What’s the best espresso machine to purchase for your home?
As an espresso aficionado, I have quite a few opinions on this subject and have sampled quite a few different machines.
In my opinion, there are a few characteristics that are worth judging an espresso machine on.
Does the machine manage to provide an espresso that is hot, consistent, and not watery?
Does the espresso created by the machine suffer from the odd flavor or any other artifacts of the machine itself?
Is the espresso quick, or would you be faster heading to a Starbucks? Believe it or not, I’ve run into these problems with certain home espresso makers.
The Nespresso Inissia
The Inissia is the number one home espresso maker, in my opinion. The Inissia is a pod-based espresso maker, so be sure to stock up if you purchase one.
Nespresso has a wide variety of very high-quality pods, and there are also a number of pretty-good knockoffs that you can purchase, too.
Aside from the normal array of pods, there are also quite a few seasonal and specialty pods that Nespresso produces.
These seasonal flavors are delicious as well as much sought-after by Nespresso club members, so snap them up quickly.
As far as the quality of espresso itself goes, the Inissia is by far the best of the crowd.
The Inissia manages to get hot enough and produce enough pressure to really give the authentic espresso experience and extrudes the espresso at a rate that promotes the formation of the lighter crema on top of the liquid—any espresso enthusiast’s dream.
The Inissia is also graced with a wonderfully small form factor that holds an ample reservoir of water and a well-concealed yet spacious waste container.
A very nice touch that the Inissia has is the small pedestal which makes the use of a demi-tasse style espresso cup even easier than it would be otherwise.
It’s fast and easy to fill the water reservoir or empty the pod trash bin. I suggest participating in the Nespresso pod recycling program as well, as it’s free.
Just keep your used pods in the bag that Nespresso gives you, and bring them back to the store whenever you next stock up on pods.
You can have a delicious espresso while also feeling like you’re preventing additional damage to the environment!
There aren’t that many downsides to the Inissia, aside from its reliance on pods.
If anything, I’d have to ding the Inissia on its weak integration with peripherals such as the foamer. Peripherals that come with the Inissia are actually totally separate and unconnected to the Inissia itself.
The user is forced to add extra work to get the ideal foam. With that being said, if you’re just looking for espresso alone, trouble with peripheral integration is no trouble at all.
The Inissia is definitely the strongest espresso machine on this list and warrants an immediate buy.
The warranty offered by Nespresso makes the Inissia a no-brainer, and practically foolproof.
The Inissia also comes in quite a few colors, each of which adds some personality to the machine if desired.
Be sure to get it in one of their quirkier colors, too—it makes the flavor of the espresso itself seem more flavorful.
The Krups Espresseria
The Krups Espresseria takes things in a different direction than the Nespresso Inissia, relying on good beans rather than pods.
The Espresseria has a bean reservoir, built-in burr grinder, and twin spouts to output the final product.
Unlike pods, beans get old, and so the not-airtight bean reservoir may lead to some beans going a bit stale.
With that being said, the pressure and steam output of the Espresseria is nothing to scoff at, with its twin pumps more than capable of producing Italy-quality espresso.
The Espresseria will be quite noisy as a result of its grinder and powerful pumps.
The form factor of the Espresseria is subdued, yet also has a few different potential styles, should the buyer be interested.
The Espresseria is relatively easy to clean but will require a fair amount of hands-on cleanup either weekly or after each espresso, with particular attention being paid to the spouts and grinder.
The Jura Ena Micro 1
The Micro 1 is the sexiest espresso machine on this list, complete with an absolutely stunning form factor that combines the feeling of high technology and simplicity.
The Micro 1 makes one cup of espresso with perfection, based off of fresh beans stored in its reservoir.
The reservoir for the beans is quite well protected, though it is not airtight.
Thankfully, the Micro 1’s exterior simplicity is mirrored in its user controls, which are three tiny buttons, each depicting a different size of beverage.
With that being said, the water reservoir is quite small and may require frequent replacement with fresh water.
Once the water is in the Micro 1, the quality of good engineering is readily detectable by the speed that the water is brought to temperature and the pressure which it is extruded under during the production of the espresso.
The Gaggia Brera SA
The “Superautomatic” Espresso Machine by Gaggia Brera doesn’t exactly live up to its namesake of being superautomatic but does output a pretty good cup of espresso regardless.
The super auto is just as automatic as the other bean-based espresso machines. Complete with a cheerful exterior and two spouts, the Gaggia Brera is a decent machine that could easily be at home in a small café.
Complete with a good user interface and light form factor, it’s a good pickup for someone with a moderate interest in espresso.
While the foamer can be a bit temperamental, the Gaggia Brera is actually very easy to use, and also easy to clean.
