Essential Coffee Machine Accessories
These aren’t just flimsy add-ons but items that will make your coffee making experience so much easier. In the long run you will have better coffee, save money and time, sound too goo to be true?! Well, read on and find out what you might be missing out on.
Using a Tamper is key to getting a great espresso. You use it to pack down the ground coffee into the coffee basket. This is important as at first the loose, ground coffee is piled into the basket, if the hot water was forced through this loose jumble of grounds it will force a fissure into the pack of coffee and rush through it. This isn’t good as we want the water to extract all the flavourful goodness from the grounds. If the grounds are packed tightly into the basket then the water will be forced more evenly through the coffee pack resulting in more flavour and a better cup of coffee.
A coffee basket
Therefore a good tamper is an essential tool to getting a god cup of coffee, if you have found that your espresso comes out a bit weak and watery, it may well be due to the fact that you are not tamping down the coffee hard enough.
Tamps come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but most common is 58mm diameter with a flat bottom. the short video below discusses whether a convex or flat bottom is better. If you are unsure then a flat bottom is a good choice. Something like the Motta Tamper is an inexpensive yet quality tamper ideal for home use.
Convex or Flat based Tamper – Which is Better?
The 3 best coffee tampers are below. They range in price from £10 to £25 and the main thing you need to check is that the diameter will fit your coffee machines coffee basket, otherwise you can’t really go too wrong. If you are a professional barista then an important consideration would be be hot it fits in your hand, many busy baristas suffer from repetitive strain injuries.
Motta Tamper - Flat Base 58mm
Business Coffee Lusso Nero Coffee Tamper 58 mm
Vktech New Coffee Tamper Stainless Steel
When first venturing into the world of the barista a milk thermometer is a very useful tool. However, many experienced baristas prefer not to use a thermometer. If you hold the milk jug around the base with your thumb, index and middle fingers and support the jug underneath with your other 2 fingers then you can feel very easily the temperature of the milk inside.
It’s easy to tell when the milk is ready – when it’s too hot to hold! The milk needs to be heated to the temperature where the natural sugars in the milk best bring out the natural sweetness in the espresso. This isn’t always that hot, at least not anywhere near hot enough to risk burning the milk.
The milk must also be at a temperature where the coffee can be held on the tongue before it is swallowed. When you taste wine, you allow it to pass across your entire palette in order to experience the full complexity of its flavour. Espresso is the same. If the milk is too hot, the coffee must be swallowed immediately without the drinker being able to experience the full range of flavours in the cup. The other option is to leave the coffee to cool, allowing the velvet blend of milk and foam to separate, robbing the drinker of the experience of perfectly textured milk.
At least for me, when I was first starting out making coffee I found a simple milk thermometer extremely useful. You can get a good, inexpensive one for around £5 to 15. Analog ones are just fine and benefit from needing no batteries, easy to wash and less to go wrong! Something like the
or if you prefer something with more options then the MANLEHOM Ultra Fast Digital Thermometer for only £9.99 is a great option.
Whatever you choose, a milk thermometer for your home espresso coffee machine is a worthwhile purchase and will help you get a feel for what the correct temperature should be.
A few people make adhesive temperature sensors that you can attach to the side of your milk jug. This is a neat way of sensing the temperature and is one less thing to wash up or get in the way. TempTag are one of the best, you can buy directly from them at TempTag-UK. Also very good is the inexpensive Milk Frothing Barista Thermometer, only £2 and with free delivery.
Sometimes called a bash bin, a knock box is where you deposit the used coffee grounds from the coffee basket. They are usually a small, strong receptacle with a bar across the top so you can bash out against it to eject the spent coffee grounds. This is something every barista regularly needs to do and if you are serious about making good coffee at home then this professional touch will make the coffee making experience easier.
There are many styles, so you should be able to find one that matches your coffee machine or interior design. Below are a selection of some of the best. Beware of cheaper knock boxes as they are often not strong enough to withstand repeated bashings and are a poor purchase in the long run.
Knock Boxes – Some of the best
Sage by Heston Blumenthal
Motta Knock Box
Cafelat Small Tubbi Knockbox
Knock Box classic brown
Cilio Espresso Coffee Grinds Collector