The Ultimate Espresso Machine Buying Guide For Coffee Aficionados
For espresso lovers, there is coffee, and then there is espresso and never should the two be compared. Some people, who are not connoisseurs but just casual espresso drinkers sometimes confuse the two. But not the avid lover of espresso. To them, the difference is night and day.
With so much love invested into their favorite drink, it is vital that when looking for a quality espresso machine for your home, it is essential to know everything you need to know to make an excellent choice. Nothing would be more disappointing than to buy an espresso machine and bring it home and get a lousy cup of espresso. That is why we have taken the time to give you all the information you need in our espresso machine buying guide.
When you make espresso, you start off by using a higher quality of coffee bean that is used in regular coffee. You grind the beans and then use a process that produces a much more vibrant and intense flavor than the average cup of regular coffee has. You can then drink the shot of espresso that is created along with its rich foamy cream on top, or you can mix it with other ingredients to make many other wonderful drinks.
Now if the thought of that doesn’t already have you itching to go out and get your favorite drink, then maybe you should stick with your Mr. Coffee coffee maker. However if your mouth is watering for a shot of espresso, then keep reading. This espresso maker buying guide is for you.
Finding The Right Espresso Maker For You
To figure out what the right espresso maker is for you, you need to do a little self-evaluation. We have a few questions for you to ask yourself that will help you narrow down the choice.
- How committed are you?
- Do you drink lattes and mochas?
- Do you like to grind?
How Committed Are You To Learning?
I Am In A Hurry! Think about how your morning goes. Are you always in a rush to get out the door so you can get to work on time? Do you want to push a button and get your espresso? If that is you, then you might want to check out either the super-automatic espresso machines or the capsule espresso machines. You are probably too busy to take the time to learn how to be your own chef.
Do you like to experiment with new flavors and strengths? Do you have the time to grind the beans, tamp them down in the filter and set things up before starting your brew? How much time do you want to take before getting that first cup? If you have time and want to grow with your machine, then you will want a semi-automatic espresso machine.
Do You Like Milk-Based Drinks Like Lattes And Cappuccinos?
A single boiler home espresso maker can froth milk, but a dual boiler or heat exchanger machine works better. Some of the super-automatic machines struggle with getting the milk hot enough so you might want to make sure it has a steam wand or is a dual boiler machine.
Even though you won’t need a steam wand to froth milk, you still may want one to add hot water to an Americano. Or you can look for an espresso maker that has an additional hot water spigot.
Do You Want To Grind Your Coffee Beans?
Super-automatic espresso machines have a built-in burr grinder. Semi-automatic espresso machines require you to have a separate coffee grinder. You need to consider this since it will add to the total cost of your espresso making set up.
Don’t have time? Do you avoid doing extra work for yourself? You should consider getting an espresso maker that allows you to use pre-ground espresso, pressurized portafilters, or capsules.
Types Of Espresso You Can Make
I would bet that many of you have drunk a drink made with espresso and might not even realize it. Most of your favorite coffee drinks are made with espresso.
With a home espresso machine and a little time, you can have those drinks at a fraction of the cost of what you are paying at Starbucks or Pete’s Coffee.
Here are a few of the drinks you can make with a new espresso maker.
- Espresso shot or double shot: This is the liquid that comes out of the espresso machine. It resembles a black cup of coffee but is much more flavorful.
- Macchiato: An espresso shot with a little bit of steamed milk on top for a bit of foam and to temper the intense flavor of the espresso.
- Cappuccino: Similar to a Macchiato but with added steamed milk. Cappuccino is one of the most popular espresso drinks. Making it with a home espresso maker is easy.
- Latte: Similar to a Cappuccino but with even more milk. However, it does not have the same amount of foam on the top.
- Mocha: Just like a latte but with chocolate added into the drink.
Types Of Espresso Machines
There are four basic types of espresso machines. They are super-automatic, semi-automatic, manual lever, and capsule machines.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
Super-automatic espresso machines are the ultimate one-step espresso makers. They go from bean to brew at the push of a button. They have a built-in coffee grinder and brewing functions that automatically grind your coffee, fill and tamp down the coffee in the filter basket, brew a pre-set volume of espresso, and then they dump the used coffee grounds into an internal waste hopper.