It’s not exactly a Cadillac, but most users won’t be able to tell the difference.
So, with these three espresso machines in mind, which one is the ultimate winner?
For me, it’s the Inissia. The Inissia combines ease of use, a beautiful form factor, ease of maintenance, and delicious espresso.
With membership in the Club Nespresso program, there’s also a huge selection of pods, none of which disappoint.
The Inissia is well-supported by Nespresso, and having one in your home means that you set yourself up for the pleasurable errand of heading to the Nespresso café to replenish your supply of pods.
Did I mention that when you go there, they give you a free cup of whatever espresso you desire?
Super Automatic vs Semi Automatic Espresso Machine Explained
There’s nothing like the aroma and flavor of freshly brewed espresso. We coffee lovers understand that inexplicable pull as our senses are awakened by the experience.
As a kid, I remember waking up to the sound of my dad grinding the beans in the early morning light. I would tiptoe to the kitchen and watch him. Every part of his ritual—from the grinding to the frothing to pulling the shot—fascinated me.
When he was done, he’d inhale deeply before taking a careful sip. Then he’d nod in satisfaction, pleased with the result. Sometimes he’d let me smell the coffee. The froth tickled my nose, but I always loved the smell of the earthy richness.
As an adult, I still enjoy making espresso. Technology has given us so many options, with super automatic machines on one end of the spectrum, and semi-automatic on the other end. How can a person decide between the two types?
Well, here are a few things to think about. Hopefully, this helps you figure out which one works better for you.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines
Basically, a super automatic espresso machine does everything for you. There’s very little human interaction or even creativity involved. All you have to do is drop in the beans, add the water, and push a button. Some models even warm the milk while the coffee is doing its thing. So convenient, I know.
However, if you’re looking to add your own spin to the process, perhaps wanting a fuller body or a more complex flavor, you can’t just stop the machine. Various machines have grinding options, however, so that may give you the opportunity to try out different results.
This machine is for busy people who want a good quality espresso but don’t want the hassle of grinding the beans themselves. If you belong in the camp of those who want to be more involved in the process, then the semi-automatic machine is the one you want.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
The semi-automatic has a higher learning curve than the super automatic. But the extra effort in learning the machine and its capabilities, in addition to the extra practice of pulling the shot, will produce a superior espresso than the super automatic machine.
Yes, you’ll have to grind your own beans beforehand. And you’ll have to heat up your milk separately. But if you are the type of person who enjoys the process of things because you’re willing to wait for the result you want, then you won’t mind this machine at all.
Other Things to Consider
So you’ve taken note that one machine requires less time than the other, and one machine has a higher learning curve. You may want to consider other factors as well, such as cost and maintenance.
Most often, the super automatic’s convenience and quickness translate into a higher price tag than the semi-automatic. But different models have a range of costs, so if you prefer the convenience and the consistent results of a super automatic machine, I recommend you do your research.
Don’t forget to consider maintenance too. The super automatic contains more parts because of its extra features. But if you choose a machine with better quality parts you may not have to deal with this headache as long as you keep your machine clean.
Remember that you need to choose the machine that best meets your needs. Take everything I’ve told you into consideration, especially looking at how the benefits work with your lifestyle. I want you to enjoy and love the machine. But most of all: make sure to savor the flavor, and inhale the aroma. As my dad would say, life is too short to miss out on magic like this.
Other useful buyers’ information
While coffee and espresso are close cousins in the caffeinated drink world, you can not brew espresso in the same way you brew coffee.
From the grind of the bean to the temperature of the water, every detail is an important step to pulling the perfect cup of espresso.
So whether you like to mix your caffeinated shot into a frothy latte or foaming cappuccino, or savor the simplicity of the drink’s dark, rich flavor, you have to start by buying the right espresso machine.
Knowing which essential features to look for and how to evaluate your own personal needs will help you make the best selection possible and the following espresso machine buyers guide will help you consider the possibilities.
The National Coffee Association of the USA explains that the grind of the bean and the quality and temperature of the water are the building blocks of the perfect cup of coffee or espresso.
When purchasing beans you have the option of buying pre-ground or whole beans.
While pre-ground beans are more convenient, the flavor is not as fresh as what you get from grinding fresh beans just before brewing (Reference 1).
Many top-of-the-line espresso machines, similar to those made for coffee shops but scaled down for home use, come equipped with built-in grinding functions.
Built-in grinders enable you to start fresh every time, you brew.
Next in importance to a fresh grind is a fresh source of water. Tap water can often contain strong odors and flavors caused by high chlorine or metal content; the National Coffee Association explains that these flavors and odors can alter the quality of your brew and make your drink taste bitter.
