Updated Nov 1, 2016. Look, if you’re serious about your caffeine addiction like me, then you NEED to have an Espresso Machine in your kitchen. I have one and I’m a fully functional caffeine-fiend – Actually, if I don’t have my caffeine, then I’m not really functioning at all.
Though espresso comes from what seems like a relatively simple process—grind coffee beans, pour in hot water—things are not as simple as they first appear.
- Hot (but not boiling) water is not so much poured over finely ground coffee beans as it is forced through under pressure.
- This results in a higher concentration of dissolved solids in espresso, a thick suspension with a rather satisfying cream on top.
- Because of the pressurized nature of this method, espresso is a concentrated, powerful little number.
Why should I own an espresso maker?
While many enjoy espresso from a sidewalk cafe in Paris or as a digestive after a monster meal in Milan, most people do not have this luxury. If you’re like me, you’ve been settling for a quick double shot from Starbucks while rushing to work. It doesn’t quite have the same romance to it.
Fortunately, there’s a happy compromise that’s a lot cheaper than air fare—brew fresh espresso in the comfort of your own home! Whether you want a quick jolt of flavor and caffeine, or a base for your own Americano or macchiato, an espresso machine is just the thing for you.
Which espresso machine should I buy?
Espresso machines may look and sound quite intimidating in your local coffee shop or restaurant, but today’s home espresso makers are very easy to use. You don’t have to break the bank in order to get one, either! There are plenty of quality machines on the market for under $200 that will not only do the job, but do it well (and for many years). Let’s look at a few of the better ones.
DeLonghi EC702 15-Bar-Pump Espresso Maker
If what you want is an espresso machine that seems like it would be at home in a restaurant or coffee shop, then look no further. It’s a bit on the pricier side, but the EC702 is definitely worth it because of the build quality.
This is the model for experimenting with, as there are two thermostats to allow you to keep the water and the steam at separate temperatures.
The heated warming tray lets you make two different styles and keep the first on hot.
What’s great about the DeLonghi EC702 15-Bar-Pump Espresso Maker is its versatility. You can pop in an espresso pod if you are in a rush, or use your own ground beans and the steaming wand to impress your friends after dinner. See the DeLonghi EC702 15-Bar-Pump Espresso Maker on Amazon
Nespresso Pixie Espresso Machine
If you are looking for convenience, this option could well be one worth checking out. The ultimate in convenience is brewing espresso from capsules, and this neat, sleek espresso maker can hold fifty of them.
The water is heated to the correct temperature in as little as twenty-five seconds, meaning your espresso will in the cup and ready to drink in a minute. Saying you don’t have the time to make your own coffee doesn’t work with this guy! It’ll take longer to go through the McDonald’s drive-thru to get a cup than it would had you simply used the Nespresso Pixie.
This machine is not for the budding barista to practice with, but it’s perfect for those who want their espresso now!
Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Maker
This model opens up the possibilities a little more. It includes an automatic milk frother that allows users to choose the thickness level, and also has a few extras when it come to the coffee, too. Don’t be worried if you’re a novice barista, as this is still a one-press machine if you want it to be.
If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of a restaurant-grade espresso machine, the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Maker might be the perfect match for you. What it does offer are options such as single or double shot espresso, cappuccino, and latte. Its 15-bar pressure pump will make sure that you will still taste the espresso if you do choose a creamy setting.
The Mr. Coffee also looks great—more like something you’d see in a small cafe. And, thanks to its removable water tank and drip tray, it’s still very easy to clean.
How to choose the best Espresso machine
When you are paying the pest part of five bucks for a quick espresso before work every morning, one at lunch and maybe one in the afternoon to avoid the lethargy that can creep in around half past three everyday the numbers add up quite quickly.
An espresso machine is like a good pair of shoes or a decent mattress in that it will pay for itself in no time at all. A quick shot of caffeine in the morning to get you going or an after dinner sip to help you digest a nice meal is a pleasure that can not be taken away from. There are many great espresso machines on the market today but how do you know which one is best suited to your particular needs?
Espresso machines for the home
You may just want something fast and convenient with no hassle, you might like to explore your inner barista or you may well be a training to be one so there are many different considerations to be taken into when you are choosing which espresso machine will be best for you.
So let’s take a look at some of the different styles of espresso machine on the market today, the range of features that each one of these models have can help you make a more informed decision on which one will be more suited to your needs.
There are few basic rules that need to be followed no matter what when it comes to making a good espresso. It is a simple drink and there are nowhere to hide, no frothy milk or caramel sweetener just you, the beans and the water.
- The water needs to be very hot but not boiling as this can scald the ground beans and lead to an overly bitter and nearly acrid drink.
- The coffee beans need to be ground uniformly and should be very fine but not powder. If you live in a very humid area you may want to grind your beans a little more finely.
- The water will be forced through the evenly tampered powder under pressure and there are many models, which have an option to change how much pressure is being used.
- The fun part is you can play around with all of these factors and see what results in your preferred style of espresso.
You may of course just wish to hit a button and let the machine do all the work, this does have its advantages not just in the time it takes to make but it will also help to keep a consistency of flavor. A machine does not have moods and off days (hopefully) so there is no reason to expect a variation in your single or double shot.
Espressos are not, contrary to popular belief, overly caffeinated in fact there is nearly 50% more caffeine in a regular cup of coffee and a lot more than that in some of the big cans of energy drinks. This means that the main reason for making one is to enjoy the rich dark flavor and the way that it pairs beautifully with a fresh croissant or a little cigar.
Most espresso machines double as a cappuccino maker and if this is the way you intend to use the shot then it is worth getting a machine that creates a beautifully creamy foam perfectly. The pump that will provide the pressure needed to create this is of the utmost importance and unsurprisingly the best are to be found in some of the more expensive machines.
