Best Espresso Machine Reviews: Under $200, $500 and $1000

Are you sick and tired of dishing out tens at the coffee shop day in and day out? And, how fun is it to wait in line with other cranky on-the-goers who haven’t had their morning cup of Joe? Perhaps, we have an alternative for you!

Make your own cafe-grade espresso in the comfort of your own home with quality, time, and ease on your side. And, to get there, our line-up will give you affordable, stove-top, semi-automatic, and fully automatic options to truly cater to all your needs!

And, if you still need a little help in bringing out the inner barista, our Buying Guide will include tons of info on types of machines, boiler options, and other useful tips to know before you buy.

If there’s no lines in your home for coffee today, expect that there will be after you buy the best espresso machine you can afford!

Best Espresso Machines Under $200

You don’t have to go broke to get a cup of espresso that rivals one from Starbucks. In fact, you don’t even have to spend $200!

Here, we’ve given you the best three options to get brewing in the comfort of your own home with electrical makers and automatic options to old-school and authentic stove-top brewing!

Low cost, low heat, and high expectations will certainly equate with a very satisfied palette!

De'Longhi Espresso and Cappuccino Maker Review

delonghi-espresso-and-cappuccino-makerNot only is the De’Longhi Espresso and Cappuccino Maker one of the best espresso makers for under $200, it costs less than $100! But, it’s far from cheap in quality and features.

The espresso maker is truly unrivaled in its price range for the quality espresso and functional versatility it provides. If you grind your own coffee beans or you use conveniently packaged espresso pods, the De’Longhi can cater to both options with the patented Dual Function Filter Holder.

Two separate thermostats are hard at work ensuring you get the perfect cup of espresso or cappuccino every single time.

To make things even more exciting, it has a Swivel Jet Frother that achieves a perfect frothy whip to truly finish the luxurious touch on your hot cup of deliciousness!

The Self Priming Operation eliminates the tedious waiting-around time period that automatic machines are notorious for. With this feature, you’ll have hot coffee faster than you can get your slippers on!

And, the De’Longhi is made to last. The boiler is stainless steel, the water tank is removable and so easy to clean, and reassembly – well, your lego-playing 2 year old could do it – extremely user-friendly.

Main Benefits:

  • Dual function filter
  • Self Priming Operation
  • Frothing feature
  • Stainless steel boiler
  • Price

Main Drawbacks:

  • Small cups required

Customer Reviews

Many hundreds of happy users have expressed their espresso joys about the De’Longhi Espresso and Cappuccino Maker! They love that the price is truly unmatched for its high quality features that rivals what the pros use.

And, newbies to this side of the coffee pasture find that the De’Longhi is ridiculously easy to use. Everyone has the chance of drawing out their inner barista with this machine.

But, it’s true that only small coffee mugs or espresso cups can fit in the machine. Regular coffee mugs are too large.

Popular Questions (and Answers)

What is the De'Longhi Espresso and Cappuccino Maker's Product Number?

What are the Dimensions of the Espresso Maker?

What is the Pump Pressure of the Espresso Maker?

How Much does the Water Tank Hold?

Can You Brew Espresso and Cappuccino at the Same Time?

De’Longhi Espresso and Cappuccino Maker Features:

  • Cup warmer
  • Removable drip tray
  • Easy to use
  • Easy assembly
  • 8-10 espresso shots

Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker Review

nespresso-pixie-espressoThe nifty and trendy Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker is stamping in a huge impact in the lives of busy espresso addicts! With fast-paced lifestyles as the norm, the Pixie offers everything on-the-go people want from an espresso maker so that no time is lost without that delicious buzz!

And, to start the morning off with a fast bang, the Pixie offers instant enjoyment. The 19-bar pressure espresso maker rapidly heats up within 25 seconds ready and waiting to serve up your bidding.

There’s no grinding and grounding here. The Pixie takes conveniently packaged Nespresso capsules that offer up a huge range of delicious flavors, and you get your first 16 capsules free when you purchase the Pixie! Even better, all capsules are 100 percent recyclable.

