What Accessories Are Essential for Making Espresso?Published on 07/11/2023 · 6 min readThere's a lot that goes into the perfect cup of espresso. Here are a few of the necessary tools you'll need for making espresso at home!
Photo by Brooke Cagle
You may think that with a hefty investment like an espresso machine, you have everything you need to pull the perfect shot, but like all hobbies, there is the initial investment and then a long list of tools and gadgets to complement that investment. Espresso is no different. It is time-consuming. It is financially draining. However, it’s the love for the shot that makes the art of espresso worthwhile!
While there are necessary accessories for making espresso, there are also some accessories that are just nice to have. In this article, I will discuss these accessories and delineate which of them are essential or just beneficial.
Digital Coffee Scale
Brewing espresso is a science, akin to baking. While using precise measurements, baristas combine the proper ratio of grounds to water to produce the espresso shot and milk to espresso to pour the perfect milk-based beverage. Just like with baking, an experienced barista may be able to eyeball a shot or use volumetric measurements, but the use of a digital scale provides the consistency necessary to pull the perfect shot. And while digital coffee scales are somewhat inexpensive, they do come with some handy features, like a timer, heat and water resistance, and the ability to fit on your drip tray.
A quality coffee grinder is essential for the at-home barista that does not use a machine with a built-in grinder. Espresso starts with a fine, powdery grind. While there are many automatic espresso machines on the market that feature bean grinders, the vast majority of machines on the market still require you to purchase a grinder, whether it be a manual grinder or an espresso-specific grinding machine.
Grinder Cleaning Brush
While it is not necessary, having a grinder brush handy will make quick work of those pesky grounds that seemingly find their way into every crack and crevice. A cleaning brush is a simple, inexpensive, and effective tool for removing unwanted grounds from your espresso grinder, tamper, and tamping station.
A tamper is an essential accessory for any barista. Tamping, or compressing the espresso grounds into a puck to load into your portafilter, is what separates coffee from espresso. Pressing the ground coffee extracts essential oils, creating a bold, rich flavor and velvety crema associated with espresso. While every machine is equipped with a portafilter, not every machine comes with a sturdy, pressure packing device necessary to form a puck of your favorite grind. A quality tamper is made from food-grade stainless steel and is pressure calibrated to ensure consistency. Hand or palm tampers have become more and more popular as they distribute uniform and level espresso pucks into your portafilter. Hand tampers often feature adjustable depth settings and dual heads for distributing and tamping. The biggest benefit of a tamping device with a distributor is that channeling within the puck is largely avoidable. This is ideal for the perfect extraction.
Because tamping a puck requires so much downforce, it is handy to have a mat to save your countertops from more pain and suffering. Generally made from food-grade silicone, tamping mats are soft, resistant to slipping, and durable enough to withstand regular tamping. Most of these mats are also dishwasher safe, and some are molded to hold your tamper, portafilter, and even a coffee art needle, making tamping mats one of the most budget-friendly espresso accessories. While a tamping mat is not a necessity, it certainly adds organization, cleanliness, and a lot of bang for your buck to your workstation.
Stainless Steel Milk Pitcher
If you want to be able to enjoy a milk-based beverage like a cappuccino or latte, you will need a pitcher to steam and froth milk. Because their design is fairly standard, there is no need to over-invest in a milk pitcher. As long as it meets your size needs and has a narrow spout necessary for coffee art, there are not any other determining factors when it comes to a pitcher, but even some of the priciest machines do not include this necessity.
If your machine is not equipped with a steam wand, you will want a battery-powered, handheld frothing whisk or an electric frothing pitcher in order to make milk-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. These tools are simple and inexpensive, yet they enable you to create the perfect froth or foam with ease.
Even though many machines boast an internal water filtering device, it is important to make sure that your water is well-balanced and free from any impurities. Whether it’s an inline water filter or a portable water filter, having an extra level of filtration will ensure a consistently better cup of coffee. A water filter like those made by Brita will do the trick!
A knock box may be your most rewarding accessory for those of you that understand the frustration of beating your portafilter on your trashcan to dispose of the puck. A knock box is as straightforward as the name implies. Simply knock the puck out of the portafilter and into the small, stainless steel box. Rather than flinging grounds around your kitchen, using one of these espresso trash receptacles is the easiest way to dispose of unwanted grounds. Knock boxes are often dishwasher safe, non-slip, and feature a shock-absorbent bar that won’t damage your portafilter.
Precision Portafilter Basket
Precision baskets are essential for water distribution through the espresso puck, and high-quality baskets are a great upgrade to your existing portafilter. Precision baskets are made from food-grade stainless steel and feature a ridgeless design and a nanotech shower screen for homogenous water flow. They also feature a non-stick surface made from quartz.
Often overlooked as an accessory, having espresso cups are a necessity for prosumers. While shot glasses are useful for splitting a shot, adding a shot on top of the drink, or for seeing layering the beverage, there’s nothing better than a quality ceramic espresso cup or latte mug to enjoy your daily brew.
Coffee Art Needle
If you are a lover of artwork in your mug, having a latte art needle is a necessity. This simple, stainless steel pen device you can create stunning artwork just like the most skilled barista. While this is not a necessary tool, it certainly is something that takes your coffee presentation to the next level.
Espresso Machine Cleaner
Espresso starts with water, and without clean, well-filtered water, it is impossible to brew a quality cup. As mentioned earlier, the more filtration, the better. The same can be said with the cleanliness of your machine. A well-maintained machine will produce a consistently high-quality shot, and a machine cleaner is necessary for fully cleaning and descaling your espresso machine. Espresso machines have endless nooks and crannies and tubing that can trap water and impurities. Fortunately, there are a number of safe machine cleaners, such as Urnex Espresso Machine Cleaning Powder, on the market that will make cleaning your espresso machine a breeze.
Finishing the Perfect Cup
While there are certainly more accessories that you could add to your brewing station, these are the most important as well as the most necessary. Although they are not listed above, it is also important to have spatulas, stirring spoons, and microfiber cleaning cloths in mind when building your espresso station.
With the right espresso machine and accessories, you can become an at-home barista and create espresso drinks with your own personal touch! If you need any help with finding the right equipment for your needs, reach out to me or one of my fellow Coffee & Espresso Experts here on Curated for free, personalized recommendations.