Every kitchen has its merits and downfalls but one of the most challenging aspects of arranging appliances is saving space. An espresso machine can be a luxury and convenience that you feel you can’t live without but the question remains: where do you install it? There are compact models that make the answer a little simpler but if you’re not willing to sacrifice function for space, there is always the option to build the machine into the wall and forgo the deliberations about where to put it on the counter all together.
Feasibility Between Kitchen and Machine
Before growing attached to the idea of a built in espresso machine, you must first discern if it is entirely feasible with the machine and space you have available. Some machines are made to be built into the wall and the consideration will be minimal but if you have a machine that is not one of these models, several plans will need to be made before undergoing the project. First and most importantly, do you already have an espresso machine or are you planning to purchase one specifically for this purpose? If the answer is the latter, you won’t have much to worry about because you’ll be able to confer with the manufacturer about which specific model is best and how to go about building it into the wall in your kitchen.
If you already have a home machine that you’d like to build into the wall, you’ll have to consider the size and weight, cutting into the wall to insert the machine, and installing it to a suitable power source. It is wise to consult the manufacturer on these matters as well as they will have the best advice about where and how to complete the endeavor, but you can figure out some of these things for yourself.
Size and Weight
When measuring the space in the wall where you want to install your espresso machine, you’ll need to allow extra space to get the machine in (and eventually out) and you’ll need to choose border material for those gaps after the machine is installed in order to keep the space aesthetically pleasing. The weight of the machine also matters because it will have to sit in the wall either mounted to the top of the space with brackets or secured on a sort of platform at the bottom of the space. Make sure that the mounting hardware to be used can support much more than the full weight of the machine. It will have to hold on and keep it in place for a long time and if the wrong hardware is used, you can be facing damage to your machine, your kitchen, and yourself.
Power and Water
You’ll need to be able to supply power and water to your espresso machine in order to use it and if you’re not using a machine meant to be built into the wall, you’ll need to allow for the power chord to reach a power source and room for the water tank to be removed for filling and cleaning. The power chord can be snaked down inside the wall and a hole can be drilled for it to come out and be plugged in. Check how your water tank is removed so you can ensure you’ll be able to get it out or bring a pitcher over to fill it. These considerations make it easy for you operate your machine once it’s built into the wall so think about them carefully and remember that you may be using your machine several times a day.
Cabinets are often built in rows above and below the counter tops and the places above are idea for placing an espresso machine. Again, you’ll want to measure the size and weight of your machine carefully but if you are willing to sacrifice some cabinet space in exchange for counter space, you may have a perfect placement.
Before considering this space, remember that an espresso machine produces a lot of steam. Anything stored above or around the machine may be affected by the heat and humidity caused by this emission. It’s a good idea, if considering cabinet space to build in your espresso machine, to use one entire cabinet specifically for the machine.
Move Other Appliances
You may find that there is no way to build your espresso machine into the wall to save space in your kitchen but there are other ways that you can move things around in order to make it fit more efficiently. Try finding a different appliance to build into the wall like the microwave, toaster oven, or storage cabinet. These things may be easier to build in and you’ll still be able to make more room to enjoy your home machine every day. Take stock of what you have and think about how much you use each appliance. Can you move anything to a storage space off the counter? An espresso machine is usually difficult to move around. Once it’s installed that’s where it stays but not every appliance is the same way. In fact, many are created especially for easy mobility and space saving purposes.
Make It Mobile
Instead of moving your espresso machine around on the counter or attempting to build it into the wall, an easier option and solution to the space issue is to create a mobile coffee cart for your machine and accessories. There are several attractive options on wheels that will allow you to move the machine and all of its extras around the kitchen for use when you need them and storage when you don’t. Be careful with this option that you secure the machine to the cart so it doesn’t fall off while you wheel it around. Remember to always measure, consult the manufacturer with any of your questions, always be kind to your machine so you can continue to enjoy it for many years!
On a day-to-day basis, espresso pod machines can reign superior over more standard espresso machines because they offer the convenience of less cleanup and easier drink preparation. The disadvantages fall with the lack of control over what you’re brewing and there aren’t any extra accessories like steamers or grinders because they aren’t exactly necessary when brewing from pods. During the holidays, when there is extra chaos, guests, and traffic in your home, espresso pod machines are ideal.
When more people are using your machine, there is more of a chance that it could be damaged by overuse or incorrect use. This is where pod machines can be your savior because these machines are easy for anyone to use. The person who wants a cup of espresso needs only to drop a pod into the reservoir and push a button to get the brew they’re craving. All you’ll have to worry about is filling up the water tank when the indicator light tells you it’s necessary.
Traditional espresso machines may be bulky and take up a lot of valuable counter space that you’ll need to prepare and cook your holiday feast. Pod machines are smaller and easier to install and move around and this makes them perfect for holiday guests. You may have a lot of people staying in your home or simply coming over for the day and they all take up space on their own. This way, you’ll still be able to serve delicious espresso throughout the day or throughout the entire time you’re guests are visiting, however long that may be.
Is It Really Espresso?
