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Home tools Buyer's Guides from tech enthusiast who loves technology and clever solutions for better living.
Top Of The Best Steam Espresso Machines Reviewed In 2018Last Updated January 1, 2018
№1 – Nespresso Inissia Espresso Machine by Breville, Titan
№2 – Nespresso Inissia Espresso Machine by Breville with Aeroccino, Red
№3 – Mr. Coffee 4-Cup Steam Espresso System with Milk Frother
There are three main classes of espresso machines
Each of these machines offers a different coffee making experience and demand different levels of coffee making ability. The Super-Automatic and Coffee Pod machines require the least amount of “barista knowledge”, while the semi-automatic and automatic machines require at least general knowledge of espresso extraction and milk steaming techniques. There is also another category of “manual espresso machines,” however these will be left for another guide as they are not so common.
KRUPS Espresso Machine
Press one button and it’s done. A Super-Automatic machine does it all for you. It steams the milk, grinds the coffee, pulls the espresso and makes the drink. All you need to do is supply the cup – although some do this too.
The espresso that these machines produce are of a decent quality compared to their semi automatic/automatic cousins, and are a viable option if the variables of coffee making are too daunting. I would still recommend picking up a semi-automatic espresso machine over a super-automatic. As after the initial learning curve a semi-automatic machine will always produce a better drink.
But the super-automatic machine still has its place in the world of espresso. They are very prominent in offices and are easy to maintain. Furthermore, if you want a hassle free solution it may be a good fit for you.
The very first espresso machines worked on a steam-pressure basis, and they’re still in use today. With this type of machine, steam or steam pressure is used to force water through the coffee grounds and produce espresso. Some steam-driven machines can produce a measure of foam “crema.” But they can’t generate enough pressure or provide the precise temperature control necessary to produce true espresso: They simply make a very strong cup of coffee. However, they cost considerably less than pump-driven machines. Our verdict is that if you’re a true espresso lover and seeking to make a good shot at home, we recommend you steer clear of steam-driven machines. They’ll likely disappoint you.
Tip: While we don’t recommend steam-driven units, If you’re on an extremely tight budget and looking to “test the waters” with a low-cost, entry-level machine, a steam-driven model will provide a somewhat cheap imitation of espresso.
Pump driven machines use an electric pump rather than steam-generated pressure to force water through the coffee grounds. This is the type of espresso machine that makes true espresso. Pump-driven machines fall into two basic categories:
Super-Automatic Espresso Machine Features
On the other hand, super-automatic espresso machines are all about convenience and not having to “fine-tune” anything. Almost all of the brewing steps are automated, meaning that all you really have to do is fill the hopper with coffee beans and turn it on. Here are some of the features that make the super-automatic espresso maker so easy to use:
As you can see, super-automatic espresso makers are great for those who just want great-tasting espresso without the fuss and muss.
Tip: If you’re a busy, “on the go” person and convenience is your top priority, a super-automatic espresso machine is right for you.
Sad, but budget has to come first. With an idea of what you’d like to spend, you then can enter the market at a realistic level. If you want to spend under £100, your choice is limited, but it is still possible. Spending over £500, and you can look at durable, long term bean to cup machines or even semi commercial machines.
Here is a rough guide of the best within each price range:
What do you want from your espresso machine? Do you mainly drink lattes, espresso or Americano? If you mainly drink coffee with steamed milk, when looking at models make sure the steam wand is as good as it can be for your budget. Take a milk jug with you and make sure you can easily access the wand – for example, some wands on small machines are low to the tabletop and will require a very small jug to be used.
If you mainly drink espresso, consider other types of espresso maker – for example the Presso (RRP £79.99) or the Handpresso (RRP £89.99), both of which create fantastic espresso and are non electric (so they are quicker to use than a machine and also cheaper to run).
Presso Espresso Maker RRP £89.99
This is a fully aluminium coffee maker which creates espresso using just hot water from the kettle and a corkscrew-type effect to create pressure. A nice precursor to the La Pavoni, a lever machine for beginners. Making a good shot is very straightforward, providing your coffee is freshly roasted and freshly ground. Stale coffee is no friend to this!
Aeropress RRP £30.00
A toughened Perspex tube which has suspicious looking intentions, this coffee maker is the latest coffee geek gadget! It works on the filter system, and is capable of producing “espresso” style shots and filter style coffee. I personally prefer this for filter coffees with lots of flavour, like Ethiopians, as it is great at picking out subtle flavours.
Choosing A Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine: Buying Guide
Choosing A Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine: Buying Guide
When purchasing an espresso machine, people often decide to save time and energy by choosing a semi-automatic espresso maker that does a few different things for them. There are a number of outstanding advantages to this type of appliance, however as with nearly everything you buy, not all espresso machines are equal. This buying guide provides in-depth information about the features that are most desirable, along with some specific information about several of the most popular semi-auto espresso makers available.
A Good Espresso Maker Makes Good Espresso
Sure, there are plenty of cheap espresso makers on the market, but when it comes to this kind of appliance, you really do get what you pay for. Instead of thinking about your espresso maker in terms of “small kitchen appliances” think of them as a minor investment, kind of like an entertainment system. Consider how much you pay for drinks made at your favorite coffeeshop each week, month, and year, and you are likely to come up with a surprisingly large amount of money. A good espresso machine will pay for itself pretty quickly!
What’s a good espresso maker? It is one that has the power to push boiling hot water through a dense puck of ground espresso, usually via a 15-bar pump or better. The amount of pressure a good pump creates gives the espresso its characteristic flavor and body, along with the rich head of crema that gives professionally made espresso drinks their sensational quality.
