Espresso is a popular drink throughout the world and is the base for numerous coffee drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos. If you like a good cup of espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, latte, or mocha and you are interested in making it at home, there are numerous options available. Depending on your budget, taste, and desires for the type of drinks you want to make, certain home espresso machines/makers will be better than others.
In this article, we list your options and the benefits of each of the home espresso makers and machines in a general overview. Once you know what type of maker or machine you are interested in, you can go to more detailed pages that cover the specific type of maker or machine and some of our recommendations on which ones to buy.
The main things to consider when buying a home espresso maker or machine is the cost, drink preferences, and ease of use.
Home Espresso Machine and Maker Buying Considerations
There are different ways to make espresso. Although the more expensive machines produce better tasting drinks and offer capabilities to make different types of drinks, you can make a good espresso in a simple stove top pot. Espresso machines and makers come in a wide range of prices. You can purchase an inexpensive stovetop espresso maker for as little as $10 or you can go all out and get a fully automatic machine for thousands of dollars. Like anything else you buy, it’s important to look at all of your options and make sure they match your budget.
In our opinion, one of the most important factors in selecting the type of espresso maker or machine is what types of drinks you are looking to make. If you are looking to simply make espresso in a consistent manner and never try different brewing methods, you will may be fine with using a simple stove top espresso maker or a moka. If you are interested in trying different brewing methods to make ristretto or long espresso, then you will want a machine that allows you more control on water flow, coffee amount, and coffee tamp.
Another factor to consider for drink preferences is if you need to steam and foam milk. A good latte or cappuccino has warm milk that should be heated to a particular temperature to make a proper good tasting drink. You do not necessarily need to buy a machine that allows you to heat the milk. You can purchase separate electric milk frother and heater or simply warm the milk using a stove top pot or a microwave. But, if you do want to heat the milk and foam it in a very easy and quick manner, having a heating wand on an espresso machine is what you will want.
Ease of Use
When choosing an espresso maker or machine, you’ll also want to consider how easy it is for you to use. If you are comfortable with anything in the kitchen, then having a machine that allows you complete control on the espresso making process will be the way to go. But, if you want something that is easy to use, you may want to consider either an inexpensive moka. If you want something where you simply push a button for a fresh ground perfectly made espresso, you can get a fully automatic espresso machine.
Options for Home Espresso Machines and Makers
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
A semi-automatic espresso machine allows the user to manually control the amount of water that flows through the coffee and also the amount of time. The length and volume is known as the “pull”. This means that the user can control is the espresso is more dense or lighter. This allows the creation of short espresso (ristretto) or long espresso (lungo) and also more control to match the taste of the user. The automated part of a semi-automatic espresso machine is the heating and pressure of the water. For someone who is looking to try new drinks and adjust the espresso, a semi-automatic espresso machine is the best choice.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine Benefits:
- Consistent water temperature and pressure in an automated process.
- Offer the greatest control of steam and water flow to personalize taste and create a high-quality espresso.
- Allows making of short or long espresso.
- Less expensive then fully automatic espresso machines.
- Many will have a steaming wand for milk.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine Cons:
- Requires more work than a fully automatic espresso machine.
- Will not have a coffee bean grinder.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
Fully automatic espresso machines are completely automatic machines that allow the user to change settings and then push a button to make their espresso. The machine grinds the beans, tamps the coffee, brews the espresso, and ejects the grounds into the storage bin. All you have to do is fill up the water and your choice of beans. Naturally, having all of this automation costs money. But, if you want to be able to wake up in the morning, push a button, and get a perfect cup of espresso with fresh-ground beans, a fully automatic espresso machine will be your preference.
Fully automatic espresso machine benefits:
- Easy to use.
- Foolproof and more consistency.
- Built in grinder for fresh ground beans.
- Numerous programmable settings and controls.
Fully automatic espresso machine cons:
- Less control by the user to fine tune.
- More parts means more things can break. Look for a quality machine.
Manual Espresso Maker
If you are into nostalgia and don’t mind some manual labor to create something, a manual espresso maker may be your style. Manual espresso makers allow the user to control every part of the espresso making process since they will warm the water and push the water through the coffee manually. They are much more difficult to work with and require consistency by the user to make a good cup of espresso.
Manual espresso maker benefits:
- When done correctly, can produce a high-quality and great tasting espresso.
- User has complete control over the process.
- Simple design will allow it to last a long time.
Manual espresso maker cons:
- Difficult to use. Will take time to learn.
- Not as inexpensive as you might expect.
Stovetop Espresso Maker
A stovetop espresso maker is similar to a moka. It is done on a stovetop, operates in a similar fashion, and it is fairly small in size. But, a stovetop espresso maker is designed with a valve on the side or top to control and dispense the brewed espresso. This will create a higher pressure and these often come with an attached steam wand for the milk. These makers can be difficult to use.
Stovetop espresso maker Benefits
- More pressure and better control than a moka.
- Many will have a steam wand for milk.
Stovetop espresso maker Cons:
- Difficult to use.
- Requires a proper grind of coffee. Can’t be too coarse or too fine.
A steam machine uses steam pressure to force water through the coffee grounds and make espresso. These are very basic machines that resemble a real espresso machine, but don’t produce a quality espresso. They are inexpensive, but we would not recommend them because they can’t produce the temperature required.
As you can see, there are numerous options when choosing a home espresso machine or maker. Each has there pros and cons and will vary in cost and ease of use. We’ve kept this article straight-forward so that you can get a basic understanding of the different home espresso machines and makers to choose the correct type for you. Once you’ve made that decision, go to our detailed pages on the various types of home espresso machines and makers so get even more detailed information and our recommendations to help you pinpoint the best machine for you.