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    Guide to Selecting an Espresso Coffee Maker

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    Espresso is a method of brewing coffee and not a type of bean, roast or blends of coffee. Those who are not connoisseurs often lump together coffee and espresso, but they are different. When you make espresso, you begin with a higher quality of coffee beans and then brew them through a process that creates a greater intensity of flavor compared with what you’d experience with a normal cup of American coffee. A high-quality shot of espresso features a layer of delectable foam on top called crema, and it can be drunk as is or mixed with other ingredients to make various espresso beverages. [1]  

    Owning an espresso coffee maker at home can be a wise purchase if the thought of a dark, rich, and foamy shot of espresso makes you want to visit your favorite coffee shop. However, when you go to appliance stores or browse online, you will find many available espresso machines or coffee makers that offer different features. This can make it quite challenging to choose the best one that will cater to your coffee needs at home. But no worries, as we are here to help you. In this post, we are giving you a guide to selecting an espresso coffee maker.

    What Can You Make Using an Espresso Coffee Maker?

    different espresso-based drinks

    If you are still convincing yourself whether you should get an espresso machine or not, learning about what you can make with it might help you decide. It is possible that you are an espresso lover without realizing it. It’s because many of the popular drinks that you can buy at coffee shops are made with espresso. [1] Below are some examples of the different drinks that you can make using an espresso coffee maker:

    • Espresso Shot or Double Shot: This is the liquid just as it comes out of the machine. A lot of espresso lovers choose to drink it in its natural state, which resembles a bit darker version of black coffee.
    • Macchiato: When you add a bit of steamed milk on top of your espresso shot, you will be able to make macchiato. Doing this adds some extra foam and tempers the strong flavor of espresso.
    • Cappuccino: Cappuccino is similar to macchiato, but it has extra milk. It is among the most popular ways to drink espresso. It is also very easy to make at home if you own an espresso machine.
    • Latte: When you add more milk to a cappuccino, it becomes a latte. But the latte only has a thin layer of foam.
    • Mocha: Mocha is similar to a cappuccino, but it has chocolate added in. 

    using an espresso machine

    These are some of the main espresso-based drinks that you can make if you have an espresso coffee maker at home. You can also add additional touches to these drinks based on your preferences, such as flavorings like caramel, hazelnut, and peppermint, along with some whipped cream on top. Owning an espresso coffee maker will allow you to experiment and create concoctions that can beat out the flavors of the drinks that your local coffee shops offer, as they are based on your personal tastes. [1] 

    Factors to Consider When Buying an Espresso Coffee Maker

    Factors to Consider When Buying an Espresso Coffee Maker

    When buying a new espresso coffee maker, there are different things that you need to consider to be able to find the best one that will cater to your needs. It is actually not that difficult to choose, as long as you ensure that the machine you will choose fits your lifestyle. Since everyone’s drink choice, volume, and the kitchen is different, below are the different factors that you can consider to be able to choose the right espresso coffee maker:

    Durability

    One of the important things that you need to consider when buying an espresso coffee maker is how durable it is. You need to know how much the machine can handle before buying it. For instance, a professional-grade espresso coffee maker should be able to work the whole day smoothly. On the other hand, a small and budget-friendly espresso coffee maker might break easily or overheat if used all day. An espresso coffee maker that can handle lots of pressure is dominant. [2]  

    Grinding Capacity

    When it comes to espresso machines, there are two types of grinding. One is by using a built-in grinder, and the other is by using a separate grinder for the coffee beans. This means that those machines that do not include built-in grinders will require you to purchase a separate coffee bean grinder. But the most expensive and super-automatic espresso coffee makers come with built-in grinders. 

    The most convenient is espresso coffee makers with built-in coffee grinders. If you choose this type of machine, you also have to find out if you need to put the ground coffee in the basket after grinding, as it is an extra step. There are some machines that will drop the grinds right into the basket, which is more convenient. [2] 

    Water Storage

    The majority of espresso coffee makers can hold enough water to make up to 8 cups of espresso. Some machines also have water tanks with small filling spouts. For these types of machines, having a funnel is essential. 

    You can also find high-end espresso machines that are made to connect to a water source, just like a refrigerator that has a water dispenser. However, before purchasing this type of machine, you need to know first whether or not you need your piping rerouted to be able to accommodate it. [2] These are best for commercial or business use. For home use, smaller espresso coffee makers that can handle a few cups of water can work well.

