Friday, November 13, 2009

Cappuccino, Anyone?

I’ve been saving money for months. Each week I transfer a significant chunk of my paycheck into my savings account, thinking that I’ll eventually need it for movers, new furniture, and fresh decor when relocating to the new apartment. Last night, I couldn’t wait any longer to dip into the cash, so I spent some of it at Macy’s on Union Square. I bought something I’ve been wanting for months: a cappuccino maker.

How adult and city-ish of me to own a cappuccino maker, right? Although I didn’t exactly budget for this particular item, I justify my purchase by telling myself I’ll save a bundle in the long run – because now I can make my own espressos instead of paying too much for them at Starbucks, see?

But who knew cappuccino makers could be so complicated? At work we have Nespresso machines. You know, the ones that make a single cup when you pop a little capsule into the capsule-popper slot? You just slip one of those little guys in there, and out comes a steaming hot espresso. I guess I imagined all espresso/cappuccino makers would be this simple. Turns out a mug of java takes a lot more work when using other systems. You have to fill the machine with water, preheat the unit, clean the filter from residues from previous “infusions,” measure and distribute the coffee, press the grounds with the tamper (the tamper?), attach the filter holder to the appliance, and watch the coffee drip – all while avoiding the splashes that spew from the machine and coat the kitchen counter.

The milk frothing is less complicated but more messy. You immerse the frother into the frothing pitcher until the milk doubles in amount, then plunge it deep into the milk until the liquid reaches a piping 140 degrees. Do not remove the pitcher from the frother while the steam is going, unless you want to smell like hot milk all day. (Don't ask me how I know that.) Pour it on top of your espresso, and voila! You have a cappuccino.

After two hours of practice, I have to be one of the best baristas on the block.

Top photo: Nick Bilton

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  1. Mmmmm! Cappucino, Anyone? YES! Me please!

    Can't wait to test it out in a short 47 days!!!!

  2. What the home machine marketers and the smug personal finance gurus never tell you is that labor is the thing you pay for most when you order a cappuccino at your favorite retail café.

    Labor costs are the coffee shop's biggest expense. And labor is the thing you primarily have to pick up the tab for yourself when you do it at home.

    That works for some people. But for a lot of people, we'd rather pay someone else to cook our meals at restaurants, to clean our homes, to change our motor oil. Sure you can save money doing it yourself, but if you get lazy (as all of us do) and want someone else to do it, you're doubly hosed over: because you're back with the same daily expenses you had before, but now you also put out a lot of money on a machine that sits in the corner that you never use.

    But the machine manufacturers and wannabe finance gurus never tell you that.

  3. Megs, I just bought one too. I could no longer shovel out four dollars a cup with my school budget. We should get together and practice/enhance our barista skills :).

    Love you! Good luck with your big move! yay!