Time and again, espresso has turned out to be coffee’s definitive expression.
For many java drinkers, finding the best espresso machine in your price range might mean the difference between a great brew and something that’s just so-so. Concerted, composite and powerfully flavorful, it is simple to fall hard for espresso.
If you find that brewing an entire pot of coffee each morning is overkill, then consider an expresso maker.
Here are our top picks of the best espresso makers.
Best Espresso Machines for 2020 – Quick Look
(Click on the name of any espresso maker to read it’s in-depth review)
|1600 Watts||15 bar pressure|
|Mr. Coffee Espresso|
|1040 Watts||15 bar pressure|
|Sowtech quick Espresso||N/A||3.5 bar pressure|
|Breville Vertuo||1350 Watt||15 bar pressure|
|Delonghi Automatic||1350 Watt||N/A|
|Cuisinart EM-200||1000 watts||15 bar pressure|
|Staresso Portable Espresso||N/A||15-20 bar pressure|
|DeLonghi ECP3120||1100 watts||15 bar pressure|
|Espresso Works||1350 Watt||15 bar pressure|
|Hamilton Beach Espresso||1100 watts||15 bar pressure|
1. Breville Barista Express – Best Overall Espresso Machine
Hailing from the land under, Breville is an Australian manufacturer known for the attention to detail on every single one of their products.
The barista Express is no exception to that fantastic reputation. The Barista Express is aimed at the small households that do not compromise on the strength and quality of the coffee.
The machine is eye-catching with an anodized aluminum finish on the full metal body and comes equipped with a plethora of great features to enhance a coffee-making experience.
Our In-Depth Review:
Breville has been a major player in the kitchen accessories market since its inception in 1932. In the long history of the company, it has built quite a reputation for making it built to last products.
The Barista Express while not being their flagship coffee maker, does not compromise on a lot of functionality on features that one would expect from a household espresso machine.
Diving into the customizability, the machine lets you select anything from the temperature of the water it would add to the concentration of milk in your latte and the size of the grind of beans. The modes are easy to toggle between and relatively intuitive to handle.
The PID technology employed in the machine that makes sure that the components are exactly the required temperature works really well giving the coffee and balanced yet nuanced taste and aroma. The filters are quite easy to interchange meaning that it would not be a pain if you are a coffee drinker that likes to switch things up every once in a while.
Although it is to be noted that the machines do not suggest an optimum grind size or temperature unlike some other machines in this review. The barista Espresso expects you to know your coffee and what you want.
The automatic espresso mode is a real winner producing coffee with a beautiful body that feels full and strong. Although the quality of the coffee is still highly dependent on the quality of the beans, the Barista Express tries everything it can to make your espresso perfect every single time.
The machine also takes a mighty long while to warm up unlike the 3-minute warm-up times of the more expensive offerings from Breville. The machine is also priced at a much more premium consumer.
- The machine is noticeably well built with a tough metal frame.
- The automatic mode is extremely well-calibrated and intelligently designed.
- The analog gauge button controls are old school but looks classy and works intuitively.
- The coffee is café quality more often than not with the digital temperature control on the water being extremely precise.
- Warm-up time is well over 10 minutes.
- There is a shocking lack of backlit displays or a screen.
- There is no precise milk temperature control.
Certainly, this espresso maker offers a great deal with its intelligent design and consistent performance. The coffee is café quality more often than not with the digital temperature control on the water being extremely precise. The disadvantages of the abovementioned are a small price to pay while regarding the advantages you bring home with this appliance.
2. Mr. Coffee Espresso Maker – With One Touch UI
The Mr.Coffee Café Barista Espresso and Cappuccino maker is a small but trusty offering from the American manufacturer that has been at the top of their coffee game since the 70s.
The Café Barista is at the top of Mr.Coffee’s line up of household coffee makers and is very aggressively compared to the rest of the competition featured in this review.
The machine features a high-density plastic frame with a one-touch control system that is built into the top frame of the machine.
Our In-Depth Review:
The Café Barista is aimed at giving you the full rich café style coffee experience without much of the hassle in the comfort of the household and in our testing, it does this perfectly well. The frame of the machine is admittedly made of high-density plastic but this gives it a much lighter therefore portable footprint.
The machine features a removable milk tray and frothing tube which is easy to access and clean. The real USP for the café barista is its triple functionality that lets you change the automatic temperature and frothing settings for lattes, espressos, and cappuccino. This makes it very easy to use in a household setting especially if the user isn’t a coffee connoisseur and does not know the exact specifications of what to add for each type of coffee.
The machine also sports electronic bar pump system that produces up to 15 bars of pressure to give you that rich coffee experience. The lack of a built-in grinder is a real flaw in the design which means that one would require purchasing an extra grinder to complete the coffee-making experience.
- Triple functionality that lets you choose between different beverages with ease.
- Built-in milk frothing system that gives you café style coffee consistently.
- 15 bars of pressure that give a rich full coffee experience.
- Priced at a lower more affordable range.
- A plastic body that lacks a sturdy feel and a backlit display of any kind
- No built-in grinder which means the machine takes only previously ground beans.
- No real way to precisely control water and milk temperature.
Conclusively, from the markers, we have a diminutive but dependable submission that comes decked with commendable features. The appliance does perform satisfactorily, barring its few disadvantages.