You don’t even have to remember to turn it off yourself! The neat automatic shut-off function saves energy by shutting down nine minutes after the last use!

With one-touch buttons, you can have a hot Espresso or cup of Lungo in an instant. You also have the option of fully customizing volumes for each cup, even on-the-go coffee mugs since the folding drip tray can make room for your cafe au lait venti! Mmm…

Main Benefits:

  • Automatic features
  • 19-bar pressure
  • One-touch buttons
  • 25 sec heat-up system
  • Compact

Main Drawbacks:

  • Must use capsules

Customer Reviews

The Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker is the best automatic espresso machine for people with fast-paced lifestyles that want an excellent cup of espresso to start off their day before running out the door!

Hundreds of reviews rave about the machine being super reliable, easy to use, and easy to clean! What more can you ask for?

However, there has been some complaint about having to purchase the borderline expensive capsules. But, each and every review says its more than worth it! Just one sip and you’re sold!

Popular Questions (and Answers)

How Will You Know When to Fill the Water Tank?

Can you Use Reuseable Capsule Pods with the Pixie Espresso Maker?

How do you Use the Pixie to Brew a Custom Volume of Espresso?

How do you Clean the Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker?

Is there a Larger Water Tank for the Pixie Available?

Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker Feautres:

  • Folding drip tray
  • Water indicator lights
  • Back lit
  • Easy to use
  • Fast to use

Bialetti Moka Express Review

bialetti-moka-expressIf you’re looking for an authentic Italian cup of espresso, then there’s no other espresso maker to consider than the Bialetti Moka Express. And, besides getting a traditional cup of espresso, you’re also getting the traditional 8-sided design of the Bialetti.

So, what’s with the shape? The polished, high quality aluminum 8 sides helps to diffuse heat perfectly for drawing out the richest flavors and most intense aromas. And, if strength is your style, then the Moka Express can certainly deliver it!

Unlike bar pressure units, this has the stove-top design where the Bialetti Moka Express gets placed right on the range.

It’s going to take some trial and error to discover the right timing and amount of heat to create a cup that best suits your preferences, but the results are incomparable!

Although the Moka Express holds 6.5 ounces of water, that’s still 3 (2 ounce) cups of rich, silky espresso in less than 5 minutes!

And, it’s not going to cost you a fortune to have a brand name moka and espresso machine in your home! In fact, it’s less than $100, and its the affordability factor that makes it a hit with many espresso addicts just like yourself.

Main Benefits:

  • Aluminum
  • Steam design
  • Easy to use
  • Quality results
  • Price

Main Drawbacks:

  • Requires trial and error

Customer Reviews

Thousands of users are more than ecstatic with the luxurious and velvety results of using the Bialetti Moka Express. And, those looking for a small taste of Italy have found it with the Moka Express.

The fewer moving parts, the ability to make repeated batches, and also to become a master at brewing up the perfect espresso is more than attractive to users, it’s romantic!

But, not so romantic is the fact that you do have to be willing to ride the learning curves in using a stove-top espresso unit. However, once you’ve mastered it, you’ll have a new skill to brag about!

Popular Questions (and Answers)

How do you use the Bialetti Moka Express?

Can you Overheat or Burn the Espresso in a Stove-top Maker?

Are There Other Available Cup Sizes?

Are There Other Available Colors of the Moka Express?

What is Moka?

Bialetti Moka Express Features:

  • No electrical components
  • Easy to clean
  • Very affordable
  • Various colors
  • Various cup sizes

Best Espresso Machines Under $500

If your budget allows for a little bit of a splurge on your new and exciting espresso machine buy, then you need to check out our line-up of the best espresso makers we put together just for you coffee connoisseurs!

Cafe quality, cafe chic, and mastering the art of latte and espresso-making is everything $500 can buy you! Whether you’re a beginner or a professional barista, get ready to be impressed!

