Instead of running to your local coffee shop or favorite corner café for the perfect cut of espresso, consider making your own at home. If the thought of becoming a kitchen barista has you shaking without any caffeine, think again! There are a wide variety of espresso machines that are geared for home use, from the basic to the same machines used by professionals. However, before you drop a couple of hundred dollars on that top-of-the-line espresso machine, consider your options and needs. Also, if you are experiencing sticker shock from some of the higher-end espresso machines, keep in mind that you are saving a great deal on a daily basis by avoiding high-priced indulgences at coffee shops or cafes.
The first thing you should know before choosing a home espresso machine is that there are several different varieties of machines. Each different type of machine will come with a different price tag and different capabilities. Although the top of the line machine may be nice, it may not necessarily meet your needs. Instead of buying an espresso machine simply because it is deemed the “best,” buy a machine that you can (and will) use on a regular basis. The different types of home espresso machines are:
Pump Espresso: Typically what you will find in a coffee shop, a pump espresso machine is usually made for commercial purposes, but can be used in your home. Be prepared to expand your budget if you are looking to purchase a pump espresso machine since they are typically the priciest of the bunch. Also, pump espresso machines are usually the largest, heaviest, and noisiest of the options, but it produces a fantastic cup of espresso. These machines work by using a pump to keep the water pressure at an appropriate level.
Piston Espresso: If you are looking for a great, low-maintenance espresso machine, consider those that run on a piston or lever system. Instead of a pump to create pressure, these machines use a level that must be maneuvered in order to create steam. Although a piston espresso machine is very quiet, it may require a great deal of arm strength to continually pull on the lever. Furthermore, the piston espresso machine is capable of making a great cup of espresso, but it may take practice to get the hang of the process.
Steam Espresso: Using steam to create pressure to make the espresso, these steam-powered espresso machines are typically the type found in the home. With smaller machines that occupy less space and cost less money, steam espresso machines are quite quick and easy to use. However, keep in mind that the steam produced may not provide the appropriate level of pressure, so the steam level should be constantly maintained.
Moka Pots: Moka Pots are a stovetop method for producing espresso. The process is simple and easy, although the final product may be less than professional. Using a specially designed two-part pot, the steam produced by the water boiling in the bottom of the pot is forced into the top part of the pot, where the coffee is boiling. It requires a great deal less pressure than the other types of home espresso machines, but there is no milk frothing or foaming attachments, so you may have to sacrifice that feature for price and size.
Any one of these different types of home espresso machines will allow you to make a delicious cup of espresso. Your choice should be based upon needs, usability, the overall size of the machine, and of course the price. A high-end espresso machine can run up a bill in the thousands of dollars.