Best Espresso Machine Reviews 2016 – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
This is the Best Espresso Machine Buying Guide for 2016! So… Where. To. Start? My name’s Jeff Brackin. I used to be a barista in a popular little cafe, but customers dried up over time and my boss was convinced this was due to the improvement in home coffees. What I have learned since starting this blog is that he is, to an extent, correct. There you go Kevin! I’m now an award-winning barista and have written everything I know in my blog to help others impress friends and family with their espresso making skills!
So, there are some great machines out there, and coffee types and beans a-plenty, but the thing is; where do you start? And where does it end? There are so many machines available, how do you know which one is right for you? That’s why I created the BEST ESPRESSO MACHINE BUYING GUIDE! To guide you to the right machines, roasters, grinders and beans.
In this guide I will look at the benefits first, then describe the type of machines, explain espresso shots that are made by pod, semi-automatic and bean to cup machines, take a look at the best machines for your budget, whether that be espresso machines under $1000, $500, $200 or even just $100… (Espresso machines are now available for any budget) and finish with the essential (in my eyes) sundry items that you really should get!
Jeff’s Best Espresso Machine For Home (or office!)
As a guide you should be able to get a full set up for under $1000 from Amazon. My own home set up is under 1000 bucks and does an extremely good job. Remember I am a barista and don’t earn much! In fact here is what I have if you want a good set up for under 1000 dollars to impress your friends and family (click on any of the links to buy them today!):
This is my personal home set-up, a great easy to use set up that produces phenomenal coffee for my guests and I. It is the best espresso machine combination for beginners (or professionals!) For those who want more choice, keep reading and you will see I have articles with reviews of loads more machines.
If you’re looking for a commercial coffee machine, then click on the link; best commercial espresso machine… If you’re after a home or office machine, then read on.
Cost Benefits of Home Espresso Machines
The sheer number of coffee shop and cafes makes it easier than ever before to purchase your daily espresso from a local establishment. Seriously, walk down nearly any street in the country, and you’re all but guaranteed to stumble upon at least one great quality coffee shop.
Yet buying espresso out is an expensive habit. With drinks ranging anywhere from $2.00 on the low end to more than $5.00, a daily cup quickly adds up. Indeed, you’ll be spending crazy amounts of money if you drink more than one espresso per day each day of the week. And, seriously, who only drinks one espresso per day?
Enter the home espresso machine. A number of companies now produce models specifically designed for use at home. They are affordable, easy to use, and make a great tasting cup of coffee. They allow you to reap all of the benefits of espresso without the high cost.
Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee
If you already drink coffee, then you probably don’t really care much for the benefits – you just want your cup of espresso already! Yet the many benefits are actually important to understand. While you’ll still drink coffee no matter what, it’s nice to know that you’re actually benefiting your body when you drink your favorite liquid treat in moderation.
Most people have experienced and noted the short-term benefits of drinking coffee. Namely, it is able to increase productivity and concentration. Indeed, this is the chief reason why it’s so popular in workplaces around the world. Of course, you must remember to drink coffee in moderation. Too much caffeine can actually decrease productivity and make it more difficult to concentrate.
Espresso also has low levels of fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. Nutritional elements include riboflavin, folin, potassium, niacin, phosphorus, and magnesium. The caffeine in a drink can boost metabolism and, therefore, contribute to weight loss, while espresso has been scientifically linked to energy boosts and improvements to mental focus and memory.
The long-term benefits of drinking coffee aren’t as easy to see for yourself. Yet scientists have studied them over time and have come to several conclusions. The most recent research shows that coffee provides protection from Type 2 diabetes, reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease, slows down the progress of dementia, protects the liver, and increases the overall health of your heart.
Now you have quite a few more reasons to drink a cup of coffee in the morning! In addition to that caffeine jolt you so desire, you’re benefiting your overall health as well!
What type of coffee makers and espresso machines are there?
Drip Coffee Maker
Drip coffee machines are typically the standard machines (many would describe it as the best espresso machine type) you see since they are the most popular. To use, already-ground coffee is placed in a filter and steeped with hot water, which absorbs the coffee’s oils and essences before dripping into the coffee pot for consumption.
Drip machines can make up to several cups of coffee at a time and require little supervision, but they don’t produce the freshest or tastiest coffee. Coffee brewed using the drip method can be weak or bitter, which renders any specialty bean you may purchase and grind up yourself useless
See my review on the best drip coffee maker if this type of machine is what you are after, where I review:
The Humble French Press
The French press requires a more hands-on approach than most coffee machines, but it is still a popular alternative.
To use a French press, you will need to either grind the beans yourself beforehand or buy a specific course of coffee grind. If you don’t, it can be easy to mess up along the way and fill your drink with coffee grounds. Some people like that, but most probably do not.
