What’s a unique fact of the machine?
Italian inventor Angelo Moriondo wanted to deliver a coffee in an express manner to coffee lovers everywhere—and so the espresso machine was patented and born. There are some arguments about the first espresso machine’s patents, but one thing is for certain that it was Moriondo’s steam-powered “instantaneous” machine that many designs still go after today.
If you’re still calling an espresso, an “expresso” that’s okay because it’s been decided that this is an alternative spelling. The stand up bar at coffee shops was no thanks to the popularity of espressos because the drink could be consumed rather quickly, which left plenty of time for socialization with friends.
Most espressos also pack a pretty hefty caffeine punch, and it should be noted as one of the most potent beverages for caffeine consumption—if you’re looking for a quick fix then this should be your go-to.
What Makes the Espresso Machine Unique?
When I first saw an espresso machine I was beyond stupefied—I had no idea what I was about to get myself into, but it’s actually much easier than it appears to use. Also, it helps that you can serve a tiny cup in less than 60 seconds time—it’s definitely one of the quickest ways to serve a caffeinated beverage. With that being said it doesn’t mean there aren’t any complications that go with the machine including a lot of variables to consider:
Water: A good water source is especially important for the espresso machine because if you’re using water with a lot of extra minerals or that’s unclean—you’re espresso is going to taste off. You can get an inexpensive water test kit at most local hardware stores if you’re not sure. Water that isn’t clean or pure can also quickly damage your machine—making it practically useless if you’re not cleaning out the excess dirt and grime inside.
Grind: The grind size won’t be more important in any other coffee brewing process—that’s not to say it’s not important but just that you need to be particularly aware of it with making an espresso. The grind should be fine and should easily clump so that it’ll be easy to tamp down. You have to remember that the water and the pressure is going to do all the work but if you’re not using the right grind it won’t be able to do the process correctly.
Temperature: The temperature should be between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit for an ideal espresso—many of the modern machines allow you to control the temperature. If it does that means you get to play with the different ranges to find which flavor produced you like best—the higher the heat the more roasty the flavor will be.
Time: This is my favorite variable because it’s just so fast! From the beginning of extraction and the moment that your tiny glass is filled it should be about 25 to 30 seconds. Less than a minute for you to enjoy a flavorful caffeine creation; what could be better than that?
What are Some Cons of Switching to the Espresso Machine?
There are a number of things to consider with an espresso machine including price, reliability and how much control you want to have over your brewing process. I think the espresso machine is the most expensive option for coffee brewing—not because it requires filters or pods but just because the price for something like a fully automatic machine will be far more expensive than for an automatic coffee machine.
The great thing with buying a fully automatic espresso machine though is that you won’t have to concern yourself with all the little details, and you can just enjoy the rich and flavorful drink in front of you. The espresso also holds the most caffeine so if you’re trying to deal with your caffeine-fueled addiction picking up drinking an espresso daily probably isn’t the best option.
If you choose the most expensive alternative of the espresso machine and decide to go fully automated you’re also going to deal with a myriad of problems with the machine—whether those problems are user-related or not is a concern for a different day.
How Are the Brewing Techniques of Other Machines Different?
The espresso machine is like venturing to another planet when it comes to brewing techniques—not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but it will feel completely different from other processes that you’re probably familiar with. The only thing that comes even remotely close to what the espresso does would be the mokka pot—and even that has vast differences.
The mokka pot uses steam to heat up the water as it flows through the valve in the center and hit the coffee grounds—making the coffee taste much more bitter because of the steam. The espresso machine perfectly sets a temperature to deliver a tiny cup with a flavorful body—it does this by forcing pressurized water to a near boiling point through the ground coffee.
The difference here is that with the mokka pot it’s difficult to control the temperature, while with the espresso machine it’s much easier and that’s the reason for the difference in flavor between the two brewing processes.
Is the Flavor of Espresso Different?
IA lot of people that first try espresso say it tastes similar to coffee, but as you get a bit more experience you’ll find that there are certain notes that make it very different. A great espresso shouldn’t taste bitter if it does then it’s been made incorrectly—the top of the espresso should have a nice crema to even out the flavor.