They will also froth the milk either using a steam wand or an automatic frothing device for your cappuccinos and lattes. This whole cycle only takes a couple of minutes.
Typical Bean To Brew Steps With A Super-Automatic Machine
- Verify the water tank and the bean hopper is full.
- Turn on the machine and wait for it to warm up. (2 minutes or so.)
- Press your pre-selected option button for the type of espresso you want.
- Enjoy your cup of espresso!
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
Semi-automatic espresso makers are the most common on the market. They have an electric brewing pump which is turned on by you with a switch. These machines are simple to use, but they do require more work by you to get a shot of espresso. They take the most steps by hand, along with the manual lever-style machines, to complete the brewing process.
Typical Bean To Brew Process With A Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
- Make sure there is water in the reservoir.
- Turn on your espresso machine and wait for it to heat up.
- Grind your beans in a separate grinder.
- Scoop a measured amount of the freshly ground espresso beans and put them in the filter basket and tamp/press then down.
- Put the filter in the espresso machine and place the brew pitcher our your cup under the portafilter.
- Press the brew button,
- Wait until you have the desired amount of espresso in your pitcher and then turn off the brew button.
Manual Lever Espresso Machines
For the true espresso purist, the way to go is the manual lever espresso machine. These machines offer the charm and craftsmanship straight from the old world.
However, they are not for the novice. Manual lever machines will take a lot of time and experimentation before a person will be able to pull a good shot of espresso manually.
Typical Bean To Brew Steps With A Manual Espresso Machine
- Fill the water reservoir and turn on the machine to start heating the water. (May take up to 15 minutes.)
- Grind your espresso coffee beans and fill the portafilter.
- Tamp down the espresso grounds and place the portafilter back into the espresso machine. Place your pitcher under the filter.
- Once the water is at the right temperature, raise the handle and slowly pull it down forcing the water through the filter.
- You can repeat this process as long as there is water in the reservoir but once empty you must shut off the machine and wait for it to cool before refilling the water reservoir.
Capsule Or Pod Espresso Machines
Capsule or pod espresso machines are the easiest of all the espresso makers. They are suited for busy households and offices. All you do is insert a pre-filled capsule that has the espresso grounds already set up for you into your espresso machine and voila, your espresso starts pouring.
They are usually equipped with a steam wand or automatic milk frothing system so you can make your favorite lattes or cappuccinos.
Typical Bean To Brew Process With A Capsule Espresso Maker
- Make sure the water reservoir is filled.
- Turn on the power to the water, so it starts heating.
- Place a brew pitcher under the brewing spout.
- Place a capsule in the espresso machine.
- Press the button for the pre-programmed brew style you desire.
- Repeat if desired.
Recommended Espresso Machine Manufacturers
At Taber’s Best Reviews we only recommend the best espresso manufacturers. We do this because having a reputable manufacturer eliminates the problems generally associated with getting customer service with other knock-off brands. We recommend these espresso maker brands.
Factors To Consider When Buying An Espresso Maker
An espresso machine buying guide would not be complete if we did not talk about some of the elements that you want to consider when buying an espresso maker. Each person has different tastes and different needs in an espresso maker. Here are some of the factors you should consider when purchasing an espresso machine.
How Easy Is It To Use?
Not all of us are cut out to be baristas. Some of us need it simple. One of the things you will need to consider is how easy is the machine to use. If automation is your goal, then look for either a super-automatic espresso machine or a capsule espresso machine. Make sure that the buttons and settings are intuitive and easy to use.
How Easy Is It To Clean?
If you end up with a model that is easy to use but a royal pain in the derriere, then it wasn’t all that easy to use after all was it?
Take a look at the components of the machine. The more parts, the longer it will take you to clean it. On Super-automatic machines, make sure to check how easy the grinder is to remove and clean. It will need cleaning every so often.
What Type Of Espressos Do You like?
The choices in flavors and styles of espresso are almost limitless. Just take a look at the discussions on some of the significant forums like this one.
