I usually tell people to stay away from espresso unless they want a new hobby.
Espresso requires a lot of effort and a lot of tools and gadgets.
Say goodbye to both your spare time and hard earned cash 😔
Some espresso accessories are – as far as I see it – necessary to succeed, while others are more in the nice-to-have category.
Here are some of the tools I personally use to pull the best shots possible.
I have divided the list into 3 categories for an easier overview:
Must-have espresso machine accessories
The first accessory on the list is a knock box. It might not seem like something crucial, but if you have ever tried to get a puck out of the portafilter and into the trashcan, you know it’s a massive headache.
So I consider the knock box a must-have — not just a nice-to-have.
👉 I use this black and minimalist one here, but the truth is that most of them will do the job just fine.
Next up, we have the tamper. Most espresso machines come with flimsy tampers that don’t provide much in terms of tactile feedback.
Today, there’s a gazillion of models available, so there’s something for every taste.
However, before ordering one, you need to make sure that it fits your basket/portafilter.
Some tampers are precision tampers, meaning they are just a few millimeters bigger than the standard size – so 58.4 mm instead of 58.0 mm.
The extra millimeters mean that the puck’s edges also get compressed, and you won’t have to worry about side-channeling.
I use this 58.3 tamper here, which also has built-in auto-leveling. That means that the tamp is always even.
(PS: Nowadays, I prefer levelers instead of tampers, but more about that below 🤓)
3: Espresso scale
A scale is necessary if you want to be serious about your shots.
Sure, you can eyeball the shot or use volumetric measurements, if you’re going to use it for a cappuccino, but I wouldn’t recommend that approach to burgeoning baristas.
If you want to follow an exact 1:2 ratio, the only way to do it consistently, is by using an espresso scale.
Of course, you can use any digital scale, as long as it can fit on your drip tray, but I suggest getting one that is created specifically for coffee, since it will have a timer. A timer is really useful for dialing in, and can help with consistency.
4: Milk Pitcher (cappuccino accessory)
If you want to steam some milk, you’ll need a pitcher. Sometimes they come with the espresso machine as an accessory, but often you’ll have to buy a separate one.
It doesn’t have to be a fancy brand or innovative design.
As long as you get the correct size and it has a suitable spout for pouring latte art, you should be fine.
There are some latte art pitchers without handles or with a more narrow tip, but whether that’s your style is totally up to personal preference.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is size. You want a pitcher that fits your typical dose. It should be quite a bit larger, so there’s room for the milk to swirl around in a vortex.
Here’s a basic milk pitcher that does the job.
Nice-to-have barista tools
5: Leveler Espresso accessory
In the last couple of years, levelers and special distribution tools have become more and more common. Nowadays, I’d say that they are mainstream.
Levelers help you with consistency. Just spin it a few times, and you have an even area to tamp on.
(they are also weirdly satisfying to use. I see them as the coffee world’s version of fidget spinners)
Nowadays, I prefer using a leveler instead of a tamper.
If you adjust the leveler correctly, you can get it to compress the grounds into the perfect puck. This is easy and repeatable, and I find that my extractions are just a lot more even and less prone to channeling this way.
You can use a cheap non-brand model such as this one just fine.
6: Blind shaker
Grind distribution is crucial when it comes to pulling consistent shots.
Using a blind shaker helps break up clumps, ensuring an even extraction without dry pockets of coffee grounds.
You grind into the blind shaker, then place it on top of the portafilter, lift the piston, and then the grounds will fall into the basket while being perfectly fluffy.
7: Naked/Bottomless Portafilter
A naked (or bottomless) portafilter is part utility and part for aesthetic reason.
There’s no doubt that the massive popularity of naked portafilters is due to the unparalleled awesomeness of watching espresso syrup drip out from the basket.
However, naked portafilters are also helpful when you begin your espresso journey since they will give you valuable feedback about your dosing, distribution, and tamping.
Many flaws will go unnoticed if you’re using a typical portafilter.
I think another significant advantage of naked portafilters is that they make it much easier to take out the basket so that you can clean it after every shot.
8: Precision basket
A precision basket is another accessory most home-baristas tend to invest in sooner rather than later.
The baskets that come with entry-level espresso machines typically have tiny imperfections.
Precision baskets rely on unique technology to create perfectly perforated and uniform holes, which will help with consistency and evenness.
There are two big brands that most people end up using: IMS or VST. You can get them for different dose sizes and diameters. They also produce both ridgeless or ridged baskets.
It’s worth doing a bit of investigation before you order one a basket since they may not fit all portafilters.
9: Espresso machine Cleaning powder
Espresso is messy and dirty. And the enemy of good coffee is rancid coffee oils. So keep your equipment clean.
Cafiza is the preferred cleaning product in the industry, and I’ll be pretty conservative here and suggest you get a bottle of this stuff. It just works. It’s scary how efficient it is at cleaning coffee stuff. There are some other brands out there that I’m sure work fine, but I don’t have experience with them. Cafiza does the job. I’d recommend you get the powder instead of capsules.
10: Cleaning brush
A cleaning brush is also pretty much necessary.
The shower screen and the brew head will get messy quickly when you start brewing.
For daily maintenance between shots, it’s convenient to have a long clean brush that can remove particles stuck on the screen. If you don’t brush the screen, the water flow will be uneven, which will affect your shot negatively.
This cheap espresso brush will do the job just fine.
(the other end of it doubles as a scoop for espresso cleaner such as Cafiza, which is pretty handy!)
11: Blind filter
A blind filter for backflushing the espresso machine is a cheap but necessary gadget for most serious espresso machines, although
Backflushing can only be done with machines that have a three-way valve.
By inserting the blind filter disk into the portafilter instead of a regular basket, you’ll be able to utilize the machine’s pressure to blow up water into the dispersion screen and brew head. This will remove coffee grounds and coffee oils.
Usually, a cleaner like cafiza is used with the blind filter.
12: Espresso Tamping Mat/bartender mat
A small tamping mat is a nice touch, but it’s not necessary to make good coffee. Maybe your portafilter or your kitchen counter will stay nice for a more extended period if you have one.
However, one thing that I think is very convenient is an oversized heavy duty bar mat.
The reason you should consider a big mat is that espresso gets so messy.
Coffee grounds quickly become super annoying when they are in the wrong place (basically, anywhere else besides your basket), so it’s nice to have a mat that will help you trap many of these particles. The same goes for small splashes of hot water or steam. A mat will make cleaning and overall workflow a lot easier.
Simultaneously, a rubberized surface is also just lovely in general when you have a lot of heavy metallic things like levelers, tampers, portafilters, and so on. You don’t want these things to slide around on the counter while you’re working.
Mats can also help protect your counter, so it can be nice to have your grinder and machine on one.
Top Featured Image: Pen Waggener – Flickr