Best Espresso Machine: Semi Automatic Models
I cannot really tell you what is the best espresso machine - that will be different for everyone since we all have very different needs and priorities. However, what I can do is to talk about several highly rated models and then give you the opportunity to share with others which espresso machine is the best for you.
Buying your own home espresso machine can be quite expensive, so you need to decide which machine will best suit your needs and your budget. To make that decision a bit easier, here we will have a look at a few highly rated models. I will start with three traditional semi-automatic models. Then I will talk about two models that are slightly different in concept.
Pasquini Livia 90 Automatic Espresso Machine
This sleek, stainless steel espresso machine not only looks great, but also makes espresso that tastes great. As with many espresso machines, the Livia is designed for experienced baristas who know the basics of making good espresso. Even these veterans will probably have to do some experimenting to get their shots just the way they want them.
Some users have reported difficulty with the milk frothing mechanisms, because the nozzle on the steam wand is made of stainless steel. Most users found that they could make excellent steamed milk with a little practice. No one is complaining about the quality of the espresso shots that can be pulled from this machine, and some claim it to be the best they have ever tasted. The $2000 price tag for this one is a little steep for some baristas, but those who choose to go for it usually don't regret it.
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
A lot of people who take espresso seriously consider Silvia to be the best espresso machine under $1000. The sharp appearance of the Rancilio Silvia will compliment any well decorated kitchen. It is a durable model and the parts are made of stainless steel and cast iron. It that features a chromed brass portafilter and a good sized brass boiler. The quality and durability of the Silvia should make up for the slightly higher price than some other machines that you will find.
A handy feature of this machine is that it has a 3-way solenoid that allows pressure to escape from the portafilter basket when the machine is through brewing. This creates the nice compact pucks that are easy to clean up rather than a basket full of watery sludge. Should you have any problems with your Silvia, the parts are easy to find and you can find a great deal of trouble shooting advice online. Some users find the machine difficult to use and warn that it is not a machine for beginner baristas. The average price for this model is about $700.
Gaggia Carezza Espresso Machine
If you are short on cash and yet want a good semi-automatic espresso machine, then Gaggia Carezza may well be just the right choice for you. Gaggia is well known for building high quality espresso machines and this entry level model is no exception. Although the exterior is plastic, the internal components are near commercial quality.
Most owners are very happy with Gaggia Carezza. The main complaint seems to be that the steam wand is placed too low - so it is difficult to froth large volumes of milk. The quality of espresso shots is very good and the machine is relatively forgiving if you don't get everything exactly right. At under $250 this is an excellent starter espresso machine.
Capresso Ultima Espresso Machine
Most espresso baristas say that you get what you pay for when it comes to espresso machines. This Capresso model will cost you about $300, but many owners proclaim that it is an exception to the rule. The matte, black look of Ultima is not as fancy as some of the other chrome models that are available. However, if decent espresso is more important to you than how the machine will look on your kitchen counter, then consider this machine.
Although it is a semi-automatic machine, it provides some of the benefits of super automatic espresso machines. Instead of measuring and tamping the coffee, you simply pour it into the top of the machine, close the lid, push a knob and turn on the machine. After your creamy espresso shot is pulled, you turn the knob again and the used coffee grinds dump out.
All in all, this model is user friendly and economical. The user reviews are excellent and for many people this really might be the best espresso machine for the price of $300.
Nespresso Essenza D90 Espresso Machine
If you like good espresso, but are not fond of the loud and tedious process of grinding fresh beans, measuring the ground coffee, tamping it into a portafilter and carefully measuring the water, you might be interested in a Nespresso machine. The whole process is much more convenient because the machines are made to make espresso through pre-filled capsules. The capsules are hermetically sealed and keep a high quality for months.
Nespresso system is very easy to use and allows you to avoid a great deal of mess and hassle. A nice thing about the D90 model is that you manually control the volume of espresso you want to brew. The main drawback of this machine is that you will be tied to Nespresso capsules. They cost about half a dollar each and there is not that much choice. You will obviously not get the best shot of espresso you have ever tasted from this machine, but the quality is very consistent and it is comparable (if not or better) than Starbucks. This is the least expensive machine at around $180 and if you like consistency and convenience it may well be the best espresso machine for you.
If you are more interested in lever espresso machines, check my recommendations in Best Espresso Machines: Manual Models.
What is your view? What features should your best espresso machine have? Share your comments below.
Further ReadingPlanning to Buy Espresso Machine
25 Feb 2012
I owned a Micro Cimballi Liberty machine. It was sleek and beautiful, and the resulting espresso, excellent. However, the biggest problem with the machine was "service." While Cimballi has a dealer in the NYC area, it turned out their expertise was in commerical, restaurant-class Cimballi equipment, not home machines. On several occasions, my machine was returned in worse condition than when originally sent. After many years of use, the water tank wore out, most probably becoming infested with bacteria and resulting in having to discard the machine. Suffice it to say, if you're considering an upscale home espresso machine, be certain that professional service and parts are readily available.