There are some enthusiasts that argue about the authenticity of pod machines and the brew they deliver because they say that the method of brewing is not the same as with traditional espresso machines. The pods are packed coffee and finely ground coffee but they’re not packed the same as they would be in a portafilter and the pressurized water is not pushed through the same way. Others argue that the light foam known as “crema” present on the top of a pod-brewed espresso shot is proof that it was brewed in the correct fashion.
Unless the guests that will be attending your holiday celebrations are extremely particular about their espresso, you’ll be able to pass with espresso pods. Most people will be impressed by the gourmet quality of the brew either way and they’ll feel as if they’re in the lap of luxury as you host them.
Create a Space
Don’t be afraid to dress up your machine a little for the holidays with some festive ribbon, decorations around it, or on the surface where it’s kept. Add some holiday themed flavors to the table as well or keep some flavored creamers in the fridge for use with the espresso pods. There are also flavored pods that may attribute to the mood you’re trying to create. Keep the season alive in everything you do, including brewing espresso, with a few extras that let each person enjoy their favorites in their own way.
Pod machines lack the accessories of traditional espresso machines and so you can’t really create lattes or cappuccinos. There are a number of pour over and stand alone steamers that are available to use alongside pod machines and you can try setting one up with your personal machine. As with the issues that come with other people using your standard machine, if people unfamiliar with steamers attempt to use one, there is a risk of the machine being damaged.
Consider employing a “family barista” to help with accessories like these. This person can be assigned to the machine and operate it for all those who don’t know how. If you have some willing to volunteer for the position during your holiday celebrations, you won’t have to worry about who else is using the machine and you won’t have to do it all by yourself.
Gift a Machine
Pod machines can be excellent gifts for people who love espresso but don’t want to deal with the complications of using a traditional machine. They tend to cost a little less, last a bit longer (depending on use), and require less maintenance. Espresso pod machines are an upgrade from the average product you see on the shelves and produce a more gourmet type of brew. The recipient of this gift won’t have to learn about the best types of beans for espresso or learn about grinders in order to fill up the portafilter for the machine since they’ll simply have to drop a pod in the reservoir.
You use a certain amount of espresso pods in your machine and you know how many you need but with extra people in the house, you’ll need a lot more pods than usual. Stock up on a variety of different flavors and strengths so that your guests will have plenty of options to choose from or stock up on one particular type that you usually use and if they’re not consumed, you’ll have extra when the holiday is over. Be sure to also stock up on things like sweetener and creamers that you think people may use but be wary of expiration dates. If refrigerated items are not empty when everyone’s gone, you’ll be left with the excess.
If your friends and family are familiar with pod machines or use them in their own homes, encourage them to bring different flavors for everyone to try. You can create a grab bag of sorts, do an exchange, or put the different flavors together into gift bags for each person to have a stash of their own. Enjoy the wonders and varieties of pod machines with all of your friends and family members as well as the convenience!
There are plenty of holiday beverages and recipes available for this time of year but while you may have mastered your espresso machine, there is also the presentation that matters. You wouldn’t want to serve a perfect holiday dinner only to have it ruined by sloppy garnish and plain dessert ware. Learn how you can dress up everything from the plates and mugs to the garnish and even your actual machine to keep the holiday spirit in everything you prepare and serve.
The Beverage is the Base
Take a moment to think about what you really know about holiday flavors and how to add them to your espresso machine beverages. You can dress up any machine, mug, plate, or accessories but if the base beverage leaves your guests with a bad taste, that’s all they’ll remember. It’s always a good idea to have a test run before you start using materials for embellishment that you won’t be able to use again or that are expensive. Make your recipe decisions and then give them an audition before you have any final answers on what exactly you’d like to do with your menu.
The holiday inspired syrups, toppings, and other additions you use with your espresso beverages are important here as well. Don’t forget that they’ll change the way you might usually prepare this beverage and plan accordingly.
Your Guest List
When it comes to dressing up your espresso machine beverages for the holidays, consider all of the holidays that are celebrated at this time of year and the people on your guest list that may subscribe to different traditions than your own. A tiny accessory or splash of color can brighten someone’s day when they think everyone else has forgotten them.
Consider also the dietary needs of each guest. Some people can’t tolerate lactose, gluten, or even sugar and some may be allergic to things like nuts or chocolate. If the majority of the people on your list don’t share these specifications, you can make a special drink for the person who needs it. They’ll be thrilled that you were able to accommodate them and that they get to enjoy the treats you’ve prepared for adults.
The espresso machine beverages you prepare with your holiday meals might be perfect all on their own, but pair them with the right desserts and other menu items and you’ll top off an excellent meal with the best ending. For instance, a heavy and sweat beverage shouldn’t be paired with a dense dessert and meal that centers on meat and cream sauces. This is another part of your menu planning that should be tested out before you make final decisions.
Decide first whether you want to make your meal work for the espresso creation you plan to prepare or if you’re willing to give on flavors and textures within the coffee drink served at the end of the meal in order to suit the rest of the menu. For example, if you have your heart set on a thick and chocolaty espresso beverage with a whipped topping and luxurious garnish then you may want to choose a light dessert to pair it with or even no dessert at all. You can also choose to serve your espresso beverage in traditional shot glasses with little to no topping and garnish. Be creative and let your artistic self come out while you’re making your decisions. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it!
