Espresso is truly one of the greatest expressions of coffee, and it’s no surprise that an espresso machine is often one of the most sought after kitchen appliance there is.
Espresso machines are plenty, so it can be hard to choose which one you want. To help make things simpler, we’ve put together this buying guide: it’s the result of hours of research and many, many shots of espresso!
Here’s the short of it: the best espresso machine is the DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica. It’s competitively priced, it’s a super automatic espresso machine, and you can make a wide variety of drinks with it.
As for the runner ups for best espresso machine from other categories, here they are:
- Best budget espresso machine: DeLonghi EC155
- Best semi automatic espresso machine: Breville BES920XL
- Best manual espresso machine: Flair espresso machine
- Best portable espresso machine: WACACO Minipresso
In this roundup of the best espresso machines, we’ll be looking at machines from every category.
Best Espresso Machine: 11 Picks For 2020
1. DeLonghi EC155: Best budget espresso machine
If you have to go the budget espresso machine route, then you want to stick with a brand that you know delivers every single time.
DeLonghi is one of the best known brands in the espresso machine world and their machines are just unbeatable when it comes to brew quality, durability, and ease of use.
The EC155 is pretty basic but will get the job done. One of the best features is a removable 32 ounce water tank, which means it is a lot easier to clean and store, especially if you have not used it for a while and have to descale it.
It has a self-priming feature which keeps the water moving inside it, which is good – and there is a simple steam wand which will do the job well enough.
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Since this is a simple machine there is no grinder or steaming jug – you will have to buy those two separately. If you don’t want to go through the trouble you can just steam in a regular mug and buy pre-ground espresso beans, too.
For a price tag of less than $100 the EC155 can’t be beaten as an entry-level espresso machine.
- Use convenient pods or ground coffee with the patented dual function filter holder. It makes espresso preparation simple and fast
- Easily prepares latte and cappuccino with the swivel jet frother, for perfect drinks every time. Rated voltage/Frequency (V-Hz)-120-60
- Eliminate annoying start-up preparation with the self-priming operation. On/off switch
- Always brew espresso at the perfect temperature with two separate thermostats, which allow for water and steam pressure to be controlled separately
- Enjoy delicious espresso for years to come with the durable, high-quality stainless steel boiler and 15 bar pump pressure. Note: Refer user manual before use. Maximum cup height: 66 centimeter
2. Breville BES920XL: Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
In the semi-automatic espresso machine industry, this is the number one rated semi-automatic espresso machine.
This machine is built with some of the most impressive features. In fact, this machine could be rated number one across all espresso machines; it is that good!
This comes built with stainless steel boilers and dual pumps to produce espresso and steamed milk or froth simultaneously.
With a backlit LCD display, the user will always know the temperature, the shot time and be able to gauge the temperature for the perfect espresso shot.
The Breville BES920XL has a 58-mm commercial grouphead, which assists maintaining the perfect temperature.
If you want your espresso ready at a certain time, the Breville has an automatic start feature where the user can program a specific time to begin brewing.
The steam wand means you can also make specialty coffees like cappuccinos, lattes, and more.
- Dual stainless steel boilers and dual Italian pumps for simultaneous espresso extraction and steaming
- Over-Pressure Valve (OPV) limits extraction pressure;Flexible Shot Control
- Electronic PID temperature control for precise water temperature
- Backlit LCD displays brew temperature, shot clock or time.We recommend using cold, filtered water. We do not recommend using water with no or low mineral content
- Includes water hardness test strip, descale alert and LCD assisted descale procedure
3. Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker: best mid priced espresso machine
When it comes to the best mid priced espresso machine, the Mr. Coffee Café Barista is easily one of the top picks.
Weighing in at only 9 pounds, it’s also one of the lightest espresso machines. For the user that is seeking a small espresso maker that won’t take up much counter space, this one is perfect.
With outstanding features and the ability to produce the richest shot of espresso, you can’t go wrong with this one.
The Mr. Coffee Café Barista comes built with a one-touch control panel. This allows for the user to dictate a one-shot or double-shot of espresso, latter or cappuccino.
As the name insists, the machine comes built with an automatic milk frother. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this. An automatic milk frother means you can make specialty coffees with a single press of a button. However, as there is no steam wand, you won’t be able to texture your milk by hand.
