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Essential Items for Frothing & Brewing

When you buy an espresso machine there are some things you will need, no matter what. Aside from the obvious coffee beans, there are many accessories that will help you learn to make espresso and froth milk. They will also help you consistently get good results. The list of accessories is miles long…well, probably not, but you know what I am getting at.

Let’s look at it this way; you just received this excellent, beautiful espresso machine. You know how to make espresso and you are working on perfecting all of the steps. But a few extra items would help you out a lot. A good way to start is to get a shot glass or an espresso cup to measure your shots. Why? Well, the “Golden Rule” of espresso making suggests you get 2.5 ounces (a double shot) of espresso in approximately 25 seconds.

The only way you know how much espresso you have is to measure it into something. To go along with that you will need a way to time the shots. Consider getting a timer that either counts up or down, or use the second hand on your watch. Every manufacturer includes that little, lightweight, black plastic tamper that doesn’t fit the filter holder. A good tamp pressure from a good, heavy tamper will help you achieve the "Golden Rule". When deciding which tamper you should get, keep this in mind - the best tamper is the one that fits your filter basket. For example, a commercial sized portafilter and basket is 58 mm. Therefore, you should look for a 58 mm tamper. Once you are done making your espresso, you have to put the coffee grounds somewhere, don’t you?! A knock box is a good investment. They are generally small enough that you can keep them right next to the machine. They have a bar that goes through the center of the box for you to hit the portafilter against. Some have little rubber feet to keep them from moving around; others can be installed into a counter top. There are even some bases available that have drawers, one being a knock box and another for storing your accessories. Having a knock box also cuts down the chances of losing your filter basket to the hungry garbage can or garbage disposal. Trust me, it happens.

Okay! I am half way there. I need to froth milk for my cappuccino. What do I use? Use a stainless steel frothing pitcher and some cold milk. A 20 ounce pitcher works well with most espresso machines. Using a stainless steel pitcher is recommended because this metal conducts heat very well, which stabilizes the temperature during frothing and steaming. Speaking of temperature, a thermometer should be used when frothing because you do not want the temperature to be above 160°. Milk burns once it is over 160 degrees. Doesn’t that thermometer suddenly sound like a good idea?!

Time to clean the machine. What on earth should I use for that? Use a citric acid based cleaner like Urnex Cleancaf, depending on which machine you have. To clean off your shower screen and filter baskets use a group brush. It has an angled head to allow you to reach those tiny spots easily. You can use a steam wand brush to clean out frothing attachments that are tube shaped. To clean off frothing wands use a damp cloth. Cleaning an espresso machine is surprisingly simple! For exact directions, follow your owner’s manual.

People who really get into making espresso and using their machines consider it a hobby. Just like any hobby there are things you need and then there are the things you just simply have to have.

Chances are you will find something you like on this mile-long list of coffee accessories. For example, have you ever noticed how many different designs of espresso cups there are? There are collectible sets from Illy, FrancisFrancis!, and Saeco. Most of their cups are numbered and signed by the artists that made them. Then there are espresso and demitasse spoons. The list goes on and on. We have tried to help when it comes to buying presents, either for you or someone else. On our website we have four different gift packages combining many of these accessories.

Just remember: The shot glass, timer, frothing pitcher, tamper and thermometer will help you consistently make good drinks. The only way to perfect your skills is to keep trying!