Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brewing Up a More Authenitic Cuppa

Beth and I are both coffee-heads, so we definitely appreciated the fine coffee on our trip to Italy--and, by comparison, realized just what a poor job of producing espresso our combination coffeemaker did.  Thus, atop our list of priorities once back stateside was tracking down a good espresso maker, one which would yield proper "crema" on each and every cup.  (That light foam atop my cup in the photo to the left isn't milk or added cream; it's the crema of the coffee itself.)

A bit of online research really helped unmuddle the waters; we needed something more than a basic steam-driven espresso maker (like the one built into our drip coffee machine) because the steam-driven units simply don't generate enough pressure to produce truly good espresso--and certainly no "crema" on top.  High-end, fully-automated units would certainly fit the bill, but we weren't about to spend $1000+ on an espresso machine, either.

So we settled on the Jura-Capresso 121.01 Ultima, which several sites reviewed as being nearly perfect within its price range.  A pump provides 18 bars of pressure (most models in the sub-$500 range only manage 15 bars), yielding nice crema each time, and the machine manages tamping the grinds for you.  Surprising was that no one seemed to stock the machine locally; I checked Bed Bath & Beyond (they do sell it online), Macy's, Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table, and several department stores fruitlessly before giving in and ordering it from Amazon as I should have originally.

The machine came in yesterday afternoon, and though I don't typically go for caffiene in the evening, I had to try it out by making a couple of cups of espresso for Beth and myself to celebrate.  Excellent results, I must say--though I've yet to put the frother/steamer to the test for a milk drink.  (This weekend, perhaps.)  At any rate, we're now well-equipped for good coffee, between the French press Michael & Sam gave us a few years ago and the new espresso machine... plus our not-so-bad drip coffee maker for the big pot of Joe when family comes to town.


Sam Taylor said...

I want one. I knew I could count on you to do great research and find the perfect espresso machine. Of course the grade of coffee in the machine helps with the crema production. Michael and I are certainly looking to upgrade to a better machine once we're back. Ours in the states is the less-than-desireable combo. Do I dare ask how much it cost?

Sam Taylor said...

P.S. Keep me (us) posted on the milk frothing abilities. I do like to have a cappuccino for breakfast.

John Nolley II said...


Will do on the frothing abilities! I plan to try that out this evening. I did read in a few of the reviews that the frother typically spits out a bit of water when it first starts, so you shouldn't put the frother right into the milk unless you want to water it down a little (that was the sole complaint I saw about this unit).

It cost $289. There are pump-driven models which apparently are available for $100-$200, also, but which are slightly less automatic (e.g. you tamp the grinds yourself--no biggie), but we wanted the 18 bar pump, and I think all of those were 15 bar pressure.

Finally, there are more-automated models starting around $500 which don't require the use of a frother at all and do it all internally... those were overkill for us, not to mention pricey.