How much counter space are you willing to dedicate to the espresso machine you choose? Some semi-automatic espresso makers are very small; the De’Longhi EC680 Dedica mentioned in the previous segment is so small that it’s a popular choice with people who live in tiny houses, vacation in RVs, and spend weekends living aboard pleasure boats. It takes up a space about inches wide by 1inches deep, and is 1inches tall.
Other semi-automatic espresso makers are larger, requiring more space on the countertop and perhaps an even higher vertical clearance. As an example, the Breville BES870XL Barista has a built in hopper for espresso beans on top. It lets you grind fresh beans every time you go to make a shot, plus it has a built-in water reservoir that holds two liters of water. The tradeoff for this convenience comes in a bigger footprint: this espresso machine is 13.inches wide by 12.inches deep. It is 15.inches tall.
When you’re first learning how to make espresso-based drinks, you’ll need to move slowly to ensure that you get everything right so the beverages you create are enjoyable. If your lifestyle demands greater convenience and you want good drinks with a minimum amount of effort, consider getting an espresso machine that does more than simply brew the coffee portion of the drinks.
Some espresso makers have integrated milk carafes and automated milk frothers that steam and froth the milk or nondairy milk in your recipes for you. Two examples are the De’Longhi EC860 Espresso Maker, which is programmable and which has an integrated milk carafe that can be used with the automatic function or moved to the side for manual steaming. This machine works with espresso pods as well as traditional ground espresso, so the user can make great-tasting drinks with minimal effort.
The Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker is another semi-automatic espresso machine with a built in milk carafe. Like many other large espresso makers, it has a water reservoir on the back for added convenience. Like several of the most popular espresso machines, it can be programmed to deliver one or two shots.
Consider the amount of cleanup required when looking into cleanup. Most espresso makers are very easy to clean, so long as cleanup happens immediately after beverages have been made. Tap the filter out into the garbage or compost bin, rinse, and lay out to dry. Wash the milk pitcher, wet the steam wand and wipe it with a damp cloth, and you’re finished, in most cases. If that seems like a lot, there are some espresso makers that have self-cleaning components. The Mr. Coffee Barista Espresso Maker is one of these; while you still have to take care of the pitcher and the filter, the steam wand has its own cleaning cycle.
Just about all espresso makers have removable drip trays underneath. These help keep your countertop clean, catching the occasional drips that can happen during the process of making beverages.
Shop filter coffee machines
Filter coffee machines are perfect for making large quantities of freshly brewed coffee. The water slowly drips through a container holding the ground coffee, using either a paper or permanent reusable filter. As the water flows through, it absorbs the flavours and aromas. The filter coffee is then ready to serve from the pot or carafe and is usually kept warm on a hot plate making it a quick and easy option for re-fills.
Coffee machines with a permanent filter require more cleaning but can save money in the long term. Removable paper filters are usually the easier option as they can be thrown away. Filter coffee machines come in different cup volumes depending on the number of cups you want to make in one sitting.
Shop pod & capsule coffee machines
These coffee machines use disposable pods or capsules filled with coffee sealed inside. The coffee is blended, roasted, ground and then sealed within the pod. Once you put the coffee capsule into the machine, water is heated and forced through the coffee, releasing the full flavour into the cup. It’s fast and convenient without messy filter holders to clean.
There’s a wide variety of pods and capsule systems available from different brands, each incompatible with the other. Tassimo and Nescafe Dolce Gusto machines use plastic pods to create barista-style coffee drinks. Nespresso use infinitely recyclable aluminium capsules, filled with their signature Grand Cru coffee. Nespresso coffee machines also have a high 1bar pressure to create premium espresso and some Nespresso machines use fresh milk for the perfect cappuccino and latte coffee drinks.
Shop espresso coffee machines
An espresso coffee maker is a popular way to make barista-style espresso at home using a filter holder and pre-ground coffee. Pump machines have a separate water tank and a fast Thermoblock heating system which heats the water to the optimum temperature for the perfect espresso crema.
The water is then pushed through the coffee filter holder at the correct bar pressure to produce a rich, smooth espresso. Some pump espresso machines have a steam arm that is used to steam and froth milk for cappuccino and latte drinks. Many machines can also be used with coffee pods for added convenience.
Size and weight
If you’re looking to store your coffee machine away when you’re not using it, make sure it’s small enough to fit into a kitchen cupboard and light enough to manoeuvre. Larger coffee machines are ideal if you’re keeping them on display on a worktop.
Knowing how to take care of your coffee machine is important if you’re using it frequently. Cleaning the machine and regular maintenance checks will prolong its lifespan and ensure your coffee tastes as good as can.
Before you clean your machine, always make sure it has cooled down and is unplugged.
Turn off your coffee machine when you’re not using it to make sure it’s always in great working condition.
Don’t leave water in the tank for long periods of time and always use fresh water for boiling.
Do you find it difficult to decipher the language of coffee?
Read on to discover more about our most popular coffee drinks.
An espresso is a strong, pure coffee made by forcing high pressure hot water through ground coffee beans. A perfectly made espresso should have soft foam on top called crema. Espresso forms the base for other coffee drinks including cappuccino and latte.
A latte is a single shot of espresso (30ml) with steamed milk and a little frothed milk on top.
A cappuccino consists of equal parts espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk. 1/espresso, 1/steamed milk, 1/milk froth. Sprinkle a little cocoa powder on top for an authentic touch.
A single or double shot of espresso with a touch of steamed milk froth on top.
Once you have a soft dough, flour your hands well and lightly knead the dough, mixing in the lemon zest and pistachios. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and roll it into a thick log shape. Press down lightly on top of the log to flatten it slightly. Place the biscotti log onto the greased baking tray, and bake for 2minutes or until golden.
Your biscotti will now be very crunchy, ideal for dipping in a strong espresso to soak up all of the wonderful coffee flavour.
