Convenience of having your own espresso machine

Need a jolt of caffeine but don’t want to hand out big bucks for an espresso maker? Fortunately there are quite a few reasonably priced machines on the market.

drink espresso

  • The smell of coffee brewing in the morning is a glorious scent, sure to wake up the most tired person. Having an espresso machine in the convenience of your own home or office makes the day a splendid one. You do not have to worry about having enough time to stop at a coffee shop or only being able to have one cup. Finding the best espresso machines for under $200 can be quite a challenge, but not to worry – we have listed the best quality machines for under $200.


  • Cuisinart EM-200 Programmable 15-Bar

    This is the best espresso machine for under $200 on the market by far. This machine produces high quality espressos and froth. There is no need to hassle with measuring when you are tired in the morning; you just fill up the water tank and you are ready to go. This espresso machine is preprogrammed to fill your cup to the specified amount you chose down to the ounce. With this machine you are able to choose if you want to use ground coffee beans or pods. The top of the espresso maker has a large cup warming rack. This espresso maker produces top quality, café worthy espressos.

  • Gaggia 35008 Carezza

    Gaggia has created an amazing espresso machine that looks modern and makes professional tasting espressos. This machine is able to heat up water very fast, which is useful when you need hot water for tea, hot chocolate, or other foods. The machine is effortless to clean and not confusing in the least bit. The drip tray is very slim it is not meant to hold lots of liquid, or it will leak onto the counter. Other than that the quality is superb is well worth the price.

  • DeLonghi BAR32 Retro

    This espresso maker has a wonderful feel to it, the look is very cool and retro but still very sleek. The machine is pump driven instead of steam driven, giving the espresso a smooth taste. The drip tray is large enough to accommodate coffee mugs for on the go or small cups to enjoy at home. This espresso maker has a large water tank allowing you to make multiple cups without the need to frequently refill it. DeLonghi produced a durable machine that is made to last years.

    More on espresso machine:
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    Espresso machine buying guide

The Skill and Art of Espresso Making

Some people believe that espresso making is a skill. Others believe it to be an art. But the most experienced baristas would probably say that it is a combination of the two.
brewing espresso
Granted, when the barista at your favorite coffee house makes a heart or leaf on your latte, it is lovely and probably means that the milk has been steamed well.

However, that foam art does not guarantee that your espresso has been brewed properly. Creating your favorite coffee drinks to perfection has to do with more than just making them pretty.

But it is a craft that almost anyone can learn to do by carefully following just a few simple guidelines. Read on to learn the basics of brewing espresso.

Related: The best espresso machines – for the perfect brew!


First things first. Know the particulars of the coffee beans you are using and how to best extract their flavor.

Where coffee beans are concerned, a fresher roast is better. Unroasted beans (called green beans) can be stored for long periods of time, but once they are roasted it is best to use the beans within two to three weeks for the finest flavor, although freezing them can extend their shelf life.

Look on your package for the date on which it was roasted. If the package does not specify, it has probably been sitting on the shelf for awhile and the beans are stale.

Related: Spice up your holidays with coffee


Because of the process used to pull the flavor out of the beans, the consistency of the grind is important in espresso brewing. Using a burr grinder is really the only way to get the most effective and consistent grind.

The best consistency for an espresso grind should be rather fine, while still retaining the appearance of individual grains that stick together somewhat when pinched– not quite as fine as powdered sugar, but finer than regular sugar.

A grind that is extremely fine and powdery will over extract and create a brew with bitter qualities.


All water is not created equal. Minerals and impurities in water used in the brewing process will directly affect the taste, so it is best to use purified water.

Also, the temperature of the water is important. Boiling water will overheat the coffee and kill the flavor. In contrast, water that is not hot enough can make a flat and tasteless drink.

Normally, 200°F is the best temperature at which to brew espresso.


Dumping a pile of grounds into your pot each morning might work out okay for just your average cup of joe.

But for a fine espresso, it is important to measure the amount of grounds you are using. A single shot should use around 3 tablespoons of ground coffee, depending on the freshness of the grind, and should be ground directly into a clean, dry portafilter.

The coffee should create a small mound above the top of the basket, and should then be leveled across the surface. Leveling ensures that there are no uneven pockets of air caught inside.


Tamping, or compacting, the grounds into the filter is an important step in the brewing process. Pressing down on the tamper with firm, consistent pressure is the way to achieve this.

Your tamper should pack the grounds into the basket firmly to create a smooth surface. “Fluffy,” untamped grounds will not allow for the flavor to be evenly extracted.

Related: Espresso making for a good mood


Before starting each cup, the head of the machine must be flushed. This clears any old coffee from the screen, and allows fresh water to flow.

Click here for a detailed account and more tips.