3. Sowtech Quick Espresso – With Built-in Measuring Cup
The Sowtech Quick Espresso machine is aimed at the price concerned consumer that wants a small compact compatible reasonably powerful coffee maker.
If you are that person look no further than this American coffee maker. Weighing in at just under 5 pounds this machine is aimed at small apartments or frequent travelers.
However, it doesn’t make major compromises on the quality of the coffee it serves.
Our In-Depth Review:
The Sowtech machine is clearly aimed at a coffee lover that is willing to sacrifice some customizability and features for the convenience of a smaller form factor and a compact portable design. The machine is well designed but sports a plastic construction with an LED light that lets you know that the machine is warmed up. It lacks any automatic beverage modes and customizability. You get your espressos and your frothy milk and not much else.
The steaming is less accurate and slower than digital frothing methods but this discrepancy is more than made up for with the affordable pricing of the machine. The interface is practically absent due to the machine just having a single plastic knob that lets you toggle between making coffee and frothing milk.
The knob is tucked away nicely and is placed well enough to avoid accidental toggles. The machine ships with a measuring jar and a measuring spoon for good measure, pun intended. The water tank cover is also made of plastic which is not ideal but also not surprising considering the pricing.
The body does feel sturdy and well-built albeit the choice of materials. The fact that the machine still succeeds in making a rich velvety feeling espresso is why it still is on top of Amazon’s best-selling steam frothing coffee machines. The quick extraction times of under 30 seconds and the built-in drip tray are also significant advantages.
- Compact and portable form factor.
- Built-in drip tray and measuring apparatus for convenience.
- Quick extraction time of 22 seconds.
- Priced extremely aggressively and aimed at the lower end of the market.
- Complete lack of any temperature dials and customizability.
- Only the singular functionality of espressos and no automatic modes available.
- No built-in grinder functionality and outdated steam frothing technology.
In a nutshell, we see how this appliance is perfect for those who are willing to forgo more than a few customizability and features for the expediency of a smaller form factor and compacted portable design. However, not everything is bland with the machine still succeeding in making a rich velvety feeling espresso.
4. Breville Espresso Machine – With 20 Espresso Capacity
The Nespresso By Breville combines innovative brewing technology to give you impressive barista-style coffee.
The coffee and espresso machine uses convenient and flavorful coffee capsules. And for added versatility, the coffee and espresso machine can brew your coffee in five different filling sizes.
At a 40 ounce full tank, the coffee machine can brew up to 40 cups of espresso in no time.
Our In-Depth Review:
The Nespresso By Breville espresso and coffee machine is designed to brew up to 5 different coffee filling sizes. These include the 14 ounce Alto coffee, 8-ounce Americano coffee, 5 ounce Gran Lugo, 2.7-ounce double espresso and the 1.35-ounce espresso. The coffee machine effectively brews the coffee through a single-serve capsule made of the finest roasted and ground coffee beans, thus, leaving that fresh aroma in your kitchen.
The coffee maker comes with 2 complimentary espresso Vertuo capsules to start you off. The capsules come in a recyclable and sealed aluminum housing which helps to preserve their freshness and exceptional aroma. Plus, the Vertuo capsules are available in 16 distinct flavors, so you can always take your palate on an explorative adventure.
You will even notice the ground coffee crema as that you will see on coffee brewed from an authentic heavy-duty coffee shop Italian espresso machine. Furthermore, the coffee make integrates the automatic and intelligent blend recognition technology to brew the right cup. Each coffee blend is recognized through the barcode on the rim of the capsule. Thus, allowing the machine to adjust its mechanism to make one of the 5 desired coffees.
And you don’t need to do much, all that’s needed is a single push on the activation button. And the best part of this home friendly coffee machine is that you don’t have to wait for it to warm up for up to 30 minutes like those big barista-style espresso machine.
With the Nespresso by Breville, you will be on your way to brewing your coffee within 15 to 20 seconds of heating up. And after every capsule is used, it is ejected into the used 10 coffee/20 espresso tan for later discarding. And depending on the preference of your family, the espresso and coffee machine can accommodate up to 3 different cup sizes.
- The coffee machine comes with a 12-piece capsule pack to start with.
- The machine is not too heavy at only 10.85 lbs.
- The machine is built with a power-saving mode.
- Short heat-up time at only 15 to 20 seconds.
- The capsules are a little expensive.
You should definitely consider the Nespresso By Breville as a new addition to your kitchen. For once, its sleek design adds that look of class in your kitchen. Plus, you can say goodbye to those daily and expensive Starbucks runs goodbye because ow, you will have your very own freshly brewed coffee supply in the comfort of your home. The Nespresso by Breville’s ingenious design also recognizes the fast-paced urban lives we live, thus, special attention is given to maximize efficiency with each brew.
5. Delonghi ESAM3300 – With Large Water Tank
Featuring one of a kind cutting edge technology, the Delonghi ESAM3300 espresso and coffee machine series incredibly brews all your common coffee beverages.
Whether you are a hardcore espresso drinker or love to morph your espresso into an Americano, cappuccino or latte.
And its impressive hot water system lets you enjoy your English tea on those typically tea craved days.
