If you're a lover of great coffee and thinking about becoming your own barista at home, you've come to the right place. In this guide, we'll walk you through the process of choosing and buying the perfect espresso machine for your needs.
A good espresso machine is an investment that can significantly improve your coffee experience. With the right machine, you can enjoy a perfect espresso ,cappuccino or latte , all in the comfort of your own home. But with so many options on the market, choosing the right machine can seem overwhelming.
In this article, we will provide you with valuable tips and insights to help you make the right decision. We discuss the different types of espresso machines , their features and specifications, and what to look for when shopping. Whether you're a beginner looking for a simple and affordable machine, or an experienced coffee enthusiast looking for advanced features, we've got the information you need.
Which type of espresso machine?
When buying your first espresso machine, one of the most important decisions to make is the type of machine that best suits your needs. There are several options available, each with their own unique features and benefits. Let's take a look at the two most popular types of espresso machines:
Fully automatic espresso machines
If you are looking for ease of use and convenience, a fully automatic espresso machine may be the best choice for you. These machines grind the coffee beans, brew the espresso and even froth milk if you want. With just a push of a button you can enjoy a delicious cup of coffee. A fully automatic machine is especially ideal for people who do not want to spend a lot of time making coffee, but still want to enjoy a professional quality espresso.
For a list of the best fully automatic espresso machines in 2023 , I recommend reading this earlier blog post about it. There you will find detailed information and recommendations to help you make your choice.
Semi-automatic espresso machines
If you want more control over the brewing process and are willing to invest a little more time and effort, a semi-automatic espresso machine might be the right choice for you. These machines require manual operation to grind the coffee, tamp the ground coffee, and start and stop the extraction process. However, with a little practice, you can prepare the perfect espresso to your taste. Do you want to know what this exercise entails? Then I would like to refer you to our step-by-step plan for making a perfect espresso with a semi-automatic espresso machine .
Also Read: Top 5 Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
When buying your first espresso machine, it is important to consider your budget. Espresso machines can vary greatly in price depending on the type, features and quality of the machine. Here are some points to consider when determining your budget:
If you're new to the world of espresso machines and aren't sure if you'll be using them much, it might be wise to start with a budget-friendly option. There are many entry-level models available that can produce reasonable espresso without breaking the bank. These machines are usually easy to use and have basic features to meet your coffee needs. These machines are priced up to about 1000 euros, for example a Sage espresso machine.
If you already have some experience brewing espresso and are willing to invest a little more, you should consider getting a mid-range espresso machine. These machines usually offer more advanced features and can produce better quality espresso. They also often have a more robust construction, which can contribute to long-term durability. These machines are priced from around 1200 to 2000 euros.
For those who are serious about coffee and looking for the ultimate coffee experience, high-end espresso machines are available. These machines offer advanced features such as programmable settings, temperature control and pressure profiles. They can require a significant investment, but provide excellent long-term performance and durability. These machines are priced from around 2000 euros and much higher. The La Marzocco Linea Mini is a machine that we can recommend from our own experience!
It is important to align your budget with your expectations and needs. Think about how often you plan to use the machine, which features are essential to you and how much you are willing to invest.
When choosing an espresso machine, the boiler type is an important factor to consider. The water heater plays a vital role in heating the water for brewing espresso. Here are the two most common boiler types you will encounter:
A single boiler espresso machine, also known as a single boiler/single heat exchanger (SB/SHX) machine, has one boiler that is used both to heat water for brewing coffee and to steam milk. These machines have a switch to toggle between the two functions. While single boiler machines can be a cost-effective option, they often have limitations when it comes to brewing espresso and steaming milk at the same time. It may take some time to switch between the two temperatures, which can slow down the workflow.
Dual water heater
Dual boiler espresso machines, as the name implies, have two separate boilers: one for brewing espresso and one for steaming milk. These machines offer the possibility to simultaneously make espresso and froth milk without having to wait for temperature fluctuations. With separate boilers for each function, most espresso machines allow you to control the temperature of each boiler separately, giving you more control over the brewing process and the quality of the espresso.
The choice between a single boiler and a dual boiler depends on your personal needs and preferences. If you mainly drink espresso and occasionally froth milk, a single boiler machine may be sufficient. However, if you want to make milky drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes on a regular basis, a dual boiler machine may be the best option for consistent quality and an efficient workflow.
When selecting an espresso machine, user-friendliness is an important factor to consider. Having a machine that is easy to operate and maintain can greatly improve your coffee-making experience.
An easy-to-use espresso machine should have intuitive controls, such as clear buttons and levers or a touchscreen interface. It should be easy to adjust the desired settings, such as the grind size (in the case of a built-in coffee grinder), the amount of coffee and the temperature. A clear and understandable operating system makes espresso brewing an effortless experience, even for beginners.
Some espresso machines are equipped with useful features that help you make consistently good coffee. These features may include a built-in coffee grinder, temperature control, a shot timer, extraction volume control, or automatic milk frothing. Such features make brewing coffee easier and reduce the chance of mistakes, even if you are not an experienced barista.
But watch out; these functions are certainly not necessary. With a very basic semi-automatic machine you can of course potentially prepare even better espressos, but then you need to know a little more about what you are doing.