Setting the Scene
You may have decked your halls and imagined that those snowflake napkins and sleigh bell napkin rings are a bit much but a few extra decorations on the table are actually a beautiful way to bring all the same holiday cheer throughout the house over to the table. If this is your first time hosting a holiday dinner or you don’t plan on doing it every year, it might not be wise to invest in expensive dinnerware you’ll only use once. There are many ways you can add to the festivities without stretching your budget farther than you can manage.
Roll up the silverware in plain white cloth napkins and put a festive paper napkin on top of each setting with a specialized place card on top of the napkin. You can add little chocolates or mints to the table with your place cards as party favors that add to the gifts of the season without going overboard. Tie ribbons around mugs or attach a strap of wrapping paper using double sided tape to the body of the mug. You’ll have to be sure with this option that you don’t spill when serving, though. Add festive doilies to dessert plates or on top of saucers when you serve dessert beverages. There are a million other ways like these to dress up your holiday beverages, all of which can be applied to the espresso machine itself. Add a festive ribbon or hang a decoration over the space where the machine is so that no spot is untouched by holiday cheer.
If you’re not the person hosting a holiday dinner, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the wonders of an espresso machine and bring your coffee loving host or hostess a gift they’ll be ecstatic to receive. There are many ideas in this area that range from purchasing an actual espresso machine to bringing over some chocolate covered espresso beans in an impressive package. Think about the person (or people) you’ll be gifting as well as how much you’re willing to spend. Talk to the host or hostess about what they’ll be preparing, if they’re inclined to share those secrets. These details will give you guidance into what you should bring to the table. You’ll revel in the smile on the face of the recipient when they see that you remembered how much they enjoy espresso and you’re happy to share that love.`x
Using your cappuccino machine is a convenience and a luxury that you enjoy on a daily basis, perhaps even more than once daily but as you do this your machine is gathering coffee grounds and other trace minerals each time you brew a delicious beverage. Regular cleaning is a must and you know that but it’s also a good idea to deep clean the machine every now and then. Learn about the best ways to take get at the tiny nooks and crannies of all the parts in order to keep the machine running at its best for as long as possible.
Your Unique Machine
There is more than one type of home machine that can brew a cappuccino and it matters which kind you have before you start attempting to deep clean. Fully automatic machines might have their own cleaning setting that will do the work for you. A machine with a grinder built in will need to have the grinder parts cleaned separately and dried completely. A steamer wand has a special cleaning regimen as well and the portafilter and pumps in all of these machines must be cleaned carefully since they handle a lot of pressure when being operated. It is imperative that you check user manual for your specific model before you begin any kind of cleaning. This information should tell you about the parts, how they should be cleaned, and how to remove them for cleaning if necessary. Be sure you understand this information before you begin because it will tell you how to do everything safely and in the simplest way possible.
Disconnect and Create a Cleaning Space
The first thing to do before cleaning is to disconnect the machine and bring it to a clean, dry, and stable surface away from the sink. This seems counterproductive but you’re dealing with an electronic machine that has a plug in connection to the wall. It’s best to clean the outside and the parts away from the running water and wet surfaces of the sink.
Create a cleaning space with all of the tools you’ll need to deep clean. These will include: a wash basin, a pitcher for water, clean cloths, and small brushes that will help you get into the tiny places that a cloth can’t reach. You won’t be cleaning the steamer wand at this time. You’ll do that later after the machine is plugged back in.
The Parts You Use Most
When you make a cappuccino, you’re making several different components that, when layered together, create the beverage you know and love. First is the espresso shot, then a layer of hot milk, and a topping of milk foam. This is where it differs from the latte because a late uses more milk and only the foam and not the extra layer of hot milk underneath. The result looks like a light coffee with a foam layer on top and you can see the coffee layers whereas with a latte the top only looks like foam. You might be using your cappuccino machine to pull straight shots of espresso when there’s no time for a full cappuccino or you might have an espresso machine that you use to make lattes, pull shots, and make cappuccinos. Which parts do you use most? Most likely, you’re portafilter will be the part that most needs a deep cleaning because coffee grounds are packed into it no matter which drink you’re making.
The Parts You Should Deep Clean
There are a few parts that you should concentrate on most when giving your home machine a deep cleaning. The portafilter and the brew head are among those parts and they’re tricky to disassemble and this is where the information you gathered from your user manual will come in handy.
Turn the machine on its side and make sure the part you’ll be cleaning is dry before you unscrew it. Be sure to use the right size screwdriver so as not to damage the screw and if there are any gaskets take note of how they’re placed. Clean all the parts and dry thoroughly. Use a small cleaning brush or a toothbrush to get into every place and clean it out. These parts deal with pressurized hot water and coffee grounds so you’re going to see a lot of gunk come out of them and that’s normal. Once the parts are clean and dry, reassemble them onto the machine, making sure that all the screws are tight.
Steamer Wand and Water Pumps
The next parts to clean are a little easier but should still be disassembled and reassembled with great care. Use the same caution with gaskets and screws as you did with the brew head and portafilter. You can use pipe cleaners to clean the steamer wand and use an all purpose cleaner and clean, dry cloth to clean the outside of the machine. Do not use soap and water because they’ll be difficult to rinse since the machine cannot be submerged.