Choosing Your Boning Knife

Boning knives are essential tools for all people who butcher or trim their own meat. Boning knives can be divided into two categories: stiff boning knives and flexible boning or fillet knives. Stiff boning knives are used to separate bones from meat and poultry as well as remove fat, tendons, and other connective tissue. Find out why you need a boning knife here.

Flexible boning knives are meant primarily for butchering fish. The blade should flexible enough to efficiently separating the meat of the fish from the skin along a flat surface and sturdy enough to cut through gills and bones. Fillet knives are also ideal for slicing paper thin sheets of tomatoes, peppers, and other soft fleshed fruits and vegetables.

boning and filleting

The blade of a stiff boning knife is generally between 15 and 20 cm long, quite thin and very rigid. The straight edge of a stiff boning knife allows for clean muscle separation in larger cuts of beef and pork, it curves toward the point to help scrape meat from around bones in poultry, and it ends in a sharp tip that lets the knife slide easily beneath sheets of fat and silver skin.

The bolster serves as the transition point between a knife’s blade and its handle. Bolsters on western knives include a finger guard that drops from the handle down to the heel of the blade to help provide a more stable and secure grip. The bolster on Japanese knives has no finger guard and primarily serves as an extension of the handle. Japanese knives are generally designed to be held with a pinch grip (where the spine of the blade is pinched between the thumb and the forefinger). The absence of a bolster means the blade was probably made from stamped steel.

The first thing to look for in a handle is a full tang. The tang is the part of the blade that serves as the core of the handle. A full tang can often be seen running down the center of the handle all the way to the hilt, though they are sometimes fully encased in molded rubber or altogether replaced with precisely weighted stainless steel handles. Full tang knives are strong, durable, and well balanced. Avoid partial tang knives entirely as they are top heavy will crack or break in time.

More about boning knives:

Boning and Fillet Knives

Get a good espresso machine that’s reasonably priced

Brewing Espresso

There are plenty of low-priced espresso machines on the market: you can even get them for under $100! These are great for people who don’t want to risk a whole lot of money on a gadget that they may or may not end up using every day. But if you’re a dedicated home barista and are looking to upgrade, it’s nice to know that you can still get the best espresso machine 2016 that’s reasonably priced. With $500 or less, you can buy a machine that will do everything you’re likely to want a home espresso maker to do for you.

A Machine with Personality

Espresso machines can be complicated beasts to deal with, especially when you haven’t had your first coffee of the day! The best espresso maker – Breville Infuser keeps things simple by speaking your language: when the machine needs de-scaling, the “clean me” message will light up, and when the drip tray is full, an “empty me” sign pops into view. If only my laptop’s error messages were so straight forward!

The Infuser also makes it as easy as possible for you to pull great espresso shots. You will have your choice of pre-programmed brewing or manual override, as well as a choice of pressurized or non-pressurized filter. If you’re still working on your barista skills, you can choose the easier options and still get excellent results.

The Technology

The Infuser takes its name from the pre-infusion function at the beginning of the brewing cycle. The machine uses low water pressure to expand the grounds before brewing, evening out any irregularities or gaps so that even pressure can be applied for extracting. If you’re still trying to figure out how to get the right grind and tamp pressure, this will really help you get more consistent results.

What really sets this machine apart is its robust PID controller and thermocoil. Unlike earlier models, the Infuser’s coil is robust and solid, providing all the heat you need for good extraction. Unfortunately you can’t change or control the temperature, but the good news is that the water temperature is reliable and consistent. You will never have to wait between pulling shots and steaming milk: the machine provides a steady stream of water at the perfect temperature.

The machine is programmable for single and double shots, but you also have the ability to manually override the programming if you prefer to time your own shots.

The Infuser also includes a number of convenience features. It comes with a tamper that attaches to the machine magnetically, so you will always have it close at hand. You can keep your portafilters, filter basket and scoop in a hideaway storage area behind the drip tray.

The ball joint on the steam wand is a nice feature. Again, it won’t make a difference to the taste of the final product, but it does make it easier to manoeuvre the frothing pitcher into position.

If you hate wet coffee grounds splattered all over your kitchen counter, you’ll love the “dry puck” feature on this machine. Excess water is removed from the grounds after brewing, so you’ll never have to worry about a sloppy puck messing up your knock box.

This model also features a sleep mode and automatic shut-off for added peace of mind. With all the accessories and features, it is perfect to say that this is the best espresso machine under 500 bucks.

Information: Fried Coffee

Finding an ideal rice cooker for home

Don’t let the name fool you, these days rice cookers do a lot more than just cook rice. Get all the facts to help you choose the ideal rice cooker for your home and you’re sure to find this handy device one of the most indispensable machines in your kitchen.

