Planning To Buy An Espresso Machine? Here’s What You Need To Know
Espresso Machine – There’s nothing like feeling the heavenly aroma of a freshly brewed shot of espresso early in the morning, during office breaks, or at the end of the day when you want to relax. If you are a connoisseur of coffee, you will agree that coffee and espresso belong to two different genres and the two don’t even compare!
When you make espresso, you use a higher quality of beans that are brewed through a process that produces a higher intensity of flavor than what you can expect in a typical cup of coffee. An espresso is loved for its distinct layer of delectable foam on the top and it’s called the crema.
If the idea of a strong and creamy shot of espresso has got you itching to visit the nearest coffee shop, we would suggest you invest in an espresso machine, which may be costly but will pay for itself in the months to come. Some of the benefits of an espresso machine are:
- Get a quick morning fix, just the way you like it, without any wait.
- Choices are unlimited as you can explore an entire world of coffee beans
- Experiment with different coffee beans at home and become a pro
- Have full control of your drink with easily programmable settings
- Be the best host or partner with freshly brewed coffee made at home
- Proudly display your home espresso machine like a masterpiece
- Save time and money as you don’t need to visit your favorite coffee shop frequently
So, if that makes you think about buying an espresso machine, you need to look beyond the dark and rich foam and gain some insight on espresso machines to nail the buying decision.
How Do Espresso Machines Work?
To brew your favorite espresso, the machine forces pressurized water (near boiling point) first through a coffee-ground container and a then filter. In most espresso machines, water moves through four distinct phases – water source, pump, boiler, and steam wand or group head.
Espresso machines are based on any of these four main mechanisms – piston-driven, steam-driven, pump-driven, or air-pump-driven.
A piston-driven design uses a lever that is pumped by the operator to send pressurized hot water through the coffee grinds. They call it ulling the shots’ due to the operating mechanism.
A pump-driven design is a refined version of the piston-driven, which is popularly used in the commercial espresso bars. It uses a motor-driven pump instead of manual force to drive the pressurized water for brewing.
A steam-driven machine drives water into the coffee grounds container by using steam pressure. The steam produced is not as effective as pump-driven, hence they usually have a low-quality crème.
Air-pump-driven units have emerged in the recent times and they typically use compressed air to force near boiling water through the coffee grounds. The hot water comes from a thermo-flask and the compressed air is released by a hand-pump or electric compressor.
Types of Espresso Machines
When looking for espresso machines, you will find that there are different types of them. The main difference boils down to the ease of use. Machines that come with valves, sensors, pumps, and grinders to automate the brewing process are known as automatic.
Let’s take a look at the different types:
Manual Espresso Maker
Is for those who don’t mind putting in some effort to brew a high quality and great tasting espresso. It comes with a lever and gives you more control over the brewing process. One of our favorites Espresso Machine is the Flair Espresso Maker.
Semi-automatic Espresso Machine
These types of Espresso Makers are the most popular for use in the home. Semi-automatic because it requires for the barista to grind the coffee beans, place just the right amount ground coffee in the portafilter, tamp (compact) the coffee, attach the portafilter on the espresso machine and turn the machine on.
A highly rated semi-automatic Espresso Maker is the Delonghi EC680M DEDICA
Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
Full Automatic Espresso Makers automate the amount and delivery of water into the unit. While it makes the process easier, it takes some control out of your hands. It automatically controls the amount of water is needed to go through the coffee grounds and when the pre-programmed amount of espresso is achieved the machine will automatically turn itself off.
A very nice Automatic Expresso Machine with lots of great reviews is the Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines come with a lot of options and high-end features like built-in coffee bean grinding and automatic brewing and easy programmable settings. They take the stress out of making great espresso. After you set the machine, the system goes on into motion to grind the coffee beans and automatically brew your perfect espresso coffee with just the push of a button.
One such machine is the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista.
Should You Choose A Small Or Large Espresso Machine
Size is an important deciding factor when buying an espresso machine. Some of the large machines are capable of brewing different coffee flavors, but they are bulky and take a lot of space. Depending on size, the espresso machines are categorized into group 1, group 2, group 3, and group 4.
If you are buying for domestic use, group 1 (small and compact size) works best as it takes less counter space. You will be making one, two or maximum 5 cups a day, so a small machine is good to go.
However, a restaurant will usually have a group 2, group 3, or group 4 machine enabling the staff to prepare as many as six espresso-based drinks simultaneously. A large coffee-maker is one of the most visible and functional units in a restaurant. It also helps in creating a positive impression on customers.
Features To Look For In An Espresso Machine
When buying an Espresso Machine, some of the common things you need to look for are ease of use, ease of cleaning, cost factor, size, durability, customer service and your personal preferences. Apart from these, here are some important features worth considering:
- Built-In Coffee Grinder: Having a built-in grinder can enhance the flavor of your espresso and also save counter space.
- Programmable Settings: You can adjust the settings to brew that PERFECT coffee and save the settings for future use. You can also save multiple settings for different individuals.
- Water filter: As water plays an important role in your espresso machine, having a filter ensures any extra flavor in the water you use doesn’t impact your coffee.
- Frothing wand: Most of the espresso machines come with this feature and if you like using steamed milk in your coffee, this is a must!
- Cup warmer is a great feature that enables the espresso machine to keep your cup warm even after the drink is dispensed until you are ready to sip on it.
What Coffee Goes Best With Espresso Machines
When you want to sip on that heavenly taste and feel the rich aroma, you need to choose the right roast and type of coffee for your espresso machine.
While you can choose any type of lighter or medium roast based on your personal preference, consider going with the French roast for dark and intense flavor.
If you are looking for a rich and foamy crem on top of your espresso, you can get the best results with Ethiopian coffee bean.
Indonesian coffee beans are great for those who like intense flavor blended with earthy undertones. They are low in acidity level.
If you prefer a sweet and sharp flavor, go with the Colombian coffee. You can also try out blends that work well with espresso machines. The blends use coffee from Indonesia, Chiapas, and Central America.