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How to choose an Espresso Machine

Mr. Poli | March 1, 2011

Congratulations! You're about to bring a genuine Italian coffee experience into your home!

Deciding on a coffee machine for your home could prove to be quite challenging, since the process for coffee lovers, is kind of like being a kid in a candy store. Once you've decided to bring an espresso or cappuccino maker into your home, the first question you should focus on is: "which coffee machine is best for my needs?" This question might seem obvious, but if you end up choosing a coffee machine that's wrong for you, it will share the same fate as your last exercise machine. However, if you follow the tips in this manual, you'll enjoy a freshly brewed cup of gourmet coffee every morning and save time and money!

Show me your coffee machine and I'll tell you who you are

So where should you begin? The first aspect you should decide on is comfort, what are you comfortable with? Would you rather have a coffee machine that brews perfect espresso and cappuccino with a click of a button or are you more of a "hands-on" person?

As you might know, the classic Italian, semi automatic espresso machine, requires quite a bit of skill to operate. However, just like with a Ferrari, the pros always get the best results with manual transmission. In order to brew the perfect cup every time, you need to practice and learn the different subtleties of your machine. Whether it's worth $500 or $5,000, you could always improve the end result your semi automatic coffee machine produces. Once you've honed the skill of using the manual coffee machine, you'll be very selective of whom you brew coffee for, since you know they'll keep coming back for more.

Fully automatic (or "super automatic") espresso machines on the other hand do the work for you. Some are so sophisticated, that all you need to do is load them with coffee beans, milk and water, and the coffee machine will combine them all for you to for a perfect Italian cappuccino, rich with flavor and aroma.

Semi automatic machines: The ancient Italian craft

The semi automatic machine usually works with ground coffee beans. The machine has what's called a portafilter, which is basically where the coffee grounds go, a brew group, the place where the hot water is pressured through the grounds to extract the espresso, and a steam wand to froth milk. These various parts mean that there is more work and more things can go wrong. However, most connoisseurs swear by their semi automatic machine and claim that the perfect cup can only be obtained by using this breed of machine.

Another point to consider when opting for the semi automatic machine is the coffee grounds. If you buy a semi automatic coffee machine, you'll probably want to buy a coffee grinder too, since machines vary in their pressure and each machine needs a specific grind level. Moreover, the different blends have different amounts of coffee oils in them, so you might need to adjust the grind level if you switch blends. However, as said before, if you are a "hands-on" person and you're not deterred by all of the above, you will soon find yourself loving the process of brewing each golden cup of espresso or creamy cappuccino. After a little while, you'll understand why most cafés still use semi automatic machines and why all of a sudden, you're friends always want to meet at your place.

Fully automatic machines: Espresso meets technology

The fully automatic coffee machine is great if you consider yourself part of the "instant generation" (not to be confused with your parents, the "instant coffee generation"). Most of the automatic machines are a little pricier, but if you do the math, substituting takeout coffee with home brewed saves you roughly the price of a coffee machine in one year. Even better is the fact that when you have people over, there will be no nasty drip coffee served. Everyone gets a latte, cappuccino or espresso, and all you have to do is press a couple of buttons. True, the end result will not be as great as the handy work of an Italian master working with a semi automatic machine, but on the other hand, neither is the end result of the teenager working behind the counter at your local café.

The fully automatic coffee machines work with whole coffee beans, so each cup is ground on the spot, ensuring wonderful, fresh flavor. Some automatic coffee machines are so high tech, that you can set them to "wake up" before you do, and when it's time for your morning cup, it'll be ready in a matter of seconds, just the way you like it.

Choose the right coffee machine for you!

So remember, when buying a coffee machine, try and consider the type of person you are. Are you in it for the ancient Roman ritual of brewing the cup from scratch? Or, are you a person who wants their coffee ready while they scratch their… um… back? Either way, when you make the right choice, you'll enrich your life with the luxury of café quality coffee in your own living room.