Not that we’re suggesting that you let your espresso machine’s steam wand get as caked up with dried milk as the wand we use in this demonstration, but if that ever is the case, Rinza is the product you should turn to for your easy cleaning needs. Gail shows us how a diluted solution of this stuff can break down the milk on even one of the gnarliest of steam wands!
When we started to poke around for a good general information book on espresso preparation and theory, we stumbled upon Scott Rao’s gem of a primer that covers pretty much everything you need to know about making excellent espresso, coffee and tea.
Designed to meet the needs of professionals in an industry that isn’t known for a lot of regimented curriculum, The Professional Barista’s Handbook is Rao’s answer to his own questions as he worked and developed his skill set over the years — opening, establishing and selling a couple of cafes along the way.
If you’re looking for a practical, well-thought-out guide that will give you some great information that you can apply to your home espresso setup, this book is definitely for you. It provides an excellent understanding of the basic theory behind different coffee preparations and the ideal ways to achieve the best flavor possible.
We recently ran across this news story from a few years ago on Reg Barber, his history and a bit of his manufacturing in Victoria, BC, Canada. It’s great to see where these beautiful tampers come from, and it’s a nice reminder of why investing in a handmade accessory is always a good thing.
One of these days, maybe Reg will let us up there to tour his factory! Stay tuned.
Looking to soften your water a bit without completely removing the mineral content? Try out one of these in-take resin water softeners. Not only are they rechargeable, so they’ll last basically forever, but they easily fit on any machine that uses an intake tube to pull water from the reservoir into the machine — such as the Rancilio Silvia, any of the Quick Mill machines or the Saeco Aroma.
It’s not super sophisticated, but it will reduce the hardness of your water and, in turn, how fast it takes scale to build up in your boiler and related waterworks. You can recharge it by putting it in a glass with water with a few tablespoons of non-iodized and additive-free salt (like kosher) and let it hang out once a week.
Looking for a pretty little number that won’t take up too much space and will keep your countertop clean? We’re talking about knock boxes, of course (what were you talking about?). The Grindenstein is a great choice for a home espresso setup and Gail shows us how it works, plus compares it with other knock boxes available.
Let’s face it: Some of us are messier than others, and nowhere is this more true than around the espresso machine. Whether its leftover grinds spilling from the grinder, a soupy puck from the portafilter or some drips of espresso on the counter top, we all leave a little mess after we extract.
The Grindenstein knock box was designed to provide an affordable, sturdy, leak-proof and compact option for home espresso lovers everywhere. We dig its bright, durable plastic construction and think its innovative shape that’s made specifically to fit on your espresso machine’s drip tray is a definite plus for anyone with limited counter space.
What we don’t love is that, because of its compact size, it sometimes doesn’t catch all the coffee coming out of your portafilter. Also, the knock bar is a bit thick for our tastes, and we find that it doesn’t let the puck fall as easily down into the container, unlike its skinny-bar brethren.