Water pumps don’t get that dirty because they mostly only carry hot water but they could have mineral deposits that cause damage, depending on the type of water that you use. Combat this with a deep cleaning using a mixture of three parts water to one part white vinegar. After the other parts are clean and dry, plug the machine in again and pour the water and vinegar mixture into the water tank. Run the mixture through the machine but don’t let the water tank go completely dry. Once it’s almost empty, refill it with clean water and run that through and run one more tank of water through after that.
How Often Should You Deep Clean?
Disassembling and reassembling parts can take a similar toll on your home machine that dirt and mineral deposits can so it’s important that you deep clean only when you have to. If you use your machine on a daily basis or more, give it all a deep clean monthly or bimonthly. If you use it less than that, limit deep cleaning to two or three times annually and clean the parts without disassembling on a more regular basis. These tips and instructions are guidelines and you should always look to your specific user manual and manufacturer’s information for your specific model before performing any kind of maintenance. When you do, you’ll be able to prolong the life of your machine and keep enjoying cappuccinos, lattes, and espresso in your home whenever you please.
Your cappuccino machine is a lifesaver for you, allowing you to make café-like beverages right in your own home. You can take these beverages up a notch by learning how to add flavorings to the coffee you brew and the milk used with your steamer and spice up the beverages you drink and serve. Wow every guest you entertain and enjoy the luxury of a barista quality cappuccino with a few simple guidelines.
The Many Ways of Flavoring
When most of us think about flavoring coffee or cappuccino, we think about using syrups or mixing in flavored creamers after the coffee has already been brewed. The methods discussed in this article are about incorporating flavors in the mix that goes into the cappuccino machine so the finished product is an already flavored beverage ready to drink and looking professionally beautiful. The added benefits of these methods include being able to use the heat of the brewing cappuccino to emulsify flavors and mix properly as well as the extra convenience that comes with not having to mix in more things after the beverage is poured.
The Chemistry of Cappuccino
In order to figure out the best way to flavor the mix that goes into your cappuccino machine, you need to understand how each flavor mixes together with coffee. Temperature plays a key role in this equation, as does ratio of flavoring to coffee. Think of the flavor adventure as a sort of chemistry experiment. Use a plain cappuccino as your control and then use different flavors in trial and error to see what you like best. There are cappuccino recipes out there but in this case it’s more a matter of personal preference. You’ll have to play around with the way you add flavors to your coffee before you get it right.
The Importance of a Burr Grinder
One of the best ways to spice up your cappuccino is to add spices and flavorings directly to the coffee grounds before they’re brewed. Achieving this in a way that satisfies the taste buds and doesn’t create too much extra air space in the packed grounds is to use a burr grinder. This kind of grinder uses plates that move the particles back and forth to literally grind them instead of cutting them up like a blade grinder would. The result is uniform particles that fit together like tiny little puzzle pieces.
Grinding fresh spices will create a better and fuller flavor than sprinkling dried spices into the grounds and mixing it all up. You can also try adding dried fruit or dark chocolate for a new kind of flavor profile you may never have thought about. The idea of chemistry also comes into play when adding spices or other additions to coffee grounds. The additions must be dry before adding them or the grounds mixture may clump up before it’s ever brewed and cause issues with the way they’re packed or the way they mix together.
A cappuccino machine creates three layers for the beverage that comes from it, which consist of the bottom coffee layer, steamed milk in the middle, and foam on top. The steamer in the machine does the work for you and it is never a good idea to add anything to the machine that will come out of the steamer wand. However, you can add flavors to the milk or milk substitute that you use in order to give you steamed milk that has extra punch.
An important part of this process is to ensure that the milk being foam starts out very cold. This will help it stiffen and thicken correctly. If you decide to use flavored syrups, sugar, spices, or other flavorings, then mix them into warmed milk before chilling it again to put under the steamer wand. The warmth will help the flavorings mix together with the milk but if you let it get too hot before chilling it for steaming, it may cook or change composition so it’s important to only warm it a little bit.
Infusions and Stirring
After you’ve made your flavored cappuccino, you may decide that the brew needs a tweak before it’s perfect. This is where infusions become handy and stirring extra flavors into the finished beverage but it must be done carefully or the effect will blend the layers together and defeat the entire purpose you have a cappuccino machine.
You can infuse foam with a couple drops of candy flavoring and stir it up to distribute around the top of the beverage uniformly. It’s better to use a stirring stick instead of a spoon because it will disturb the surface of the beverage less. The same goes for sprinkling spices on top of the cappuccino to add flavor but in this case it will be easier to distribute in a uniform manner because the spices aren’t as concentrated as drops of flavoring.
Garnish and Flair
A beautiful cup of coffee is only enhanced by a garnish that shows the drinker what kinds of flavors may lie beneath the surface. Your cappuccino machine will deliver a gourmet beverage but it’s up to you to present it to any guests with flair. You can garnish the drinks you make for yourself as well to make them more aesthetically pleasing and boost your mood just by looking at them. Try something like a mint leaf for mint chocolate or a chocolate curl for anything with cocoa based flavorings. A berry sprig garnishes fruity additions and a sprinkle of cinnamon shows the spice of an autumn infused cappuccino. Have some fun adding flair to your beverages. You’ll be a gourmet cappuccino expert in no time with just a few little experiments in adding flavors in this way. Get creative and enjoy serving cappuccinos at your next event or gathering that make your guests wonder if you’ve hired a barista.