Italian biscuit recipes – 2) Chocolate, ginger and almond biscotti
A delicious twist on the classic biscotti recipe, try this chocolate and almond option when you’re entertaining.
Get creative with latte art
From hearts and leaves to even animals, latte art is a great way to achieve a barista-style coffee at home and to impress your family and friends. Try our step-by-step guide to creating the Rosetta leaf below. But remember, it takes practice!
Continue the rocking motion and start to move the pitcher towards the back of the cup.
Steam wand with froth support
The steam wand that is supported by a frother can be encountered in many entry – level espresso machines.
As far as the design and shape it is almost similar to the first type treated in this Buyers Guide. The differences stand in the way it is operating.
Two Dual Wall & Pressurized Coffee Filters
When it comes to the beginner, this machine comes with two dual wall and pressurized coffee filters that help to regulate the pressure and helps to optimize the coffee extraction. Then for those that are more experienced it also includes two single wall and non-pressurized filters that allows you to have more room for experimenting with different tamping pressure, grind sizes and amounts. This gives you the ability to do whatever you want when using this machine. This is yet another great feature that helps make this the Best Espresso Machine Under 1000 dollars.
No Need To Worry About Purchasing A Coffee Grinder Because Breville Barista Express Comes With A Built-In Burr Grinder.
Pre-Brew Function & Flat Shower Head For The Best Extraction Possible.
DeLonghi Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso System
Enjoy Great Tasting Lattes, Espressos, Cappuccinos & Many More Of Your Favorite Drinks Anytime At the Comfort Of Your Home With DeLonghi.
This great machine by DeLonghi will help you instantly become your very own barista. You and your family or friends will be able to enjoy great tasting lattes, espressos and cappuccinos anytime you are in the mood. This machine makes it easier than ever to create wonderful Italian style beverages that you thought you could only get at a crowded coffeehouse. This machine simply does all the work for you from grinding your own coffee beans to brewing whatever espresso beverage you want. This is truly the Best Espresso Machine Under 1000 dollars because of all that it does.
Jura Impressa C60
Get Your Favorite Espresso Drink With A Touch Of A Button
Four Specialty Drinks Programmed & Eleven Language Options
Jura Impressa C60 Comes With A Built-In Conical Coffee Grinder
Thermoblock Heating System & 1Bar High Pressure Pump
Fine Foam Technology
Includes A Built-In High Performance Conical Coffee Grinder
This espresso machine allows you to use either your favorite ground coffee or you can even use your own coffee beans. This is because it includes its own very high performance conical grinder so you can grind your own coffee ensuring that your coffee is the freshest that it can be. What more can one ask for when it comes to the Best Espresso Machine Under 1000 dollars?
Manual espresso machine
Reading around about manual espresso machines, I found a lot of articles explaining what these machines are like, how they work, and lot of un-useful things.
If you want to buy a manual lever-driven espresso machine you probably don’t need all these information, but something else, that will let you know which one is the best to buy, in order to make a perfect espresso.
The Manual espresso machine for us Italians is just one, la Pavoni.
Let me tell you a little bit of history so you can understand why.
In 190a man, Luigi Bezzera, created the first project for a lever driven espresso machine. And mister Desiderio Pavoni realized it.
Rok presso Espresso maker
It seems more like an Italian Moka Coffee, with a little bit more taste, and probably experimenting a little bit more with different blends you could reach a good espresso quality.
I am sorry about the cappuccino, because it is not possible to make the real cappuccino if you don’t have steam (hey RokPresso, I am sorry, you know, I am Italian so…)
But since you pay a much cheaper price for it, I must say that it is a choice.
Here’s a video to let you understand better what I am talking about:
Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker
You get your cup of coffee delivered to you in under a minute. The compactness of the machine makes it capable of being kept anywhere, not just in the kitchen. It can be kept in a corner in the living room or on the dining table. It is hassle free and has automatic brewing.
Breville ESP8XL Café Roma Stainless Espresso Maker
It has a removable 40-ounce water tank and a drip tray that makes it easy to clean. A window by the side of the water tank lets you know when you need to refill water. It comes with a dual boiler that uses a thermos-block heating technology that heats water to an optimal temperature for perfect brewing and streaming.
The presence of 1bar pump provides maximum pressure for feeding adequate water into the ground coffee to extract flavor from the coffee and the function to create foamy Crema. One of its disadvantages is that it has no coffee grinder, you will have to get a separate grinder.
Pump Driven Espresso Machines
These work by heating water to the right temperature before forcing it into grinds using an internal pump. Pump driven espresso machine typically produce higher quality and better tasting coffee in comparison to steam driven machines. Even though they are relatively expensive, these are the type to go for if you’re after making full-flavored espresso.
Steam Driven Espresso Machines
These boil the water and force it through espresso grinds using steam pressure. Because such units exclusively depend on steam to drive the water through the grinds, they do not produce full flavored coffee. It is worth noting that steam driven espresso machines can only brew one carafe at a time. Nonetheless, they are moderately priced and would make the best choice if you’re on a budget.
The quality of water will also have a hand to play in the overall taste and flavor of your espresso. A water filter works by ensuring that any taste the water you’re using might have does not affect the overall taste of your espresso.
Cale Guthrie Weissman
Our previous Nespresso machine pick has been discontinued. After speaking to the company, we tested a new similar model and found that it worked just as well. If you want a decent espresso drink at home, but don’t have the time or patience to practice and learn the ins and outs of making espresso, consider the Nespresso Essenza Mini.
Knock boxes are for disposing of spent grinds. We like the
Cafelat because of its high back design and removable bar for easy cleaning.
Tampers for evenly pressing your grinds prior to pulling a shot. The Infuser (and all Breville models) come with a surprisingly good plastic tamper that has metal tamping surfaces, but you can get a better, for not much money, or splurge on the more ergonomic stainless steel Rattleware (you’ll also need one if you go with a non-Breville machine, but make sure to get the right size (most, including our Gaggia runner up pick use a standard 58mm tamper)—consult your manual if you’re not sure).
