Buying Guides for Small Appliances
It’s easy to fall under the spell of small appliances. So shiny. So many buttons. So much promise. To choose one with a clear head, think about what exactly you need a new small kitchen appliance for. Is it to save time or try something new? Also, look past the WOW factor and consider if the machine is easy to use, clean and store. It won’t do you any good if it’s too much of a bother to use.
How do you choose the best mixer for you? Do you go for the convenience of a hand mixer or the power and great looks of a stand mixer? The key is to be honest with yourself about what you’ll be using the mixer for and how often.
A good hand mixer is great at doing light cooking jobs such as whipping cream or mixing cake batter. It is lightweight, cleans up quickly and stores away out of sight. When shopping, choose one that feels balanced and is comfortable to hold. Models range in power from 100 to 300 watts, with more power meaning a stronger mixer. Along with beaters, some models can come with attachments such as a whisk or dough hook.
While more expensive and heavier than hand mixers, a well-made stand mixer can do many more tasks over a number of years. And it does the work hands free. If you’re interested in making bread or cookies, a stand mixer is the way to go. Look for one with a stable base and has at least a 4.5 quart bowl, which is large enough to knead a loaf of bread. Most models come with a beater(s), whisk and dough hook, and some have other attachments available such as juicers, pasta makers, meat grinders, food processors, ice cream makers and more.
Drip Coffee Makers
The most popular type of coffee maker in Canada, this machine works by forcing water from a reservoir tank towards a heating element at the bottom of the machine. The hot water travels through a tube to the top of the machine where it drips down through a filter containing the ground coffee. The brewed coffee is collected in a removable glass or thermal carafe.
An all-in-one unit where the coffee is brewed in and poured from the same container, these models are mainly used to make coffee for large groups, yet smaller, home versions are available.
Water is heated by an element at the bottom of the percolator. As the water boils, some of it is forced through an internal tube into a filter at the top that contains the ground coffee, where it then percolates through the grounds. The brewed coffee collects at the bottom of the machine, mixing with the fresh water. This process continues until the brewing cycle is complete. The shorter the brewing cycle, the weaker the coffee. The longer the brewing cycle, the stronger the coffee.
Steam Espresso Machines
This type of espresso coffee machine works by heating water until it comes to a boil and produces steam, which is forced through the espresso grounds to extract the flavour. These models are small, affordable and usually come with a milk frother. While it can make an enjoyable drink (especially when using flavoured beans and/or milk), aficionados say that the machines don’t make a true espresso because the extraction pressure is too low and the water is too hot.
Pump Espresso Machines
For those who want to play barista at home, a pump espresso machine is worth the investment. Water is heated to the correct temperature for optimal extraction of flavour without boiling. Then the water is forced at a high pressure through the grounds using an internal pump. The combination of right temperature and pressure produces a nicer tasting espresso with a high quality crema (the light brown foam that floats on top and is the sign of a good espresso).
Automatic Espresso Machines
For those who are after a true espresso but want an easier machine to use, this model is for them. It operates the same as a pump espresso maker, except it automates the pump extraction process, meaning the user doesn’t control when the extraction stops. The rest of the espresso making process – adding the grounds and water and cleaning the filter – is manual.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines
This espresso maker does it all for you, from grinding the beans and tamping the filter, to brewing the espresso and emptying the used grounds into a waste unit, ready for the next cup.
What is espresso?
The word espresso is an Italian term that means something made quickly or made to order. The fast brewing time allows the best qualities of the coffee bean to be extracted, thus avoiding the adverse qualities related to over-extraction: lack of taste; loss of aroma; and bitter taste. A fresh espresso shot forms three layers: the aromatic crema; the billowing body; and the dark, intense heart.
What type of coffee do I need to use in my espresso machine?
When preparing espresso, you should always use the proper bean. Espresso beans are roasted longer than other beans and deliver a full, rich flavour and aroma. For pump-driven espresso machines, you should choose a fine coffee grind. For steam-driven espresso machines, use coarse ground coffee.
Where do I find the appropriate coffee beans?
Most supermarkets carry espresso beans. Gourmet food stores and coffee shops also carry a wide variety of beans.
How do I know if the coffee beans are fresh?
You will know espresso roast coffee beans are fresh if they have an oily surface.
Why does anyone drink espresso? It’s so bitter.
An authentic espresso should have a rich flavour, never bitter. Old coffee beans or coffee that has not been freshly ground may result in bitterness. For rich flavour, always use freshly ground beans.
Does espresso have too much caffeine?
Actually, because espresso beans are roasted longer than other coffee beans, they have a lower caffeine level. Measured on a per-serving basis, a 1 ounce shot of espresso has about half the caffeine of a standard 6 ounce cup of American-style coffee.
What’s the brown foam on top of an espresso?
The light brown foam that floats on top of an espresso is known as the “crema”. Distinguished by its caramel-color, the crema is the essence of authentic espresso. The crema carries a variety of flavours that comprise the coffee bean. The presence of crema means the espresso is fresh and perfectly prepared. It is a natural froth produced by the pump pressure. A good crema will last thirty to ninety seconds before it dissipates completely; once it has the aromatics are totally infused in the drink. Your crema should be about 1/8” thick and support a teaspoon of sugar at once.
My espresso has little or no crema. What’s wrong?
The coffee may have been ground too coarsely or the grounds may not have been pressed with a tamper. Also check to make sure that the coffee is not old or stale.
What is the difference between a cappuccino, latte and macchiato?
A cappuccino is one shot of espresso and 1/3 cup frothed milk. A latte is one shot of espresso and 2/3 cup steamed milk. A macchiato is one shot of espresso and a dollop of froth.