Espresso is defined as a highly-concentrated coffee beverage and is brewed by forcing either near-boiling water or steam through finely ground coffee beans under high-pressure conditions. Due to the specialized nature of this beverage as well as its widespread popularity,
have become bestselling appliances, built for providing coffeehouse-strength espresso in the comfort of your own home. Rather than heading out to the nearest coffeehouse every day for a caffeinated morning pick-me-up, espresso machines allow coffee drinkers to save money and make espresso to their own finely tuned tastes.
Shopping Tips for Espresso Machines
Most consumer espresso machines fit into one of two categories: steam-driven or pump-operated. Steam-driven espresso machines are typically the most affordable options but are not capable of producing the same levels of pressure and heat that higher-end pump machines offer easily. Pump-driven espresso machines, meanwhile, offer a more authentic espresso taste but are also quite a bit more expensive than their steam-operated counterparts. Deciding which machine is right for you should be based on a number of factors, including price range, flavor preference, and
Popular Espresso Machine Features
- Beverage buttons or strength controls; lets you tell the machine exactly how you want your coffee
- Cup warmer
- Milk frother/steam wand
- Built in coffee grinder. Espresso requires finely ground coffee, so if your machine doesn't come with a grinder, you will have to purchase one separately
- Water filters
- Dual-thermostat systems: assure the heat of your beverage is just right
- Backflushing capability: essentially makes a machine "self-cleaning"
Steam-Driven Espresso Machines
Some hardcore espresso drinkers maintain that steam-driven machines do not actually produce genuine espresso and instead create very strong, dark coffee with something approximating an espresso flavor. The reasoning behind this is that steam-driven machines can only produce about three bars of pressure, while an ideal coffeehouse machine gets somewhere closer to nine bars.
If you are a self-described espresso expert and you want to lay down the extra cash for a higher-pressure system, you should look elsewhere. For buyers who simply want an extra shock of caffeine in the morning or who want to stay on a tight budget, however, a steam-driven espresso machine is an inexpensive alternative. Many
won’t even be able to tell the difference between pump- and steam-produced espresso, making the lower cost option the better one in many cases.
Inexpensive and available in an attractive black design that will match many a kitchen set, the
is a perfect, easy to use, entry-level steam espresso machine. A three-way knob and fixed steam nozzle make it easy to froth milk for cappuccinos, while a safety valve in the coffee pot cap reduces the likelihood of burns or spills. A two-year warranty makes the KRUPS a popular option.
||Mr. Coffee ECM160 4-cup
One of the most popular and affordable espresso machines,
Mr. Coffee’s ECM160
brews between one and four cups of espresso. The machine is also versatile, with a frothing aid perfect for creamy and delicious cappuccinos or lattes.
Another bestselling espresso machine, the
features a handy coffee/steam-selector that allows users to adjust coffee strength to personal taste. Such easy machine customization is perfect for a multi-use household where coffee tastes vary.
Semi-Automatic Pump Espresso Machines
Pump-driven espresso machines create the highly concentrated espresso taste by pumping water from a boiler and forcing it through the coffee grounds. A semi-automatic machine is the more common version of a pump-driven espresso machine and is what you will commonly see in a coffeehouse. The user merely grinds the coffee beans, puts them into the coffee filter, and presses a button. Each machine in this category generally has different quirks or interfaces that can result in a bit of a learning curve, but the
reward is significant
: with these machines, you can create the kind of dark, creamy, and flavorful espresso that, unlike steam-driven machines, garners the endorsement of all espresso aficionados.
Consistently among the top-selling products on the espresso machine market, the
has an affordable price that approaches steam-machine levels but produces 15 bars of pump pressure, enough to create genuine and satisfying espresso drinks for most—if not all—drinkers. Two separate thermostats allow you to control water and steam pressure separately to assure perfect brewing pressure, while a swivel-jet frother turns the machine into a terrific cappuccino and latte machine.
If you like the affordability of the EC155, but want something with a few more features, the
offers a high-performance espresso maker in a budget-conscious package. A patented dual-function filter holder allows for easy coffee making using either coffee pods or grounds, while a self-priming startup tool allows for easier and faster espresso preparation.
Not the most expensive pump-driven espresso machine but certainly no slouch as far as features and performance are concerned, the
boasts a 72-ounce removable water reservoir and a 17.5-bar pressure pump, perfect for brewing authentic and full-bodied espresso. A three-wave solenoid valve allows for almost constant brewing—so you can brew your next espresso shot within moments of the first—and a series of durable and replaceable parts make the Gaggia Classic an appliance almost unrivaled in efficiency and longevity.
||Rancilio Silvia Version 3
If you’ve got a substantial budget to invest in your espresso hobby, the
is a sleek and state-of-the-art semi-automatic pump machine that will meet all of your concentrated coffee needs. The stainless-steel body is built to last, and while there is a proven learning curve to the device, coffee experts everywhere have praised the taste of the Rancilio Silvia espresso shot. A 67-ounce reservoir and a 3.5 minute warm-up time add to the appeal of this high-end machine.
||Breville BES900XL Dual Broiler
The nuances of expensive espresso machines and the coffee they brew may be lost on beginners, but for die-hard espresso drinkers, the
is about as good as it gets. An intuitive LCD display shows things like brew temperature and pressure infusion, while the device’s wealth of programmable settings and temperature controls will make you feel like you’re using something out of a sci-fi movie.
Automatic Pump Espresso Machines
If you want the exquisite espresso taste that an automatic- pump machine affords but don’t want to deal with the learning curve of each individual machine, then you might want to consider an automatic-pump appliance. These types of machines are significantly more expensive than steam-driven or automatic pump-driven machines, but they’re so smart that you won’t even have to push a button to stop your coffee’s brewing.
||Nespresso CitiZ Automatic Espresso Maker and Milk Frother
For the convenience of an automatic espresso machine but the price of a low-end semi-automatic appliance, the
is an ideal purchase. Capable of 19 bars of pressure, this single-serve espresso machine can produce an espresso shot in about 30 seconds, no learning curve required. Once you are ready to clean the device, just press the button again to backflush the system with water and get it ready for its next use.
||Jura-Capresso Impressa S9 One-Touch Automatic Coffee Center
If you’re looking for an all-in-one coffee center that you will never have to replace or supplement, the
Jura-Capresso Impressa S9
might be the perfect choice. By all accounts, this 1250-watt, 18-bar pump is a behemoth, with a 20-ounce thermal milk container, an attached grinder for coffee beans, and four separate beverage buttons that you configure toward your tailored cup of coffee or shot of espresso. It’s a pricey investment, but a wealth of features and a two-year limited warranty do a lot to justify the cost.
Buying Espresso Machines on eBay
Whether you are looking for a steam machine that nicely approximates the taste of espresso, or a full-blown, industry-standard semi-automatic pump machine that churns out coffeehouse quality beverages, eBay is the perfect place to shop for
. Depending on which type of machine you are looking for, your
may be slightly different. If you want something inexpensive and compact that will fit right on your kitchen counter, head to the
Home and Garden
section. If you want a commercial-grade espresso machine and are willing to spend more money, you might have more luck in the
Business and Industrial
category. Wherever you start, you should be able to easily sort by price, power, color, or brand, and with a little bit of research, find the perfect espresso machine within a matter of minutes.
Daily trips to the coffeehouse can get expensive, and while espresso machines are often no slouch in price either, they justify their price tags with terrific and long-lasting performance. Whether you are just beginning to drink coffee for a caffeinated jolt in the mornings before work or are already a passionate
with very particular tastes, there is a perfect espresso machine out there for you, waiting to become a welcome fixture in your kitchen.