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GadgetGals: Espresso for Dad

June 8th, 2009 · No Comments



by GadgetGals Nancy Byal and Jan Hazard, columnists

This past March, Jan and I headed to Chicago to the International Housewares Show to see what new and exciting products are coming to American kitchens. One thing we can always count on finding: plenty of top-notch espresso-based drinks to revive our spirits. We’re thinking of dads, too – their day is near.

Foamy artwork

coffee-art11Espresso makers populate nearly every aisle at Chicago’s McCormick Place exhibition halls, and there’s star-studded showmanship to go along with them. This year at the Capresso booth, Swiss Latte Art Champion Daniel Neiniger created intricate milk-foam designs atop our cappuccinos. They were such works of art you almost didn’t want to drink them. Well, almost.

(See some latte art here from YouTube.)

bezzera-machineItalian espresso inventor Luigi Bezzara never could have imagined there’d be so much fuss made over his patented 1901 discovery of how to brew coffee faster. Yes, time was his machine’s big selling point. Making fresh, one-cup-at-a-time java was taking too much time–4 minutes per cup–for the Italians. Using steam under pressure, Bezzara brought it down to 30 seconds and in the process discovered he could make a better cup of coffee. While Bezzara failed at marketing his idea, Desidero Pavoni turned it into a success a few years later, changing the way Italians, and ultimately the world, drink coffee.

Simple to complex

Since then, Bezzara’s original concept has undergone a number of changes and refinements. Hot water is used instead of steam, for instance, to ensure there’s no harsh burned taste. More than a century later, the extremes reign in home espresso makers, from simple stovetop pots that will brew one cup of espresso all the way to elaborate electrics that will pump out all sorts of espresso-based drinks.

Two put to the test

We had a chance to test-brew two of the newest extremes — a go-anywhere, hand-pump espresso maker, and a digtized electric coffee center that does its work with simple touchpad controls.

The Handpresso Wild, $100

This is a clever, low-tech kind of idea. It was invented by Henrik Nielsen, an Danish entrepreneur with a penchant for espresso and a belief that there had to be a better way to make barista-quality espresso on the go.


Handpresso Wild

There is —  and it’s no bigger than a small hand can opener. You simply use the hand-pump at the end of the handle to raise the pressure gauge to 16 bars, add boiling water and an espresso coffee pod to the cup-shaped chamber (another of their models uses ground coffee), then seal and press the release button.

Nan pumped about 40 times to get that pressure, but once you got the rhythm of the pump, it went fast. In less than a minute, we had a fab espresso, complete with a crema top layer. Clean-up is a cinch, too: just rinse with cold water.

The price is right

Another big plus: You can take this cool gadget virtually anywhere and make espresso wherever you have access to boiling water — at work, on a trip, at a campsite. The only minus we could think of: Don’t try to use this to make espresso for a crowd. For something so everyday-handy, the price is right, too. It retails for around $100. (Add $20 for a sleek travel case. )

For more information about models, an outdoor set, and accessories, go online here.


Gran Dama ESAM660

The Gran Dama Avant Coffee Center from DeLonghi, available this September (an older version is shown at right), is the Rolls Royce of coffee makers. Like most computers, this sophisticated system will do more tasks than most people will probably ever ask of it. Sure, it makes great espresso-and also cappuccino, latte, macchiato, traditional American-style coffee and hot milk for cocoa and other hot drinks. We found this machine to be a snap to use compared to other espresso makers in its class. A touch screen control panel walked Jan and I through every step of setting the menu up to make plain espresso and cappuccino, including our strength preferences and size of cup (from demitasse to latte).

Compact for home counters

Smaller than a breadbox, the Gran Dama packs many features you’d find in a commercial system into a compact size suitable for home countertops. A low-pitch conical burr grinder adjusts to the desired fineness for grinding whole beans, or you can use already ground coffee. The hot milk system has a unique auto-clean function and a removable container that can stow in the frig when not in use.

Multi-purpose espresso makers are complex machines and notorious for maintenance issues, so DeLonghi takes their two-year warranty to a new “white glove” level. The machine will be picked up, serviced within about three weeks, and returned to your home at no charge. At a heart-stopping price of $3000, this machine is obviously not for the average cuppa Joe drinkers. But for someone who wants the ultimate in quality, flexibility, simplicity of use, and service, it delivers.

DeLonghi will have info on their web site in September but you can view other models there now.

Read more from the GadgetGals on their web site: kitchengadgetgals.com

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