What accessories does every home setup need?

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

I'm relatively new to espresso, having just purchased my first proper grinder and machine--upgrading from a whirly-blade grinder and steam-pump fauxspresso machine for which I didn't have to pay. Of course, I realize there are other accessories I'll need; here's what's on my list:

1. non-plastic Tamper (will come with machine)
2. Stainless frothing pitcher
3. cups (at least 2-4 espresso, 1-2 cappas)
4. thermometer
5. scale
6. descaling/cleaning agents
7. maybe an extra portafilter, preferably bottomless

I'm not sure whether a knockbox is necessary, as I've got a plastic bucket for compost. I think I can just knock my pucks into that. Any other suggestions, or anything obvious I'm omitting?

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Randy G.
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#2: Post by Randy G. »

I recently got my first "real" knockbox. Bo yourself a favor and get one.
But best accessory? most productive and desirable accessory...? An understanding spouse! ;-)
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Martacus (original poster)
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#3: Post by Martacus (original poster) »

Randy G. wrote:But best accessory? most productive and desirable accessory...? An understanding spouse! ;-)
I've got one of those already, thank goodness. :D

As for the knockbox issue--do they basically consist of a padded bar across the top of a container? One could probably be made pretty cheaply.

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#4: Post by flathead1 »

WRT to the knockbox, yes it is a padded bar across a container and they are pretty cheap to make.

The one thing you didn't mention that I would include is additional filter baskets. You can branch out with naked, one or two spouted portafilters but having at least one extra basket of your chosen size helps when you've pulled the sink shot and want to do a quick adjust to get it right.
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#5: Post by mini »

I too would recommend a knockbox. Though non-essential, they improve espresso making workflow, being the easiest way to expel pucks.

Some people like group screen brushes. I've always done the portafilter wiggle, so I don't think they are necessary.

I'm not familiar with your grinder, but I needed a brush to clean out the grind path. Mazzers leave a fair amount of coffee behind that I wouldn't want to waste.

I would definitely recommend a rubber tamping mat. They can be bought solo or attached to a grind catching tray. Besides potentially saving your countertop from scratches, it provides a comfortable non-slip surface to press down on. Especially if you use a spouted PF, they aid in good vertical tamping. It's nice how you can just rinse them off in the sink for cleaning. Other options include portafilter stands, tamping pucks, and rubber mats with counter corner protection built in.

This may be a personal preference thing, but I also bought new towels after a couple of months. I thought it was nice to have a separate towel from my regular kitchen towel to dry off my espresso cups after I wash them (usually by hand). I needed another towel to dry out the portafilter and wipe water and coffee splashes off my drip tray to keep things looking clean. And then I like having a bunch of small towels to clean the steam wand. I have a hard time rinsing all of the milk out of the towels - after a couple of days I usually just change them to prevent any sour smells. It seems kind of silly, but I bought a dozen black 12" square towels from EspressoParts.com. The black looks professional, the texture wipes steam wands clean easily, and having a bunch of them means that I can always reach for a clean one. I like them a lot

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Randy G.
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#6: Post by Randy G. »

Martacus wrote:As for the knockbox issue--do they basically consist of a padded bar across the top of a container? One could probably be made pretty cheaply.
I did just that and used it for years. It was a loaf pan, non-stick, with a piece of dimensional oak that looked like a flattened capital letter "C" that slid over the top lips on the pan. Worked fine. Noisy, so I always kept it on a folded towel... Ya.. lazy,... so what!? :wink: But finally got a real knock box and really like it.
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#7: Post by Bluecold »

zillion microfiber cloths.
You also want more cups.
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#8: Post by Bob_McBob »

What I use on a daily basis:

Reg Barber tamper, Bumper tamper holder
Any decent tamper will do. I like having the tamper holder because I keep the tamper on a shelf above the machine, and it's much cleaner with all the coffee residue kept in the rubber base where it can be rinsed easily.

