- 1 Steam Driven Espresso Makers
- 2 Semi Automatic Espresso Machine
- 3 Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
- 4 Super Automatic Espresso Machine
- 5 Manual Espresso Machine
- 6 How to Choose Good Espresso Machine?
The market is aplenty with espresso makers at different price points and with different features. If you are new to espresso making at home, it could be a bit daunting, if not confusing, to choose a good espresso machine for your home.
To better choose the right espresso machine, it is good to first have an overview understanding of the broad categories of espresso machines and their key differences.
Basically, there are five types of espresso makers in the market:
- Steam Driven
- Semi Automatic
- Fully Automatic
- Super Automatic
Steam Driven Espresso Makers
This group of espresso machines make use of steam to force water through the bed of coffee to extract espresso. Strictly speaking, they are not really true espresso makers as they are only able to produce about 2 bars of pressure. This is far less than the optimal 9 bars of pressure required to produce an espresso with a nice crema layer.
Nevertheless, they are really cheap. If you are not really sure that making espresso is the thing for you and you don't want to spend too much money, this can be a cheap option and a great start since you can get a machine at less than $50.
Semi Automatic Espresso Machine
Instead of steam, the semi automatic espresso makers use an electric pump which is able to create the optimal 9 bars of pressure for espresso extraction. For these machines, you get to enjoy the process of making the preparation steps before brewing your espresso. You get to grind your coffee beans, tamp the ground coffee into the portafilter and then secure the portafilter to the espresso machine. Finally you switch on the pump to start the espresso extraction. Once you find that the espresso is fully extracted, you then switch off the pump.
The semi-automatic espresso machines are excellent for those who want to try their hands at making espresso at home, with control over the extraction process.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
This category of espresso makers also come with an electric pump. However, unlike the semi-automatics, you do not have control over when to stop the extraction. The volume of drink to deliver have been preset. Depending on the model, you may also have the option to programme your preferred drink amount.
While you have given up the control over the taste of espresso, these fully automatic espreso machines free you to perform other tasks while the espresso extraction is taking place. If you just want a cup of caffeine boost and do not have a specific taste preference for your espresso, you will like these fully automatic espresso makers.
Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Super Automatic Espresso Machines take automation to a whole new level with its automated brewing sytem and in-built grinder. All the tasks required to make espresso are fully automated. From the grinding of coffee beans to tamping of the ground coffee right up to the extraction of espresso. What you do is pour in the coffee beans into the bean hopper and press a few buttons. The rest are all automated.
If you like convenience, super automatic espresso machines are perfect for you.
Manual Espresso Machine
Manual espresso makers are the first machines to produce espresso with a crema layer. It makes use of a piston mechanism and lever to produce the 9 bars of pressures required for making espresso.
In addition to what you can do in a semi-automatic espresso maker, manual espresso machines allow you control over the duration of the pre-infusion process. This is when brewing water pre-wets the coffee bed at normal pressures. Pre-infusion is very important to the quality of an espresso. Without proper pre-infusion, the heated water may follow certain paths of least resistance in the coffee bed when high pressure is exerted to send the water through the coffee bed.
Using manual espresso makers require a deep understanding of the espresso making process. Hence, they are more suited for experienced espresso lovers who like full control over the process of making espresso.
How to Choose Good Espresso Machine?
That's the 5 different types of espresso makers. Okay. How shall we choose a good espresso machine? There is no hard and fast rule to this question. It basically depends on your needs and budget. Nevertheless, there are 10 important factors to consider when buying the right espresso machine for your home. Here are the 10 factors.
The price varies widely depending on the brand and features you are looking at. Generally, the more features the machine has, the more expensive it gets. Hence, it is important to determine the basic features you want ( such as milk frothing capability, larger water tank etc ) so that you can look for something within your budget.
Typically, in lower end machines, the espresso quality may vary from cup to cup due to instability in maintaining the brewing temperatures. However, it may be less of a concern for beginners who just want to try to learn espresso-making at home and do not want to spend much money. If the machine is used mainly to make espresso-based drinks such as cappuccinos or lattes where espresso taste is less significant, you may be even more tolerable towards the inconsistencies of the espresso quality.
Ease Of Use
For newcomers to espresso making, the learning curve to operate the machine is a crucial factor. If the controls are really complex, it may confuse or even frustrate newcomers. Typically the lower end models have few controls and hence require a lower learning curve to operate them.
If you want to make espresso with least effort, look for a model in the super automatic and fully automatic categories. Bear in mind though, with these categories, you will not be able to customize the taste of your espresso as freely since you can't decide when to stop the espresso extraction.
Ease Of Cleaning
The cleanliness of the machine can affect the taste of espresso. However, this is quite a chore. Hence, the ease of taking out parts such as water tank, drip tray, milk frother is important too. Certainly, you don't want to spend too much time to clean it.
Water Tank Capacity
The typical water tank capacity is able to fill up about 8 cups of espresso. This means lesser refills between each brew. However, if you have a big family and find refilling water tank an hassle, you may have to find a model with a large water tank or one which can allow you to plumb in the water directly from your water pipe.
Espresso machines come in different shapes and sizes. Figure out the amount of space you can spare on your counter before getting your espresso maker. The weight of the espresso maker is also important if you like to store your machine after use.
The boiler type of the espresso machine is a consideration if you are buying higher end models which has milk steaming capabilities. The temperatures for brewing espresso and steaming milk are different. So if the boiler of the machine can't provide the two temperatures at the same time, you would have to wait between brewing espresso and steaming milk.
There are primarily 3 types of boilers. There is the single boiler, double boilers and the heat exchanger. The lower end models typically use a single boiler and hence can't allow simultaneous brewing of espresso and steaming of milk. Only the heat exchanger and double boilers models allow you to do so but they are only found in higher end models.
The type of materials used have an effect on the durability. Machines made from metal are generally more durable than those from plastic. However, metal adds to the cost and they are also heavier. Lower end machines typically use more plastic than metals, making them cheaper to manufacture.
Milk Frothing Capability
If you like espresso-based drinks such as cappuccinos or latte, you will need milk frothing capability. Either you buy a milk frother separately or you get an espresso maker with milk frothing capability. The good news is most espresso makers, even lower end models, come with a milk frother.
Depending on the type of model, a grinder is not necessarily a consideration. If the espresso maker only allows the use of coffee capsules, there is no need for a grinder.
However, for those who are particular with the taste of their espresso, you may want to choose your own coffee beans. Using freshly ground coffee beans is always better than pre-ground coffee as freshness of coffee affects espresso quality. In such a case, you may choose a machine with in-built grinder or buy it separately.
In-built grinders are found in the higher end models. If you are looking at models with in-built grinders, then the grinder becomes a consideration too. First of all, the type of grinder is important as they can affect the many aromatic compounds in the coffee beans. Ceramic caconical burr grinders will be most preferred as they generate less heat and thus help to retain more of the compounds in the coffee beans. Then you also have to consider the grinding capacity. This is more significant if you have a large family to serve espresso.
Congratulations! Now we have reached the end of our guide to choose a good espresso machine. Before you go, don't miss out on the 3 picks for best espresso machines under $200.