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Espresso For The (Cheap) Philistine

Q: I know I'm about to do something tantamount to walking into a custom tailor shop and asking for the "Irregulars Rack", but I just gotta ask anyway. Has anybody tried one of the el cheapo Mr. Coffee Espresso makers, the $30 ECM10 model that WalMart sells, "http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.gsp?product_id=3179&cat=77978 &type=1&dept=2637&path=0%3A2637%3A77978"? I'm pretty picky about my coffee, and use nothing but vacuum pots these days, but I wouldn't know a good Espresso from a bad one, having only had a couple in my life, other than knowing whether I like the taste, of course. So, given the fact that I might make an Espresso a couple times a month or so, is it possible to make decent stuff in this model? Or should I just stick with my home-roasted, vacuum-pot-brewed coffee?

A: It will be a steam-pressured one, which has the joint demerits that: a) It's probably "burned" from the first moment, and b) Pressure control will be more than merely questionable. I'd suggest that you get a grinder and maybe even a roaster and do up your own beans for your vacuum pot; that'll be light years ahead of what "Mr Coffee Espresso" will generate. The only use for that Mr. Coffee would be to make something with more milk than "espresso" [which it isn't]. You will never know if you like espresso if you compare it to what Mr. Coffee [or any steam machine] produces. Been there/done that. That's why there's a million of them on e-Bay. Go into it knowing that you really won't be making "espresso" with a steam toy, but you can make some milk-based drinks that could beat the pants off those made at some commercial establishments with good espresso. I've found the steam toy's output to be real dreck to drink straight, but it can be great in milk drinks, especially since you home roast. We roast a Monkey Blend / Moka Kadir mix and use it through a steam toy to make cappas every morning. They are better than anything I've ever had in any cafe, but the 'espresso' part would probably eat paint off my truck by itself. As with everything, your experience might be different, but with skill and good beans, you might be surprised what you can produce. You might just find that your own personal god shot can be achieved with a steam toy and some fresh beans. (It is all relative, of course!) I thought a *$'s espresso was incredible when all I'd had was Maxwell House. Then I realized the same shot was dreck when I had my first home roasted beans...