An easy-to-use espresso machine comes with a clear manual and may include additional resources such as video tutorials or online support. These resources can help you better understand the machine, get the most out of its features, and resolve any questions or issues you may have.
When owning an espresso machine, regular maintenance is essential to ensure that your machine continues to perform at its best and has a long life. Here are some aspects of maintenance to keep in mind:
Cleaning your espresso machine daily is critical to preserving the flavor of your coffee and preventing the buildup of coffee grounds and oils. After each brewing cycle, rinse the filter holder and empty the milk steam pipe. Make sure no coffee residues remain and wipe the outside of the machine. At the end of the day you can empty the drip tray, rinse it and dry it.
Depending on the number of cups per period, you can clean your espresso machine every 2 to 8 weeks with a tablet or blind filter powder , according to the instructions of your espresso machine. If you're looking for instructions for a Sage, I recommend checking out the earlier blog .
Espresso machines can build up scale over time due to the minerals in the water. First of all, we recommend using a water filter that is replaced regularly. This can negatively affect the performance of the machine. Descaling your machine regularly helps to remove this limescale and extend the life of your machine. You can do this in addition to using a fresh water filter. Consult your machine's manual for specific instructions on the descaling process and follow them carefully.
Periodic and professional maintenance
In addition to daily cleaning and descaling, it is also important to carry out periodic maintenance every now and then. This may include replacing washers, cleaning internal parts, or lubricating moving parts. Consult your machine manual for recommended maintenance schedules and specific instructions.
Some maintenance tasks, such as replacing specific parts or solving complex problems, may require the expertise of a professional. Consider taking your espresso machine to an authorized service provider periodically for a thorough checkup and service. This can help keep your machine in optimal condition and catch any potential problems early.
The above is not recommended for every home machine.
Design and size
When choosing an espresso machine, the design and size of the machine is important, both in terms of aesthetics and space efficiency. Here are some aspects to consider:
Espresso machines come in a variety of designs and styles, ranging from classic and traditional to modern and sleek. The design of the machine can be a personal preference and should match your kitchen design and taste. Pay attention to the finish, color and design of the machine and choose a design that appeals and fits your aesthetic.
The size of the espresso machine is also an important consideration, especially if you have limited counter space. Measure the available space accurately before choosing a machine. Compact machines are available that take up less space and are ideal for small kitchens or if you like to keep your countertop free. However, make sure that the size of the machine does not compromise the performance and features you want.
Brands and reputation
High end espresso machine for home. Source: Kees van der Westen
There are several reputable brands in the world of espresso machines that are known for their reliability and quality. These brands often have a long history of producing espresso equipment and have proven themselves in terms of durability and performance. Some well-known brands are, for example, La Marzocco, San Remo, JURA, WMF, Rocket Espresso and ECM. It is worth investing in a machine from a reliable brand known for their expertise in making coffee equipment.
It is also advisable to read customer reviews and experiences to gain insight into the performance and reliability of specific models and brands in practice. By listening to the experiences of other users, you can gather valuable information about the quality, durability and customer service of different brands. Take the time to check online reviews and forums to get a good idea of the brand's reputation and the satisfaction of other users.
Another important aspect is the availability of support and service from the brand. Check if the brand offers good customer service, such as quick response to questions or problems, availability of replacement parts, and an extended warranty policy. A brand that offers good support can give you peace of mind and help with any future needs or problems with your espresso machine.
Extra supplies (Tamper, Milk jug, Scale, Coffee beans etc.)
When buying an espresso machine, it is important to also consider the extra supplies you need to create a complete espresso experience. Here are some essential extras to consider:
A tamper is a tool that allows you to press the ground coffee evenly and firmly into the portafilter of your espresso machine. Using a tamper ensures consistent extraction and improves the flavor of your espresso. Choose a good quality tamper that fits the size of your machine's portafilter.
If you like milk coffees like cappuccino or latte macchiato, a milk jug is a must-have. A milk jug allows you to froth milk and create latte art. Choose a stainless steel milk jug with a handy pouring spout for optimal control during pouring.
A scale is a handy tool for measuring the right amount of coffee and water for a consistent espresso. It helps you to accurately follow the proportions and improve the quality of your espresso. Choose a digital scale with high accuracy and a platform large enough to comfortably place your portafilter and cup.
To make a delicious espresso, you obviously need quality coffee beans. Choose freshly roasted beans of Specialty Coffee quality that match your taste preference. Experiment with different coffees and roast levels to discover your favorite flavor profile. Store your coffee beans in an airtight container or in the original bag in a cool and dark place to preserve freshness.
You now have a comprehensive overview of what to look for when buying your first espresso machine. We have covered several important aspects, such as choosing the right type of machine, determining your budget, considering boiler type, ease of use, maintenance, design and size, brands and reputation, and the additional requirements for a complete espresso experience.
Buying an espresso machine is an exciting step in your coffee adventure, and making the right choice is crucial to enjoying a great cup of espresso. Don't forget to consider your needs, preferences and budget when making your choice. Take the time to compare different models, read customer reviews and, if possible, attend an (online) demonstration of the machine.