In this era of the popularity of high-octane beverages, and their accompanying equally high prices, one could imagine ending up in Chapter 11, all due to a vicious multisyllabic drink habit. The do-it-yourself route is rarely a good substitute: Drip or presses just don't compare with expressed coffee, and most Italian machines are some combination of pricey and multi-stage complicated, or they're simply a mess to clean up. We've found salvation, though, in the Waring Pro Vero Barista, which produces rich shots of black gold in less than five minutes, along with cafe-worthy, frothy, and foamy milk – and at a fraction of the price of its top-shelf competition.
The unit has two separate filter holders for either single-use pods or ground espresso, depending on your commitment to what can be a laborious process (we prefer the latter). An easily removable grille and drip tray make cleanup detail almost painless, and the removable tank holds an ample 42 ounces of water. Experimentation with grind size is recommended to get the best combination of piping hot and concentrated flavor. A boiler temperature gauge tells you when the water is ready, and the control levers are tautly machined for optimal control over both liquid and steam. The Vero Barista warms up in about five minutes and is able to deliver a single or double shot depending on which spout you attach. An especially nice touch is the ability to warm your cup on top of the unit so you don't cool off your precious work.
At half or even a quarter of the price of many typical espresso machines, the Vero Barista is a relative bargain, leaving serious caffeine hounds enough scratch left over to splurge on a quality coffee grinder and a top-notch sack of beans. [$400; waringpro.com]