Finding the best home espresso machine for you
First of all, consult espresso machine review sites to get a sense of the different makes and models. You can get these espresso machines reviews on sites such as Coffeegeek.com and Amazon.com. They will give you a sense of the price ranges as well as what you can expect for that price. You can get a very acceptable and relatively cheap espresso machine for under $300. These are likely to be automatic or semi automatic espresso machines that do most of the work for you. Saeco espresso machines tend to receive very good reviews and have some models around this price range. I would avoid a really cheap espresso machine that you can get for under $100. Based on espresso machine reviews I have read on multiple sites, these low end ones don't tend to last.
Before you actually go out shopping for a machine, scope out the amount of counter space you have for it. Espresso machines can be quite bulky, and you need to make sure you have space not just for the machine, but also for accessories like a coffee bean grinder. Also, think about what you want the machine for. If you are an espresso connoisseur, then you might want to splurge and get a really high end one, but if you are into lattes and cappuccinos, you can very well get by with a cheaper machine that produces an acceptable shot of espresso, as its taste will be tempered by the milk. In this case, the best home espresso machine for you is one that produces a decent but not amazing shot, but you want to make sure that it is pump driven machine with a milk frothing / steaming wand attachment so you can prepare your foamed milk with the same machine.
Different types of espresso machines for sale
Espresso machines fall into the following categories:
Pump espresso machines – These tend to be high-end. Hot water is forced through coffee grinds with a pump. They produce high quality espresso as they consistently generate the high pressure necessary for a flavorful cup of espresso. These machines produce the "crema" or the foamy golden layer on top of the espresso that is much prized by connoisseurs. They can be further classified into:
- Super automatic espresso machines – These are machines that contain the best features. Super automatic espresso machines have larger water reservoirs, different chambers for brewing and steaming, and dials and indicators that allow you to precisely monitor the process of espresso making. These are likely to be the most expensive, running into thousands of dollars.
- Fully automatic espresso machines – These machines also have many features that can be operated at the touch of a button. Fully automatic espresso machines will grind the coffee beans, measure the grounds, tamp them, brew your espresso, and even dispose of the used grounds for you! They also optimize the brewing process to maximize the flavor you get out of your espresso. They are likely to be relatively expensive.
- Semi automatic espresso machines – These machines require more intervention from the user. Semi automatic espresso machines need the barista to turn a dial or operate a lever to begin and end the brewing. These partly manual espresso machines often represent a good balance between price and quality, as they can be available for a few hundred dollars.
Steam driven espresso machines - These are lower priced machines. They work by forcing boiling water through the espresso grinds through steam pressure. As they do not use a pump to force the water, the pressure generated is less than that obtained with a pump machine, and the flavor is not generally as good as that obtained with pump espresso machines.
Once you have purchased your espresso machine, you will also want to invest in some essential home espresso machine accessories to get the most out of your new purchase.