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The Perfect Espresso Maker – Which One to Choose?

posted in Equipment, General by Lisa Freeman

Tired of spending an arm and a leg on store-bought triple mocha cappuccinos? Then consider buying your own espresso maker and whipping them up yourself! If you’re wondering what to look for in an espresso maker, here are some tips:

Manual, Semi-Automatic, Automatic: Personally, I’m a big fan of the espresso-making process, so I like to go through all the motions of making the coffee — grinding my own beans, tamping the grounds into the machine, and then foaming the milk. The whole process doesn’t take more than 10 minutes, and it’s a fun ritual. So, one of the semi-automatic machines suits me just fine. It ends up being faster and cheaper than going to the local coffee shop.

For those of you who are into gadgetry and who have deeper pockets, a fully automatic machine reduces the coffee-making process to the push of a button. That’s all that’s necessary to produce a divine cup of joe. You won’t even need a separate grinder because the machine will do the grinding for you, dump the grounds into the coffee maker and then dump it into the cup waiting below. You can set the timer in the evening and your brew will be ready when you wake up. If money is no object and you just don’t want to get your hands dirty, then go for it.

On the other end of the spectrum is a fully manual machine, which I don’t recommend because you have to know what you’re doing in terms of pulling the lever — doing it too quickly or slowly affects the taste of the coffee. Not worth the trouble.

Price:You can spend anywhere from $75 U.S. to thousands of dollars for a coffee machine, so first establish a budget.

  • Plan to spend $150 to $300 for a competent machine without too many bells and whistles.
  • In the $300 to $700 range, you’re talking about a home professional unit that’s made with higher-end materials, such as stainless steel, as well as more features.
  • In the $700-and-up range, you’ve got a more restaurant-quality machine, all kinds of extra settings and options, and, most likely, a fully automated machine with a built-in grinder.

Pods: Just a brief word on these newer pod machines that force you to use coffee cartridges that fit your brand of machine. You’re stuck buying expensive, single-use containers that are not friendly to the environment and you are limited to the coffee flavours the company sells. In my grinder, I can mix up any coffee beans I like and don’t have to commit to one particular vendor for life. Plus, these machines take the fun out of making espresso!

So, What Machine Do I Choose? Ultimately, it’s difficult to recommend a single perfect machine. It all depends on the factors mentioned above, how you like your coffee, and what kind of features you’re looking for. Stick with a machine that’s simple to use, unless you have previous experience using an espresso machine. There are dozens of websites that offer ratings and recommendations, so do your research carefully and you can kiss Starbucks goodbye!

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5 Comments

Karen (Pediascribe) said:

I have an espresso machine from Starbucks. It’s similar to this one:

http://www.starbucksstore.com/products/shprodde.asp?SKU=631983

But this is a newer model. There is a slight learning curve, (I needed a cheat sheet at first with the steps written on it) but now I can whip out 3 or 4 lattes in about 10 minutes.

Mine can use the pods, but I grind my own espresso beans with a burr grinder.

My machine is about 4 years old and is still growing strong.

Meredith said:

Being able to make my own espresso products would be great. The prices for espresso machines seem pretty reasonable and having the ability to make café mochas any time I wanted to would make it worth paying for

SeaBird said:

I tried one of the pod machines with some Emeril’s coffee — blech! And you’re right – it takes all the fun out of it!

Kathy Maister said:

What I love about coffee is that you have 2-4 basic ingredients, (coffee beans, water, milk and sugar) and tons of different choices to make a perfect (or not so perfect!) cup of coffee! Personally, I love my French press coffee maker!

albert duncan said:

i never really got the whole espresso thing, two gulps and your gone. It is however really good for making coffee based cocktails.