Overall, it isEasy to use and easy to clean.
The Mr. Coffee Café Barista comes equipped with a 15-bar pressure pump. This is an impressive feature as it guarantees a flavorful and creamy sip of espresso in every shot.
- Semi automatic 3 in 1 espresso maker, cappuccino maker, and latte maker
- 15 Bar Pump System Brews Rich Tasting Espresso Coffee
- Trouble Free Automatic Milk Frother Removes the Guesswork.Do not wash the water reservoir in the dishwasher
- One Touch Control Panel for Drink Selections
- Easy Fill, Removable Water and Milk Reservoirs
4. Gaggia 14102 Classic Espresso Machine
The Gaggia 14102 Classic Espresso Machine is known as a true espresso beast in coffee making circles. It is one of the heaviest and largest machines in the market.
While this could be a turn-off for some, the machine comes built with a beautiful stainless steel design and impressive features.
The Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine is one of the fastest espresso makers in the industry. Built with a 3-way solenoid valve, the pressure system and grouphead function to produce a delicious and efficient shot of espresso.
This machine is made from some of the highest-grade of material. In fact, the grouphead is made of marine-grade brass, which is perfect for maintaining the high levels of pressure and temperatures. This allows for the user to have a full-bodied shot of espresso.
The Gaggia Espresso Machine comes equipped with an impressive 72 oz removable water tank.
In comparison to it’s competitors, this machine comes built with a 17 ½ bar pump with an intense boiler to produce the BEST shot of espresso.
Built into the heart of the machine, the user can also make steamed milk and froth.
- Rugged brushed stainless steel housing
- Commercial three-way solenoid valve
- Commercial-style 58mm chrome-plated brass portafilter and Brew Group
- Easy-to-use Turbo-Frother steam wand attachment
- Easy-to-use Turbo-Frother steam wand attachment
5. Jura Giga 5 Automatic Coffee Center
Reaching this level of super-automatic espresso machines, this is the pinnacle, the crème de la crème.
If you want the best espresso maker that has swept the awards across the world, the Jura Giga 5 Automatic Coffee Center is it.
To be honest, words actually cheapen the perfection and beauty of this grand piece of innovation. This machine is the number one rated espresso machine in our books, period.
With two ceramic disc grinders, this is the fastest and quietest espresso machine in the entire industry.
The Jura Giga comes with 19 individual programable specialty coffees
Built with a TFT, or Thin-Film Transistor, display front-screen. For an example, the user can have a one-touch espresso, latte, macchiato, cappuccino, frothed milk, hot water, and assortment of coffees.
The most impressive feature is that it comes built with separate chambers for grinding and brewing. In other words, an individual can make two coffees at the same time.
The Jura Giga comes with an Intelligent Pre-Brew Aroma System, which maximizes the smell of the espresso, one of the most important parts!
With a thermoblock heating system, every single shot will be perfect.
- Fast and quiet as a whisper thanks to two ceramic disc grinder
- Now you can become a professional Barista in a flash, with 12 imaginative Barista specialties selected with a turn of the rotary switch
- Create your specialty Coffee in no time thanks to a TFT display with rotary selection
- Pure, clean lines for a unique, sovereign character
- The epitome of quality – doubled with the combined power of two grinders and two heating systems, the machine prepares every specialty Coffee to perfection.
6. DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica: best super automatic espresso machine
When it comes to espresso makers, you can’t go wrong with the DeLonghi ESAM330 machine. They are known across the world as one of the best and most innovative pieces of machinery. Not only are they visually appealing, they also come built with some awesome features.
This machine minimizes the transferring of espresso grounds and beans. With a bean-to-brew system, you do not need to grind their own coffee as the machine does all the work. This maintains the quality and integrity of the coffee, as grounds begin to go stale very shortly after being ground.
It is built with two stainless-steel boilers for the perfect temperature, and it also comes with an instant-reheat function to make sure each shot stays the perfect temperature.
Due to the De’Longhi’s Cappuccino System, each espresso shot is guaranteed the richest and densest froth in the industry.
There is a completely user-friendly with a control-panel and one-touch system.
The removable water tank and bean container are easy to clean and maintain.
Customizability is important to De’Longhi. They created a machine that allows the user to determine the strength of the espresso which you can adjust by changing the grind size and the shot size.
