Espresso machine technology has progressed significantly since Italian inventor Luigi Bezzera, fondly known as the Steve Wozniak (the genius behind apple computers) of espresso, invented his single-shot espresso machine in the early part of the 20th century. While the technology has changed, the underlying principles have remained the same.
The basics of espresso making
What a good cup of espresso boils down to is the pressure used in the brewing process. Today, like in the 20th century, you can buy steam-driven espresso makers that use steam pressure to push water into the coffee-ground container to produce espresso.
Alternately, you may also opt for a pump-driven machine that essentially does the same thing – only these gizmos use an electric pump to force the water into coffee grounds to produce the espresso.
While the steam-driven devices are a good start-up machine that’s budget-friendly for new and aspiring espresso aficionados; to brew a truly great cup of espresso at home, you should look at the pump-driven choices.
Super vs Semi Automatic
When it comes to buying an espresso machine, you basically have two broad types of devices to choose from: The types that “do it all” for you, and the types that help you “do it your way”. The former are called super-automatic machines, while the later are semi-automatic machines.
Relinquishing control with a Super automatic
If you are someone that doesn’t have too much time to “fuss” about the nuances of espresso-making, and also don’t care much for fine-tuning your brew, then the “do it all” super automatic machine may be what you are looking for. You’ll get:
- Built-in coffee grinding capability
- Automatic water filling ability
- Capability to automatically dispense frothed milk
These devices are meant to be one-touch marvels for the laid back espresso lover. Just set It and forget it. You’ll be able to enjoy restaurant quality espresso as and when you want it.
Two (super automatic) options to consider:
De’Longhi Magnifica fully automatic espresso machine – ESAM3300
Philips Saeco Vienna Plus Automatic Espresso Machine
Taking control with a Semi automatic
For those of you that want to tweak the quality, look and feel of your espresso often, depending on your mood, the semi automatic machine may be your “cuppa joe”! These devices allow you better control on some crucial espresso-making variables, including:
- Adjustable steam and water flow
- Manually controlled pump
- Automated water temperature and water pressure
- No built-in grinder – so you can grind your coffee fresh and exactly when you need it
While the semi automatic machines do require extra time/effort, they allow you to personalize your espresso each time you feel the urge.
Two (semi automatic) options to consider:
Rancilio HSD-SILVIA Silvia Espresso Machine
Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine
Lever espresso machines are also popular with those who like the finer (and slower) things in life. These machines are expensive and take time to use, but you’re rewarded with possibly the best tasting shot of espresso that’s ever touched your lips. Take a look at a few of these beautiful manual espresso machines here.
Making The Right Choice
So how do you decide which is best for you? Well, at the end of the day it all boils down to personal preferences. Here are some things to consider when making your choice:
- Looks: Today’s espresso machines come in varying styles, shapes, designs and colors. Go for what aesthetically pleases you, or for what works with your kitchen décor
- Capabilities: While espresso-making would obviously be the prime consideration, some machines come with frothing features that allow you to brew macchiatos, cappuccinos, and Americanos. What’s your poison?
- Capacity: If you don’t entertain a lot, then a smaller-sized unit may suffice. However, if you have a large family or extended circle of espresso-lovers, you may need something that produces 8 to 10+ cups at a time!
- Maintenance: The cleaner your machine is, the better its produce will be. Look for easy cleaning features – like quickly being able to disassemble, wash/clean and reassemble the device