How to Choose A Home Espresso Machine
For espresso lovers, there is nothing better than that first sip of the strong, dark elixir that signals that it is time to start your day.
For others, it is the pick-me-up needed mid-morning to revive the energy for a big meeting or to get creative juices flowing.
Traditionally, espresso is served strong and thick with a layer of crema on the top made from coffee grounds and water. The type of bean used is usually based on the preference of the barista or individual brewing the espresso.
The traditional espresso served in Italy is not necessarily the favorite in the US today. Some prefer a lighter, sweeter roast while others won’t stray from the dark and full-bodied beans that we tend to think of when imagining a steaming cup of espresso.
The Ultimate Home Espresso Machine Guide
A perfectly brewed cup really has no comparison. And what could be better than enjoying this delight in your own home? Before going out and splurging on a new espresso machine, it is important to know what you are looking for.
Machines vary in cost, function, and availability. The goal of this guide is to help you determine which machine is right for you by unpacking the ins and outs of popular models.
What are home espresso machines?
The convenience of being able to enjoy a delicious cup of espresso from the comfort of your own home sounds like a dream to many coffee fans. The first step is to make sure you understand what exactly an espresso machine does.
If you have never worked as a barista, the espresso machine may seem a little intimidating. Gaining some insight into the process can help you to prepare a better cup of coffee and even add to your enjoyment.
The first thing to know before you make your home espresso machine purchase is that there are three types. You can choose from a manual, semi automatic espresso machine, fully automatic, and even super-automatic. The most important thing to note here is that the more automatic the espresso machine, the fewer the steps needing to be carried out by the person using it.
For example, if you are someone that prefers the convenience of being able to push that brew button and go on with your day, the super-automatic might be the best espresso machine for you.
On the other hand, maybe you like to have a little more control over your brew and select specific options depending on the day. In this case, you might be happier with one of the manual or semi automatic espresso machines.
Knowing your own preferences and what you hope to gain from your selection will help you in your decision-making process. Knowing the main specifications, features, and benefits of different types of machines will also make the choice easier. Consider the following before choosing your machine:
Manual Espresso Machines
A manual machine gives more control to the user but sometimes lacks consistency. The operator is able to control the variables going into the process, which can be satisfying for some people. These machines are often smaller than automatic and take up less counter space.
Automatic Espresso Machines
The label “automatic” encompasses semi-automatic, fully automatic espresso machines, and super-automatic as well. These machines are programmed to adjust the pressure applied automatically to the volume of water being used. This takes much of the inconsistency out of the equation and generally produces a quicker cup of espresso.
Read Our Best Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machines Guide
How much do home espresso machines cost?
Just like any other investment, you get what you pay for when it comes to espresso machines. There are some great deals to be found during certain times of the year (Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and even some great discount codes to try.
The price for a home espresso machine ranges based on the type and the included features. It is often a very personal decision dependent on preferences. Many espresso fans are willing to pay high prices to get the perfect cup in the comfort of their own home.
Prices for a manual espresso machine range from the affordable price of around $150 (like the Flair Espresso Maker) to the pricy $1,600+ (such as the Elektra S1C Microcasa Lever) with all the bells and whistles.
If an automatic machine is what you desire, a budget model like the De’Longhi 15 Bar Espresso & Cappuccino Machine will set you back just over $100. At the opposite end of the price range, the La Marzocco will cost you over $4,000!
Of course, there are always going to be great options that are moderately priced somewhere between the budget and splurge categories. Knowing what type of machine you want and which features will make you happy is key to making an informed decision.
What to Consider Before Buying a Home Espresso Machine
Obviously, price is an important consideration when purchasing a home espresso machine, but is not the only factor to keep in mind. You are most likely buying this to improve your home coffee drinking experience. Several features will determine if it the right match for you and your lifestyle.
Manual or Automatic
As mentioned above, the type of machine you will choose from will either be a hands-on, manual model or an automatic.
If you are a beginner, the automatic might be your first inclination since they tend to be user-friendly.
However, if you are serious about learning the art of espresso making and desire to have more control, the manual can be mastered with practice.
