There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh cup of coffee to get you going in the morning. And on those extra-difficult mornings when you drag yourself out of bed, throw on some clothes, and somehow make it out the door or to your desk while still feeling a little zombified, wouldn’t an espresso be great? What about after a delicious dinner while you indulge in a piece of cake, pastry, or good conversation with loved ones? Rather than go out, you can have authentic, café-like espresso at home with a good espresso machine.
Why get an espresso machine?
Many people who own one rave about homemade espresso and swear never to go back to spending an exorbitant amount of money on a cup of java from a local coffee shop to fulfill their morning needs.
Rather than slowly brew coffee from grounds for a piping hot cup like is done in a coffee maker, an espresso machine uses higher pressure to force the water through the coffee grounds in a matter of seconds.
The result is a much stronger brew with more caffeine and a level of crema on top. It’s either consumed in a small quantity that resembles a shot, or, more commonly, used within another drink. Espressos are integral to making fancier coffee-based drinks like cappuccinos, macchiatos, and lattes, to name a few.
What should you look for in an espresso machine?
There are several main types of espresso machines. Manual machines let you control everything from the grind of the beans (of course, you’ll want to use fresh coffee beans!) to how long the water pushes its way through. Semi-automatic machines are a bit easier to use with some automatic processes at the push of a button, but they still let you maintain some control when you want. Fully automatic machines, meanwhile, are easiest to use but don’t offer manual control over the brew. There are also hybrid machines that function as both coffee makers and espresso machines.
You can learn more about these three types of machines in our handy buying guide, as well as other factors to consider when buying an espresso machine, like finding one with a built-in coffee grinder, milk frothing options, and more.
What are the best espresso machines?
When it comes to espresso machines, a few top brands stand out like Nespresso, Breville (which, it should be noted, also makes Nespresso machines), De’Longhi, and Philips.
While there are high-end expensive espresso machines that would make great gifts for a coffee lover (not to mention be perfect for your own kitchen if you fall into that category), there are also more affordable options.
Nespresso and its line is by far among the most popular brands when it comes to espresso machines, but don’t discount other brands, like the Philips 5400 espresso coffee maker with LatteGo we reviewed, which is really easy to both use and clean up after, and the super-cool Breville Barista Touch automatic espresso machine, which gives novice users tips on how to get a better brew. Note that both machines fall on the premium end of the spectrum, making them ideal for coffee connoisseurs with discerning palettes.
If these machines are too rich for your blood (and budget), however, we have also reviewed more affordable, entry-level espresso machines, like the De’Longhi All-in-One Combination Coffee and Espresso Machine that even has a steamed milk function for lattes (or just a comforting glass of warm milk) and is ideal for casual coffee lovers or enthusiasts, alike.
From lattes to cappuccino, you can do it all at home
There’s an espresso machine to fit every budget and taste, whether you want to exclusively make espressos and related drinks, or you’re looking for a machine that can do double duty and make coffee as well. And there are plenty of great espresso machines that you can get on sale and save a few bucks.
If it’s just you, there are small machines made just for one, but if you truly want to replicate the café experience at home for the whole family, or if you entertain a lot, there are models that can rival what you see at the local shop.
Go all out and opt for a machine that can grind the coffee and froth milk for you as well: I have friends who have done just that and rave about the amazing cups of coffee they can make at home. It might require a bit more effort each time, but once you get the hang of it, it can be a fun, relaxing, and fully rewarding, part of your routine that can actually save you money in the long run.
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