- Patented "Cappuccino System" frother that mixes steam and milk to create a rich, creamy froth
- Easy-to-use rotary and push button control panel with programmable menu settings and beans container capacity is 8.8 ounces. Coffee grounds container- 14 cups or after 72 hours from first use. Maximum cup height- 4.25 inches. Input power - 1350 watts
- Grinds beans instantly with the patented, compact and easy-to-clean "Direct-to-Brew" system. Use your favorite coffee beans to create your perfect espresso. Beans with less visible oil, usually a medium roast, are recommended for best grinder performance
- Maintenance: De’Longhi machines require half the cleaning time of other brands, unlike competitor machines, which require chemical cleaning tablets monthly. The machine does not deliver coffee, but only water is caused due to ground coffee may be blocked in the funnel. Remove the ground coffee inside the funnel, using a plastic knife. Then clean the infuser and the inside of the machine. If machine is noisy refer manual; Energy saving: With 3 hour automatic shut off
- Utilize De'Longhi's specialized call center for help in setting up and maintaining your machine (latte best). Warranties may not apply to purchases from an unauthorized retailer
7. Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Many of the different super-automatic espresso machines can often be a bit pricey. The Gaggia Super automatic Espresso Machine was built to bring the quality of super automatic machines at a cost-effective level. With some impressive features and add-ons, this could easily be one of the top-rated high end espresso machines.
Built with the user in mind, this machine is one of the easier espresso machines to use. With a simple push button, anyone can handle making a shot of espresso. Of course, you can dial in your shot as much as you want using the more advanced customization options.
A 1400 watt motor powers the grinder. You simply add your coffee beans and the machine will grind just before each brew, ensuring a fresh shot of esprsso every time.
Overall, this machine is very easy to clean with removable parts.
- FROTHING FOR MILK BEVERAGES: Pannarello wand frothing for cappuccinos & lattes. Wand doubles as a hot water dispenser for americanos & tea.
- EASY ACCESS: The dregs drawer, drip tray, and water tank are all within reach and accessible from the front of the machine for quick and easy cleaning and maintenance. Warm the cups with hot water if the coffee is not hot enough
- USER-FRIENDLY DISPLAY: Push-button controls and an LED display with illuminated icons make for an easy and intuitive experience.
- RAPID STEAM TECHNOLOGY: Quick heat up times and robust brewing and steaming operations. Supported coffee types : Ground coffee, Whole coffee beans.Water Tank Size:1.27 quart
- 1 YEAR WARRANTY: Hassle free 1 year warranty handled by Gaggia directly. Brita Filter compatible: Yes.Power:1400 W
8. Nespresso Prodigio Espresso Maker with milk frother
Just when you thought espresso technology could not get any better, Nespresso surprises us all. With the first ever “connected” espresso machine, Nespresso has developed a machine that can develop a delicious cup of espresso from a touch of your cell-phone.
This is just one of the list of impressive features this machine offers. Your cell-phone can make your cup of espresso.
Whether you are on iOS or Android, all you need to do is download the app. You can then manage your stock, program your brewing times, brew from your phone and even get alerts about your machine.
Nespresso machines have a signature 19 bar high-pressure pump, making every espresso shot as if you are the barista. An espresso shot with the perfect flavor, temperature and aroma is ready in under 25 seconds.
The 27 ounce water reservoir is also really easy to remove and clean. With the Nespresso, you can make ristretto, espresso, and lungo shots.
The milk frother lets you make specialty drinks like cappuccinos and lattes, too.
One of the biggest advantages and disadvantages of Nespresso machines is the pods! Some people love them, and some people hate them. There’s no doubt that pod brewing is convenient, but the cost can add up over time.
- Easy insertion and ejection of capsules. For use with Nespresso Original Line capsules only. Not compatible with Nespresso VertuoLine capsules. Includes integrated Aeroccino milk frother
- 19 bar high-pressure pump for a barista-style result, perfectly extracting the flavor and aromas of each coffee capsule and creating a dense cream. Fast 25 second heat-up
- 3 programmable buttons with automatic flow stop for Ristretto, Espresso and Lungo sizes. Foldable drip tray for different cup and glass sizes
- Rotating water tank adapts to your kitchen space. Auto energy saving off after 9 minutes of inactivity. Machine maintenance alerts for full capsule container, descaling needed or no water in tank
- Hermetically sealed and recyclable aluminum capsules lock in freshness and provide exceptional taste. Removable used capsule container holds up to 19 used capsules. Removable 27 oz. water tank
9. De’Longhi Nespresso Latissima Touch Espresso Maker
The Latissima Touch is one of the most beautiful pieces of technology. With numerous flavors from the Nespresso capsule line, every single shot from this machine is bound for greatness.
