Besides a beautiful, Brazilian-accented woman padding off to the shower in one of your dress shirts, there’s nothing better to wake up to than an expertly created cappuccino. Sadly, those can be harder to come by than the right breakfast companion. Coffee shops do all sorts of rude and not right things to espresso—letting it hang out, get bitter, lukewarm, watery, and gross—and almost unspeakable things to foamed milk. The only way to guarantee a righteous espresso beverage is to make it yourself. And to do that, you’ll need a serious machine.
There are many kinds of espresso makers out there, from $5 stove-top models (which don’t make real espresso) to $10,000 behemoths. Surprise! We recommend something in between, a machine that puts substantial pressure on the grounds—ideally between 4-6 bars—but not on the wallet. La Pavoni’s Europiccola, a tall, handsome chrome number from an iconic Italian brand, is a lever model. It’s for those process-oriented gentlemen who enjoy waiting for the machine to warm up then packing, tamping and pulling—literally—the perfect shot. A Europiccola will run you upwards of $850, but, after mastering the barista ritual of tea-ceremony like complexity, there’s no question that it’s worth the money.
If you’re more about results than process, go with a semi-automatic like the Rancilio Silva, which is less 1880s Florence than 1960s Dolce Vita. With less warm-up time and an automatic extraction process, a Rancilio is the home barista’s best friend and can make many shots back-to-back. That’s important, because the only thing better than making yourself a perfect espresso is being able to offer one to the beautiful woman in the bath towel.