coffee machines, espresso machine, coffeemaker

The BEST Espresso Machine Advisor

Buying a coffee machine for dummies

Mr. Poli | March 16, 2011

So you’ve decided to bring an authentic Italian coffee experience into your home, congratulations! I know that the fact that there are numerous options out there could be a little confusing, but that’s why I wrote this guide, I’m here to help you pick the right coffee machine for you. The tips found in this article will help you in the process. Follow my advice and you’re sure to end up with a machine that’s perfect for you in every way.

Finding the right coffee machine for you: Decisions decisions decisions!

Finding the right coffee machine is crucial in order to ensure that you will put it to good use. You need to make the right decisions in order to ensure lasting satisfaction. But where do you begin? For some people, it all starts and ends with budget. However, if you’re reading this guide, it means that you are a coffee lover who’s willing to invest in a solid machine that will add great flavor to your life. FYI, if you’re a take-out coffee person, and you’ll substitute take out with coffee beverages brewed at home, your coffee machine just might pay for itself within a year.

Semi Automatic or fully automatic: What you should consider

Before you look into the different types of coffee machines, you should first focus on the end result you desire. Semi automatic or manual machines give you more control over the end result, but require a little practice before your beverage will turn out just like you order it at your local café. Automatic machines on the other hand save you the hassle of constant adjustments, but give you a little less control over the end result.

If you are more of an espresso lover than a cappuccino or latte lover, you should really focus on semi automatic or even manual coffee machines. These machines give you more control over the subtleties of the end product and ensure that your espresso will come out just how you like it every time. However, keep in mind that when buying a manual or semi automatic coffee machine, you should really invest in a good coffee grinder to ensure the best end result.

As opposed to automatic machines, semi automatics require you to use a steam wand in order to froth milk. The steam wand takes longer to master than the kind found on automatic machines, but don’t worry, once you’ve mastered the art of frothing with them, your cappuccino will look and taste like it was made in Italy.

Fully automatic machines are great for people who like the thought of clicking a single button and having their espresso, cappuccino or latte ready within seconds. These machines are a lot more high-tech and can grind beans, extract espresso and even froth milk, while you stand there watching. The built-in coffee grinder in this type of machine ensures that your coffee is fresh ground for each and every cup, as opposed to semi-automatic machines, for which you would need to buy a separate grinder to get the same result. You can program the fully automatic coffee machine to brew your coffee just how you like it and some machines, like the Swiss-made Jura brand, let you program a variety of beverages, so that everyone in your household could adjust their beverage to their liking. Moreover, some automatic coffee machines can even be programmed to “wake up” before you every morning, so that they’ll be all warmed up and ready to go when you want your morning coffee.

When it comes to extracting espresso or frothing milk, the fully automatic machine will give you some control, but not total control. You can adjust the grind level and the amount of water used for each cup, but the tamping is done automatically. Automatic coffee machines that have an automatic milk frothing device might do the work for you, but give you little to no control over the end result. Some fully automatic machines have manual steam wands, but most of them are designed for easier frothing, so some control is lost there too.

However, keep in mind that the results produced by the fully automatic machines are great, some of them even produce café-level coffee, and if you don’t mind standing aside while the machine does all the work, than buying a fully automatic machine is the way to go.

Another option you should look into is capsule based machines, like Nespresso or Lavazza. These machines have pre packed portions of ground coffee in special capsules, which ensures a great espresso every time. There is no mess that comes from dealing with coffee grounds and while they are very simple to use, they still give you the feel as if you’re working with a manual machine. However, keep in mind that when buying a capsule based machine, you get to choose one brand and stick with it, since each machine has a specific type of capsule that fits into it. Another thing you should consider is that the price of a coffee capsule is about twice as much as the equivalent amount in coffee beans you ground yourself. But there are some perks that comes with capsule machines. Most companies will give you an option to subscribe to a certain amount each month and deliver the capsules right to your door.

Money talks: how much should you spend?

As you may already know, home espresso machines range anywhere from $100 to $5,000. On the lower end of the scale, you’ll find semi automatic machines that produce reasonable coffee and on the higher end, fully automatic coffee machines that produce a perfect cappuccino or latte at the click of a button.

Buying a coffee machine is just like buying a car. There are many options and brands and you don’t necessarily have to pay through the nose. You could be quite satisfied with an affordable option. In general, semi automatic machines cost less than fully automatic ones, so if you’re buying your first coffee machine, you might want to start with a solid semi automatic, like a Gaggia or a Saeco. If you’ve worked with semi automatic machines before, you could upgrade and start out with a Rancilio Silvia, which is one of the best machines in the lower price range, since the quality of the beverages it produces is just like the ones served at a café.

Like explained before, semi automatic machines require a little more work. So, if you’re willing to spend a little more and not have to work as hard, you could buy a fully automatic machine. The basic features for most fully automatic coffee machines are the same. They all grind your beans for you, they all brew the coffee for you and they all dispose conveniently of the used coffee grounds. That which separates the different machines from one another is the extra features. For instance, the basic fully automatic machine will have a manual steam wand, if you want automatic frothing, you’ll have to pay a little extra.

Some espresso enthusiasts are keen on having their own classic brass Italian old-school machine. To be honest, they do produce some of the best coffee drinks and they look staggering on your countertop. However, they are quite pricey and require quite a bit of getting used to. So even if you have the money to spend, but you’re a novice, I’d recommend not getting them as a first machine.

The verdict: Making the right choice for you

After reading all of the above, you should have a better clue on what kind of machine you should buy. Remember to ask yourself certain questions, such as:

• How many cups of coffee will I make per day? Even the most basic machine can produce up to 10 cups a day. So if you don’t need to make more than that, you could really be satisfied with a smaller coffee machine. On the other hand, if you host a lot of social events or have a lot of people under your roof, you could choose a slightly bigger machine.

• Will I make more espressos or more milk-based drinks? If you’re an espresso lover, you needn’t be picky with the frothing ability of each machine. Specifically, if you’re looking to buy a fully automatic coffee machine, you will find some that make excellent espresso, even if their frothing ability isn’t all that good.

• How much am I willing to spend? You probably have a certain budget that you don’t wish to exceed. If you do, look at all the coffee machines in your price range and see which ones fit your profile within your spending limit. Remember, if you buy a lot of takeout coffee, you should always consider that having a coffee machine in your home saves you money in the long term, since the average cost per cup of home brewed coffee could be as little as 10% of how much you pay for takeout.

• How much time am I willing to spend on each cup? Brewing a cup at home could take anywhere between a minute to ten minutes and for some people, that’s a huge difference. So if your short on time and you simply don’t have too much of it to spare, opt for the automatic option. However, if your life style isn’t as hectic, and you like the craftsmanship of the Italian Barista, get a semi automatic coffee machine, since coffee brewed by you from scratch will always have that certain personal touch to it.