Equipment And Flavor Checklist For A Home Coffee Bar

For coffee lovers, setting up a home coffee bar can be an economical and enjoyable alternative to frequenting local coffee shops.

If you're a caffeine junkie who loves lattes, purchasing an espresso drink several times a week could be costing you $1,000 per year or more! With the right equipment, you can make a variety of specialty drinks at home that taste just as good as what you would get at anywhere else. All you need are an espresso machine, a coffee grinder, a milk frother, espresso beans, and several of your favorite flavored syrups.

The Espresso Machine

The espresso machine is the most important component of your home coffee bar, so expect to invest the most in this. Do not purchase as machine that retails for less than $100, as these do not produce the steam and pressure necessary to properly brew espresso. You will most likely want to invest in a semi- or fully automatic machine. Popular brands for home espresso machines include Gaggia, Jura, Capresso, Saeco, Solis, and Rancilio Silvia, and prices start at around $200. If you have a little more to spend or are short on time and space, you might want to consider buying a super automatic machine, which has an attached grinder and other features to make the process more convenient. This will save you a step in preparation, and it will mean one less piece of equipment to purchase and clean.

The Coffee Grinder

This is the next most important piece of equipment, and if you cannot afford an espresso machine, purchasing one of these will greatly improve the taste of the coffee you brew at home in your regular drip machine if you are used to buying coffee that has already been ground. There are two types of grinders: blade and burr. Blade grinders are sufficient for drip coffee, but you will need to purchase a burr grinder for brewing espresso. Most companies that make espresso machines also make burr grinders you can buy, and this will cost you around $100.

The Milk Frother

You will need one of these to froth the milk for latte and cappuccino drinks, but most espresso machines come with a milk frother already attached. You will also need a stainless steel frothing pitcher and a thermometer to ensure the milk is frothed at the correct temperature.

The Coffee Maker

While you most likely already own an automatic drip coffee maker, maybe it's time to upgrade. Drip coffee machines are fine for brewing great tasting coffee, but look for one with an insulated carafe. Reheating coffee from the bottom like many basic machines do ruins the taste, so it is best to simply keep it at a stable temperature. You might also want to purchase a reusable gold filter, which allows more flavor to be released into your coffee than paper filters.

There are several alternatives to the drip coffee maker. One is the vacuum pot, which produces excellent tasting coffee and is even interesting to watch. Another is the French press, which requires water to be heated separately and poured into the pot. A plunger is then pressed down on top of the coffee grounds. The French press produces an excellent cup of coffee and is the type of brewer frequently used at coffee tasting shows, but it takes a little experience to operate. Another popular method is the percolator, but this produces coffee that is bitter and inferior because of overboiling.

Additional Accessories

There are several other items to consider for your home coffee bar. If you want to make frozen drinks, you will need a blender. You will also need a tamper to press down the grounds before brewing in an espresso machine. You might want to get an espresso glass or a shot glass and a timer to help measure the process as you learn to pull the perfect shot. Keeping your equipment clean is essential to the flavor of your coffee, so remember you will need products for this. You might also consider purchasing a water filter.

Espresso Beans

Remember that the beans used for espresso are of a different roast than those used for regular coffee (espresso beans have a richer, darker flavor). It is best to purchase standard blends and add flavors yourself after the coffee is brewed because many flavored coffees use inferior beans and hide the taste with flavoring.

Roasted beans only stay fresh for a short period of time, so if you can find someone who roasts coffee locally, this is your best option. You can also roast your own beans at home using a frying pan, stovetop popcorn popper, or the oven, or you could consider investing in a home coffee roaster.

Flavored Syrups and Other Extras

Coffee syrups come in a wide variety of flavors. Consider buying basic flavors such as vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut first and experiment to see what you prefer. Torani, Monin, Da Vinci, and Stirling are good brands for flavored syrups. If you want to make mochas, you will also need chocolate syrup, and for this you can use Hershey's. Whipped cream will a nice touch and make your drinks look truly professional. Look around coffee shops for ideas about what else to buy. If you like Italian sodas, buy some carbonated water and you can make these with the syrups you already have. Biscotti and chocolate covered espresso beans are popular additions that you can make at home.

Although a good espresso machine seems costly, investing in the right equipment to set up your own coffee bar can actually save you money in the long run. With a little practice, you will be able to make a wide variety of drinks and impress all your friends.

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