If you want to start making great, coffee-shop style espresso at home, then having the right gear isn’t always enough. If you want to get really good at making espresso at home and produce drinks that taste just like you’ve bought them from Starbucks, then you need to also consider how you can set up your espresso bar with an espresso bar design and layout that makes things as efficient and as simple for you as possible. A good setup is going to feel natural for you to use and will be quick to move around in, while a bad setup is going to feel clunky, disconnected, and will damage your efficiency when making coffee. The good news is that creating the right espresso bar setup isn’t hard to do in your home.
Space and Equipment Considerations
Sometimes, it can seem very straightforward and easy to lay out an espresso counter, and the good news is that for the most part, it will be. However, it’s important to consider a few different things before you get started with putting your set-up together, as otherwise, you might end up needing to start over or find yourself constantly rearranging things before you get them right.
Bear in mind that it will always be easier to use the espresso machine if you have some wiggle room. Leave some extra standing room to the left side of the machine if you are right-handed, as this will make it easier for you to use the portafilter. Almost everything that you do is going to happen with your dominant hand, including grinding, throwing away used coffee pucks, tamping the coffee grounds, and moving the portafilter in and out of the group head of the machine. If you are right-handed, place the accessories you need on the right hand of the machine for easy access, or place them on the left if you are left-handed.
Getting Started With Your Espresso Bar Layout
There are several different ways that you can lay out your home espresso bar, and this will often depend on several factors including the space that you have to work with and your personal preferences. A simple and easy template to follow is:
Espresso Machine: Position this to the left if you are right-handed since most tasks will happen with your right hand. This will leave you some space to allow you to stand slightly to the left of the machine, which will make it easier and more comfortable for you to handle the portafilter with your right hand. If you are left-handed, move the espresso machine to the right instead.
Grinder: The grinder should be positioned somewhere that makes it comfortable for you to hold the portafilter with your dominant hand while you are grinding coffee beans. This allows you to use your other hand to do something else while the coffee is grinding like grabbing a cup off the top of the espresso machine or using a cloth to wipe the rest of the area down.
Knock Box: This should be placed directly next to your espresso machine to reduce the mess that might be created by having to move a long distance to knock out the used coffee puck. It’ll be much easier to make several coffees in a row and cleaning up will be less hassle if the knock box is just to the right or left of your machine depending on which hand you use.
Scale: Keep your scale directly by the grinder, as this will make it easier for you to move your portafilter or dosing cup to the scale easier. As a result, it will be easier for you to make sure that you are always using the right amount of grounds.
Tamper and Tamping Mat: Keep the tamper and tamping mat close to the scale so that you can easily move the portafilter to the tamping mat after you have finished weighing the grounds. Keep the tamper on the side of your dominant hand so that you can hold the portafilter with the other hand and grab the tamper with your right or left hand depending on which one you will naturally use the most.
What You Need to Set Up an Espresso Bar
To make sure that you can get the best result from making espresso at home using your espresso machine, you may want to set up a station in your kitchen where your espresso machine is not in the way of your main cooking area. For some people, it is easier to set up their espresso bar away from the kitchen if they have the space. A dining room is often a great choice. This means that you won’t be taking away from any usable cooking space that you have in your kitchen, and it makes it easier for you to make espresso whenever you like without getting in the way of anybody who is cooking in the kitchen.
All you need to set up an independent and professional-looking espresso bar in your home is a few inexpensive supplies. And the good news is that even if you don’t have access to a sink or a garbage can elsewhere in your home such as in your dining room, you can still make your espresso bar work without getting frustrated or making a huge mess.
When it comes to the water for your espresso machine, it’s important to avoid using tap water most of the time unless you have a good understanding of how the water has been filtered and softened. Many people use bottled spring water to fill their espresso machine at home, which you can buy cheaply at most grocery stores. Or, you can get a filter jug that is filled with tap water periodically, and left by the espresso machine ready for when you want to use it.
If you only have a small amount of space for setting up your espresso bar at home, then you may want to consider getting an espresso machine that has a built-in grinder. The grinder is usually located at the top of the machine and will save space when it comes to your espresso bar layout as you will not need to keep a separate grinder to the machine which will reduce the amount of space needed for your setup. If you do get a separate grinder but want to reduce the number of accessories that you need to keep in your bar space, then it’s worth thinking about getting a grinder that comes with a dosing chamber, where ground coffee is sent into with internal components that measure the correct dose of coffee, reducing your need to use a separate coffee scale and other measuring tools. However, bear in mind that most coffee grinders with dosers are not always suitable for home use since for the doser to work correctly the grinder needs to be quite full, which can result in a lot of wasted coffee unless you have a large family of coffee drinkers.
Making steamed milk for lattes, cappuccinos, and other milk-based espresso drinks at home might be another factor to consider when setting up your espresso bar layout. You will need to use at least one milk pitcher for steaming milk. Many home baristas find that just having one milk jug is sufficient, but you might have a few if you want to get the different milky espresso-based drinks just perfect or are practicing different types of latte art. The main downside of having an espresso bar that isn’t in your kitchen if you’re making a lot of milky coffee drinks is that the milk pitchers do need to be rinsed out after each use to prevent the milk residue from building up inside them and becoming disgusting. If your bar is located close enough to your kitchen, carrying the pitcher to the sink and washing it out might not be a problem. However, you may want to consider setting up the bar in your kitchen if anywhere else in your home would make the process too inconvenient for you.
Wherever you decide to place your espresso bar in your home and whatever equipment you decide to add to it, it’s important to think about how you are going to keep it clean. Ideally, when making espresso and other coffee drinks at home, you should clean as you go to make it easier for you when performing regular deep cleaning and maintenance on your machine and to avoid the build-up of organic materials like coffee grounds and milk residue. Make sure that there is room around your espresso bar to store barista towels and cloths; ideally, these should be hanging on hooks that are easy to reach, or you can wear an apron that you can hang the towels to for easy access.
When making espresso at home, how you set up your espresso bar can make all the difference to your process and the quality of the coffee you make.