For coffee lovers of blends and single origins, buying a home espresso machine is definitely an important milestone. It’s a true upgrade and the moment in which the pleasure of discovering new aromas and new flavors becomes a full-fledged passion.
Here’s a bit of advice on how to choose your own home espresso machine. But let’s start from a concept that might surprise you: the “best” espresso machine doesn’t exist. Every home barista, every coffee lover has specific requirements and each machine is designed to meet different needs. So actually, the three best home espresso machines don’t exist! However, we’ll guide you in finding the best machine for your specific needs.
Single boiler and dual boiler, espresso and milk
The first major distinction is also the most important and answers the following question: which is the main drink we’ll prepare with our new espresso machine?
If we’re espresso lovers and therefore quite certain that milk-based drinks will only be a small part of our consumption, a whim once in a while, then we can definitely choose a single boiler machine (single boiler)
This semi-professional group has a non-pressurized filter, recreating the extraction of an espresso like the one of professional bar machines. Single boiler machines instead, have the characteristic of having a single boiler that heats up quickly, in about ten minutes, but they have a limit: they don’t allow you to extract the espresso and froth the milk at the same time. To do this, we will first have to extract the espresso and then increase the thermostat’s temperature to froth the milk for our cappuccino. This type of machine has a rather small boiler with which you’ll be able to froth a little milk, but they’ve been especially designed for the espresso extraction and don’t have a great steam power.
Instead, if we intend to use our new espresso machine especially for milk, cappuccinos, macchiato, Moroccans and other milk-based drinks, our choice HAS to fall on a heat exchanger machine, with an E61 group, or a dual boiler.
Dual boiler espresso machines have two separate boilers: one is used for the espresso extraction and the other, to have all the steam needed for milk frothing, just like a professional bar machine. Dual boiler espresso machines can be used by a small restaurant or any other type of venue that serves a limited number of coffees per day.
The coffee grinder
The importance of the coffee grinder is often underestimated when buying an espresso machine for home-use, but it’s its quality that’s responsible for a large part of the result in the cup. When using a professional and semi-professional espresso machine, you certainly cannot use pre-ground coffee. The coffee grinder therefore becomes essential to find the right degree of grinding, that is, the one that best suits our taste and our machine. There are machines with an integrated coffee grinder that are perfect for whoever has a limited amount of space. And if we have some space in the kitchen, having a coffee grinder next to the espresso machine allows for a greater thermal insulation than that of compact machines.
How much do we have to spend for a good quality?
One of the most important variables when choosing our espresso machine is obviously the available budget. A good quality steel single boiler machine usually starts in a range between 350 to 400 euros.
From this starting point, the price can go up a lot, even to 7 thousand euros. This mainly depends on the functions that enrich our machine. From temperature settings that increase thermal stability, to the possibility of programming pressure or temperature profiles during extraction, up to the automatic adjustment of doses and water flow to make the extraction result more constant. There are many functions that increase the cost of our home espresso machines but that can also significantly increase its quality.
Overall, the more functions these machines have, the greater the ability should be of home baristas to govern them. Just as a comparison, we could define these machines as the “Ferrari” of the world of espresso, hence they require a good training in order to maneuver them the best!