He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

Jump-leads for two.

About three weeks ago in a random cafe just outside Liege, I made a resolution - I wasn’t going to drink lousy coffee ever again. My European experience highlighted one key fact - that in Britain, we positively suck at making good coffee. We rely on machines that splut awful brown liquids into a cup, manufactured by a guy whose second-cousin might have once seen a coffee bean. Then, when we want a “good coffee experience”, we give nasty chain-establishments money to serve a sub-standard product made from the naffest (and cheapest blend) of beans available. It’s not a good state of affairs at all, especially when the chains generally fleece us for the privilege of drinking it. Most prices are about 50% higher than our European counterparts - even if you allow for our currently sucky pound-euro exchange-rate.

If you’ve read my travelblog, you’ll already know that I thought Liege blows. Nonetheless, in that cafe, I was still enjoying good coffee. Good coffee is pretty much synonymous with most countries in Western-Europe (apart from you, Germany, get to the back of the class). It doesn’t take a brain the size of a planet to work out that if a country has good cafe-culture, it probably does good coffee. In fact, I’d almost go as far as to say that the worst French coffee I’ve had is still infinitely better than virtually any British attempt. We British are lazy and cut corners. I recently had the misfortune to buy a coffee from somewhere that used premixed-liquids inserted in a machine - and it’s just wrong. Where’s the skill and craft in that?

When my cappuccino-maker recently exploded*, I decided steps had to be taken and started looking through t’internet to find a suitable starter machine. It turns out that you can spend as much as you like on a proper coffee-machine, with prices easily going into the thousands. At the moment I’m merely dipping my toe into the brown-stuff and don’t want to exchange a kidney** for a £3k Gaggia machine just yet. So, with some money in one hand and a pile of internets in the other, I made my wish-list of features:

  • Takes normal coffee - not any of that pod-crap that forces me to buy my coffee-pods from a company who can decide to hike up the price whenever they want.
  • Uses a pump-system to do the brewing.
  • A reasonably decent milk-steamer.
  • A solid, non-cheap looking unit, but not too huge. My brown-stained kitchen is quite small, after all.

Then, one day whilst out shopping in a supermarket which shall remain nameless, I happened to stumble on this - a DeLonghi EC710.

Coffee Machine

As a starting point, this got reasonable reviews and was generally recommended as a good n00b’s coffee-maker. At £75, it was also half-price. If the machine is a mistake, it’s only a £75 mistake, not a £150 one. I decided to go for it.

Now we come to the quality bit. Sure, you get some free Illy coffee-pads in there, but I’ve had better results with using my own stuff. It’s got a cup-warmer on the top and doesn’t do too bad a brew, as long as you ensure the system is thoroughly warmed through first. The system is also fairly idiot-proof, with a nice little “OK” indicator light when it’s ready to go, something that usually takes less than about thirty seconds. The pump isn’t the quietest, but I’d expected no less - I’m at the amoeba end of the coffee evolutionary scale. Nonetheless, having used it for a few weeks now I’m pretty happy with it. The espresso is reasonable, with a bit of crema on the top. Nonetheless, it’s a vast improvement over most of the coffee I’ve had recently and as I’m now regularly brewing real jump-leads for two, I hope never to touch a drop of instant again.

* It did, don’t laugh. In a Vesuvius style eruption, black coffee erupted over my kitchen ceiling. The ceiling needs repainting to remove the brown stains I couldn’t scrub off.