In Search of the Best Espresso Machine

Oct 18, 2017 by

coffee dripping from espresso machine

A lot of coffee lovers love to talk about their dislike of big chains like Starbucks and their undying love for mom and pop shops. This will be sacrilegious to some, but I actually like both kinds of stores. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with Peet’s or Costa Coffee, and I also love the café on my town’s main street and the hole-in-the-wall specialty shop downtown. But beyond all that, my main preference is making my espresso at home with my home espresso machine. Being in control of pulling the shots, frothing the milk, and adding my favorite vanilla syrup is better than just about anything I can pay for at a coffee shop.

It took me a long time to find a good espresso machine. These things can be quite pricey, and I wanted to do my homework so I didn’t end up with a big, clunky mess that I couldn’t figure out how to use. I read a ton of reviews and even tried out a few friends’ espresso makers before deciding on my purchase. Because I found it a tedious process to pick my machine, I thought I would share some of my findings here.

One thing to know is that espresso machines come in two main categories–semi-automatic and super-automatic.

Semi-automatic. Semi-automatic espresso machines take a little more work than the other type. You have to tamp the coffee grounds into the filter and then run the pump. You can choose when to turn the pump off. Picking the right time may come with a little trial and error, but it can be worth it.

Super-automatic. Super-automatic espresso machines work with just the push of a button, and the machine does everything for you. Still, they can be programmed, so you can choose things likes extraction time and how finely you want your beans ground.

My top 5 espresso machines

DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Espresso/Coffee Machine. People who want a super-automatic espresso machine (like my friend Sam) and who don’t have a tight budget love this machine. The DeLonghi Magnifica is small enough to keep on your countertop and memorizes the details of your favorite drink, including your preferred beverage strength.

Gaggia Brera. This espresso machine grinds the beans and immediately tamps them into the filter, so the espresso couldn’t be fresher. It also has a cool pannarello wand for frothing for cappuccinos and lattes.

Mr. Coffee ECMP1000 Café Barista Espresso/Cappuccino. If you’re on a budget, the Mr. Coffee could be a good option. It makes great drinks with minimum effort thanks to its one-touch control panel. Of course there are some tradeoffs based on its low price point, but I love that it’s compact and easy-to-manage.

Nespresso machines. There are several different types of Nespresso machines, but they all have the same basic premise–brewing espresso from a pod. It’s easy, quick, and super consistent, although you are locked into the types of espresso sold by Nespresso. Good stuff.

Breville BES870XL Barista Express–I saved the best for last, as this is the espresso machine I chose to buy. It is on the larger side, but it’s pretty (stainless steel, of course), and it lets me pull great shots. This machine performs well consistently, is durable, and lets me control everything I want to in the brewing process.

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