Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 20, 2017
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Espresso on tap wherever you go

I like a good cup of espresso in the comfort of my own home and, heaven knows, I’ve paid the price. Over the years I’ve tried every system I could lay my hands on. I started with one of those stove-top models that force the water through a tube from the bottom chamber to the top (less than $75) — erratic, unpredictable results.

I’ve been through three of four boiler machines: Krupp ($99), Gaggia ($25 at a going out of business sale) and a couple of others. They produce good enough coffee once you get the basics of the right bean and grind worked out — but they don’t last forever, even with fastidious descaling.

My several pump machines were each grave-yarded after a year or two. The usual cause: malfunctioning heater or pump or both. Getting machines fixed is a sometimes thing. Sometimes they’re gone for a month and sometimes the repair estimate is within spitting distance of buying brand new one.

More recently I’ve acquired a La Pavoni espresso maker ($500+). It’s a classic Italian job, all chrome pipes and knobs and glass tubes and a boiler gauge with an impressive handle about 30 centimetres long that you pull up and then push down to force the water through the ground coffee.

Pulling a perfect shot with La Pavoni has a learning curve akin to flying a bi-plane in World War 1. It takes great skill and a huge amount of luck. Should you find yourself with nothing to do for three or four days, point your browser to YouTube and have a look at the hundreds of videos posted by fanatics on the subject — water temperature, grind, pressure... tamping alone is good for an afternoon of your time.

And so on, to one of the more recent innovations in espresso making: hand models. These machines have been around for a couple of years, are relatively inexpensive (less than $200) and highly portable.

The principle is simple, you load in the coffee, pour in very hot water and trigger the pressure release. The water is forced through the coffee and into the cup. The results, after a little practice, are good — as always, bean, grind, tamp, and water temperature are critical.

There are two types: the eponymous Handpresso (shown here) which uses a hand pump to build up the necessary pressure (16 ATMS) and the Mypressi Twist which uses small CO2 canisters (good for two to three shots) to the same end.

Both machines are well built and have inserts which allow you to use your own coffee or, for convenience, you can purchase pre-measured pods. People who have mastered them, swear by them. Those who have not simply swear.

Handespresso: $99 at Bestbuy.ca. For more information: handpresso.ca. Mypressi Twist: $209.95 at Greenbeanery.ca. For more information: mypressi.com.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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