What Espresso Accessories Do You Really Need?

Getting an espresso machine and a coffee grinder is a major investment to becoming a home barista, but that’s not all. You might want to consider getting a few accessories to make the brewing easier and espresso tastier. Here is a short list in descending order of importance:

rattleware-58mm-round-tamper

rattleware-58mm-round-tamper

Metal Tamper

A tamper is a tool to pack down loose coffee ground in the portafilter between 30 to 40 pounds of pressure. It comes with various diameter sizes from 46 to 58 mm. 58mm is considered a commercial size. Some of the tampers on the market have double ended which means one end might be a smaller size while the other a larger one. Some are made of stainless steel whereas others aluminum. Stainless steel is more durable and non-reactive to the acidity in coffee and might cost a little bit more.

If it’s one-ended, the shape and finish of the handle might be important as it will be pressed against your palm during tamping. They cost under $50 for most brands and one will last for many years to a lifetime.

Milk Pitcher

20-oz-milk-pitcher

20-oz-milk-pitcher

A milk pitcher is used for frothing or steaming milk to make cappuccino or latte. Some espresso makers come with an integrated one. If that’s the case, you don’t need another.

Look for a size that’s twice to three times of the volume of milk you might froth on a frequent basis. For example, if you need to froth 5 ounces of milk, then look for one that’s 15 oz. Generally speaking, a safe size is 20 oz. which is good for most needs. It’s easier to froth just enough amount for one or two drinks at a time as froth is very time-sensitive and delicate in texture. You don’t want to froth a gallon of milk hoping to reheat it again later.

The height of the pitcher is a key factor as depending on what your espresso machine is, it might have different height clearance.

Most pitchers are made of stainless steel and not much to pick and choose there. The other minor detail is the shape of the spout. Speaking of shape, it’s said that a bell shape will be easier to mix and texturize the milk.  If you are interested in doing a lot of espresso art, then look for one with a pinpoint spout for easy drawing. Most of them cost under $20 and some slight more.

Frothing Thermometer

rattleware-5-inch-frothing-thermometer

rattleware-5-inch-frothing-thermometer

Although some people might gauge the frothed milk temperature by feel, i.e. how hot it is by touch, many others would rather take a more scientific approach by inserting a liquid thermometer in the pitcher. Many of them come with a clip so you don’t have to hold on to it while concentrating on frothing the milk. The ideal frothing temperature is from 150 to 155. Depending on the espresso machine and frothing wand, the temperature might be slightly different.

What you need to look for is how easy it is to read and calibrate; whether it has a clip and shatter-free or not. You can get one for under $20 or less.

Espresso Cups

bormioli-rocco-verdi-espresso-cup-set-of-4

bormioli-rocco-verdi-espresso-cup-set-of-4

Nobody would stop you from serving espresso in a regular coffee mug but having the right serveware do make a difference both in function and form. Espresso cups are made from tampered glass, stoneware, porcelain and so on. Personally I prefer a tampered glass as it lets you see the brew just in time to monitor the rate of flow, the texture and color so to adjust different variables next time if necessary.

Size does matter. If you’d like to have single shots of straight espresso, then there is no need to buy cups that are too big. Then again, you never know when you might entertain people that some of your guests would like cappuccino or latte instead. Another reason for paying attention to the size is determined by the brewing spout clearance. Some high-end espresso machines are designed with adjustable brewing spouts either up and down and a few side to side. Minimally, you need to get the cups that would fit under the spouts. If the clearance is very limited, you might have to make it a two-step process, i.e. brew espresso first and then pour it into the frothed milk in a separate cup or mug.

Serious coffee connoisseurs would advise to you to get double-walled kind as maintaining a constant temperature from brewing to pouring is very important to the taste. Double-walled cups would make it easier to retain the temperature.

Price varies quite a bit based on the brand and the number of cups in a set but most of them are pretty affordable.

dreamfarm-knock-box-4-inch

dreamfarm-knock-box-4-inch

Knock-Box

A knock-box is a container to discard used coffee grinds from the portafilter. It’s not critical as you can always do the same in your trash can but handy to have.

Things to look for when shopping for one:

  • Material: Stainless steel or plastic. The more durable the material, the long lasting it is.
  • Height and Size: It needs to have enough height so the loose grinds won’t fly out while knocking but not too deep to clean. The size also makes a difference on where you can store it when not in use. If it’s the right size, you might be able to leave it on the drip tray.
  • Ease of Cleaning: Is it dishwasher-safe or hand-wash only?
  • Price: Most are under $50 and some are a lot cheaper.

That’s always other accessories you can buy but this short is a good starter-kit. For less than $100 in total, this will make your morning routine faster and espresso more delicious.

 

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