You love your espresso machine and you want to take it to the next level and create a whole café experience in your kitchen but you don’t have the time, the money, or the space to do something like that. You can still add some elegant coffee style with an espresso bar in your home that looks good and keeps all of your materials and ingredients in one place near your espresso machine. Use this piece as the center and beginning of your designs for a home espresso bar that makes you feel good about your kitchen coffee space and wows every guest that comes to visit.
Measure Your Space
Before you beginning designing your espresso bar space, measure the area you want to use at every angle and write down each measurement. Move your espresso machine out of the space it’s in (be sure to put it on a safe and sturdy surface while you’re measuring!) and measure that as well. You’ll need all of these numbers in order to move the espresso machine around and to plan any additional furniture, shelving, and decorative features. It will be a major convenience as you’re deciding what to get because you won’t have to go back and keep measuring over and over to find out if things will fit. You’ll have all the dimensions you’ll need to reference right there when you want to check.
Decide on a Theme
Does your kitchen have a theme? Most people decide on a simple color scheme but sometimes rooms have specific themes that you may want to stick to or deviate from when designing your home espresso bar. You can use the same theme throughout your espresso bar and kitchen, change the entire space to suit what you’d like to do for the espresso bar, or create something different to give the coffee space its own character. Decide on this before you begin designing and purchasing items for the space and you will simplify many other decisions throughout the process.
Assess Your Equipment Needs
Your espresso machine may be the beginning of your home espresso bar but are there other pieces of equipment you’ll need in order to really make the gourmet beverages you dream of making? You want to make sure you have the room for these important parts of your espresso bar before you design anything else.
Some pieces of equipment you might want to consider including are: a drink shaker for iced drinks and making up quick whipped cream, a grinder for whole coffee beans to be fresh ground, and a steamer wand for your espresso machine or stand alone steamer for foaming milk and milk alternatives. Next, consider utensils you’ll need such as spoons, strainers, and mixing and steaming cups, measuring cups and spoons, and stirring utensils. Make space for these things at your espresso bar so they’ll always be in your reach when you need them.
Additions and Extras
You know how to pull a shot from your espresso machine and you’ve decided on the types of drinks you’d like to make as well as the equipment you’ll need to make them. Next up will be ingredients, flavor additions, garnishes, and spices that you may want to keep at the espresso bar. Some of these additions and extras have specific storage requirements such as refrigeration, cool dry space, or sealed containers.
One thing you’ll have to decide on right away is the idea to put a mini refrigeration unit at your espresso bar. If it’s close enough to the main fridge in the kitchen, this really isn’t necessary but if you decide to move your espresso bar to a different room or set it up farther away in the kitchen, it will be prudent to include refrigeration at the bar. This is a major decision and a piece of the design that will take up a lot of space so it’s important to be finite and practical when making the choice to add this feature.
Include a Cleaning Station
Adding a sink to your espresso bar might be a little bit too pricey and cumbersome, especially in regards to moving or adding plumbing to the space. However, you should include some sort of area at your home espresso bar that aids cleaning and maintenance for your espresso machine and all the other equipment you keep at the bar. Instead of having to bring things back to the kitchen sink every time you make a drink, you can begin the cleaning process at your espresso bar and that will make it easier to make multiple drinks when you’re entertaining guests.
A cleaning station is easy to create and you won’t need that much space to do it. A large wash basin, a pitcher of hot water, and some clean cloths will suffice to clean and wipe the parts that you use between drinks. Use the water to rinse parts clean over the wash basin, the basin itself to hold dirty cups and utensils, and the clean cloths to wipe off the espresso machine, steamer wand, and grinder in between uses.
After you’ve made the practical decisions, don’t forget to get creative! The designing portion creating your espresso bar at home isn’t all the espresso machine and equipment. These are the main components, of course, but use the space to make your own dream coffee area. It’ll be a place where you can escape for a few minutes and where you can entertain guests with flair. Use colors and funky furniture or hang pictures and quotes that remind you of why you love coffee and will get you ready for the coming day as you make your drinks in the morning. The espresso bar isn’t only about convenience but is also about your unique style. Make it shine with everything you are!
Many espresso lovers enjoy lattes and the luxury of making your own at home with your espresso machine is more than just a convenience. However, if you’re intolerant to milk products, this luxury doesn’t mean much for you. There are milk alternatives that you can use for your lattes but they don’t work with the steamer wand the same way that regular cow’s milk does. The chemical make-ups are different and the temperatures and textures at which they foam up are also variant from what you’re used to if you’re familiar with steaming cow’s milk. Learn about these differences and how you can steam the perfect latte components without worrying about the irritation that cow’s milk may cause for you.
Temperature and Texture
When using milk alternatives, it’s important to know that you won’t be able to get an extra hot latte or the same foaming quality as cow’s milk. You may find that the foam is a bit thinner and more difficult to steam but with the right steamer proficiency, you can build a delicious latte that satisfies your tastes. It will take some trial and error before you can get it right but don’t be discouraged! There are also several milk alternatives so try them all before you decide on using one and be aware that it probably won’t come out perfectly from the beginning.
