Updated on January 1, 2018
I like coffee but I love espresso! In fact, I’ve become a little obsessed over the years. I know where every coffee shop in town is. I don’t ever want to be too far without access to my favorite hot beverage. But when I realized how much money I was spending each month on espresso, I knew something had to change. So, I set out to find the best espresso machines on the market.
I combed through countless espresso machine reviews. I went to several stores and physically looked at models. I researched for hours (while drinking some espresso) until I knew I had come up with several options for the best home espresso machines in several price brackets.
If you’re wondering if owning your own espresso machine is something you should consider, take a look at my espresso machine reviews. You’ll get an idea of what your budget can get you, along with plenty of espresso machine tips. So clear off a space on your kitchen counter. You’ll need a home for your new espresso machine soon!
Table of Contents
- Best Espresso Machines Over $1,000
Best Espresso Machines Between $500 and $1,000
- Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
- Jura IMPRESSA C65 Automatic Coffee Machine
- De'Longhi ECAM22110SB Compact Automatic Cappuccino, Latte, and Espresso Machine
- KRUPS EA8250 Espresseria Super Automatic Espresso Machine
- La Pavoni PA-1200 Napolitana Stainless Steel Automatic Espresso Machine
- Best Espresso Machines Under $500
- Benefits of Owning an Espresso Machine
- Different Types of Espresso Machines
- How to Make Espresso
- Different Types of Espresso Drinks
- Espresso Machine Maintenance
- Espresso Machine Troubleshooting
Best Espresso Machines Over $1,000
If your budget is on the higher end, you’re sure to find an espresso machine that meets all your needs and more. Most of these machines are made with the restaurant industry in mind. This means that they can keep up with even the highest beverage demand.
They also include features that are typically not found on lower priced models. You’ll also notice that the materials used in their design are superior. You can rest assured with your decision in this price bracket because you’ll be purchasing a top of the line machine that’s sure to function properly for years to come. If you’re nervous about handing over so much cash at once, many models in this price range have payment plans you can take advantage of.
#1 - Breville BES980XL Oracle Espresso Machine - TOP PICK OVERALL
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
If your budget is virtually endless, this could be the espresso machine for you. It’s pricey but it comes fully loaded with every feature you could possibly want. The machine automatically grinds, doses, and tamps your coffee beans. It’s like having your own personal barista in your kitchen. It even has a programmable hands-free milk texturing feature with automatic purge for making cappuccinos and more. The dual stainless steel boilers and dual Italian pumps allow you to make two drinks at once and you’ll love the One Touch Americano feature which delivers water directly into the cup after the extraction process.
I really couldn’t find anything to complain about with this model. It makes a variety of drinks, including lattes, iced lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos. I loved that I barely had to lift a finger and my drink was in front of me like magic. If you can afford the large price tag, I highly suggest this model. The only problem is that once you try coffee from the Breville, you might never be satisfied with coffee from another machine ever again.
- Easy to use
- Integrated hopper and grinding system
- Auto frothing technology with programmable texture and temperature
- Dual boilers and PID temperature control
- Descaling issues have been reported
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
The Gaggia Accademia is a super automatic espresso machine that is sure to impress. You’ll feel as if your favorite coffee house set up shop in your own kitchen. You can choose from espresso, caffe, caffe lungo, lattes, cappuccinos, or the perfect temperature of hot water for teas and more. The machine features an adjustable telescopic coffee dispenser and an integrated coffee grounds container which is removable from the front for convenience. You can program your coffee quantity preferences up to 10 cups. There’s also a pre-brewing system that helps you get the most flavor out of your extraction.
There were many features on this machine that I loved, including the quality of the coffee. It’s much better than the majority of machines. This is most likely because of the machine’s automatic rinse cycle. It cleans itself before and after each use so you’re never stuck with a weird aftertaste. I also knew right away that this machine was built to last. While you’ll find some plastic pieces here and there, the most important parts of the machine are made with metal. The only downfall of this machine is its price. But if you visit your local coffee shop at least once a day, it will pay for itself over time.
