In recent times, the popularity of specialty coffee has brought a great demand for better apparel when extracting coffee at home. What was considered a luxury article some years behind, now has become much more accessible due to the many options of expresso machines for domestic use produced by a no number of brands.
In this article, we will give you a notion of how an espresso extraction works, and all the mechanisms available in order to provide you with the best espresso brewed at home. the budget has a huge oscillation, from a couple of hundreds of dollars to the sky with top-of-the-art machines.
HISTORY OF THE ESPRESSO COFFEE AND MACHINES
The word ESPRESSO means, in Italian – fast, that traduces well how this kind of extraction works. It is a powerful extraction of the ground coffee, that combines water temperature, the surface of contact of the ground coffee with water, temperature, and time. The barista can play with those variables while extracting an espresso coffee, but usually, the pressure remains constant in order to leave the coffee extractions a little bit less complicated and more stable.
According to the literature, the first-ever espresso machine was invented in 1884 and patented by Angelo Moriondo under the name “New steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage, method ‘A. Moriondo”. And unlike later machines launched afterward, it was a bulk brewer, being able to brew more than a coffee at a time.
In 1901, the Milanese Luigi Bezerra registered an improved patent for an espresso machine with a boiler and four groups, called “Tipo Gigante”. Desiderio Pavoni bought his patent in 1903 and started producing espresso machines under the name of “La Pavoni Company”.
But those machines were still far from what we know today. All of them forced steam into the coffee grounds, which led to a very burnt flavor – as all the bitter compounds were extracted at such a high temperature. It was only in 1938 that Cremonesi developed a piston pump that forced hot water and not steam through the coffee, leading to a much cleaner flavor. Besides that, this type of extraction had a layer of cream, which is one of the main characteristics of the actual beverage. Unfortunately, due to WW2, only after 1946 that Gaggia started producing espresso pump machines at an industrial level.
Finally, by the year 1961 – FAEMA does a pump-based espresso machine that performs the extraction with an electric pump delivering water. That means that the water reaches the group by passing through a tube that has heat exchange from a boiler, which makes it possible for the water to reach optimal temperature and not become stale. Since this event – almost all the espresso machines nowadays function on this kind of mechanism.
At the present moment, a lot of technology was added to the espresso machines, but mainly they are manually operated: you grind your coffee, press it in the portafilter, and press the button of the extraction, measuring the parameters – and here is where all the magic the barista can do. For domestic use, where many people do not have all this time or even all the formation to extract this type of coffee – some “shortcuts” were invented, such as semi-automatic espresso machines, that grind the coffee and perform the extraction by themselves. The result is not always the best – but for many people – it does its job – and that’s why we will also be reviewing some of them.
HOW DOES AN ESPRESSO MACHINE WORK
Know that we have been passed quickly through the espresso machine and coffee history, let’s try to explain in the most simple way, how an espresso machine works.
Nowadays it is worth talking about three main characteristics of espresso machines. In the first tear, as if we can call it like that – are the semi-automatic espresso machines. Those machines are, as we mentioned before – a shortcut to a real espresso machine, but for convenience, price, and easiness – we will categorize some of them here. Semi-automatic espresso machines mean basically that you will not need to worry about grinding your coffee (it has a grinder embedded) and also you will spare yourself the trouble of distributing the ground coffee in the portafilter, and also pressing the amount of coffee you want to extract. It will spare you a lot of time, but beware: you will never be able (at least with the technology of nowadays) to extract a great espresso as you would in a fully manual espresso machine.
The espresso machines work with an electric pump pushing the water at a certain pressure (usually around 9 BAR) into the ground coffee powder inside the portafilter. Once the portafilter is docked in – it forms a sealed chamber (except for the small holes in the metal filter below) that exercises pressure to extract the beverage. That pressure will, along with the water temperature, be able to output a delicious espresso sip for us, coffee lovers.
Once we have talked about the pressure, what about the water? How is it heated? And here, in this particular feature on domestic (and also industrial) espresso machines is where we will find the biggest price differences, depending on how the water for different tasks is heated.
As we know, the espresso machines also have a steamer that is used to steam and texturized the milk (either cow’s or plant-based milk), and until not long ago, the same boiler used to heat the water from the coffee extraction, was used to steam the milk in that coffee machine feature. But here we rely on a big problem: the ideal temperature for coffee extraction, is below the 100 degrees celsius needed for steaming the water (in fact it floats around 89 and 94 degrees depending on many variables).