A milk-frothing pitcher is necessary for making lattes and other milk drinks. Again, the Breville comes with a good milk-frothing pitcher, but its 16-ounce capacity is better suited for cappuccinos than lattes (since you need extra space to accommodate the foam), so we have a
Our goal here was to find an approachable setup for people looking to get into espresso making for the first time.
Indeed, at-home espresso is not for the faint of heart. Tommy Gallagher from Counter Culture Coffee explained that it’s better to go to a coffee shop where the barista is trained, has dialed in the espresso already (meaning they’ve found the ideal grind size already), and uses a multi-thousand–dollar machine to ensure that what you’re drinking is at least moderately good. But results are almost never the only reason to do it. If you’re interested in learning a culinary craft, an at-home espresso setup can be very rewarding. For one, it impresses your friends. Two, it can be really fun to tinker with techniques and dosage. Also, it does make for a nice ritual (this, says Gallagher, is the real appeal).
If you already know what you’re doing and have strong opinions about the benefits of “temperature surfing,” this guide is below your pay grade. Similarly, if you’re not limited by budget, you can spend the entire max budget on a grinder alone and then twice again on a kick-ass espresso machine—at that point, they’re all pretty good and it’s more about preference. Our goal here was to find an approachable setup for people looking to get into espresso making for the first time. ), which isn’t bad for a consistently decent espresso (with crema!) that tastes as good (or better than) Starbucks, yet requires almost no effort on your part. Just fill the water reservoir and pop in a pod. And unlike some other single-serving coffee systems, Nespresso has a prepaid pod-recycling program in place already. To be clear, Nespresso makes decent coffee every time, but even a beginner working with a cheap espresso machine can achieve better results with just a bit of practice. Nespresso is just a whole lot easier.
How we picked and tested
To figure out just what was needed to make a cost-effective home espresso setup, I talked with eight coffee experts. They included award-winning baristas from some of Manhattan’s best coffee shops, the technical brains behind two of the most well-known roasters in the country (Counter Culture and Stumptown), as well as experts and entrepreneurs who focus on connecting coffee enthusiasts (both professional and consumer) with the correct equipment. I also read through hundreds of articles and forums on coffee blogs such as CoffeeGeek and Home Barista, and other sites like Prima Coffee.
We caution against all-in-one machines because you’re combining the failure rates of two machines, and if one breaks, the other does too. But if you must, the Breville Barista Express is the way to go. It’s basically an Infuser with a built-in Dose Control Pro. While Breville’s grinders aren’t the very best on the market, they do perform well enough. Since its machines pull great shots, this all-in-one setup is a good bet. Mark Hellweg agrees with this, calling it one of the best “feature-packed consumer machines.” And CNET gave it rave reviews as well as its Editors’ Choice award.
The Rocky lives up to its reputation as one of the most capable home-use grinders available.
To use it, you must flip a switch and beans are automatically drawn through a chute into the open. I found that making small adjustments on the Rocky to dial in espresso was easier than most other machines we tested. You simply move a knob on the bean hopper to the left or right. Compare that with the Baratza Vario, which has a two-tiered adjustment system labeled with numbers and letters. The Rocky’s simple adjustment also makes it easy to flip between bigger grinds for drip or French press and back to espresso size again.
The Rocky’s size (it’s 13.7inches tall) and relatively quiet operation make it a much better pick for home use than the commercial machines many enthusiasts covet. Mazzer, in particular, has a lot of popular models, but even the smallest Mazzer Mini is almost inches taller than the Rocky.
The Rocky is available with an optional doser mechanism for an additional charge, but we prefer the cheaper standard model. While a doser supposedly makes it easier to measure the grinds into the portafilter, coffee gets trapped in the additional basin where it becomes stale, and it’s a pain to clean. Also, the rubber grip on the dosing lever kept falling off during testing. The Rocky without the doser works just great as is.
While the Rocky is definitely a solid grinder, it wasn’t the best we tested. If good, consistent, and accurate grinding is what you’re looking for, the Baratza Vario is the way to go. It’s on the higher end of Baratza’s offerings, tailored to more advanced users. And this comes through when you use the machine. It is considered a “stepless” machine, which means that you are able make micro-adjustments between the larger grind settings. This gives the user more options when dialling in the espresso, which ultimately means the coffee will taste better.
With only 40 grind settings, the Virtuoso will get you in the ballpark, but not the exact setting you need.
When push comes to shove, a good grinder is a good grinder. While Baratza’s Virtuoso was not necessarily built with espresso in mind, it will do an good enough job if you’re on a tight budget. And you can purchase a nice accessory that makes it possible to dose directly from grinder to portafilter. The problem with the Virtuoso has nothing to do with grind consistency though. It’s just that the differences between the distinct grind-size settings are a bit too big. This limits your ability to dial in the grind size. You will be able to generally dial in the Virtuoso so that an espresso machine pulls an okay shot of coffee, but you won’t get it perfect.
You can actually hack the Virtuoso to better handle finer grinds pretty easily, but that still doesn’t solve the adjustment issue. Even Baratza cofounder Kyle Anderson agrees that the machine isn’t great for espresso (he recommends the soon-to-be-released Sette 270 as its best low-end espresso grinder—we’ll test it when it’s available later in the summer).
