A few years ago I spent a week of my life fantasizing about buying my own espresso machine. I would make whatever kind of espresso drink I wanted whenever I wanted. I would learn how to make those fancy foam leafs on top with a few flicks of my wrist. I would impress our brunch guests, our dinner guests, and to top it all off I would save sooo much money (the Jedi mind tricks we play on ourselves)!
After the appropriate amount of time spent fantasizing about it (a week) I went out and purchased a $700 Breville Barista Express espresso machine. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t set out to spend that much money, but we often end up splurging on the upgraded product with all the bells and whistles as opposed to the basic model. After all, I didn’t want to grind my new beans in my old grinder (that I already owned) and then transfer them to my espresso machine – I wanted the grinder to be integrated…along with the bean hopper, the removable tamper, the cup warmer, the steam wand, and the dedicated hot water outlet.
Fast forward a few years – and I’m sad to report that despite several valiant efforts (and several quarts of wasted milk), I never did get the hang of latte art…YouTube tutorials were not enough. I think I made an ugly latte for a house guest about three times – not including occasionally steaming almond milk for our friend/neighbor Jacqui’s morning coffee. After the initial excitement wore off, I hardly used it. In fact, I found myself making regular coffee in our French press instead due to the utter simplicity.
The downside of more upgrades/parts is that they require more upkeep/cleaning. The machine had to be cleaned out regularly (a cycle that was rather complicated and time-consuming), and the parts (specifically the steam wand) were quite temperamental. Something that I had spent so much time fantasizing about ended up being something of a HUGE waste of money and just another item collecting dust in my kitchen. I haven’t been able to convince myself to get rid of it due to the fact that I spent so much on it…and the thought that maybe one day I’ll revive my latte leaf dream.
Truth be told, I won’t be using it in the future, and even if I did use it a couple times it would only be to prove to myself that I was still using it (and therefore still needed to keep it). I’ll leave the latte leaf art up to the professional baristas at my local coffee shop. They make them better than I would ever be able to after years of practice (time I’d rather spend on something more meaningful than making leaf shapes on my coffee). Not making espresso at home makes going out to have it a treat – feeling all fancy, sitting at a little table in a local cafe, sipping on a beautiful drink while reading the paper, my favorite magazine, or conversing with somebody special. This kind of consumerism helps support the local economy and promotes healthy socialization. Instead of buying an espresso machine, take the time to get to know and taste the great coffees offered up at cafes in your area. Instead of buying a humungous HD, 3D, flat-screen TV, go to the movies at your local theater. Instead of buying a treadmill/elliptical/Boflex PR1000, join a reasonably priced gym and work out alongside other people in your community (I love the Oakland YMCA because I truly enjoy working out with old people – especially aqua aerobics to 80’s dance music).
Along with my espresso machine, I’m getting rid of a Keurig brewer, a pot, some platters, two funnels, a wooden wine rack, a blender, a Belgian waffle maker, a rice cooker, and a tea infuser. Just the beginning of a long kitchen clean up.
Get out there, and take your rarely used kitchen accoutrements with you (just drop them off at Goodwill on the way to whatever fabulous place you’re going to)! Express yourself!
And now, a word from the Minimalists on the joys of debt free coffee!