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The pursuit of a perfect shot of espresso is a fruitless one — it simply doesn’t exist, even in the best cafés in the world. But great shots of espresso do exist, and you can make them at home even on relatively attainable home espresso machines from the likes of Breville, De’Longhi and Flair. Practice and dedication can get you close using the accessories that came with your machine, but these accessories will make the routine of brewing your morning cup a consistent and rewarding experience.
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Black Mirror Scale
Weighing out your grounds is one of the single biggest upgrades that you can make to your home coffee set, regardless of your brew method. It ensures that you always have the correct dose, and if your dose is a constant, then you can tweak other inputs (like grind size, water temperature and brew time) to refine your recipe.
The only way to weigh your grounds is with a quality digital scale that can be set to grams and is accurate within 0.1g at a minimum. Typically, scales like that come with a premium (like Acaia’s line of lust-worthy coffee scales). But there are other options that give you the look and accuracy without the hefty price tag.
Chinese brand Timemore may come across as another cheaply built product you can nab from Aliexpress for pennies, but it’s anything but. The brand’s Black Mirror scale is highly regarded in enthusiast coffee circles for being of high quality and great value. It’s sleek, with a display that disappears under the top panel when not turned on and a compact size that sits nicely next to your machine.
It’s not quite as small as something like Acaia’s Lunar or Pyxis scales, but it does fit on the drip tray of Breville’s Barista touch (and similar machines like De’Longhi’s Specialista) when turned sideways so that you can weigh your extraction (weighing your ratio of grounds to brewed coffee yielded is crucial to brewing high-quality espresso at home).
Timemore also makes a few other products that are worth checking out like dripper sets, high-quality hand grinders and an electric kettle. But the star of the show is definitely the Black Mirror.
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53.4mm Dosing Cup
Crema Coffee Products, named after the caramel-colored head of foam that forms on a well-extracted and well-poured shot of espresso, is dedicated to making precision-engineered accessories for two types of machines: Breville and Flair. That’s it. Because of that focus, the brand is able to craft some of the best upgrades for those machines available.
Case in point, the 53.3mm Dosing Cup ($37). You may be asking, “Why do I need a dosing cup when I can grind right into my portafilter?” And it’s a fair question. But try resting your portafilter on your coffee scale to weigh your dose. It’s clunky and leaves much to be desired — not to mention you have a good chance of it flopping over to one side and spilling your grounds all over the place. The Dosing Cup allows you to easily weigh your grounds and transfer them to your portafilter, mess-free.
Also worth mentioning is Crema’s WDT Tool ($42), or Weiss Distribution Technique tool. It consists of three needle-like points that are used to stir your grounds once in the portafilter. The points break up any clumps in your espresso and allow for a more even flow of water through your puck (in other words it works to reduce channeling).
Crema’s combination Tamper & Distributor Combo ($44) is equally well-suited to reducing channeling. It’s solidly made, and has a distribution tool (used for spreading your grounds evenly in the portafilter basket) on one side and a tamper on the other. They each have adjustable depths so you can customize them to your needs.
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Normcore Wares, despite the name, is a provider of professional-grade espresso tools not an of-the-moment-fashion-trend. It’s one of the few brands making cafe-quality accessories that fit Breville’s line of home espresso machines.
Worth noting is the brand’s Bottomless Portafilter ($70). If you’re serious about making excellent espresso at home, a bottomless portafilter is a must. Watching the extraction through the bottom of the portafilter basket allows you to diagnose issues like channeling and flow rate. The standard spouted portafilters that come with Breville and De’Longhi machines make it much more difficult to diagnose these issues.
Normcore’s bottomless portafilter is solidly built and has a comfortable grip in the hand. The included portafilter basket is also of a noticeably higher grade than the standard Breville one. (If you really want to upgrade your basket, take a look at VST or IMS baskets.) To pair with the portafilter, make sure you pick up Normcore’s Dosing Funnel ($30). While it doesn’t fit into the built-in grinder of machines like the Breville Barista Touch or the Breville Oracle, it is great when using WDT tools (like the Crema one mentioned above).
But perhaps the best product that Normcore offers is its Spring-Loaded Tamper ($50). Consistency in tamp pressure is crucial for being able to tweak other factors in your coffee recipe. If your tamp is always at the same pressure, it makes it easy to repeat great cups of coffee. The spring-loaded tamper is fit with a 25-pound spring, so it always tamps to 25 pounds of force (it also comes with 15-pound and 30-pound springs so that you can adjust as needed).
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Also Worth Checking Out:
Saint Anthony Industries — Saint Anthony Industries’ products look to be high quality and are aimed specifically at Breville machine owners, however, we have not tested its products firsthand and therefore cannot comment on their quality.