Accessories for 1st Time Single Dose Espresso Makers

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
mchrist
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#1: Post by mchrist »

Hi All - I've been making espresso and all the various derivations for 20+ years. Recently - two friends (both new to espresso) approached me looking for a "good setup" (I don't want this to be the focus of this post - you'll see why). Based on years of reading this and other forums, I suggested to both the Breville Double Boiler and the Niche grinder. I think there's a good chance that one and possibly both friends follow through with my advice - which is a little troubling as I have personally never owned either machine. I started thinking about my daily routine - which has evolved over the years - and the amount of "accessories" that come in to daily play. The specificity can be daunting for someone new - and frankly - I have "my stuff" and generally keep my head down with respect to new trends, etc.

To that end, I would like to get some advice to what accessories one "needs to have" (eg - a proper tamper) and things that are "nice to have" (eg - a bean cellar):

NEED TO HAVE
- Tamper
- Bean Scale
- Cups
- Grouphead cleaner (is there anything other than Pallo?)
- Milk jugs (sizes / brand)

NICE TO HAVE
- WDT Tool
- Shot Scale
- KnockBox
- Bean Cellar

I know there's "more" out there - but in thinking about my routine - these are the items that I use every day. While I could live without the nice to haves, they are ... nice to have. For reference - both friends are grown men in their mid 50s and I could see both of them getting into the hobby. While I don't think they should be getting top of the line gear out of the gate - I do believe in the buy right, buy once principle and I think they would appreciate. Thanks for the eyes and I appreciate the suggestions.

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Jeff
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#2: Post by Jeff »

Here's something of a list off the top of my head, with "comfortably functional" at a reasonable price guiding some of the selections.

A big stack of white washcloths -- can go into the washer on hot/hot with bleach -- I use them to prep on, dry baskets, and clean the steam wand daily. Some people also like microfiber, especially for cleaning shiny stainless machines.

For a bean or pour-over scale, I use a Timemore Black Mirror Pro. I don't think the flow-rate display is all that useful, but the display is a little brighter than the regular Black Mirror and the silicone cover is nicer. The regular Black Mirror is just as functional.

Bottomless PF handle (I don't know the options for the BDB).

I like the MATOW dosing funnel. No ridge inside the basket. No gaps like all the affordable magnetic ones. Heavy enough stainless that it sits there on the rim, solidly enough for my preferences. $20 on Amazon US.

JKim/Appa Makes WDT tool. I use one daily. I did "cheat" and used a spare 18650 battery wrap over the upper part to firm up the feel a little bit. It works well without that luxury option. Edit: There is a "solid" version as well. Mine is the business-card style that you assemble yourself. I found the ability to mail it a clever design and then it took over the spot on my bench. I keep my WDT tool in a sake glass with rice in it.

Tamper -- Something solid and square to basket. At an affordable price, the Normcore ones might be a good choice. I have not tried them myself.

The least expensive scale for drip-tray use that I would trust is the MAXUS/Weightman/Joe Frex/... one at between $10 and $15. The buttons are in different orders on some. They're cheap enough that if you have a drenching accident that isn't recoverable, you're not out a lot. Not great, but very functional, small, and low profile. If a Black Mirror fits, that may be another good option. (I use a Bluetooth scale that is integrated with my drip tray, so I can't comment on how it would be to use one scale for both locations.)

Enjoyable cups and demitasse spoons -- I like notNeutral Lino cups in espresso and cappuccino sizes. Inker is another line that many people enjoy. Inker Ischia Cups - the last of the stock! and Inker Glassware at Cantina Coffee -- Looking for Feedback!! for potential sources in the US. My Bodum spoons are no longer made but are just big enough to give a stir to a espresso in a espresso-size cup. https://www.umeshiso.com/product/mini-dipper/ is possibly an option (there's a back story, which if it resonates with you, makes their spoons even more attractive).

Milk jugs -- 35 cL for rational caps and lattes, 50 or 60 cL for American-style ones. I find the inexpensive imports totally serviceable for day-to-day frothing. They're under $10 each delivered on AliExpress. I tend to like the ones with a more defined spout, but I think it is all in my head. Two minimum so you can have one in the dishwasher.

