If the last two years have shown us anything, it’s that being at home shouldn’t be a barrier to enjoying good coffee. We’ve got the stats to prove it, too – with sales of coffee through our webshop up significantly now that more people are embracing WFH opportunities. With our Momentum espresso a consistent top-performer for online sales, some of you may now be wondering whether a return to the coffee shop is even necessary? (Spoiler alert: it definitely is, but it’s nice to have options.) Whilst very few home setups can match the quality of your local independent cafe’s machinery, there are some bits of kit out there that will elevate your home coffee brewing – especially if you’re looking to get the most out of any espresso blends which really shine when brewed in shorter, more concentrated ratios of coffee to water.
“Best” is a highly subjective category, and with an ever increasing range of machines and grinders out there it’s very likely these recommendations will be surpassed in time. We will be looking at equipment best able to replicate the pressures involved in a traditional espresso setup. For this reason, AeroPress/Mocha Pot low-pressure setups won’t be featuring.
With one exception, none of the machines below has an integrated grinder and so you will need to either factor this into your purchase costs, or buy pre-ground coffee from your speciality roaster of choice. You’ll generally get better espresso if your coffee is freshly roasted and pre-ground on a professional grinder than if you buy supermarket coffee that’s been ground for espresso and then sat on a shelf for months (or years!) Grinding your own is better if you have the grinder to do the coffee justice but there’s no shame in asking a local coffee shop to grind it for you.
Sage Barista Pro
Ok. Not the cheapest option by any means, but if you’re after a well made machine that will do everything; this is for you. And – if you normally have two coffees a day when out and about, this will pay for itself in three months… It grinds the beans into its 54mm portafilter. You tamp the coffee, channelling your inner-barista if you wish. Lock the portafilter into the grouphead and extract your shot: you have control over the water temperature, the water volume, and the pre-infusion: all the same variables as your local coffee shop has to play around with. Finally, you can texture the milk to your liking with the integrated steam wand. They even include the milk jug, so you have everything you need straight out of the box. Sage have cornered the market recently with their high-end coffee gear, and they have a machine for most budgets.
Sage Bambino Plus
No frills, no bells and whistles, and no integrated grinder on this little baby. What it does do is produce excellent espresso, and great steam for texturing your milk. With a warmup time of 3 seconds, it’s also the fastest of this selection in terms of being ready to go whenever you are. If you’re using preground supermarket coffee then there’s also a pressurised basket in the box to counter the fact that some of the freshness will have been lost. The steam pressure isn’t as high as on the Barista Pro, but if you’re new to milk texturing then you don’t want an all-powerful wand blowing the milk out of the jug into your face. Some of us have been there. It’s not fun
Best for purists
Rok Espresso Maker
No milk frother, no power supply; just you and your bare hands… The Rok is a fully manual, fully mechanical espresso machine that uses leverage to pull the shot – much the same way as the traditional lever-style espresso machines. You fill your portafilter with preground espresso, top up the reservoir with boiled water, and slowly pull down on the levers to force the water through the coffee. Without a separate milk frother you’ll only be enjoying espresso from this, but if you love the simple things in life as well as the pleasures of full control over the finished brew: this is the machine for you. Also, as a bonus – very few moving parts so unlikely to break down.
Best for travel
Everything tastes better outdoors, right? This little pocket rocket may be better suited to road-warrior caffeine fiends, #vanlife devotees, or travellers willing to prioritise their coffee over, say, an extra set of underwear. In a package not much bigger than a 440ml beercan, you’ll get 80ml of freshly brewed espresso in exchange for a little bit of physical effort. This brewer generates pressure through an integrated pump. You add the coffee and water to their respective areas, press the button, and the pressure is released and drives the water through the coffee. Fully manual, no power required, and you even get a free workout while you prepare the coffee. What’s not to like?
To view our range of ethically sourced, direct trade coffees