Navigating the available options in the world of home espresso machines can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Functionally speaking, there are a few different basic variations:
Manual/Lever: With these machines, you are the pump. You grind, tamp and control the pressure during the extraction. You also manage the whole steaming process.
Semi-Automatic: Semi-automatics have 15 – 17 BAR pumps involved, which will settle down to about 9 BARs of pressure if your grind/tamp is accurate. You will grind & tamp, then initiate the shot on and off. Steaming is also up to you.
Automatic: Still grinding, tamping and steaming on your own, but you can program these machines to dose out a specific amount of water, so it will automatically end the shot.
Pressurized Portafilters: Automatic and semi-automatic machines can have a variation that includes a pressurized porftafilter. This makes the machine a little bit easier to use because you don’t have to be super particular about your grind and tamp.
Pod-Friendly: Another variation of semi-automatic and automatic machines are those that allow you to use what is basically a ground coffee version of a tea bag. These single serving pods make for easy, mess-free brewing.
Superautomatic: These machines manage the whole grind and tamp process for you, but on most of them you will still be required to steam your milk. Some of them (usually called ‘One Touch’) provide automated frothing and shot extraction into your cup at the touch of the button; others have an automated frothing system that will froth the milk separately and you can pour it into the cup after it’s automatically extracted.
Capsule: Probably the most simple machine in terms of materials and labor, these guys use a proprietary capsule filled with pre-ground coffee and extract it at the touch of a button — no grinding and tamping. Some of them have automatic frothing options.
We asked Gail to talk to us about these different machines, why someone would want to buy a specific type and why perhaps they wouldn’t want to buy it. Hopefully, this video will function as a good primer for learning the basic functional differences and help you as you research which machine best suits your needs.
DIY lovers are all into the idea of using lemon juice or vinegar to descale their machines, but while the latter will leave a nasty residue and we don’t recommend it for that reason, the former just isn’t concentrated enough to do as an effective job in as an efficient manner as a concentrated citric acid solution like Dezcal. This is what we find out from Gail, plus she makes freaky faces and it’s worth watching just for that.
Looking for simplicity and convenience? You might want to try out one of Nespresso’s capsule-based espresso machines that feature an easy touch button interface and a wide array of pre-fabricated espresso capsules for you to choose from.
And this holiday season, Nespresso is offering a $50 Coffee Club credit on all machine purchases of $299 or more made between 11/19/09 and 1/17/10. This awesome rebate is available on machines purchased from any participating retailer, you just need to fill out the form available here.
Over on our new resource website, Brown Bean, we have been working hard on putting up editorial reviews of all kinds of espresso machines. We’ll be eventually expanding the reviews to include other kinds of equipment — grinders, accessories, even coffee — but a big part of us being able to provide a full picture of a machine’s performance is to balance our editorial opinion with user reviews like yours.
If you have a Rancilio Silvia, we’d love it if you could take the time to fill out a review on Brown Bean. You’ll have the opportunity to share your experiences, talk about the pros and cons of the machine and indicate whether or not you recommend it.
We currently have a couple dozen machines listed and reviewed up there, so if you don’t have a Silvia and would like to review your machine, check them out to see if there’s a listing. We’re always adding to it, but if your machine isn’t listed, please email us with the make and model and we’ll promptly list and review it if possible, then let you know when it’s ready for your feedback.
Looking forward to learning more about your thoughts on your equipment!
As we wrote about last week, we just added the Nespresso suite of machines to our inventory and we’ve been having a ton of over-caffeinated fun testing out all the different capsules available. We really haven’t found one we didn’t like yet, and particularly we love the Fortissio Lungo for its rich and full bodied flavor — although the single origin blends are quite lovely as well, specifically we enjoyed the spicy Indriya from India.
We wanted to show folks how easy this machine is to use, as well as demo the really awesome Aeroccino, a stand alone milk steamer or frother that could be a part of anyone’s kitchen setup. It’s silent and makes really excellent frothed milk. Check out the video — Gail shows us the features, makes us an espresso, froths some milk and talks to us about the ins and outs of getting the capsules (which can only be purchased directly from Nespresso).
Looking for a quick, easy and relatively mess-free start to your day? The patented Nespresso capsule espresso machine may be the one for you. Taking all of the guesswork out of making your coffee — something that many of us require before, say, noon — Nespresso provides you with delicious variations of capsules and an easy-to-use system with which to extract them.
The good is all about the different modern designs available from this series (we personally love the ‘cube’ line) as well as its simplified functionality and great tasting espresso. The bad? Well, there’s a lot of waste involved here — every cup produces a used capsule, so if you’re trying to cut down on your non-organic waste, this would not be a good choice. Also, you have to order the capsules directly from Nespresso because they don’t resell them to any retailers — we hear the shipping is fast and efficient, however, which may end up being more convenient for the online shoppers among us. The capsules cost between $.50 and $.70/pop, so keep that in mind when you’re looking at the long term costs of owning this machine.