Understanding Different Types of Espresso Machines
Espresso machines all have the same purpose to produce the perfect espresso, but they’re not built the same. Here are the basic types of espresso machines that you should know about –
Pod or Capsule Machine:
This type of espresso machine uses coffee pods or capsules to make your favorite coffee. Although they’re very convenient, they can limit the types of espresso that you can prepare.
You need to find the right pod brand that’s compatible with your machine. The most popular coffee pod brand is Nespresso, which may come in different strengths and blends. Lavazza BLUE Classy Mini is compatible with Nespresso pods.
Preparing your espresso with this type of machine is quite easy. Simply insert the pod into the machine and wait for a few minutes for it to extract the full flavor. This equipment is perfect for beginners.
Automatic or Semi-Automatic Machine:
Automatic espresso machines can stop the flow of water to ensure consistent volume in every shot. Due to the machine’s automatic features, cafes love to have a bunch of these! IMUSA USA 4 Cup Is a great option for quick and rich coffee.
The semi-automatic espresso machine uses an automated system to direct the water through the group head. Meanwhile, your job is to grind, tamp, and control the extraction of the coffee.
This type of coffee machine has a good balance between automation and human control, because you’re in control of the shot, while the machine handles the water pressure and temperature regulations.
Stovetop Espresso Maker:
Also known as Moka Pot, stovetop espresso maker is perhaps the cheapest espresso machine out there. It has a unique shape that can easily sit on your stove. Preparing the espresso doesn’t require pressure either. Bialetti Moka Express is a classic choice for this.
Some Hot Drinks You Can Make with Your Espresso Machine
Yes, the espresso machine is not only designed for espresso shots. They can also make other drinks as long as you have the right ingredients. Here are some of them –
Espresso (Single or Double Shot):
This is mainly what comes out of your espresso machine. This is a rich, aromatic shot of coffee packed with caffeine.
Many coffee enthusiasts love to drink it in its natural state. It’s slightly darker than black coffee.
Add a little steamed milk on top of your espresso shot to make a delicious cup of macchiato. The steamed milk will create extra foam and tone down the strong flavor.
This is macchiato with more milk. A cappuccino is one of the best ways to enjoy your espresso machine with built-in milk frother.
Mocha is the same as a cappuccino, but with chocolate included.
Latte is just like a cappuccino, but with extra milk and a thin layer of foam.
Why Should You Own an Espresso Machine?
Having your own espresso machine at home is awesome. Here are a few benefits to convince you to get one now.
Get a Regular Fix of Espresso Anytime:
Instead of going to coffee shops and waiting in line for hours, you can make your own espresso in the comforts of home. You can save money and even get the fix anytime you want.
A Lot of Flavors to Explore:
Pre-ground coffee packets have a narrow selection of flavors. With an espresso machine at home, you can try new coffee roast grounds from different regions and seasons.
Be Your Own Barista at Home:
By owning your own espresso machine, you have full control of the taste and brew size of your coffee. You can gradually learn to make the right adjustments for the perfect espresso as well!
You can help the environment by using your own mug while drinking espresso at home, instead of buying takeaway paper cups. It’s better to use your own coffee grounds because some pods are made of plastic.
What to Look for in a Good Budget Espresso Machine
There are multiple brands of espresso machines available in the market today. To find the right fit for your needs, here are some factors that you should look for in an espresso machine –
Some espresso machines are heavy and huge. If you have a small kitchen space, look for compact espresso machines that leave a small footprint. Most affordable espresso machines are compact in size because of their limited features.
Metals, like stainless steel and aluminum, last longer and retain more heat than their plastic counterparts. However, for most budget espresso machines, the construction is mainly plastic with a few metal parts. You need the construction to feel solid at least to ensure that the plastic material will last long.
Capresso Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine are made out of solid stainless steel which makes it the most durable one on our list. Having something like Capresso means you will have great coffee for years to come.
Check the warranty of the product to get an idea of what to expect from its quality. Products that offer a higher warranty last longer than those with shorter warranties. The budget espresso machines that we reviewed above have at least a 1-year warranty.
