Espresso machines are a versatile appliance for coffee lovers, helping you make everything from latte to Americano to cappuccino. A great investment for coffee lovers who want to spend less at the cafes.
Espresso originated in Italy, and is considered an art. The Italian Espresso National Institute even has designated rules on the color, bitterness, acidity, and texture of an espresso as well as details on the correct way to make one.
The first espresso machine was built and patented by Angelo Moriondo of Turin in 1884 and machines since then have matched the essential traits necessary to make an authentic espresso.
Why Buy an Espresso Machine?
Espresso machines can be huge money savers for coffee lovers and require less additional purchases the way a Keurig or Nespresso machine does.
If you want your coffee to hit that delicious, fresh from the café flavor, there are some very technical requirements. To prepare a double espresso, you need 14-17 grams of coffee that is filtered through 88-95 degree Celsius purified water at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure for a brewing time of 22-28 seconds.
That’s a little more complex than your standard drip coffee or french press.
Types of Drinks an Espresso Machine can Make
There’s a lot more variety to an espresso machine than just your standard espresso. With an attached wand for steaming milk, there are plenty of options. Here are just a few.
- Cafe Americano
- Cafe Latte
- Cafe Macchiato
- Cafe Mocha
- Flat White
There’s an espresso machine for every budget, but for a truly quality device, you may want to invest a little bit more.
There are some beginner friendly espresso machines between $100 and $350 but the standard price is usually between $350 and $800. For a commercial machine, you can expect to pay upwards of $2000.
Espresso machines in this range offer the basic service. You can expect to find the necessary tools to make an excellent cup of espresso as well as a steam wand for your milk.
Models in this range will likely be manual, meaning they will require more effort on your end to get your drink and require a little more maintenance to keep in top condition.
You can expect machines in this range to be made of higher quality materials with a better grinder and tamper. These machines will also likely have more complex settings for your espresso.
Machines in this range tend to have a better steam wand, allowing for next level options like microfoam for latte art.
Espresso machines in this range are likely going to have more automatic options for you as well as some high tech features such as Bluetooth and touch screen. You can expect easy maintenance and convenient features in this price range.
$2000 or more range
These are your commercial grade machines that can produce 50 or cups of coffee per day. The highest volume machines can make 500 cups per day. The average coffee shop sells 250 cups per day so you can scale up or down based on your expected level of business.
A Closer Look at Espresso Machine Features
The most notable difference in features for espresso machines is going to be the number of automated tasks and high tech add-ons. Here’s a quick breakdown of each type of espresso machine.
- Manual: These can often be the most challenging type of espresso machine as it requires the most hands on effort. Expect manual steps for grinding, filters, water amount, and milk frothing.
- Semi-Automatic: This level handles the water amount for each shot of espresso for you, making your drinks consistent but still with plenty of options for variety.
- Fully-Automatic: These products allow for automated grinding while also including additional features such as a hot water dispenser, a programmable cup size, and a removable drip tray.
- Super-Automatic: This is the high end for espresso machines and offers integrated milk frothing as well as automatic cleaning. You can expect plenty of additional features on these models such as setting your own preferences in brew strength, water and milk quantity, as well as water temperatures. Some also feature user profiles to set preferences for every coffee drinker in your house.
The choice to go manual or automatic is a personal preference. Some prefer that manual process, which allows more control over the brewing process, others prefer the convenience of an automatic machine.
You can expect automatic machines to be the more expensive of the two and the higher the level of automation, including tamping and steaming, the more expensive it is likely to be.
Higher end products, like super-automatics are more likely to have high tech features such as Bluetooth connections and touch screens.
Make sure to check whether the machine comes with pressurized portafilters or filter baskets. Those without will need to have a finer grind in order to create the best espresso.
You also may need to prime the pump for machines in the lower price range.
Espresso Tools to Buy with your Espresso Machine
You can expect your espresso machine to include most of the pieces you need to get started with the only purchase being espresso cups.
Double check with the specific product though, you may need to purchase a pitcher for your milk, a secondary filter, a tamping tool, and a measuring spoon.
How Much Should You Spend on a Home Espresso Machine?
The answer to this question is entirely dependent on your preference as a coffee drinker. If you’re new to the espresso world, feel free to stay on the lower end toward the $100-$200 range.
But if you enjoy extra features and the option to spruce up a cup of coffee like you’d expect at a coffee shop, maybe aim for a mid-range purchase of $400-$700.
You likely won’t need to purchase in the $2000 range unless the machine is for an office or you’re opening up your own coffee shop.