Shopping for clothes is easy. The process is simple and convenient. When looking at different attire, we can try them out and see if they fit. However, people searching for espresso makers don’t have this luxury.
Recently, we begin introducing a series titled Espresso 101. For our third post in this series, the goal is to help you choose the best device for making these delicious drinks. Here are some questions you should ask yourself when looking for one of these machines.
(Our ultimate guide to making the best espresso from home will be coming out soon. Be sure to sign up for our email list so you don’t miss out!)
What’s my budget?
If you only have $500, then you’re not going to buy a $2,000 machine.
You also shouldn’t start by looking for a device that costs that much money. Too many people spend their entire budget this way. They forget how many important things there are to making good coffee and creating the perfect home barista experience.
The most central element to creating espressos is the correct grind size and consistency. Before you purchase any brewing equipment, invest in a good grinder.
Aim to spend as much on your grinder as you would an entry-level espresso machine. Check out our guide to purchasing your first coffee grinder for more tips and advice. Here are the biggest takeaways: buy burr grinders instead of blades, don’t be afraid of a high price, hand-grinders can be okay, and don’t get your fingers caught in them.
Next, you need to leave space in your budget for additional accessories. We’ll discuss this in further detail below. However, you’ll probably want to upgrade an item your espresso machine came with or purchase something additional to make life easier.
How much control do I want?
There are three types of espresso machines on the market today: super-automatic, semi-automatic, and manual. Each of these devices refers to how much control you have over the process of creating the beverage.
Super-automatic machines (sometimes called automatic machines) will do everything for you. It’s like having a robot barista servant in your house. Except, less creepy.
These machines will automatically grind your coffee to the perfect size. They also have consistency, brew in optimal time. get rid of the used grounds and self-clean.
Most automatic machines can also steam and froth milk for you. Whether you like a ton of foam on your cappuccino, a little-steamed milk to mark your macchiato, or equal parts for your cortado, these machines can create your favorite beverages.
Automatic machines are a thing of technological beauty. You don’t have to put in any effort and consistently, you will get results.
Semi-automatic machines are what you’ll most likely see in your local coffee shop. You’ll be in control of the grind, tamp, but you’ll need to closely monitor the extraction time and volume of liquid that you receive. Still, they are still relatively easy to use. They just require a little more skill and technique.
Along with creating the espresso yourself, you’ll need to steam and froth the milk. Most semi-automatic machines come with a steam wand attachment. They’re fun to use and great for creating milk teas or hot chocolates.
If you’re willing to travel along the learning curve, semi-automatic machines can be a lot cheaper than super-automatic ones. It doesn’t cost a fortune to make a great espresso with entry-level semi-automatic machines being a fourth of the price of the automatics.
Consider picking up one of these if the idea of being a true home barista excites you or you don’t want to invest money into a super-automatic machine.
Manual machines are difficult to get used to and require the most skill. Although, you’ll feel connected to every part of the process.
For example, you control the pressure and the rate at which water flows through the beans. The machines require a master skill level and lots of patience. You must love the art of brewing coffee to not throw them through the kitchen window out of frustration.
If you like adding milk to your espresso, you’ll need an additional device to steam and froth. Manual machines are simple and elegant. Typically, they’ll including nothing more than the boiler and extracting devices.
Get a manual machine if you want something to look cool on your counter and drive you crazy for some time. If you can make it through the trials, they will reward you with the most amazing coffee experience you’ve ever had.
What extra features and accessories do I want?
Your espresso machine will probably come with a coffee scoop, tamper, and possibly some steaming pitchers. These typically aren’t great, and you’ll probably want to upgrade them.
Along with a new tamper, you will need good cups or a cup warmer for the espresso. The vessel you drink out can be very important. Especially, when you’re considering the temperature and taste of the final beverage. Respect the coffee by putting it in a tasteful cup.
You may also find that you like to create espressos but dislike handling the milk.
Save room in your budget for an automatic frother. Otherwise, invest in quality stainless steel steaming pitchers that make it easy to create great froth and pour latte art.
With a super-automatic machine, some models come with Bluetooth compatibility to customize your beverage from your phone or tablet. If you want to be smelling the coffee when you wake up, look for a machine with an automatic timer. These are just a few of the features you can find in automatic machines.
If the idea of a machine that does everything for you is appealing, check out our review of JURA espresso machines.
Final Tip: Use the best ingredients
The most important part of any recipe is the ingredients. No matter how you brew your coffee, start with pure water, freshly roasted beans, and the right grind. It can be simple to craft a beautiful cup of coffee, and it starts with these three fundamental pillars.
Want an espresso machine? Check out five cheap but good espresso machines to get started.
Did you follow our advice and buy a machine that you love? The next question you may have is “How do I make amazing espresso?” We’re releasing a guide to making the perfect espresso at home soon.