A knock box, which is simply a small receptacle you put used coffee grinds in, is a nice thing to have. It’s basically a countertop trashcan with a bar going across the top for you to hit your portafilter against—thus ejecting the spent grinds from the portafilter into the waste box. After testing several competing designs, the Cafelat is our favorite. It had a sleek design with a removable bar for easy cleaning. This gives it an advantage over the otherwise similar Grindenstein. Breville also offers a knock box with a removable bar, which we tested and liked. But the bar is a bit tougher to take out, requiring unscrewing the end caps as opposed to just popping out with a tug. There are also more seams in the Breville for coffee gunk to collect in compared to the Cafelat’s smooth rubber design. The Breville is a fine pick if you want a stainless steel look, but otherwise the Cafelat is the superior product.
The real joy of espresso is in the drinking. So, of course, it’s important to have a good cup. Personally, I enjoy drinking espresso out of glass—it looks nice, and feels modern. The Duralex Picardie—which was the overall pick in our glass guide—makes a 3.1-ounce glass that is perfect for espresso sipping and is even big enough to make a macchiato or cortado. You can read more about why we like them in the drinking glass review.
If you prefer ceramic, Clive Coffee and Prima Coffee both recommend the Ancap Verona espresso cup. They are Italian-made porcelain coffee cups that are known for keeping coffee warm and having a good cafe-like aesthetic. They do cost a lot more per cup than the Duralex though.
Tamping the espresso is both an important step in the coffee-making process and hotly contested. There are forums about how hard one should press on the tamper when compressing the beans; some even say tamping is not necessary (I wholly disagree with this). Whatever you believe, it’s important that you remain consistent in your tamping ritual for every cup of coffee you make. Thus, it’s helpful to own a tamper that you like. Every machine comes with its own tamper, although some are better than others. Rancilio and Gaggia, for example, come with tiny plastic presses that are annoying to hold and anything but sturdy (although the Breville’s bundled tamper is pretty great).
If you want to make milk drinks, you’re going to need a frothing pitcher. Though many look alike, some are nicer than others. The Infuser, for example, comes with its own pitcher (which is a great addition to the package!). The pitcher is fine enough, but I prefer Rattleware’s pitchers, which are a bit sturdier and have a better finish. It was a bit heavier than the generic RSVP and Update International pitchers we tested and felt nicer in the hand, which we think is worth a couple bucks extra. Rattleware also offers a Milk to Perfection pitcher, which has an internal tube that helps guide the steam wand to the correct position. For beginners, this is a nice addition, because it makes it somewhat easier to learn how to correctly steam milk. But, again, it comes down to preference. I prefer a sturdy pitcher with a handle; other like pitchers that have an insulated cover and no handle. It’s honestly up to you.
Care and maintenance
Keeping your espresso machine clean is as important as buying the right one. If you don’t do these small actions to keep the machine up to par, the quality of the espresso will most definitely suffer and you may even do damage to the machine.
What is a brewhead
The’ brewhead’ or ‘group’ is the portion of the coffee machine that is responsible for forcing the pressurized water through the coffee grounds. The portafilter attaches (or remains attached for fully automatic models) to this and from it the water is pushed through the grounds.
On fully automatic models, this entire unit is housed inside the machine and the grinder drops the grounds directly in the portafilter. The machine automatically tamps the grounds and then brews. When the grounds have been used, they are dispensed in a separate container that usually holds a few batches and is easily removed for emptying. These models generally offer a wide variety of customization options such as coffee strength and amount. Almost all will also have some sort of bypass available if you have separate, already-ground beans you would like to use (for entertaining decaf drinking guests perhaps).
With semi automatic or manual models, the basket is filled by the user. There are specifically designed tamping tools that work quite well as you have the right size. Commercially used espresso machines generally use 58mm portafilters and this size is available on some home models as well but you will be able to find more at around 52mm. Many semi auto units also make use of ‘pressurized’ baskets. This type of basket limits some of your ability to craft your espresso for specific flavor because it reduces the affects of grind fineness and tamping precision. But that also makes it easier for the less experienced to get consistent results. If you would prefer to use traditional baskets, they are readily available from different sources.
The engineering involved in the brewhead is the aspect of each individual machine that determines the quality of coffee produced. Better brewgroups are able to extract more of the oils from the beans, resulting in more crema and fuller aroma.
Alternative Brewing Options
In our fast paced world, everyone considers convenience as one of the top priorities for items used every day. In light of this, coffee makers have found two clever ways of marketing prepackaged, easy-to-use espresso. Both offer consistent decency if not spectacular results and either can actually create espresso with crema.
Easy Serve Espresso or E.S.E. for short, are pods that come in one serving size and automatic espresso machines often come with an extra portafilter basket specifically for the pods. They are generally single shot servings and one of the biggest advantages is that they contain all of the used grounds similar to the way a tea bag does, making cleanup a doodle.
Even more recently, capsule machines have gained some momentum. You must continue to buy capsules from the manufacturer but the results are extremely consistent, if not customizable. As of right now, there are only two prominent brands producing capsule machines, illy and Nespresso. Typically, capsule machines lack options for brewing ground beans and are thus one dimensional. The common complaint users have about the capsule system is difficulty recycling (or reusing) the capsules and composting the grounds. But they are ideal for very busy coffee drinkers and new brewers looking for ease and more quality than pods.
Features & Accessories
Espresso manufacturers are constantly developing new perks to separate their products from those of their competitors. While some are common to very many brands, others are relatively exclusive to particular ones. Here we will outline a few features that may or may not be the tipping point for your purchase decision.
Steam wands allow you to steam and froth milk for drinks and are therefore essential for those who prefer cappuccinos or lattes. This is the most common add-on you will find on espresso machines. In fact, nearly all automatic models produced today have some version of one. They come in varying quality, typically reflective of the price range. They also double as hot water dispensers.
In order to use one effectively, technique is required. We suggest studying and trying out different strategies for frothing if you are a novice. Very often, new home espresso brewers get frustrated with their frother before they properly know how to use it. They can be very effective depending on the type. But cultivating skill with one takes practice.