- Easy to maintain
- Sealed coffee bean container that keeps beans fresh
- Machine cleans itself before and after every use, so no "old" coffee taste
- Adjustable coffee spout to control amount of coffee dispensed
- Drip tray is small and needs to be emptied frequently
- Small water tank
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒
Breville is known for being a leader in the industry, thanks to their many positive espresso machine reviews. Here’s another model that I really loved and it’s a bit more affordable in this price range. Like the company’s more expensive model, this machine features dual stainless steel boilers and dual Italian pumps that allow simultaneous espresso extraction and steaming. There’s also an Over-Pressure Valve that limits extraction pressure, improving the final product’s taste. There’s also an electronic PID temperature control that keeps your water at the perfect temperature.
I really liked the backlit LCD display that showed the brew temperature, shot clock, or time. I also appreciated the included water hardness test strip. It’s so important to keep up on maintenance when it comes to espresso machines and the test strip, along with the descale alert and LCD assisted descale procedure, are sure to make upkeep on this model a breeze. I will say that the machine is a bit bulky so make sure you have enough space on your counter for the machine and all the accessories you’ll want to keep nearby. But overall, this is a definite contender for the top espresso machine in this price range.
- Very consistent brews
- Easy to use
- Dual stainless steel boiler heating system
- Large water tank
- Some parts inside the machine are of questionable quality
- Takes up a lot of counter space
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒
Don’t let this De'Longhi model’s simple appearance fool you. It’s packed with plenty of great features that make it stand ahead of many other machines in this price bracket. It has a double shot feature that allows you to double the amount of coffee or milk in your drink without having to go through the brewing process twice. It also has an integrated stainless steel burr grinder with an impressive 13 adjustable settings. Just pour in your whole beans and grind them into the second storage chamber to your desired fineness. There’s also an auto clean function for the milk carafe.
But one thing that stood out to me about this machine is their commitment to customer satisfaction. They have a specialized call center that helps customers set up, learn how to operate, and care for their espresso machines. If that doesn’t make them one of the greatest espresso machine companies out there, I’m not sure what does. My one complaint regarding this machine is the noise level. Everything about this machine is pretty loud, from the grinding to the water pumping to the brewing process. But I think that after a few uses, the noise won’t stand out as much.
- "One touch" brew control
- Removable milk carafe so you can store it in the refridgerator
- Large water tank
- Can be extremely noisy
- No way to manually clean motorized milk steamer
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
This model is destined to make the best cappuccino you’ve ever had, thanks to its patented “Cappuccino System” frother. It mixes steam and milk to produce rich and creamy froth that rivals any coffee shop. It also has an easy to use rotary and push button control panel with programmable menu settings and instantly grinds beans with its “Direct-to-Brew” system, another patented feature. The multiple grind settings allow you to adjust the fineness of your grounds, giving you more control over the flavor of your beverage.
Because this is another De'Longhi model, you’ll receive access to their specialized call center and their reputation in the coffee industry should make you confident in your purchase. My only word of advice regarding this machine is to use a water pitcher to fill up the reservoir. It’s a bit tricky to reach but a pitcher makes the fill-up process much easier. I loved the versatility of this machine. I could use it to make coffee on days where I wanted to sip and enjoy something hot. I could use it to make cold, whipped drinks with the help of my blender. And of course, I could use it for my daily espressos as well. No matter the drink, it tasted fresh, delicious, and exactly like I wanted it to.
- Height-adjustable coffee spouts to control amount of coffee poured
- Digital programmable menu settings
- Removable milk carafe so you can store it in the refridgerator
- In case a repair is needed, wait time can be a couple of weeks to months
Best Espresso Machines Between $500 and $1,000
Even if you chose an espresso machine on the lower end of this price bracket, you’re sure to fall in love with the included features and durability of your new machine. You’ll find plenty of options that were designed with the serious espresso drinker in mind. If you have no doubt that you’ll use your espresso machine on a regular basis, a model that falls into this price range is sure to meet your needs.
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
Breville again delivers a spectacular model. This might just be the best espresso machine by them in this price range. It features a 15 bar Italian Pump and a 1600 watt thermacoil heating system to keep your water at the perfect brewing temperature. In fact, the machine automatically adjusts the water temperature after steaming for optimal espresso extraction. It features a stainless-steel burr grinder and a ½ pound sealed bean hopper. The two-liter water tank is oversized and removable with a handle for convenience. You can choose from the standard stainless steel color or go with black or candy apple red.
