There are various factors that keep people energized for their daily activities. Motivational quotations, lectures, a wonderful meal, or, best of all, a cup of espresso are all good options. Many people want to learn how to brew a wonderful cup of espresso, but they don’t know where to begin.
Espresso machines can appear frightening at first appearance, especially if you’re new to the scene.
Grind coarseness, grind amount, and whether you want a single or double-shot are all controlled by a variety of knobs, buttons, and settings. Even the milk frother can appear to be a difficult task.
In this article, you’ll learn more about the different types of espresso machines and how to choose the one that’s right for you. Imagine having the pleasure of brewing your own café-quality coffee and espresso drinks at home or at work. There’s a machine for you, whether you desire the convenience of a latte at the touch of a button or a more barista-like experience. We’ll go over the two fundamental machine kinds as well as terminology and basic capabilities that you should be aware of when choosing a machine. We’ll make some specific recommendations that are our “can’t-miss” options, devices with excellent customer reviews, proven track records, and decent value.
Prior to that, it would be beneficial to master some espresso fundamentals-
Coffee: This is where all espresso begins. It’s a good idea to start with pre-ground coffee for espresso machines. You can grind your own if you’ve achieved some experience. For the best precision, a scale is a good tool to have on hand but isn’t absolutely necessary.
Filter: Grounds go in the filter, or filter basket, and are “tamped” or pressed down using a special tool. Most machines come with a tamper. Pressurized filters help make up for less-than-perfect tamping.
Water: Heated to the right temperature for best espresso brewing. In most manual machines, and in all the automatic machines, the machine takes care of this for you.
Pressure: This is supplied by a pump inside the machine, though it used to be obtained by pulling a large lever to force the water through the coffee grounds. This is where the expression “pulling a shot” comes from.
Now, let’s take a look at the most important features to look for and some open-box espresso machines that could be a great choice for you.
Features to Consider
We’ve collected a list of some features to look for if you’re just beginning your espresso adventure.
- A Forgiving Filter
Pressurized filters have a double wall with an interior screen and an outside wall that has a small hole in it. During brewing, espresso collects in the space between the two walls, and the machine’s pump pressure forces the brew through the small hole into the cup. Because of this, the grind and the tamp don’t have to be just right. This process produces a good crèma.
Non-pressurized filters, or filter-baskets, have a single wall with tiny holes in the bottom. They are used with a bottomless portafilter and produce long-lasting, rich crèma and the hottest espresso. If your desire is to become an accomplished barista, look for machines with these filters. And be patient with yourself!
- One-Touch Brewing
For an espresso enthusiast looking to enjoy shots and specialty drinks at home at a reasonable price, a semi-automatic machine is a good choice. This type pre-measures the amount of water for a delicious espresso, whether a single or double shot. Self-tamping machines press the grounds down when the portafilter is inserted into the machine. If you’re willing to invest in a fully automatic machine that includes a bean grinder, you can reduce your work to frothing milk for specialty drinks.
For beginning baristas, having to watch the espresso and turn off the water flow at the right moment is tricky. It does, however, give you a lot of control over your brew. In this case, a basic manual machine that has a set water temperature is a good place to start.
- Frothing Wand
Froth may not be the hero but is for sure an important element for the cup of your coffee. Many espresso lovers also love espresso-based specialty drinks like cappuccinos and lattés. If you fall into this category, don’t worry, frothing milk is not too hard to master. Almost all espresso machines include integrated frothing wands, and some have markings on them to help guide the user in creating steamed milk or milk froth.
For home use, having an integrated frothing wand means you don’t have to purchase a separate milk frother and you’ll save counter space with everything in one machine.
When you’re starting out, it’s nice to have a few extras included with your machine. Almost all manual and semi-automatic machines include a measuring scoop and tamper in a combined tool. Check to see if the model you’re considering includes any cleaning tools or products–these can be time-savers since you’ll need to clean your espresso machine daily.
A couple of other included items to look for are a frothing pitcher or a filter that accepts E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) pods. These are pre-measured ground espresso in a paper filter; great for times when you’re in a hurry.
- Durable Design
You have decided to take the plunge into home espresso-making so you want a machine that’s going to last, even if used every day. Look for these components for a durable machine
- Heavy-duty stainless steel or brass boiler
Stainless steel exterior, either wholly or partially 15-Bar (minimum) rotary pump
Heavy-duty steel portafilter. 58mm is considered standard, professional size.
Additional Espresso Tips for the Beginner
- Use pre-ground coffee. One of the basic components of good espresso is coffee ground to the correct size. This can be more difficult to achieve for the beginner, so pre-ground is a good choice. However, if you don’t mind experimenting and have a storehouse of patience, purchase a good ceramic burr grinder and a scale. 7 grams is the standard amount of ground coffee used for a single 1.5-oz. espresso.
- Run water through the machine before you start. This cleans the machine prior to use but also primes it by activating the heating system & thermostat, pump, steaming wand, and group head. You should also wash the individual parts, including the water tank, prior to using.
- Read the Instruction Manual. This is really the best way to find your way around your machine. Practice inserting the portafilter and locking it into place before beginning to make your first espresso. Get used to the controls and switches, how and when to use them to brew and steam milk; how to dump the used grounds, remove, rinse, and replace the filters. It will save frustration in the long run.
- Don’t use heavier than 2% milk for milk froth. Fat-free or 1% is the easiest milk for beginners to use because it makes larger foam bubbles, while 2% milk makes a richer, creamier milk foam. Higher fat content simply doesn’t create froth. Milk alternatives, soy and nut milk, can also be used, however, the milk foam will be thinner. Make sure the milk you use is fresh (within 10 days of purchase) and very cold for the best froth.
- Cleaning is Critical. Oils from the coffee will build upon each part of your machine adversely affecting the quality and flavor of your espresso. Consult your manual for specifics for your machine. This will involve wiping residue from the brew head & frothing wand, washing filters, portafilter, & wand tip, and occasionally descaling & backflushing. It’s always a good idea to pull a seasoning shot prior to brewing after you have performed a full cleaning.
After reading this, you may be thinking that you’ll dive in….next month, or year. Go ahead and take the plunge! Though all the information may be a little overwhelming, making good espresso, like being good at anything else, just takes some practice. Choose the machine that feels right for you and when you get it home, take some time to read the manual and do some pre-brewing practice runs. Get comfortable with it like you would a new car…you’ll be pulling great shots of espresso for yourself, family, and friends in no time!