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  • Hillary K.

Design, Design, Design. But first, coffee!

The Best Christmas Gift We've Ever Given Each Other

Last year my husband suggested that we "gift" each other an espresso machine for Christmas, and I think it's probably the best gift we've ever given each other.

While I tend to handle more of the aesthetic choices in our home (don't get me wrong, functionality is a top priority for me too), my husband really loves to dive deep into the functionality of household objects. While I design and install custom built-ins, he builds a custom home automation server. You get the idea.

We've gone through tons of coffee-related machinery through the years, but when we lived in the Bay Area we lived 5 minutes away from our favorite coffee spot, Philz. Thus, the fact that our at-home coffee situation definitely left something to be desired didn't really cramp our style. However, when we moved to the suburbs of Austin, there wasn't a coffee shop closer than 15 minutes away, and even then, it certainly was no Philz.

The Espresso Machine

After countless hours of research, my husband decided that we should go with the Breville Barista Touch. We've been incredibly happy with the performance of this little machine. The built-in grinder is top-notch, and it's easy to use.


When we first purchased our espresso machine, I was completely unaware of the fact that there are a bevvy of accessories to help you make the perfect shot. There was a little bit of a learning curve when it came to figuring out how to tweak the machine settings to get the perfect "dose" of espresso, and in the end, the correct accessories ended up having an equal impact to the quality of the shot as the settings of the machine itself.

One of the first things we learned is that espresso "dosing" is typically done by weight. This means that a precise kitchen scale is a necessity. A dosing cup makes it easier to measure the weight of grounds, and I've found that even when we get the settings correct for the batch of beans we're using, I prefer to grind the beans for each shot into the dosing cup and then transfer them into the portafilter.

Beyond appropriate dosing, a modular portafilter and a precision filter basket made a big difference. Modular portafilters allow you to swap out filter baskets. The more precise the holes in your filter basket, the better your shot will turn out. We went with the Normcore Bottomless Portafilter and the IMS Precision Filter Basket.

The three most important accessories, beyond a good portafilter setup, are related to distributing and packing the grounds. Distribution and packing properly improves the evenness and quality of your espresso. The first of the three is a little apparatus that looks like a mini head scratcher. It helps you distribute and aerate the grounds. The second is a distributor that looks like a hockey puck. If you buy a deeper portafilter, you will need a deeper distributor and tamper than the one that comes with the Breville. The third is a tamper, which ensures firm packing of the grounds. In order to produce espresso that isn't watered down, packing the grounds is a critical step in the process.

We also use a puck screen which improves the evenness of the shot and reduces the amount of debris that blows back into the machine when you pull a shot.

The possibilities are practically endless when it comes to espresso accessories, and some of them get pretty pricy pretty quickly. However, in my experience, the accessories mentioned above made a noticeable impact on our at-home coffee experience.

The Bottom Line

Having an espresso machine in our home has become a core part of our daily routine. I even host weekly coffee dates with some of the moms in our neighborhood. It has saved us quite a bit of money and time in just the year that we've owned it, and will save us well over the cost of the inputs over the course of it's usable life. If you have the space in your home and you enjoy drinking high-end coffee drinks even a few times a week, an espresso machine is well worth the investment.


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