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the best part of waking up… | How to make a Latte at HOME

Whew. That was a little deep. Ready for something perky not heavy? Yah, me too.

I think my motivation for getting my own espresso machine came, at least in part, from my ridiculously long orders that the baristas at Starbucks can never get right. I am just a weeeeee bit particular about some things, and coffee is no joke around here. I typically like it with LESS flavoring, MORE coffee & HOT HOT HOT. So, to help show you that you can have a latte that tastes better, and is cheaper than one you get at Starbucks in the morning…keep on a’readin.

Back in the day when I was raking in the big bucks, I had a terrible Starbucks habit. It’s no secret amongst drug reps, we would often treat our very favorite offices with coffee travelers first thing in the morning…and be sure to get ourselves something to help with the (yawn) 9am start to our day. Wasn’t that the life. Well, I couldn’t turn in expense reports with coffee daily, so I started thinking…can I do it myself? Answer: YEP.

I bought my espresso machine when it was on sale. I did the math, and even the $299 it set me back would not equal one year’s Starbucks budget. (OMG. I just admitted that. Tell me I am not alone?) You can buy everything you need, minus the milk, at your local Starbucks.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • Espresso Machine (Here is the newer version of mine, which is now 5 years old. Never had a problem, and I have used it nearly every day)
  • Steamer/Frother Pitcher w/ Thermometer (you can find these in store. Be sure to get one with a built in thermometer so you can get your milk steamed to the appropriate temp. Mine was less that $20–for some reason this & the shot glass are not on the Starbucks website. You want something like mine below, or this.)
  • Espresso Shot Glass (you can find these in store, I prefer the glasses with marked ounces so you know how long to pull the shot based on volume)
  • Espresso Pods (these make life SO MUCH EASIER than having to deal with coffee grounds. Everything is in a self contained filter that you just pop in & out. $10 for 24 pods, I use 2/day)
  • Syrups (you can buy ANY syrup Starbucks uses, just ask & they will sell you a bottle. The only exception are the seasonal “bases” like pumpkin & white chocolate…though if you have ever been to my house you know I have a secret connection & can actually make you an authentic pumpkin latte YEAR ROUND!!)
  • Milk (& if you are feeling like a splurge, whipped cream)

HOW

Follow along. Each number will correspond to the picture, reading left to right, top to bottom.

  1. All my supplies, minus milk. Note: Power button on, steam button depressed, green light ON, signaling it is ready.
  2. Milk is steaming. Steamer wand is below the surface, or it gets messy.
  3. I begin to froth the milk (add bubbles to the surface to make it thicker) at about 100° but this is a personal preference. I slowly pull the pitcher down until the wand is at the surface of the milk & let the bubbles blow. This is a BAD job, but shooting with my 5DMKII, w/a 24-70mm in one hand is HEAVY, and I had to do it quick. Usually the bubbles are teeny tiny.
  4. Some like it HOT. I do. 180° is as hot as you can go before the milk scalds, and tastes bad.
  5. Pour the milk into the mug. Bad, bad frothing. Should be foamy.
  6. This is an espresso pod. Fits right in the espresso wand, which locks (counter clockwise) into the machine.
  7. I usually run water through the wand to clear out any ick from yesterday before I put the pod in. Then I depress the steam button & press the espresso button. I pull one ounce from each pod. You could, hypothetically pull two if you really wanted to. But I like it STRONG. While pregnant I pulled two ounces from one decaf pod. (sad)
  8. Espresso is so pretty. The carmely part on top is called the “crema.”
  9. My current fave is the Cinnamon Dolce syrup. I like 1 1/2 pumps. I add the espresso to the milk, & then the flavored syrup…
  10. & there you have it! Starbucks in your house! All for around a dollar.

[& for those of you photogs, this was all shot @ 3200 ISO. I am catching a bit of grain here & there, but otherwise, the 5DMKII is so amazing at this level. My kitchen was DARK.]

My coffee was a huge part of my postpartum sanity plan. Caroline was never affected by it, so I started 1/2 caff lattes pretty early in her infancy. This, sometimes, was the only reason I could get up in the morning!!

& here are some of my favorite drink concoctions. I tend to rotate by season. I’ll start with fall (it’s still in the 90’s here though….)

  • Fall, still hot: Grande Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino, affogato style w/ whip (affogato is the fancy way of saying ‘add another shot of espresso on top!!’)
  • Fall, getting chilly: Grande nonfat extra hot Pumpkin Spice Latte, just one pump of pumpkin
  • Christmas: Grande nonfat extra hot Gingerbread Latte, just one pump of gingerbread
  • Winter: Grande nonfat extra hot Latte with one pump of white chocolate, one pump of peppermint
  • Spring: Grande nonfat extra hot Cinnamon Dolce Latte, just one & a half pumps of Cinnamon Dolce
  • Spring, warming up: Grande Java Chip Frappucino, one pump of peppermint, with whip but no chocolate drizzle
  • Summer: Grande Blended Strawberry Lemonade (this is not on the menu, but they can always make it. It does not have caffeine)

& just in case you don’t already know, Starbucks has a Gold Card program, where once you qualify (based on the number of drink purchases you make on the reloadable card) you get a bunch of perks like all your syrups end up on the house. I seem to keep getting “free drink” coupons in the mail. You just load & reload your card & all the info is there. I still use the one I bought on our honeymoon, which I hear is worth some money since they were made in limited supply! HA!

Oh, you also should know about two Starbucks apps. This one allows you to use you iPhone to pay at a bunch of stores, instead of having to use your card. & this one will locate the Starbucks nearest you, based on your GPS location. I’ve used it a TON!

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  • Meghan - I only wish the GPS Starbucks ap would tell you whether it’s a drive thru or not. It’s a PAIN hauling 2 kids ages 2 and 3 into a coffee store because Mommy “NEEDS HER FIX, or so help me we’ll never make it home in one piece”.ReplyCancel

  • Wendy - Shawna! I’ve been meaning to tell you I haven’t stopped using my espresso machine since I got it.. I think it was the only thing on the morning of my call days at the hospital that got me through the shift.. and then I’d come home and drink another latte and fall asleep! I’m experimenting with syrups.. too bad the pumpkin one isn’t for sale. My poor coffee machine hasn’t seen much use in months!! Great post!ReplyCancel

  • Whitney - My favorite post yet! Thank you for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kristyn - My friend, you are so not alone. I love me a cup of hot coffee in the mornin’ and I am a proud gold card holder. But shhh, don’t tell my boyfriend =) Thanks for the post. I’d love to register for this espresso maker someday!ReplyCancel

  • Desmond Smith - Very impressive write up and VERY impressive photography to go along with it Shawna.ReplyCancel

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