In this guide we will look at features that make up the best espresso machine for home use through reviews and detailed explanations.
Our Top Pick: Mr. Coffee Premium Espresso/Cappuccino System
Espresso is a delicate, delicious coffee beverage that takes careful handling and results in a powerful punch of rich flavor and caffeine. Espresso is different from coffee in that it's made of finely ground coffee and filtered under pressure. With the right tools, you can make it at home.
Why Get An Espresso Machine?
Espresso is a much more intense and luscious beverage than coffee. While many people prefer coffee for their daily wake-up, espresso is a great treat on the weekends or after a special meal.
Espresso machines work under extreme pressure and heat. It's important to get an espresso machine that you can work with comfortably, especially if your early morning thinking process moves slowly.
Luckily, there are many espresso machines that require only one touch to make a great cup of espresso, and these units often have milk reservoirs and filtered water reservoirs that lock into place to save the risk of burning yourself.
Finally, there are now espresso machines on the market that can make espresso using beverage pods, such as a Keurig, for an easy, early morning latte or cappuccino.
How Well Do They Work?
Espresso machines take a little practice to make a perfect cup. You'll need to make sure the machine is hot and that the pressurization feature is working properly. The water pump for proper espresso needs to go at least to 15 on the gauge to quickly dispel your espresso.
If the espresso spends too long in the brewing cycle because the pump didn't reach the right pressure, you'll find it scorched and unpleasant to drink.
Most espresso machines come with their own milk pitcher which you can use to manually steam the milk once the espresso has brewed. However, many units have their own frothing stations; you simply need to add milk to the fill line and lock the milk reservoir into place.
Espresso Coffee Drink Definitions
Espresso is a dark, strong coffee drink. It's different than coffee in that it's
- brewed from a fine grind of coffee
- brewed under pressure, and
- served with crema, or coffee foam caused by brewing under pressure, on top. The more crema, the fresher the coffee beans used to make your espresso.
Cappuccino is a combination of espresso and highly steamed or frothed milk. Traditionally, the ratio of espresso to milk is 1 to 1 when making a cappuccino. The milk is steamed to a froth and poured into the espresso. Once milk has been added to espresso, it's no longer espresso, but either cappuccino or latte.
Latte is hot milk and espresso, mixed 2 parts milk to 1 part espresso. While foam is important when mixing a cappuccino, lattes call for more milk, so the milk in a latte doesn't need to be frothed.
SEE ALSO: Flat White
Espresso Machine Features
Settings / Programmable Features
You can use a cappuccino maker for espresso only by leaving the milk reservoir empty. However, some of the nicest features of espresso makers for home use allow the user to set up the espresso machine, add milk to the frothing reservoir, place the cup and just tell the machine what you want.
Several espresso machines that use reservoir technology are much easier to clean than those machines with the built-in water reservoir at the back.
Unfortunately, programming capabilities on your latte machine are going to be limited because you need to prepare the beverage with cold milk. However, you could fill the reservoirs the night before, refrigerate them and load the machine in the morning.
Many higher-end espresso machines for the home include a water filtration system. If the unit you prefer doesn't offer this feature, you will want to use bottled or filtered water when making your morning espresso. Scale and salt build-up can be very hard on your espresso maker, so protect it as best you can with filtered water.
You can learn to use an espresso machine with steam wand to create the perfect cappuccino. It's important to follow all instructions that came with your machine so you can learn to use steam effectively without burning yourself or making a mess.
SEE ALSO: Best Milk Frother
To bring out the best flavor from the fine (espresso) ground coffee, several home units prime the coffee with bursts of hot water before starting the pressurized brewing. This builds up moisture and releases the full flavor of the coffee prior to extraction of the espresso.
Once the machine cools, you'll want to clean all the components. Any portion of the machine that came in contact with milk or coffee will need special attention to make sure all the protein from milk and oils from the coffee have been addressed.
If your water or milk reservoirs are removable, you're in luck! Be sure to follow any and all instructions on cleaning your espresso machine so you can get a great seal on the next brew.
How Many Cups Can I Make?
It's important to note that you can add more water than you need for one cup, but you'll need to revisit the coffee grounds before making another cup. This will probably require the use of a tamper to compress the finely ground coffee into the grounds reservoir or pod.
SEE ALSO: Can I Make Espresso In A Keurig?
Depending on how large an espresso beverage you're making, you can use the single shot filter or the double shot filter. Your measuring scoop will give you information on the right amount of espresso-grind coffee you need to add to the filter, then tamp it down and preheat the machine.
Most espresso machines will not start if the water is not pre-heated to the proper temperature. If, however, you notice that the espresso machine is taking a long time to express the espresso or the espresso tastes burned, your machine may have pressure issues.
Follow the manual instructions, and once the machine has cooled down, clean it thoroughly to make sure there's no scale causing problems.
If a daily espresso drink gives you the boost you need, by all means invest in one of these machines. Follow the manual instructions and learn how to handle a hot, pressurized coffee drink, the steam wand and steamed or hot milk.
Be aware that an espresso machine can also serve as a hot water dispenser for tea, so you can satisfy all the fans of hot beverages in your home from this one machine!
Did you enjoy this guide? Let us know in the comments with your experiences and preferences for the best home espresso machine.