With the high cost of visiting a coffeehouse and the growing demand for gourmet coffee, more people are looking into investing in their own espresso machine. A high-quality machine, the priciest of which can run up to $1,000, can last over a decade and bring the fine quality of espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes to your own home. Of course, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg: There are also budget models available for as low as $25. You’ll just have to have an idea of how espresso machines work and what qualities make a model a top performer.
The most basic type of espresso maker is the stovetop variety, which, as its name implies, sits atop the stove and requires no outlets or wires. These are the kind you’re like to see in an Italian restaurant. Stovetop espresso makers are handy because they’re easily portable and you can even bring them on a camping trip.
Steam machines are another form of espresso makers. They work by using steam pressure to push hot water through the coffee grounds. You can find steam espresso makers for low, affordable prices, but they vary in the quality of coffee they produce.
Pump-driven machines produce the finest-quality coffee and therefore cost the most. There are manual pumps which are very hands-on when it comes to controlling the brewing process, and automatic pump models that grind the beans, brew the coffee, and deposit the grounds for you; all you have to do is occasionally empty the bin of used grounds. Falling in the middle are semiautomatic machines, which vary in how much work they do independently.
Ground coffee or pods
Espresso machines also vary in what form of coffee they accept. Some models exclusively require pods, or pre-measured, pre-ground capsules. Pods are convenient because they don’t require you to measure or tamp down the grounds yourself, but be aware that some espresso makers are designed to take only that brand’s pods. You won’t be able to find the product in stores but will have to order them from the manufacturer (and it can be expensive).
Other espresso makers require you to measure, fill, and tamp down the coffee grounds yourself. The process is not difficult but it can take practice to get just the right results. Some machines accept either grounds or pods for ultimate flexibility and control. Ultimately, the cheapest route is to buy coffee beans and grind them yourself.
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For the most variety, we included stovetop, steam, and pump-driven models. Each type of espresso maker has different capabilities and qualities, and by following the proper steps you can enjoy high-quality coffee with any of these models. See the espresso machine comparison and ratings below with a link to the full review of each…. [more]
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