Espresso is probably one of the most popular caffeinated drinks all over the world, with a thicker consistency that coffee lovers prefer over other blends. Its distinct taste is achieved through a complex brewing process, and is not limited to a specific coffee bean, bean blend, or roast level. Different areas around the world use different roasts, although the brewing method is almost the same everywhere. Because of its popularity and its intense flavor, it has been used as a base for other different beverages, and has also spawned quite a few variations as well.
Because the quality of the espresso relies on the brewing process, your choice of espresso machines is the most important factor in producing a perfect shot. There are different kinds of machines in the market, all aiming to give you the original espresso taste. Depending on your taste though, some kinds would definitely be a better choice than others.
Automatic Espresso Machines
Hearing the word ‘automatic’ alone can tell you how easy this machine is to use. No need to bother with all the other steps like grinding your own beans, or tamping them down. The automatic espresso maker can give you your espresso shot without you breaking a single sweat. But because of the same fact, this machine is also a lot more expensive than other espresso machines, because it does more than what a regular machine can do. The product can be a topic for debate though, as this would depend on the brand of the machine that you use.
Lever / Piston Espresso Machines
These piston-driven espresso machines are actually the original design, and needs a lot of manual work compared to the mechanical machines you often see today. It can be very tiring to use, and would also need some time to get used to, especially since there is no way for you to measure the exact amount of pressure needed every time you pull its lever. Once you have perfected this though, this can actually produce the best espresso shots that you can imagine. It gives you more liberty to adjust the taste according to your preference as well. Most of these machines have a timeless and classic design that some actually use these as interior décor and not actually as espresso machines.
Pump-driven Espresso Machines
Although piston-driven machines make the best espresso, they are very rare and very few actually have them and use them. Because of this, a more convenient version has been developed, which is the pump-driven espresso machine. These machines are actually derived from the original espresso machine, which was driven by a piston. These models are best for people who do not only enjoy their espresso shot, but also enjoy the entire process of making the shot. These are very powerful, and can hit pressure levels that are five times higher than other kinds of espresso machines. There are chances of mineral residue building up and clogging the pump though, so regular maintenance is definitely something that you should pay attention to if you decide to go with these machines.
Steam-driven Espresso Machines
For those who are on a budget, the steam-driven espresso machine is the best choice. But because of the cheap price, you would also have to expect less as far as performance is concerned. These machines do not have the same power that pump driven machines have, so it is unable to reach and maintain the ideal water temperature needed in making a decent batch. It is also unable to generate the right amount of pressure, often leaving you with a bitter taste. Although there may be some brands that are able to fix some of these issues, the outcome is still not at par with the coffee produced by machines that are driven by other methods.
Moka pots are simple stovetop pots, and are definitely the least expensive espresso maker in the market. However, you cannot exactly call it as an espresso ‘machine’ because it does not have mechanical parts. It basically consists of two layers, with water in the bottom half and coffee in the top half. As the pot heats up, the water at the bottom half forces steam towards the coffee on the upper half. This is definitely the simplest process in making espresso. However, you cannot expect the result to be as impressive as mechanical espresso makers, as the pressure usually does not build up enough to produce a decent cup. This sometimes results in the coffee being bitter. There is also no option for milk frothing or for foaming attachments.
Buying an espresso machine is a matter of deciding whether to prioritize quality over budget, or vice versa. Definitely, expecting an excellent espresso shot would also mean spending a lot more. Once you decide to spend more though, you will also find that every penny that you will be spending on a decent espresso machine will all be worth it in the end.