My 2021 Espresso Setup

Left to right: Starbucks Barista espresso machine with demitasse cups on top, digital scale and AirScape canister, and Rancilio Rocky grinder​

Last month I traded my friend Andrew some unused Klipsch speakers for his previous espresso machine, a Starbucks Barista (aka Saeco Via Venezia). It came with a pressurized portafilter, so I ordered a bottomless one and a Rancilio Rocky grinder from Seattle Coffee Gear. It’s a nice little setup, but I’m thinking about a more traditional portafilter because I still have more spraying than I would like.

The canister is an AirScape that I’ve had for years. The digital scale is some cheap piece from I don’t know where. And the demitasse cups were a hand me down acquired along with my first espresso machine.

My gifted demitasse cups and first espresso machine, a Mr. Coffee, circa 2012

Getting Good Coffee from a Stovetop Espresso Maker

A while back I found a small Bialetti stovetop espresso maker, or moka pot, at a secondhand store. It’s a nice way to make concentrated coffee. You won’t get the crema of modern espresso, but made right, you’ll still get a very good product.

“Made right” is the key. Even after reading how to use it, my coffee was ending up very bitter. The beans were freshly roasted and freshly ground, and I was turning off the heat when I saw it bubble, so I couldn’t see the problem. Then a friend whose work includes training baristas gave me a couple tips:

  1. As soon as you hear the coffee coming up, turn the heat down.
  2. Don’t use a dark roast.

These two things made a huge difference in the quality of the brew. So when you want to make great coffee with a moka pot:

  1. Get freshly roasted beans, and only grind what you need when you need it. Grind a little more coarsely than you would for espresso.
  2. Fill the lower chamber just up to the pressure valve.
  3. Don’t pack the grounds in like you would for espresso.
  4. Leave the lid open. As soon as your see the first bit of cofee come up, turn it to a low heat.
  5. When it’s almost filled, you’ll see the coffee coming out thin and/or bubble. Take the pot off of heat immediately.
  6. Serve promptly. The heated metal can cause the coffee flavor to change.

This method is great for iced coffee, since it results in a more concentrated brew. Buy one on Amazon and try it out!

Short Review: Breville IQ Kettle

I recently purchased the Breville IQ Kettle on Amazon. It’s made of German Schott glass and has 5 temperature settings: 175F (green & white tea), 195F (oolong tea), 200F (French press), 205F (black and herbal teas, coffee), 212F (boiling). A glass-walled vessel with stainless steel accents, it’s attractive.

It’s well-constructed and visually appealing. The temperature settings are varied enough but not too much, and are well-labeled. It’s fun to watch the water boil through the glass walls.

The only thing I can really find to complain about is that the slow-opening lid leaves a small mouth for putting water into the kettle. I feel like I’ll break it off if I hit it with a faucet or pitcher one too many times. (I typically use a pitcher to pour filtered water into it, as it doesn’t fit in the refrigerator water dispenser.)

Looks good, works well, one minor flaw, and fun. This kettle shows why, as my friend Andrew puts it, “Breville is the Apple of kitchen appliances.” Buy it on Amazon.

WANTED: My Ideal Coffee Setup

I take some pride in the fact that I don’t need coffee to start my day. That does not mean I am a particularly happy person in the morning, just that I can begin without it and be productive.

When my dad decided to get rid of his Keurig and it’s overpriced K-cups, I took it. After trying a few different brands, I settled on the Krispy Kreme K-cups (not a good initialism). How much easier could making coffee be?

But there’s really not art to it. And so, after going to Estonia this summer and discovering the Chemex at a coffee shop, I set out on finding my ideal coffee setup. After some research, here’s what I’ve come up with.

STEP 1: Heat your water

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Diguo Classic Gooseneck Kettle – 49

Heating your water should be the first thing that happens. You shouldn’t grind your beans until you have to put them in the coffee maker. A gooseneck kettle allows you to control the pour better, which is great for letting your ground coffee “bloom”, that is, release CO2 before brewing.

STEP 2: Grind your beans

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Onyx Ceramic Conical Burr Grinder – 19
Good if you’re need a way to grind coffee without electricity.

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Bodum Bistro Conical Burr Grinder – 90
Best for the convenient life, and for grinding more than a serving’s worth of beans.

STEP 3: Brew Your Coffee

Single Cup

Aerobie AeroPress – 32
Seems like a nerdy way to make coffee—but all of this does to a novice, really. The AeroPress can make a variety of coffee and is a great single serve method that can be taken camping and is fairly easy when camping. People that have it generally love it.

With Friends

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Chemex 8-cup Coffee Maker – 44
Discovered the Chemex at a coffee shop in Estonia. (They’re rebranding as Coffee People.) Funny enough, it was invented in the United States and is considered one of the best ways to make pour over coffee due to the conical opening.