Our In-Depth Review:
Unlike many portable home-style coffee makers, the Delonghi ESAM3300 series makes your coffee from bean to cup rather than capsule or filter style. The espresso machine is built with a professional burr grinder which comes with up to 13 adjustable settings so you can personalize the consistency of your ground beans.
This incredible frother masterfully mixes steam and milk for that rich and creamy froth. All you have to do is to invest in a separately sold stainless steel milk frothing pitcher to enjoy coffee shop style cappuccino or latte. The added adjustable settings to the machine ensure consistency, ample temperature and just the right richness with every cup you brew automatically.
And its memory function allows you to remember your coffee brew preferences down to the smallest details such as the strength of your espresso and preferred drink size. And even for the tech-challenged individual, the ESAM3300 series features a user-friendly design. To enjoy your coffee, all you have to do is adjust the menu settings from your preferred temperature, coffee strength and cup size then let the coffee maker do the rest.
As much as it’s easy to brew any cup of coffee with this machine, it’s equally easy to clean and handle it as well. Even its cleaning process is easier than most coffee machines of similar design. And no, you don’t need a leaning tablet for this model. Simply refer to the provided manual for precise instructions.
- The coffee machine comes with a built-in coffee bean grinder and milk frother.
- The 8.8 oz. bean container capacity allows you to make up to 14 cups.
- The coffee bean machine is built with a 3-hour energy-saving automatic shut off function.
- The machine is built with variable adjustable settings.
- The bean grinder is noisy.
The Delonghi ESAM3300 series virtually brings an authentic coffee maker to your home. As an avid coffee drinker, what more could you ask for than a direct bean to cup machine? Plus, this one-time investment most certainly brings with great value. Along with its traditional coffee brewing style, the ESAM3300 series still maintain conventionality. Its cutting edge technology and smart mechanisms improve its overall brewing efficiency and quality. And with its special memory settings, you get the same taste you love with each brew.
6. Cuisinart EM-200 – With Control Dial
The Cuisinart EM200 espresso and coffee machine series reflect the brand’s name. The coffee maker holds just the right size to make is an ideal family brewer station.
The EM200 series features an intelligent and programmable design that delivers a splendidly crafted cup with every brew.
The versatility of this smart espresso maker allows you to brew your coffee how you want it whether you want to use coffee grounds or pods.
Our In-Depth Review:
The Cuisinart EM200 espresso and coffee maker is designed with an intelligent programmable functionality allowing it to brew a single or double espresso with precision every time. Furthermore, this coffee maker design gives you a choice of brewing a single or two cups of coffee using other ground coffee or coffee machine pods.
Thanks to its durable stainless steel steam nozzle, you can also make a neat and authentic cup of cappuccino or latte. The separate steam button on the coffee maker allows you to choose either the steam function or hot water function. The hot water comes in real handy on days that you want to enjoy a hot cup of tea. Or when you miss your tasteless instant coffee powders.
The coffee machine features several of the setting buttons to make life easier for you. This includes the manual button for continuous espresso pouring, 1 cup and 2 cup buttons for a single or double espresso, program button for filling size and a steam button that flashes when ready for use.
Considering the neat upkeep of your kitchen, the coffee machine is built with a Portafilter holder with a locking mechanism. This Portafilter holder design is built with the ample capacity to hold your used coffee grounds during your brews until you are ready to dispose of them.
To maintain a clean and sanitary machine, it is advised to empty the filter holder at the end of the day. And to add value, the coffee machine also comes with a removable drip tray and cover, tamping tool with a measuring spoon, a stainless steel frothing pitcher and a top unit warming tray that warms up to four 8 ounce cups at the same time.
- The machine can use both ground coffee beans and capsules.
- The removable water reservoir offers a generous 69-ounce capacity.
- The coffee machine comes with a frother pitcher.
- The machine allows you to warm your cups.
- The machine can be a little e heavy.
The Cuisinart EM200 espresso and coffee maker brings value for money and versatility. Allowing you to use both freshly ground beans and capsules, gives you an endless choice of how you want to make your coffee. This freedom to use different coffee bean sources is also quite good for your pockets. The top warming tray also helps to significantly enhance your coffee drinking experience. With just enough warming to your cup, you get to enjoy your hot coffee longer than if your cup wasn’t pre-warmed.
7. Staresso Portable Espresso Machine – With Easy Disassembly
The Staresso Portable espresso and coffee machine combines both style, portability and simplicity to give you an incredible product.
The award-winning portable cafeteria-style espresso machine incorporates a patented plumbing system and easy disassembly cleaning design to guarantee quality and durability.
With a simple addition of hot water to this specially designed espresso maker, you will be enjoying a fresh and rich brew in no time.
Our In-Depth Review:
Whether it is in the comfort of your home, office or during travel or a camping trip, the Staresso Portable espresso and coffee machine works both ways. This otherwise simple espresso-making machine is built with improved versatility allowing you to use freshly ground coffee or Nespresso coffee pods.
To make it travel-friendly, the machine is also built with improved compactness, lightweight and portability. At just 0.97 lbs. and measuring 8 by 2.7 inches, the machine takes up very little space and is extremely easy to carry around. However, the Staresso generously holds up to 3.5 ounces of water and 0.53 ounces of ground coffee.
