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Best Espresso Machines: Turn Your Kitchen into Your Personal Coffee Shop

Coffee Geek Lab / Best Espresso Machines: Turn Your Kitchen into Your Personal Coffee Shop
Yurii Brown

Certified Barista

September 9, 2021

best espresso machines

What can be better than a small cup of rich, flavorful, strong espresso in the morning?

If you’ve answered “Nothing”, then my efforts of finding the best espresso machine for home use weren’t in vain.

Types of Espresso Machines

Now, if you are thinking “Wait, is it so hard to make an espresso that there have to be different types of machines?”, I understand your confusion. And yes, there are quite a few kinds of espresso makers. So, let me explain them a bit.

Basically, all espresso makers can be divided into two large groups: steam-driven and pump-driven. As you have probably guessed from the name, steam-driven brewers involve the work of the steam, which forces the water towards the ground coffee. Such brewers include stovetop espresso coffee makers (like a moka pot, for example) and pumpless electric brewers.

However, pump-driven espresso machines are much more common and popular. They can also be divided into sub-groups and include such types:

Manual. These machines require you to manually pump the coffee using your hands.

Electronic. With this type, you just need to set the correct temperature, and the electricity will pump the espresso. Many of them belong to the top-rated espresso machines under $100 and make an excellent choice for shoppers on a budget.

Semi-automatic. Here you need to press a button (or a switch) for the machine to start and stop the extraction of the espresso.

A quick note: some semi-automatic and automatic machines feature a built-in grinder, while other models require you to grind the beans using a separate grinder to get your flavorful espresso.

Fully automatic. In this case, the coffee maker will automatically brew espresso. It will turn off on its own too once the beverage is extracted. Basically, these espresso coffee makers are programmed to extract specific volumes of beverages.

Super automatic. These machines are rather expensive and can be oftentimes found in the best coffee shops. They do everything for you: grind the coffee beans, tamp them into the filter, boil the water, and brew espresso. Basically, they are independent coffee makers, which don’t require much help from your side.

Also read: Top-Rated Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines Best Super-Automatic Espresso Machines

Specific Features of Espresso Brewers

All coffee drinks have pretty strict recipes, and espresso is no exception.

To make a shot of espresso, you need to force the water through the coffee grounds under pressure, hence the name. In Italy, espresso shots are made using a manual coffee maker. However, an espresso coffee machine is designed to achieve the same flavor and a distinct layer of crema foam without relying on your physical work.

So, what makes an espresso machine stand out?

These brewers feature a 12-15 bar pump, which delivers the exact pressure needed to pull a perfect shot of espresso. 

The pump in the espresso brewer is more powerful than in the rest of the coffee machines. So, if you try to use your drip coffee maker to pull a shot, the final product will be tasty, no doubt, but it cannot be called an espresso.

Also, the espresso brewer might have more precise temperature control so that you can adjust it to different roasts and blends. 

Finally, espresso coffee makers can make different servings of espresso, such as doppio (double the amount of coffee and water) and ristretto (same amount of coffee grounds as for espresso, but half of the water).

How to Pick the Right Beans for Your Espresso

No matter how cool, expensive, or high-tech your espresso machine is, if your coffee beans are trash, your coffee will taste accordingly. Therefore, picking the right beans is extremely important.

Now, when it comes to coffee beans, the main characteristics you’ll see include:

The country of origin. The most popular locations, from which we get our coffee beans are Middle East (Arabia), South America, and Africa. Italian and Central American coffee is also quite popular around the world.

The roast type. It will determine the flavor of your espresso. To be honest, there isn’t a “correct” roast type for espresso. Each roast will simply result in a different flavor. You can get a light, medium, or even a dark roast, whichever you prefer.

The grind type. Again, to make espresso, you don’t necessarily have to grind your beans in one specific way. You just need to remember that the finer your beans are ground, the stronger and richer your beverage will be.

You may be wondering now, “So, if there’s no perfect bean type for espresso, what’s the point in choosing so thoroughly?” The thing is, you have to understand one simple rule here:

Good-quality coffee beans make great espresso.

Additionally, knowing the roast and the grind types, you can find that perfect combo for your desired cup of coffee. Whether you like it stronger, weaker, richer, or watery, now you know how to achieve all of that with the right beans.

Enjoy the Freedom: Drinks You Can Make with Your New Espresso Machine

Here’s the kicker:

Once you get your home espresso maker, you are not limited to only one beverage.

I mean, espresso is delicious, but you might want to mix things up a little and try some new drinks once in a while.

Here’s what you can make with your espresso machine:

Straight espresso (duh!). A strong, flavorful espresso shot is the perfect way to jump-start your day.

Americano, which is simply a shot (or two) of espresso mixed with the equal amount of water. Some people enjoy their Americano with a splash of milk.

Cappuccino. If your machine has a milk steamer, you can add some foamed milk to your espresso and make this delicious but not so strong beverage.

If your new coffee maker doesn’t have an integrated grinder, you will have to grind the beans yourself. Here’s a little hack for you: for a more even grind (and a faster one, which will not burn the coffee beans), lift your grinder and shake it gently while grinding the beans. This will move them around and create a more even (and, again, faster) grind.

Latte. Another milky coffee beverage, latte is made with espresso and, again, foamed milk (you should add more milk than in cappuccino).

Macchiato. Ideal for a quick boost, this beverage is espresso that is lower in volume but noticeably higher in strength and flavor.

Lungo. Similarly to Americano, Lungo involves an espresso shot, which is being diluted with water. However, instead of just adding the water afterward (like you would do with Americano), Lungo is mixed with the water, which is derived directly from the brewing process.

Breve. This is an espresso shot mixed with half cream and half milk. It is creamy but flavorful at the same time.

Ristretto. This is a real find for all the flavor maniacs out there. It is made the same way you would make an espresso but with one little twist: you should use half as much water.

Irish coffee. The most fun one, in my opinion. It combines espresso, whiskey, and cream (oftentimes whipped). This is a great beverage for a cold winter day or when you are feeling a bit frisky.

Obviously, the list doesn’t end there. However, these are the most popular beverages, and I’m sure you are going to have a lot of fun trying to make and test each of them.

Also read: Espresso Machines With a Grinder

Espresso Machines Under $200

Cleaning Done Right

So, you have found your perfect, best espresso machine. Do you want it to serve you for as long as possible? I bet you do.

To keep it in good condition, you need to take proper care of it. Don’t worry, it’s not hard to do. Just take the following pieces of advice into consideration:

Run a shot of water (without tamping the coffee) through the machine after each session.

Once a week (or every 25-30 shots) thoroughly clean theCleaning and Maintenance machine. And don’t forget to read the manufacturer’s recommendations first.

Invest in a special espresso machine cleaner and run it through the system once in a while (again, once a week would be perfect). Simply fill the portafilter with it and run a full cycle on your machine.

Rinse all the removable parts. Do not use any harsh detergents on them to avoid damaging the exterior. Warm soapy water would suffice.

To clean the steam wand (if your machine has one), use a small brush and some hot water to scrape the inside of the wand. Using a damp cloth, wipe its exterior section. You can also purge the wand by placing it into an empty container or cup and keeping the steam valve opened for around a minute.

Rinse the portafilter with some hot water regularly. You can soak it in a water + mild detergent mixture for a more thorough clean.

Don’t forget to rinse everything with clean water to get rid of the detergent residue.

Yurii Brown

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