Photograph Ryan Girard
If you didn’t get a pod-based coffee machine for Christmas you almost certainly know somebody who did, given that they’ve become nearly as ubiquitous in the kitchen as a fridge and stove. And it’s no wonder, given that some of them – particularly the ones from the Nespresso family of machines – make a decent cup of coffee.
But decent is no way to start the day, and you can do better – way, way better. Enter the manual espresso machine, a device that offers the elegance, style and first-rate performance of an Italian sports car without the attendant mid-life crisis.
By comparison, the pod-based machines – yes, even the good ones – are more like an American sedan; reliable, comfortable and cost-effective, sure, but utterly devoid of fun or flash.
Joe Parrotino, the owner of Edmonton’s Caffé Tech, says there’s a whole universe of manual espresso machines out there for coffee lovers that are ready to take their game to the next level. “Nowadays, it’s so easy,” Parrotino says. “You have grinders that are automated that give you the exact dose you need. It’s no longer guesswork as to how much coffee you need. And if you buy it from a quality distributor, they’ll set up all the equipment so when you get home it’s plug and play – you just put water in the tank and it’s good to go.”
So, go on – take one for a spin. We’re particularly fond of lever machines like the Elektra A1 Copper Brass Mini Verticale, but it’s like choosing between a Lamborghini and a Ferrari – there’s no such thing as a bad choice.
One of the virtues of a great espresso machine is that it makes great coffee. There’s just one catch: it’s not nearly as easy to use as its more idiot-proof equivalents. But you’re not an idiot, and so we’ve conscripted Tricia Bell, the owner of The Cavern in Edmonton, to show you how to pull the perfect shot of espresso. Watch and learn – and then, drink.