July 3, 2007

The Four Basic Types of Espresso Machines

There are essentially four basic types of home espresso makers on the market today. They are all different prices, and all different qualities of espresso. You’ll have to decide what is right for you, and how much you want to spend to get a cup of espresso.

1. Stove Top - Manual
The manual machine can take the form of the Mokka Pot where you need to add your ground espresso, put it on the stove top and let the water boil from the bottom of the pot, up through the grounds into the top of the pot. It won’t give you the extraction of the higher pressure pump-driven makers, but it will give you a decidedly strong cup of espresso. These are the most economical way to get a strong cup of espresso in a quick way… usually for $15 - $60. A good example here is the Bialetti 3 cup Moka Pot.

2. Pump Driven - Manual
The other manual higher pressure maker is similar to the Gaggia Achille maker that has you pumping with a long handle to get the hot water through the grounds at a pressure that will create a crema on your cup of espresso. These are rare machines and they are generally for true afficinatos and cost a lot of money.

3. Semi Automatic Espresso Coffee Machine
The semi-automatic machine takes espresso in the form of ground espresso, ESE Pods, or Nespresso Capsules in and does a lot of work for you. The basic ones, are steam based, and relies on the fact that when you boil water, it expands and the pressure forces the hot water through the coffee to make your espresso. Essentially it’s an updated and electrified Mokka Pot. These machines cost anywhere from $30 - $60. A good example here is the Krups FND111 Allegro Espresso Maker.

The other kind of Semi-Automatic Espresso machine relies on a high pressure pump to extract the wonderful flavors, solids, aromas and oils from the ground coffee actually creating an emulsion to form the crema on top of your cup. The higher pressure makes a big difference in flavor and body of the espresso. There are two levels of units here where the less expensive units require you to start and stop the machine by hitting a button or turning off a switch. These machines cost anywhere from $80 - $800. Good examples here are the Nespresso Esenza C100 (read my review), the Delonghi EC155, the Gaggia 35008 Carezza Espresso Machine and up to the FrancisFrancis! 201032 X1 Trio.

4. Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
These types of machines are wonderful units to have on your counter that can give you drinks at the push of a button. These units start with whole beans and usually grind the coffee, tamp it and then pump hot water through the ground coffee to extract your espresso for you. The more expensive Super Automatics also have the ability to draw milk right from a container and steam it for you right into your cup. These units often work off of one button; the Barista Button and it gives you easy and addictive access to wonderful espresso drinks at your finger tips. These machines can cost anywhere from $500 to $3,500. Good examples of these are: Jura-Capresso 13187 Impressa E8, the DeLonghi ESAM3300 Esclusivo Magnifica, or the Jura-Capresso 13214 Impressa Z5

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Posted by Scott Martin at July 3, 2007 8:19 AM
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