This is one alternative that is fairly similar to cow’s milk but it does sometimes cause similar irritation. Before trying out the milk alternatives, it may be a good idea to try goat’s milk with your steamer wand and see if you can create a latte similar to the ones you love. This is one alternative that steams into the billowy cloud-like foam of the traditional latte.
Soy has been a popular alternative to many allergens for people who suffer from irritation for a long time. For this reason, there are several different brands and all of them tend to differ slightly in the way they’re made up and the way they steam in regards to temperature and how long they stay under the steamer wand. When you steam soy milk, start with the brand you already use. If you have a favorite, stick with what you know but if you’re a new soy milk user, try a couple of different brands before you steam them in a latte. Ask friends that use soy milk or turn to social media for suggestions.
Almond and Coconut Milk
These two types of milk alternative are similar in the way they’re steamed because they’re both a bit thinner than other milk alternatives. They require a lower temperature to steam and more care must be taken while the milk is under the steamer wand in order to keep it from burning. There will be a similar choice in brands as with soy milk only there are likely to be far fewer choices when it comes to almond and coconut milk. There is also the choice between the milk that comes in a box and that which comes in a refrigerated carton. The boxed version can be bought in bulk and stored in a cupboard until opened but the refrigerated version in a carton tends to have a bit of a fresher taste.
Try both versions with your steamer wand and the different brands before you decide on what you like most. Take care to steam slowly and watch your milk while it’s steaming. You’ll notice it get shinier and thicker as you go.
Sweetened or Unsweetened
Most milk alternatives come with the option of a flavor or a sweetened version. A lot of people like the unsweetened version for the reason that it has fewer carbs or that it has a more organic taste to the original flavor of the milk alternative. The sweetened or flavored versions allow the home barista to skip a step and use the steamer to mix together milk foam and flavoring all at once.
Milk alternatives will not taste the same as cow’s milk in a latte. The alternative won’t even taste the same before and after they go under the steamer wand. Trial and error is key in deciding which kind of alternative you enjoy most and which one makes the latte you love. It’s important to understand that you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional latte and not something that replaces the taste of cow’s milk in your latte. Try the different brands, sweetened and unsweetened versions, boxed and fresh and you’ll find your latte bliss eventually.
Maintaining Your Steamer Wand
The steamer wand on your espresso machine can become clogged if not properly maintained. It’s easy to prevent this from happening by “clearing” the steamer wand before and after using it. All you need to do for this process is to run the steamer for a few pumps with nothing underneath it. You’ll see clear steam come out of it or you’ll see the last bits of milk come out of it. You should also wipe the steamer wand with a clean cloth between each use. These simple actions should be enough to maintain the steamer wand so that it’s in top shape every time you want to make a latte.
The Convenience of Home
One of the greatest conveniences of owning your own espresso machine with a steamer wand is to be able to use these milk alternatives whenever you like. Many establishments that make lattes don’t have these ingredients and even if they do they often charge extra for you to order them. You’ll save some money and be able to create the latte you’ve always wanted with the milk alternative of your choice. Your favorite coffee beverage will be right where you always need it, in your kitchen and close by when you want one.
For many people, December evokes visions of Christmas trees, holiday dinners, plans with friends and family from out of town, vacations, and gift purchases but for the college students it often means scrambling to cram in as much information about the semester’s classes as possible before finals begin. If you fall into the latter category, it’s likely that you’re studying day and night without allowing yourself to fall prey to the distractions of pre-holiday festivities with the knowledge that once it’s all over with you’ll get to enjoy the season. Give yourself some extra ammunition by forgetting the trips to the café for a mid-day or evening jolt to keep you going through the next few hours of study and instead head to your kitchen and your espresso machine for a shorter break with less distraction that yields the same results.
Your Most Productive Self
We all know what it’s like to have a deadline looming for some project, exam, or event and feel the weight of it cause extra anxiety. Utilizing your espresso machine may not seem like the best way to calm that feeling but the caffeine, aroma, and taste can do a lot to help you channel the anxiety into something productive by turning the fear behind it into a positive feeling.
If you own an espresso machine, chances are you’re an enthusiast at least and harboring an obsessive love for the dark and rich shots is a more likely scenario. The aroma of it brewing and the taste as the espresso hits your lips are enough to perk up your mood if not your energy. The caffeine is there as well but the rest serves as a way to feel happier during those short breaks you take and you can use that feeling to channel your fears and anxiety into the drive to succeed.
Stepping it Up
Perhaps a simple shot from your espresso machine is not enough to lift your spirits and quicken your mental energy. You can still use your machine to make a latte or other more complicated drink without leaving the house to be subjected to the distractions of the outdoors. While everyone else is putting up their lights and decking their halls, you’re stuck studying and all of the merriment can be exactly what pulls you away. Stay at home and build your own drinks to avoid losing time so you can feel good about your progress and about enjoying the festivities after finals are over.
This is your opportunity to learn a new skill and make the most of your machine where you might have only used it to pull shots before. Learn how to froth milk like an expert and add just the right amount of flavors so you’re whipping up delicious and satisfying drinks without having to leave your kitchen. Your coffee breaks might take a bit longer but you won’t have to deal with the distractions of the outside world as you try to make it through your study sessions uninterrupted.