The bar pressure rating is one of the most important features to consider when shopping for the best espresso machine. A bar is a gauge of atmospheric pressure. Five bars mean five times the amount of pressure at sea level.
To make a perfect shot of espresso, nine bars are recommended. Keep in mind that the bar pressure will decline over time as components deteriorate.
To ensure optimum performance, look for a high pressure rating between 15-20. ChefWave Mini Espresso Machine has the best tasting coffee because of its high bar pressure.
As you may already know, some espresso machines are compatible with coffee pods, coffee grounds, or both. If you want convenience, look for machines that are compatible with certain brands of coffee pods, like Nespresso.
If you find the pods extravagant in the long run, choose a model that works on coffee grounds. To get the best of both worlds, choose a model that accepts both pods and coffee grounds.
Power and Speed:
The power, expressed in wattage, will tell you how fast and efficient the espresso machine will be. It’s safe to say that the higher the wattage, the faster and more efficient the machine will be. Espresso machines with 1,200-1,400 power can deliver coffee in as fast as 20-30 seconds.
Affordable espresso machines have basic features, but if you can find a model that offers some extra ones, then you’re lucky. A few additional features that you can find are a water filter, a cup warmer, and a frothing wand.
The water filter is very useful if you want to preserve the full flavor of the espresso. Hamilton Beach, for example, has a big water reservoir. A cup warmer will help keep the optimum temperature of the espresso while the frothing wand is useful in making cappuccinos and lattes.
How to Use an Espresso Machine Properly
Producing a perfect shot of espresso needs skill and proper equipment. Here are the steps in making the best shot of espresso –
- Preheat your espresso maker. This usually takes up to 25 minutes, so it’s recommended to warm your machine up in advance.
- Next, put some ground coffee in your portafilter and shave away the extra coffee using your hand. Take note of the product’s capacity and work within the range. Ideally, it’s good to start around 20 grams of ground coffee.
- Use your tamper to smooth the ground coffee down into the portafilter basket. You may want to tap the side of the portafilter before tamping so that the espresso beans are roughly distributed. To tamp, press down straight using a slight bit of pressure until the grounds cease to settle.
- Now, you can start brewing. Pull your shot between 20-30 seconds. Take note of the pressure reached so you’ll know how much pressure is needed next time. If your machine has no gauge, taste the espresso.
- If the taste is too bitter for your taste, choose a coarser grind next time. If it’s sour, select a finer grind.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
Other than knowing what to look for in a good espresso machine, you should also be aware of a few common questions customers ask about the espresso machines.
01. Is Espresso Bad For Your Health?
No, it’s not bad for your health. Espresso is rich in antioxidants that can help improve your long-term memory, focus, and mood. It’s also known to minimize the risks of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
02. What Causes Crema In Espresso?
Pressurized hot water that forces through finely-ground coffee creates crema in espresso. The crema in espresso contains micro-bubbles of carbon dioxide gas that are dispersed in water. You’ll see them rising to the top because the bubbles fasten to the coffee’s natural oils and fats.
03. How Many Bars Are Good For An Espresso Machine?
The consensus is to have 9 bars of pressure to make a good espresso. However, many models list higher pressure specifications, such as 15, 19, or 20 pumps.
A 15-bar espresso machine doesn’t do much to the taste of the espresso. But since the machine’s pressure deteriorates over time, it’s better to have a higher pressure machine.
04. Is Moka An Espresso?
Moka is a simple piece of equipment that uses steam pressure to drive water through a strainer to create espresso. The output won’t be exactly like the espresso produced in bars, but it can come close. The Moka pot is a cheaper option to create good coffee.
05. Why Is There No Crema On My Espresso?
When your espresso has no crema, the problem lies with your machine. The machine might have an issue forcing water through the puck of coffee, which is why your espresso has no crema.
The best espresso machines not only provide consistent, rich cuppa, it also makes the whole brewing process very easy. With my list of the top 1 budget espresso machines, you will enjoy cafe-quality coffee without having to learn all the little details of coffee infusion, grind type, or tamping pressure.
Which espresso maker is best for you depends on your budget, preference, how many espressos you want to make per brew and of course, your effort level. I tried to add a good range from very basic to classic espresso makers. There is something for everyone and I hope you find your desired one!