Like all modern human beings, I love drinking a very strong cup of coffee. Multiple times a day. Often in rapid succession. Also like all modern humans, I’m extremely impatient and don’t have very much time to savor the kind of ritualized behavior typical espresso making or pour-overs entail.
For a very long time, I used all manner of Keurig machines to solve this problem. The K-cup system, while producing a reasonably decent cup of coffee and doing it in a very timely fashion, is also horrible for the environment and pretty damn expensive. But then I was made aware of something magical. Something life changing. Something that would alter the way I drink my coffee forever. That thing is called a Super Automatic espresso / coffee maker, and it will mess you up in the best way possible.
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It turns out that there are many variations of this kind of machine, some reasonably priced (though a bit more expensive than even a nice Keurig or drip machine), and some astronomically expensive. I ended up with the $530 De'Longhi ESAM3300 — part of its Magnifica line. The device is a bit larger than the biggest Keurig machine, but what it does is pretty magical. The idea is simple: you add your unground coffee beans to one chamber, put some water in another, set a few dials on the front, and then push a button. Inside, the machine essentially acts like a mechanical version of the barista at your favorite coffee shop, grinding the beans, pressing them into an internal portafilter (the little thing with the handle on most espresso machines), and pushing water that’s just the right temperature through to your cup. It’s a little noisier than a K-cup machine, and it’s a little slower too — but the coffee it produces is magnificent, easily adjustable to your size and taste needs, and produces little waste save for neat little coffee pucks that can go right into your garden, compost, or trash (we compost them).
After years of feeling guilty about the environmental impact of K-cups, and even more years searching for that perfect hit of strong coffee right after I wake up, the Magnifica has truly changed my AM routine. Unlike Keurig’s options, you can play around with pretty much any kind of coffee, and you can brew ultra strong cups of espresso, or double them up for larger coffee-sized servings — all with much finer control over the flavor and strength. The device also has a steam wand for heating up or foaming milk (if you’re into that kind of thing), and has a large enough reservoir for water that you barely ever have to think about fill ups.
There are some downsides, of course, like the fact that it takes up a significant amount of counter space, and cleaning the machine after several months of use is slightly more complicated (if you’ve ever descaled a coffee maker it won’t seem too daunting). But the benefits more than outweigh the negatives, and the Magnifica has been a game changer in my life. As a reluctant morning person, this thing has almost made my very early AM days tolerable. Almost.