Buying Espresso Machine
What Form of Coffee Do You Want to Use?
In a previous article about buying espresso machine we talked about choosing the right type of espresso machine. Now let's talk about deciding which form of coffee you want to use: whole coffee beans, pre-ground coffee or espresso pods?
Obviously, using whole coffee beans is best since that is the only way to get really fresh coffee. Unless you buy a super automatic espresso machine, you will need to get a separate coffee grinder. A coffee grinder for use with an espresso machine has to be very high quality, so you need to keep that in mind when setting your budget - it may cost you nearly as much as your espresso machine! If you get a super automatic machine then you can obviously use whole coffee beans (higher end models will also have a bypass doser that allows you to use pre-ground coffee). However, the coffee will not be as fresh as if you grind it yourself. You see, when your super automatic espresso machine makes your first cup of espresso it will grind more beans than needed for that cup. The unused grounds then sit in the grinder and are used next time you use the machine (that's why when changing beans it typically takes about three shots before you get the new flavor into your cup). And what happens to those grounds? Of course they get oxidized and the flavor is negatively impacted.
While you can use pre-ground coffee with most espresso machines, it should be noted that you get much better results grinding the coffee yourself. With some of the machines it really is essential that you have a good burr grinder so that you can keep control over the fineness of the grind. If you for some reason want to use pre-ground coffee you should try to find a machine that is relatively forgiving when it comes to grind.
Espresso pods are very convenient - these one-serving coffee sacs save you the hassle of grinding, dosing, tamping and cleaning the mess. But this convenience comes at a high price: the pods are expensive, the coffee is not fresh and you have only limited choice of coffee to try. In general, I don't recommend using pods unless convenience is your top priority. If you do want to use pods it is best to get a machine that can take also take ground coffee - that way you leave your options open. Try to avoid machines that tie you to using proprietary pods - make sure you machine accepts ESE pods. ESE stands for Easy Serving Espresso. It is a standard that is widely adopted, so you get a very good choice of espresso pods.
Further ReadingBuying Guide Part 1
Best Espresso Machines: Manual Models
Best Espresso Machine: Semi-Automatic Models