How to choose the right espresso machine

October 15, 2014

Love your large skim vanilla lattes? Here’s what you should know to choose the right espresso machine for your home.

How to choose the right espresso machine

What is espresso?

Compared to your regular drip-style carafe coffee, espresso is a smaller, stronger and more flavourful cup of coffee. It’s made by forcing a stream of hot water, usually between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, through a packed circle of ground espresso beans. Espresso is the base for many coffee-based drinks, including cappuccinos and lattes.

Types of models

Espresso machines have developed over the years and range from a basic, completely manual machine to a fully automated one. Prices can range from around $100 for a basic unit to into the thousands for a restaurant-style, high-end appliance. Here’s what you can find:

  • Stovetop espresso makers. These are makers the purists may prefer—a two-tier pot that sits on the stove to craft an espresso. The bottom is filled with water, then espresso is piled into a filter in the middle. The water heats up, passes through the filter, and flows into the top half of the pot.
  • Steam espresso machines. These machines require a small amount of work in making your morning espresso. You fill the water chamber, grind and put your espresso beans into the filter and turn on the machine. The steam pressure heats the water and pumps the water through the ground coffee.
  • Electric pump machines. Again, these can be fully manual machines, which you operate, to fully automatic, in which the machine literally does all the work. These machines can be split into three subcategories:
    • Semi-automatic espresso machines: The bulk of the work is done by you playing barista, meaning you grind the beans, put them into the filter, tamp them down, set the pump and stop the pump at the right time.
    • Super automatic espresso machines: This one-touch system comes at a higher cost than your regular machines for a reason: You press the button and the machine does all of the work.
    • Pod espresso machines: No grinding or tamping involved—the coffee comes from pre-packaged coffee pods.

But what about lattes?

If you’re in it for espresso and espresso-based drinks, then when choosing an espresso machine for your home, consider extra features such as:

  • Single or dual boiler. If you can wait to heat up your milk, then a single boiler is for you to froth up your latte. If you prefer to make espresso-based drinks for you and your friends and prefer to do it all together, then look for a dual boiler where you can brew up your coffee and froth your milk simultaneously.
  • Water tank. If you anticipate going through several espressos a day, opt for a larger water tank (think one litre) to avoid refilling your water every time you go to make a cup of espresso.

Having the right espresso machine in your home helps ensure you have the most delicious cup of joe, every time.


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