Who got an espresso machine for Christmas? I didâ€”an Ascaso Dream if you must know. It doesn't work on its own though, so I'm currently kitting it out with a few choice accessories to get the whole barista thing just right. Aprons not included.
For CH's hands-on reviews of coffee makers, see Coffee Classics and Coffee Innovations.
Dualit Espresso Cups
Made from stainless steel and double-walled for for heat retention, Dualit's espresso cups are perfect if you're going for a completely metallic look. They're sold in pairs, and can be found at Wheesh for Â£24.50.
Jasper Conran Platinum Stripes
Alternativelty, if you would rather sip from bone china, I like Jasper Conran's Platinum Stripes range (pictured above left). It's not cheap, costing Â£20 for a single espresso cup and Â£17.50 for the accompanying saucer. Available from Heals.
Gaggia Barista Frothing Jug
I like a straight double-espresso as much as the next man, but taking time to craft a fine cappuccino is more satisfying. Correctly frothing the milk requires a decent pitcher, preferably in stainless steel. I'm not particularly bothered about creating fancy latte art, which requires a sharply-defined spout, so I've gone for this one from Gaggia (pictured above right). It's the best-looking I've found. Â£15 from John Lewis.
Illy's professional steaming pitcher is a decent bet if you want create the aforementioned art, and costs $50 direct from the maker.
Gaggia Milk Thermometer
According to Coffee Geek, which is a tremendous resource and has a mind-bogglingly detailed guide to frothing milk, around 150 degrees fahrenheit is the optimum temperature for steaming milk. Dipping in your pinky ain't going to work, so a milk thermometer is a necessity. Gaggia again (pictured above left), Â£6 from Whittard of Chelsea.
Reg Barber Tampers
Just spooning your coffee into your machine's shot basket is no goodâ€”you need to tamp it down properly. Most machines are supplied with an inadequate plastic tamper, but Candian firm Reg Barber is the Rolls Royce of the tamping world. Various permutations are available, such as wood or aluminum handles, and bases made from brass, steel or copper (pictured above right). They can also be customized to feature initials or logos and start at around $50.