Knockbox -- None are great that I've tried. The ones that are easier to use take up a lot of counter space. Since they don't encourage regular emptying, they tend to become science experiments. Smaller ones need better aim at best, some are close to useless. I am using "VEVOK CHEF Espresso Knock Box Coffee Knock Box Espresso Bucket Knock Coffee Ground Dump Bin with Removable Knock Bar Trash Can Non-Slip Base" ($16 Amazon US) and it doesn't suck. It holds about a half-dozen pucks, is small, and I seldom miss trying to knock out a puck.

Cafiza (or equivalent) and a Pallo Coffeetool brush are minimal cleaning requirements, along with a stubby screwdriver that fits the screw that holds in the screen (assuming the BDB has one).

Potential upgrades:

- Sintered mesh puck screen -- helps keep the group clean
- Ultrasonic cleaner -- to clean the puck screen, shower screen, baskets, ... The Magnasonic at $40 seems well liked
- EPNW HQ 14 baskets -- thought by many to be some of the best baskets for traditional espresso and cheap (don't buy VST for new enthusiasts)
- Cafelat silicone group gasket -- plush, easy lock-in and lasts nearly forever
- Shot mirror -- don't have to stoop or twist to see how the shot is starting off. Be creative and look for a magnetic-mount inspection mirror on your favorite sites. For me, this is a non-essential. For someone starting off it may be of great value.

Some people use centrifuge tubes for pre-measured dosing. They are a lot more affordable than the big-name ones, though don't look quite as slick on the countertop.

Edit: If they don't already have something like a real Thermapen, the CDN Pro digital with the thin tip has worked well for us for milk-pitcher duty and more. It takes a while until you can know the milk temperature by sound. I'm not a believer in the "by feel" method with a hand on the pitcher.
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mrgnomer
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#3: Post by mrgnomer »

For single dosing a good scale serves well. I bit the bullet and got an Acaia Lunar. Fast, accurate and lots of extraction weighing options. Also good painting brushes to brush out grinder retention. My Ceado E37SD has virtually no retention with RDT but needs the chute brushed out. +1 on a either a dosing cup that fits your grinder, a funnel for your basket/portafilter or both. A naked portafilter for extraction monitoring and fit deep triple baskets if you want to use them is good to have. Good WDT tool works for me. I spent enough on a Lunar scale so made mine with accupuncture needles and a champagne cork. Works really good. Quality tampers are good to have especially if what you get with your machine is the stock plastic one. Different bases from flat to convex would be fun to experiment but I don't find them making a lot of difference in my own extractions. A flat base works consistently best for me.

A Joe Frex timer is great for timing flush rebounds if you do HX flushes. Silicone pads to line your counter and tamp on are good. Silicone pad to hold your tamper is good for slippery counters. +1 on the shot mirror. Great for watching naked portafilter pulls especially if you preinfuse and want to know when the puck is saturated.

Cleaning stuff. Grouphead brushes, basket brushes, Cafiza, Grindz, citric acid...great for keeping oily buildup at bay. Blind portafilter for backflushing if your machine backflushes and didn't come with one. A couple microfiber cloths are great for wiping down stuff and not leaving scratches.

Dow 111 grease is good to have for lubing if you like to take stuff apart to clean or replace.
Kirk
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JordanK
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#4: Post by JordanK »

Totally agree with all that's been said.

I'd emphasize that a self-leveling tamper is particularly helpful for a beginner as that is an easy place to mess up your prep without proper technique. A funnel for the portafilter to avoid a mess is also low cost and super well worth it.

Edit: a homemade alternative to a shot mirror is a small make-up style mirror attached with double-sided tape to a dowel or other small piece of wood at a ~45° angle. Works great.

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mckolit
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#5: Post by mckolit »

An alternative group head cleaner would be the espazzola Espazzola - Tool for cleaning groupheads That's what I use. I also have the pallo. But for everyday I use the espazzola and use the pallo for the deep cleaning/maintenance.
I would put the wdt tool in the essential category.

mchrist (original poster)
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#6: Post by mchrist (original poster) »

Hey Jeff - Pardon my ignorance here - but "EPNW HQ 14 baskets" - are these the ESPRESSO PARTS HQ RIDGELESS DOUBLE PORTAFILTER BASKET - 14GR - Best Seller? Looks like they are in fact cheap at $4.50? I am a Decent user and have been using their filters since purchase. Might try one of these given the attractive price point ....

Please let me know if I am on the right track here. and THANK YOU for the feedback - my pals appreciate it!

M

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Jeff
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#7: Post by Jeff »

Yes, there is a ridgeless and a ridged version. They're different shapes and some people have a preference in the cup between them. At their low prices, I'd try both and decide.