Manual Espresso Makers
Update: December 2012
The ROK is the newest incarnation of the Presso Espresso Machine.
Update: March 2012
When we tested hand-powered espresso makers in 2008, we recommended an inexpensive portable device called the AeroPress ($29.95). While the machine is easy to use, the espresso that it produces falls just short of the ideal deep, rich coffeehouse brew. Would the latest manual model, the Presso Espresso Machine, be worth the higher price tag ($150, which is still far lower than that of electric machines)? Like the AeroPress, the Presso is designed for simplicity. The 11-inch tool consists of two long, curved levers attached to a wishbone-shaped body, a clear hot-water chamber with markings for single and double shots, and a portafilter for grounds. Also included are a measuring scoop that doubles as a tamper, an adapter for making two single shots simultaneously, and a syringe-like milk foamer (you simply stick it into milk and pump the plunger to froth). The instructions were clear, and the superb result—rich, full-bodied espresso topped with a nice crema—had test cooks lining up for shots.
We tested two hand-powered portable espresso makers to see if they could do the job of an espresso machine. While neither produced the deep, rich brew you might find at a gourmet coffee outlet, both made flavorful espresso quickly and easily. One product requires a coffee pod (ground coffee beans in their own filter), and pressed out brew with a hearty aroma; however, tasters commented on its muddiness and bitter finish. The other entry did better. Using freshly ground beans, it produced smooth espresso that, according to tasters, combined the slightly heavier body of French press coffee and the cleanness of drip coffee. With good reason—it mimics the technology of both. To make a cup, you insert a disk-shaped paper filter, add coffee to the chamber with hot water, mix, and press.
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasn’t sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|Recommended with Reservations|
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.
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