British small appliance brand Dualit is launching a complete set of barista tools that will complete a home coffee set-up. The new range includes a handheld grinder, a tamper, a knock box and a frothing jug and thermometer.
But what are these items and do you really need them?
There are a few ways to make coffee at home. You can use instant, in which case you only need a kettle and a spoon. You can use a pod or a capsule machine, and these tend to be pretty self-contained. At most, you might want to invest in a separate milk frother, like Lavazza’s £39 MilkEasy, which will heat and froth the milk for your coffee.
But if you use an espresso machine (that’s not pod-compatible), an AeroPress, a Moka Pot, a cafetière or a Chemex to make fresh coffee, you’ll need to invest in a bit more kit. We rate what’s most important.
This is, hands-down, the most important item to have. If you’re going to invest in one item, it should be a high-quality grinder. If you’d like more info on coffee grinders, we have an in-depth article you can read, but the short version is that badly ground beans will affect the taste of your coffee.
The biggest problem is unevenly ground beans, which leave you with big chunks (‘boulders’) and dust (‘fines’). Because the fines brew much more quickly than the larger chunks of bean, they over-brew and add a bitter taste to the coffee.
A really good grinder will grind very evenly, leaving you with a smoother taste. The way to achieve this is to look for a burr, not a blade grinder. Burrs are sharper. They won’t mash up the beans the way a blade will.
The catch is that burr grinders are more expensive than blades. Dualit’s manual burr grinder isn’t the cheapest – you can get a good grinder for a bit less – but it’s got everything you need.
It has 40 grind settings. You’ll need a different grind setting depending on how you make your coffee. For example, strong espresso needs finely ground and a cafetière requires a coarse ground coffee. Having a large number of settings means you can experiment and find the perfect grind for your process.
It has an ergonomic oak ball handle and the stainless steel burrs can be removed for easy cleaning. You can buy the grinder from Dualit’s website for £99.99.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, the Hario hand coffee grinder with ceramic burrs is available from Amazon UK for £32.
A knock box is only necessary if you use an espresso machine. You won’t need one if you use any other kind of coffee maker. Even then, it might seem like an unnecessary bit of kit as it’s essentially a countertop bin where you can empty used coffee grounds.
However, its function is really to protect your portafilter. (The portafilter is the espresso machine component with a handle on one end and a cup for ground coffee.) Over time, you can damage your portafilter by repeatedly scraping it out or thumping it against the edge of the bin to remove used coffee grounds.
A knock box has a solid, rubber coated bar across the top called a bash bar and you can give your portafilter a good whack against this to dislodge the ground coffee and the portafilter won’t get warped. A good knock box should also have a rubber or silicon base so that it stays firm on your countertop when you’re banging it about.
Dualit’s option, which will be available to buy in July for £34.99, features a removable bar for easy cleaning and a silicon grip on its base. A more budget-friendly option is the Grindenstein knock out box, which is available to buy from Amazon UK for £18.
If you have an espresso machine, it will very probably have come with a tamper. It may be a multi-tool, with a tamper at one end and a coffee scoop at the other.
You’ll need a tamper to pack down the grounds in your portafilter before use and as such, it’s an essential tool. And if you need to buy a replacement, you can get a plastic one for as little as £2.
However, if the ritual of making coffee is important to you and you want a really nice tamper, Dualit’s is a very good option. It’s stainless steel, with a spring-loaded mechanism. It will be available to buy in July from Dualit for £34.99. A really beautiful alternative is this wood-handled, stainless steel tamper, which is available from Amazon UK for £15.98.
Milk jug & thermometer
If your espresso maker has a milk frothing wand, you’ll need a jug for the milk. Unlike a tamper, an espresso maker doesn’t always come with a jug but you probably already have something suitable knocking around your kitchen. If not, you can buy one for as little as £9, like this 350ml stainless steel jug from Amazon UK.
There are a few qualities a frothing jug should have. Ideally, it should be made of stainless steel. It’s heat resistant and won’t taint the milk with a metallic taste, as some vessels can. It also needs to be small enough to fit under the wand on your coffee machine, so it can’t be taller than a small mug.
Dualit’s take on the jug is made of stainless steel, has a capacity of 460ml and a fine spout in case you want to get into latte art (erm). It’ll be available on Dualit’s website for £39.99 from July.
Dualit’s jug also comes with a clip-on milk thermometer, which is a really nice touch. If you are keen to get your cappuccino exactly right, you’ll need one of these. The ideal temperature to which foamed milk should be heated is between 55 and 65°C, which is when the fats melt into a liquid and won’t destroy the bubbles in the foam. This is the secret to a perfectly frothed cappuccino.
You can buy a clip-on milk thermometer for just £4.99. Alternatively, for £10.99, you can buy a milk jug with an inbuilt temperature display.
If you’re looking for a coffee machine, read our round-up of the best deals on coffee machines and our guide to the best coffee makers we’ve tested.