Breville Espresso Machine Review

breville-espresso-machineThis isn’t just your ordinary Breville appliance – this is the Breville Espresso Machine – the 15-Bar Triple-Priming Die-Cast espresso maker! Expect nothing less than perfection!

It’s compact, cutting-edge, and functional for producing the perfect espresso or a deluxe latte. And, it starts with its build…

The die cast steel is amazingly more durable than stainless steel so it can endure the extremely high heat needed to ensure your cup of espresso reaches optimal temperatures to fully extract everything your grinds have to offer!

And, this is all thanks to the dual wall filters, triple prime pump, and the Thermal Block System that maintains a high 204 degrees!

And, no inch of the Breville is lost to wasted space. The top platform on the espresso maker is a cup warming tray and the lower compartment houses a removable 75 ounce water tank that can provide up to 50 shots of espresso! That’s more than enough for even the most greediest espresso hogs in the house!

Speaking of those hogs, it’s large enough to use your favorite, wide-mouthed mugs to ensure you get your fair share. With this Breville, you can have cafe quality espresso from the comfort of your own home.

Main Benefits:

  • Triple Prime Pump
  • Thermal Block System
  • Dual wall filters
  • Swivel wand and frother
  • 75 ounce tank

Main Drawbacks:

  • Lacks auto features

Customer Reviews

Overall, the Breville Espresso Machine does fairly well with its buyers. It’s easy to use, it looks beautiful, the frothing wand rotates in a 360 degree angle, and you never have to worry about burnt espresso shots!

However, it seems the lack of an automatic shut-off and auto-stop feature to preset your desired amount of espresso earns major thumbs down with the users. But, with proper use, it’ll last you a very long time!

Popular Questions (and Answers)

What are the Settings on the Dial of the Breville?

Is the Drip Tray Removable?

Is the Breville Espresso Machine Loud?

What are the Product Number Details of this Breville?

Is this a Single or Double Shot Espresso Machine?

Can the Breville 800 Espresso Machine Stand up to Commercial Use?

Breville Espresso Machine Features:

  • Easy to use
  • 4.5″ cup clearance
  • Hidden compartment
  • Warming tray
  • 15-bar Italian pump

Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine Review

gaggia-classic-espresso-machineThe Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine is your user-friendly, at-home espresso machine that requires nothing more than flipping the switch and enjoying your freshly brewed, hot, and frothy cup of espresso.

While the 72 ounce water tank is removable via removing the front part of the machine, it’s much more convenient to fill from the top. No more lugging in and out – the less moving parts the better!

The Gaggia has also been factory-set to 17.5 bar, but you can also adjust it to as a low as 9 bar to really rival those cafe-quality espressos. And, the regulator is made out of brass so it’s going to withstand high temperatures and endure a long life of making sure you get an excellent cup every single time!

The brass 3-way solenoid valve ensures that your puck is nice and dry for easy dispensing after use – no more wet or moist grinds means no more mess!

And, if you’re after a double shot of espresso to start your day off on the right side of the bed, then you’ll have it! The portafilter includes two stainless steel baskets – one for single shot and the other for double shot!

Main Benefits:

  • 17.5 bar
  • 72 oz tank
  • Top refillable
  • Brass components
  • Stainless steel

Main Drawbacks:

  • Questionable build quality

Customer Reviews

There’s much to brag about when it comes to the Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine, and reviewers are brimming with praises!

But, the main points of agreement is how its ease of use belies the outstanding espresso made right from the get go! It’s easy enough for a beginner and high quality enough for a barista!

However, the plastic components such as the drip tray seems to take on damage quite easily due to its flimsy and inferior build. Users say that it doesn’t match the rest of the quality build of the Gaggia.

Popular Questions (and Answers)

Can You Make Two Separate Cups of Espresso at One Time?

How Fast is the Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine at Making Espresso?

Can the Swivel Wand be Lifted to Prevent Spilling when Removing the Pitcher?

