The World Of Espresso Machines
March 27th, 2017
Espresso machines are rapidly becoming a staple appliance in the kitchen of anyone who likes coffee, whether that be the dark, rich, potent traditional espresso shot, or the wide range of espresso-based coffee drinks that are the focal point of popular coffee social destinations; the decision as to which model will best match your espresso experience, and your investment, needs to be made with care. The most popular espresso machines on the market can be grouped into six primary categories, each with its distinct features and benefits.
An Old-Fashioned Stovetop Espresso Machine
The simplest method to make espresso is to utilize a coffee pot which bears a strong resemblance to an old-fashioned coffee percolator, a stovetop model that is also known as a moka pot; they are commonly used in Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Surprisingly, stovetop espresso machines can produce an espresso with an extraction ratio (i.e. how much coffee character and essence is actually removed from the grind) similar to that of a more conventional espresso coffee machine. The stovetop pot is much like an upside down espresso machine, driving the pressurized steam from the bottom, through the ground coffee and filter, and ending up in the top chamber from where it is served. If you choose the right combination of coffee bean variety and grind, these pots can even produce a foam topping.
Manual Lever Espresso Machines
Manual lever espresso machines are the simplest form of conventional espresso machine, combining both an old-world stovetop style with the top-down approach of brewing; the result, many aficionados believe, is the ultimate espresso. Its simplicity, however, demands a level of skill on the part of the operator, who uses the manual pump to generate the pressure needed to drive the hot water and steam through the grind.
Espresso Machines With A Semi-Automatic Pump
With these models, perhaps the most common forms of traditional domestic espresso machines, the brewing process is taking on an element of automation; instead of a hand pump generating pressure, these models include an electric pump which is manually turned on/off. The challenge, however, is in experimenting to find the ideal combination of timing, bean choice, grind and tamping skill (fixing the grind) which results in the espresso of your dreams.
Automatic Pump Espresso Machines
With the enhancement of an automatic pump which controls the flow of steam and boiling water at the optimal time, espresso machine models are providing a measure of modern convenience to the art of making outstanding espresso. However, the other variables (coffee selection, grind and grind tamping), are still managed by the user; a good suggestion is to keep notes each time a variation in these elements is used, much like any experiment, so the results can be traced back to a particular formula and duplicated as often as desired.
Elite Territory – The Super Automatic Espresso Machines
At this level, the espresso-brewing process is much more sophisticated, resulting in a greater consistency in the quality and characteristics of the espresso coffee that is produced.
Typically, espresso machines in the super-automatic category provide an all-in-one espresso process, starting with the grinding of the beans, filing and tamping the grind in the filter basket, and then brewing the espresso at the right pressure and temperature; some models will even dump the waste grinds in an internal garbage container, then sit attentively waiting for the next fresh espresso request.
The only variables of note in this type of system is the quality of the chosen beans, meaning that some measure of operator-interaction has been retained, allowing the user to offer visitors an espresso that they have prepared.
Capsule/Pod Espresso Coffee Machines
Not necessarily expensive, espresso machines that utilize a pre-packaged pod or capsule combining grind and filter is a convenient way to deliver a consistent espresso experience while eliminating the grind, filter and tamping process. Espresso machines employing this process are manufactured both for domestic and commercial applications (for example, cafeteria, office, food service environments); while convenient; they may be regarded as a form of ‘instant espresso’ that probably doesn’t garner any rave reviews.