only her new teeny, tiny lavender patent leather purse:IMG_0854LR

Cheers! Now please let me know your best tips for home espresso enjoyment. Thank you thank you thank you.


  1. You're right, there is a huge range. For a really good latte for the least amount of money I would go with a stovetop espresso maker. These are what are in every home in Italy, in all sizes, lined up on a shelf. The basic concept is that you place water in the bottom section, ground coffee in the filtered middle, and when the water boils it's forced up through the coffee into a third section at the top. The best brand in the US is Bialetti, and can be found at Peet's Coffee and Amazon. Ikea even sells a cheap version. For the milk side of the latte nothing can beat a saucepan and a snazzy doodad called a milk frother. The steam wands on espresso machines are hard to use, and it takes a lot of practice to make foam or to not accidentally scald your milk. Their snazzy looks on your counter aside, the sad truth is that most home espresso makers really don't work that well, unless you're willing to drop upwards of $700. The espresso makers in your local coffee shop generally cost three to five thousand a pop. That said, if you really want to have a shiny machine on your counter waiting for you, I've heard good things about the Saeco Via Venizia which runs about $350. A Bialetti will get you pretty darn close to a coffee-shop latte, the Saeco, not so much, though it's more fun to play with! Hope this helps.

  2. Anonymous11/15/2011

    Miss your almost daily posts! Just wondering, what is in Ro's hair in the boots photo?

  3. Ah yes, she's wearing a tiara with attached veil. I was a smidge less dressy in my sweatpants. ;-)

  4. Anonymous11/15/2011

    Too funny! Do strangers ask questions to you or the girls, when the girls are in costumes when they are shopping/out eating? :)

  5. Anonymous11/15/2011

    What was in their bags?

  6. Yeah, I'd say we get pretty-near continuous public comments over either the twin thing, or some outlandish thing they're wearing, or something else they're doing. We're kind used to it now after 5 years, I guess. Would seem weird to walk down the street or into a restaurant or into a public restroom and not have anyone talk to us.

  7. Hm, bag content varies by the hour, but you can usually count on rice seasoning (nasty seasoned seaweed flake stuff), paper, pens, Rainbow Magic books, a half a dozen chapsticks, bathing suits, blankets, and I think that's about it for the critical can't-leave-the-house-without-em items

  8. Anonymous11/16/2011

    No input on espresso, but Ro is certainly looking mature lately - e.g. her facial expressions.

  9. I'm a tea drinker so I'm not much help, but the pictures are adorable! Now I know what I look like when I'm lugging my big bag and have my camera backpack on my back...hehehe.

  10. We have a Dolce Gusto. Makes very yummy coffee drinks, tea, and hot chocolate.

  11. ¡Que preciosas estan sus niñas! A las mías tambien les gusta el color rosa. Una de ellas es de Hubei

  12. We have a Gaggia Titanium and use it almost daily since our trip to Italy 4 years ago when we became hopelessly addicted to cappuccinos. It has never had any problems at all. It's pricey(I think we paid $1500) but well-worth it.

    We also use French press coffee for our morning cuppa as it is richer than drip.

    Happy Shopping!

  13. Oh goody! I get to tell you about two of my FAVORITE things!
    The 'Aeropress' coffee press is a manual espresso plunger. You insert a fresh little filter disc into the bottom, set it on top of your mug, fill the chamber with coffee grounds, then top with boiling water, stir, and plunge! It's not a French Press, because you push the water through the grounds - it really works like an espresso machine. Cost? $35. (And it was developed by a guy in Palo Alto!) Our local kitchen stores both carry it, or you can find it on Amazon.

    Then last year, I got a Nespresso milk frother! Oh joy..it's a small cordless cylinder with little whipper gizmos inside.. You add cold milk, press a button, and it heats and froths! I gave one to my brother because my niece loves hot chocolate. It's perfect for that, too!

  14. We have a Bosch single cup system and you buy Tassimo discs (T-discs) to go in it. We make coffee, hot chocolate, tea, lattes, cappucinos, and my favorite - caramel machiattos - with it. I think it cost between $100.00 - $200.00. The discs for a caramel machiatto are about $1.00 for both the espresso disc and the creamer disc. Everything else costs less.

  15. Andrew is extremely serious about his latte so our machine is actually plumbed in! It cost about 2K but it's what the most serious coffee enthusiast would consider the top of the line for residential use. It's gorgeous too, by the way. Other than that I know nothing about it since it's much too fussy for me and I prefer to get my caffeine from my diet coke. If you're into coffee on a level similar to Andrew, I know he'd love nothing more than to tell you every last detail about our machine. Drop me an email and I'll forward it to him. :)


  16. I have the Bosch single-cup machine, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!! You buy the Tassimo discs. The machine scans the bar code on the disc and works like magic. ;-)

  17. Nespresso cube! We adore ours and it makes a perfect cup every single time. It is a pod machine and requires that you purchase Nespresso pods only (available only on their website), but so worth it. We also have the milk frother (aerocino?) and that little thing is simply fabulous. Makes our drinks much more fancy and delish. I can't recommend enough.