What is the Cup Clearance of the Gaggia Classic?

Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine Features:

  • Make two cups simultaneously
  • Commercial grade quality
  • Includes 7 gram measuring scoop
  • Compatible with pods
  • Easy to clean

Breville Infuser Espresso Machine Review

breville-infuser-espresso-machineThe Breville Infuser Espresso Machine is all about quality and perfection, and it does it well right from the start. It’s not just named the Infuser for nothing…

For achieving the best flavors and aroma consistencies, it starts with exposing the grinds to low and steady pressure to expand them for even, full, and optimal extraction – welcome to the pre-infusion method.

To further provide that quality cup of Joe that you’re seeking, the 1600W thermocoil heating system uses a PID (proportional–integral–derivative) technology to consistency provide “on-demand” hot water any time the mood strikes you!

And, the fancy gadgets don’t stop here. The display also features a built-in pressure gauge so that you can always be aware of over or under extraction. No more burnt and weak shots!

The dry puck feature is a welcome bonus to those who find messes and moist grounds tedious to deal with, and the 61 ounce water tank is both removable and top fillable to make life just that little bit easier!

And, if automatic features sound delicious to you, then you’ll appreciate the 3-setting system where you can use preset shot volumes, manually override and set your own, or customize and set them according to your preferences! Easy!

Main Benefits:

  • Auto purge
  • Volume control settings
  • Top fillable tank
  • Pressure gauge
  • Dry puck feature

Main Drawbacks:

  • Prone to moving
  • Tool tray location

Customer Reviews

This Breville Infuser Espresso Machine is by far the best home espresso machine that you can find on the market if you’re looking for quality, user-ease, and versatile features.

Reviews revealed its users love that that it’s ready to use in an instant!

But, the hidden tool compartment does get wet from the water and steam purging outlet, and because the machine is lightweight, it can be prone to moving out of place when securing the portafilter.

But, other than those couple complaints, users say they’d buy it again!

Popular Questions (and Answers)

Is there a Warranty that comes with the Breville Infuser Espresso Machine?

What is the Length of the Power Cord?

How Long Does it Take for the Steam Wand to be Ready for Frothing Milk?

What Extra Accessories come with the Breville Infuser Espresso?

How Tall of a Cup can Fit in the Espresso Machine?

Breville Infuser Espresso Machine Features:

  • Hidden tool compartment
  • 4″ cup clearance
  • Includes 16 oz jug
  • Fast to use
  • Clean Me alert drip tray

Best Espresso Machines Under $1000

When you’re out to make the best espresso, then you’re out to spend some good money! And, if you’re wondering where to start, we’ve done the leg work and provided a line-up of the best 3 espresso machines under $1000!

Expect nothing but the best in espresso grinds, extraction, and quality! That’s right! The best espresso machines should be able to do it all!

De'Longhi Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso Machine Review

delonghi-magnifica-super-automatic-espresso-machineIf you’re spending over $500 for the best home espresso machine, then versatility and quality results is the name of the brew. And, with the De’Longhi Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso Machine, you won’t be disappointed!

It’s not just an espresso maker, it’s also a coffee grinder too! The built-in conical burr grinder will take care of the dirty work!

And, if you’re all about wanting your machine to know exactly what you want, all settings are customizable, and Magnifica will remember your strength preferences, volume, and much more!

You know, Magnifica has been known as the “Coffee Mistress” on more than one occasion…

So, if you’re ready to delve into an affair with your new kitchen appliance, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s no waiting in between sessions. Magnifica keeps things hot and steamy every second its turned on with the Rapid Cappuccino System to allow brewing cup after cup instantly!

And, if you’re after a change from “the usual” and you want to spice things up, perhaps a dark and handsome tall order, the spigot is adjustable so you can use cups of all shapes and sizes.

There’s never any need to limit yourself to one kinda type here. Why not have them all?

