Thinking about buying an espresso machine to expand your coffee repertoire but don’t know where to start? Our guide will help you find the perfect one!
Whether you're a coffee connoisseur or just love the heavenly aroma of coffee, an espresso machine can be a great addition to your kitchen. The best part? An espresso machine can be used for more than just brewing espresso! You can use it to make cappuccinos, lattes, and other classic Italian drinks.
From manual models to fully automatic ones that do everything for you, there are different types of espresso machines available on the market. To help you choose one, we’ve explained everything about these machines below.
How To Choose a Quality Espresso Machine
There are three basic categories of espresso machines: manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic.
Manual machines are the most basic and least expensive option — they have a single lever that operates the pump, and there's no guarantee that a steam wand is included. As the name implies, the pressure to force water through the grinds is generated by manual action as opposed to an electric pump. These machines provide more control over the brewing process, but they also take more time to operate and requires a certain degree of skill.
Unlike manual machines, a semi-automatic machine can pull a shot at the touch of a button. These espresso machines are referred to as "semi-automatic" because you'll have to grind the beans and tamp them into the filter by hand, but the rest of the brewing process is handled by the machine itself. This option provides excellent consistency, but the trade-off is the loss of finer control over the results. Some semi-automatic espresso machines also feature a steam wand that can be used to froth milk.
If you've been to a coffee shop, you've certainly seen this type of espresso machine being used. This all-in-one unit combines a bean hopper, grinder, pump, and filter into a single device, and it can pull shots on demand by simply pressing a button. It's the most convenient option by far, but many of these machines are hugely expensive to purchase. You also lose control over the brewing process, which is both an advantage and a drawback - the result is consistent espresso every time, but you need to make sure you like the results from each machine before you decide to invest in one. Just about every single automatic espresso machine is equipped with a steam wand as well, making them a one-stop solution for any kind of espresso-based drink you can think of.
Check the Pump Strength
It’s important that you check the pump strength of any potential espresso machine - this directly impacts the ability to produce the right amount of pressure to extract all the flavor out of your grounds. The pump strength of espresso machines is often measured in bar units, with most espresso machines rated between 10 to 15 bar. Some can go as high as 18 bar, though you'll certainly pay for the extra performance. To enjoy an authentic Italian-style brew, we recommend that you opt for an espresso machine with a pump capable of at least 15 bar.
Prioritize the Steam Wand
The steam wand is what lets you make latte art, which is pretty much the coolest thing ever. It's also the key to making other types of coffee-based drinks, like cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos. A poorly-built steam wand will result in an inconsistent texture in your milk foam, which means that you'll get either too much or not enough froth on your latte. To avoid this problem, go for a machine with multiple pressure settings so you can adjust how much foam ends up in your cup.
Consider the Heating Mechanism
Before buying an espresso machine, check its heating mechanism. Traditional machines come with a boiler that heats up the water in the tank and then sends it through a pump. More advanced models are equipped with technology that helps adjust the water temperature throughout the brewing process. This helps produce consistent results every time. If you want your espresso machine to heat up quickly and consistently, the latter will be your best bet.
Don’t Forget the Additional Accessories
Once you've decided to buy an espresso machine, the next thing is to consider what additional accessories you need. Here are some of the things that could be useful:
- Drip tray (allows coffee to drip after extraction and minimize mess)
- Tamper (helps press down grounds during extraction)
- Coffee scoop (for measuring out coffee powder)
- Cleaning brush (to dislodge build-up and debris in hard-to-reach spots)
In the end, choosing a new espresso machine is all about finding the right balance between convenience and control. If you want something that will last forever and brew consistently great coffee every time, look for an automatic model with adjustable settings. It will help you dial in the perfect temperature and amount of pressure for your beans. On the other hand, if you love taking part in every step of the brewing process and want complete control over your cup of joe, then take the plunge and invest in a manual model. The ultimate goal is to make a fantastic cup of coffee that’ll brighten up your day!