Step Away From the Internet
Unless you need the internet for your studies, it’s best to turn off the Wi-Fi and stay off social media while you’re cramming for finals and hoping to do your best. Stick to books and the notes you already have unless absolutely necessary or the idea of using your espresso machine to keep away the distractions of the outside world instead of going to a café will be a moot point. The internet will be your portal to all of those distractions. Turn it off until you’re through the exams.
Don’t Forget to Wash
We’re talking about you’re espresso machine here, just to be clear. As you go through your study sessions and time seems to stand still or have no meaning, you may lose track of the time between cleanings for your machine. Set alarms or reminders to give yourself ample time to clean the parts and perform the necessary routine maintenance so you can keep using your machine after your exams are over. Use the time spent cleaning to let your mind relax during the idle activity. You’ll be surprised how much a little bit of rest will help your brain during these times.
Your espresso machine breaks can be markers in your schedule to understand how much time you’ve been studying, when to take breaks to eat and shower and do other simple tasks. Your body can be your guide as the caffeine begins to wear off and you can use those breaks to also stretch out your body, meditate for a few minutes, and just take your eyes away from the screen or page to rest. You’ll find that when you utilize this time well, your espresso breaks may not only revive you but also help you manage your time better and make the most of every single minute you have to study.
Write things down! It is useful to keep a journal or schedule of what you do when you take breaks. Write down the last time you stretched, napped, ate, showered, or anything else you deem important. This will help you to see when you need to take care of yourself so you don’t end up hungry, tired, and burnt out by the time the day of your tests rolls around.
Espresso Doesn’t Replace Sleep
While your espresso machine can be your saving grace during those long study sessions right before and in the midst of finals week, nothing is a substitute for a good night’s sleep. Be sure to let your mind and body rest once in a while and get ample sleep on the nights before your exams. You won’t regret taking that time when the day comes for you to take the test and your study sessions are right there in your mind ready for you to utilize as you planned.
As you go into a frenzy looking for a new way to impress your friends or in-laws this holiday season with your culinary prowess, consider that the answer might lie in the espresso machine right on your counter top. There are all kinds of dessert recipes that use coffee as a flavoring ingredient. If you substitute espresso instead of coffee, you’ll get a much bolder and interesting flavor that provides a factor to make your desserts unforgettable.
Choosing Your Menu
Dessert can be easy or incredibly complicated, depending on the rest of the menu you’ll be serving. You can combat the complicated by centering the dinner on what you’ve made for dessert. For instance, if you make a tiramisu you could try a something that will provide a cushion for the espresso and alcohol used in the dessert. A good steak, something that involves pasta or bread, and other heavier meals go well with the light tiramisu.
You can cater other menus around desserts you’re thinking about making. The general rule is that if the dessert is decadent, the meal should be lighter. This provides balance to your meals so that people feel satisfied after eating but not so full that they’re going to burst.
Grounds Vs. Prepared
Not every recipe you use with coffee will call for prepared shots of espresso. In these cases, your grinder will come in very handy and a burr grinder is the best bet at getting the consistency you’ll need for a recipe. Usually, coffee grounds are used to fold into frosting, egg whites, or other batters to provide flavor without changing the consistency of the batter. Prepared coffee has to be added in precise volumes so that it doesn’t end up changing the way the recipe comes out. If your recipe includes prepared coffee, be very careful about measuring to avoid this issue.
Of course, you don’t have to limit your preparation of espresso machine treats to holiday dinners and events. There are all kinds of snack items you can bake up from cookies and brownies to cupcakes and the frosting that tops them. One of the most popular ways to turn espresso into a snack is with mocha brownies. Add coffee grounds to your batter before you add nuts or other additions and then bake them up for a treat that will make your entire kitchen smell like a café with fresh coffee for hours.
If you have an espresso machine capable of producing gourmet shots, why not use them to make gourmet desserts? There are many cookie and pastry recipes that call for coffee. Delicate meringues, flaky pastries, and light little cakes that are beautifully presented and taste like you’re in a five star restaurant. These recipes will take more skill than others and the quantity and quality of the coffee you’ll use is very important. If the recipe calls for something specific, it’s a good idea to follow that exactly.
Gourmet recipes use methods that are more complicated and so the instructions are incredibly important. Be sure to read through every part of a recipe before you try it and be conservative in your estimates about your own skills. If you’re not sure, try a recipe that’s simpler and work up to gourmet later. The skills you learn from more basic recipes will ensure that your gourmet choices are perfection when they come out of the oven.
What About the Caffeine?
Are you planning to serve your dessert or snacks to children or people who are not fond of caffeine? There are ways around this issue and to make sure the kids aren’t running around bouncing off walls because they accidentally ingested four shots from the espresso machine. When a recipe calls for coffee and you’re concerned about the caffeine content, the simple answer is to use decaffeinated coffee instead of regular grounds. You can also make two batches of the dessert, one with caffeine and one without, or you can provide an alternative dessert along with the one that contains espresso. These are options that make the choice to use real espresso simple so you can enjoy the taste and feeling that comes with gourmet coffee while others enjoy the alternative. If they don’t want it, that’s more for you!
When you first pull a shot from your espresso machine, it’s steaming hot and it’s supposed to be that way. However, when you add prepared espresso to a recipe (especially a baking recipe) you’ll need to cool it to about room temperature before combining it with other ingredients.