Considering the fact that this espresso machine is towards the lower end of this price range, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I found it to be very user-friendly and designed with the consumer in mind. I liked that it had a light for indicating when the unit needed to be cleaned. It also came with a cleaning kit which tucked away into a hidden compartment on the machine. I don’t usually need to froth milk but I gave it a try on this machine and I ended up with perfect foam, thanks to the 360-deree swivel action steam wand. Breville really thought of everything with this model, from the removable drip tray to the espresso pressure gauge. You’ll be able to brew your perfect espresso with this machine, even if you’ve never done so before.
- Integrated conical burr grinder and half-pound bean hopper
- Pressure gauge with "ideal shot" range
- Steaming wand works extremely well
- Water tank needs to be refilled often
- Water filters are a bit expensive
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
Let’s start with the appearance of this machine. I don’t think it gets any classier than this. If you’re looking for a beautifully designed espresso machine, I think this one takes the cake. It would look great in virtually any kitchen. It’s made with high-quality materials, just as you would expect with the price, and features clean lines and compact dimensions. When it comes to operating the machine, it doesn’t get much easier. This Jura model uses a one-switch operating concept that simplifies the entire extraction process. The coffee spout is also adjustable so no matter the cup size, you’ll be able to fit it underneath the spout.
Let’s get back to the simple operation feature of this unit. When I first tried it, I thought I was missing a step because of how easy it was. All you need to do is follow the cues on the plain text display, push one button, and your drink is on its way. If you’ve never used an espresso machine before, you’ll probably need to refer to the manual which is a bit intimidating at first. It’s long and detailed but I find this to be a plus. It has all the information you need regarding your machine, maintenance, and troubleshooting. If you’re looking for an affordable machine that operates like one that’s twice as much, the Jura Impressa is a great place to start.
- Extremely well designed and built
- Easy to use controls
- Height-adjustable coffee spout
- Fine foam frother
- Grinder can be a bit problematic
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒
If you’re in need of a compact machine that operates like a large commercial model, this could be the espresso machine for you. It’s small but powerful. There’s a built-in water filtration system that allows you to fill the machine with basic tap water and you’ll get a fuller flavored coffee thanks to the aroma button time-release water feature. You’ll be able to easily make lattes and cappuccinos with the frother that mixes steam with your milk. There’s also a unique energy-saving switch that can save you up to 77% of your energy costs associated with the unit.
My first try with this machine proved several factors. First, the machine heats up fast, whether you’re making coffee or using the steam function. You can also adjust your grind and dose to your preferred taste with ease and the burr grinder works flawlessly. I did find that the machine was quite loud, even for an espresso machine, but once I tasted my espresso, I no longer worried about the volume. It was worth it! This model also accommodates taller coffee cups, making it stand out amongst similar units.
- Compact design
- Consistent brews
- Programmatic controls
- Easy to take apart for cleaning
- Beans on the "oily" side don't always feed smoothly from the hopper to the grinder
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒
The KRUPS is a fully automatic 1450 watt machine that’s compact but fully stocked with options and features. It has a built-in metal conical burr grinder that helps you capture the full flavor of your beans and an adjustable grind setting. The user-friendly control panel helps walk you through your options and the 60-ounce removeable water tank will let you make several drinks before having to fill up again. It also has a steam nozzle and removable drip tray. It comes with a 2-year warranty so you can rest assured that your investment will be protected.
One of the first facts that attracted me to the KRUPS is that it’s made in France. While coming up with my expresso machine reviews, I’ve always found that European manufactured machines are better than American when it comes to certain features. For example, this model has a unique patented thermoblock system. It’s complex technology but it allows the machine to heat up faster while guaranteeing perfect tamping and temperature. With this technology, every cup has perfectly extracted coffee at the ideal heat level. Even if you don’t buy this machine, never pass up the opportunity to try a cup of espresso from it. You’ll taste the difference.