The French press method provides a strong, flavorful cup of coffee, but it can be a time-consuming process because you need to be involved every step of the way. Mistiming the process can also result in acidic or bitter coffee.
If you think a French Press is for you, check out my review of the best french press coffee maker where I review three of the best:
Pod Coffee Maker or Espresso Machine
These machines make one serving at a time using specialty cups or capsules. Users place the pod – which can be of different flavors or varieties, depending on the brand – in the basket, and water drips through it into a single cup. These machines can be easy to use, but they take a while if you want more than one serving at a time.
I have reviewed quite a few pod coffee makers, and you can check out my review of my top four and my search for the best pod coffee maker here where I review:
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
A Semi-automatic Espresso Machine is the step between Pod Coffee Makers and Bean to Cup machines. You use ground coffee and tamp it down before attaching the handle to the machine to get the boiling water through it under pressure. Unlike bean to cup or super-automatic coffee makers, semi-automatic machines require you to purchase ground coffee or grind your own.
In my eyes, these are very good starter machines for those wanting authentic espresso shots and a variety of coffee, as once you fill a bean to cup you are stuck with the coffee beans you put in until it is gone, unless you want a lot of hassle. Also Bean to cup machines are better for those who drink A LOT of coffee for the same reason, as beans would go stale if you were having one a day.
Bean to Cup (Super-Automatic Espresso Machine)
Just as its name implies, bean-to-cup machines take the coffee at its most basic stage and turn it into a simple, delicious beverage in minutes. Users buy coffee beans at the store and can choose from different flavors until they find their favorite, or even rotate to keep their options fresh. The machines take the whole beans and grind them automatically, then dispense and tamp the correct amount – saving you plenty of time and effort that it would otherwise take to make such a fresh cup of coffee.
Bean-to-cup machines offer the freshest cup of joe possible (as long as you drink plenty of coffee, see semi-automatic above), and they require little-to-no cleanup to maintain. With bean to cup also comes the aroma of freshly-ground coffee, which is lost in instant or drip coffee.
Click the link and see my review of my top 4 personal favorite espresso machines and I’ll also let you know which is the best super automatic espresso machine. The machines I review are:
Types of Espresso
The last three types of machine (Pod, Semi-automatic and Bean to cup) create espresso shots. There are many espresso-based drinks. A shot can be single, double, or triple in size and each is about equal to 7 grams of ground coffee. Length may be reduced, normal, or long so a smaller or larger drink may have the same quantity of grounds.
The most frequently ordered servings are:
• Single shot: One ounce of espresso.
• Double shot: Twice as much coffee is used, rather than this simply being two ounces of espresso.
• Ristretto: Known as the short shot, it refers to the first ¾ ounce extracted.
• Lungo: The long shot is 1½ ounces of espresso.
The most common types of espresso include:
• Cappuccino: Espresso is the foundation for cappuccinos, which include a single shot mixed with steamed, wet milk. This drink doesn’t have to be topped by frothy foam. Cocoa or grated chocolate are sometimes added.
• Espresso Machiatto: A shot of espresso, with a layer of foamed milk added. Some choose to combine it with caramel or vanilla.
• Espresso con Panna: A layer of whipped cream on top of an espresso shot.
• Café Latte: A sweet drink with a shot of espresso, steamed milk, and foam. A double shot is most often used in the United States.
• Café Americano: A shot is added to hot water, yielding a creamy, rich coffee.
• Mochachino: Chocolate syrup or a powder is added.
I have also compiled guides for any budget…
Coffee makers are now available for any budget you want, I have taken a look at four budgets; $1000, $500, $200 and even just $100! And worked out what the best machines you can buy for each level of budget are, a great cup of coffee has never been so reasonably priced! So pick your budget range and click on one of the links below to see my reviews…
Coffee Roasting Equipment
Brewing your own coffee at home is a great way to make yourself a nice cup of Joe just the way you like it. But if you really want the best coffee possible, you should buy a coffee roaster. Home coffee roasting equipment has been growing in popularity for a few years now, and home roasting is easy, fun and inexpensive. It also allows for maximum freshness, which means brilliant intensity of flavor and aroma!
Roasting is a matter of time and temperature. The degree to which the beans are roasted has a strong effect on the taste of the coffee. The roasting process unlocks the aroma, flavor and texture of the raw coffee beans.
There are quite a few other factors which also affect the taste of the coffee. Two influential factors are the bean’s country of origin and the environment in which the bean was grown. Lesser factors which can also have an effect are the age of the bean, the processing method, the grinding method and the brewing method.
