your favorite strong coffee?

In ALL, ENTERTAINING by Stephanie Klein31 Comments

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Starbucks lattes taste bitter and burnt. It’s a flavor to which I’ve become accustomed. That doesn’t make it good; it makes it familiar. But I’ve had magical coffee moments when I leave the Fourbucks coffee clutch for milkier pastures. Many years ago, I took a film class at the artsy movie theater near Lincoln Center, where once a month, we’d screen a film before it was released to the public, and the director or writer or actors would hold court after the viewing, taking questions from the audience. Just before the viewing started, however, the concession stand would offer up “free” (the class fees covered the costs) mini bagels with cream cheese and Lavazza coffee drinks. Sometimes I enjoyed the coffee more than the movie.

Latte Art at Home
Photo taken from a month where I scrapbooked daily (obviously coffee was involved)

When Phil was recovering from his emergency heart surgery–that is, at a time when you question your own time on this earth, you’re apt to live for the moment, intimate with it’s value. He decided on a whim to purchase a Jura Impressa automatic coffee center. What I loved about the machine was the ability to make both espresso and coffee, pouring in fresh whole beans, a built-in grinder for every single cup, fresh! Plus there was the milk frothing vs just foam. Though we did need to tamp our own and toss the grounds, etc. But overall, we used it daily and enjoyed the ability to offer flavored coffee to guests, or run decaf while others enjoyed lattes and cappuccinos. Then, ironically, already in A-fib, Phil’s heart got pissier still and began to go into V-tach also. Caffeine is a big no, we learned. So, in sympathy, I think, I quit coffee, too. Since we seldom used it anymore, Phil sold the Jura Magic Machine, and when I’ve wanted an occasional fix, I’ve opted for my local Fourbucks. HOWEVER…

Espresso at Home

The times they are a’changin’. With my hormones and metabolism and weight and whine, I think it serves everyone to bring coffee back. I am not cranky without it. I’m immobile. I have zero desire to leave my cozy bed (I’m in it now, writing this, after all). And come snow days where a quick pop into the cafe isn’t an option, I’ve been relying on Starbucks Via, and while that might satisfy coffee sippers, to me, it’s brown water. I’ve decided that I don’t like coffee the way I adore espresso and milk. Though a self-assertive coffee with moxie might work. The point is, I’m now on the hunt, looking for a home caffeine solution.

My father has a Keurig K-cup single serve machine, and they love it for its convenience and the variety of flavors from hot chocolate to Chai lattes, but they say, “It’s fine in a fix, but it’s not the best cup of coffee you’ll ever have.” They have the accessory that allows you to use your own coffee, but it makes little difference. And it doesn’t do espresso, so that’s likely out.

I liked the idea of the Starbucks machines, but they don’t use real fresh milk. I’ve read that this gives an odd flavor to the beverage, keeping it from tasting the same as it does at your actual Starbucks shop. I like that it does teas and coffee in addition to espresso drinks, though.

Remember how much I loved my Lavazza at the movies? Keurig has a new home machine that works exclusively with Lavazza. The Keurig Rivo is a contender. But I hear the taste doesn’t compare to Nespresso.

I was going to go with the Nespresso Citiz & Milk (it’s basically an espresso only machine with an Aeroccino on the side. My problem with the Aeroccino is that I’ve heard it doesn’t allow for much milk. It’s small, and you can’t go over that fill line. Plus, if I’m making all that loverly creamy milk, I want to get my latte art on big time. And I don’t see much art coming from the Aeroccino.

I welcome recommendations. Basically, I think I’m dead set on having a single serve machine with the pods or capsules. Perhaps I buy a milk frother from another brand, so I may use more milk, enough for designs?


  1. I make one coffee only: Don Pablo ( which I have found at Costco.

    It has RUINED me for all other coffees. You could tell me tomorrow that it was roasted by the Al Qaeda All Stars, and I’d be all like, “Well they do a great roast, so…”

    I take my coffee on trips with others, and I have made it in the cheapest beach house rental house coffeemakers, and without fail, people are blown away by how good it is.

    Get whatever fancy machine you like. I have nothing to offer on that front, frankly, as I run a very plain Krups.

    But woman, do yourself a favor and try Don Pablo’s.

    (I like it mule strong, so I make it with a tablespoon per cup of water PLUS one and a half extra tablespoons.)

