There are many different ways of enjoying coffee, however right now espresso based drinks are all the rage. Other than the fact that cappuccinos, lattes and the countless other espresso based drinks are absolutely delicious, the reality is that the convenience of home espresso makers has not only added to their popularity but has also made it easier to enjoy those drinks. But selecting one machine that is the best from the huge variety available can be a daunting task indeed.
A systematic approach is needed to find an espresso maker that will serve your needs best. The first and most important factor in this regard is to settle on a budget. Lets face it, if you only have $100 to spend, there is no point in looking at $1000 machines! There are plenty of good quality machines under $500 which will not only pull great shots of espresso but also look good sitting in your kitchen and provide long term service. Here is a summary of a few of our favorite espresso makers that don’t put you in the poorhouse.
Breville BES840XL the Infuser Espresso Machine
The name Breville has become synonymous with quality for a reason, and once more they have proven themselves with the BES840XL Infuser. Unlike most other machines in same price range which just blast the grounds with hot water at high pressure, the infuser first moistens the grounds with low pressure steam of water. This allows the coffee grounds to expand as water makes its way into every little gap in the coffee grinds to squeeze out all the best flavors. The result is a more even extraction and better tasting shot of espresso.
The Breville Infuser is packed with many other features as well. It makes use of a 1600W thermocoil as opposed to the thermoblock heating system employed by many other machines. The two part thermoblock system can potentially leak over time whereas the solid single part thermocoil system has no such problems. Additionally, thermocoil does a much better job of maintaining consistent temperature, within the ideal brewing range of 195 – 200 degrees.
Keeping in mind that steaming temperature is higher than brewing temperature, the Infuser’s automatic purge function spontaneously brings down the temperature of water to the ideal brewing temperature after steaming. This means the shot of espresso is pulled at the best possible water temperature, so taste is not compromised. The 15-bar pressure extracts all the flavors worth drinking into the shot. For those who know everything espresso and want more control over their beverage, there is the option of manual override or they can just go with the pre-set settings.
The Infuser’s water tank is a hefty 61 oz (1.8 L) capacity, so there will be no need to top it off too frequently. The stainless steel steam wand swivels a full circle, so different sized jugs can be accommodated with ease for frothing. A water outlet dedicated to hot water is great for preheating cups or making Americanos. Finally the dry puck feature ensures the removal of surplus water from grounds, so puck can be disposed of easily. All of these features are available for less than $500!
Philips Saeco RI9737/21 Vienna Plus Automatic Espresso Machine
This tastefully designed unit from Philips is available in graphite and silver colors with soft strokes for a cultured look. However, looks aren’t the only thing it has going for it, there are also many great built-in features that are sure to impress even the fussiest espresso drinker.
It has a built-in conical burr grinder with 18 settings and twelve ounce bean holder for the freshest possible cup of coffee. But more than that, its OptiDose feature allows you to select from a range of six to nine grams of beans to grind for your drink. Espresso size options range from one to eight ounces. So accommodating larger doses is not a problem with this little beauty. The pre-brew infusion system prepares the grounds for best possible extraction, while the Pannarello steam wand has the dual function of steaming milk and dispensing hot water for things like tea or hot chocolate. The Saeco uses 15 bar stainless steel pump, and needless to say stainless means this machine is built to last. The water tank has a capacity of 57 ounces, which may not sound very large but considering that a standard espresso is only one ounce, it is sufficient to last the day for an average user without requiring a refill. Its best feature is the removable brew group, which makes clean easy and minimizes scaling from salt deposits.
GAGGIA: The Baby Class Espresso Machine
The Gaggia Baby is a semi-automatic coffee maker with the ability brew commercial quality espressos. It houses a commercial grade portability that measures 58mm fabricated out of chrome-plated brass. This metal combination provides temperature constancy needed to pull an excellent quality shot of espresso in addition to durability. Another feature that gives the Gaggia Baby a commercial machine touch is the use of 3-way solenoid valve that aids in regulating pressure and yielding a drier puck, something not commonly available in home use semi-automatic machines. If there is no time for brewing ground espresso, then the pre-measured, packed, and tamped Easy Serve Espresso pods can just be popped into the. For cappuccino, latte or macchiato lovers who cherish gourmet style coffees, the Turbo frother on the Baby Class allows for easy steaming. The ball joint mount makes it easier to accommodate pitchers of every size, and doubles as hot water dispenser for tea, Americano or hot chocolates. The 60 ounce water tank ensures that there is plenty of water to last the day and a cup warmer maintains the temperature of the shot of espresso without letting it cool down due to cold cups.
The Gaggia Baby is enchased in brushed stainless steel that is not only durable but easy to clean. The control panel is composed of two buttons and twin indicator lights. The upper button allows for manual brewing control while the lower button optimizes temperature for steaming. Power switch is situated at the back of the machine. Additional accessories include coffee scoop, ESE pod basket, single and double filter baskets, and a plastic tamper.