Food + Drink

Pick-me-up coffee station.

Coffee Station - doorsixteen.com

Let’s get the obvious out of the way right now: This post is going to make you want a cup of coffee. Even if you don’t drink coffee, you’re going to want a cup of coffee. So if you want to shuffle over to your kitchen and put a pot on in anticipation, go right ahead.

OK? OK!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m a fan of the coffee station. Here’s one from 2010 (gosh, I miss those yellow mugs—the last one broke years ago), and another from 2015. Keeping things as accessible as possible when coffee is involved is absolutely essential for me. This really used to only be a morning thing for me, even though I’ve always loved an afternoon pick-me-up coffee. That’s something that used to happen for me outside the house, though, because I worked in an office building for so many years. Around 2pm, I’d head to Blue Bottle (if I was feeling fancy) or Au Bon Pain (if I was feeling thrifty) and get a coffee—that was part of the routine.

Now that I’m a freelancer working from home every day, that’s all changed. I still want my afternoon coffee, but putting on a pot seems excessive—even if I only want one cup, I’m likely to make half a pot…and then drink it all. So I decided to create a pick-me-up coffee station!

Coffee Station - doorsixteen.com

I had a larger Nespresso machine in New York, and it was great for making quick cups of good coffee. I don’t drink straight espresso shots, but Nespresso machines have a lungo setting for making long shots with more water in them. My machine produces just under 5oz of coffee from a single pod, which for me is the perfect amount to make a frothy, milky, coffee drink. My current machine is a Nespresso Essenza Mini, and it’s adorable.

Coffee Station - doorsixteen.com

See that beautiful crema? I don’t want to make it seem like I know anything about coffee beyond liking to drink it, but even I know that’s the good stuff. Lately I’ve been using Nespresso-compatible pods from Target (I think they have seven blends), and they’re GREAT. A 10-pack is $5, so they’re a little cheaper than Nespresso-branded pods. Another option is buying reusable/refillable Nespresso pods! I haven’t tried this yet because I can’t deny I love the convenience of pre-filled pods, so for now I’m just collecting the used pods and sending them to Nespresso for recycling. [EDIT: I am a doofus and somehow never noticed that the Target capsules are plastic, not aluminum. Please do not send them to Nespresso for recycling, because they can’t be recycled. D’oh! Back to the Nespresso-branded pods for me.]

Coffee Station - doorsixteen.com

The other essential in my pick-me-up coffee station is the Breville Milk Cafe, which I use to heat and froth milk. I previously had a Nespresso Aeroccino, but it stopped working after a few months—and even though it was still within its return window, its replacement died, too. The reviews are really spotty (lots of issues with the nonstick coating and burnt milk), so I looked at other options. The Breville Milk Cafe seems to get pretty consistently positive reviews, and I really like that the pitcher (which is held to the base magnetically) is just stainless steel with no coating. Since the pitcher is removable and has no electric parts, it can be completely submerged in water, which makes cleaning super easy.

(Side note! Despite the good reviews, I was nervous about spending that much money on something and then having it croak on me. I decided to order it from Bed Bath & Beyond for that reason, because they’re great about returns…and there’s one in Santa Fe. And I had one of those 20% off coupons. Win/win/win. I’ve now owned it for just over a year, and I still love it.)

After having this setup for a few months, I felt like it needed some containment to define the area a little better. My kitchen is on the small side, and I don’t like having lots of little things scattered on the countertop. I got this wood tray from Target, and everything fits in it perfectly. I’m even able to run the cords through the handle cutout on the back. Tidy!

Coffee Station - doorsixteen.com

The Milk Cafe comes with two magnetic frothing disks. The smooth one is for frothing milk with just a little foam, and the whisk disk is what you need to make CRAZY FOAM MOUNTAINS. Just snap your disk of choice into the pitcher and it’s ready to use! The unused disk stores easily on a little magnetic post on the back of the unit, minimizing the chances of it getting lost. Such a nice little detail.

Coffee Station - doorsixteen.com

I didn’t think to make a video of the actual frothing process (it’s not complicated—just pour the milk in, set the dial to the desire temperature, and press the button), but LOOK AT THIS FROTH. Can you tell how dense the bubbles are? It’s so satisfying to see these peaks!

Oh, and you can add other stuff to the milk while it’s frothing. I find that cocoa powder does decrease the foam volume a bit, but the tradeoff of having it blended so evenly with the milk is worth it. It’s really nice to add a little maple syrup, cayenne, cinnamon, or vanilla if you want a flavored beverage. Also, there’s a “cold stir” setting that just froths the milk without heating it—great for making iced drinks. (YUM.)