I like to say that the best espresso taste like a nice dark chocolate and the aftertaste is rich enough to stay in your mouth for a few extra moments. Espresso is by far one of my favorite tasting caffeinated beverages because it’s a quick thing to sip, but the flavor should have lasting effects.
Is an Espresso Machine in My Budget?
Here’s the thing with espresso machines they tend to be on the more expensive side, but we’ll look at three varieties of machines that have different price ranges that way you can match the best choice with your budget.
Manual—This is by far the cheapest alternative, although not necessarily a bad thing because it allows the user more brewing freedom. You’ll be able to control the variables of the process and if it turns out you messed up you’ll at least have saved some money on this type of espresso machine.
Semi-Automatic—This is a great option if you’re willing to spend a little extra for something like an automatic pump that guarantees to use the correct amount of pressure to produce a quality espresso. There won’t be room for human error and you’ve spent only a little more than you would have with a manual option.
Fully-Automatic—We’re not straying too far from the semi-automatic machine here and the price points might reflect that. You might find a really nice semi-automatic machine for the same price as a lower quality fully-automatic machine. The difference between the two is that the fully-automatic allows users to have a one touch brewing system. All they have to do is push the on/off button to automatically control water volume that goes through the coffee grounds to make a delicious cup of espresso. This choice is great for people that have a little extra to spend and don’t want to worry about learning to make an espresso but still want to enjoy the benefits.
Super-Automatic—This is the crowning gold achievement of the espresso world—maybe not for professionals but definitely for the average consumer. Oftentimes, these machines have similar internal components to something like the semi and fully-automatic machines with a lot of upgrades. You can find these machines with things like a high quality burr coffee grinder and temperature control—all of the procedures would be continuously monitored by the machine. All of this comes with an expensive price tag—and often these machines can cost as much as $2,000, but if you want to take advantage of a super-advanced espresso machine and you have the budget for it there are some great options that will guarantee an amazing cup of espresso every time!
Is an Espresso Machine Truly for Everyone?
The espresso is still a fairly niche market for the everyday consumer of the drink so whether or not you’re looking to pay the price for that is one thing—another consideration to think about is the hassle.
Yes, you’re getting an amazing product from you’re an espresso machine but is it worth the hassle that comes with cleaning the machine and paying for parts that break when in reality an espresso has just as much caffeine as a standard cup of coffee? If you’re willing to pay the $4 premium for having it as a treat every once in awhile at a café, then it might be worth it to learn how to do this expensive hobby yourself by just going out and buying a nice machine. If you’re willing to spend $500 on a machine then you would get 125 espressos from a café or you could have the luxury at your house.
Top 3 Espresso Machines
Best Budget Choice
Price: Ranges in price from $54.99 to $59.99
Lowest Price: $54.99 on Amazon
Features: Portable espresso pump and lightweight
Cons: You’ll have to spend extra money for a tamper since it doesn’t come with it
Colors: Pink, Apple Green and Sky Blue
There have been quite a few portable espresso machines on the market, but the handpresso brand has far been one of the most impressive brands to lead the market. It’s lightweight at under 2 pounds and can be brought with you anywhere—and the easy espresso pods (ESEs) make this a must buy if you’re worried about an incorrect puck size with tamping.
Best Overall Choice
Price: Ranges in prices from $368 to $399.99
Lowest Price: $368 on Amazon
Features: PID temperature control and a Razor tool that trim down the puck to the correct size
Cons: A small water tank and the coffee tends to splash into the cup instead of coming out smoothly
Colors: Stainless Steel
If you’re looking for a great middle of the range espresso machine—you can’t go wrong with the Breville. If you’re looking for a durable, quality machine mostly made of metal material then you’ll be happy with this brand. It will be a huge relief if you’re worried about going completely manual in creating espresso as this one can produce a great cup as long as you’re using the correct size! You’ll have to practice with frothing and temperature setting, but once you get the hand of it I’m sure you’ll be making espressos like you’re a professional. It doesn’t hurt that the machine has a sleek design that will look amazing in your kitchen.