And to brew your coffee using pods, simply poke a hole at the bottom of the pod and press it down the plunger for a freshly brewed aromatic coffee. To make variant beverages of the espresso, simply add frothed milk or extra hot water for cappuccino, latte or Americano. The espresso maker also features an extremely easy to use and clean design.
Since it doesn’t come with cumbersome electric wiring, it’s easier to wash. Simply discard the remnants of the used coffee and wash with water and mild soap. You can easily disassemble the parts for a thorough clean so you can maintain clean coffee taste. Simply follow the instructions on how to disassemble it on the manual that comes with the machine.
And conforming to its high-quality fabrication, the Staresso Portable espresso and coffee machine is built with high-quality BPA free and toxic-free materials. However, the plunging pump may also have some limitations. The pump tends to drip sometimes, especially when you use milk and it can make a little noise.
- The espresso machine comes with two free espresso cups.
- The machine works with both Nespresso and ground coffee.
- The machine may be too small for family use.
- The high 20 bar pressure design allows for thicker crema to be produced.
- The machine doesn’t come with a frothing or Americano making function.
The Staresso Portable espresso and coffee machine redefines coffee on the go. No matter where you are, in your room, office, on a fishing trip, camping in the wilderness, you can still enjoy your fresh and aromatic cup of coffee. And even with its portability and simplicity, the espresso maker still offers so many useful features that make it worth the investment. Plus, it’s gas and electricity-free operation helps you to save a buck. Just remember to have hot water with you!
8. DeLonghi ECP3120 – With 3-in-1 Filter
The Delonghi ECP3120 series brings the traditional Italian espresso machine to the comfort of your home.
The stylish and subtle black and chrome design also add that look of class and sophistication to your kitchen.
The ECP3120 espresso machine series also incorporates an advanced cappuccino system that produces rich and creamy barista-style lattes and cappuccinos thanks to its incredible milk frother design.
Our In-Depth Review:
The Delonghi ECP3120 espresso and coffee machine is built with 15 bar pressure quality that ensures the equal quality coffee flavor and improves crema thickness. The ample adjustable setting controls on the other end allow you to personalize your coffee taste preferences to meet the needs of your taste buds.
The manual milk frother lets you practice and perfects your barista milk texturing skills. Yes, the manual frother will let you use your skills to combine the steam and milk to produce a rich and creamy froth for your coffees. To complement this function, the espresso machine is also built with an advanced cappuccino system.
This special system regulates and maintains optimal temperature so you can brew cup after cup and after cup without any breaks in between. And don’t worry about this prolonged use, because the ECP3120 series is built to withstand these consistent operations. The espresso maker is also equipped with a 3-in-1 filter holder design.
The filter holder includes a one-shot espresso holder, two-shot espresso holder, and an easy serve espresso pod –it all comes down to what your preferences are. The espresso machine also comes with a convenient water reservoir tank. The tank can be easily removed, refilled and reattached. The transparent tank design makes it easier for you to track the water level.
The adjustable height function on the other end also lets the machine accommodate larger size cups. The bottom tray of the machine can be easily adjusted to accommodate larger cups. If you are thinking of making an iced latte, you don’t have to go through a myriad of containers. One large cup can go through all the stages – just ensure that it is high temperature resistant. Yet, the steam wand of the espresso machine maybe a little small and sometimes difficult to handle.
- The removable water tank and drip tray make it easier to clean the machine.
- The larger cup size and height accommodation allow you to brew your coffee to go directly in a travel flask.
- The compact and sleek profile significantly saves your kitchen countertop space.
- The advanced cappuccino systems make brewing back to back possible without compromising quality.
- The steam wand may be a little small.
The Delonghi ECP3120 espresso machine series may just be the addition you need to your urban life. Whether you live in a tiny studio apartment or a large home with your family, the ECP3120 series never disappoints. And its slim and compact profile means that you can always create space for it. Brew your to-go coffee directly into your travel mug. Brew different types of coffee beverages back to back without any mishaps. What more could you ask for?!
9. Espresso Works All-In-One – With LED Indicators
This product could be effortlessly the greatest addition to your kitchen with its classified features and ease of use.
Weighing around 9.7 pounds, the machine incorporates a Thermoblock heating system and high-quality filters. With excellent temperature control, blending power and durability, you cannot go wrong with this appliance.
To top it all, it is easy to use as well.
Our In-Depth Review:
The product hits the mark with the advanced Thermoblock fast heating system which helps give you accurate temperature and instant steam from the EspressoWorks All-In-One Set. It is safe to say that this starter set has everything you will ever need. This makes it a great choice for gifting.
Not to mention, the excellent set of accessories it comes with, takes its utility over the roof. A coffee bean grinder, a tamper, single and double shot filter basket, ceramic espresso cups, milk frothing pitcher are some of them.
We also particularly found likeness in its provision to monitor the water level of the front view transparent tank that holds a maximum of 1.25l. Furthermore, there is a handle included on the tank for easy removal for refilling as it does to the cleaning.
Besides, the separable frothing device and the detachable drip tray ensure hassle-free cleaning after every use. Preparation of lattes and cappuccinos have been made all the easier because of its enhanced pump pressure system that makes milk frothing seem like a breeze.
- Easy to clean with the detachable drip.
- Milk frothing is easier with the enhanced pressure system.
- Convenient cleaning through the detachable drip.
- Monitors the water level of the front view.