Built with a 19-bar pressure pump, every single espresso that is made from this machine will be of the quality of a barista.
This machine offers 6 different options for the user: latte macchiato, hot milk, long, espresso, ristretto, and cappuccino.
De’Longhi has mastered the temperature and heating times with the Latissima. Each shot will be ready within 25 seconds.
Simplicity was the theme for this machine. With one-touch technology, your favorite drink is only one touch away.
Overall, the Latissima is mess-free and easy to clean. With capsules and pods, you will never have a mess. All you need to do is throw away the capsules.
10. Flair Espresso Maker: best manual espresso machine
The Flair Espresso Maker was recently on Kickstarter and now they’ve gone into full production and are easily available. The Flair is a manual espresso machine, which means you control the entire shot from start to finish.
Using a manual espresso machine means you have full control over every variable: normally, the actual length of the shot is determined by the machine. Here, you do it yourself using the lever.
The Flair is easy to use and disassembles very easily into something you can pack into a case.
Compared to other manual espresso machines, the Flair is very competitively priced and there’s no competing with it in that respect.
There is no heating element built in, though, so you’ll have to use your own hot water. Just place coffee grounds in the portafilter, fill the brew tank with water, put everything together, and pull!
- HANDCRAFT SHOTS OF ESPRESSO - The Flair is a 100% human-powered, manual espresso press. With the Flair Espresso Maker, you have a complete manual espresso machine that can produce professional quality shots of espresso from your home, or wherever you are. Add 60ml of boiled water and a dose of up to 18 grams to yield a 40 ml shot with beautiful crema. A burr grinder is essential for use with this product.
- CUSTOM PRESSURE GAUGE - Allows for immediate visual feedback, as well as a target espresso range, while pulling shots with the Flair manual espresso press. Each Flair Espresso Maker is capable of brewing between 6-9 BAR, the perfect range for espresso extraction. The Pressure Kit also comes with a stainless steel tamper and a bottomless 2-in-1 portafilter for naked or spouted brewing.
- EASY TO CLEAN - The Flair Espresso Maker is the only manual espresso maker with a completely detachable brewing head. This patented design allows for users to completely remove the brewing head, separate the parts, and rinse under cool water.
- FULLY PORTABLE - All Flair Espresso Makers come standard with our precision cut and padded carrying case meaning you can take your manual espresso maker anywhere you’d like.
- BUILT TO LAST - Now with an upgraded, stronger base, post and lever! Made from durable materials like cast aluminum and stainless steel, you can be sure your manual espresso maker, by Flair, is built to last. Both the aluminum press stand and the stainless steel brewing head are backed by a 5-year warranty.
11. Wacaco Minipresso: best portable espresso machine
The Wacaco Minipresso is a delightful little espresso machine that can fit in the umbrella compartment of your backpack for espresso on the go.
At its heart, it is a super simple machine: just pump to pressurize the semi-automatic piston, and press the button to dispense espresso with a thick layer of crema.
Since the Wacaco is so small, you’ll need a lot of accessories: something to heat water, something to grind and measure coffee, but you don’t need something to drink from as the cap doubles as a cup!
- No battery/electricity need. Manual operation only! Compact, lightweight and versatile, you may use any variety of coffee bean/roast, which will give you more flexibility in trying new flavors.
- Need to add the boiling water! Minipresso GR is your best choice to enjoy up to 50 ml of authentic espresso at home, in the office and on the go.
- Simple to operate! Add ground coffee to the filter basket with the help of the integrated scoop. Apply slight pressure to level the grind. Add hot water into the water tank. Finally unlock from its travel position the piston and pump a few strokes to pressurize and extract perfect espresso with generous crema.
- If you have any problem with our products or need help, please feel free to contact us through Amazon. We will respond you in time and give you a satisfactory solution.
- Note: Accessories are sold separately! Enhance your Minipresso to get the most from it. Enjoy longer espresso, up to 100ml, and protect it from scratches. You can purchase accessories separately from our store.
What Are Espresso Machines?
Before you can even buy an espresso machine it’s vital to understand what an espresso machine actually is.
An espresso machine is simply a machine that utilizes pressurized water to force ground espresso coffee through a filter to produce more concentrated, thick and creamy form of coffee known as espresso.
Today, given the advancements in technology, there are numerous espresso machines that can do much more than just this. For an example, some espresso machines can also steam and froth milk simultaneously.
What is the difference between espresso and coffee?
One of the most common questions that people ask in coffee shops around the world is: What is the difference between espresso and coffee?
First and foremost, one of the main differences between espresso and coffee is the way it is made. If you did not know, there are not any actual ‘espresso beans’ to create ground espresso.
In fact, espresso is made from a blend of different coffee beans. With that being said, espresso grounds are considerably finer than regular coffee grounds.
In that, the process to make espresso involves an intense amount of pressure to compact and produce a thick and concentrated form of coffee.
On the other hand, drip coffee involves hot water dripping over the coffee ground. Unlike espresso, drip coffee utilizes the pressure of gravity to create a fresh cup of coffee.
What you need
In order to get started, there are two important products that you will want: a top-rated grinder and a top-rated home espresso maker. Now, there are lots of top-rated espresso makers that come built with a grinder; however, the price is adjusted accordingly.
While learning to use your espresso machine may take some time – the time spent is more than worth it.
To be truthful, the time spent learning is more about learning your taste buds and preferences than learning to use your espresso machine.
Today, many companies value simplicity and user-friendliness. With that being said, if you have the opportunity to join the espresso movement, do it.
Types of espresso machines
A semi-automatic espresso machine is one of the most common and affordable espresso machines.
The machine comes with a boiler, a portafilter, and a switch for extraction. With these machines, the user must grind the beans themselves and froth or steam the milk. In this market, there are two different variations:
- A manual semi-automatic espresso machine is one where you are required to begin the brew and end the process. The user has full control over the time of the shot
- The main disadvantage here is that you HAVE to brew as much espresso as the amount of water you put in
- This is fine if you’re just making one beverage but if you’re making multiple cups it becomes a hassle to first brew all the espresso, then pour it all out into different cups
- The other variant for the user is a programmable semi-automatic espresso machine. The user will still have full control; however, there are programmable features.
- Most notably you’re able to select beverage size – so you can get an exact amount of coffee every time you brew.
The elite machines in the industry are more than likely super-automatic.
Have you ever gotten a glance at the machines that restaurants and coffee shops use?
These are them. Each super-automatic machine comes fully equipped with all of the bells and whistles. The user will not be required to do much as the machine will do it all.
This includes frothing, steaming, grinding and extracting. All you have to do is press a button and you’ll get excellent espresso.
Capsule or Pod Espresso Machines are relatively new to the market. These machines are actually made from pre-packaged capsules of different aromas and flavors of coffees and espressos.
These machines function based off of specific capsules and often are easier to use than other machines. However, the cost of these machines can get quite high and some coffee purists will say that these are not “true” coffee machines.
Best affordable espresso machines
The machines listed above are mostly higher end and will take a bite (or a sip, if you will) out of your wallet. Of course, there are cheaper machines available, but they’ll come with certain drawbacks that you’ll have to live with.
The drawbacks in these espresso machines won’t be dealbreakers, of course, but you’ll certainly notice the difference between a shot of espresso brewed in a lower end machine and a shot brewed in a high quality espresso machine.
Lower end espresso machines are usually made out of plastic and may feel cheap to the touch. Espresso machines are quite simple devices after all – they’re just heating up water, turning it into steam, and forcing it at high pressure through espresso grounds.
Higher end espresso machines will have much better finishing, will feel more solid to the touch, and of course, will have better quality parts.
The likelihood of a cheaper machine breaking is much greater than that of a higher end machine.
This is a factor I’ve noticed extensively. I’ve used both budget espresso machines and higher end ones, and there is a significant difference in the quality of the brew.
Better machines have more accurate temperature control, have a better portafilter, and are able to force the steam through with far more pressure than lower end machines.
My cheap everyday machine, for example, produces a very weak crema on my espresso, but a higher end machine at my uncle’s house produces a thick layer of rich crema, even if we’re using the same espresso grounds.
So while you’ll get espresso from a cheap machine, you’ll get espresso from a higher end machine, there’s no doubt about it.
Flexibility and extra features
Very budget espresso machines will not have many features besides just the ability to brew some espresso and possible froth some milk.
You won’t really be able to control the strength, nor will you be able to adjust how much espresso is brewed – the machine will just brew as much espresso as the amount of water you put in.
The strength is usually selectable using a slider but it’s not very accurate and you may not be able to tell the difference – but in a good espresso machine, the difference between two strengths will be stark and noticeable.
As far as extra features go, the capability to steam milk is important.
Budget espresso machines will either not have steam wands, or they’ll have really cheap ones that won’t froth the milk as well as a good machine can.
Again, you can froth milk with a cheaper steam wand, but when you froth it with a higher end machine and a lower end machine, you’ll notice the difference.
Please bear in mind that I’m not discouraging you from getting a lower end espresso machine.
In fact, I’d just like to point out the differences so you know what to expect. Often, it’s hard to justify spending such a large amount on a coffee machine, and if you’d just like to get your feet wet, a budget machine is absolutely the best way to go.
Once you’re addicted to espresso machine coffee, of course, you can always get a bigger machine :).
Best espresso machines continued: portable ones
If machines in general are not your cup of coffee but you still want to enjoy espresso, there are still other alternatives.
Perhaps you’re a road warrior that lives on the go. You love espresso but you’re not able to lug around a huge machine everywhere you go.
There’s a solution for you, too. Espresso has been around for a long time so while espresso machines are relatively new technology, the brewing method can be done in a number of ways.
For road warriors and travelers, the best portable espresso machines are moka pots(or stovetop espresso makers) or Aeropresses.
Moka pots, or stovetop espresso makers, are brilliantly designed gadgets that use the same principles as espresso machines do to brew some really rich espresso.
There are two chambers in the moka pot. The bottom chamber is where you put it coffee grounds and water. The bottom chamber is connected to the top with a thin pipe, which has a hole at the very top.
As the water heats up, it brews the coffee, turns into steam, and is forced up the pipe and into the top chamber.
Since the coffee is vaporizing and then rising, all the solid grounds remain in the bottom chamber and the top chamber fills up with delicious coffee.
Moka pots come in all sizes, from large 6 cup models to smaller personal models – even if you go camping, you can use a moka pot to make some espresso on a camping stove or campfire.
Another way to brew espresso on the go – and indeed at home, too – is an Aeropress.
The Aeropress is a bit of a radical idea in the espresso machine world but considering its popularity the manufacturers are certainly doing something right.
The Aeropress uses gentle pressure to brew very smooth and rich coffee. You’re also encouraged to use lower temperature water, which agitates the grounds less and produces a lower-acid brew.
You simply put in coffee grounds and water in the chamber, stir for about 10 seconds, and place the plunger in. Place the entire device on a coffee mug, and start gently pushing down on the plunger.
Since it’s a vacuum chamber the pressure created by the pushing of the plunger will slow force the coffee out of the filter into the mug below, producing a very rich coffee.
You can use this to brew one or multiple shots of espresso – to make it an americano, simply dilute with water. To make it a latte, just add gently frothed milk.
It’s that easy!
- Rapid, total immersion brewing process makes delicious full flavored coffee without bitterness!
- Makes 1 to 3 cups per pressing in about one minute! Brews both American style coffee and Espresso!
- The microfilter means no grit in your cup (unlike a French press), and clean up takes just seconds! Micro-filtered coffee so pure and particle-free that it can be stored for days as a concentrate
- Less Bitterness! Because of the lower temperature and short brew time, the acid level of the brew is much lower than conventional brewers.
- Includes the AeroPress press, funnel, scoop, stirrer, 350 microfilters and a filter holder. Phthalate free and BPA free. Mug not included. Assembled measurements: 9 1/2" h X 4" w X 4" d
What espresso drinks can you make with these machines?
Now that you’re almost ready to buy your espresso machine(or have already bought it), you may be wondering what drinks you’re now able to make.
You’ll be stoked to know that there’s quite a variety of drinks you can brew with these machines: both the low end machines and the high quality machines.
I suppose this goes without saying but the first drink you’ll be able to brew is a straight up espresso shot(or double shot, triple shot, and even more if you’re adventurous enough).
The default beverage brewed is this – and you can use the shot to make a host of other beverages.
If you dilute a shot with water(enough so the combined volume is about 8 ounces), you have yourself a classic Americano black coffee. This won’t be as strong as a single shot, but it will still have the rich flavor and aroma extracted from the brewing process.
The intensity will be a bit tamped down because of the dilution, but if you want a really rich Americano drink, these machines won’t disappoint.
Cappuccinos and latte
Most machines can make cappuccinos out of the box, too – either with the reservoir milk steaming system or with a steaming wand. If you’re frothing with a wand, you can simply use a larger quantity of milk and just a little foam on the top to make a delicious latte.
Otherwise just steam 4 to 5 ounces of milk and pour it over the shot to get a rich, creamy, and frothy cappuccino.
A macchiato is a shot of espresso topped with a tiny bit of foamed milk. Since you have both the capacity to brew coffee and to steam milk, you can make macchiatos, too – just remember to use a tiny bit of milk and place a little dollop on top of the shot.
A ristretto is a shot to the extreme. It’s the same as an espresso shot except it’s brewed with the same amount of grounds but half the coffee.
Ristrettos are incredibly intense and unless your taste buds are ready for it, you’ll want to dilute it and drink it either as an americano, latte, or cappuccino.
Lungo, Italian for long, is similar to an Americano, but instead of being diluted with plain water, it’s diluted with water that passes through coffee grounds. Lungo brews will be stronger and have a more intense color than americanos.
But wait, there’s more
Of course, these are just some of the mainstream beverages you can brew. After that, the sky’s the limit and you can try brewing whatever concoction you can imagine.
Just remember to write down or note down what you did so you can duplicate it in case you’ve struck coffee gold!
How to care for and maintain your espresso machine
Now that you’ve invested in such an expensive machine, you need to care for it and make sure it’s clean so that it will run properly every time and not cause you any issues.
You should clean your machine regularly, especially the parts that come into contact with coffee: the filter basket, porta-filter, and carafe.
If your machine has a steam wand or milk reservoir, then it is absolutely critical that you clean them after every single use.
To clean the filter basket, portafilter, and carafe(if your machine came with one), you can simply wash with warm soapy water. Be careful with the carafe because it’s usually made of thinner glass and is quite delicate.
You also need to clean the drip tray, since it will usually get a few drops of coffee on it every time you brew.
Use the rough side of a sponge to work on the tiny holes in the portafilter and remove any grit. You may need to dig into the coffee grounds with your finger or a spoon to get them out, since the high pressure of the water packs it into a really tight disc.
The same goes for cleaning the drip tray.
To clean the milk frothing wand, I usually let a puff of steam out to clear the nozzle of any residue, then use a wet/damp towel or napkin to wipe the milk residue off.
If there’s any old residue stuck you may need to use the rough side of a sponge or an old toothbrush and get it out.
Milk reservoirs can be washed in warm soapy water(check the manual to make sure it’s dishwasher safe before attempting to use one) and if there is a rubber pipe, hold it under warm running water to get everything out.
Milk reservoirs often contain parts that have little nooks and crannies that milk can splash into, so you’ll need to wash as soon as you’re done so the liquid milk is washed away.
Once milk evaporates and you’re left with the residue it is much harder to remove.
As for maintenance, de-scale the machine every 2 to 3 months. If you have not used the machine for a while then it is absolutely critical you descale, as a buildup of limescale inside the pipes of your machine can easily screw up even $1000+ machines.
You can use a descaling solution made by the manufacturer to go through this process. Manufacturer descaling solutions are quite expensive, so I would not recommend using it unless you have a very expensive machine.
For machines with a more mid-range price tag, use a simple citric acid solution. You can find citric acid crystals in most supermarkets(they’re used commonly in baking), and about a tablespoon dissolved into a gallon of water will give you a nice acidic solution.
To descale, instead of using water, fill up the reservoir with citric acid solution or the descaling solution(dilute as per manufacturer instructions). Let it sit for 20 minutes or so.