In conclusion: having only one boiler in your espresso machine will make your water temperature oscillate when using the steamer, and it might be a little difficult in achieving consistency in your drinks. Of course that we are talking about a high level of exigence, but if you are willing to spend a big bunch of euros on this great object for your home. it can be a wise decision to make a one-time-only acquisition if you are up to long-term value and quality.
SINGLE BOILER ESPRESSO MACHINES
Single boiler espresso machines, as the name itself tells, is a machine that only has one boiler in their composition. That means that the same spot that stores the water for your coffee will also use this water to steam the milk or whatever beverage you will need to heat up. So if you are someone that uses to drinking coffee with milk-based drinks and a good volume of them, you should probably think about a double boiler machine. But if you are a more pure espresso person, it won’t make much difference to have
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF SINGLE BOILER ESPRESSO MACHINES
- The design is simple
- Faster warm-up time
- Cheaper machines in general
- Less material used
- Wait time between brewing and steaming
- Less temperature stability
- Smaller boilers with less steam pressure
MULTI BOILER ESPRESSO MACHINES
Multi-boiler espresso machines arrived in the market to solve the problem of the high volume of espresso extractions and also the temperature oscillation between the time you need to use the steamer and then back to coffee extraction.
With one boiler specifically dedicated to the steam launch, the temperature of the coffee water boiler can remain much more stable and the machine will perform much better especially when you use it a lot for milk-based drinks. We could say this would be the last mile choice you would do when acquiring an espresso machine for your house. But everything comes with a cost, so let’s see the pros and cons of the double boiler espresso machines:
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF MULTIPLE BOILER ESPRESSO MACHINES
- Consistent brew temperature easier to achieve
- Brew and steam at the same time. No waiting between tasks
- Independent brew/steam temperature adjustment
- More expensive, in general
- More complex and more parts needed
- Longer warm-up time
BEST ESPRESSO MACHINES REVIEWS
Now that the basics about espresso machines are covered, we can advance for the espresso machines reviews. In order to facilitate your life, we will present you with a table of the most interesting choices for us and their main characteristics. Later on, we will be detailing each one of them.
ESPRESSO MACHINES COMPARISON TABLE
|DeLonghi Magnifica||Single||See here||Semi-automatic||200 grams||See price|
|Sage The Barista Express||Single||See here||Manual||450 grams||See price|
|Rocket Espresso Appartamento||Single||See here||Manual||Not integrated||See price|
|Sage The Oracle||Dual||See here||Manual||280 grams||See price|
|Lelit Anna V||Single||See here||Manual||Not integrated||See price|
|Elektra SXC V||Single||See here||Manual||Not integrated||See price|
|ECM Puristika V||Single||See here||Manual||Not integrated||See price|
|La Pavoni Botticelli V||Dual||See here||Manual||Not integrated||See price|
|JURA E6 Dark Inox||Single||See here||Semi-automatic||280 grams||See price|
|DeLonghi Prima Donna Class||Single||See here||Semi-automatic||170 grams||See price|
|Gaggia Carezza Deluxe||Single||See here||Manual||Not integrated||See price|
|Elektra Verve Levetta||Dual||See here||Manual||Not integrated||See price|
|Slayer V3||Dual||See here||Manual||Not integrated||See price|
|La Marzocco Linea Mini||Dual||See here||Manual||Not integrated||See price|
ELEKTRA VERVE LEVETTA
The new model Verve is the innovative result of research aimed at creating a prosumer machine with a unique Italian style with stainless steel chassis.
It’s extremely versatile and capable of being used in a variety of environments.
From a technological point of view, this is the first single-group machine with double boilers dedicated respectively to dispensing coffee and producing steam.
Elektra Verve is equipped with a professional dispensing unit, a rotary pump that allows you to switch from the water network to the tank (5l), and a double-scale pressure gauge.
A further strength is the ability of Verve to connect at the wi-fi level in order to set all beverage dispensing settings directly from the smartphone device. In this case, it will be possible to set the infusion temperature, and the pre-infusion duration, select the drink, and customize your favorite recipe with a few clicks.
GAGGIA CAREZZA DELUXE
Gaggia Carezza Deluxe has a vintage and modern design at the same time. It’s equipped with a stainless steel classic Panarello, it has a filter for 1 or 2 cups of ground coffee and a special filter coffee pods. It has an automatic rinsing cycle of the coffee circuit that allows the machine to live longer. The machine alerts you when it is time to descale it, to ensure perfect turn it on, or when it automatically shuts off. The stainless steel cup plate benefits from the warmth produced by the machine and keeps your cups always ready.