  2. Do you tonx? It sounds like you don’t and you should. It’s not espresso but it’s seriously fresh & great roasts delivered to your doorstep. I know you said deadset on capsules but you are just not going to get amazing coffee from them. How about one of those Italian moka contraptions paired with an aeroccino. I had an aeroccino for a long time and I live for lattes & sometimes just foam with a glug of vanilla extract. The aeroccino was perfect & definitely big enough for a single serving. I also happen to have an old nespresso which I stopped using because the coffee was Vile. Do you want it? Happy to offload. A small token for a decade of sharing your life. I’m also a manhattanite that moved to Austin. Still here. Next time you are in town please treat yourself to a latte @ flat track on the east side. I drink a lot of coffee and this one is just spectacular!!

  3. I have this and I like it. I liked it so much I bought one for my mom to go with a Nespresso maker.

    It can make enough for 2 small cappuccinos. It can be finicky though. Depending on what carton of milk I use, I get a range of foam thickness. Whole milk makes the best foam, the almond milk i use though is all over the map. Some days it can be an inch thick, sometimes just a thin layer. What’s more important to me though is that the milk gets nice and HOT and you can adjust how hot you’d like it to be.

  4. Author

    Some people are all into butter coffee (grass-fed butter) and coconut oil or MCT oil in their coffee. I wish someone could explain the benefits of this to me, someone who has no issues with dairy. Actual dairy from a cow. I know corn is evil, genetically modified. I know about good fats. But all these good fats do me no good if there’s sugar in my Greek yogurt (and there is. I don’t see this changing for me).

  5. I vote for and use Lavazza Crema e Gusto in a standard semi-automatic espresso machine (no tampering) with an attached frother (Saeco, $200). I pour myself 3 double shots every morning. Not a fan of pods at all, despite living with a very fancy Nespresso machine in Paris. Maybe I am just old school. (Also, I hate waste and “disposable” daily things.) Either way, I made my decision by watching the machine reviews and videos at Seattle Coffee Gear:

    They know espresso.

  6. Have you ever tried Trung Nguyen Vietnamese coffee… using a Vietnamese filter? It has a rich almost natural chocolate flavor, usually served with sweetened condensed milk but is excellent with fresh whole milk too. #4 blend is really nice and rich. Not really convenient for every day, but worth trying.

  7. Always heard great things about Nespresso….I am all for the foamy milk and nespresso delivers on that :) The rest, I am not so picky on.

  8. I love my Tassimo, by Bosch. As in I use it all the time. For regular coffee, shots of espresso, teas, lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos. It really is a machine that specializes in espresso drinks. The cappuccino/latte etc. pods are I believe made of milk, water, cream, sugar, but do not have to be refrigerated. I will also note that sometime I find my mom’s Keurig less than intuitive (do I add water now? Now what button is lighting up?) and I find the Tassimo really, really simple. Just another reco.

  9. I have a Nespresso machine, and I love it. I think your plan of getting a separate milk frother makes sense, since that seems to be a big factor for you.

    That being said, I love Lavazza coffee more than any other coffee there ever was. There is a Lavazza across the street from the court house, and every morning that I have court I treat myself with a latte afterward. No other coffee brand compares. Have you considered making Lavazza coffee in a French Press and then using a frother to add milk? Using a French Press, you could definitely make the coffee strong enough to stand up to all that glorious milk.

  10. Honestly, everyone I know who really drinks coffee a lot always say Dunkin Donuts has the best coffee. I have no idea- I was never a coffee drinker. What I do to it to make any of it palatable, you wouldn’t call coffee anymore. I’m REALLY tired today so I did go to Starbucks for a small skinny vanilla latte w/two Splenda but I really went more for the pink cake pop I’m addicted to.

  11. You haven’t been drinking coffee? (cricket sounds, blink, blink) I don’t even know what to say to this. I LOVE coffee, can’t live without it, I look forward to it on my way home from work on a Friday night, can’t be without it. No wonder you can’t get out of bed!!! I’m not even a huge coffee drinker but the 1 cup a day I have is heaven and puts me in a good mood. Like I said, I’ll treat myself on a Friday afternoon since I can stay up without the punishment of lack of sleep the next morning for work. Addicted? YES and I don’t even care.

    Illy in a coffee press is some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. However, I have a Keurig at home and love it for the convenience, like you said. We also have a Nespresso at the office with is dynamite. I love Americanos so I make the largest serving and add hot water. It makes a decent amount of froth but I don’t know how much you want. It’s really easy and hardly any cleaning involved.

  12. While you are a joke, good coffee is not.

    Machine: research Gaggia
    Coffee ( order whole beans): Stumptown or Blue Bottle

    1. I’m sincerely asking this, Anon: why would you call another human being a “joke,” particularly when — as far as I’m aware — this other person hasn’t done anything mean to you? I’m *not* asking for a myriad of examples of why you dislike Stephanie, but rather how a person can think it’s okay, nice, kind, nay, *decent* to just call someone a “joke,” unsolicited. I mean this genuinely: you read this website, a URL that Stephanie presumably pays for herself in a free country, she writes her own original content, and she goes about her own life. And you come here and say mean things about her, in this case calling her a “joke.” I’m not being facetious when I ask: WHY do that? Because she annoys you doesn’t really make sense to me because *you* seek out *her* content. *She* doesn’t intentionally seek you out to hurt you like you attempt to hurt her with your words. Why are you doing that? I’m truly curious.