- Excellent set of accessories for beginners.
- Pales when it comes to the pressure buildup for drawing good espresso.
- Some users reported quick, watery shots
- Noise while using the milk frother.
- Heavily reliant on the grind used-require the perfect blend to avoid clogging or paling out the strength of coffee.
Overall, the product could not have gotten better for the beginners. It is a great steal for those who seek nothing but a great brew. With scores of advantages including the Thermoblock heating system that takes no less than a minute to heat up, the convenience of use with the help of a great selection of accessories and the ease with which you can clean the appliance, the product offers a great bargain.
10. Hamilton Beach Espresso Machine – With Italian Pump
The Hamilton Beach espresso and coffee machine is built with an extremely safe and easy to use a mechanism that makes it ideal for your home kitchen.
And for a small family, this espresso machine comes really handy- down to the smallest details including the 2-cp top tray warmer.
Pair it with its splendid swiveling steam wand and you have rich and creamy bistro-like coffee.
Our In-Depth Review:
The Hamilton Beach espresso and coffee machine is built with improved coffee and espresso brewing results thanks to its high bar pressure and functional component designs. Whether you choose to relax with a cup of cappuccino, latte or Americano or even indulge in a shot or two of espresso, the Hamilton Beach 40792 series lets you do so.
And to make life easier for you, the espresso machine is also built with an extremely effortless setup process. You don’t have to be fumbling around with brewing heads or fitted components that are difficult to navigate. Thanks to the patented slide and lock portafilter design at the front of the machine, even a dummy can break a cup.
Simply fill the filter with coffee, side it in, lock it and hit brew to let the pleasant scents of fresh brewing hug the room. The selector dial on the machine panel allows you to pre-set your choice of beverage – is it a single espresso, a double or do you just want to froth milk? Plus, the indicator lights on the panel also allow you to easily identify the functions and know when they are in action.
The espresso machine’s swivel steam wand is on the other end designed to improve results. The swivel mechanism allows for improved handling so you can masterfully texture your milk for an unforgettable cup of cappuccino or latte. This small-sized family espresso machine also comes with a warming tray at the top.
The warming tray can effectively warm up to two 8 – 12-ounce cups simultaneously. And the machine’s fast heat-up time at less than 20 seconds allows you to enjoy your cup even when you are in a typical morning rush. The espresso machine also makes cleaning easier and faster thanks to the removable water reservoir and drip tray designs.
- The swivel steam wand design makes milk frothing easier.
- The easy-slide and lock system allows for safe and accident-free operation.
- The warming tray effectively warms your cup as a heavy-duty espresso machine would.
- The indicator lights make it easier to identify the functions.
- The espresso machine is not built with an integrated grinder.
The budget-friendly Hamilton Beach 40792 espresso and coffee machine certainly is a steal. With a 32-ounce water reservoir tank, the machine definitely mimics a heavy-duty espresso machine for your home. With the swiveling mechanisms, even the steam frother works with a superior caliber similar to that of a professional Italian espresso machine. The slide and lock portafilter design ensures both a flavorful and rich brewed coffee as well as guaranteed accident-free operation.
Espresso Machine Buyer’s Guide
Many of us know about, and love espressos – ‘the magic of chemistry in a cup’. But, how many of us understand the processes involved in making this excellent drink, or what equipment is used to make it?
If you are interested in brewing, and enjoying your espresso at the comfort of your home, buying an espresso machine is the way to go.
What is an Espresso Machine?
An espresso machine is an equipment that brews coffee, using boiling water under high pressure to produce a thick, concentrated drink called an espresso.
Espresso machines made their first appearance in the year 1903. Since then, better and more effective models that have simplified the art of espresso making have made their way to the market.
Typically, espresso machines may be pump-driven, steam-driven, or lever-driven.
How Does an Espresso Machine Work?
An espresso machine, no matter the make and model, typically consists of the following parts:
- The pump.
- A boiler.
- Group Head, and a portafilter.
The first component of all espresso machines is the water pump; after all, there’s no way you can make espresso without water. Most espresso machines have a small reservoir that holds water for the brewing process – either this or you connect your device directly to a water source.
Water enters the reservoir at normal pressure, and this is simply not enough to move the water round espresso machine; hence, why a pump is needed. Pumps elevate water pressure to a level high enough for it to move to parts where it is required.
Once water leaves the reservoir via the pump, it is time to steam up things; This is where the boiler comes into play. A boiler is responsible for increasing the temperature of the water coming from the pump to a level where it will be sufficient for extracting espresso from coffee seeds.
Typically, water for making espresso should be between 93°C to 100°C (boiling point). What happens in the boiler has a direct impact on the taste of the espresso. Hence, there should be a degree of consistency in the operations of the boiler. Manufacturers these days, incorporate digital temperature controls, which help maintain optimal boiling temperatures, in their products.
Boilers used in espresso machines typically come in three forms: single boilers, dual boilers, and heat exchange.
In single boilers, water used in brewing, and steaming milk is heated in a single tank. On the contrary, dual boilers have two different boilers for heating water and steaming milk. A heat exchange boiler is a large boiler, with a smaller boiler contained within for heating water for brewing.
