The $17 Gadget That Helps Me Make Barista-Level Coffee at Home

published Dec 10, 2019
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Credit: Marija Kovac/Stocksy

I started drinking coffee my freshman year of college, and I did it purely for the caffeine. The quality of the school cafeteria brew didn’t matter to me because I masked any trace of java with copious amounts of sugar and cream. Several waves of artisanal beans later, and I still have my cup-a-day habit, but it has, thankfully, evolved. 

In my long quest for the perfect cup of Joe, I cut sugar entirely, experimented with French press and pour-over, and began to grind my own beans. Eventually, I invested in a burr grinder and better beans, and I thought I had perfected my brew. Then I went to Italy.

Italians start their day with espresso, and end their day with espresso. You can get it anywhere, even gas stations, with the same unwavering quality. The efficiency of a single small cup tossed back while still standing appealed to me over the long, endless thermoses I’d sipped from for hours. And the buzz was incredible.

I came back changed. I dusted off an old, unused moka pot, got myself some Bella Crema espresso beans from Melitta, and started brewing. It was good, but something was missing. The milk was flat. 

I searched through my drawer of kitchen tools and came across something my mom had re-gifted to me. It looked like a metal whisk, but you could pump the handle to move it up and down. I had only taken it because I thought my son might play with it. (He didn’t.) I was skeptical about it, but I pulled it out and dunked it into a cup of warm milk. It worked! The milk got frothy and foamy almost instantly! Rapid-fire churning the frother and watching it spiral up and down, aerating the warm milk to the perfect degree, became an anticipated part of my morning ritual. 

I’m a daily (or more) coffee drinker, so the cheap welding on that frother didn’t last (although it did last several months longer than I expected it to). Unable to find a replacement in my local dollar store, I turned to a battery-powered Aerolatte, which whizzes my milk to creamy perfection even better than the hand-powered whisk thing I was using. (The frother I use now actually cost $21 and has a wood look to it, but the $17 plastic one works just as well!) It takes the physical work out of the frothing — no wrist pumping! And not only does it make a barista-level drink, but it also makes me feel like a real barista … who happens to be in her PJs at home.

I don’t have any plans to go back to Italy any time soon, sadly, but I do now have daily plans for two coffee drinks — two frothy coffee drinks.