This is a bit more complicated than it initially sounds. First, coffee beans are put into the roaster. Unroasted coffee beans are green and soft with a grassy smell. Not that you’d particularly want to, but if you ate an unroasted bean you’d find they have very little taste whatsoever.
As coffee beans are roasted, they absorb heat. When they absorb heat, their color darkens and oils appear on their surface. But coffee beans vary, even within the same batch. This means color alone isn’t an accurate measure of judging a roast. However, color becomes very accurate when combined with the typical roasting temperature which yields certain shades of brown.
There are the four general shades of roast:
Light Roasts common names include New England Roast, Light City, Half City and Cinnamon Roast. Whatever you call them, light roasts are light brown. They have no oil on the surface of the bean. Taste-wise, light roasts are high in toasted grain and have a pronounced acidity. The origin flavors of the bean (these are the flavors related to where and how the bean was grown) are retained. This roast has the highest level of caffeine. Light roasting typically occurs when the beans reach an internal temperature between 365° and 401°. At around 365° the beans will pop, crack and shift in size. This is the “first crack.”
Medium Roasts happen between 410° and 428°. This is right at the end of the first crack but just before the start of the second. These roasts are a bit darker than the light roasts but still have no oil on the bean. You might have heard of these roasts described as Regular Roasts, American Roasts, City Roast or Breakfast Roast. They still have a fair amount of caffeine. This roast has more flavor, aroma and acidity than the light roasts, but with less grain.
Medium Dark Roasts are where the beans are roasted to the middle of the second crack. This is between 437° and 446°. There will be some oil on the surface of the beans now. The color will be heavy. Some common names here include Full City Roast, After Dinner Roast and Vienna Roast.
Dark Roasts are as dark as chocolate and sometimes even black. The coffee will have a bitter and smoky taste. The coffee also won’t contain much caffeine. The beans will have a sheen of oil, and this oil might even be visible in the brew. Dark beans are roasted to an internal temp of 464° and beyond. Note that anything beyond 482° will end up with charcoal, tar flavored coffee. These roasts have lot of names. They’re known as French Roasts, Italian Roasts, Espresso Roasts, Continental Roasts, New Orleans Roasts, Spanish Roasts and more. These dark roasts are often used in espresso blends.
Still confused? Click the link to see what I think is the best coffee roasting equipment! I review the following four coffee roasters:
The Importance of Fresh Grinding
Many coffee drinkers all over the world start their day with a brew from vacuum-packaged grounds, the bag of coffee they ground at the store a few days ago, or the sealed single pod for convenience.
Any of these can make a good cup of coffee, but the simple step that can elevate that to a great cup of coffee is brewing from freshly ground beans at home. That’s why it’s important to find the right grinder and start grinding your beans fresh for the coffee maker.
The roasted outer shell of a coffee bean is like armor for all the things we love about coffee. It seals and protects the flavorful oils and aroma inside. At the instant beans are ground, they begin to lose those to oxygen and other contamination, giving up as much as 60% in the first 15 minutes. Truly amazing tasting coffee comes from beans that have just been ground and gone straight into the machine to preserve their full potential.
The different methods for brewing coffee require a different level of coarseness or fineness to really extract the flavor you’re looking for from the fresh grounds. It’s this combination of grinding and brewing methods that makes the difference between a shot of espresso, a pot of drip coffee, or a Turkish coffee.
It’s possible to try all of these different methods in your own home, but this is another area where it is so beneficial to have a good coffee grinder. Rather than having to keep numerous different packages of grounds—which, once again, have already lost some flavor and will lose more as soon as the package is open—you can simply stock your favorite quality whole beans and choose the individual grind on any given day to have multiple methods available. Every time you make coffee in any style, it can be fresh, rich, and more flavorful with one simple step.
A lot of coffee drinkers don’t take that step to grinding their own coffee because of a perceived cost in money and time. The reality is that it’s not that much more.
Good, simple coffee grinders cost as low as $20 retail, and that’s without hunting up a good sale. These models don’t have a lot of fancy settings, but they can get you started and noticing the difference that a fresh grind makes. They may be all you need to enjoy truly fresh coffee, but if you choose to upgrade to something with a few more specific settings, a reliable machine can be found for about $100, which is not much in the long run.
Time is also not as much a factor as people think. In most cases, the grounds for just about any amount of home coffee can be produced in under a minute! Just a matter of seconds and you can have fresh ground coffee on any given day.
The reality is that there’s so much to gain and very little to lose from keeping a coffee grinder in your home. It’s worth the investment, whatever level you choose, to try completely fresh coffee and see just what you’ve been missing in the flavor and aroma maintained inside each of those little beans.
If you are interested in getting the best out of your beans then you will want a grinder! So why not take a look at my review of a range of grinders at a range of prices and my recommendation here; best coffee bean grinder, I reviewed: