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Espresso Machine!! There’s coffee, and then there’s espresso. Those who aren’t connoisseurs sometimes lump them together but for those particular about their favorite caffeinated beverage, the two don’t even compare.
When you make espresso, you start with a higher quality of coffee beans and then brew them through a process that produces a greater intensity of flavor than what you’d experience with your typical cup of American joe.
A high-quality shot of espresso comes with a layer of delectable foam on the top called crema and can be drunken as is, or mixed with other ingredients to make any number of popular espresso beverages.
Working Procedure Of Espresso Machine
Lets know about the working procedure of Espresso Machine in most machines, water moves through four distinct phases before it hits your cup. i.e.: Water Source » Pump » Boiler » Group Head or Steam Wand
In most machines, water moves through four distinct phases before it hits your cup
The Water Source
Every espresso machine needs water to function. For home espresso machines, water enters from one of two sources: a reservoir located in the machine or a plumbed connection to a consistent water supply.
The Pump – The Heart of Your Espresso Machine
To give water the strength to push through a tightly packed bed of finely ground coffee, machines need pressure: 9 bars of pressure to be exact, which roughly translates to 130 psi. Some of the first espresso machines used pistons attached to large levers. Baristas would have to manually pull these levers to force the water to pass through the coffee (hence the term pull an espresso).
Most modern espresso machines have ditched manual labor for electric pumps. In home espresso, there are two categories of electric pump: the vibratory pump and the rotary vein pump.
The Boiler – Bringing the Heat
Water needs to be both pressurized and heated to turn coffee into a brilliant espresso. The boiler is where a machine adds heat. But what about PIDs and temperature stability? And what’s the difference between a single boiler and a dual boiler? Let’s start with the essentials: the heating element.
The basic function of a boiler is to heat and hold the pressurized water coming from the pump. The earliest espresso machines would use wood fire. Modern machines use electric heating elements to bring the water to temperature.
By themselves, heating elements are a little dumb. Most function in an on/off binary: when they’re on, electricity runs through the element creating heat; when they’re off, they’re inert.
What To Make With Espresso Machine
If you own an espresso machine, any one of these can be made in your own kitchen for less money, as long as you have the proper ingredients and a little time to spend on them:
Espresso Shot (or Double Shot):
This is the liquid just as it comes out of the machine. Many espresso lovers prefer drinking it in its natural state, which resembles a slightly darker version of black coffee.
Your espresso shot, with just a little bit of steamed milk on top to add some extra foam and temper the strong flavor.
Like a macchiato, but with extra milk. A cappuccino is one of the most popular ways to drink espresso and easy to make at home if you have an espresso maker.
This is similar to a cappuccino, but with more milk and only a thin layer of foam.
Like a cappuccino, but with chocolate added in.
Those are the main standards, but if you want you can always add extra touches based on your preferences like whipped cream, flavorings like hazelnut, caramel or peppermint, and even use alternatives to milk (although something like soy milk tends not to froth as well).
With an espresso machine in your home, you can experiment to your heart’s delight and produce concoctions that beat out the flavor of the drinks at your local coffee shop because they’re based on your personal preferences.
Types of Espresso Machine
The main difference you’ll find in the types of espresso makers on the market are how easy they are to use.
1. Manual Espresso Machine
Manual espresso machine are for those who don’t mind putting some work into their espresso. That extra work can pay off though, because manual espresso makers allow you to control every part of the process of making a shot of espresso so that you can potentially (if you do everything just right) end up with the perfect shot. The other side of that is you can easily screw the espresso up if you don’t get it just right, and it can take some time to learn.
The most distinctive thing you’ll notice about these machines is the lever – some have a spring piston lever design and others a direct lever, the latter being a bit more work. Manual espresso makers are often attractive, almost as decorative as they are functional. They’re costly, but for the real connoisseurs willing to put the work in, they can produce a great shot of espresso.
- This type of espresso machine produces high-quality and great tasting espresso.
- You have more control over the process.
- An attractive appliance to have on your countertops.
- These espresso makers have a reputation for lasting a long time.
To Keep in Mind:
- These units tend to be expensive.
- May be difficult to use (and easy to mess up).
- Only recommended for experienced baristas and connoisseurs.
2. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
Semi-automatic espresso machine have electric pumps, which immediately make them much easier to use than their manual counterparts. They give you a mix of the control that people like in manual machines (although not quite as much) and the ease of use that you start to see in the different types of automatic models. They’re the most popular type of espresso machine on the market today.