Main Benefits:

  • Space saving
  • Conical burr grinder
  • Customizable settings
  • Rapid Cappuccino System
  • Adjustable spigot

Main Drawbacks:

  • Quality control

Customer Reviews

The De’Longhi Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso Machine certainly impresses and struts its stuff in the kitchen. And, once you’ve tasted the fruits of its skills, you’ll be hooked!

Users love the simple operation, and that it basically takes care of itself. With just a touch of a button, you can have your perfect cup made for you without waiting in line at the local coffee shop.

But, it does seem that it’s prone to glitches and breaking down requiring the need for servicing which can be tedious for coffee lovers.

Popular Questions (and Answers)

Does the De'Longhi Magnifica Make Regular Coffee Too?

Does the Super-Automatic Espresso Machine Tamp Automatically?

Can the Grinder Handle Oily Coffee Beans?

Does the De'Longhi Magnifica Super-Automatic Machine have a Filter System?

Can the Espresso Machine Shut Down Automatically?

De’Longhi Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso Machine Features:

  • Instant reheat
  • Cup warming tray
  • Self-cleaning
  • 60 oz tank
  • 7.10 oz bean hopper

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine Review

rancilio-silvia-espresso-machineIf you’re a sap for traditional and automatic combinations, then the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine is going to have you hooked around its little finger.

While still featuring automatic features for hot water, steam, and espresso options, it’s still traditional enough to allow for your own coffee-making skills to shine through. Grind your own beans and let Silvia do the rest.

Silvia has an iron frame with stainless steel panels for a modern and contemporary look. It also features Rancilio’s ever-coveted commercial grade group head for optimal heat stability and premium quality extraction that matches their commercial grade espresso machines!

And, the their patented porta filter has a wide 58 mm size to ensure maximum extraction is achieved. Again, these are the same porta filters that are used on Rancilio commercial machines that are sure to stand up for home use.

The 12 ounce boiler is made out of chrome plated brass that has powerful steaming power and a fast recovery time between pulling shots.

And, if you’re into creating elegant latte art, the stainless steel steam wand can be completely controlled to achieve the perfect steam consistency for a clean canvas for your beautiful creations.

Main Benefits:

  • Ergonomic porta filter handle
  • Commercial grade group head
  • Commercial grade porta filters
  • Iron frame
  • Stainless steel

Main Drawbacks:

  • Quality control issues

Customer Reviews

The Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine is a very popular option for many espresso lovers looking to spend between the $500-$700 range.

And, if you end up being entangled in the seductive snares of Silvia, users say you’ll love the commercial upgrades that allow them to brew and froth like a pro!

However, while Rancilio brags that this machine should last you eons, it seems components, other than the brass boiler, are likely to bust, explode, or go kaput on you within the 1-2 year range.

Popular Questions (and Answers)

Where is the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine Made?

What are the Plastic Components that make Contact with the Coffee?

Is the Rancilio Silvia E.S.E. Pod Compatible?

How Much does the Siliva Machine Weigh?

Is this a Commercial Grade Espresso Machine?

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine Features:

  • 67 oz water tank
  • Ergonomic water tank handle
  • BPA-free
  • Brass boiler
  • Easy to use

Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine Review

breville-barista-express-espresso-machineThe Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine is an artistic masterpiece in itself! So, if you’re looking for the perfect coffee grinder and espresso maker in one, look no longer!

This Breville Barista is perfectly suited for the avid beginner as well as for the experienced barista! The hopper holds up to half a pound of beans for an exquisite espresso grind in less than a minute!

And, don’t worry about spooning out the right amount because the Express Espresso Machine will do it for you! Simply push a button and it will disperse as much grinds as you want to suit your strength and taste preferences.

With the pre-brew function and flat shower head, your grinds will be evenly saturated for maximum flavor and oil extraction. The Thermocoil Heating System will maintain optimal water temperatures for serving up cup after cup of delicate goodness to truly explore the art of espressos.