    Frothing Capability

    As we’ve mentioned earlier, espresso coffee makers are capable of making other espresso-based drinks, such as lattes, macchiatos, and cappuccinos. However, if you like these brews, it is important that you buy an espresso machine that comes with a frother that froths the pressurized milk. Most espresso coffee makers in the market come with the frother unless you are choosing a really cheap machine. [2] 

    Ease of Cleaning

    It is also essential to find out how easily the espresso coffee maker can be disassembled and reassembled. While cleaning the machine can be quite a chore, it is important to keep it operating at a high level. [2] 

    Ease of Storage

    If you do not intend to use the espresso coffee maker daily, it is important to know how easy the unit would be to store. Choosing a large espresso coffee maker could be more difficult to store safely as they can be heavy. Therefore, before you purchase one, make sure that there is enough space in your kitchen to store it safely. [2] 

    Aesthetics

    The factors that make an espresso coffee maker aesthetically pleasing should not end at whether it matches your kitchen countertop or coffee table. It’s because there are other important factors to look into, such as the spout placement, cord length, and the color or material the exterior has. 

    For instance, if the spout of the machine is attached at an awkward location or angle, it will be difficult to pour the espresso. If the espresso machine needs to be refilled regularly, choosing one with a longer cord is better. Also, if the espresso coffee maker you are eyeing is made of stainless steel, but most of the other appliances in your kitchen are white or black in color, the espresso coffee maker will stand out like a sore thumb. Therefore, choosing one that will match the color of your other appliances is better. [2]  

    Budget

    Most people usually make two common mistakes with their budget. One is that they under-allocate money to a grinder, and the other is that they often overbuy on the espresso machine side. [3] While it is quite tempting to purchase a high-end espresso coffee maker, you should first consider your budget or how much you are willing to spend. If you are an ultimate espresso lover and you need a machine that will supply you with a shot of espresso every day, then a more expensive espresso coffee maker can be great for you. But if you will only make espresso drinks at home occasionally, finding a more affordable but reliable espresso coffee maker is ideal.

    The Different Types of Espresso Coffee Makers

    The Different Types of Espresso Coffee Makers

    Now that you know the important things to consider when choosing espresso coffee makers let us move on to the different types to further help you pick. If you have done some research on espresso coffee makers or machines for home use, you may have found yourself overwhelmed by the number of available machines in the market today. Therefore, to help you better understand what each of them offers, below are the different types of espresso coffee makers.

    Steam-Driven Espresso Coffee Makers

    steam espresso machine

    Back in 1884, Angelo Moriondo, an Italian inventor, presented a “new steam machinery” for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverages at the Turin General Exposition. After this, the pressurized coffee system was introduced. Today, electric steam-driven espresso machines are still being utilized. These are simple espresso coffee makers that are easy to use and maintain. Most of them are also affordable and compact.

    Steam-driven espresso coffee makers feature an airtight tank where water is brought to boiling point to produce steam. This produces pressure, forcing the water through a reservoir and into the coffee. However, the downside of this type of espresso coffee maker is that it only reaches 1 to 1.5 bars of pressure, while the ideal pressure for a delicious shot of espresso is 9 bars. [4]

    This type of espresso coffee maker works well for those who want a quick espresso without too much investment of money and time. Below are some examples of steam-driven espresso coffee makers to help you choose:

    • Mr. Coffee 4-Cup Steam Espresso System: This espresso coffee maker utilizes steam heat to force hot steam through the filter, creating a dark and rich espresso brew. It can make up to four shots of espresso that are stored in an easy-pour glass carafe.
    • FOHERE Steam Espresso Machine: This espresso coffee maker features an advanced heating system to achieve optimum temperature. It can also brew up to four cups of espresso in just two minutes. It uses high-pressure steam to create micro-foam in just 40 seconds, which is best for lovers of latte and cappuccino. 

    Lever-Driven Espresso Coffee Makers

    a hand lever espresso machine

    There are also espresso coffee makers that are lever-driven and require physical strength to pull a shot. These come in two types, which are manual and spring-loaded. A manual lever-driven machine can be recognized by the horizontal resting position of the lever. When it is raised, an opening in the brewing chamber draws in pre-heated water to saturate the coffee grounds. The length of the pre-infusion, flow rate, and pressure are all controlled by the barista when he or she brings down the lever. 

    Spring-driven machines, on the other hand, point up when the internal spring is relaxed. When you pull the lever down, the spring compresses and brings the piston up, creating a space in the brewing chamber where water enters. As the spring releases tension, the lever comes back up, which causes the piston to push the water down and extract the espresso. [4] 

    This is a good choice if you want to be in control when you make your espresso. They are also eye-catching, and the lack of electrical components can also be appealing to many. Below are some examples of lever-driven espresso coffee makers to help you pick:

    • La Pavoni PC-16 Professional Espresso Machine: This is a professional espresso maker that is made of chrome-plated brass, making it sturdy and long-lasting. It provides a great steaming mechanism for cappuccinos. It also comes with detailed instructions and an instructional video to make sure that you will be able to brew your espresso right using it.
    • Flair All Manual Lever Espresso Maker: This is a completely manual espresso maker that can make quality shots of espresso wherever you are. It is 100% human-powered, and it does not come with any plugs or electronic parts. It is also very easy to clean and is built to last.