Some models offer a surface on top that is supposed to heat your cups for you. In our experience, many of these fail to truly get your cups hot but will keep them warm if you get your cups hot first. Most of this lot use passive heat, just utilizing the extra heat generated by the boiler. Some versions however, have their own dedicated heating elements and really heat up. Be careful with these, because they can get very hot and therefore may not be the best for families with adventurous younger members.
As stated here, the grind of the beans is very important to the flavors and aromas that end up in your cup. Many insist that you should have a grinder that is better than your espresso machine. The best type of grinder for serious home-brewing is a conical burr grinder and these themselves come in different grades. Remember, bean-to-cup models have these included and is actually one of the most important pieces to find quality in. Some fully automatic models that are designed to be compact may have rather small chambers for holding beans and it is never really good for a grinder to run without beans in it so be certain to have it stocked whenever using.
The fineness of the grind is nearly always adjustable and easy to do. Metal-bladed grinders can often leave your beans tasting a litter burnt. Ceramic is a good example of another material that changes the flavor of your espresso less. ‘Long’ Coffee/Americano
As our appetite for coffee steadily increases, larger portions are more often warranted. ‘Long’ coffees are much larger than shots of espresso but are made without milk. Manual machines will take some skill to pull this off and you will likely need one of the pricier ones to make it worth the trouble. A few fully automatics will do this for you at the press of a button. Some of these may actually produce terribly as they just run extra water through the same grounds but others have more unique approaches. If you are the type who prefers ‘Americanos’ for your morning drink, it may really benefit you to look into the models offering this option.
Matt the master brewer
Easier to use than a manual Espresso Machine more control than a Super Automatic Espresso Machine
While automatic espresso machines take a lot of the work out of the process, they don’t remove all of the work, like a super-automatic machine does. Super-automatic machines often do everything at the press of a button – from grinding the coffee in a predetermined amount, pumping the water through, and even steaming milk. These machines take all the guesswork out, but they also remove the customization that espresso lovers crave.
Manual espresso machines, on the other hand, offer the highest level of customization, but will require more work on your part to achieve the perfect cup of espresso. In most cases, manual machines will also require more time, and you will have to be actively monitoring the machine the whole time. These are precision machines, and they are generally not well suited to beginners.
Automatic espresso machines balance the two – offering you more control with less work. There is no single answer as for what’s better – it’s just a matter of what’s better for you.
A Brief History of Automatic Espresso Machines
In short, espresso machines were born in 1884, from a desire for better coffee with a faster brew time. This turns the art of coffee making into a science – and to make this process easier, automatic espresso machines were created. These machines help to control the finer scientific points of the brewing process, and helped lead to the widespread success of espresso machines outside of their original Italy.
Although espresso machines have undergone a number of changes since their earliest inception, the biggest innovation happened in 1961, when Ernesto Valente created the prototype for the first automatic espresso machine. This machine used an internal pump to regulate the pressure put forth on the coffee puck. After the water left the plumbing line, it would go to a heat exchanger to keep it at the perfect temperature for coffee extraction. These machines (branded the Faema E61) had a smaller size than traditional espresso machines, and could be operated with much less expertise than the old system, which required the barista to pull a lever.
Since the 1960s, espresso machines have undergone a significant number of additional changes, including computerized measurements, mechanical upgrades, better electrical components, and portable pneumatics. These improvements vary from one manufacturer to the next, but in most cases, modern espresso machines are much better than their traditional counterparts.
SBDU: This acronym stands for “single boiler, double use”. These boilers are unable to steam milk and brew espresso at the same time, as the heating element is shared between the two processes. Espresso machines which use SBDU boilers will usually take a long time to reach steam temperature – as much as two minutes per drink. This can add up quickly if you will be making multiple milk-based drinks back to back, as you will also need to wait for the water to cool down to the appropriate brewing temperature before you can pull another shot. However, they are generally less expensive than other boiler types.
HX: This acronym stands for “heat exchange”. While these boilers use a single boiler, like SBDUs, they are able to brew espresso and steam milk at the same time, due to the boiler being kept at a constant steaming temperature. The water used for brewing is sent through a different system, so that it stays at a lower temperature. The specifics of this boiler design will vary from one manufacturer to another. These machines offer a lower price than dual boilers (below), but experienced users can learn to use timed flushes to regulate their temperatures in order to pull the perfect shot every time. Some love being able to do this, while others may just like the lower cost.
DB: This stands for “dual boiler”. As you might guess, this machine uses a separate boiler for the brew water and the steam wand. Because the heating elements are separate, the barista will have complete control over the temperature of each – which might mean it takes longer to adjust for different preferences. Since different manufacturers use different setups to implement their DB systems, experience with one might not translate to an understanding of another, either. However, they generally keep temperatures more consistent once set. These machines are generally the highest priced machines on the market, as well as the most difficult to master.
The milk frother on an automatic espresso machine is often automated, to an extent. You will need to pour the milk into the container, of course – generally a stainless steel pitcher that’s small enough to fit underneath the steam wand. It’s important that you leave room when filling, since the milk will expand when heated. For a latte, the milk will only need to be steamed for a short amount of time. Cappuccinos require that the milk is steamed until it turns into a microfoam with nearly double the volume.
The process used for frothing and steaming are different, despite using the same tools, and you may need to experiment with your machine in order to find the way that works best for you. Additionally, different machines use different types of wands for milk frothing. The two main varieties are steam wands and panarello wands. Your machine’s instruction manual may come with information on using the included frother, so be sure to read up and make sure you know what you’re doing.
What you should think about when choosing an Automatic Espresso Machine
While most espresso machines will share the same basic features, some machines offer additional features that set them apart from the rest.
This could be something as simple as a removable drip tray, which makes cleaning much easier, or a larger water tank to make more than one cup before refilling.