Coffee Station - doorsixteen.com

A nice accessory to have for a Nespresso machine is one of these tiny stainless steel pitchers. They’re made for steaming milk with a wand, but these little 5oz ones are just the right size to fit on the collection tray. Most of my mugs don’t sit nicely there, so I brew into the pitcher instead.

I also LOVE these long-handled ceramic spoons! They used to sell them at CB2 years ago, but now I order them as needed (they will break if you drop them on a tile floor) from Amazon. $8 for 4! Not bad. They’re long enough to stir an iced coffee, and they really do make the whole coffee-making ritual feel a little more special.

Coffee Station - doorsixteen.com

Awwwwww, yeah! (Now is when you’re really going to start wanting a coffee. Yes?)

Frothable soy milks - doorsixteen.com

Some notes about milks: I don’t consume dairy, so I can only comment on plant milks when it comes to froth-ability. My personal preference in lattes and cappuccinos is either store-bought soy milk or homemade cashew milk. The latter doesn’t froth much at all, but I still like how evenly the Milk Cafe heats the cashew milk up anyway (also great when I want to blend in other ingredients). I’ve had mixed results from oat milk (Oatly seems to only froth 50% of the time, regardless of the formula I try) and almond milk, but it really takes trial and error (and then remembering what your trials and errors were) to figure out which milks work the best.

The most intense froth I get is from the two soy milks pictured, and the results are super consistent. Unsweetened Silk has a great texture and flavor, but it can be tricky to find (Target usually has it, fwiw). My absolute favorite is the shelf-stable soy milk from Trader Joe’s. It’s inexpensive, it’s easy to keep extras on-hand since it doesn’t require refrigeration, and it has NO added ingredients—it’s just organic soybeans and water. This is the milk to used to make the drink in these photos. I always get excellent foam from it. (It’s perfect for making Instant Pot soy yogurt, too!)

If you have any questions about the Nespresso Essenza Mini or the Breville Milk Cafe, please feel free to ask. And then go drink your coffee.

Coffee Station - doorsixteen.com

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36 Comments

  • Reply Janet McNally February 18, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Drooling! May I also request about your knives? Favourite brands, methods for keeping them safe and sharp?

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 18, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      I’m definitely no knife expert! I’ve had my knives for YEARS, though. The ones with the black handles are Sabatier hand-me-downs I’ve had since college. The two big chef knives were gifts a decade+ ago, and they’re from Global. The only semi-recent purchase is the little stainless paring knife from IKEA. (I can’t tell the difference between Global and IKEA, honestly!) I use this little Fiskars sharpener, but I keep meaning to take them to a local knife guy to get them all sharpened.

  • Reply Lien February 18, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    I have an aerocinno which is attached to my Nespresso machine and it’s been going fine for years. But I love the look of the Breville milk cafe. I don’t need it but want one now!

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 18, 2020 at 4:28 pm

      Ages ago I had an Aerocinno that was great, but it stayed with my ex-husband. I wonder if they’ve had some kind of issue in recent years?? If yours is going strong, YAY!

  • Reply Fiona February 18, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    I love how mindfully you buy things.

  • Reply Amber February 18, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    Such a stylish setup!

    I am lactose intolerant, so I also have tried A LOT of alternative milks for my coffee. My currently favorite is the Oatly Barista Blend, which doesn’t seem to be available in stores. They used to only sell it online one day a month, but they seem to have fixed their supply issues, and I can order a case whenever I’m about to run out. The other kinds that come in normal, half-gallon cartons don’t froth reliably for me (fwiw, I have an espresso machine with a steam wand).

    My previous favorite was Califia almond milk, although I was always torn between the classic, unsweetened variety – whose flavor I preferred – and the barista one – which frothed better. I’m so glad that I don’t have to choose between texture and flavor any more. (Or make my own, which I’m too lazy to do most of the time.)

    Now that most coffee shops seem to stock oat milk, I’ve completely lost my taste for soy milk. I’m not sure how that happened… it tastes vegetal to me now. It’s highly processed and industrially produced, so maybe that’s for the best. That was my go to option at shops, since their almond, cashew or coconut varieties were almost always sweet or rancid (why?? do they not go through the homemade stuff quickly enough?).

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 18, 2020 at 4:22 pm

      Amber, you can buy Oatly Barista Blend at Target! They seem to pretty much always have it in stock. Whole Foods usually has it, too. I love the taste, but I only get dense froth about 50% of the time with any of the Oatly blends. I love oat milk in coffee, though! I usually make it myself since Oatly is super expensive (and I haven’t found another premade version I like).