The best way to do this is just let it sit out or put the mug over a bowl of ice. Espresso straight without anything like milk or sugar added to it will keep without worry. Do not put the ice directly into the espresso because this will change the flavor, consistency, and measurement of the liquid to be added. Brew shots before doing anything else for the recipe and by the time you’re ready to add the coffee it should be cooled.
Other Blends and Coffee to Use With Desserts
An espresso machine comes in handy when trying to add pizzazz to your desserts using gourmet coffee but another home machine can also do well in this endeavor. Brew flavored coffees or try different blends to add different flavors to the desserts you make that use coffee. You can try a tiramisu with hazelnut or caramel flavored coffee to add a new kick to an old favorite or try peanut butter brownies with a bold espresso for a combination that brings out every flavor. The possibilities are endless and you’ll have a lot of fun trying out the different desserts you can make with coffee, espresso, and all the favorites you’ve enjoyed in your mug in the past.
It is common practice to have coffee with dessert, especially after big meals like the ones served during the holiday season. Everyone gathers around for pie, cookies, cake, and the delicious premium coffee drinks that you create with your home machine. The question at hand is: can these beverages actually aid in your digestion or are they doing more harm than good? Learn about the pros and cons of drinking coffee and espresso after a big meal to find out if it’s the right choice for your dessert beverage.
The Beans Matter
It can be exciting to choose holiday and flavored blends when the time of pumpkin pie and gourmet baked goods comes to call and chances are that they’re different from what you usually make on a daily basis. Depending on the type of machine you have, each blend can create a beverage that caters not only to your specific tastes but also to your digestive needs.
Light or dark roast refers mostly to taste and not to caffeine content but the blends also each have their own ways of affecting your system. Light roast or blonde blends will be the easiest to take whether you’ve had a feast or a small meal. They’re good for people who have regular issues with coffee but would still like to partake in the types of beverages that are made with coffee. Dark roasts are bolder in flavor and strength. If you’re not a seasoned coffee drinker, they can be hard on your system.
The Sugar Paradox
Many types of desserts and dessert beverages contain a good deal more of sugar than one should ever consume in a single sitting. We tell ourselves that it’s okay because it’s the holidays and we’re not going to eat like this all the time but these kinds of foods can still be damaging to the system. According to Harvard Medical School, the antioxidants in coffee can help minimize the absorption of sugar.
A good shot from your espresso machine or a light blend from a different type of home machine can aid digestion in this way during dessert, acting as a sort of extra filter for the added sugar. However, herein lies the paradox because the common practice is also to put sugar in coffee, brew something delicious and sweet from your cappuccino machine, or add other flavorings that compliment dessert foods.
There is another side to this argument that has some sense but is often spouted by those who are opposed to coffee in the first place. Some of the issues that can be caused by frequent coffee consumption will not aid in digestion no matter the size of the meal you’ve eaten. What it really comes down to is your body chemistry, your tolerance to the acids and caffeine in the coffee you drink, and the beans that you’re using in your home machine.
While it’s true that coffee consumption can lead to acid reflux, anxiety, dehydration, and other issues, these things are often caused by over consumption and not by having a cup or two a day or with your dessert after a big holiday meal. If you are sensitive to these effects and notice them in your own body after having coffee, then it’s likely you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits. The bottom line: know your body, stay in tune with what’s happening inside it, and consume everything (including coffee) in moderation.
Gourmet Coffee Beverages As Dessert Replacement
Combat the sugar paradox by brewing up treats only from your cappuccino machine or other home machine instead of also pairing them with desserts. Some of your guests may be disappointed but if they’re watching their sugar and calories, they’ll thank you for not forcing them to make a choice between coffee and dessert. With a large meal behind you, many times we’re all wondering how in the world we’ll be able to get dessert in without feeling like we ate a planet but with coffee as a dessert replacement, everyone will get a treat and also feel energized enough to take a walk around the block rather than fall into the familiar food coma that can happen after a very large meal.
Save the Best for Last
Another way to battle the exhaustion that befalls us at the end of holiday dinners is to serve coffee after dessert is over. When your guests are sitting at the table hoping the buttons on their clothes don’t fly across the room, pull some shots from your espresso machine and serve them straight or with a little cream and sugar to cut the bold flavor as desired. The espresso may aid digestion but the main benefit is the energy boost that guests who have to drive to travel home will receive. If you served wine or other alcohol with dinner or people are simply too full to want to move, espresso can be just what they need to help bring them back to their cheery selves and drive home safely.
Note that espresso or any coffee beverage is not an alternative to waiting after drinking alcohol but can be a good energy boost after the waiting period has already passed.
Bring the Gift of Beautiful Coffee
Your home machine may be an excellent way for you to brew gourmet coffee beverages at home but if you’re not the host of the occasion, its benefits will be lost on those with whom you’ll be sharing your holiday dinners. Bring the gift of beautiful coffee by brewing up a large batch of your favorite beverage and putting it in a coffee urn or samovar that can travel to your destination with you. Instead of the usual pie or other item that your host already has tons of, you’ll be contributing something unique as well as delicious to the meal you plan to enjoy with friends and loved ones.