The Ultimate Guide To Buying An Espresso Machine
Brewing a good cup of espresso cannot be done without an espresso machine.
As an espresso machine is a relatively large investment and absolutely crucial to the final result and not least, your pleasure in brewing espresso.
In this article, I will review what types of espresso machines are available and help you choose the type that best suits your needs.
I have a fair amount of experience in using different espresso machines. Still, I am not qualified enough to tell you which one to choose, as we all have different wishes so that I will give you my personal opinion.
However, I have a lot of experience looking at statistics and drawing conclusions from these. Just by reading international user reviews of a wide range of espresso machines, not to mention getting a little help from my husband, that is a renowned barista and own/run a coffee shop, we have managed to put together an espresso machine test that gives you an objective assessment of the various espresso machines on the market, assessed by users themselves.
This espresso machine test will form the basis for the espresso machines we have recommended here in the article.
What are your needs and desires?
Before going out and investing in a new espresso machine, you must have done with yourself what you really need.
This is something that few first-time buyers do, which is why they go down to their local home appliances business and buy the model recommended by the clerk.
We want to advise you now since the clerk is usually just a seller and not an espresso nerd, which is why the result is often very disappointing, which we see time and time again in the comments we read on the internet.
By first clarifying what needs you have, you can choose the right one and make a purchase that will bring you joy for many years to come.
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Ask yourself these questions
The following questions are a good start to defining what you need in an espresso machine:
- Do you have the patience to learn a little about espresso brewing and spend some time brewing a good espresso, or do you prefer a quick and easy cup of espresso?
- How do you feel about grinding your own coffee beans?
- Could you end up making Caffe Latte and espresso drinks that require a milk frother?
- How much time do you spend cleaning your espresso machine?
- How much space do you have for an espresso machine, and does it have to meet certain design desires to fit into your home?
These are all questions that can quickly point you in the direction of the right espresso machine. You can also take this short test where you have to answer x questions, and you will see the espresso machines that best match your needs and finances.
The 3 types of espresso machines
Broadly, there are 3 different types of espresso machines on the market, each with its advantages and disadvantages.
This is precisely why you must consider what you really need.
For example, if you are the type who wants a quick and good cup of caffe latte, then there are only one of these types of machines that will do it for you.
We have written below about the 3 different types of espresso machines and the advantages and disadvantages of the different ones.
Fully automatic espresso machines
A fully automatic espresso machine is for those who want as easy and simple an espresso brewing process as possible.
Here you need to fill coffee beans, water and possibly milk in the espresso machine and then it even grinds, stomps and brews your espresso with just a push of a button.
This also means that there are limited opportunities to influence how coffee becomes, so it is not for you who want full freedom to experiment with your coffee.
- Quick and easy brewing.
- Espresso with just 1 click of a button.
- Large selection of preset espresso drinks.
- Can make espresso drinks with milk himself.
- Lack of manual control of the espresso.
- The high price due to the many features.
Since it contains all the functions, it obviously costs a lot more than the other espresso machines, which makes it an espresso machine that is primarily purchased by the enthusiasts who want a good espresso every morning without having to touch more than a single button.
My 3 top options for everyday espresso lovers.
The 3 best fully automatic espresso machines
Semi-automatic espresso machines
The semi-automatic espresso machine gives you some more freedom compared to brewing a good espresso.
Here, it is only the water temperature and pressure that is automatically controlled, so it opens up a little more possibilities.
This also means that it takes a little longer (1-2 minutes) to brew espresso and requires you to invest in a little extra equipment such as a coffee grinder and a tamper.
- Greater opportunity for customizing the espresso flavour.
- More fun to brew a cup of espresso.
- Lower price than a fully automatic machine.
- Requires a bit more time and practice.
- Requires additional accessories such as a coffee grinder, a tamper and possibly a milk frother if you wish.
- Requires regular cleaning.
The low price and the fact that you stand and grind your coffee have made the semi-automatic espresso machine an extremely popular espresso machine.
In the semi-automatic range, I really like the Breville Barista Express. I use this specific espresso machine daily, and its the one I make my morning coffee with. great quality, and make an amazing cup of coffee.
Not to mention that it has an internal grinder, so it makes my life that more simple 🙂
You can find it on Amazon here.
