Be Your Own Barista: Effectively Using a Pump-driven Espresso Machine

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For the highest-quality espresso coffee, you’ll most likely want to invest in a pump-driven espresso machine. The taste is noticeably superior to the coffee made by steam machines, with a richer, frothier, less bitter quality. Pump-driven espresso machines can require more practice to master, and they’re bigger, messier, and more expensive. However, they’ll give you the best control over your coffee, producing espresso shots equal to if not superior to the local coffeehouse’s. And in the long run, you’ll find the machines to be more cost-effective than splurging on drinks at Starbucks every morning.

So how do pump-driven espresso machines work? The machinery is quite high-tech but the process essentially follows these steps:

  • A boiler heats up the water in a sealed reservoir tank.
  • The machine then pushes the water through the pre-ground, tightly tamped beans at a specific amount of pressure.
  • The resulting product is a tiny shot, about 1.25 ounces, of highly concentrated coffee topped off with a creamy layer of foam called crema.

If you take the art of making espresso coffee seriously, you will over time discover the best coffee beans to use, the right way to tamp down the grounds, and how to adjust the temperature and pressure of the machine for the best coffee results.

Of course, there are also automatic models that do all the hard work for you: grinding the beans, releasing the correct amount of hot water, and depositing the used grounds in a container for easy disposal. Some automatic machines still give you a degree of control over the bean grinding process and the amount of coffee made. Whether to choose a manual or an automatic pump-driven machine is a matter of personal preference. Know, too, that machines with a grinder will automatically be heavier and take up more space on the counter.

Cleaning up

Newer models have become increasingly easier to clean, but the manual pump-driven machines can become quite messy in the espresso-making process. You are, after all, grinding beans and measuring out and tamping down the grounds into a filter. A drip tray is often necessary to catch any spills or drips, as well. However, models that use pods or capsules cut down on the mess, and some espresso machines come with an automatic cleaning cycle.

Choosing the right espresso maker is a complicated process worthy of a lot of careful consideration, especially if you choose one of the top-of-the-line models. But the satisfaction you’ll get from creating your own special brew of coffee and acting as your own barista with a sleek, gleaming machine will more than make up for the price.

Brittany Rowland Brittany Rowland researches new developments in Appliances, Kitchen and CE products features with a vigor to which few would aspire… but someone has to do it. See more about Brittany

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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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