If you are new to making espresso, then the flavor and consistency might not be a significant factor to you. Or if you are more of a latte and mocha drinker, the espresso flavor is not as big of a factor compared to drinking a straight shot of espresso. You would be happy with almost any of the machines we recommend.
However, if you are a real espresso connoisseur, you will care about things like how many boilers it has. (More is better.) The temperature control settings, and whether it uses steam pressure or not.
It depends on your taste and your willingness to experiment. If you want the best of the best, then your machine will cost more, but if you are starting out, you might start with a mid-range maker and learn the ropes before going all out.
How Good Is The Manufacturer’s Customer Service?
There is nothing we hate more than customer no-service. What good does it do you to buy a product and not be able to use it because the manufacturer gives you the runaround?
Espresso machines are one of those items that you plan on using for quite a while. That means you may need parts or service at some point in the future. You are going to deal with a company’s customer service.
Check out what others are saying about their experience. Read real customer reviews, especially on the company’s website. Check to see if the people are happy or mad.
How Big Is The Espresso Machine?
Not all of us are blessed with large kitchens. Some of us live in smaller spaces like apartments and lofts. Some of these espresso machines can get quite large. Make sure you check out the dimension of the espresso machine you are considering and make sure it will fit with the area you have available.
If you have the room, some espresso machines come with the ability to make two shots at once. This ability and other features can make the rather large size worth it.
How Well Built Is The Espresso Maker?
Durability is another feature you should look for in an espresso machine. Take a look at the manufacturer’s warranty. It will give you an idea of how well built the espresso machine is. The more extended the warranty, the more confidence the company has that the product will last.
As we all know, things made out of metal last longer than things made out of plastic. With espresso machines, this is not only true, but because they are made out of metal, the heat is distributed more evenly.
Take a look at how many moving parts the machine has. The more components, the more the risk of something breaking or malfunctioning. Manual machines last the longest but are most laborious to use. Try to strike a balance between convenience and reliability.
How Much Does An Espresso Machine Cost?
The price range of espresso machines varies greatly. This variation is because there are a lot of factors that determine the cost. Things like how many features does the device have. Or things like what type of material is used in the machine. That is why we came up with a list of espresso machines that will fit any budget. We have devices that are under $1,000.00: Under $500.00: And under $200.00 It is too hard to generalize. But that will give you some good price points to consider.
Features To Look For In An Espresso Maker
Now that we have gone over some of the factors you need to consider when buying an espresso machine let’s take a look at some of the more popular features these espresso makers can have.
Some espresso machines come with a water purifier to make sure that all the impurities are taken out so that they do not influence the flavor of the espresso. This feature is especially useful in areas with hard water or bad tasting water.
Automatic Espresso Coffee Bean Grinder
Some espresso machines have an automatic coffee bean grinder. Espresso is the most flavorful when it is brewed with freshly ground beans. Shortly after being ground, coffee beans develop an oil around the grounds, and that will affect the flavor. By having an automatic grinder, you stop this oil from forming.
It will also save you from having to buy a separate coffee bean grinder and save you countertop space in your kitchen.
Most of the espresso machines come with a frothing wand to make the milk foamy. However, the quality of these wands vary. So if you are into lattes and mochas, you will want an espresso machine with a good frothing wand.
Once you get the hang of making espresso with your machine, you will want to program that setting, so you get a consistent shot of espresso every time. Many of the higher end machines come with a feature to program those settings. Some will even come with the ability to program a setting for every member of your family so that each person can get the perfect drink every time.
If you like your espresso to stay hot longer, then you have the option of getting an espresso machine that comes with a cup warmer. That way when the hot espresso is poured into the container, it doesn’t lose its temperature to the cold cup surrounding it.
Deciding To Buy An Espresso Machine
Well, there you have it. Our ultimate espresso machine buying guide. Now you have all the information you need to make a quality decision on which is the right espresso machine for you.
As I mentioned earlier, we have a list of the best espresso machines for the home. We would encourage you to take a look and compare the features and benefits of each device in each price range. Or you can just read our espresso machine reviews below.