What is a rice cooker?
This handy one pot machine takes the guess work out of making fluffy rice every time. As well as rice, today’s models can also be used for everything from cooking your morning porridge, to making hearty soups and even delicious puddings.


Basic or multifunction?
There are two kinds of rice cookers: basic and multifunction. Basic models are the cheapest no-frills versions that are ideal for most home cooks. They usually come with a keep warm function to keep the rice heated once it’s finished cooking and some are equipped with a steaming basket. You can use a basic rice cooker to cook soups, stews and puddings.

Multifunction rice cookers are more expensive, but they have a range of automatic settings to let you slow cook, steam and cook a range of dishes. The most expensive use ‘fuzzy logic’ technology that allows you to perfectly cook every type of rice imaginable and will adjust the temperature throughout the cooking process to ensure a perfect result. Look for one with presets for all of the dishes you’re likely to make and this is sure to become your most handy kitchen appliance.

It’s all about size
When you’re choosing a rice cooker, think about the quantity of rice you’ll want to cook at one time. If you’re likely to cook for many, then opt for the largest option, similarly, choose the smaller models if you’re only cooking for two. Think about the size of the machine and where you intend to store it.

Optional extras
From steamer baskets to LCD countdown screens, it seems like you can find every extra to go with a rice cooker. Here are some of the best ones to look for when making your selection:

A non-stick inner pan
Measuring lines inside the pan
Removable steamer baskets
A countdown timer
A keep warm setting

Article shared from Best Recipes: Choosing a rice cooker to buy

How to Choose the Best Cookware You’ll Love

As an enthusiastic home cook, my pots and pans get heavy use daily. Over the years I’ve experimented with a variety of materials for different methods, recipes, and cooking styles. I’ve certainly learned a lot about what material works best for what purpose, but it’s taken a lot of trial and error. (See also Choosing the Best Cookware has Improved My Cooking Experience)

Today I’m sharing the basics on some of the world’s most popular cookware materials and why they’re absolutely great or, sometimes, not. In a follow-up, I’ll be providing a list of my specific favorite pans, pots, and baking dishes for those of you who’d rather skip the pre-boxed cooking sets and get right down to business.


If you’re looking for a low-cost way to cook your foods, aluminum might work for you. These pots and pans are lightweight and excellent at conducting heat. They can last a long time, too, if cared for properly, but you’ll need to baby them.

Unfortunately, aluminum can warp, dent, and scratch relatively easily. And without any special coating (which I’ll get to in the Nonstick section below), your more acidic ingredients can react with the raw metal and compromise your investment. Some have even expressed health concerns with regard to using aluminum, although others believe there’s nothing to worry about.

But if you’re still worried about the risk, the Cook’s Illustrated lab cooked tomato sauce for two hours inside aluminum pots. They then stored it in the same pot overnight. When tested, the sauce contained just .0024 milligrams of aluminum per cup versus the 200 milligrams found in a single antacid tablet.

Cast Iron

Over the years, I have grown very fond of cast iron — both enamel coated and not — for cooking and especially for baking breads. These pots and dishes can last a lifetime if cared for properly. They even entail a few health benefits from use. For example, vegetarians and vegans might like to know that cooking with cast iron fortifies food with iron. As well, cast iron can be an affordable option if you look beyond the popular brands and stick with the basics.

On the flip side, cast iron is awfully heavy. The handles get very hot and, from experience, it’s easy to forget and burn your hands while cooking (Ouch!). And if you’re using cast iron without enamel, you’ll need to avoid acidic foods because it will react negatively and damage your pans. If you’re new to this material, you’ll also need to season your cookware from time to time and take care with cleaning to avoid rust.

I like cooking tofu on cast iron pans because it gives me that extra dose of iron I need in my diet. Otherwise, I use my cast iron pans for hearty cooking and bread baking. I tend to shy away when cooking eggs because I have yet to master the technique. However, I’ve heard you can really cook most anything provided your pans are seasoned properly.


I don’t own any copper cookware, but I surely have lusted over some pretty pieces I’ve spied in the “Downton Abbey” kitchen. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that copper, by nature, is antimicrobial because it contains many brasses. A friend of mine who uses copper tells me she’s smitten because it’s a great conductor of heat. Her foods cook uniformly, and her pans are responsive to heat changes as she changes levels on her cooktop.

Unfortunately, copper isn’t the most cost-friendly cookware you can stock up on. In fact, it’s often wildly expensive. So, if you’re interested, I would suggest checking out discount stores like TJ Max, Home Goods, Marshall’s, etc. to snag a couple test pieces. Copper can also be difficult to maintain, and older pots often need professional re-tinning.