To avoid contaminating the flavor of your espresso, look for an espresso machine that contains an onboard water filter.
To maintain freshness, be sure to change the filter as directed by the machine’s manufacturer (Reference 1).
For the perfect espresso, your water must not only be fresh and free from contaminants, but it must also be at the right temperature to draw the optimal amount of flavor from your grounds.
While the temperature range for brewing a good cup of coffee can vary between 135 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, the brewing temperature for espresso is much more precise, explains 1st In Coffee.
The optimal water temperature for brewing espresso is between 190 and 195 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the site.
The drink drops 30 degrees in temperature between the brewer and your cup.
Accessory Features to Consider
Whether you are brewing your espresso or choosing the right brewing machine, personal preferences come into play.
Some of the lifestyle and drinking considerations that go into purchasing a brewer can affect the features you need to look for.
Time for brewing, number of people being served, and the way you like to drink your espresso all play a part in which features you should look for in an espresso machine.
When you are trying to rush out the door in the morning, every moment matters.
Some espresso machines can help make your morning runs more smoothly by allowing you to set up your beans in the built-in grinder, ready for push-button action the minute you reach the kitchen.
Others offer clocks with timers that allow you to set the machine to automatically begin brewing at a specific time.
Another useful, time-saving feature to look for when buying an espresso machine is a self-cleaning function.
Instead of having to take apart your machine in order to properly rinse and dry the various components, machines with self-cleaning features allow you to simply dump out any groups, pour a cleaning solution such as white distilled vinegar into the water basin and activate the self-cleaning function.
Since keeping your machine clean is essential to maintaining functionality and the flavor of your brew, the self-cleaning feature is a nice option.
The number of people wanting an espresso also factors into the equation when purchasing a machine.
The traditional simple espresso machine brews one two ounce cup at a time. While you will not find a machine to brew a large pot of espresso, because the strong brew is not typically enjoyed in large portions, there are machines that allow you to brew two shots at a time.
Specialty drink features on an espresso machine can turn your home kitchen into your own personal coffee shops.
Espresso machines can be purchased with milk steamers which make it easy to heat your milk while you brew your espresso.
Steaming milk rather than boiling it on the stove or heating it in a microwave, allows you to heat the milk without causing it to curdle and separate.
Frothing steamed milk. Froth attachments can also be found on some models.
Steamed and frothed milk can be used to produces an airy foam with your steamed milk, which can then be used to create specialty drinks like a latte or cappuccino.
If all of the fancy features and possible accessories seem like more trouble than they are worth, or if you feel a high tech machine may be above your learning curve, don’t worry, the perfect cup of espresso is still within your reach.
Simple, one cup, one button machines are on the market and are perfect for the buyer who wants a more laid-back approach to brewing their espresso.
Instead of a built-in water filter that has to be changed every few months, you could use bottled water or filtered tap water in a standard machine.
And if you do not want to deal with an onboard grinder, you can either choose a separate grinding machine or sacrifice a little freshness for simplicity and use pre-ground beans.
The simple one cup espresso machines are good options for buyers with limited space as the more feature-filled options take up more counter space.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America works in conjunction with the European Coffee Brewing Center to evaluate and rate home brewing machines.
The most exemplary home brewers are given SCAA Home Brewer Certification.
Certification standards are based on brewing requirement complied throughout a decade of specialty drink industry surveys and brewing research conducted by both organizations.
Certification stands include grinding, heating, and brew pressure and time requirements that are aimed at producing high-quality espresso (Reference 2).
If you seek to purchase the best espresso machine, look for a machine with SCAA Certification.
A good cup of espresso can be an excellent caffeine packed wake up call and specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos can be made at home for a fraction of the cost of in a coffee shop.
So, if you are looking to add an espresso machine to your kitchen or office space, consider the aspects of a quality brew as well as your own personal needs.
To ensure a good pull, you will need fresh grounds, clean water, and the right amount of heat.
Accessories such as a milk steamer and frother as well auto brewing and self-cleaning features and make espresso brewing suitable to your lifestyle and personal preferences.
SCAA Home Brewing Certification is another considering for those looking for the best possible brew.
How to Clean and Maintain your Espresso Machine
Cleaning and maintaining espresso machine are essential and the practices may not be easy as some of us might think.
I never used to consider regular maintenance practices important until I realized that my espresso drinks had a strange flavor.
At first, I thought I was using a poor quality cappuccino, then I purchased another model from a different supplier but the taste of the drink never went away.
It is then that I thought of learning how to clean and maintain the espresso machine and the results were amazing.
I have collected several valuable tips for proper care and maintenance of the typical espresso machines available in the market presently.