Motta knock box
You can get by without a knock box, but it is quite useful. You really need the padded bar to give the portafilter the appropriate whack to knock out a puck cleanly. I suppose you could DIY something if they are too expensive. Either way, don't get a tiny one unless you want to dump it frequently.

12oz steaming pitcher, 20oz steaming pitcher
It's very useful to have both sizes available. I have several 12oz pitchers so I can just fill them up at the beginning and bang out milk drinks without having to pour milk for every drink, but it's not exactly necessary.

0.1g resolution scale
Extremely useful for checking your dosing consistency to eliminate it as a problem or use it as a variable to modify your shots. This scale is a favourite. It runs on AAAs (easy to replace) and is compact and accurate enough. I've tried a couple of other scales, but neither held up as well when covered with coffee grounds and the occasional espresso spill.

Bottomless portafilter
Seriously, just do it. It's invaluable for fixing extraction problems, especially as a newbie. Plus it makes your espresso shots look pretty.

Group brush
I have a Pallo Coffee Tool, but I'd like to get a Cafelat Group Cleaning Brush. Doing a portafilter wiggle gets almost everything off the shower screen, but it's good to scrub the gasket area now and then, and it's also good to brush the block above the shower screen while it's off for cleaning periodically.

Cafelat corner tamping mat
Any piece of rubber will do. I've also used folded up dish towels. I prefer to tamp on the edge of the counter, and some bottomless portafilters are cut so this is required, so I like the corner tamping mat specifically. I'd consider a tamping stand if I used a spouted portafilter regularly, and it's kind of required for single spouts.

Grinder brush
It's always handy to have a brush for your grinder. You can probably find something good at any art place, but a lot of espresso dealers carry brushes in an appropriate shape for not too much. Some people also like a large brush for keeping the counter clean. Whether you need either brush will depend on your grinder.

Lots of bar towels or microfibre cloths
You go through these like crazy, especially because anything you wipe out the portafilter basket with has to be dry. I usually keep one damp one for general wiping (PF baskets with lots of grinds stuck in them, steam wands, etc.), and one dry one. I just rotate through a drawer of bar towels.

Lots of cups
I like ACF cups, but anything will work. You don't want to have to keep cleaning the same two cups over and over again, so buy a few.

What I use less frequently:

Espresso machine detergent
I backflush my Duetto with Cafiza every couple of weeks, and I soak the portafilter, baskets, shower screen, steam wand tip, etc. It also cleans the inside of my travel mug beautifully.

Descaling solution
Either a commercial mix or something like citric acid. You shouldn't have to do this very often, so it's not necessary to buy it up front. I use Dezcal.

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#9: Post by zin1953 »

Chris ("Bob_McBob") is spot on in terms of his list . . .

At home, I use a tamper from Bumper (Paul's company before Cafelat), with a Bumper Tamper Holder and a Cafelat tamper stand. I also use a Cafelat knockbox, and two Cafelat milk pitchers (one each of the 0.4L and 0.7L size). Can you tell I like Cafelat? :mrgreen: I also have a dosing funnel, a thermometer, a small Escali 0.1 gram resolution scale, multiple ridgeless baskets, and several portafilters.

For cleaning and maintenance, I have several microfibre cloths, a group brush, a Pallo Coffee tool (brush), some PuroCaff (or Cafiza or JoeGlo), a stainless steel backflush disk, as well as assorted brushes for cleaning the shower screen, the brass diffusion disk, and the countertop.

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#10: Post by mhoy »

1. grinder
2. espresso machine
3. good/great beans
4. decent tamper
5. knock box
6. small stainless steel pitcher
7. cups, lots of cups
8. tamping mat is nice
9. cleanup cloths (I used white ones that aren't so white anymore)

Used the scale at the beginning, no longer, I just eye ball it now. 8)
Used the thermometer for a bit, then I noticed if I can't touch the bottom, it's hot enough. :shock:
Rarely do I use my bottomless portafilter now a days. It's nice to see what's going on, but it's mostly in the drawer.

A good grinder is probably the best investment of all the items.