Home Espresso Machine Buying Guide: All You Need To Know

Here’s the thing: owning a home espresso machine is a rewarding experience that allows you to customize your favorite beverages and pull barista-worthy shots from the comfort of your home. But buying the right espresso machine for you can be a nightmare.

That’s why we’ve gathered all the information you could possibly need and written a detailed home espresso machine buying guide.

Let’s take a deep dive into the world of espresso makers for home use and hopefully, by the time you’re done with the article, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for!

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How To Choose The Best Espresso Home Machine?

Before buying an espresso machine, which, let’s face it, can be quite an investment, consider the following:

Your Budget

How much do you plan on spending on your home espresso machine? Deciding on a budget early on can help you narrow your search much easier. After all, these machines come with all sorts of price tags; from under $100,  $200, and $300, to machines for $500$600, and well into the thousands of dollars.

What’s Your Favorite Beverage

Are you a die-hard espresso lover, or do you prefer creamy, foamy lattes and cappuccinos? You can choose an espresso maker based on your beverage of choice. If you’re looking to pull that perfect shot of espresso, machines under $200 most likely won’t do.

Size Of Your Counter

These machines come in all sizes and types. Don’t forget to consider how much space you have to spare.

Control Or No Control

Do you prefer to have control over your brew or prefer that the machine does it for you? Choose from fully automatic or manual espresso machines. But we’ll discuss more below.

Espresso Experience Level

How experienced are you when it comes to making espresso? If you’re just starting out, getting a machine that’s straightforward to use is probably a good start. If you’re already a seasoned home barista, consider a more advanced machine that won’t let you or your taste buds down when you most need it.

Can an Espresso Machine Save Me Money?

Absolutely, in the long run. Just think about how much you spend on a latte, cappuccino, or espresso. Buying these drinks on a daily basis can easily dry your wallet and the costs can easily add up. Buying a Starbuck latte daily can easily cost you about $1,000 a year.

The fun part? You can a great espresso machine for home use below that budget!

These machines for home use allow you to comfortably make coffee at home, just the way you like it. They enable you to test different recipes and create different beverages – whether alcoholic or cozy winter drinks.

What’s more, you can test and try different coffee beans; from dark roasts to decaf coffee, organic beans, and much more!

Different Types of Espresso Machines

Before you choose the best espresso machines, you should know there are different types of these coffee makers.

Manual/Lever Espresso Machines

If you don’t mind a bit of physical work when it comes to brewing espresso, consider a manual espresso machine. These were the original espresso machines and they require your physical strength to pull a long handle to produce a shot, hence the term pulling a shot of espresso.

Choose from two different types: manual and spring-loaded espresso makers. You need the skill to use them and practice to get it right but once you do, the results are rewarding!

These are mostly suitable for baristas and people who are extremely serious about their home espresso.

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

Instead of a manual lever, these machines use an electric pump to create pressure and force water through the coffee.

You’ll still have to weigh and grind the coffee yourself, but there’s less labor involved than with the manual machines.

These machines are a mix of features; they let you have some control over the final brew, yet they’re easy to use.

Semi-Automatic espresso machines are one of the most popular types of machines on the market. These also won’t break your budget; they come with different price tags but can be quite affordable too.

They’re great for all who’re into espresso and who already have some experience.

Fully Automatic Espresso Machines

These types of espresso makers are very straightforward to use; they’re much easier to use than the semi-automatic models, but they don’t let you have as much control over your brew.

In other words, these are pure one-touch espresso makers. Many let you choose from different settings with a simple push of a button.

The price range is very different – some models are affordable, and others come with a hefty price tag. your preferences in terms of coffee strength and milk frothing,

Super-Automatic Espresso Machines

Super Automatic Espresso machines are exactly what they seem to be: the easiest espresso machines to use. They pack many different features; from built-in grinders and frothers to various programmable settings; Gaggia Anima is one of the quite popular super automatics on the market.

These machines will do all the work for you. They’re not suitable for those who want to keep control over their brew. Here’s how it works: select your preferred drink for a screen, and your coffee is ready in seconds – all with one simple push of a button!

