How To Buy A Home Espresso Machine – A Buying Guide
Selecting the best home espresso machine can be a difficult task if you don’t know what to look for. There are literally hundreds of espresso machines on the market, each with varying styles and uses. To make matters even more complicated, not every espresso machine works the same way.
As a result, buying your very first espresso machine can be a daunting task if you don’t know what to look for!
The purpose of this article is to shed some light on buying a new home espresso machine. In this article, I will provide you with an overview of the different types of espresso makers on the market. I will discuss what to look for, what to avoid, and how to get the most bang for your buck.
By the end of the article, you should have a solid understanding of the different espresso machines on the market and how to choose the best one for your home.
Types of Espresso Machines
In general, there are three types of espresso machines: manual, semi-automatic, automatic, and single-serve. Although the end result of each process is nearly the same, there are some key differences in the preparation of espresso that you should be aware of.
A manual machine is probably the most physically involved way of making espresso. These machines generally require the user to push a lever to force water through a bed of ground espresso. While the idea of pushing a lever to generate espresso seems harmless enough, these machines are not easy to use.
You have to apply just the right amount of pressure at the right time to generate a half-decent shot of espresso. They take months to master and can often drive amateur baristas to frustration. Although manual machines have the potential to produce the best espresso you’ve ever had they are notoriously difficult to operate – not recommended for newbies!
Semi-automatic espresso machines automate the espresso-making process considerably. These are either driven by steam or a mechanical pump that forces hot water through the machine to generate a shot of espresso. The user determines how much espresso to use and how much hot water to pass through the espresso. Their versatility and ease-of-use make them a good choice for more serious espresso-drinkers.
Automatic espresso machines are similar in function to semi-automatic machines except they automate most of the espresso-making process. A predetermined amount of hot water flows through a predetermined amount of espresso. In some cases, these machine even grind the coffee for you! If you’re looking for the least involved way of making espresso, then an automatic espresso machine is probably the way to go!
Single-serve espresso machines are a relatively new addition to the home coffee-making world. I was actually a bit hesitant including them in this article because many people would not classify them as espresso makers.
Basically, you insert a pod or capsule into the machine, press a button, and within a few second a fresh shot of espresso (or other beverage) is generated. Some machines in this category include the Tassimo and the Dolce Gusto. The quality is generally decent, but don’t expect to be blown away.
Steam-Driven VS. Pump-Driven Espresso Machines
Within the above list of espresso machines you also have two sub-categories to consider as well: steam-driven or pump-driven espresso machines.
Basically, this distinction refers to what is powering the espresso-making process.
A steam-driven espresso machine generates pressurized steam to force how water through the espresso grounds. These machines are often cheaper to construct and most frequently found in the “budget” espresso maker category. Although they are often cheaper to buy, the espresso they produce is probably not up to par for most serious espresso drinkers. They simply cannot generate enough pressure to produce a full tasting espresso. The resulting beverage is a strong coffee at best.
A pump-driven espresso machine uses a mechanized pump to drive hot water through the espresso. If you’re looking around at pump-driven espresso makers you will notice that they often feature varying bars of pressure (between 8 and 20 bars of pressure usually). Despite what the companies may claim, all you need to produce a great shot of espresso is 12 bars of pressure. Although having more bars than that may make the machine sound impressive, it really has no sizable difference in the resulting espresso shot.
Plastic VS. Stainless Steel
Another important thing to consider is what the machine is made out of. Obviously the plastic machines may be easier on the wallet, but are they worth it?
In my opinion, it is almost always a better idea to buy a stainless-steel machine. Those cheap plastic machines usually don’t last very long (a year at most) and often add a vague plasticky taste to the resulting espresso.
Espresso makers made from stainless steel on the other-hand generally last longer. They usually don’t alter the taste of your espresso and can give you years of use if well cared for. Be sure that the machine also features a stainless steel steam wand and stainless steel portafilter. These are the components that often breakdown first.
However, just because a machine is stainless steel does not mean that it will work well!
Before buying a new machine, always be sure to check out espresso machine reviews to find out about any problems with the machine or if it breaks-down easily. There are lots of places to find espresso machine reviews out there, so be sure to do your research carefully before investing your money in a new one.
Selecting the best home espresso machine does not need to be a difficult task if you know what you’re looking for. It is a good idea to determine what kind of espresso maker you want before looking at individual machines. Are you a hardcore espresso fanatic that needs total control over the espresso-making process? Or are you the type of individual that wants the machine to do most of the work?
Knowing what you’re looking for in advance will help narrow down your search.
And of course, always browse through espresso machine reviews so you can make an informed decision before making your purchase.