On top of that, the Auto Purge System will rapidly adjust temperatures after steaming to ensure no delays on your next cup!

And, if it’s in need for a clean, the Breville will conveniently alert you with its Clean Me light system. There’s really nothing left for you to do except enjoy!

Main Benefits:

  • Thermocoil Heating System
  • Auto Purge System
  • Flat Shower Head
  • Conical burr grinder
  • Half pound hopper

Main Drawbacks:

  • Uses a lot of water

Customer Reviews

When it comes to the ease of use and the quality of espresso that the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine pumps out, there’s none that can do it better! It’s truly a well-functioning machine that’s worth every cent!

But, there are some complaints that the water tank needs to be refilled often. If you’re complaining about this, you might want to rethink how healthy your espresso addiction is… just a suggestion.

Other than that, the Barista Express lives up to its name and its cost!

Popular Questions (and Answers)

Does the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine have Variable Grind Sizes?

How Long does it take to Heat up when Turned On?

What is the Boiler Made out of?

What is the Temperature Range of Brewing on the Breville Espresso Machine?

Can Pods be Used on the Breville Espresso?

Does the Breville Automatically Stop Dispensing?

Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine Features:

  • 15-bar Italian pump
  • 67 oz water tank
  • Newer model of BES860XL
  • Hands-free grinding cradle
  • Volume control

Which is the Best Espresso Machine For You?

Every true espresso lover is picky and a real snob at heart – no shame in that! And, the good news is, our best recommendations have come from other hard-core critics like yourself who have put these machines head to head against each other.

So, if you’re ready to put your money where your mouth is, your taste buds are going to be tantalized!

Under $200

The best espresso machine under $200 is definitely the cute and nifty Nespresso Pixie Espresso! Yes, you do have to buy the pods/capsules, but if you’re all about “money is time” and you don’t want to compromise on high quality espressos with delectable flavors and aromas, then the Pixie is your take-home buy today!

Under $500

For less than one month’s worth of rent or mortgage payments, you can have a long-term supply of exquisitely-made espressos with the Breville Infuser Espresso Machine! You’ll also save money by getting it from the comfort of your own kitchen.

While $500 might be a lot, there’s no price on a heavenly-made cup of espresso that you didn’t have to dish out $10 for!

Under $1000

Breville takes the spot light again with its Barista Express Espresso Machine! Made to grind, extract, and satisfy, its semi-automatic functions can get it done in a jiffy! When it can intuitively control volume, grind dispersion, and evenly pre-infuse grinds, you know it’s got it all!

Our Pick

Surprise, surprise! We’ve picked the best automatic espresso machine that trumps all, and the honor goes to the De’Longhi Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso Machine for its super automatic features and the awesome adjustable spigot!

While it has a hefty price tag attached to it, its quality and functions are well worth double the cost! So, it gets our top pick for being cost-effective, functional, and versatile! Oh yeah, the espresso is as avant garde as ever!

Espresso Machine Buying Guide

Espresso coffee dripping into a white mug.

Espresso Finesse: What is Espresso?

Coffee lovers will all agree that espresso is the finest coffee drink in the world. It takes a fine grind to make a fine brew.

And, all the elements involved in making espresso starts first with the coffee bean. How fresh and oily they are, how fine and consistently uniform you grind them, and then how you brew them.

In fact, Italy, the home of espresso, has set the standard for espresso-making from traditional stove top forms to super automatic machines of the modern day. And, the Motherland has taught the rest of the world how to perfect espresso.

To make an unmatched and truly delectable, perfectly-made cup of espresso means bringing into harmony the elements of grinding and the grounds themselves, using the right water temperature, using the ideal pressure for extraction, and of course, the right amount of time. If any of those elements are thrown off during the process, you might end up with a less than perfect cup.

Espresso is the finest coffee because it’s picky about getting all those elements into harmony with each other. A picky brew for a picky coffee-obsessed crowd – the match couldn’t be more fitting!