Single-Serve/Pod Espresso Machines

Capsule espresso machines are usually fully automatic. They work with a pod or a capsule (similar to k-cup) which you insert into the machine. The most famous brand of this type is Nespresso.

To make espresso, simply push a button and the machine does all the work for you. Some also come with froth wands, others already froth the milk for you.

These are a great fully-automatic option with minimal clean-up, but the pods aren’t all recyclable, so there are environmental issues to consider.

Stovetop Espresso Maker (Steam-Driven)

These aren’t really machines and they don’t brew the real espresso since the pressure with which they brew, is too low. But, a Moka pot is an all-time Italian classic, and an affordable coffee maker that’s easy to maintain, clean, and use.

What we love about it is that you can easily bring it to your camping trips since it’s a portable espresso maker.

Pump Espresso Machines

These come with a pump that helps to brew coffee to the right temperature. They produce 9 to 15 bars of pressure and have an electric pump that helps you pump espresso.

There are different types of pump machines available, one of the most well-known is also an air-pump coffeemaker – a famous Aeropress, though we must say it’s a (kinda) espresso maker and not really a machine.

Aeropress is an excellent portable espresso maker that doesn’t need any electricity, so it’s perfect for a nomadic lifestyle.

Different Parts of Espresso Machines: The Lingo

There are different espresso machine types. And then there’s the lingo.

Now that we covered the machines, let’s have a look at different fancy expressions that usually accompany espresso makers.

Espresso Shot And Double Shot

Espresso comes in two serving sizes: a shot and a double shot. Not all the machines have both options available, but some do.

When brewing espresso, forget about the large mugs of coffee that you’d get with a drip machine. It’s all about demitasse cups here.

Portafilter

The portafilter is essentially a handle that holds the filter basket. This handle helps you lock it in place (on the machine) before you pull a shot.

Portafilters come in different sizes; keep that in mind when buying spare filter baskets.

Filter Basket

This is a piece inside the portafilter. A filter basket holds ground coffee in place.

Some espresso makers use only ground coffee, others are compatible with ESE pods as well.

One-Touch

Many espresso machines let you customize your drink before brewing it with a push of a single button.

Choose water temperature, amount of milk, and amount of ground coffee, then push a brew button. The machine does the most of the work for you.

Heating System

The wattage of a coffee maker is an important factor as it influences how quickly can the machine heat water and how well it can keep a constant temperature while brewing.

Single-Boiler

Some machines have two boilers, while most espresso makers have only one.

A single-boiler means that there is only one boiler with hot water for espresso and to steam the milk. That means you have to make espresso first and then steam the milk.

Dual-boiler machines let you steam and brew at the same time.

Drip Tray

This is a removable tray where you place your cup while brewing espresso. You can remove, clean, and empty this part. Some machines allow you to remove the tray in order to place a taller cup under the portafilter.

Steam Wand

A steam wand or milk frother is the wand on the side of the espresso maker designed for steaming and frothing milk for lattes and cappuccinos.

You can control some wands with a button and others with a knob. Keep in mind that not all espresso machines come with a steam wand and not all steam wands do a great job when it comes to making lattes.

How To Make Good Espresso: The Gadgets

Making a good espresso at home doesn’t stop with the right machine. If you want to take your game to a different level, consider investing in one of the following gadgets as well.

A Scale

This is optional, but if you’re serious about espresso, getting a scale is essential. There are many affordable options out there.

A Coffee Grinder

Using freshly ground coffee is a must if you want to drink high-quality coffee, and it’s no different in the world of espresso. Choose a quality burr grinder that can grind beans for different brew methods, not just espresso.

Burr grinders will give you a consistent grind more easily than other grinders, without overheating the beans too much and potentially ruining the final flavor of the coffee. You can also opt-in for a more traditional approach, and get yourself a hand grinder if you’re up to some physical exercise.

No matter the choice, the grinder should give you an extremely fine grind, which is ideal for espresso coffee.

An Espresso Tamper

A tamper is a tool that helps to compress the grinds into the basket (portafilter) equally and consistently. It’s a must for a quality cup of espresso.

Some espresso machines already come with a tamper, but many don’t.

