I have been searching and searching for a great espresso machine. I love the drinks but it costs more than smoking, if I buy one latte (with soy and an extra shot) every day! But, after reading the reviews I was beginning to lose hope. I even thought "I'll just have to learn how to make it work with a cheaper model"...nope most of the time nothing but black sludge would come out. I continued to frequent the coffee shop up the street.
Imagine my surprise when I was shopping on Craigslist (in the housewares section) and I saw this item up for $100. I looked it up on coffeegeek, saw the great reviews and told him I would be there in the afternoon to buy it. When I picked it up, he gave me the machine, plus the scooper/tamper, another scooper, the pod filter attachment, all the trays/drawers (which are really convenient way to hold all the extras) the cleaning attachment, two metal carafes and the thermometer. I rushed home and cleaned it as quick as I could, eager to see the "perfect shots" I read about.
He said he couldn't find the manual, but it was available on the Starbucks website. I printed it off and got to business. I had no problem getting started, and I've only used crappy machines in the past, so this was relatively new to me. I had purchased some organic coffee and ground the beans at the store, on espresso/fine. I had some "creamy caramel" syrup and vanilla Silk soy milk.
The manual said to steam the milk first. I noticed that my biggest problem would be that I had forgot to put the milk in the fridge, so it wasn't very cold. I had read that cold milk is important. I filled the cup about halfway and attempted steaming. It got a little foam on it, but not much. Next time, I stored the cup in the fridge, along with the milk, and I've been able to make a huge cup of foam out of only 1/3 of a cup of milk consistently, with ease. I never take it over 160, either. Just perfect. Temperature is key, and I think listening to the sound that the wand makes in the milk helps also.
I poured about half the milk into the cup, then made the shots...
There isn't much to making the espresso. I just put two scoops in the filter, didn't press (because the instructions said not to) and pressed the button. Out came two perfect shots! How simple can it be?
I added those to the milk, put in 1 oz of syrup and topped with the rest of the milk and plenty of foamy goodness. If you rinse all the parts immediately, the clean up isn't too bad. I dry everything right away, too.
I had been drinking my homemade drinks for a couple of weeks, when I was out and about, and decided to stop for a latte at the usual spot. I couldn't believe how disappointed I was! What used to be my addiction, wasn't very good anymore. I think my version, at home, tastes much much better. I like the way my milk is steamed, it just makes the entire drink velvety.