When it comes to a really good quality cup of coffee there are a number of factors to consider, some factors will apply to all coffees but it is important to remember that different kinds of coffee machines and brewing systems (filter, pump, drip, pod, espresso etc) these are all different methods of brewing and they will all have different attributes that make them the right machine for the job. This article takes a peak into espresso machines and if they really make enough difference to warrant the huge gap in the prices ranges. It is possible to pick up a coffee machine from as little as £30 on the UK market but they range all the way up into the thousands so you’ll need to be sure your machine is going to tick all the boxes and make you that perfect brew if you’re thinking about splashing the cash.
In terms of making a great espresso, and any coffee for that matter, it all starts with the bean. No machine is going to make a terrible bean into an amazing coffee, so start by making sure you select a really good quality (and this is key) fresh, bean. The next thing on the list (short of roasting your beans at home) is getting that been into a ground coffee, the grind of a coffee can make a big difference to the end product. For a great cup of coffee you want to make sure your beans are evenly ground, so try to use a burr grinder, these actually do grind the beans opposed to blade grinders that actually just chop your bean. A poor grind can be exceptionally detrimental to the way your coffee tastes at the end of the process so it is worth a bit more cash to ensure your machine has a really good grinder if you are choosing a bean to cup machine.
The next stage of brewing the perfect coffee is ensuring the correct water temperature, the water is after all the largest proportion of your end drink and it makes a big impact on the final taste. You want to get your water to between 91°C (196°F) and 96°C (205°F), under this and you will end up with a weak coffee that has not lifted the aromas of the bean successfully, over this and you’ll burn your grounds, effectively ruining your coffee all together. Choosing a top quality machine that has really effective boiling and heating elements is key to ensuring you get the desired result and it’s fair to say that on the whole, the higher the price tag the more likely it is that these elements will be of a better quality. Don’t forget that it is also worth ensuring you have a method for filtering your water too as tap water can have a surprisingly large difference in taste depending on the area in which you live, by filtering first you will remove any extra nasty chemicals that might ruin your carefully selected bean.
Adding the milk, unless you love your espresso neat to get a coffee that hits true barista status it’s likely you’re going to add milk. As discussed the boiler element of your machine is really important for getting your water temperature spot on and the same goes for the milk temperature. Unfortunately the two don’t sit at the same temperature when it comes to getting your finished product to a high standard. This is where boiler design comes in, to allow you to get the two temperatures required easily without having to switch between brewing and steaming you will need something over a single boiler design and there are two options for this. A dual boiler which has two separate boilers that are both set to the correct boiling and steaming temperatures and do not effect one another. Or, a heat exchange boiler which relies on a ‘cool flush’ of water through the system to effectively get the correct brewing and steaming temperature almost simultaneously. Therefore selecting a machine that’s got a slightly higher price tag because of its dual boiler or heating exchange design could be key if you don’t love your espresso in shot form.
There’s so much to the brewing process and there are some really nifty artisan brewing techniques out there that will interest you and work well if you are a coffee buff but if you just love coffee and want a machine that will enhance a great coffee bean quickly, efficiently and with beautiful tasting results its really worth doing a bit of extra research and not skimping on price for a top notch coffee machine. All that’s left now is to get studying your barista techniques to make sure your coffee looks the part too!