Volume & Frequency of Use
There is a reason why coffee shops invest in expensive, heavy-duty espresso machines. Wear and tear due to frequent use can take its toll on coffee brewing equipment.
It is a good idea to keep in mind how often your machine will be used and the volume needing to be produced.
You may choose differently if you have several users brewing multiple cups a day compared to a single user making one cup a day. This is something to keep in mind when considering the right machine for you.
Freshly ground coffee beans are one of the essential parts of the espresso-making process. Many experts agree that the taste, flavor, and coffee drinking experience are really dependent on this factor.
However, not everyone loves the time it takes to grind beans by hand.
There are some great options available for either preference so it is important to know before buying, which machines on the market have a built-in coffee grinder and which do not.
If you have browsed through pictures of home espresso machines, you have no doubt seen some beautiful pieces of machinery. Some of the top models look like works of art and seem to take up a large portion of the average kitchen. That option is obviously not going to work for everyone.
Determining the space you have available (or that you are willing to give up) is important in addition to knowing the specifications of your preferred model. These are not usually the easiest to hide away in a cupboard, so it is advised that size and space be considered carefully before purchasing.
Cleaning & Maintenance
Depending on the type of water you are using in your machine, regular cleaning and descaling are going to be part of your routine if you want to keep enjoying delicious coffee.
Hard water is notorious for causing build-up and can negatively affect the taste and quality if a proactive cleaning is not done regularly. Luckily, there are easy ways to keep your machine free of build-up.
Some people prefer a natural method such as a vinegar solution. There are also commercially made products that can be run through the machine to remove any unwanted residue.
The Best Home Espresso Machines Available Now
With all of the espresso machine options available it can seem overwhelming to have to make a choice.
Even if all of the previously mentioned information helped you narrow down your choices, there are still other factors to consider that might make one machine a better fit for you than another.
Fortunately for you, we have selected some of the best espresso machines on the market today and outlined the top features of each.
1. Gaggia Classic Pro
The modern style combined with a quieter brewing makes this Italian machine a favorite.
If you are looking for an authentic, semi-automatic machine with commercial-grade components, that consistently produces quality espresso, this may be the choice for you.
2. Breville Infuser
The 4 key formula is designed to make brewing perfectly balanced coffee at home easy and delicious.
This model does not take up a lot of space and produces consistent, quick shots of full-bodied flavor.
A great choice for those seeking a semi-automatic that will satisfy all your coffee needs and is made to last.
3. De’Longhi Stilosa
The modern stainless steel look and compact size make it a great addition to a contemporary kitchen.
The ease of use, simple cleaning process, great tasting product, will appeal to most people – and as one of the cheaper options, your tasty cup of coffee won’t cost you a small fortune.
1. What is a ‘dual boiler’ coffee machine?
A double boiler means that you can brew and steam drinks at the same time.
As well as the convenience of being able more than one drink at a time, perhaps more importantly, it means that you’ll have water at the ideal temperature for both brewing your coffee and frothing your milk.
While large dual boiler machines might sound like they would be the better option, make sure you check the other features you might want as well.
2. How long should an espresso machine last?
Many factors will determine how long your espresso machine will last including brand, frequency of use, type, and components.
The average automatic lasts between five to fifteen years, while a manual may last a bit longer with proper care.
Like with most things, the more you look after it the longer it’s likely to last, so choosing a machine that is easy to clean/maintain as well as buy replacement parts for will help your coffee maker last for years.
3. What is pre-infusion & why does it matter?
The process of pre-infusion is an extra step often taken to ensure that the ground coffee used is evenly saturated before pressure is applied.
Not all machines do this, and as many people think that this step improves the flavor of the espresso as it makes the extraction process better, it might be something you want to check out with the machines you’re considering.
The Last Drop
For coffee lovers, having their own home espresso machine is a dream come true. There are so many options available that it can seem overwhelming. It helps to narrow down the type of machine you think will suit your lifestyle; manual or automatic.
Then, it is time to look at the features you know you want. Is a built-in grinder something you prefer? How often will you use it? What is the budget range for your new machine? These are important factors to think about so that you are satisfied with your choice.
The Gaggia, Breville and De’Longhi Stilosa listed above are excellent options and should definitely be considered when shopping for your new espresso machine.