Finding the Perfect Espresso Machine
In today’s world, looking at espresso machines is like car shopping in two substantial ways, price, and mode. Much like car shopping, many people try to convince you that their rig is the best.
There are three styles of traditional espresso machines, automatic and manual machines. While the mocha pot is not considered a conventional espresso maker, it is often considered a good option to dip into the espresso world. A Mocha pot could be equivalent to an old Honda car, it may not be luxurious, but it delivers a solid, consistent product and is reasonably inexpensive. And most people who use and work with them know how the machine works and how to tweak it to maximize performance. Now for those who have yet to learn how this works. A mocha pot is a turbocharged percolator. If that still means nothing to you. There are three main parts the water pot, the basket, and I will call that top part the holding chamber. You put it on the stove, and the pressure from the hot water passes through the basket into the holding chamber. Another option that is an inexpensive espresso machine is the AeroPress. AeroPress is not super expensive and still turns out to be a great product, but it requires a good bit of work and a special filter. There are videos all over showing how it works. The most considerable force you exert to get the espresso. But it is small, so if counter space is precious or you want to take it around, it is a great option.
If your budget is a bit larger, consider the next segment. This would be mid-tier, somewhere between 100-800 dollars. It would be like a cheaper new car or a nicer used car. The target audience here has varying degrees of knowledge. But most of them are more like drivers than drivers plus mechanics. If their espresso machine breaks, it’s back to the factory or the trash heap and off to get a new one. The two most prominent players here are Flair and Breville. The Flair is still hard work but less than the AeroPress. It has a pressure gauge and a lever, so you can be more precise with the pressure you are putting in and can hold a certain psi. The lever allows you not to work as hard as the Aeropress. The downside is that there is no steam wand. The countertop machines here will likely be either two-shot or single-shot options. Without any at-home experience, I am most comfortable recommending De’Longhi, Brevelle Bambino, or the Phillips automated machine. For most people, this is the price point they will fall into, which is great. For the money, these machines do everything you want or need them to do.
Now if you have luxury car money, the world is your oyster. The target audience here is divided into two sectors. One half is the businesses that, much like professional drivers and teams, use the rigs to make money. The second half is an enthusiast. You want this kind of rig because you are particular about what you want. The reason for the car analogy, which is hopefully evident by now, is the parallel between people and price points. For instance, these machines can run anywhere from 700 dollars up. For example, the MSRP for an automatic Eversley is anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000. You can buy the BMW m2 or a Cadillac cts5-v for that money. This should cause us all to pause and ask which would be better, an espresso machine or a fast car. Back to the espresso machine, the other decision point is how involved you or your family want to be in getting your café latte. Do you want the traditional machine, which, like driving the M2, will involve you in perfecting pulling the shot and steaming the milk? Or do you want to be like a Mercedes, where you feel comfortable handing the keys to your family and letting them take off without you?
Now that we have covered the broad categories, which is right for you? But first, let us ask a couple of questions. One, do you want or need one? If yes, what is your budget? For anything under 100 dollars, I would stick with an Aeropress. For that mid-tier price point, I would have a Breville. For that top tier, a La Marzocco machine.
Most home users considering buying one of these machines want to buy a traditional or automated machine because they can make a cappuccino or a latte. Whereas Mocha Pot, Flair, and AeroPress pull shots perfectly well but do not have the option to steam milk, which will count against them if you have a family who sees this as a way to make drinks at home. If you buy one and your family isn’t on board, this may be a chance for them to try espresso straight, and even if they don’t like it, they can appreciate the base of their drinks a bit more. Finally, there may be better ways to save money because of the maintenance and accessories required for a good experience, like the grinder, tamp, portafilters, etc. Going to the coffee shop and supporting baristas who take care of the machines and make great coffee is worth saving the hassle of taking care of the machine yourself.