I never really believed in the old adage “Buy cheap, buy twice” until we managed to kill a coffee machine every year for three years running! We gradually moved up the price scale each time (admittedly the very first one was a £20 machine so we had quite a way to go to get into the luxury range), until we found a coffee machine that has now lasted three years and is still going strong. I do get embarrassed though when someone asks the price, but in the long run it has saved us money by not going out to get our coffee-fix. Considering my first ever job was a barrista for a not very well known chain of coffee stands (usually found in train stations), I have had a long-term love affair with all things coffee. My husband has also had a long-standing reliance on caffeine given that he is a hospital doctor – between the two of us we make that machine work hard!
Sometimes it really is worth the extra spend on something that will last and save you time… or at least that’s what I tell myself. Here are some of my top picks which are definitely worth the extra spend.
The coffee machine – DeLonghi Prima Donna
Don’t buy the fitted models – you’ll move and have to leave it behind, or it might break before the next kitchen refit and there is no guarantee that the newer models will fit in the space.
Do think about counter-space – some of the top models are quite tall, so may not fit under your cupboards, and since many require you to load them with water/beans from the top, pulling it out and pushing it back will increase the likelihood of damage (either to the machine or your counter-top). An integrated bean-to-cup model enables you to choose your beans (and buy them in bulk), and grinds them for you, saving you the hassle of having a separate grinder on the counter.
Do think about cost-per-use – the pod style coffee machines lock you into using their refills, which can get quite expensive if you are not interested in learning how to fill your own pods.
Try not to get too influenced by form over function – the best models will last for 30 or more years (my mother still have two Kenwood Chefs that she was given as wedding presents – one for each of her marriages – which are still going strong 30-40+ years later). Look for fully metal gears as these motors will last, while those not made out of metal will likely break if you leave them on too long too often.
Think about the attachments available – you may not want to make pasta or mince meat now, but you might in the future. Pick the model with the best selection of attachments.
Think about who is going to clean it – one of the major reasons I picked the Kenwood over the KitchenAid is ease of cleaning. The Kenwood has simpler lines making wiping it down after use a doddle, while a friend who has a KitchenAid regrets her choice as it is constantly getting dirty and takes that bit longer to clean. You could always get a cover to minimise the mess though…
Think about what you may make – the better models have the most powerful motors which won’t burn out on long blends. The cheaper ones may need time to cool down in between bursts of activity so you may be hanging around twiddling your thumbs – or you may break it!
Think about noise levels though – these machines are LOUD. If you live somewhere with noise restrictions think about whether those neighbour relationships are good enough to withstand this…
Four slices of toast at a time and a warming rack for buns/pastries – this does the job of something a lot cheaper, but feels far more solid than the previous £40 toaster we had… This is definitely a luxury not a necessity, but such a lovely luxury…
The current advice from the Food Standards Agency in the UK lists a recommended maximum daily doses of caffeine of 400mg for adults, and 200mg for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive. So how much is that? While the table below lists standardised amounts these should be taken with caution as caffeine amounts vary hugely depending on the type of bean, how the beans are roasted and how they are served. This makes for an interesting day of mental maths for most people doesn’t it?
CAFFEINE IN FOOD AND DRINK
• 1 mug of instant coffee: 100mg
• 1 mug of filter coffee: 140mg • 1 mug of tea: 75mg • 1 can of cola: 40mg • 1 can of ‘energy’ drink: up to 80mg • 1 x 50g bar of plain chocolate: up to 50mg • 1 x 50g bar of milk chocolate: up to 25mg
So if you eat…
• one bar of plain chocolate and one mug of filter coffee, or • two mugs of tea and one can of cola, or • one mug of instant coffee and one can of energy drink
The Guardian has put together a very good list of gifts for foodies which you can read about here. Things which have now crept into my wish list include Heston Blumenthal’s new book Historic Heston (Amazon.co.uk link); the Divertimenti Truffle Slicer and Marble Pastry Board (links are to Divertimenti’s own website).
I was given some truffles by a French friend a few weeks ago (who finds them around his house – lucky him!), and had the most amazing scrambled eggs of my life, followed the next day by the best bread and butter of my life. I used a coarse grater with one of those attachments for not grating your own nails/fingers off, and found it rather good for slicing it rather finely, but found that the pieces were perhaps a little small to really get the visual impact of finely sliced truffles. Presentation has never been top of my list of priorities, but I’m beginning to gain an appreciation of why it is worth the hassle.
I’ve also got a pressure cooker on my wish list at the moment after a colleague at work told me all about how she uses hers to make gorgeous “fast” slow cooked food. I haven’t picked one out yet as I’m still doing my research, and am going to be waiting for the late December/early January sales to see what’s what.
Buying presents for the foodie in your life can be a bit hit or miss as gadgets may be duplicates (if they’re like me and buy every gadget for the kitchen they ever hear about), or not to their taste. One such example is Civet Coffee (also known as Kopi Luwak) – I was given some last year and found it bitter/sour tasting. While those of you who like bitter/sour tasting coffee may enjoy it, I far prefer a rich and warm style of coffee (Columbian beans, Italian Roast – that sort of thing) so this was a massive fail. In fact, going back round to The Guardian’s website again, they have a great opinion piece on it which I highly recommend reading if you are interested. However, I have crossed Civet Coffee off my food bucket list so that’s at least one positive out of it!
If you’re a foodie yourself, and have a large list of people to give presents to, you may be looking for new recipes to try out – I’ve found a good list here from the BBC Good Food Website which will hopefully give you some inspiration.
Paper and Salt attempts to recreate and reinterpret dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries and fiction. Part food and recipe blog, part historical discussion, part literary fangirl-ing.