Best Premium Choice
Price: Ranges in price from $1,092 to $1,399
Lowest Price: $1,092 on Amazon
Features: Integrated milk frother, removable coffee brew group and programmable drink option
Cons: The machine uses too much hot water when making the crema
Colors: Stainless Steel
This is one of the best machines on the market because it can do anything your imagination can come up with—the Gaggia also comes with a pretty high price tag for all of it’s fun options though. You’ll get a one touch brewing and frothing machine so that you can make tasty espressos—but you’ll also be able to make cappuccinos, macchiatos and lattes. You can change the temperature settings between three different options and you’ll be able to remove the coffee brew group to rinse it off making maintenance a breeze compared to other super automatic machines. Also, that high price tag comes with an amazing warranty of 2 years so if you’re looking for a hassle-free way to make your favorite beverages—including an espresso that tastes out of this world then look no further than the Gaggia Anima Prestige!
Brewing Guide: Tips and Tricks for the espresso machine
- Fill your espresso machine’s water reservoir but make sure you’re using clean, filtered water because you don’t want to be responsible for damage to your machines boiler—hard water can have a serious effect on your machine and the flavor of your espresso.
- Now you’ll want to turn your machine on so that it can begin to heat up—this will depend on the size of your machine but expect between 10 and 30 minutes for it to be perfect.
- If your machine requires a portafilter insert and lock it into the machine so that fresh water will be brought to the front—wipe off the portafilter and the grouphead making sure they’re dry and clean before you begin the process.
- Begin the grinding process, making sure to check that it’s being ground in a fine manner—the coffee should clump loosely and look like a fine, powdery substance.
- There should be between 18 and 21 grams of freshly ground coffee put into the portafilter—rotate it so that the grounds are settled evenly into the basket. You can level the grounds with your fingers.
- Now tamp the grounds with either a tamper that either came with the machine or you purchased. Remember to focus on pressing it down evenly to create the perfect puck.
- You’ll need to return the portafilter to the grouphead and begin the brewing process—your machine might have a pre-brew stage, if so complete this step first. Pre-infuse until you begin to see the first drops exit the portafilter.
- Now we’ve saved the best part for last—begin the infusion and end brew which should end up being about 2 fluid ounces, mix the crema and serve your delicious espresso immediately. Happy brewing and enjoy!
Pro Tip: One handy item to have is a nice burr grinder because espressos require a fine grind—a lot of the lower quality grinders probably won’t be able to produce the type of grind size perfect for making a nice, flavorful cup of espresso. If you’re not sure what grinder to look for check out something like the Baratza Encore has worked well for me, but there are a ton of other great options to try out.
Also we briefly talked about the quality of water, but I’m just going to address it one more time because it’s so important! You can pick up a filtration system or a water pitcher filter for a reasonable cost especially when you think about how much money the espresso machine is going to cost—you’re going to want to keep it maintained and running for as long as you possibly can and using clean water will help you do so! A nice water filter that I use is the PUR 18-Cup Dispenser from Amazon and it cost $24.99 and a 4-pack of filter replacements runs about $20 which is really justifiable with an expensive hobby like making espresso.
Espresso is definitely not something that should be picked up as a hobby lightly—it doesn’t help that most of the machines are from places where cost is still high because the market for espresso machines is so small. Espressos are still part of a very niche and very expensive custom that may well one day be the norm for caffeine fanatics everywhere, but until that day comes we’ll have to suffer by spending a little extra money for a wonderful hobby.
The portable espresso machines have definitely opened up the market for anyone to be able to afford them, and they’re portability makes them amazing assets for things like camping trips or weekend getaways. I love a great espresso and the portable machines make a really good cup for an on-the-go product.
I also like that there are quite a few machines on the market that have either an automatic milk frother or a burr grinder attached because this makes it appeal to an even larger market—think about how many people enjoy the convenience of the pod and capsule machines; these additions make the espresso machines even more competitive.
I wish that high-end espresso machines weren’t such a large part of the market, but they come with that price tag for a reason and that’s because you’re not going to get a cup of espresso at home for cheap—especially not if you’re looking at a fully-automated machine that has a lot of internal processes and components to make the job easy. No matter what your budget is though you can find something to work with, and you’ll probably soon become as obsessed with making an espresso as you are with drinking them after going out and purchasing a machine!