This recent post about Starbucks - as with most posts about Starbucks - caused the typical coffee cacophony over price and quality. Although I happen to like Starbucks just fine, I certainly appreciate a good homemade cup. Unfortunately, quality espresso machines are pricey and people rarely use them enough to meet their ROI ('Fess up: How many of you have a schmancy DeLonghi at home, but still go to Starbucks every day?). As a veteran barista (of both indie and corporate coffeehouses), I've come up with a stock of supplies to help make gourmet coffee at home.
- Moka pot (like this one from Bialetti): Many Italians still brew their espresso the old-fashioned way -- on the stovetop. The pot steeps espresso grounds in boiling water until the bubbles force the creamy coffee into the top of the Moka. Pour it out, and there's your shot.
- Milk Frother (like this one from Aerolatte): This bad boy has a high-speed whisker that whips any kind of milk into foamy shape. (For a cappuccino, use half steamed milk/half foam; for a latte, use mainly steamed milk, with a layer of foam on top).
- Monin syrups: Monin's extensive collection of syrups (there are 91 flavors!) boasts everything from Acai to White Chocolate, and they also have 12 sugar-free varieties.
- Mocha powder: Semi-sweet or dark chocolate is the traditional complement to espresso (diehard Starbucks fans can buy their mocha powder online), but if you're looking for something a little sweeter, try this White Mocha Powder from Ghirardelli. (Add a hit of boiling water to the powder to liquidize it; this helps it to blend into coffee seamlessly.)
- Toppings: The final touch in fancy coffee is, of course, the flair. If you like a dash of sweet or spice, try this four-in-one shaker that comes with chocolate powder, vanilla powder, nutmeg, and vanilla. If you're crazed for caramel, try this caramel sauce from Torani.
- Coffee grinder (like this one from Braun): You've heard it a hundred times - the fresher the coffee, the better. Buy your favorite blend whole bean, then grind immediately before brewing.
- French press: If you don't feel like bothering with a coffeemaker, do as the French do. Much like the Moka pot, a French press allows the coffee grounds to stew in the water and capture the coffee's flavorful oils. After a few minutes, use the press to force the grounds to the bottom, and pour.
- Tea Infusers: Get the most out of your tea by infusing whole leaf. As a general rule, whole leaf tea prices are comparable to bagged tea, but the former grants more flavor and nutrients.