The pressurized “crema perfetta” filter-holder delivers a marvelous creamy layer on the top of your espresso, no matter your level of expertise and ability. The integrated temperature gauge allows constant monitoring of the water temperature in the boiler to have always the best result in the cup
For a more intense flavor, it is possible to select the pre-brewing option to moisten ground coffee before the actual brewing. In this way, a wider range of coffee aromas will unfold.
LA MARZOCCO GS3
Even taking into account the fact that it is a single group makes us think that we have a domestic machine in front of us… don’t be fooled. We are in front of a PROFESSIONAL MACHINE.
Maximum consistency and stability to work with a cafeteria workflow.
It has PID temperature control, LCD display, shot timer, pre-brewing, steam boiler temperature, and coffee temperature (dual boiler) with a simply incredible, fast, and accurate milk frother! It also has the option to run off the reservoir or plumb in.
This could be one of the best options if you do not have any problems with the budget!
E6 JURA is one of the most high-performing automatic coffee machines. You can brew 1 or 2 cups at a time (single or double espresso) and froth milk for a latte, cappuccinos, etc… It heats up fast and even if it just works with whole beans, it has a great integrated grinder that provides a really good extraction. It’s really easy to use thanks to its display and menu navigation. You can program up to seven different beverages, set the temperature, fine-tune the coffee strength in eight levels (6 to 16 grams) and change many different settings.
Its professional aroma grinder brings ideal grinding results over the entire life of the machine. There are 11 different types of coffee, like Barista coffee and Lungo Barista, double espresso and espresso macchiato.
CLEARYL Smart offers perfect water quality for the best taste. Never before has the use of the filter been so easy, because the Intelligent Water System (IWS) detects it automatically. The pulsed extraction process (PEP ®) optimizes the extraction time and guarantees maximum aroma even with short specialties.
Maintaining the modern automatic coffee machine is just as simple as preparing tempting specialty coffees. The integrated rinsing and cleaning programs can be started at the touch of a button to keep the machine impeccably hygienic. Now the dishwasher-safe milk spout can be rapidly replaced. Total hygiene and the perfect milk foam are guaranteed at all times.
JURA ENA 8
This is the “older sister” of E6. Apart from all the amazing characteristics that E6 has, it also offers adjustable foam texture, dedicated drink settings for lattes, or a bypass doser for ground coffee.
Jura offers great customer service!
LA PAVONI BOTTICELLI SPECIALTY V
La Pavoni Botticelli Specialty V is the perfect machine for very engaged home -baristas. Dual boiler machine, with “BPPC” system (Brewing Pressure Profiling Control), equipped with a competition shower screen and filters on the brew group. During the coffee brewing, the water pressure on the coffee puck can be adjusted with the “BPPC” mechanism, obtaining this way the best result in the cup with every variety of coffee beans.
The pressure profile can be controlled real-time with the gauge fit on the brew-group. Better thermostability of the independent coffee boiler, controlled by the PID system. Higher steam and hot water performances, with an independent boiler controlled by a PID system.
LA MARZOCCO LINEA MINI
This impressive eco-friendly machine pays tribute to his contributions to our world. The polished brass logo is reminiscent of the golden lily that has been the symbol of Florence for over 1,000 years. Inspired by the Linea Classic, the Linea Mini comes with a double boiler and an integrated coffee brewing group that allows the machine to achieve the thermal stability and energy efficiency of the saturated coffee brewing group in a reduced space. The Linea Mini is handcrafted with the same components used in their commercial machines to ensure the same durability that the Linea Classic is famous for.
If you do not have any problems with your budget, this coffee machine will give you full control of your extraction. Water flow, pre-infusion, PID* control, pre-heat coil, electronic group head for steady temperature, and fully customizable!
“This is the Bentley of the coffee machines”. This is a PROFESSIONAL machine at home.
*PID: Proportional Integral Derivative (the espresso machine is capable of constantly monitoring the water temperature and making small adjustments to keep it at the set temperature).
SAGE APPLIANCES BARISTA ESPRESSO / BARISTA PRO
The biggest difference between the two machines is the digital LCD vs. analog displays. The Express has a few buttons for different functions and an analog pressure gauge in the middle of its interface. Also, the steamer of Barista Pro heats faster than the Express version and it has a volumetric pouring!
Both have a side-integrated and adjustable grinder. That means that allows you to use grounded coffee also.
If you’re looking for a semi-professional machine for home, go ahead!
The TOP of them is the SAGE DUAL BOILER (definitely the best one, a professional machine at home, with dual boiler. It comes with no integrated grinder.)