    Pump-Driven Espresso Coffee Makers

    an automatic espresso machine

    Since the 1960s, pump-driven espresso coffee makers have been around and have been dominating the market. These espresso makers work by using an electronic pump to drive pre-heated water through the brew chamber and into a bed of coffee. It is easy to achieve consistent high pressure with this type of espresso coffee maker. 

    At present time, there are three main categories of pump-driven espresso makers, which are semi-automatic, automatic, and super-automatic:

    • Semi-Automatic Espresso Coffee Makers: These are what most people are familiar with when it comes to a professional espresso machine. They use an automated system to drive the water through the group head. With this type, the barista or user is in control of grinding, tamping, and control of extraction time. This means that you are in charge of the shot, but it provides regulated water pressure and temperature for you.
    • Automatic Espresso Coffee Makers: These are quite similar to semi-automatic espresso makers. However, they stop the flow of water automatically for a more consistent volume in each shot. This means that you don’t have to stand over each espresso to stop the overflow. These are the machines that are mostly used in coffee shops.
    • Super-Automatic Espresso Coffee Makers: These espresso coffee makers do all the work. They grind the beans and measure, fill, and tamp the grounds into the portafilter. With just a press of a button, you will get a perfect shot of espresso. There are also some machines that allow the user to make adjustments when it comes to grinding sizes and timing. These are mostly used in homes and offices.

    Below are some examples of pump-driven espresso coffee makers to help you choose:

    • KitchenAid Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine: This espresso machine has dual, smart temperature sensors to ensure optimal temperature and a delicious shot of espresso. It has a dosage selector that allows you to prepare one or two espresso shots at a time. It can be used to make lattes and cappuccinos, as it comes with a steam wand.
    • Saeco Xelsis Automatic Espresso Machine: This automatic espresso machine enables you to make 15 coffee varieties. Your custom coffee favorites can also be saved in up to 6 user profiles for instant selection. You can also use it to prepare either a single or double serving of any espresso recipe. It also comes with high-tech ceramic grinders for your fresh beans.
    • De’Longhi Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso Machine: This espresso machine comes with a professional burr grinder with 13 adjustable settings. It has a manual frother that mixes steam and milk to make a rich and creamy froth for evenly textured drinks. Each shot of espresso is automatically brewed in this machine to the perfect temperature, density, and richness. It also self-adjusts to one or two shots of espresso.

    Volumetric Espresso Coffee Makers

    Volumetric espresso coffee makers are those that measure water flow from your water reservoir or source and end the brewing process when a specific volume has run through the coffee grounds. The amount of water used will affect the taste of your espresso. Therefore, having an espresso maker that measures the water for you will provide you with a foolproof system for a consistent and delicious espresso. This type of espresso coffee maker is perfect for espresso drinkers who care about consistency. [5] 

    Below are some examples of volumetric espresso coffee makers to help you pick:

    Single Boiler Espresso Coffee Makers

    Espresso coffee makers that are single boilers are often more affordable than other options. It’s because they utilize only one heating element to heat both water for brewing and for steaming milk or cream. The water used for espresso is cooler compared to the water heated up to boiling to produce steam for steaming milk. Therefore, single-boiler espresso makers need to cool down for a while between shots. 

    Single-boiler espresso coffee makers are often smaller than other types of espresso makers. They are perfect for making espresso at home without taking up much counter space. However, they are not advisable to be used for businesses that require brewing lots of espresso shots. [5] Below are some examples of single-boiler espresso coffee makers to help you choose:

    • Gaggia Carezza Deluxe Espresso Machine: This espresso machine has a pressurized portafilter that brews both ground coffee and pods. It powers down after 9 minutes of inactivity to save energy. It has 47oz. capacity and pulls out from the front of the machine. Its water level is also visible. 
    • Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine: This espresso machine features a professional style and modern design. It also comes with a professional wood-handle tamper, a single shot basket, and a double shot basket. It also has a double spout portafilter to fill two cups at a time.

    Double Boiler Espresso Coffee Makers

    Double-boiler espresso machines are quite similar to a single boiler but they have two heat sources. These use one boiler to heat water for making espresso, while the other boiler is for steaming milk. More often, these machines are bigger due to the second boiler, and are more expensive. The great thing about them is that they do not need a cool down period and can give shot after shot in a short period. These machines are great for commercial use but are also good for home use, especially for families who love espresso shots in the morning. [5] 

    Below are some examples of double-boiler espresso coffee makers to help you choose:

    • Breville Dynamic Duo Dual Boiler Espresso Machine: This espresso maker features dual stainless steel boilers and a heated group head that are controlled by a digital temperature controller. It also comes with the smart grinder pro, which has 60 unique settings for any type of brew. 
    • De’Longhi La Specialista Espresso Machine: This machine has active temperature control with a dual heating system to provide the best temperature stability for optimal coffee extraction and milk texturing. It also comes with a frother for making latte and cappuccino. 

    Pod Espresso Machines

    coffee pod espresso machine

    With the popularity of single-serve coffee makers, pod-based espresso machines have also become popular due to their convenience. These espresso coffee makers take small pods that are filled with espresso grounds, and they often use a pump to make enough pressure to produce a single serving of espresso. However, a lot of them do not include milk steaming options, and those that do are often more expensive. 

    Pod espresso machines are perfect for those who have limited time to make espresso in the morning. It is also great if you want to save space in your kitchen and want to have the ability to pick a different espresso flavor every day. [5] Below are some examples of pod espresso machines to help you choose:

    • ChefWave Pod Espresso Machine: This espresso maker is compatible with Nespresso original line capsules and other branded capsules. It has a fast heat-up system that reaches the ideal temperature in just 30 seconds. It is compact and lightweight, making it great for small kitchen countertops.
    • Nescafe Dolce Gusto Coffee Machine: This machine can help you make espresso, cappuccino, and latte every morning, along with 11 other flavor varieties. It has 15 bars of pressure for high-level extraction. It also has a toggle stick that you can use to select the size and temperature to create the perfect cup of espresso.

    Stovetop Espresso Coffee Makers

    a Moka pot on a stove

    If you do not want to go through the hassle of operating an espresso machine, then using a stovetop espresso coffee maker or also known as the Moka pot, is a great idea. It is usually small and compact and is also probably the least expensive way to start making espresso at home. All you have to do is fill it with water and coffee grounds, then place it on the stove over medium-to-high heat. The stove will heat up the water until it boils, and the steam is pushed through the grounds to make espresso. [5] Below are some examples of stovetop espresso coffee makers to help you pick:

    • Primula Stovetop Espresso Maker: This Moka pot can produce six espresso servings. It is made of strong cast aluminum for long-lasting durability. It has a flip-top lid that features a temperature-resistant knob and handles for safe pouring. It is very easy to use and simple to clean.
    • Café Du Chateau Espresso Maker: This stovetop espresso maker has a transparent top lid for easy viewing as the coffee brews. It also has an easy-grip handle for safe lifting and pouring. It comes with a stainless steel coffee spoon to scoop your favorite coffee grounds. It is made of high-quality materials, and it is very easy to clean.

    Espresso and Coffee Maker Combo

    If you are a coffee lover who loves to try out different types of coffee other than espresso and espresso-based drinks, owning a coffee maker in addition to an espresso machine is perfect for you. However, buying two different appliances can be more expensive, and they may take up too much space on your kitchen counter. To avoid these, what you can choose is espresso and coffee maker combo machines. These are a combination of both espresso machines and coffee makers in one. Below are some examples to give you more idea:

    • De’Longhi All-In-One Combination Coffee Maker & Espresso Machine: This machine has a dual heating system, allowing you to brew coffee and espresso at the same time. It also comes with an advanced steam wand to steam milk for lattes and cappuccinos. It has a digital touchscreen and a 24-hour programmable timer. It also offers various settings to customize your coffee preferences.
    • Espressione Espresso Machine and Coffee Maker: This espresso machine and coffee maker works with either ground coffee or easy-serving espresso pods. It has electronic temperature control with one selector knob, four buttons, and two LED lamps. You can use it to brew flavorful coffee, espresso, and cappuccino.

    Conclusion

    Having your own espresso coffee maker at home is indeed more convenient than having to go out and visit your local coffee shop whenever you crave your favorite espresso-based drinks. While there are many different options when it comes to espresso makers, determining your needs and learning about the various types and features can help you in deciding which one will best cater to your preferences. We hope this post helped you learn more about selecting an espresso coffee maker.

    References

    [1] Hicks, K. (2017, November 1). How to choose the Best Espresso Machine: Buyer’s Guide. Compact Appliance. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://learn.compactappliance.com/espresso-machine-buyers-guide/

    [2] York, M. (2016). What to look for in an espresso machine: 7 factors to consider. Espresso Perfecto. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.espressoperfecto.com/what-to-look-for-in-an-espresso-machine/

    [3] Raper, A. (2019, February 4). How to choose a Home Espresso Machine. Clive Coffee. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://clivecoffee.com/blogs/learn/how-to-choose-a-home-espresso-machine

    [4] Haydon, M. (2021, March 30). Understanding the different types of Espresso Machine. Perfect Daily Grind. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/12/understanding-the-different-types-of-espresso-machine/

    [5] Simms, D. (2022, October 12). 15 different types of espresso machines: Which is right for you? Coffee Affection. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://coffeeaffection.com/types-of-espresso-machines/

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