May 2, 2008

Coffee/Espresso While Camping

With the warmer weather coming, there's ample opportunity to check out the woods and NOT leave behind the caffeinated comforts of home. The range of coffee makers is pretty huge, from cowboy rough to futuristic machinery, and everything in between.

You pretty much have four styles to choose from for coffee/espresso on the trail:

  1. perkpot.jpgPercolators - Your great grandfather used these and so did John Wayne - they work and they can turn out some hot-brown that does the trick, just might not taste that great. I used one camping and believe it or not, the body developed in the coffee through perking outweighed the negatives and all things considered, it wasn't bad. These are cheap, bulky and can make a lot at a time.

  2. SingleServeFrenchPress.jpgFrench Press - There are a ton of these on the market specially designed for away from home use. Shatter resistant plastic, a plunger and a splash proof lid all add up to a good package. Don't forget to plan for hot water though.

  3. MiniMokaExpress.jpgTiny Espresso Moka Units - these are cute and make some decent stuff; just not the high pressure that you are used to on your 15-bar pump driven machine at home or the machine at the local cafe. On the plus side, they are small and pack well, on the minus side, they are small and may need a few of these to kick start the morning.

  4. handpressosmall.jpgHandpresso Wild - New and different, this space age bike pump can crank out the high pressure that you need to get some decent extraction. It uses ESE pods which are easy to pack in and out, but again on the downside the unit only makes a shot at a time. It still won't pack the pressure of a commercial machine, but you won't be packing that and a 220 volt power supply into the wilderness to get quality that good. Read more about the Handpresso here are

Good luck and if you need a GPS, check out GPSLodge for some tips.......

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April 24, 2008

Bialetti Mokona Espresso Machine


The Bialetti Mokona espresso and cappuccino maker caught my eye if for nothing else its total kitsch feel of the classic manual re-created in the new electric, 15-bar variety. The unit does put up some decent stats though; 15-bar, used pods, grounds or the Bialetti proprietary capsules. It has a 1.5 liter water tank, and two thermostats for brewing and streaming milk.

The unit comes in silver, blue, pink and black. The unit is not all chrome, but also some silvered ABS plastic. The Bialetti Mokona espresso maker has a list price of around $349.

More at Bialetti

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April 23, 2008

Frog Espresso Pod Brewer


Saw this and had to pass it along. Not sure if I like it, but it is unique in it's looks, and may just look as much like a frog as it does Jar-Jar Binks from the Star Wars Trilogy.


Anyway, like most pod-only brewers, it's got a pretty easy operation style that allows you to heat, slip in a pod, pull on the lever to lock the brewing chamber and hit the brew button; 30 second slater the shot is ready to go. Comes in Yellow, Blue, Gray, and Red; sorry no Gungan Warrior version.


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April 17, 2008

Super Auto vs. Bialetti

BusinessWeek of all magazines has taken a look at some extremes, comparing the high end versus the lower end to try to figure out if it's worth the big up-charge to enjoy the life of luxury. Thought I would pass it on, they thought that the Krups XP 7230 Super Auto was a better brewer and all around value than the Bialetti. So, go ahead and spend the extra $950 on the super auto..... what the heck.

I do admit to really liking my Bialetti for some brews, but agree a high pressure brewer is a better cup of expresso. I typically brew a Cuban style cafe au lait drink when I make coffee in a Bialetti. I don't see that as a drink that's even close to the espresso that I drink on a regular basis out of my other machines like the The Cuisinart EM-200 Espresso Machine, or my reviewed the Nespresso Essenza C100. For me, like BusinessWeek, there is no comparison, but I don't think you'll need to spend a grand to get great coffee.

BusinessWeek goes on to compare some other unuasual products; check it out.

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April 16, 2008

Krups XP7230 Super Auto Espresso Machine

Krups has a couple of Super Automatic Espresso machines out on the market, and this is one that caught my eye for a couple of reasons. The first is that its got some decent credentials, but the second is its more compact size; 30 - 50% smaller than other models. Many of the Super Automatics are about 17 inches deep makes for a pretty prominent appliance on your counter - sticking out from under a typical cabinet by six inches. The Krups XP7230 is only 12.5-inches deep, making it pretty much fit under the profile of a typical cabinet, just like most coffee makers.

It's also a pretty sharp looking machine, with a stainless look that is going to fit into a lot of kitchens these days. The unit takes in whole beans, grinds, tamps and extracts to make anything from an espresso all the way to "pressure brewed coffee" - a good choice for a regular size cup. The XP7230 of course has a steaming arm to create milk based lattes and cappuccinos. The unit does give up some features for the compact size like a by-pass doser which allows you to add ground coffee directly to other machines. convenient for a de-caf shot late night. The grinder has three grind settings, down from a usual 6 or 7 on other machines. Finally the water tank is only 40-ounces. Great for shots alone, but will be a more frequent trip to the sink when you start pounding out bigger drinks and steaming milk.

I like the design of a couple of aspects though. The machine packs the grounds bin in the side, a couple of floats on the drip tray to warm you when you need to empty it, and an easy to understand dial and selection system for the interface. The XP7230 also comes with a water cartridge filter.

More at Krups

Available at Amazon


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April 4, 2008

Cuisinart EM200 Espresso Machine


The Cuisinart EM-200 is a pump-driven stainless clad espresso machine with some nice characteristics and features. The 15-bar pump delivers enough pressure to get some pretty good crèma on those espresso shots, and it comes with three portafilter adapters: Single, double and a special ESE Pod adapter. The versatility is worth it, and on the EM-200 I have been flipping back and forth between ground and pods.

