Best Tools to Make Perfect Espresso at Home
Make authentic espresso and cappuccino at home with these clever coffee makers and accessories
If you love the taste of freshly brewed espresso but aren’t ready to drop hundreds of dollars on a countertop espresso maker, a stovetop brewer is the perfect way to get a taste. Water boils in the base of the carafe, creating steam, which forces the water through the grounds above and into the top of the carafe, where it’s ready to pour. You’ll still find classic options from Bialetti, the Italian company that first built these brilliantly simple appliances in the 1930s. New models from other companies work the same way but offer updated designs and finishes.
Of course a great brewer is only part of the equation. Using the right proportion of properly ground beans is key. And unless you’re drinking a pot or more a day, you’ll want to invest in a good grinder, which allows you to grind fresh beans for each batch and properly store them, whole, in the interim. If you find the taste of plain espresso too bold or you want to whip up lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos, you’ll also need a frother. Consumer Reports has you covered. Read on for our experts' top brewers, grinders, and frothers for making espresso-based drinks at home.
Stovetop Espresso Makers
Bialetti Moka Express 6-cup Stovetop Espresso Maker, $34.99
This Italian icon hasn’t changed much in the 70 years since its debut. The company claims the octagonal aluminum body is the perfect heat diffuser—whether that’s true or not, it does boil quickly. And our experts felt that the shape makes it exceptionally easy to screw together, which is critical for getting a tight seal to contain the steam needed for delicious espresso. Bravissimo.
Alessi Pina Espresso Coffee Maker PL01/6, $118
The cylindrical shape on this model, though visually striking, made this brewer slightly difficult to screw together, especially with wet hands. But if you like the modern look of this stainless steel beauty, go ahead and splurge—the espresso is every bit as good as what we brewed in the Bialetti.
Electric Coffee Bean Grinders
Baratza Virtuoso, $239.95
This pricey grinder turns whole beans into uniform grounds with near-perfect precision. It’s powerful and quieter than other models, and it beat out other burr grinders when it came time to grind beans into the fine, powdery grounds needed for espresso. But though the manual grind timer is simple, it is difficult to dial in a precise time, so you’re likely to get slightly different quantities of coffee with each batch, unless you measure beans before placing them in the hopper.
Mr. Coffee Automatic Burr Grinder BVMC-BMH23, $35.99
For easy grinding in an instant, the Mr. Coffee delivered consistent results and features a numeric timer, making it easier to control grind times and, therefore, the amount of ground coffee dispensed. It doesn’t produce grounds as uniform as the Baratza and it struggled on the finest setting, which you’d use for espresso, but the price and simplicity still make it a solid choice.
KitchenAid Blade Coffee Grinder BCG111, $34.99
This straightforward blade grinder requires you to measure beans and periodically check on them as they grind to ensure you don’t overdo it. That makes it harder to achieve uniform, larger grounds like those you’d use with a French press. But this model makes up for it when making fine grounds for espresso, besting pricier burr grinders by churning whole beans into fine powder.
Capresso Froth Plus, $80.74
The electric Capresso earns top marks for easily frothing milk into rich, warm foam. Controls let you select between two different temperature settings, and a built-in heater warms the milk while whipping in air. When you’re done, the carafe can be removed from the base for easy pouring and simple cleanup.
Aerolatte Steam Free Milk Frother, $19.99
If you’re making only the occasional latte, the Aerolatte is small and slim, making it easy to stash in a drawer when it’s not in use. You’ll need to heat milk manually in the microwave or on the stove, then submerge the frother while it whips in air. This model works best when only partially submerged, so to whip in maximum air you’ll need to use it near the top of the carafe, which can result in splatters if you’re not careful.
Bonjour Caffe Froth Monet Manual Milk Frother, $19.99
This simple, self-contained frother still requires you to heat milk manually, but the glass carafe keeps it contained as you plunge in air to whip up foam. It’s larger to store than stick models and lacks the automation of an electric, and you’ll need to remove the frothing screen before pouring. But its inexpensive price gets you a frother and carafe in a single unit, making it ideal for occasional use.
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