An espresso machine is at the heart of a coffee lover’s brewing process! A “capsule” or “pod” machine just won’t do, although useful when rushing to catch the morning train. There are lots of styles and colourful options available to the consumer, but the vast array of choice makes it tricky to select a great machine.
Well, we cannot select a machine for you, but we can outline a few things we would consider when buying an espresso machine:
- The resulting brewed coffee is more important than how “pretty” the machine looks. Glossy looks are important, but checking what the machine can do is key.
- The brewing pressure is important for good coffee. Most seem to offer 15 bar (which is fine) but watch for this important detail.
- Look for a machine that offers different grind fills. i.e. how much ground coffee will the espresso holder, well, hold. Most machine offer a ‘single’ and a ‘double’ holder (often corresponding to about 7gms and 14gms of coffee respectively.
- Make sure your cup will fit. Yes, really! Some machines will easily take a small cup for an espresso but some won’t take a slightly bigger cup for a lungo. I know because I’ve ‘been there’. BTW, you can read about lungo here.
- The water tank won’t stay full for long! so get a machine where the water tank is easy to access and/or easy to fill. Some are only 1 litre which seems a bit small to us…
- If you like milked coffee, make sure it has a steam wand. Some machines might not have one. Make sure it’s not fiddly to take off and clean. And make sure it comes with a frothing jug, otherwise that’s an extra cost.
- Some machine have a pod adapter (to take e.g. a Nespresso pod). They can work OK but seem clumsy to us and don’t have the convenience of a Nespresso machine (my machine has a holder and it’s not easy to us). If Nespresso is what you like, buy a Nespresso machine. Some machines offer their own pod system or generic ESE pods. This is an espresso machine, so make sure it offers a good espresso experience.
- The handle has to be easy to “knock out” or clean out the used grind. Its better if the coffee holder is retained or locked into the handle in some way, because if the hot coffee holder falls out of the handle into the bin, oh dear….
- Coffee and milk are prepared at different temperatures, so if you will be making lots of different coffees (like at dinner parties), then a “dual-boiler” machine will be good (each boiler being set for coffee or milk). But they are (way) more expensive.
Most makers seem to advise on ways to deal with this (sometimes just instructions to “wait”); I’ve seen one “single-boiler” machine with two separate thermostats which I guess could be useful.
See Amazon’s best-selling espresso machines