- This type of espresso machine is easier to use than its manual counterpart.
- You still have a high-level of control.
- Can make high-quality and tasty shots of espresso.
- There are many affordable models available from reputable brands.
To Keep in Mind:
- Some models can be very expensive.
- This type of espresso maker is not as easy to use as the other automatic types of espresso makers.
3. Fully Automatic Espresso Maker
Fully automatic espresso maker also automate the amount and delivery of the water in the espresso making process. As a result, they’re even easier to use than semi-automatic models, but they take one more piece of control out of your hands – which can be an issue if you’re very particular about how you like your espresso.
As with semi-automatic models, the price range on this type of espresso maker is wide. You can find models for a couple hundred bucks and others for several thousand.
- These units are very easy to use.
- You can find affordable models.
To Keep in Mind:
- More electronics means more parts may be prone to breaking.
- Some models can be very expensive.
- You have less control over the particular flavor of your espresso.
4. Super Automatic Espresso Machine
As the name suggests, super automatic espresso makers take ease of use to the extreme. The idea behind this type of unit is to make the process of making a shot of espresso as easy as adding your coffee grounds and pressing a button. That’s it. Quick and simple with no mess to clean up.
This type of espresso machine is a great choice for anyone who doesn’t want to do any work and isn’t too concerned about the intricacies of the flavor, but instead just want a quick shot. If you drink a lot of espresso throughout the day, this may be the one for you.
- The easiest type of espresso maker to use.
- Have lots of special features available, such as built-in grinders and programmable settings.
- Essentially an “All-in-One” system with many special features built-in.
To Keep in Mind:
- They take most of the control out of your hands and do all the work for you.
- They tend to be more expensive than other types of espresso machines, although you can still find some smaller models in the couple hundred dollar range.
Buyers Guide to Buy an Espresso Machine
What people want in an espresso machine varies enough that you can find a wide range of options on the market. In order to find the machine that’s the right fit for you, here are some of the main factors and features to consider while shopping around.
1. Ease of Use
As likely became clear as you read through the description of the different types of espresso makers available, a big differentiating factor in different models is how easy and convenient they are to use. If you want a machine with which much of the process is automated, you can easily find one. You can even find models that will make some of the more complicated espresso drinks like cappuccinos with the press of a button.
If convenience is your top priority, look for an espresso maker that falls into one of the more automated categories and has programmable settings. And make sure you find all the buttons and extra features intuitive before you buy.
2. Ease of Cleaning
If you end up with a model that’s easy to use but a pain to clean, then it’s not actually all that convenient after all. Make sure you have an idea of what will be involved in cleaning your espresso maker before you buy it so you know how involved the process will be. The more features and components the machine has, the more likely it will take you a long time to clean.
The price range for espresso machines is huge and there are so many factors that can make a difference in cost that it’s hard to generalize. In some higher end models, you’re paying more for durability and quality of materials.
4. Your Preferences
We’ve talked about some different factors that can influence the flavor of espresso, but we honestly haven’t even touched the surface. This is a big subject on which lots of people have opinions (just check out the many coffee-centric forums on the internet to get a taste).
If you do really care about the quality of your espresso flavor (or think you might start to as you experiment more with making it at home), then there are a lot of things to consider.
5. Customer Service
Most espresso makers are items you can plan on hanging on to for a while. That means you want them to last and may find yourself needing to contact the manufacturer for parts or repairs in order to get use out of them for their full lifespan.
Many of the higher-end espresso machine models come with a warranty, which can give you some idea of what to expect from their durability. Based on brand reputation and reviews, you can gain a clearer picture of just how long you can count on a particular model to last.
Some espresso machine can get pretty darn big. If you have limited kitchen space (and most people do), you could have a hard time finding anywhere to fit it without sacrificing the accessibility of another kitchen appliance. Many of the larger models do make two espresso shots at once or have extra useful features, which can be benefits that make the big size worth it.
8. Extra Features to Consider
Those are some of the main things you’ll need to keep in mind when you are buying an espresso machine. However, some models come equipped with some extra features that may persuade you while you’re shopping around.
You’re interested in obtaining a real espresso machine so you can brew authentic espresso, cappuccino and latte right in your own kitchen. This is certainly a great idea if you love good coffee, and with some guidance you should be able to choose the best espresso machine to meet your individual needs, desires and budget.