What is Crema?

The extraction process of making espresso requires high pressure to extract maximum flavors and aromas, and all that good stuff is captured in the crema.

The crema occurs naturally because of the pressurized extraction process, and it’s that beautiful and delicate layer of foam that sits on top of the finished espresso. If it’s thin and light, you may want to get to a little more practice. But, if it’s thick, foamy, and even dark, you have the essences of the full flavor profile and different elements of the coffee bean at your very lips.

The crema is an emulsion of coffee, air, gases, and water, and it’s one of the most vital elements in perfecting espresso-making. It’s what allows you to enjoy the full body, aroma, and flavor of espresso. A great and valuable espresso machine will help you to achieve a perfect, full-bodied crema because without it, it would be nothing but regular coffee.

Types of Espresso Machines

Purchasing an espresso machine can be extremely intimidating, especially when you don’t have the luxury of having a $2000-$3000 budget for one! So, since those fancy and extraordinary machines are out of the equation, we’ll focus on the ones under $1000 to ensure you still get your money’s worth and a fine cup of espresso too!

Manual

These are often known as lever espresso machines, and they’re about as hands-on as you can get. While they put the romance into the art of making espresso, they can be extremely difficult to deal with as they can ruin your cup like no other machine has the power to do. But, with that being said, they can also produce the finest espresso that is incomparable to any other espresso machine around.

There are two types of manual lever espresso machines and they are Spring Piston Lever Machines and Direct Lever Machines.

Semi-Automatic

Requiring less hands-on work are the semi-automatic espresso machines. They integrate automated components such as a pump, boiler temperature controls, and activation switches to control the pump. The semi-automatic function allows you to decide when you want to engage and disengage from the pump giving you some control.

Fully Automatic

Also known as just “automatic espresso machines”, these combine the same automated elements as a semi-automatic machine, but they go one step further. They also include a frequently programmable preset water volume selection so that you don’t have to babysit the process.

Super Automatic

Do you want your espresso with a touch of a button? Voila! Super automatic espresso machines do just that. Everything is done automatically by the machine. It grinds, doses for shots, tamps, brews, and some can even eject the puck for you! If you want hands off, this is it.

Stove-Top

Stove-top machines build pressure using steam. And, while they’re commonly known for brewing a very strong cup of coffee known as Moka, they’re more difficult to use to achieve a true espresso. But, because they’re so affordable, they’re popular options for those looking to enjoy espresso while spending minimally.

Manual vs Automatic Espresso Machines

A lot comes into play when carefully treading the manual vs automatic espresso machine debate. Here are few things to think about before deciding on either version.

  • Skill level – are you a beginner or expert at espresso-making?
  • Grinding – do you grind your own beans or do you use pods or pre-ground grinds?
  • Labor – are you willing to put in the effort of preparing coffee beans and brewing each time you want a cup?
  • Convenience – how fast do you want your espresso? How much “tending” the machine are you willing to do?
  • Time – is your lifestyle a busy and fast-paced one?
  • Cups – how much do you plan on making and drinking? Can your machine cater to the intended capacity that you need?

Benefits & Drawbacks of Manual Machines:

  • Excellent quality espresso
  • Nostalgic and romatic
  • Able to perfect barista espresso-making skills
  • Allows for full control over espresso-making
  • Requires attention throughout the entire process
  • Must grind your own beans or purchase pre-ground
  • More elements involved

Benefits & Drawbacks of Automatic Machines:

  • Fast and easy to use
  • Convenient and time-saving
  • Automatically controls process
  • Leave and forget-it
  • Expensive
  • Leaves little room for user control
  • More parts prone to glitches and breaking down

If you have the luxury of being your very own barista from bean to espresso, from start to finish, then the manual espresso machine would be an excellent option and a money-saver too!

But, if your life demands that every second is spent multi-tasking, the better option for you would be somewhere in the automatic espresso machine market.