Some MORE of our favorites
We start with a model that that closely resembles the machines that you will see in restaurants and coffee shops everywhere.
Breville Barista Express
The Breville Barista Express not only walks the walk in terms of looks but it talks the talk when it comes to performance.
Most machines require a separated grinder for the beans or take pre ground capsules; the Breville on the other hand features a conical burr grinder that can accommodate up to half a pound of your favorite roast.
Sleek and stylish with brushed steel and a weight that is reassuring this is a machine that you can be proud to display on your kitchen counter and delivers a perfect 1 ½ ounce shot of rich, dark flavor every time.
Gaggia Classic 14101
The Gaggia Classic 14101 is another top of the line espresso machines that justifies its price tag and remember if you are buying several cups of coffee everyday it just might pay for itself in a month or two. With a big water reservoir, one of the best tampering tools and producing frothed milk that is as good as we have seen, the Gaggia is quite rightly considered one of the best espresso makers that is available for home use. It is a manual machine so you do have to practice a little but there is an undoubted satisfaction to making an espresso that you can truly call your own.
DeLonghi EC 155
For something a little more gentle on the wallet but uncompromising when it come to the end result the DeLonghi EC 155 is a great lightweight and more compact option. It doesn’t take up as much room as its more expensive counter parts and as it is semi automatic it is quicker and more convenient if you need to get that early morning pick me up on the go while you get ready to leave the house. It makes remarkably good steamed and frothed milk and you can be assured of a fantastic marocchino or latte every time.
The KRUPS Falcon is another great espresso maker and produces a rich crema every time we tested it, looking great and super easy to use this model also comes highly recommended as it consistently made some of the best espressos we tested.
So when you are choosing which espresso machine is best for you first think about how you are going to use it and how much effort and time (and money) you wish to spend to get the best possible espresso.
Sometimes the process is part of the fun though and like anything the more you put into it the more you will get in return so don’t be afraid, you don’t need to grow a hipster moustache and get a semi ironic sailor tattoo, a good espresso can be made by everyone!
All of these espresso makers make a great cup of the dark stuff, so it all comes down to whether you want one that is “run out the door quick,” or one you can play around with. At the end of the day, if you’re going to have an espresso maker in your house, you might as well get a machine that looks the part. Throw on an ironic t-shirt, learn a few obscure indie band names, and pick up the DeLonghi. You will be painfully cool in no time at all!
Pair espresso with a delicious dessert! Learn all about how to pick the best springform pan and have a tasty slice of cheesecake with your daily coffee.
References and Links
- What is the best espresso machine for me?
- Super Automatic Espresso Machines – A forum discussion
- Sweet Maria’s Forum on Super Automatic Espresso Machines – This is where I buy my green coffee beans!
- Sweet Home’s The Best Espresso Machine, Grinder, and Accessories for Beginners – The best reviews out there.
- Gear Patrol’s Espresso Machine Guide
- Coffee Lounge’s Guide – These guys go deep! They cover the following:
- 1 What is Espresso Machine
- 2 Different Types of Espresso Machines
- 2.1 Steam Machines
- 2.2 Pump Machines
- 3 Why Choosing an Espresso Machine Instead of a Drip Coffee Maker?
- 3.1 Flavors
- 3.2 Varieties
- 3.3 Single cup
- 4 How To Choose an Espresso Machine
- 4.1 Things To Look For in an Espresso Machine
- 4.2 Steps For Using Espresso Machine
- 4.3 How To Clean an Espresso Machine
- 4.4 Dangers of Using Espresso Machine
- 4.5 Maintaining your Espresso Machine
- 4.6 Safety Tips
- 5 22 Top Rated Espresso Machines
- 5.1 Breville Espresso Machines
- 5.1.1 Breville 800ESXL 15-Bar Triple-Priming Die-Cast Espresso Machine
- 5.1.2 Breville BES840XL the Infuser Espresso Machine
- 5.1.3 Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
- 5.1.4 Breville BES980XL Oracle Espresso Machine
- 5.1.5 Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma Stainless Espresso Maker
- 5.2 De’Longhi Espresso Machines
- 5.2.1 De’Longhi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
- 5.2.2 De’Longhi EC680 Dedica 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine
- 5.2.3 De’Longhi ECP3420 15″ Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine
- 5.2.4 DeLonghi EC702 15-Bar-Pump Espresso Maker
- 5.2.5 DeLonghi ECAM22110SB Compact Automatic Cappuccino, Latte and Espresso
- 5.2.6 DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso/Coffee Machine
- 5.2.7 De’Longhi BAR 32 Retro 15 Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
- 5.3 Nespresso Citiz Espresso Machines
- 5.3.1 Nespresso Citiz Espresso Maker
- 5.3.2 Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker
- 5.3.3 Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker
- 5.4 Mr.Coffee Espresso Makers
- 5.4.1 Mr. Coffee ECM160 4-Cup Steam Espresso Machine
- 5.4.2 Mr Coffee ECMP50 Espresso & Cappuccino Maker
- 5.4.3 Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker with Automatic Milk Frother
- 5.5 Gaggia Espresso Machines
- 5.5.1 Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine
- 5.5.2 Gaggia Brera Super-Automatic Espresso Machine
- 5.6 Others Espresso Machines
- 5.6.1 KRUPS EA8250 Espresseria Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
- 5.6.2 Philips Saeco Vienna Plus Automatic Espresso Machine
- 5.6.3 Espressione Café Minuetto Silver Professional Thermoblock Espresso Machine
- 5.6.4 Capresso Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine
- 6 Best Espresso Machine
- 7 Editor Choice Espresso Machine
- 8 Best Cheap Espresso Maker
- Decent reviews from CoffeeGear – I feel like they are selling too hard, but there is some good information.