Other features, such as the ability to fit a larger mug or to brew two cups at a time, should be considered if they are important to you. Generally, these features are not necessary for good espresso making, but deciding which features you like can help you decide between otherwise equal machines.
Here’s a few things you should consider when choosing an Automatic Espresso Machine · Convenience: Automatic espresso machines are meant to be convenient, so if your machine doesn’t offer you the convenience you need, consider buying a super-automatic machine instead. · Cost: While higher-priced machines are usually better quality, you should not spend more than you can afford on an espresso machine. There are often optional features that you can forego if you need a less expensive machine. · Durability: Less expensive machines may be unable to meet the day-to-day demands of their users for an extended period of time. If you will be using your machine more than occasionally, it’s best if you get a solidly-built machine that will last for years. · Design: Design is largely a personal preference. You should choose a machine that complements the décor in your kitchen. There are modern and more traditional designs to choose from, as well as a variety of finishes. · Size: Do you need the convenience of a large water tank, or would you prefer a smaller footprint? In most cases, you will have to choose one or the other, although some machines may be able to tap directly into your faucet. · Noise: Espresso makers can be quite noisy – but thankfully, machines without grinders are usually slightly less so. Consider how loud your new machine will be when running. · Customer reviews: Whenever possible, it’s advised that you look through previous customers’ reviews of the product you plan to buy. After all, the manufacturer can say whatever they want – it’s up to the users to determine if they’re telling the truth.
Tips for making a great drink with an Automatic Espresso Machine
Once you’ve bought your Automatic Espresso Machine you want to make the best coffee possible. Although you have limited control over an Automatic Espresso machine you should still bear these in mind if you want to make a great coffee.
Matt the master brewer on his top tip for making excellent coffee
If you don’t want to spend out for a bean to cup machine get a great grinder; freshly ground coffee just tastes so much better · Preheat your portafilter by pulling a “blank” shot (without any coffee). Warming your portafilter ensures that your coffee grounds stay at a consistent temperature throughout the brewing process. · Preheat your cup by running hot water on the inside before putting it in place on top of the drip tray. · Grind your coffee right before you’re ready to pull your shot. It’s well-known that freshly ground coffee produces better drinks, but there is a huge difference between one-hour grounds and one-day grounds – so resist the urge to prepare your coffee ahead of time. · Your grind should be roughly the texture of granulated sugar. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you will learn the best grind for your machine in time, but you can achieve the best results by using finely ground coffee beans. · The tamp of your coffee is very important, as well – you should apply roughly 30 lbs. of pressure (about 13.kg) evenly to all of your grounds. Neglecting to evenly tamp your coffee can affect the consistency of your water contact – resulting in inconsistent shots. · If you will be making a latte or cappuccino, steam your milk before brewing your espresso. Frothing your milk will take longer than pulling a shot, which means doing the milk first leaves less time for cooling.
You’ll taste the difference in your morning coffee
Experiment with your machinery to find out what works best. Although there are general guidelines that are great in most situations, each grinder, espresso maker, and steam wand will operate a little differently. Even if you’re a professional, it might take a few tries to pull the perfect shot · Don’t overfill your portafilter. This will not give you stronger coffee, but will instead overflow and leave more dregs (or sludge) at the bottom of your cup. Most machines come with two filters: One for single shots, and one for double shots. If you want a stronger cup of coffee, you can try running a single shot’s worth of water through a double shot portafilter, but espresso is already highly concentrated, so this is not recommended. · Don’t use pre-ground coffee, if at all possible. Since espresso is a very scientific drink, stale grounds will not produce a high-quality cup. · Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it right away – it takes practice and patience to pull consistently great shots, even with automatic machines. Once you do get your perfect cup, you’ll appreciate every failed attempt for the things it taught you.
Looking after your Automatic Espresso Machine – Cleaning
Every day, you should empty your drip tray – even if it seems to have a large water capacity (or an indicator that it’s time to dump it), there is generally no good reason to not clean it out daily. If your espresso machine has a reservoir for dregs, it’s best if you empty this, too. The steam wand should also be cleaned daily – preferably immediately after use, since milk can be difficult to clean once it’s dried on. If your machine has a “rinse” function, it’s probably a good idea to run some hot water through all the spouts. If there isn’t a rinse function, wiping down the outside of these areas with a wet cloth is generally sufficient.
Once a week, you should actually wash your machine – including all reservoirs. If you haven’t dumped your water reservoir in the past couple days, empty that, too. Even clean water can begin to grow bacteria if left sitting for long enough. Pay careful attention to areas that hold coffee grounds and milk, since they may be harder to clean than the areas that only get touched by water. As long as you’ve been keeping up on your daily maintenance, there shouldn’t be too much to be done at the end of the week. This is a good time to wipe down the outside of your machine, too.
Roughly once per month, you should do a deep cleaning on your machine. If it has a self-cleaning button, this can be incredibly helpful, but not all machines have this feature. If you have been using tap water, it might be time to descale the machine, too. For those who only use purified water, you can probably go about three months between descalings. (Hint: Using purified water will not only cut down on your maintenance time, but it’ll also make your coffee taste better.)
Our recommended descalers
While you’re doing your deep cleaning, you should also take a look at all the components of your machine – O-rings, seals, filters, brew screens, hoses, etc. You’ll want to catch anything that’s starting to show excess wear. Catching these things before they fully break will allow you to purchase the appropriate replacement parts ahead of time.
Looking after your Automatic Espresso Machine – Maintenance
To keep your machine running like new, year after year, it’s best if you take it to an authorized repair center once a year for a full check-up. If you have bought a warranty for your machine (or if the manufacturer included one in the purchase price), you might be able to send it back and have it professionally maintained. Keep in mind that many warranties don’t cover the shipping to have it cleaned, and some don’t even cover all maintenance – make sure you know what to expect before you try to send it in.