      • Reply Amber February 19, 2020 at 8:58 am

        Thanks for the tip! I live in lower Manhattan, so visiting Target is a rare treat, but Whole Foods can work.

        Sorry you haven’t had good luck with the froth. I usually shoot for a medium froth, so it doesn’t just float on my coffee, so maybe that’s the difference?

        • Reply Anna Dorfman February 19, 2020 at 11:10 am

          I totally understand the “Target is a rare treat” phenomenon that exists when living in NYC, believe me!! I wrote a whole article about it 20 years ago—this was before the one in Brooklyn opened.

          Oatly seems to froth well (meaning I do get the thick, rich, dense foam pictured in the post) about 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time, it just comes out like a shook it in a bottle really hard. For the life of me I can NOT figure out what the variables are! It must have something to do with how long it’s been at the store. Maybe? I don’t know. Can the proteins break down? I have no idea! It’s really weird. (Regular/non-organic Silk is also really inconsistent. I don’t get it!)

  • Reply Susan February 18, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    Are the Target capsules aluminum now? They were plastic when I tried them so not recyclable with the nespresso capsules. I tried the Halo compostable capsules from the UK and they were … just ok. Plus so ridiculous to order from so far away. So back to the nespresso capsules. Wish they’d make
    the compostable variety.

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 18, 2020 at 5:09 pm

      I feel like such a doofus!! I never noticed they’re plastic! I just assumed they were aluminum like the Nespresso pods. I wonder if they’re too small to be recycled with plastics?? Argh.

      • Reply Anna in Melbourne February 18, 2020 at 9:52 pm

        Can’t be recycled with plastics, because they are mixed materials so tricky for the recycling plants to sort/isolate.

        • Reply Anna Dorfman February 19, 2020 at 5:52 am

          Thanks!! I’ll edit my post after I’ve had…my morning coffee.

      • Reply Susan Whitaker February 19, 2020 at 4:31 pm

        yeah, not recycle-able with the coffee grounds inside. I feel like they’re really sneaky about using plastic in those. And I bet a lot of people have been mixing them with their Nespresso recycling. 🙁

    • Reply Anna in Melbourne February 18, 2020 at 9:51 pm

      Yes! This! Only Nespresso capsules can be sent back to Nespresso for full recycling. So to me, worth the extra cost. I also find the taste of the compatible ones to be less consistent. One reason I buy the Nespresso pods is I have no patience for all the different gadgets and just want to press a button for perfect coffee. Ultimate laziness 🙂

      • Reply Anna Dorfman February 19, 2020 at 5:42 am

        Yeah, I’m going back to Nespresso! I feel so silly for not noticing!

  • Reply Laura February 18, 2020 at 7:27 pm

    If you are ever looking for a new drip coffee maker the Breville precision brewer makes an amazing cup of coffee. I used to use a chemex and a French press but the Breville has them best. I have had such good luck with Breville products and love how they do smart things like let you hide the cord or put that round thing on the plug so it is easier to remove.

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 18, 2020 at 8:21 pm

      I’m a Technivorm Moccamaster devotee when it comes to my drip coffee, but I’ve heard good things about the Precision Brewer!

      • Reply Ariel February 19, 2020 at 3:44 am

        We are finally finishing plans for our fixer-upper gut job, and I’ve toyed with the idea of having a coffee station… But we both loathe extra appliances on the counter. This is compact enough, I could slip it behind a cabinet door. And then I keep my regular large drip coffee pot in it’s usual spot. Thanks for a great idea!

        • Reply Anna Dorfman February 19, 2020 at 11:34 am

          I’m definitely anti-appliances-on-the-countertop, too, but coffee devices are my exception. Using a tray like this really helps make it less sloppy-looking, but if you’ve got room in a cabinet, that’s extra good!!

  • Reply Brenda February 18, 2020 at 11:14 pm

    Thank You for doing this post! That little coffee station is sweet perfection. I’m very tempted now to get the Nespresso Essenza Mini + refillable pods. I did not know there’s a magnetic holder at the back for the 2nd spinner. I’ve been keeping mine inside the pot – DUH – now I’m not sure I still have the other. I also didn’t realize it would do a cold foam! Come On Summer! We no longer have Target in Canada anymore. They set up looking for a quick fix because and didn’t stay long enough to get us addicted. Canadians were like, ‘There were Target’s here? They’re leaving? Wha?’ I’ll see if one of the trays I have might suffice because what a great idea it is to contain everything but I already know none of mine have a handle to weave cords through … very thoughtful design decision. Again thanks. I’ll be making coffee and foam first thing tomorrow morning.

