After two years of fluctuating restrictions impacting access to the office, a few days spent working from home each week is starting to feel more permanent. Which for me means only one thing: I need to get an espresso machine.
Because, WFH or not, my workday must start with coffee. And an Aeropress or stovetop won’t always do – I have a strong appreciation for cafe-style coffee.
But picking a machine and the best beans to try and re-create such a thing at home is daunting, with coffee machines for the home running from anywhere between a couple of hundred to tens of thousands of dollars – a big outlay before you even get to your first cup. And without using it beforehand, how to know which machine and coffee combo might best satisfy my coffee needs?
One option is to let the experts choose for you. The Industry Beans Espresso Club is a subscription service that delivers both a machine and coffee beans along with online training and support, to try at home for a weekly sum of $29. I decided to give it a go and see if I could make a cup to rival the cafe.
Choosing a machine
To make cafe-quality coffee at home, you’re looking to approximate the power of a cafe-standard machine – those same all-in-one, shining beasts that sit on a cafe countertop and grind, brew and steam their way throughout the day. The Espresso Club subscription comes with a De'Longhi La Specialista Prestigio, which is loaded with a built-in grinder, auto-tamping and separate heating for milk and water. There’s also the option to select how many coffees I wanted to make each day, which determines the amount of coffee delivered – in this case the All Time Espresso blend made for the machine - as well as the requisite accessories you need to get started. The only choice I had to make before it was delivered was the colour. I went for the sleek silver over black.
Setting it up
Lockdown might be finished but the buzz of getting large boxes delivered to my door hasn’t. In one is the De'Longhi, the other an Industry Beans welcome pack, which includes a first delivery of coffee and handy extras like the mini countertop knock box, which replicates how baristas dispense of used coffee grounds in a cafe.
There were a few minor tweaks to be made before you get started. I’m not so tech savvy, so for the La Specialista Prestigio I follow the video tutorials on the Industry Beans Espresso Club online. It’s surprisingly straightforward: plug it in, take a moment to admire it on my counter, then apply the settings.
Making the first coffee
Settings are applied. Water tank is filled. By the time I find my favourite cup, the machine is heated and I’m ready to rise and grind. I peel open one of the sealed packs of coffee, lift the lid on the built-in grinder and pour half a bag of beans in. Next, I attach the portafilter (the part of the coffee machine that holds the coffee grounds during the brewing process). The grinder automatically starts and soon the portafilter fills before automatically stopping, ready for you to pull the side lever to tamp it.
It takes three goes before I successfully get the coffee pouring through – this is normal, I just had to fine-tune the grind settings. The sense of satisfaction when seeing and smelling perfect streams of golden espresso pouring into the cup is real.
Perfecting your coffee (and everyone else’s, because they’ll want one)
Of course the other test to create cafe-quality coffee is nailing the milk. The steamer on the right-hand side of the De'Longhi is sturdy – it looks just like the steam wands on industrial machines in cafes. You want to use it to add just enough air to thicken the milk, before using the pressure of the steam to whip it in a circular motion into a silky finish.
In the first week, I make my way through four oat milk brands before finding my favourite and it only takes a few goes before I’m serving up perfect lattes. The end result is part machine, part having the right milk and part technique (that’s you). Next step: nailing the latte art.
We go to our favourite cafes for reliable consistency. We trust them to choose quality beans and that the barista knows what they’re doing, to deliver a great cup every time. After just a few weeks trying The Espresso Club, I’m starting to feel the same level of appreciation for my at-home set-up. The coffee is quality, I don’t have to wait in line and, I admit, the barista is doing a pretty good job.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Industry Beans. Learn more about the Espresso Club.