The Cuisinart EM-200 has a 64-ounce reservoir so you can get a pretty long time in between fill ups. The buttons on the front of the machine are the controls for the unit, and are preprogrammed for a single and a double shot of espresso. The dial on the side is the steam control; press the steaming button, then control the amount by adjusting the knob.

To brew, preheat the machine, load your coffee and tamp, or coffee pod, and attach the portafilter to the housing. You can either push the manual button to start, and then push it again to stop the brewing, or push the "single" button to brew up a single shot. The three portafilter inserts allows a lot of range should you want some serious strength (Double size filter pulling a single shot or less with a manual button push)

The Cuisinart comes with a tamp/scoop and a removable drip tray that is easy to clean and easy to slide in and out.

At Amazon The Cuisinart EM-200 Espresso Machine

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March 21, 2008

Starbucks Sirena Espresso Machine


The Starbucks Sirena hit the streets late last year, and is now making its way to retail outlets as the price on this well designed machine settle in. The machine is definitely a beautiful one, designed in part by BMW Design Works engineers, to make a prominent statement on anyone's countertop.

It's got some decent stats too:

  • 15-bar pump-driven espresso machine with stainless steel broiler
  • Dual brewing spout; one-touch pre-measured single and double shots and user-programmable settings
  • Steam wand with pannarello adapter; Rapid Steam boiler for rapidly switching from brewing to frothing
  • Accommodates E.S.E. pods and ground espresso, 57.5-ounce /1.7 liter removable water tank, adjustable and removable drip tray

    More at Amazon: Starbucks Sirena

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  • March 14, 2008

    Breville BES820 - Gets Design Award


    Breville's BES820 espresso machine received the iF Gold Award recently, and it's no surprise; good looking machine. The heavy stainless unit and its sister unit the BES 800 ESXL have some impressive specs - 1500 watts and 15 bars of pumping pressure. The unit brews both ESE pods and freshly ground espresso from this 31 pound machine. The 75-ounce reservoir should last you quite a while.

    The unit comes with adaptors for single shot, double shot and an ESE pod adaptor as well as a tamping tool/measuring spoon, a cleaning tool, and a stainless-steel frothing pitcher. The espresso machine measures 12 by 10 by 12-1/2 inches and carries a one-year warranty.

    At Amazon - Breville BES 800 ESXL

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    March 7, 2008

    Jura Capresso Impressa J5 Super Automatic Coffee Center


    Capresso has released their new Impressa J5 model, and it looks excellent. The high end coffee center is a touch of the button easy cup of coffee ranging from an espresso to lattes and even americanos. As a super automatic coffee center, it grinds, tamps, and brews right in front of you. The Impressa J5 looks great, and they have designed it so that it looks great from every angle so that it can sit out on a kitchen island and look just as good from the side as it does from the front.

    This is not slouch of a machine either; it's got a 9-ounce while bean hopper, and a 71 ounce water reservoir, which also contains a water filter to make sure the water is pure going into the boiler and brew chamber. There are 6 grinder settings, and quite possibly the best feature of all; it's the quietest super auto on the market. No need to stop talking while this grinds away.

    The controls offer a lot of customization as well as ease of use. There are six one-touch beverage buttons (one espresso, two espresso, one coffee, two coffees, hot water, steam) that are already pre-programmed but can be customized too if you want to adapt the brew profile. This would allow you to change the brew strengths (coffee drop weight), and the water amounts, as well as the temperatures of the brew. Another great capability is that you can override the settings with the dial on the top of the machine without affecting the pre-sets at all.

    One of the things I like about these super autos is the by-pass doser that allows you to drop a scoop of pre-ground coffee into the top of the unit so that you can brew something other than the whole beans that are in the whole bean hopper; great for decaf.

    The two-step infusion process and 18 bar pump sets you up for excellent espresso, while the frother allows you to crank out great lattes and cappuccinos. The unit can accommodate manual milk steaming r can be hooked up to the Froth XPress to automatically draw steamed milk into your cup. I find that steaming the milk in the coffee cup and then dropping a shot into the cup after that makes for a great latte, without the need to clean up the extra frothing pitcher.

    The auto-on and auto-off timer makes sure that the Imprezza J5 is ready when you wake up and shuts off when you head out.

    At Amazon - Jura Capresso J5 Coffee Center

    More at Jura Capresso - Jura Capresso J5 Product Page

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    March 5, 2008

    Nespresso Essenza C100TB + Milk Frother - $229


    I really like having a small and compact espresso maker on my counter that is fast and reliable. The Nespresso system is really one of my favorites, making excellent espresso shots consistently when time is a premium. This deal gets you the add-on milk frother that can help out those folks who want Cappuccinos and the benefit of having a small Nespresso maker on their countertop.

    The Frother allows you to plug it in, and in about 3 minutes you have hot frothed milk.

    After I reviewed the Nespresso Essenza C100, I liked it so much, I bought one, and have been ripping through capsules ever since (it's not my only espresso maker as you would imagine). You buy the capsules at where they ship them out fast and I always get them within 2 days. There is enough variety to keep me coming back and exploring, and the seasonal capsules are great too.

    The bundle with the $48 frother costs the same as the Nespresso C100 alone right now. Not a bad deal at all.

    Update: The C100 bundle has sold out but the Nespresso Essenza D90 and Milk Frother Bundle is available. Wow - that was fast.

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