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 19, 2020 at 11:13 am

      Brenda, I am SO SORRY that you no longer have Target in Canada. All of my Canadian friends get very gloomy (for Canadians) whenever the subject of Target comes up! It’s really a national tragedy at the hands of American corporate greed.

      Anyway, definitely try out that cold stir option!! I didn’t understand the point until I started making iced lattes that way.

      • Reply Brennda February 19, 2020 at 1:30 pm

        In the end, not having one here might be a good thing – wanting all the things is such an ongoing battle because it is impossible to leave Target with the one thing you go in for 🙁 me trying to turn this into a positive 🙂

      • Reply Sammyb February 21, 2020 at 11:35 am

        The first place I go to when I visit the US. BUT You can order online! They ship to Canada….

  • Reply Kim B February 19, 2020 at 1:01 am

    That Breville is just so darned handsome — and then that it does its job so well makes it especially delightful to contemplate. Love that this all fits on your round tray — and that it even has a way to deal with the cord issue! Love your station (and that mug is super cool too).

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 19, 2020 at 5:51 am

      Thank you! I wish I could think of the designer’s name, but they came from Crate & Barrel a while back. They have great handles!

      • Reply Kim B. February 20, 2020 at 12:21 am

        My husband has had to move to a different town (job issues) and I am realizing he needs a tray for his teas! You have inspired me to look for something fun for his little apartment. Oh how I miss a stroll through C&B!!

  • Reply Emme February 19, 2020 at 10:13 am

    I was in an Airbnb in Sidney that had a Nespresso machine. I wanted to buy pods and had the most strange and difficult purchasing experience at the Nespresso store. Floor to ceiling pods but I had to go to the right floor and speak to the right Rep to buy pods, I needed the machine’s social security number and date of birth or the name of the owner… I just wanted to exchange money for goods! I did enjoy the convenience and quality of the coffee once I had it.

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 19, 2020 at 11:06 am

      I’ve never been to a Nespresso store! I walked past one in Manhattan once and it was like the Uniqlo of coffee pods. There isn’t one in New Mexico, so I just order them online. They send you a postage-paid bag to return the used pods for recycling, which is nice.

  • Reply Julie. February 19, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    That Nespresso mini is beyond adorable!! I gave up coffee 22 days ago and all caffeine 18 days ago (not that I’m keeping count), so wasn’t sure if I should read the post after your warning. It made me crave the ritual of coffee-making more than the actual beverage…I love the process: hand grinding my locally roasted beans, deciding on pour over or aeropress, and so on. Good times.

    • Reply Anna Dorfman February 20, 2020 at 9:18 am

      Yiiiiiiiikes!! I gave up coffee for a week a few years ago when I did a juice cleanse, and the best thing about it was that first cup of coffee when I went back to it. It’s absolutely my vice, and I’ve made peace with it. At least I’m only drinking 2-3 cups a day now and not, like, 8.

  • Reply Chris February 20, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Well, I’m gonna need that milk thing for my Moka pot. Very cool.

  • Reply Karen February 20, 2020 at 11:06 am

    I <3 Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend!

  • Reply Sam February 21, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    OH MY GOD. I forgot that my tea station (I adore coffee, but it doesn’t adore me back, so it’s tea for me) was inspired by your original coffee-station post back in ’10. Before you, I had my tea stuff all over the kitchen (tea in a cupboard, mugs in a different cupboard, electric kettle on the kitchen counter, etc). I also had a freestanding baker’s rack with 4 shelves plus a kind of counter in the center, which was stuffed with various kitchen crap. After you, all of my tea stuff (which included several hundred(ish) tins of different types of tea) was on that baker’s rack, including the electric kettle. It was gloriously consolidated for me, and the baker’s rack looked so much better than before. And you’re the one who made it so! Thanks from the bottom of my heart. I’d forgotten what a big difference you made in my daily life. 🙂 PS: Your coffee-station posts always make me wish wish wish that I could drink coffee. That foam!!

  • Reply Sunny March 22, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    I love your new counter top coffee station and am now inspired to create my own! One question I have is about your white with black circle pottery coffee mug. Where did you find it, please?

    • Reply Anna Dorfman March 22, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      Hi Sunny, the mug came from Crate & Barrel quite a few years ago. Unfortunately, it’s since been discontinued.

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