As far as use is concerned, tin or stainless lined copper saucepans are great for making delicate sauces and candies or melting sugar. Just be sure to save acidic ingredients (tomatoes, lemons, etc.) for another pan, as they will react and likely end up tasting metallic, depending on cook time. And unlined copper bowls are famously great for whipping egg whites.


I grew up on nonstick cookware — which is actually often anodized aluminum with a nonstick coating. My mom still uses it exclusively to this day. The advantages here are as easy as the name lets on. You need not use much oil or other fat in your cooking and cleaning is a breeze. Yeah — ingredients don’t as easily stick to the pan thanks to controversial Teflon (though there are newer guys on the market made of a ceramic base).

Plenty of people are nervous about nonstick because its coating can occasionally cause flu-like symptoms when exposed to high temperatures. Like with most anything else, opinions are split on these claims. A negative I have experienced? Several pieces of our own nonstick cookware have had flaking because the coating degrades easily with heavy use over time. Carcinogen or not, I don’t like seeing or tasting it.

As a vegetarian, I would be inclined to declare that nonstick cookware is good for cooking most everything. However, I uncovered that using nonstick for all cooking is actually a mistake. Since this material tends totransfer heat slowly, it’s not great for browning meat, for example. It’s best to use these pots and pans for traditionally “sticky” items and cook the rest on cast iron or stainless steel.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is readily available in most discount stores, making it an inexpensive cookware option. It’s also good looking and classic, and many pots and pans come with lifetime guarantees. Some more good news is that stainless cookware is nonreactive, which is just a quick way of explaining it will not discolor or pit with acidic ingredients. For this reason, you can cook any type of food without worry.

However, unless your stainless has an aluminum or copper core, you may have trouble heating foods evenly. And from personal experience, I tend to use more oil and butter than I would with other alternatives to ensure that ingredients won’t stick fast to the bottom on the pan. (See this All Clad stainless steel cookware review)

That being said, experienced stainless lovers have some tips and tricks for cooking on this material, including to heat the pan dry, add the oil next, and — when hot — place your protein in. Meat will usually stick at first, but then release once it is seared.

Buying an All Clad cookware sets

all clad stainless steel

If you’ve ever wondered who or what is behind the invention of the All Clad cookware sets, collections, and products, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Here’s the scoop.

All-Clad Metalcrafters, LLC. was founded by the late John Ulam in 1971. John was a metallurgist who had an expertise in how to bond different types of metals together. In fact, he held over 50 patents related to metal bonding techniques. In case you didn’t know, John supplied the know-how for helping the U.S. Mint go from producing solid silver coins to the layered coins we have today.

In the video below, you can watch a rare interview of John by a local newscaster. I would guess that the interview was done sometime in the 1970’s. If nothing else, it’s worth watching just to see the fashion styles and stagecraft from that era. Yikes!

Anyway, you’ll get a good look at some of the early All Clad designs and hear John’s motivation for starting the company. I think his tips for what you should be looking for when buying cookware still hold today. His advice includes the following:

1. Your cookware should last forever.
2. It shouldn’t pit. (Note: Pitting is when little dents or pits appear in the bottom interior of cookware. This could happen, for example, if you placed the pan on high heat and poured salt on it’s surface.)
3. It should stay highly polished and shiny.
4. It should maintain and distribute heat properly.
5. It should be thick enough to allow proper and even cooking of food.

John goes on to add that the best cookware should contain metal(s) with high heat transferability. The top metals for this are aluminum and copper. You could also add silver to the list, but obviously it is too cost prohibitive.

All-Clad’s corporate headquarters and main manufacturing facility are located in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Canonsburg is located in southwest Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. The company currently offers six core cookware collections, along with a number of accessories, specialty items and professional tools.


All Clad Cookware Sets and Collections

– Stainless (3 plys of metal – 2 stainless steel, 1 aluminum)
– Stainless With D5 Technology (5 plys – 3 stainless steel, 2 aluminum)
– Mc2 (3 plys – 1 aluminum, 1 brushed aluminum alloy, 1 stainless steel)
– Cop-R-Chef (3 plys – 1 stainless steel, 1 aluminum, 1 copper)
– Copper Core (5 plys – 2 stainless steel, 2 aluminum, 1 copper)
– LTD2 (5 plys – 2 stainless steel, 2 aluminum, 1 hard anodized aluminum)

Here are a couple of other All Clad cookware tidbits you should know about:

– Be careful when buying All Clad cookware sets and products on eBay. In my research, I came across a couple of people who thought they got a great deal only to be stuck with fake cookware.

– The Stainless with D5 Techology collection was designed with input from Williams-Sonoma. So they get the biggest allocation to sell, but you can also find it on Amazon.

Read full article here.

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