5 Essential Tools to Make Your Homemade Beverages Better

The Espresso Machine

You can use a espresso machine Every Single Day. Even on days when I don’t need a coffee because I’ve already had 6 while out running errands, I find myself using this glorious machine. You can use the steamer wand for making hot cocoa or vanilla steamers, or you can use the hot water spout for white or green tea (any tea requiring hot water that isn’t boiling).

Finding a quality espresso machine is a little complicated to sort out, but with a little research and soul-investigation, you’ll find the right one. There’s a local store in Seattle that lines up every high end espresso machine you could spend a fortune on complete with samples. Oh, how I loved finding excuses to go into that store. So, next time you’re out and have a hankering for a caffeine bump, stop by a kitchen appliance store or department store and see if they have some machines out to test.

While I love seeing all the great (and wildly expensive) options at these stores, I prefer something small, and easy to clean. We chose the Breville Barista Express. It makes such delicious espresso, but it has a learning curve. Despite my previous experience as a barista, I needed to really work at finding the right grind size to grind amount, setting water pressure, steaming milk, making latte art: THE WHOLE SHABANG. Making a delicious espresso becomes second nature in about a week. I feel like I could rub elbows with baristas in Seattle any day. Well, at least stand close to them and watch them work their magic.

My point: my espresso machine made me work, and I love it for teaching me how to make great espresso. If it just produced amazing espresso without my help, I think I’d be a little less of a beverage-enthusiast.[/tab][tab]An emulsifier is another kitchen appliance you can utilize every day to make delicious (and healthy) beverages. Smoothies, frozen cocktails, slushies, hot coffee and milk drinks, juices and even milk-alternatives like coconut and almond milk can be made with this one machine. Juicing with an emulsifier is even better than a juicer, because the fiber in your produce stays in the beverage. The power of the machine simply blends it up so well it goes down like a juice. I’ve also recently discovered you can also aerate your wine faster and reportedly more effectively than the numerous wine aerators on the market. I’ll save that experiment for my next rainy day.

An Emulsifier
The main difference between a normal blender and an emulsifier is quality and power, and from my experience, my Vitamix does everything I tried to do with my blender.. better. The powerful rev of the Vitamix engine is a beautiful perk, too. My blender use to stay tucked away in the cabinets until the random day I decided I wanted to put the effort into hooking it up, making a smoothie, and then cleaning it. Ugh, cleaning a blender is awful. Cleaning a Vitamix, though? Synch.

Something to Aerate Your Wine

Oh, my treasured wine aerator. Aerating the wine opens the wine up, freshens it up, smooths out the sharp pangs of alcohol or tannins. I especially love to use my Vinturi aerator on wine under $10. You need one if you love wine and feel uncomfortable pouring your wine into a blender to aerate. A wine aerator is the go-between of using a blender to aerate your wine or a decanter. Blenders can take just a few minutes but lack finesse. Decanters are beautiful and effective but take 1-5 hours.

A (Traditional) Juicer

I think a lot of folks who love juicing will expect me to sing the praises for electric juicers. I’m not going to. I used one a while back, and the shining truth taken from the experience hurt: juicers are messy and waste a lot produce for little return. Now, my friends, I am open to changing my mind. Perhaps my juicer wasn’t up to snuff. Perhaps I couldn’t find the yummy recipes for left over produce pulp. There’s a chance I’ll revisit juicing some day, but for now, the sugar without fiber, waste, money, and energy needed to use a juicer is too much for this momma.

I do like hand juicers, though. You know, the bowl with a pointed, protruding center? You cut your oranges/lemons/limes/grapefruit in half and push it onto the center of the juicer while twisting. I love it. This little tool helps with baking AND drink preparation, and the best aspect of a hand juicer is the clean up is so simple. Whether you’re making one cocktail or a pitcher of lemonade, after you’re done juicing, you just rinse, clean, dry–3 minutes tops (and if it takes you three minutes, you’re over-doing it).

Coffee Presses
A coffee press is not just useful for making deliciously aromatic coffee. It’s also fairly helpful for making any drink which needs filtered or strained.

Want to brew loose leaf tea? Use a press. Mulled wine? Use a press. Want to remove pulp from your orange juice? Use a press. Going camping and want good coffee when you wake up?? (YES!) Use a press. Want to make your own almond milk? First use an emulsifier. THEN use a press. (I like drinking the pulp, though– more nutritious!). Granted, a strainer could work just as well, but the carafe is useful and less mess-prone. I use a small, one-serving press, but have a larger press on hand for bigger jobs.

There’s a feel about using a press, too. This simple tool isn’t plugged into any outlet, doesn’t have numerous parts or complicated directions. The simplicity is refreshing.

What’s your favorite kitchen tool for making beverages?

Photo Credit: Thomas, CC License