  13. Wait. Is Anon the one who is always telling Stephanie how pretentious she is?

    Because if so suggesting she research expensive Italian coffee makers is, well, a bit like shoveling cocaine up her nose and then shrieking that she’s a dirty cokehead.

    Anon, if that was not you, my abject apologies. Admittedly I find it difficult to keep the trolls straight.

    (As for why they keep posting, all that comes to mind is the line “I wish I knew how to quit you.” I think they’re probably the most fervent of Stephanie’s fans, completely against their will.)

    1. I was more (genuinely) asking why Anon chose to read Stephanie’s website and just randomly make a hurtful remark about her. Of all the hundreds of bizarre troll comments I’ve read over the years, those five words (“while you are a joke”) really struck me as terribly and unnecessarily cruel. I imagined one person just going up to another on the street — or to a cashier or other service-industry person, or someone providing what they deem as entertainment or showing off a gift they feel they have, someone proud of themselves, someone who’s just trying to live and let live — and saying hurtfully and matter-of-factly and scornfully, “You’re a joke.” What purpose does that serve, except to try to kill that person’s spirit, to deflate them, to demean them? Why do that to another human, particularly one who’s never hurt you? I truly don’t understand what good came from calling her a joke. It feels mean on an entire different level.

      1. (I’m not suggesting that the comment hurt Stephanie; I surely hope it wouldn’t. This is more about wondering what the GOAL was by saying it. What does one hope to accomplish by telling a fellow human in this world that they’re nothing, that they’re worthless, that any effort of theirs to be creative or enjoy life or smile is useless because they’re nothing but a joke? Again, this isn’t about *Stephanie,* but rather about the person confronting a stranger with such a demoralizing comment. What was the real, true, deep down goal? It’s not about her website or words or daily life; it can’t be. It’s something within the teller.)

        1. I can’t answer your question but I suspect this “Anon” is a terribly unhappy person and I feel sorry for her.

          1. I’m not saying this in a mean way at all, but rather sympathetically / empathetically: I can’t imagine anyone degrading a random woman on the internet who’s simply trying to live her life if they themselves weren’t unhappy in some way, lonely or afraid, quietly unsure of…something. Yes, all of this from that one “you are a joke” comment, but you can’t be so off-handedly cruel to someone without being asked WHY?? And the answer will *never* be as simple as “because she annoys me.” That’s the easier answer, sure, but it’s not the deep down reason. And given that Anon did offer up some coffee suggestions lets me know that all hope isn’t lost on that person, that they *can* see that it’s wrong to demean someone else, that you can get more by loving than by hating, as much as it’s difficult to admit. Some trolls are truly unreachable, but I don’t get that with Anon at all.

  14. I live in the Coffee Capital of the US, so…!

    Firstly, get a porcelain or ceramic single cup coffee maker. (aka “pour over”). Here’s just one example: (They usually take size 2 filters.) We have two of them in our house because even though you can make one cup at a time, as needed, Husband and I always seem to do it at the same time. An Aeorpress is also very nice, but I still prefer my pour over. French Presses are also wonderful, but I find them to be more of a hassle.

    Two: You’re on the East Coast. La Colombe is out there and they have many good dark roasts. Also, STUMPTOWN. They do free coffee “cuppings” and will gladly talk to you about your coffee likes & dislikes and make a recommendation. I don’t know if you can buy Caffe Vita or Ladro out there – if you can, try that. These are high-end, FABULOUS coffees. Also fair trade and I think they have several shade grown options (not sure, but pretty sure.)

    Three: If you’re REALLY serious about good coffee, invest in a conical burr grinder. We have one, it was only $80. It grinds the beans more evenly, resulting in BETTER COFFEE. Also, yes – BUY WHOLE BEAN!!

  15. All my coffee comes from Zabar’s. (1/2 Gourmet Decaf/1/2 Decaf Hazelnut. I don’t like hazelnut at all but for some reason Zabar’s is great.) IMO it’s the best, and it’s certainly the cheapest. Delivery is free if you order 4 lbs. or more. They’ll grind it to whatever degree you want or ship just the beans. I much prefer it to any of the pods, capsules, etc. My husband uses a Violetta pot that brews one cup at a time. He swears by it (and bought it at Zabar’s also). I use a regular drip Mr. Coffee and am perfectly satisfied. I also have an inexpensive frother that I think I got at Kitchen Kapers. It’s terrific.