Group Head, and the portafilter
After heating, water moves into the group head, where the primary extraction process takes place. In the group head, hot water comes in contact with coffee beans. The portafilter is where you put in ground coffee, and it doubles as a faucet for espresso machines.
On opening the machine valve, the group head sends a shot of hot water through compacted coffee seeds, and out through the portafilter, at the ideal temperature and pressure, creating espresso in the process.
Types of Espresso Machines
Based on the method of power generation, espresso machines fall into three major groups:
- Steam-driven espresso machines.
- Lever-driven espresso machines.
- Pump-driven espresso machines.
Steam-driven Espresso Machines
This type of espresso machine works solely with steam gotten from boiling water. Water is put in an airtight container and then heated. Once the water reaches boiling point, it begins to spill over, and it makes its way into the brewer through a pipe, under intense pressure.
One downside of using this machine is that the extremely hot nature of water used in brewing the espresso can lead to over-extraction of coffee beans, and a subsequent bad taste.
Although they have been in existence for quite some time, steam-powered espresso makers are still very much around. This longevity is due to the simplicity to use, as well as maintain one. Apart from this, they don’t take up much living space, and buying one won’t leave a massive hole in your pocket.
Lever-driven Espresso Machines
This kind of espresso machine is operated using a lever affixed on a suitable part of the device. Lever-driven machines can either be: manually operated or spring-loaded.
For the manually operated machines, you have to raise the horizontally-lying lever on the machine to create an opening that takes in previously heated water. This hot water serves to saturate the espresso machine, thereby extracting espresso from coffee beans in the process. With the lever, you can control the flow rate and the amount of pressure in the espresso machine.
The actions of an internal spring control spring-loaded espresso machines. Once the lever is pushed down, the spring is compressed, which causes the machine piston to move up. This sequence of operations opens up space in the brewing chamber for water. When the lever is released, the piston moves back down. This downward movement compresses water in the brewing chamber, and the pressure generated extracts espresso from coffee seeds.
With lever-driven machines, you have complete control over your espresso, and you can experiment on different flavors with your coffee beans. Besides, lever-driven espresso machines are entirely mechanical and have no electrical components, which makes them easy to use.
Pump-driven Espresso Machines
Despite having been around for a considerably long period, pump-driven machines are very much the in-thing nowadays. These machines utilize an electronic pump, which supplies hot water into the brewing chamber, and ultimately into the coffee beans for making espresso.
Pump-driven machines are classified into automatic, semi-automatic, and super-automatic based on the amount of user interference needed to operate one.
Advantages of Buying an Espresso Machine
Once you have your espresso machine, you no longer need to make those quick – or not so quick – stops at the café to get a cup of goodness. With just the push of a button, you can enjoy great-tasting espressos right in the comfort of your home.
Except you are going all out for the more expensive models, it will cost little to purchase and set up an espresso machine in your home. When you factor in the amount you would otherwise spend on buying coffee, you’ll see that, purchasing a machine with which you can make espresso any time is your best bet.
Greater control over your espresso drink
With espresso machines, users can exhibit a certain degree of control over the properties of their espresso. You can tune manual espresso machines to adjust the pressure, temperature, and water flow, which in turn impact on the quality of espresso produced.
Espresso Machines vs Coffee Makers
Before delving into the differences between an espresso machine, and a coffee maker, we need to establish how regular coffee drinks differ from espresso.
Espresso is a classic Italian coffee drink that is produced by running a small amount of boiling water through finely-ground coffee beans, under intense pressure. Regular coffee, on the other hand, is produced by running hot water over ground coffee and allowing such water to absorb the flavors, and oils of the beans. Afterward, the coffee drink drips into a container, where it is collected.
That said, we will now differentiate between an espresso machine and a coffee maker. What sets an espresso machine apart from a coffee maker is the brewing method employed. An espresso maker uses pressure to extract espresso from finely ground coffee. In contrast, coffee makers employ gravity in the production of coffee.
Other notable differences between espresso machines and coffee makers include:
Grind size – espresso machines work best with finely ground coffee beans, to create more resistance to the passage of water. Coffee makers, on the other hand, use a coarse, thick grind.
Brewing Time – due to the fine nature of coffee used in making espresso, you can brew a cup of espresso under one minute. Coffee makers take a longer time, as they work with rougher particles, and you might have to wait for as long as ten minutes to get a cup of coffee.
Pricing – espresso machines are generally more expensive than coffee makers, as a result of the array of features they possess. Coffee makers are usually simple, with limited functions; hence, they cost less.
Caffeine production – coffee makers, can produce between 95 to 165 milligrams of caffeine per one 225 milliliter cup. Espresso machines produce a far more significant amount of caffeine – between 375 and 520 milligrams per every 250-milliliter cup of espresso.
Arguably, espresso makers offer a more vibrant, user-oriented coffee experience. You can tinker with your espresso maker to brew espresso, which caters to your specific needs – a privilege you do not enjoy with coffee makers. Espresso machines also produce more robust coffee, which is something you will prefer if you are a coffee enthusiast.
Different drinks you can make with an Espresso Machine
At the risk of sounding like captain obvious, espresso machines are designed basically to create espressos. However, what if I told you there are a whole lot of other drinks you could be concocting with your espresso maker? That’s right, the functions of an espresso maker go way beyond just making espressos.