A Milk Frother

Some espresso machines already come with a milk frother, but not all. Most automatic machines already have a steam wand included, but not all budget-friendly espresso makers do.

You can always get a milk frother separately, especially if you’re a fan of cappuccinos, or want to impress your guests.

A Steaming Pitcher

Once you have a milk frother, you’ll need a pitcher to steam milk. While it’s not essential to keep around (you can use a measuring cup or a coffee cup instead), it comes in handy to prevent the splashes with its tapered sides.

Espresso Machine Brands

Here’s a list of the most popular manufacturers on the market who make high-quality espresso machines and other coffee-related appliances.

Breville

An Australian company established in 1957, Breville is a versatile company with a diverse array of products: from fryers to steam irons, and espresso makers. They’re an affordable option to other pricier brands on the list, and their products are made to last.

Delonghi

Established in 1902, De’Longhi has a long history and many satisfied users. Their family-owned business offers everything from toasters and air conditioning to high-quality coffee makers.

Nespresso

Famous for their espresso machines, Nespresso specializes in all things coffee: brewers, beans, accessories, and much more.

Gaggia

Gaggia focuses on making high-quality coffee makers for home use. Gaggia is a UK-based company and while they’re on the pricier side, you can expect to get a top-quality brewer that will serve you perfectly, one brew at a time.

Mr. Coffee

Founded back in 1950 in the US, Mr. Coffee focuses on coffee machines, gadgets, and accessories. They’ve specialized to provide everything a home coffee aficionado needs to start their day.

Hamilton Beach

Based in the US, this company designs and distributes a wide array of products for home and commercial use. They make solid espresso machines that are affordable and accessible also for home baristas.

Bialetti

An Italian company, Bialetti have been making their coffee makers since 1933. They’ve gained a reputation of high-quality coffee makers; their Moka pot is a timeless coffeemaker that sits in the homes of the majority of Italians. You can’t go wrong with choosing one of their espresso machines for home use either.

Bella

Bella company provides a little bit of everything with the idea of making your kitchen fun. They have tips, recipes, and product videos available apart from coffee makers that are small and efficient.

Capresso

A Swiss-based company, Capresso specializes in all things coffee-related: espresso machines, grinders, frothers, coffeemakers, and more. While they aren’t exactly budget-friendly, they target serious home baristas and all who want high-quality products that will last a lifetime.

Cuisinart

Cuisinart is a famous maker of all things kitchen, from bakeware to cutlery and coffee machines. It’s a US-based company established in the 1970s with a solid reputation for quality and affordable products.

Rancilio

Founded in 1927 in Italy, Rancilio manufactures and sells professional espresso machines for baristas as well as a machine designed for home use. They’re very experienced, which shows in their design and performance.

What Drinks Can You Make With Home Espresso Machine?

Let’s face it, espresso is great, but there are many many other different espresso-based drinks you can make with your home espresso machine.

Here are some of the most popular espresso drinks you can make at home!

Classic Espresso

This is a base for all coffee-based beverages. Drink it when you need a pick-me-up and a quick caffeine boost.

This is a strong coffee both in flavor and aroma. It doesn’t use a lot of water, it’s quite high in caffeine.

Ristretto

This one is best for coffee snobs and beasts because it’s just that powerful. Ristretto is essentially made with the same amount of ground coffee as espresso, but with half the water.

It’s high in caffeine and, yep, very strong.

Caffe Americano

This is a shot (or two) of espresso, diluted with hot water. Additionally, you can also add milk to it.

Americano is a longer drink than espresso, milder in flavor but with the same caffeine content.

Lungo

Long or lungo (Italian) is similar to Americano, but the water that’s added to the coffee comes from the brewing process and is not added afterward.

It’s stronger than Americano.

Macchiato

A macchiato is a single or double shot of espresso topped with a teaspoon of steamed milk. It’s simple, straightforward, and strong. Not for the faint of heart, but a must-try if you’re ever in Naples, Italy!

Cappuccino

Originally from Italy, cappuccino is one shot of espresso with foamed, steamed milk, which is characteristically creamy on top.