Boilers 101

Boilers are used in the automatic machine department, and there’s typically three sub-classes of boilers to know about when setting your budget and deciding on what features matter the most to you.

Single Dual Use Boilers

These machines use a single boiler and two thermostats to reach and maintain high temperatures. These are the most common types of boilers under the $1000 price range. At the switch of a button, one thermostat will control water temperatures for brewing the espresso. The other thermostat will maintain high temperatures to produce steam for steaming milk. You can’t do make espresso and steam milk simultaneously.

Single Boilers with Heat Exchange

These boilers are seen within the $1000-$2000 price range. The boiler maintains a high temperature of around 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Water from the tank travels through the heat exchanger which is typically a coiled tube to reach ideal brewing temperatures. Through this method, it’s possible to steam and brew simultaneously.

Dual Boiler

These machines will cost you well into the $2000 price range, and they feature two separate boilers – one for brewing and one for steaming. Sometimes, an independent boiler and a Thermoblock is used. These are the best for steaming and brewing simultaneously.

However, there is a drawback with dualies. Most American standard 110V, 15 amp wall sockets can’t handle the power required to run these beauties based on European specs. But, the market is developing changes to cater to the American market.

Tip
If you’re going to spend the big bucks, look for a machine with an option to connect an in-line water system. This will be an especially handy feature if you plan on producing several cups a day or you want the availability of espresso 24 hours a day!

Pre-infusion and Why it Matters!

Pre-infusion is another vital element in producing the best espresso because it’s another make-it-or-break-it aspect.

Pre-infusion is the introduction of low pressure water before brewing to fully saturate the grounds. This allows for expansion for full extraction of oils, flavors, and aromas to get the most out of every grind.

And, a lot of elements come into play in the pre-infusion method – your grind, how fresh it is, how long, type of filter basket, the works! So, there’s going to be some trial and error no matter what type of espresso machine you use.

The best machines for controlling pre-infusion are the manual or lever machines. It also gives you more control after the initial introduction of water when you need to start brewing.

Some automatic espresso machines also offer a pre-infusion feature. You’ll want to carefully read the details of the machine’s method since it has such a huge impact on your final cup.

Stay Away From the Hype

There are some fancy-sounding features that can end up doing more damage on your cup of espresso instead of enhancing it like they claim. We like to say they’re “all talk and no walk”. Here’s some features to be aware of.

Crema Enhancers

Crema enhancers or crema aiders are features on machines that actually end up destroying your espresso. Avoid them. However, some machines with these features don’t need to be thrown out in the trash if they offer non-pressurized filter baskets. You can still get a great shot from these.

Steam Buttons

To clarify, we’re not talking about steam buttons that puts the espresso machine into steam mode. In fact, we’re talking about buttons or switches versus knobs to activate steam.

The switches give you an all-or-nothing trade – either full power steam or nothing. This gives you no control over the amount of steam you’re putting into your jug of milk.

On the other hand, the knobs allow for more steaming finesse. You can control as little or as much steam as you want to get the perfect microfoam.

Avoid buttons to activate steam like the plague!

High Bar Pressures

While upwards of 15-bar sounds extremely powerful, the truth is, only 9-bar pressure is needed to achieve the perfect espresso.

Besides, most espresso machines over $200 have a vibratory pump that can achieve 9-bar pressure in the machine’s grouphead. And, machines touting ridiculously high bar pressures can’t reach those levels anyway because of overflow valves and restrictors to reduce pressure down to 9-bar.

Bottom line? Don’t pay more for a high pressure machine that can’t reach those levels. Anything above 9-bar is hype.

Serve and Impress!

Yes, there’s a lot involved in making an excellent cup of espresso. And, although we dare say the manual machines are the best around to get the best buy and quality, it’s impossible to deny the convenience benefits of automatic machines.

But, no matter your choice, you can master the art of espresso-making by bringing into harmony all the elements involved… you might just be impressed by your ability to serve up outstanding, high quality, and cafe-grade espresso!

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