- Quick brew times
- Conical burr grinder
- Auto clean and rinse cycle
- Steamer nozzle also dispenses hot water for tea/hot chocolate drinkers
- Milk frothing bottle and attachments are a bit cumbersome to use and clean
- Unable to use pre-ground coffee
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭒⭒
The La Pavoni has a modern look with a retro feel that makes it perfect for the gourmet kitchen. The stainless-steel baskets are easy to keep clean and the built-in conical burr grinder makes it that much easier to go from bean to coffee. The 100-ounce water reservoir will allow you to make drinks for all your friends before having to refill it and the drip tray is removable for easy clean-up.
Even if you’ve never used such a detailed coffee machine, you’ll be operating like a barista in no time. I found that the water heated up very quickly and each espresso had the perfect amount of crema without any added effort. This model is a great espresso machine for the intermediate user. If your budget is limited, you’ll get everything you need from this machine without breaking the bank.
- Consistently pulls espresso with a nice crema
- Steam function provides plenty of steam to whip up thick frothed milk
- Grinder is easy to adjust and holds enough beans for about 14 shots
- Can be on the loud side
- The grinder isn't centered over the filter so you need to hold the filter tipped towards the back to keep the coffee in the holder
Best Espresso Machines Under $500
It’s not impossible to find a good espresso machine for under $500. You’ll have to look a bit harder and really take a look at the espresso machine reviews associated with your options. Sometimes, machines in this price range can be made with cheaper materials. The last thing you want is a machine that’s only capable of operating for a year or two because of its lower building standards.
You might also not get every feature in your machine you were hoping to get. But if you’re not sure if an espresso machine will find a permanent home in your kitchen, a model in this price range is perfect for testing out your barista skills and discovering if your inner espresso lover is ready to come out.
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒
The Gaggia might be the best espresso machine in its price range. It’s incredibly attractive and features stainless-steel housing along with a brass portafilter and grouphead to stabilize the temperature during the brewing process. With your order, you’ll receive a single- and double-shot stainless steel filter basket, a tamper, and a measuring scoop. The 72-ounce water reservoir is huge and removable for your convenience. The steam wand has an intake hole that siphons air directly into the milk which will give you a perfectly rich foam for your specialty beverages.
Because of the price, I didn’t have very high expectations for this machine. But I was completely wrong. It’s a great investment and makes top notch espresso. I just so happened to be testing this machine with a friend who is a barista. He’s used to my espresso critiques and expected the worst when we gave this one a shot. But much to both of our surprises, I really enjoyed the product from this machine. It was easier to use than most machines and produced nearly perfect crema on the first try. This machine is definitely a bargain in all the best ways.
- Commercial quality portafilter
- Frother steams quickly
- Adjustable bar pressure
- Even though it works, frother is plastic and low quality
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭒⭒
Here’s a name you might be familiar with. The Mr. Coffee model is very well priced espresso machine that will give you your caffeine fix without all the extra bells and whistles. It has everything you need without going overboard, including a removable milk reservoir, a one touch control panel for single or double shots, and an automatic milk frother. You’ll be able to keep the machine clean and maintained thanks to the removable water reservoir and the removable drip tray. This model comes with a single shot filter, a double shot filter, a measuring scoop, tamper, and even some great coffee recipes for the newbie.
You’ll be doing most of the work with this machine yourself so there is going to be a bit of a learning curve. Don’t get frustrated if your first few drinks don’t come out as planned. Even I struggled a bit with tamping on this model. But with a little practice, you’ll be cranking out the cappuccinos and espressos like a pro. If you’re looking for an introductory machine that will help you get the feel for making coffee house drinks, this could be the espresso machine for you.
- "One-touch" control panel
- Automatic milk frother
- Removable water tank
- Milk steamer is hard to clean
- Reports that the machine does not last longer than a year
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒
Here’s a fairly basic espresso and cappuccino machine that’s perfect for a single user or couple. The machine heats up quickly, usually in about 40 seconds, but it takes a bit longer than some of the semi- or fully-automatic machines when it comes to the extraction and frothing process. But I’m sure you’ll find that it’s worth the wait. The frothing system makes perfectly rich and creamy frothed milk and you can easily make single or double shots. I enjoyed the compact design and the brightly illuminated control panel. I would say that this is the best espresso machine under $300.
