The Top 10 Best Espresso Machines of 2015 & 2016

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Espresso Machines: Questions & Answers

What types of espresso machines are there?

The four main types of espresso machines include manual machines, semi-auto machines, fully-auto machines, and super automatic machines.

What is a manual machine?

A manual espresso maker is one of the most complicated and least-advanced models available today. They require you to manually push water through the coffee, so slight pressure or speed changes can really affect the quality of the espresso. A manual machine is good if you are an experienced barista and you want an old-fashioned, ultra-controlled way to make espresso.

What is a semi-automatic machine?

A semi-automatic espresso maker is one of the more popular forms of espresso makers available today; the user has control over when to turn the water on or off, but the water pressure remains the same, as does the temperature of the water.

What is a fully-automatic machine?

A fully-automatic espresso maker has all the same properties as a semi-auto espresso machine, but it will also automatically control the volume of water that flows through the espresso at any given time.

What is a super automatic machine?

A super automatic machine is the most technologically advanced model you can buy, and will include a built-in grinder and fully automated controls. They are the simplest to use and make it easy for anyone to make espresso.

What type of espresso machine is right for me?

If you are looking for an espresso machine for your home use, you can probably get away with a semi-automatic or fully-automatic espresso maker. If you are looking for an espresso machine for professional use, or you’re a coffee aficionado, you will probably want to invest in one of the more expensive super automatic machines. However, both semi- and full-automatic machines will require you to either already know something about making espresso, or be willing to learn, as they do require more oversight and technical know-how than a super automatic machine.

Are there any super automatic machines that are affordable for home use?

Yes. There are one-button machines, most famously in the Nespresso line, that give you the luxury of a super automatic machine without a huge price tag. These are a great option for someone who wants to brew espresso at home but doesn’t want to have to learn all the tricks of the trade.

Which is better, a steam or pump driven machine?

A steam driven machine is more moderately priced and functions by using steam pressure to push boiling water through espresso grinds. In general, steam driven machines produce less rich espresso and will produce enough espresso to fill one carafe at a time, which is roughly equivalent to about four shots. You cannot add more water in the middle of the boiling process, so making another carafe will take some time, making it less efficient in general. A steam driven espresso maker is best for the casual home user who wants to stay in budget. A pump driven machine will be more expensive and works by pumping hot water through the grinds, making your espresso more flavorful and intense. A pump driven machine can also be refilled during use, so you can make as much espresso as you like at one time. A pump driven machine is best for home users who enjoy a strong, full-flavored espresso, or business owners who want to serve espresso in their restaurant.

How many boilers do I need?

There are four boiler options when it comes to modern espresso machines. There are basic single boiler machines, single boiler dual use machines, single boiler heat exchange machines, and dual boiler machines. Single boiler dual use machines are the least expensive and most basic espresso machines; you can steam milk in them, but not while simultaneously brewing coffee. Single boiler heat exchange machines are more expensive than single boiler dual use machines but allow you to steam milk and brew espresso at the same time. Dual boiler machines are the most expensive option and use two different boilers for brewing espresso and steaming milk; this allows for more consistent brewing and steaming, as well as giving you more customization options.

How important is a grinder?

Many people will say that having a good, built-in grinder is the most important consideration you can make when buying an espresso machine. It is important that you have the ability to grind coffee beans down to the precise size that makes for good espresso; either too small or too large and you will end up with weak or gritty espresso. You don’t necessarily need an espresso machine that has a built-in grinder; you can buy a grinder separately. However, especially if you are using your espresso machine in a professional capacity, having a good, built-in grinder can save you a lot of time and energy.

What are some good features to look for in an espresso machine?

Some good features to look for include programmable memories, a high bar of pressure, and froth aiders.

What are the benefits of having programmable memory?

With today’s advanced espresso machines, you can program it to “remember” your favorite coffee beverages, customizing the strength, foam, and other aspects so you have your favorite drink any time, with no hassle. Philips makes a line of high-end espresso machines that can remember up to six user profiles and identify the user by their fingerprint, while DeLonghi makes a more budget-friendly model that can be set to remember your favorites.

What does it mean to have a high bar of pressure?

“Bars” is terminology used in espresso machines to describe pressure. A bar measures pressure above sea level; for example, the standard 9-bar espresso machine delivers 9 times the amount of atmospheric pressure at sea level. The more pressure you have, the more full-flavored and rich the coffee will taste. Some models, including many Gaggia and DeLonghi models, can offer up to 16 bars of pressure.

What is a froth aider, and why is it beneficial?

Learning how to properly froth milk for espresso drinks can take months or more to learn. With a froth aider, you can create perfect froth every time. This is great whether you are in your own home and don’t want to learn how to froth milk, or if you are serving espresso drinks in a restaurant and don’t want to have to hire experienced baristas to brew the drinks.

What is a crema enhancer, and do I need one?

Crema is the froth on top of your brewed espresso, and it’s one of the hallmarks of a well-made cup. Some espresso machines offer “crema enhancers” that promise to deliver above-average crema when used. However, espresso experts will say that a crema enhancer is not a benefit, and in fact can damage the taste of the espresso.

How much do espresso machines cost?

An espresso machine can cost anywhere from $100 to $2000 or more. Obviously, the more basic your needs are, the less you can afford to spend. If you just want to be able to make espresso occasionally in your home, feel free to buy a lower-budget machine. If you plan on using your espresso machine in a professional capacity, considering buying a high-priced machine that will offer more functionality as well as having a longer lifespan, so you won’t need to have it repaired or replaced often.

How is clean-up with an espresso machine?

Some espresso machines, especially many in the Philips line, are remarkably easy to clean due to their automatic cleaning system; other models, especially some in the Jura line, are made easy to clean by having front access to all the parts. No matter what type of espresso machine you get, you’ll want to make sure to clean it regularly. The milk tank is one of the most important parts to clean, as old, spoiled milk residue can damage the taste of your espresso. You’ll also want to pump an espresso machine cleaning detergent through the pump to clean out all the pipes and hoses once in a while.

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