Guide to Espresso Machines

Beginner’s Guide to Espresso Machines

So you want to invest on a fancy espresso machine? Well get your pen and paper and prepare to jot down some tips on how to buy the best espresso machine that suits your needs. Long has been the days that we all dream of being baristas, or maybe that’s just me, but I digress.

Espresso is so elusive, so mysterious, so “je ne sais quoi.” It is widely popular all across Europe, and the good ol’ U.S. of A. is promptly catching up to the trend. Nobody can purchase an espresso machine without knowing what espresso is, so, I will briefly give the accurate “cliff notes” of what it is and what it is not.

The Espresso

espresso-machine_2Espresso is not a noun, regardless what dictionaries say, it is a verb. It is a method to preparing coffee using several roasts and different kinds of coffee varietals. However, what it is not, and I can’t stress this enough, it is not a bitter, dark and burnt-flavored coffee. It’s alright if you believed it was, it’s a common misconception. Still, a properly well-made espresso coffee procures a “bold” and rich flavor.

The process is simple; a finely grounded coffee is packed and tightly squeezed into a “portafilter,”—exclusive to espresso machines, by the way. Then, high-pressured water is flushed into the grounds of coffee and small extracts of concentrated deliciousness is gradually poured into a cup.

The thing you’re looking for here is “intense” flavor. Afterwards, once you do that, you are free to experience the purest of pure espresso in the world! Ristretto, Lungo, Single Shot,

Francis-Francis-X1-for-Illy-Espresso-MachineDouble Shot! And that’s about it… but a single shot will suffice the need for that sudden “fix” of caffeine. Now, of course you’re probably wondering “then what is an espresso macchiato?” I am so glad you asked. Brand coffee houses love to express how delicious their “espresso” macchiato are, and yes, in all fairness they do taste quite good… just how ice cream tastes good.

Basically a macchiato is an espresso shot with foamed milk in it. The same is true for other “brand” coffees like: cappuccinos, lattes, Café Americano, all of them dilute the bold flavor of the espresso coffee.

Buying Categories

Now that we are all caught up on what exactly an espresso is, now you can choose what kind of machine best suits your needs, and yes, they are important. Ask yourself, what do you really want? An espresso machine varies on function as much as a car varies in functionality and affordability and convenience. So, let’s look at categories.

  • Manual
    Manual Espresso MachinesJust how it sounds, a manual espresso machine will require any user to be a competent barista overnight, which is to say, you have to know what you’re doing, due to the fact that the high-pressuring function required to brew pure espresso coffee has to be done by hand. The quality of the brew will vary a lot depending on skill. It can be a miracle for your taste buds or a curse. This category of machine is best reserved for those that are expert baristas at home, trust me. Unless you’re feeling “saucy” and you wish to experience it first-hand yourself, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Semi-Auto
    Semi-AutoNow this espresso maker is a godsend, thanks all to the pioneer that birthed a technological wonder, Achilles Gaggia. The semi-auto espresso machine is what you’d imagine it to be, half the work and all the fun. Unlike manual models, this kind of machine dons an electric pump that automatically keeps the water pressure in check, the only job you’d do is deciding when to turn the pump on and off, hence “semi” in its design. This is the type of machine you’d find in coffee houses, it is by far the most widely used. It still takes a bit of attention to detail, but not nearly enough as a manual machine.
  • Full-Auto
    Full-Auto Espresso MachinesBy now you’re wondering if there really is difference between a semi-automatic espresso machines with a fully-automatic. Truth be told, there is very little difference. The only difference is that all the work is done for you. An electric barista, of sorts, regulates the amount of water that passé through the espresso coffee. It does include, in some models, some sense of control like it does with semi-auto espressos, but honestly the full automatic is the lazy-man’s espresso machine. It gives all the good and quality of an espresso drink without any of the hassle to actually do anything yourself. Perfect.
  • Super Automatic
    Super Automatic Espresso MachinesYes, there is something even better than fully-automatic, and it’s aptly named “Super” Automatic. As amusing as it sounds—and believe me I giggled first time I heard about it, it has everything an espresso maker hopeful can wish for. It is shiny, it is attractive, it has all the bells and whistles you’d expect, and if it were any smarter it would write a book for you, and probably read it to you after. Super Automatics are trending right now because of the fact that it has so much going for it, for instance, grinding mechanisms, and ability to choose which style of espresso you want at the push of a button. These models of espresso machines are pretty cost-effective compared to the other category models.

Final Thoughts

An espresso machine is priceless, whichever brand and model you choose, it is a guarantee that you’ll stay with that machine for a very long time. My advice is, don’t rush, browse around and know exactly what you want from your machine, what exactly you want it to do. If you need a little encouragement, take a peek into it will iron out the details and specifics of popular espresso machine models out in the market today and appropriately guide you to your first espresso machine purchase.

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