Below is a list of other drinks you could enjoy via your espresso machine:
The cappuccino is, unarguably one of the most popular coffee-based beverages around, and it is something you could enjoy at home if you have an espresso machine.
To make cappuccino with an espresso maker, you need first to fill the machine with espresso. Afterward, you need to steam milk. This process of milk cooking is done by pouring milk – half the amount of the espresso – into the frother. You must then ensure the steam head stays below the layer of the milk, to get a good layer of foam for your cappuccino.
Making a macchiato with your espresso machine is as simple as it gets. What you just need to do is, brew a cup of espresso, and then steam up some milk. Once the milk is steamed, scrape the top foam milk, and use it to layer the top of your espresso.
Lattes are another drink you can easily make, and enjoy in the comfort of your home, using your espresso maker.
To make a latte, you need to start by making the espresso. While you are brewing coffee seeds for the espresso, create milk foam with the aid of a steam wand. Once this is complete, pour frothed milk into a cup, then, carefully pour in your espresso at the center of the milk.
Ristrettos are a stronger version of espressos. To make a Ristretto, you need half the amount of water required to make an espresso. What you get in return, is a drink that is more concentrated than an espresso, but sweeter tasting, as a result of the shorter extraction time.
A Lungo is an espresso drink brewed with a higher amount of water, than what is applicable with regular espresso. The fact that more water is used in making a Lungo does not make it weaker, and it is considerably stronger than most other coffee drinks out there.
Top Brands for Espresso Machines
When it comes to the espresso-machine industry, there are several leading names. These brands have consistently delivered high-quality machines, capable of churning out the finest of espressos.
Some of the top guns in the espresso industry are:
Nespresso (a combination of company name, Nestle, and espresso) machines produce espresso, using specially created coffee pods. This idea of using coffee pods made its first appearance in 1986, alongside two espresso machines, and four coffee flavors. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength and is undoubted, one of the most prominent players on the coffee stage today.
Italian barista, Achille Gaggia introduced a new way of producing espressos, with his invention of the first steamless coffee espresso machine in 1938. This machine works by forcing water to flow over ground coffee at extremely high pressure. The espresso produced as a result of this process is the ‘crema’ that is popular among espresso lovers today.
Year after year, Gaggia designed elegant espresso machines, and now, almost a century later, his legacy lives on. New Gaggia machines include manual coffee brewing machines (such as the Gaggia classic), and completely automatic espresso machines.
Before the arrival of Mr. Coffee, espresso was made using percolators, and, trust me, it was an arduous process. Then, along came Mr. Coffee’s advanced espresso machine, and with it, a total revamp of the coffee industry.
Mr. Coffee machines work by passing hot water over ground coffee beans just once to produce espresso. Doing it this way reduced problems of over-extraction, and overheating that coffee makers back then were facing.
Yet another reliable name on the coffee scene, DeLonghi produces industry-leading espresso machines, along with a wide range of other kitchen appliances. DeLonghi’s first espresso maker, BAR5, was released in 1993, and in 2007, they collaborated with Nespresso to launch the Lattissima.
An award-winning company, Breville, is also a significant stakeholder in the coffee industry. Breville espresso machines are intuitive and cater to a diverse audience – from the complete novice to the amateur barista.
What you need to make an Espresso
To make creamy, great-tasting espresso, there are some things you need to prepare and keep at hand – apart from your espresso machine. The following is a list of things you need to make your espresso, in no particular order of importance:
There is just no making espresso without an espresso machine. The quality of espresso you get depends much on the performance of the machine.
Unlike traditional coffee-makers, an espresso machine gives you complete control over the brewing process. You can determine the pressure at which water impacts the coffee beans, as well as the brewing temperature.
Ground coffee beans
How do you plan on making an espresso if there are no coffee beans for your machine to process? However, if you just stuff all your coffee seeds into the brewer, and expect to get the most exceptional espresso, you are on a long thing.
Coffee beans to be used for making espresso should be ground to a certain degree of fineness, and evenness for two main reasons:
To increase the pressure at which water flows through – ground coffee offers a sort of resistance to the flow of hot water, which leads to a longer extraction time, and better-tasting espresso. Large coffee beans provide little or no resistance to the passage of hot water, consequently resulting in lesser extraction time, and weak-tasting espresso.
To increase extraction rate – the finer you grind your coffee beans, the longer the time it will take to get an espresso. What this means is that you’ll get thick espresso drinks of the finest quality.
Of course, this all depends on your taste, and you don’t need to grind your seeds to the tiniest particles to get espresso – provided you’re okay with a watery drink.
You don’t just dump water and coffee into your machine and expect to get excellent espresso in return. No! If you put in more water, you’ll most likely end up with a watery drink, excess coffee, and you’ll not be able to drink the resulting brew.
The only way to get the result you want every single time you use that espresso machine is to measure everything from the amount of water used, to the quantity of ground coffee and the amount of espresso that comes out. You need to ensure these items are in proportional quantities, depending on how thick you want your espresso to be.
As mentioned earlier, you must crush your coffee beans to a certain degree of fineness if you desire high-quality espresso. While you could do this by hand, you can save yourself a lot of time and stress by using a grinder.
Also, by using a grinder, you ensure evenness among your coffee particles, which results in faster espresso extraction time.