Why Do You Need An Espresso Machine At Home
Let’s be honest. When you’re queuing for your coffee, you must’ve thought “wouldn’t it be cool if I could brew an aromatic cup of cappuccino and pour latte art like these skilled baristas here”?
Well, now’s your chance to make that dream a reality. A home espresso machine will give you the opportunity to practice your skills and become a barista without having to pick up a part-time job. Even major espresso machine companies like La Marzocco support the idea of making espresso at home, as it gives a more pleasurable experience.
If that’s not enough for you, here are some other benefits of getting your own home espresso machine.
Over the weekends, do you ever crave for more coffee? Or perhaps you’re running late to work and don’t have a chance to make a side trip for your morning coffee.
With a home espresso machine, you’ll be able to fix all of that – more or less! In those lazy Sunday mornings, you won’t have to push yourself out and about to get a cappuccino. Instead, just walk over to your kitchen in your pajamas and enjoy.
If you’re like most, then you’ll have a favorite barista. Maybe he’s a nice guy, perhaps you guys get along, or it’s because he brews every coffee to your liking.
But what if one morning, he’s not working! Would you have the confidence to let a stranger control the fate of your day? What if he burns the coffee, would that ruin your day?
Well, with a home-based espresso machine, it’ll no longer be a problem! You’ll have complete control over your coffee. You’ll be able to quickly pick up coffee brewing and adjust it to match your personal preference.
Gadgets & Accessories
The espresso machine is just the start of your coffee adventure.
After you buy your machine, you have the option to customize and get more accessories to make your machine more fun to use. There are tons of optional gadgets that you can purchase for your espresso machine, from milk steaming pitchers, espresso tampers, to coffee grinders, and coffee scales. A true coffee geek can have fun mixing and matching to create a unique and personalized coffee experience at home.
What Do You Need To Know When Buying An Espresso Machine?
An espresso machine is quite complex. Before purchasing one, it’s important for you to understand the basic of how they work and what other tools do you need to maximize your coffee experience.
Coffee Pods & Capsules
Capsule coffee machines are espresso machines that use prepacked coffee pods. Backed by Ninja and Nespresso, these machines became popular back in the early 21st century. Designed for the ultimate convenience, capsule machine takes the words “hassle” and “mess” out of the coffee brewing equation.
This type of coffee machine uses pre-ground coffee and milk extract to brew your coffee of choice. Similar to automatic espresso machines, a capsule-based machine will do everything automatically; from espresso extraction to milk steaming, everything!
Many machines will come with a lot of these accessories when you purchase it, but others don’t. These accessories can be an unexpected expense so make sure that you are ready to buy these components on their own if they don’t come with the initial purchase.
Fresh Ground Coffee, Pre-Ground Coffee, Coffee Pods: Which is Best?
For the best espresso experience, you should grind the coffee beans yourself using an electric burr grinder. It’s important to use freshly grounded coffee beans because the flavors trapped inside will dissipate the second it’s grounded up. Ideally, you want to use fresh coffee beans that’s less than an hour old, and even less for the very best results!
Find out about aroma dissipation and storage methods here >>>
Other than fresh or pre-ground coffee, there are espresso machines that uses coffee pods and capsules. A capsule typically contain pre-ground coffee but also milk extracts and sugar.
While this is more convenient, ground coffee loses a lot of its flavors in the first hour, and nearly all of it within 2hours. Therefore, I prefer coffee grinders that’s catered more towards normal pre-ground coffee.
The Barrister’s Opinion
I love coffee, but I know that in the morning I would drink no more than or drinks max. Which means for me, a single boiler, single group head machine would fit my needs. I also know that if I were going to buy an espresso machine for home, I wouldn’t want one with all the extra pieces just to make it work right.
Therefore, I would recommend splitting your budget for a coffee grinder, and a single boiler espresso machine that will work on its own. Despite that, if you’re interested in all the extra, most companies usually offer discounts if you buy the espresso machine together with all its accessories.
The Breville BES870XL Express is an all-in-one coffee machine that does everything you need for a cup of perfect espresso. It comes with a conical burr grinder (specialized for coffee beans), and heavy-duty boiler system. The boiler system also comes with auto-cooling functionality, which adjusts water temperature between steaming and extraction, reducing your wait time.
Despite all its positives, the Breville BES870XL is larger and more expensive than most of its competitors. However, it does give you more freedom and contro
DeLonghi EC15Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
A slightly more solid machine than Mr. Coffee, the DeLonghi EC15offers similar features with a detachable and easy-to-clean water tank. The machine is also designed to take both ground coffee or coffee pods/capsules.
Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee and Espresso Maker
Do you want to make an aromatic cup of latte, but don’t want any fuss? The Nespresso VertuoLine Espresso Maker will do just that! This specific model also comes with an automatic milk frother, which boost the flavors of all milk-based coffee drinks.
A pump espresso machine. Pump espresso machines use an internal radiator to heat the water you use to make your coffee. These machines brew coffee and steam water at a higher level of pressure (usually 1bars) than non-pump machines.
While the difference between pump and non-pump machines requires a long explanation that’s beyond the scope of this guide, the key difference you need to know is that a pump espresso machine will make better coffee that’s less likely to taste burned.
We do not recommend these machines.
All of the machines below have a 15-bar pump espresso brewing system.
If you’re on a strict budget and need a reliable espresso machine for your kitchen, try one of the four models listed below:
DeLonghi EC151BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your Steam Espresso Machines wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of Steam Espresso Machines
- №1 — Nespresso Inissia Espresso Machine by Breville, Titan
- №2 — Nespresso Inissia Espresso Machine by Breville with Aeroccino, Red
- №3 — Mr. Coffee 4-Cup Steam Espresso System with Milk Frother