  16. I am shocked you like the individual cups of coffee;to me it tastes like water.

    I like starbucks espresso roast made in an auto drip coffee machine; rich and fullbodied.

  17. My husband got a Nespresso machine for Christmas and ADORES it. I think it’s the something Cube (too lazy to google at this hour) and while the milk container isn’t huge, you can make very milky, generous sized lattes with it. You can select the type of beverage you want–espresso, cappuccino, latte etc. It is well designed too and doesn’t take up too much room on the counter. The milk frother detaches and goes in the dishwasher.

    I unfortunately cannot vouch for it personally since I have yet to try it (I’m pregnant and the thought of coffee makes me gag), but I plan to take full and regular advantage of it as soon as I can. My husband has gone from zero cups of coffee per day to 2-6. I think that says it all.

  18. The Keurig is so simple. You could get the custom pod kit and use your favorite espresso.
    I usually drink my coffee plain, but sometimes put coconut oil in it. I don’t mess with milk because I feel better when I avoid dairy. Here’s some info about coconut oil. It’s a good fat. My husband started putting it in his coffee and blending it using the milkshake mixer. This causes the oil to froth slightly in the plain coffee. It turns lighter just like it has cream in it. Sometimes he adds a little coconut milk. It’s a strange but yummy latte.

  19. After growing up in a country with plentiful and excellent coffee and moving to a country with plentiful but woeful coffee, we found the best solution was a mocha (stove top) pot and a separate milk frother. You can get a couple of different sizes of mocha pots(i.e. a small one for 1-2 cups and a larger one for when you have guests) and it’s quick to make on the stove top. We then bought a separate (inexpensive) Krups milk frother with 3 settings (hot milk, latte, cappuccino). We have an excellent local coffee shop which grinds the beans for you and have gotten the best results by getting them to mix 3 beans (a strong espresso, something mocha or smooth and then a random). Works brilliantly for us as coffee is wonderful + strong, you can easily mix and match the milk/coffee combo you want and it’s significantly cheaper than buying a coffee machine (the built in frother attachments usually break pretty quickly so buing the stand-alone Krups milk frother has worked well for us).

  20. I don’t know about the keurig…my mom has one at her house and my husband and I finally bought a French press to keep there when we visit. The keurig just never got hot enough to taste like real brewed coffee. It doesn’t even matter what coffee we used, it all tasted weak and horrible. Have you had success?

  21. My husband and I got the Nespresso machine for a wedding gift and I really love! But…….my absolute favorite has always been my simple French Press!!!!! Yes it has a few extra steps but for the end result I don’t mind! The flavor is just so natural, rich with no bitterness. Our very first coffee maker was the keurig and it appealed to be honestly because it was fast, there are now tons of coffee selection cups but I just never got that amazing cup of coffee from that!! French press is the was to go!!

  22. Author

    I went with the Nespresso Citiz & Milk and I’m still working on my latte art. I am enjoying the much darker roasts as lungo sizes. Thank you all for the input though. I’m also keeping an eye out at Costco for the regular coffee because we have a regular machine. And I also have a French Press already, too. I am very happy with the choice and have no complaints yet.

  23. I’m chiming in late to this discussion but I didn’t see anyone mention a cold drip filtration system. Doesn’t even require electricity. The end result is a very strong brew, really a syrup. You do a pound of coffee at a time, then store it in the fridge. Add a couple of tablespoons to milk and heat for cafe au lait. My family has done it this way for many generations.

  24. HERE, HERE TO COLD BREW! It has changed my life. Seriously, it’s so flavorful and much less acidic. I can’t even drink “regular” coffee out anymore ($$savings$$). I bought a Toddy from Amazon, and I love it. Though have seen it at Puerto Rico Coffee in NYC. My favorite coffee beans: TOBY’S ESTATE (WOOLLOOMOOLO), they have a cafe adjacent to the Club Monaco store on 5th Ave/20th(ish). Or you can buy it on their site. Just get a bag ground for french press and soak it in your Toddy for 24 hours (I add more water for the longer soak time, which yields more coffee). I like 1/4 cup cold brew + 3/4 cup boiling water. Yum!

    Second choices: Alphabet City coffee (they sell cold brew there or just buy the beans and do it yourself).

    If you want to blow your mind, drink some Grady’s cold brew. You buy it by the bottle on their site or at Whole Foods. Mix with hot or cold water. Ah-mazing. They even sell pouches, so you can just soak one of their pouches in a pitcher of cold water over night and no Toddy necessary.

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