Then run the normal brewing program without the portafilter in the filter basket. Use the filter basket, though, since that helps direct the flow of water.
Otherwise it will go all over the place. The descaling solution will run through the entire machine and remove a lot of the scale buildup.
If the scale buildup was extreme, you may have to repeat this process multiple times before you get a clean solution. If the descaling is not complete, there will be little white bits of scale in the residue.
Regular descaling will keep your espresso maker running in great condition for a long time.
More factors to consider when buying an espresso machine
Not all espresso machines are the same – even though at their core, they all perform the same functions, there are some small albeit significant differences between machines that product great or ok espresso shots.
Steam powered vs pump powered
The core of a good espresso brew is pressure.
Cheaper espresso machines tend to be steam powered, where steam is pressurized and forced through the coffee grounds in the portafilter.
Higher end machines tend to be pump powered, where the temperature is controlled to a much more ideal 185-195 degrees Fahrenheit and a pump is used to generate the pressure.
Pump powered machines usually brew espresso with richer flavor and thicker crema.
Budget machines have cheap looking plastic steam wands. These are flimsy and produce OK steam.
A good steam wand will swivel to get the best steaming angle, have multiple holes, and will just look and feel a lot more solid and robust.
If you’re into cappuccinos and want deliciously thick and foamy milk with coffee, get a machine with a good steam wand.
Most espresso machines have just a single boiler for the espresso shot and the steam/milk reservoir.
In this case, you’ll have to wait between the shot being brewed and steaming the milk, since the steam can only go in one direction at a time(that’s just how the machines are built since the temperature needs to be controlled).
- The cream of the crop for home espresso machines are prosumer espresso machines
Frequently asked questions
Here we’ll quickly go through some of the common queries we had when we first bought our machine and what we hear from our readers.
Should I use coffee beans or pre-ground coffee?
This is an entirely personal choice.
For a full barista experience, use coffee beans and grind them right before you brew. Grinding right before brewing brings out the richest flavors – if the coffee sits for too long after grinding some of the flavors are lost.
However, wanting to grind before drinking brings up two key variables:
- You have the budget to buy an espresso machine that has a grinder, or you have the budget to buy a separate grinder
- You have the time to grind beans before every drink
Most machines with grinders also have the option to brew from pre-ground coffee, too, so if you’ve got the budget to get a super automatic machine, you have a choice of grinding or using ready grounds.
Otherwise, there are some pretty good grounds available online that you can use for making really nice coffee.
If you’re only strapped for time, then I’d suggest a halfway compromise – buy beans, and grind a few days worth so you don’t have to grind every time you brew.
This way they’ll still be fresher than factory done grounds, but you’ll have ready coffee lying around to use every time you crave a shot.
Remember: espresso needs very fine grounds to extract the most flavor.
What are the best espresso machine brands?
A few names pop up every time you look for espresso machines: DeLonghi, Gaggia, and Rancilio are authentic Italian manufacturers that make truly authentic machines.
Recently other companies have also popped into the espresso machine market, and they’re doing a pretty good job: Nespresso, Mr Coffee, Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, and Breville also make very good machines – especially in the mid-range(think semi-automatic).
What is tamping?
Tamping is the art of compressing the espresso grounds in the portafilter so they’re packed tightly enough for intense flavor extraction, but not too tightly so as to restrict the flow of water around them.
How you tamp is a matter of personal preference. You’ll get the hang of it as you practice, brew, and notice differences in your coffee.
There’s so many variables to adjust! It feels overwhelming!
I understand how you feel! There are so many things you can modify to change the shot flavor:
- Which coffee you use(most important)
- How much water did you use for the shot
- When you ground it
- How fine the grind is
- How compacted the tamp is
These are just some of the main factors. My suggestion is work from the top of this list, down. The most striking difference in taste will be noticed by using different coffees.
At the start of your journey to become a professional barista, sample a variety of coffees to establish which one(s) you like best.
Once you’ve zeroed in on coffees, start making minor adjustments to the shot volume. Once you’ve got the volume down, start varying the time of grind, how fine the grind is, and how concentrated the tamp is.
You can repeat this for every variety of coffee you like.
Of course, this is only if you really really want to go professional.
If you just want to have a decent cuppa then a normal no-nonsense brew will also be amazing 🙂
Last update on 2020-08-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API