The 3 best semi-automatic espresso machines
Manual espresso machines
The manual espresso machine is for those who want full control over all the espresso machine’s properties.
This is definitely the hardest espresso machine to use. Conversely, it can also make the absolute best espressos, but you need to be prepared to really experiment a lot.
Many of the bad reviews that manual espresso machines get are from users who have not had the necessary knowledge to brew espresso and did not want to get into it. The machine could not deliver better results than they set it to.
- Full control over the whole process.
- Can make the best espressos.
- Requires patience and interest in espresso brewing.
- Requires accessories such as coffee grinder, tamper, portafilter and milk frother.
The manual espresso machine is not a machine that is often bought precisely because of the high level it takes to make an exceptional result on it.
The 3 best manual espresso machines
La Pavoni Europiccola Lever Espresso Machine
La Pavoni PPG-16 Lever Manual Espresso Machine
Rok Manual Espresso Maker
Equipment for espresso machines
The espresso machine is the most important ingredient when it comes to making a good cup of espresso, but that does not mean that the experience itself can not be further enhanced.
Just as you get spices in the food to give it more life, you can buy yourself poor in all the equipment for espresso machines ranging from the finest espresso cups to milk froths, jugs, tampers, coffee grinders and more.
We have limited ourselves to mentioning only the equipment we think is necessary to buy when you have invested in an espresso machine.
A tamper is used to squeeze the coffee powder before putting it into the espresso machine.
You can adjust how hard the coffee powder is pressed with a tamper, giving you full control over the flavour you get.
A tamper will usually be unnecessary in semi-automatic or fully-automatic espresso machines as these come with built-in coffee grinders and tampers.
However, if you have a model where this is something you can choose from, we would at all times, adjust the pressure with a tamper.
2. Milk frother
Without starting a religious debate about whether or not an espresso should be made with milk, let’s state that some prefer a cappuccino, caffe latte or the like. Rather than a pure espresso and in that case, a milk frother is a necessity.
As with the tamper, certain espresso machines come with a built-in milk frother.
On some models, this works super well, while on others it is less successful.
However, we like the freedom of adjusting where the foam is, and how to pour it into espresso.
Therefore, we will always opt for a proper milk frother even if our espresso machine should have a built-in, as a separate milk frother will only work best in 99% of cases.
3. Espresso cups
Just as you do not drink wine from a glass of water, you should also not drink espresso from a normal coffee cup.
It just ruins the whole experience of drinking a cup of espresso.
We would personally choose to invest in four espresso cups and four larger espresso cups when you want a good caffe latte.
4. Coffee grinder
The coffee grinder is the fourth and final item on the agenda.
Of course, a coffee grinder grinds your coffee beans, making it possible to use them in your espresso machine.
Although fully automatic espresso machines come with a built-in coffee grinder, it is clear to prefer the coffee grinder yourself.
First of all, the taste and aroma disappear relatively quickly after the coffee beans have been ground, which is why it is preferable to do this just before brewing.
Then, with a manual coffee grinder, you can adjust how fine the coffee beans are to be ground, which in turn has a great impact on both the taste and how well your espresso machine brews.
You can see our article here on the best grinders available.
Espresso machine cleaning
Depending on the type of espresso machine you choose, the cleaning process will vary slightly.
The fully automatic espresso machine usually does not require any major cleaning as it does this by itself.
The manufacturer may recommend that you clean it a certain way at a given interval, and this will be described in your manual.
There are several methods to clean your espresso machine.
However, I want to highlight a simple method that removes lime deposits and the like—shit in your espresso machine.
You will need:
- White vinegar – Ideally distilled vinegar.
The course of action:
- Fill the water reservoir with the vinegar. Fill it up to correspond to 3-4 espresso portions.
- Insert the portafilter (coffee holder) into the machine without any coffee in it.
- Let the machine run the vinegar through the entire machine (including the steamer) until there is no more vinegar in the water container.
- Now run 3-4 servings of water through the machine to get as much vinegar out of the machine as possible.
- Get the portafilter and lose parts in the washing machine if they can withstand it.
This is the method that most easily cleans your espresso machine.
However, we always recommend that you read through your operating instructions, as the cleaning procedure depends on the type of espresso machine and the materials it is made of.
Therefore, we cannot be held responsible for the result of the cleaning process, as you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.