  18. LOVED reading through all the comments! I love my coffee!
    Depending on our mood, we use a French Press for regular coffee, or for espresso we use our Bialetti. (Make sure it's a Bialetti - and not a knock-off) Made that mistake once!
    It makes a great espresso and I didn't have to drop 1000$ on it!
    and for my milk, I love my little hand held battery operated milk frother (less than 15$) and my little ones can make themselves a nice vanilla steamer.
    We also find having the right coffee grinder makes a HUGE difference! That is where we spent our money, the grinder and really good coffee beans!

  19. Anonymous11/16/2011

    evidently the chatter on coffee makers both begins and ends wit something called a 'bialetti'!

    or at least it did till i dropped by.

  20. I really have to recommend the aeropress: http://aerobie.com/products/aeropress.htm. It forces the water through the grounds for a delicious espresso. It is quick and easy. Meanwhile just heat up some milk in the microwave and froth with a milk frother, then add to the finished coffee. Divine! Really! (So much better than an electric espresso machine, unless you are going to buy a commercial grade one.)

  21. Anonymous11/16/2011

    NESPRESSO all the way!

  22. http://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/Breville-800ESXL-Diecast-Espresso-Machine-Refurbished/3429819/product.html

    This is the machine I use.
    Breville 800ESXL
    I've had it for 4 years and it is still going strong.
    You need to use a burr grinder to get the beans fine enough. I bought my grinder at Starbucks for $100 and my machine from Bed, Bath and Beyond for $230 with a 20% off coupon. You may also need a better tool to tamp and pack the grounds.

    Alton Brown's Good Eats show about espresso is very helpful in learning how to do it. He says to practice tamping the grounds on a bathroom scale so you learn to do it with 50 lbs of pressure.

    Coffeegeek.com has very helpful info to help you make a choice.

  23. I don't usually comment, but this one, I can talk to!

    I've recently returned to the states after 3 years in Italy. You can spend a lot of money on a lovely espresso machine (a pain to clean and very expensive), you can even buy one of those machines that has the little packs (expensive, not so very green) or you can buy a bialetti/moka (as Erin said). That's what every Italian has in their home, it's what I use, it's fast, it's easy, and super cheap. The most important thing is to buy good italian coffee. To be honest. I hate American coffee. It's bitter and nasty, but when I put my moka on the stove and make myself a cafe, I am transported back to bella Napoli. I can't get enough of it.

  24. Anonymous11/16/2011

    I looked at everything a few years ago, and decided to go with the Aeropress. For $25 (then), I figured, I had nothing to lose, and if it didn't fit the bill, I could step up . . . I love my home made lattes. Would put them up against Starbucks any day.

    If I didn't use the Aeropress, my next step would be the stove top. Low tech is good. I got a lot of feedback from people on how the machines take up space, malfunction, the steam thing is a pain to clean and use effectively . . .

    I am going to check into the heater/frother thingamig someone mentioned. I just do the microwave, and a small hand frother.

    I think the quality of the beans is the biggest deal. My husband is willing to use cheapo Sam's espresso beans and I couldn't choke his latte down if I had to.


  25. Anonymous11/17/2011

    Oh, I can definitely speak to this topic.

    We have this one that we bought probably 8-9 years ago:


    Wow that's a long link! If it doesn't work, it is just the Rancilio Silvia. We had to get one thing fixed a few years ago but it was easy and completely worth it. It's super easy to use and an incredibly well-made machine that will last you forever. Here's the thing - we use it EVERY SINGLE DAY. Usually 4-5 times/day. TIm is a caffeine fiend. So we needed a workhorse that would actually do the job. It does.

    Just email me if you want more info on it.

  26. Anonymous11/17/2011

    Reading Erin's post - we also have a Bialetti percolator that Tim also loves! To me, it makes really strong coffee instead of espresso but that just could be my perception. I should also mention we religiously buy Major Dickinson's beans at Peets.

    I also agree with what she says about having to pay a decent amount of money for a real espresso maker. It's easy to waste a couple hundred bucks - which is alot of money - for something that doesn't work well. In that sense, I feel like you get what you pay for with espresso makers.


  27. Anonymous11/18/2011

    Nespresso!! Love it so easy to use/ keep clean and delicious coffee.

  28. Anonymous11/18/2011

    you will never regret the fact that it is super easy and quick to use with little to no wash up. My four yr old is able to make me coffee with it. The milk doesnt come out scalding hot so he finds it easy to make it for me (with the ever present mum watching)
    Also the milk frother is AMAZING and is awesome to make really quick milk shakes for the kids as they do cold milk too

  29. Sorry. I don't do expresso. My Keurig and Donut Shop is enough for me. Good luck!

  30. Anonymous11/19/2011

    We have the Delonghi Magnifica. Looooove it. It's also pricey, but you put whole beans in, it grinds them, and you can make single, double or long shots. Then steam up the milk with the steamer tube. Got it at sbux a few years ago.

  31. Laura L.11/23/2011

    We have a Tassimo. Love it.