This post is a very long winded walkthrough of mine and my partner’s home espresso setup. Will it get technical? Of course. Read as much or as little as you want 😄
The Espresso Machine
We have been using the Rocket Appartamento for the last few months.
There’s definitely better options out there at the price I paid but... come on. Look at it! The machine is such a gorgeous, well built centrepiece in our kitchen. I personally love the huge steam wand knob with the giant “R” embossed onto it (makes me feel like I’m on Team Rocket), and the lever for activating the water flow. It’s very cathartic, very mechanical, I love it so much. The machine showed up in a shipping crate. It is bloody heavy but luckily I don’t need to move it!
The Appartamento is a heat exchanger machine that uses the commonly-seen E61 group head. What does this mean for us in practice? The heat exchanger means that rather than using a thermoblock to heat water and steam in the machine, the hot water chamber is heated using steam. This means that, while there’s only one boiler unlike a dual boiler machine, you can still steam milk and pull a shot of espresso at the same time. The drawback comes from not being able to regulate the temperature of the brew water, but I found this tradeoff fine, as we probably wouldn’t tell the difference.
The E61 group is quite standard on espresso machines around this price range. It’s a little bit weird to get used to, as you have to flush the group to cool it down before pulling a shot the first time, otherwise it will be too hot. But if you’re doing multiple shots, e.g. one for me and one for my partner (and another for a guest...?), then you pull a shot, it cools down as you do so, it warms back up to the right temperature as you prepare the next one, you pull that next shot. It supposedly works really well in espresso bars for this reason! It looks pretty cool too.
We recently upgraded from a Sage Smart Grinder Pro to the Niche Zero, which in my opinion is a bit of a meme coffee grinder.
The Niche only grinds enough for one dose at a time, so you have to weigh into the dosing cup each time, and grind back into the cup. It also retains nearly no coffee grind within the machine itself between uses (hence the name!), so it’s comparatively easier to dial in espresso shots and change between different beans, without wasting a bunch of coffee.
I really love the design of the machine, the wood and coated metal aesthetic makes it really fit into the kitchen rather than looking like it belongs in a coffee shop. My two favourite bits about the Niche: a small disc above the burrs which helps to reduce the amount of coffee beans “popcorning” around the hopper and not being ground; and the dosing cup being 58mm wide— the same diameter as my portafilter. I can put the portafilter on top of the cup, spin the whole thing over, and the ground coffee is in the portafilter without a gram spilled on the counter top. Perfect!
It feels quite extra talking about the water, but it is a big ingredient in brewing coffee. Rocket recommends against using a descaling agent on the machine as it can mess with the pipes, so I have to use soft water with the machine. Tap water is a no-go. Living in London, our water is hard as nails, so it would quickly petrify the delicate innards of our espresso machine. Bottled water is just environmentally irresponsible, and using reverse osmosis water uses a lot of energy to run. So the best tradeoff for us was to use a water filter jug. We opted for Peak Water, which isn’t the cheapest option, but seemed to do a good job of tackling our hard London water.
Before upgrading to the Appartamento, we had a rubber tamping mat that sat on the edge of the counter. This was perfectly fine, except if it was the second or third shot pulled, it would be dripping coffee all over the floor. Which is just messy! We’ve since upgraded to a Motta tamping station, a rubber mat with a raised surface above it for tamping. This is far tidier.
We’re also using a Motta tamper, which has a nicer shape and heavier weight than the one provided with the espresso machine. Just a personal preference thing.
To weigh coffee and shots, we use a basic set of electronic scales. It has a built in timer which is really useful for timing espresso shots and V60 pours. It’s a little on the large side and doesn’t fit under the spouts of the espresso machine’s portafilter, and the response time is a bit slow. But it works perfectly fine for now! I think the next upgrade for us would be to use a more sophisticated set of scales, like the Acacia Luna.
Finally, for steaming milk, we’ve recently switched to using a Rhino Stealth milk pitcher. It has got a gorgeous matte white finish, a precision spout to make pouring art easier, and fits in really nicely with the rest of my equipment.
I don’t always have espresso! And I’m saying I not we here, since Izzy does pretty much stick to espresso. When I want to have a filter coffee, I use my trusty V60 filter. I’m using a ceramic blue one, for no functional reason other than it looks really pretty. It’s actually a bit harder to use since it takes more time to warm up than the plastic or copper models.
A basic gooseneck kettle works perfectly for us, you get much finer control over the flow of water into the filter than with a regular kettle, and less water dripping all over the counter and making a mess. It’s not electric, it just sits on the hob, it’s perfectly fine to be honest.
We normally go to https://www.15grams.co.uk for our coffee beans since they’re local and always really lovely. Other places we’ve had great experiences with:
- Pact Coffee - great for trying out a range of coffee on subscription
- Caravan Coffee Roasters - another great roaster in London
- Gentlemen Baristas - yet another great London roaster
A lot of these places have in-person stores in London. I recommend just going to your local independent coffee shop, trying their coffee, and buying their beans if you like them! Especially if they roast their own.
The Travel Edition
This is the meme part of the guide. Of course when travelling, you never know when you’re going to have another great cup of coffee. So this is my travel kit. I have a plastic V60 for travel, although it’s not very portable. I pair this with some pre-weighed beans, and the Hario Mini Mill+ grinder. This is a really lovely, light, compact and importantly cheap manual burr grinder. It uses ceramic burrs which help keep it light. It takes a lot of work to grind coffee by hand! It makes the resulting drink that much more rewarding, IMO. 😎
...space reserved for q&a...
I’d love to hear and see your coffee setups too! Do reply or tag @hiMaisie on Twitter, it’s always really fun and interesting to see. Hope you enjoyed this look into my unhinged hobby 😄