This part of an espresso machine is what we term an unsung hero. While a tamper’s job might be unglamorous, it is definitely of great importance.
A tamper works to create a completely flat, and compact coffee bed in the portafilter. This flattening makes it easy for water to pass through the coffee at an even rate, leading to a faster extraction rate, and better-tasting espresso.
Things to look for in an espresso machine
When choosing an espresso maker to buy, there are several features you need to take into consideration to ensure you select a suitable machine. Some of the things you need to look out for include.
You must know how much an espresso machine can handle before making a purchase. If you have a large family, or you are purchasing for your office, go for a product with a high production capacity. However, if you stay alone, or have a small-sized family, buy an espresso machine with a lower-capacity.
It is also imperative that you find out the number of coffee beans a machine can process at once or the amount of water it can hold before going ahead to buy one.
If you have a thing for lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiato, it would be best in your best interests to go for an espresso machine that has a frother for changing pressurized milk into creamy bubbles.
Typically, most espresso machines come with a frother, but some low-budget models do not have this luxury.
The kind of grinder in an espresso machine plays a huge role in the quality of espresso it produces. Typically, blenders come in two main forms: built-in or separate.
Built-in grinders are part and parcel of the espresso machine and make the brewing process a whole lot more convenient. You should, however, find out if you’ll have to put the coffee into the basket after grinding manually. Some machines can put ground coffee into the basket directly, without your interference – quite convenient!
Separate grinders are for espresso machines that do not come with pre-installed mills. With different grinders, you have greater control over the choice and capacity of the blender to use for your machine.
The amount of water your machine can hold determines the quantity of espresso it will produce. Typically, an espresso machine will hold enough water to create eight to nine medium-sized cups of espresso. In essence, anything above that is too much! Some machines have mini tanks for holding water.
High-end espresso machines can connect directly to a water dispenser or refrigerator; hence, you wouldn’t need to worry about the storage capacity. You just need to ensure clean water is available on demand.
As espresso machines produce quite a lot of dirt, you must go for a product you can easily dismantle and rearrange. This is to make it easier for you when it’s time to clean. When cleaning your machine, take the time to wash each part separately.
Also, use detergent or cleaning agents that won’t impact the taste of your espresso when washing the machine.
It might seem unimportant, but choosing an espresso machine with comfortable features, and premium design is of great benefit.
Apart from looking great on your kitchen countertop, an espresso machine should have long power cords which allow for greater flexibility in placement. Also, if the spout of the machine is at an odd or awkward angle, you will find it considerably challenging to pour coffee.
Choosing an espresso machine for a café
If you’re thinking of starting up a café business, then you best take time to choose an espresso machine that will be able to handle the rigors of constant production. Professional machines will give you complete control over your espresso – from the extraction time to the grind size, temperature, and pressure.
But, apart from just buying a high-end espresso machine, you need to employ a barista who understands the nitty-gritty of espresso machines for your business to thrive.
Before making a purchase, find out everything you can about the espresso machine. From the number of boilers to the number of group heads it has. Given that you are running a café; you’ll need a decent amount of space to set up your espresso machine as well.
Others factors you should consider before buying an espresso machine for your café include:
Water supply – find out whether the device has an inbuilt reservoir, or it needs to be connected to an external water filter. Determine the distance of the nearest water source, and if you have to buy water for your machine regularly, estimate how it’ll impact your business.
Energy consumption – check out the amount of energy needed to run a machine before buying it. Most espresso machines require little energy to run, but considering the fact you’re running a café, you’ll need more power. Some espresso machines have a power-saving feature that can come in handy.
Start-up time – find out how long it takes a machine to get up and running before making a purchase. You wouldn’t want to keep customers waiting in the morning, would you?
Types of espresso machines models to choose from
Based on the ease of use, and user interference, there are four types of espresso machines you are likely to come across in the market. They are the manual, semi-automatic, fully automatic, and super-automatic espresso machines.
Manual espresso machines
With manual espresso machines, the whole espresso-making process lies in the hands of the operator. This machine is ideal for those who don’t mind putting in a bit of work to make their espresso.
A manual espresso machine is easily identified by the presence of an external level to regulate the brewing process.
Manual machines produce great tasting espresso, but purchasing one will set you back financially. Also, you are as likely to produce quality espresso, as you are to mess everything up.
Semi-Automatic espresso machines
Semi-automatic machines give the user a certain degree of flexibility, but some brewing processes are automated as well. They employ electric pumps to put pressure on water used for brewing, thus taking a huge load off the user’s back. Most espresso machine models found on the market today are semi-automatic.
While this model is easier to use than manual machines, it doesn’t quite measure up to automatic models based on ease of use.
Fully automatic espresso makers
With this model of espresso makers, you lose control over the amount of water used for brewing, as well as the mode of delivery of water. All this, in addition to the presence of an electric pump.
This model focuses on making life comfortable for users. Still, in return, you get lesser control over the flavor of your espresso.
Super-automatic espresso machines
Super-automatic espresso machines completely take over the brewing process, leaving users with little or nothing to do. Most machines under this model feature a simple ‘push-to-start’ button feature and require users just to add ground coffee beans.
If you don’t worry about flavor when taking your espresso and do not want to bother yourself with the espresso brewing process, this is the model for you. They typically have a lot of premium features available and are the easiest types of espresso machines to use.