Latte

Latte is an extremely popular coffee drink and perfect for those who don’t like strong coffee. It’s made with steamed and foamed milk and a single shot of espresso. Adding syrups to it is quite common.

The right way to make latte is to pour the steamed milk and froth into the serving glass/mug. Make an espresso shot, and pour it over the milk, from the top.

Best Coffee Beans to Use For Espresso

There’s a general misconception that espresso is a specific type of coffee bean or roast. It’s not.

Espresso can be made with any coffee bean type, but the two most common are:

  • Arabica (pricier, with a milder and sweeter flavor, also fruity and chocolaty)
  • Robusta (cheaper, with a stronger flavor and higher caffeine content)

So, what coffee to buy for espresso machine? While the taste is strictly personal, here are some of the best beans to consider:

Best Coffee Grinds For Espresso

The best grind for espresso is a very fine grind.

You can grind your own or buy preground coffee- whichever you prefer.

Some roasters also offer grind on demand – you can choose your grind with your order; Volcanica coffee does it very well. That way you get freshly roasted and ground coffee without investing in a scale and grinder yourself.

How To Clean The Espresso Machine At Home?

Keeping your machine clean means two things: it’ll last longer and it’ll brew better coffee.

Descaling your espresso machine regularly is a must. It seems challenging at first, but once you get a hang of it, it’ll become a part of your routine.

FAQ

What is a good pressure for an espresso machine?

Good pressure for espresso machines starts at 9 BAR. The pressure is measured with a barometer (also known as atmospheric pressure).

What temperature should my espresso machine be?

The optimal temperature for the espresso brewing process should be between 90 and 96°C (195/205°F). a higher temperature will cause burnt coffee and lower temperatures will extract coffee at a slower rate.

Keep in mind that not all espresso machines will allow you to control and adjust the brew temperature.

Can you use regular coffee beans in an espresso machine?

You can use any type of beans you prefer, but many people recommend using darker roasts in espresso for most flavor. But that’s entirely up to you and your taste buds.

Also, espresso is a brewing method and not a roast or coffee bean type. You can use the same type of coffee beans for espresso, French press, and pour-over. Some beans taste better with espresso, others with pour-over. But the final choice is up to you and you can make espresso with any coffee beans!

What is the best affordable espresso machine?

Not all espresso machines are affordable, especially if you’re looking for additional/professional features. If you need a solid espresso maker for home use with excellent value for money, we’d say that an affordable beginner espresso machine is De’Longhi EC155 is a good option.

It combines a stylish appearance with features that will allow you to customize your cup of cappuccino and start saving money. You can find the whole list of budget-friendly espresso machines here.

What is the best espresso machine for beginners?

There are plenty of espresso machines out there but if you’re completely new to the game of espresso, you need a solid, simple, and reliable machine that will support your learning curve and prevent you from ruining your espresso-based drinks.

Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker is a solid and excellent machine for beginners that works fast and allows you to make tasty drinks with every use.

Can you make espresso without a machine?

There are certain ways to make espresso on the stove without a machine, but Moka pot won’t give you a good result compared to the modern espresso that you get in a coffee shop.

You can give stovetop espresso a try (there are a few options), or you can turn to Aeropress instead. The coffee is quite similar to espresso even though it doesn’t make true espresso.

Aeropress has been recognized as a brewer that comes close to making an actual espresso, but it’s not as intense or concentrated. According to Javapresse:

 True espresso is rich, aromatic, very intense, bright, and has a heavy, syrupy body. A layer of fine crema tops the shot and lasts sometimes a minute before decaying back into the shot.

Aeropress espresso is rich, aromatic, somewhat intense, crisp, and has a slightly heavier than normal body. A thin layer of large bubbles tops the shot, but they quickly decay back into the liquid. It’s delicious, balanced, and concentrated – but not as concentrated or intense as true espresso.

Espresso Machine Buyers Guide for Home: A Recap

As you can see, there are many different options when it comes to choosing the right espresso machine for your needs.

Before you buy, consider the budget, the space, your experience level (and willingness to learn), and how automatic would you like your machine to be.

Once you narrow down your list, choosing the right machine will be much easier. After all, owning an espresso machine comes with great advantages; saving money and time are just a few of them.

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