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5 Helpful Tips for the Home Barista

For some people, there’s no better way to start the day than by heading to a favorite local coffee shop for an espresso, latte, cappuccino, or other morning pick-me-up. Unfortunately, this can be a rather expensive habit.

You could save some money by relying on the office coffee machine for your daily rocket fuel, but unless you’re the first one in the office each day, you’ll have to deal with someone else’s idea of what constitutes a good cuppa Joe. What’s the solution that suits your budget and your sensibilities?

Perhaps it’s time to become a home barista. You’ll have to spend some money up front – while your office can afford an ongoing coffee machine rental (and regular coffee machine service) thanks to the write-off, the average home barista is better off buying a machine outright.

That said, you’ll gain total control over every cup of coffee or espresso you brew. You’ll be the master of your destiny…or at least your level of caffeine intake. Whether your coffee machine for work is busted or you simply can’t afford to pay at the corner coffee shop every morning, it’s time to invest in your own high-end espresso machine.

There’s only one problem: how do you become a skilled home barista, making the perfect brew every time? Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Choose the Right Machine

Brewing espresso could be as easy as putting a pot on an open flame, or it might require something closer to the fancy coffee machine rental in your office break room. Whether you opt for the simplicity of a stovetop espresso pot or the spaceship console experience provided by a commercial espresso machine depends largely on your sensibilities where coffee is concerned.

There is, of course, a happy medium. If a single-serve pot won’t suffice, but neither do you need equipment of the caliber of a cafe or office coffee machine, you can find affordable options that lie somewhere in the middle.

What should you look for? Like buying any other small appliance, you’ll have to shop around, read reviews, and even ask for advice from trusted sources. There are also certain features you should look for.

A machine with a double boiler is probably best since it offers consistent temperature and the ability to steam milk at the same time as you brew coffee. You need to decide whether you want a machine that hooks up to plumbing or one you have to add water to manually. Also, remember to note the dimensions before you buy to ensure the machine will fit on your counter.

2. Additional Gear

In addition to purchasing an espresso machine, you’ll need some peripheral equipment and accessories to round out your home barista operation. Most people like to grind their own beans, but you might also be interested in roasting.

Items like filters, tampers, and brushes are a must for proper use and coffee machine service, but some of them are likely to be part of the package. Try not to buy too many extra parts until you get a handle on your at-home operation.

3. What Not to Get

The wide world of barista accessories is calling to you. You want it all! However, you don’t need it all. Since you’re neither running a cafe nor manning a coffee machine for work, chances are you’re only making coffee for one or two people a day, not 20 per hour.

You can therefor avoid many of the products and features intended for commercial use. A prime example is a grinder that features a doser. Unless you want to grind a whole weeks’ worth of coffee at once (most people prefer to grind just enough for daily use), this feature is entirely unnecessary for the average home barista.

4. Be Careful

The coffee machine rental at your office is likely dialed in with presets by the manufacturer or maintenance professional. All you do is push a button and coffee comes out. The best and potentially worst thing about a home machine is that you have the autonomy to set everything yourself.

Until you become familiar with how your machine works and what you’re doing, it’s best to exercise caution. The heat produced by an espresso machine is intense, and you can easily burn yourself during brewing and especially steaming, so pay attention. No matter how good the coffee is, it won’t dull the pain of a serious burn.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

You can read all kinds of tips about brewing the “perfect” espresso shot, but the truth is that you’re bound to have your own idea of perfection when it comes to your coffee. So use the settings on your office coffee machine, the advice from your corner barista, and the tutorials you find online as a starting point. Then tweak your brew until you get it just right.

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