It is, indeed, a thing of beauty.
I owe my thanks to my mother-in-law for getting me addicted to daily cappuccinos. And I don't even like coffee. It's a strange, strange world, people.
We got this beast at Target last night for about $80. And no, it didn't come with those two cute demitasse cups. Sadly. Not that it would matter because you couldn't pay me enough to drink straight espresso, even if it is in pretty little cups.
WalMart did have one I liked better, and it was cheaper. Fortunately it was out-of-stock so I didn't have to change my life-long habit of avoiding WalMart at all costs. The only reason it is necessary to go to WalMart is for fish and fish food. And elliptical machines. Did you know WalMart sells elliptical machines? Like I said, strange world.
Major Detour: Last time I got fish at WalMart there was no one around to help me. That's what I don't like about WalMart. Darren and I looked and looked for someone to help but I swear there were only two people working in the store. Well, I've bought enough fish (because I've killed enough fish) that I've seen those WalMart people scoop them out plenty of times. So that's what I did. Scooped out my own fish and bagged 'em up. Worked like a charm, except for that nasty fish water all over my hands. The fish are still living, by the way. Their names are King Julian and Mort. Watch Disney's Madagascar and you'll understand.
Back to my espresso/cappuccino maker.
You should have seen the milk frothing disaster I had this morning. Literally, there was milk on the floor. And the counter. And my hands, because I was using them in an attempt to scoop the frothed milk up before it hit the floor. Yes, you heard me. No, it didn't work. No one warned me how much the milk would expand when it was heated and frothed. Frothed. Is that a word? Frothed. It should be. As in, I frothed the milk.
First off, it didn't help that I didn't have the proper equipment. Yes, this machine requires special equipment. You can't just use any old thing, a lesson I learned the hard way (see above paragraph, a.k.a. "milk frothing disaster"). Target doesn't sell anything you need for proper cappuccino creation. I asked for small brew pitchers to catch the espresso when it comes out and the woman handed me a box of four shot glasses. Not kidding. I didn't buy them. Instead I went on Amazon and bought these.
Don't let the picture size fool you; they're only 5 ounces. I bought two, one for each side. My mother-in-law has something similar and hers work like a charm. Much better than the too-high coffee mug I stuck under there this morning. Very difficult to pour from.
I got a 20-oz milk frothing pitcher which will hopefully help me avert the disaster that awaited this morning. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT fill the pitcher full of milk. It WILL end up everywhere. There are some things you cannot learn from the instruction manual.
This handy-dandy thermometer will tell me when the milk is warm enough so I don't have to stick my finger in it to check.This morning I used ground espresso coffee we bought at Target last night. I would like to someday buy beans and grind them myself, but...baby steps. One near-disaster was enough for the day. Lord only knows what would happen if I tried to grind my own beans. The espresso/cappuccino maker was supposed to come with a measuring spoon and tamper but it didn't. No harm done; I just bought one on Amazon. It was either spend $7 on a tamper and qualify for free shipping, or pay $7 for shipping. I chose the former.
Yes, I paid $7 for this. Although I discovered this morning it was totally unnecessary. I used an old SlimFast shake mix scoop (I save them for times such as these) to scoop out the coffee and the bottom of it fit perfectly in the filter and worked as a tamper. So if you need a tamper, let me know. Or if you need SlimFast scoops, I have those as well.
My mother-in-law uses Torani syrup for flavoring, so that's what we got as well. Darren got a White Chocoalte and I got Caramel and Sugar Free Chocolate. They didn't have regular Chocolate, so I had no choice but to go with Sugar Free. You used to be able to get these at World Market but it's gone now, so we got them in tiny little bottles at Cub. We got 375mL bottles for $4.49 each but I've found some sites online where you can get 750mL bottles for $4.99. Plus there are way more options, including seasonal flavors such as Pumpkin Pie Latte. Sounds disgusting to me, but hey, to each his own. I might go the online route next time, depending on shipping. Go here to see Torani's website. The syrups there are pricier than elsewhere, but it's fun to look around.
My instruction manual had some recipes using Hershey's chocolate syrup, and some "Over 21" recipes, most of which included Brandy. Never tried Brandy, but I was a little intrigued. I can't see myself ever making one of those because I don't drink alcohol in the morning and I don't drink caffeine at night. Seems like quite a contradiction to me. Maybe if I went the decaffeinated route...
You can get espresso/cappuccino machines for big bucks, but I wanted to go the cheap route the first time around. When this one dies out I might invest in a more expensive one, depending on how much we like it. This one seems to be working fine so far, but most of the reviews I read said "good quality for the price." That doesn't inspire much confidence. Target has a lot to choose from online, but not very many in stores. I saw one for $2400. At TARGET. I think if I were going to spend $2400 on an espresso machine I wouldn't buy it at Target. There weren't any reviews on it (shocker) so I didn't get to see why it was so special.
I'll keep you updated on how well my cheap version works. Some of the reviewers were thrilled, others...not so much. I really enjoyed it this morning, although the thing makes enough noise to wake the dead. And I had a near milk-crisis on my hands. Overall, a successful first attempt.