Planning to Buy Espresso Machine
Which Type of Espresso Machine is Right for You?
Right, so you are thinking about getting your own espresso machine. Making your own espresso shots at home sounds really great - but where do you start when there are so many different types of espresso machines around? Well, I will try to help you by pointing out a few things that you will need to consider before you decide which espresso machine to buy.
The most important decision you need to make is what type of espresso machine you want. Broadly speaking, there are 5 different types of espresso machines - let's have a look at them one by one:
- Manual espresso machine
This is the most hands-on form of machine where a barista will need to use a lever to manually press the hot water through the ground coffee. As the barista, you will be responsible for grinding the coffee, tamping it into the portafilter, and using the manual lever to push the water through the coffee with just the right timing, force and speed. Before you buy a manual espresso machine it is best if you already have some experience using a semi-automatic machine. The learning curve for these beautiful machines is very high - so they often end up as an expensive decoration that is never used.
- Semi-automatic espresso machine
Espresso can be produced much more easily with semi-automatic espresso machines because there is an internal pump that brings water from the machine's boiler and forces it through the coffee grounds. Your role in making espresso with this machine is to grind the beans and tamp them into the portafilter. Then you just press a button to turn the machine on and when the machine has brewed just the right amount of dark, creamy liquid you will have to press the button again to stop the brewing.
- Automatic espresso machine
You will find these very similar to semi-automatic machines except that you can set it to automatically put a certain amount of water through the coffee grounds and then stop. You will not have to push a button to stop the brewing. Grinding the coffee, tamping it into the portafilter and cleaning on the used puck will still be your job with an automatic espresso machine. Most of these machines have controls that allow you to use them also as a semi-automatic machine.
- Super automatic espresso machine
These babies will do it all. Consistent espresso shots can be pulled with the push of a button. The machine automatically grinds the beans, compacts them, heats the water, forces it through with just the right pressure and discards the used grounds into an internal waste box. Super automatic espresso machines are the most convenient and also the most expensive espresso machines.
- Steam espresso machine
If you are serious about espresso, then buying a steam espresso machine is a bad idea. First, the steam does not produce enough pressure to produce proper espresso. Second, the water that is used to brew the coffee is too hot, so you end up with over-extracted and bitter brew. Having said that, they are much cheaper than the other types of espresso machines. So if you drink mainly milk-based drinks such as latte or cappuccino then you may make do with them while you save up money for a better machine. If you are after straight espresso without milk or sugar then forget it - in my view, you get a better brew using a Moka pot than a steam espresso machine.
- There are also some espresso machines that do not easily fit into any of these categories. That does not mean they are not worth of your consideration. On this web site I will group them together with semi-automatic machines.
Which type of espresso machine should you choose
Now that you understand what types of machines are available, let's talk a bit about how to decide which one is best for you. First of all, I would recommend that you stay clear of steam espresso machines unless you drink only milk based coffee drinks. A manual espresso machine is also not the best choice for most first time buyers - if you get one of these machines then be prepared for quite a number of poor espresso shots and some frustration before you learn get things right (the results are well worth it in the end if you don't give up).
Semi-automatic machines and automatic machines are very similar in concept, so I will treat them as one group for the purpose of this discussion and refer to them as semi-automatic machines. That leaves us with semi-automatic and super automatic machines - so your decision really boils down to a simple question: "Do I want a super automatic espresso machine?". Let's have a look at some of the major pros and cons of these bean-to-cup machines:
- Convenience - with higher end models you can pre-program several different drinks and then make them at a touch of a button.
- Ease to use - your guests can easily operate the machine.
- Consistency - you will get consistent shots of espresso right from the beginning (with semi-automatic machine some of your first few shots may be close to undrinkable).
- Time - it will take far less of your time to make your espresso drink with a super automatic machine.
- Reliability - super automatic machines are more prone to problems than semi-automatic machines.
- Control of the brewing process - you will not get the best possible shot out of your beans with a super automatic machine.
- Cost - super automatic machines cost usually more than a comparable semi-automatic machine.
Still not decided which way to go? Maybe a semi-automatic espresso machine with an option to take ESE pods (as well as ground coffee) may be the answer. You can start with the pods and then quickly progress to using your own coffee.
If you want to buy an espresso machine, here are some relevant articles that will help you to make the right choice.Buy Espresso Machine: What Form of Coffee Do You Want to Use?
Best Espresso Machines: Manual Models
Best Espresso Machine: Semi-Automatic Models