Espresso Machines are specialized equipment that aid in passing pressurized hot water near-boiling point through a tight puck of finely ground coffee. The result is a concentrated rich brown drink topped with a yellowish-white foamy layer of ‘Crema’. This drink is called espresso.
Espresso is generally either consumed straight or with milk and/or sugar added. It is also the base for many other beloved espresso-based drinks like cappuccino, latte, mocha, macchiato and there are many more to count.
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Types of Espresso machines
Now that we understand what is espresso, let’s now understand the types of equipment that help us pull that espresso shot.
In a lever espresso machine, human strength is required to extract espresso. These are again sub-divided into two categories – manual and spring-loaded.
In manual, the lever when resting is in a horizontal position. When it is raised, the brew chamber opens and takes the pre-heated water inside to start the process of extraction. The user now has control over the pre-infusion, brewing time, pressure by when they pull down the lever. Even the temperature of the water is under the user’s preference. This is where ‘Pull an espresso shot’ was coined.
Now in a Spring driven mechanism, the lever points to the vertical side in the relaxed position. When we pull the lever down, the spring compresses and the brewing chamber opens up for the hot water to enter. As the spring releases its tension, the lever comes back to the resting position, and water is pushed to extract espresso.
The lever machines allow a user to control each parameter of espresso extraction. Since all things are intervened by human, the chances of error are more here.
These machines are mostly owned by very professional baristas who like to control every aspect of brewing. Few cafes also place those, not for pulling the espresso shot, but for the appeal they bring inside for espresso aficionados.
These machines were introduced in the market to bring affordability and easy maintenance for the home espresso experience. In this machine, water is heated to the boiling point converting it into steam creating pressure that pushes the water to pass through the coffee grounds resulting in espresso.
The drawback here is that in pulling a perfect espresso shot, pressurized water below boiling point is used but in steam-driven, the water used is above boiling point to create steam which often results in over-extraction.
One more drawback is that the pressure that is applied equals around 1-1.5 bars whereas the actual espresso requires at least 9 bars of pressure. So, with a steam-driven, we are compromising budget over quality.
Ultimately, the technology found its way to electronic controls that deliver a consistent shot of espresso. In Pump driven espresso machines, the pressure is created using an electronic pump to move the near-boiling water through the puck of espresso grounds. The pressure created varies is automated through a pump and hence is consistent, resulting in quality shots of espresso.
The new world is mostly run by Pump driven machines. Nearly all the cafes have these and even the home aficionados pick these over steam-driven for their consistency.
The automation of these is again divided into 3 types:
- Semi-Automatic – In these, the passing of water is controlled automatically through the pump mechanism. Grinding the beans, tamping them in the portafilter, and extraction time is still in the control of the user.
- Automatic – Somewhat closer to a semi-automatic, these automatically stop the flow of water after a predefined time. This now results in more consistency since the extraction time is controlled automatically. People are often confused between an automatic and super-automatic considering them the same; but they have differences.
- Super-Automatic – If you are after luxury and don’t want to spend your time grinding, tamping, and pulling the shots, super-automatic are for you. These are the bean-to-cup machines where all the process is automated. The machine grinds, tamps, and pulls the shots to the cup and you are just there to press a button.
Semi-automatics are the most preferred machines since they are a blend of human intervention and automation where the user has some control over pulling a shot.
A pump-driven espresso machine can cost anywhere from $400 to a few thousand dollars differing on the quality of the components used inside.
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Our Favorite Espresso Machines
Espresso Machine Buying Guides
Find an espresso machine from our Buying Guides below. These guides will surely help you in hunting down the best product for your espresso needs.
Espresso Machines by Types
Espresso Machines by Use
Espresso Machines by Brand
We highly suggest using the Descaling Solutions
Espresso machines are a complicated combination of various integral parts that when working together, give you the espresso. It’s wise to maintain them and keep them in good condition so that they serve longer and tastier. For that, only use the recommended Descaling Solutions and don’t experiment with the prone-to-error DIY.
More Espresso Resources
So, the above will help you find the right equipment, the resources below will help you make better espresso at home. It includes a guide to pulling the perfect shot; steaming the milk along and some chunks of informational articles that will aid you to learn more precisely about the Espresso Things!
Read through our easy-to-read reviews about the top-notch espresso machines in the market.