The May Kiplinger’s Personal Finance includes an article on how to get coffeehouse-quality brew at home: 5 Things to Ask About Espresso Makers.

As that cranky espresso guru, David Schomer of Espresso Vivace, has said for years, most machines built for the home cannot build up enough pressure or control the temperature well enough to make a truly good shot. But the quality of espresso machines for the home is gradually improving. I’m noticing machines in gourmet cookware stores that are no longer as laughable as the Fisher-Price toys they used to be. Sturdier boilers and better-built machines seem to be reaching the wider market — now that consumer demand for quality has grown with their educated palates.

So the article asks, and answers, “Can home machines deliver Starbucks-quality espresso? Yes.” And I would agree. But given that Starbucks has as many employees as the U.S. has troops in Iraq, we’re not exactly talking the cream of the crop in terms of coffee-making skills here. But if your standards are the local Starbucks, quite a number of home machines can do the job.

The article mentions the moka pot as an option. Technically, it does not make espresso per se, eventhough it is what many Italian families use at home for coffee. (Because the average espresso you can get at the ubiquitous corner bar is very good in Italy, unlike in the U.S., there’s no need for the extra investment at home.) However, the article makes no mention of the grinder. You could shell out the GNP of a small African nation for a plumbed-in La Marzocco Mistral, but you can kiss any crema goodbye without a decent grinder.

Of course, this is the peril of the personal finance world getting bored with the numbers game and all deciding they need to start reviewing home appliances. What is up with that, anyway? WSJ’s Smart Money even has a regular column on topics such as “10 Things Your Butcher Won’t Tell You” or “10 Things Your Dentist Won’t Tell You”. Isn’t Suze Orman scary enough when she tells you how to go about building your porfolio? I certainly don’t want her cutting my meat and flossing my teeth.