Cleaning the machine
I have noted that most espresso machines come with specific manufacturers’ cleaning guide that we should follow.
However, most of the products and procedures applicable in the cleaning process are relatively similar.
I recommend that you use the right cleaning materials and adhere to the right cleaning procedures.
For thorough cleaning, I use vinegar or espresso machine cleaner, dish rag or towel, back-flush agent, a soft brush and a large container.
Before I start cleaning, I turn off and unplug the machine and let it rest for a while as this is the right way to do it.
When it comes to the actual cleaning, you need to start cleaning the exterior with warm water with the dishrag and then proceed to clean the interior.
Back-flushing espresso machine
Back-flushing is essential for every type of espresso machine.
I usually use quality back-flushing agents to get rid of accumulated grind deposits, trapped oils and other compounds that may prevent the valves from creating an impermeable seal.
In most cases, flushing frequency varies depending on the guidelines from the manufacturer and the recommendations from the detergent manufacturers.
However, I usually do it two to three times every week depending on the frequency of use.
Decalcifying the interior of the espresso machine
If your coffee develops a funky taste, it is the right time to decalcify your machine.
I have noted that the taste arises from mineral deposits especially if you are using hard water to prepare the coffee.
For proper decalcification, use the espresso machine cleaner or mix equal amount of white vinegar with equal amount of water and run the solution through the filter basket.
From my experience, you should never use soap solution or common detergents since they often lead to internal corrosion.
Afterward, you should run clean soft water several times to remove the remaining vinegar or espresso cleaner.
Maintaining other parts
You need to soak filter basket, milk wand, shower head and portafilter in warm water regularly.
I discovered that using a dishwasher to clean these parts often leads to corrosion.
I advise you pay attention to the steam hole and the gasket around the head in order to unclog the parts.
If necessary you can use the pipe cleaner to clean the milk wand. Besides, you should not replace the parts until they are completely dry.
In case, you notice some parts are damaged, you might want to engage repair service or follow step-by-step repair or replacement instructions from the manufacturer.
So how do you actually make an Espresso
When I took espresso for the first time, I had no idea how to prepare but a good friend of mine bailed me out.
If you are a beginner wondering where to start, I will take you through a step-by-step guide on how to make an excellent drink.
I believe giving you instructions is just not enough so I would like you to be keen on specific details that I share every step of the way.
Selecting The Right Brewing Variables
I have come to realize that the taste is partly dependent on the quality of water I use.
Impurities, minerals, and nutrients often alter the taste of your espresso in addition to ruining your espresso equipment.
I normally use water test kits and typical water filters to ensure I have quality water for my drink.
From experience, I have learned that espresso requires finer coffee beans particles than most other types even though you can change the grind to derive different tastes.
The amount of coffee also determines the taste of the final drink and I would recommend about twenty grams of coffee for a double shot.
The Right Temperature And Yield
You should make espresso with water about 200o F and the common espresso machines have control features.
I have discovered that water heated to high temperatures result in roast flavors while low temperature derives bright drink with a lighter taste.
While the brewed coffee requires you to consider the amount of coffee and water input, espresso needs you to consider coffee input and drink output.
Fortunately, you cannot go wrong since most of the espresso machines come with instructions on how to create the right espresso density.
The quality of your espresso machine will always determine how easy or fast you make your beverage.
I also advise beginners to have a grinder with adjustable settings for the fine grind that give consistently tasty espresso.
Other components include a filter, tamper, a scale to measure the coffee input and a volumetric glass to collect the beverage.
When I purchase a new espresso machine, I always take the time to read the manufacturers’ information for proper use of every component and I would advise you to do the same.
Fill the reservoir of the machine with quality water that is neither too hard nor too soft.
I need to let you understand that unfiltered water is always associated with bad taste while distilled water might damage the boiler.
Similarly, hard water results in accumulated scale.
Once the water reaches the desired height, let it heat up to the right brewing temperature, which typically takes between fifteen and fifty minutes.
Fix an empty portafilter in group-head and let the espresso machine run for several seconds.
Next, you need to grind the coffee beans until it feels gritty and appears powdery before placing about twenty grams into the portafilter and then rotate it as coffee exits for even distribution in the basket.
When using espresso machine with pre-infusion, I pre-brew the fresh coffee until I see the first few drops exiting from the portafilter.
Afterward, you begin infusion at your desirable predetermined yield and your drink is ready.
Although the procedure may vary slightly depending on the espresso machine you are using, I believe I have provided a helpful guide for a starter.
National Coffee Association: http://www.ncausa.org/About-Coffee/How-to-Brew-Coffee
Specialty Coffee Association of America: http://www.scaa.org/
1st In Coffee: http://www.1stincoffee.com/art-of-making-espresso