If you don’t have the patience or skill set yet to make your own beverages, this machine also works with easy-serve espresso pods. You’ll take the guess work out of your morning caffeine fix with the pods. Just remember that they are a little pricey and you’ll have to remember to stay stocked up on them.
- Frothing system also pours hot water for Americanos or tea
- 15-bar pressure for rich, frothy crema
- Compact design
- Built-in cup warmer
- Water container can leak a bit
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭒⭒
The Nespresso Pixie has a classic diner feel with modern features. It uses coffee capsules and holds up to 10 used capsules for when you’re brewing for a crowd. The machine preheats in only 25 seconds and if you step away and forget to shut the machine off, it will take care of it for you after nine minutes of inactivity. The pivoting cup tray makes it easy to switch between an espresso cup and a latte glass. The 24-ounce water tank is removable for convenience, especially when it’s time to clean it. The machine weighs only six pounds so it’s easy to clean around, under, and behind it. You can even take it with you when you visit your vacation home or have to head out of town for several days on business.
If you’re not an espresso snob, you’ll be incredibly impressed with this machine. It makes the entire process easy and the coffee isn’t too bad. The trays are even dishwasher safe so cleaning is a breeze as well. I’ve never been a fan of coffee pods because I like to have more control of the strength of my espresso. But for a pod machine, the Nespresso isn’t bad by any means. If you want something that does it all for you, this is probably the best automatic espresso machine for you in this price range.
- Compact design
- Brews very quickly
- Must use coffee capsules
- Small water tank needs to be refilled constantly
Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒
This medium-priced model features a stainless-steel exterior, a 15 bar Italian pump, PID temperature control and an impressive thermocoil with 1600 watts. The 1.8-liter removable water tank is the perfect size and won’t be too heavy when you’re carrying it back and forth from the sink. There’s also a cup warming tray and a concealed storage tray for all your cleaning tools and accessories.
For being a pump machine, I was surprised at how quiet it was. It’s no louder than a regular coffee maker so that’s one less thing to worry about. The crema was also perfect on the first use, which is rare, especially in this price range. While you can find less expensive espresso machines than this, I think that once you see (and taste) the results from this machine, you’ll know it’s worth the extra cash. You’ll also get to learn more about the espresso making process because you’ll be in control, not the machine. You’ll enjoy your beverage in the morning a little more knowing that you created it.
- Brews quickly and consistently
- PID temperature control, not included in other machines in this price range
- Auto-purge system
- Frothing system also pours hot water for brewing tea
- Drip tray is a bit cumbersome
- Hot water mechanism can be inconsistent
Benefits of Owning an Espresso Machine
Are you still on the fence about owning an espresso machine? While I know that owning such a machine isn’t the right choice for everyone, there are several benefits associated with your purchase, should you chose to do so. Consider the following.
Are you at the local coffee shop every morning before work or errands? If so, take a moment to add up all the time you spend waiting in line and for your drink. If you’re like most people, the amount of time you spend might surprise you. Can you think of a few other things you could be doing with that time? Maybe you want to put in a little extra time at work or hit the gym before starting your day. Our time is precious and I love having more control in how I spend my day since bringing home an espresso machine.
Once you’re done adding up all the time you spend at the coffee shop, keep the calculator out and add up how much you spend each week on your caffeine fix. Then multiply it by a year. If you’re spending about five dollars a day, five days a week, you’re shelling over an astonishing $1,300 a year! Here’s my advice. Do the math on your personal espresso costs and then use that as a guideline for your budget. In my situation, I’m actually saving money by making my own espresso at home, even after buying a machine with a high price tag.
Gain Control over Ingredients
I’m going to share a little secret with you. I’m a borderline germaphobe. I’m constantly worried about all the germs I come into contact with on a daily basis. So even though I’ve never met a barista I didn’t like, I was always concerned with what was coming into contact with my drinks. How well had they really cleaned the machine? How many hands touched my cup’s lid? I love being in control of the conditions my espresso is being made in.
I also love knowing every single ingredient that’s in my drink. I have the freedom to completely customize my drink without being the guy that causes a coffee pileup during the busiest hour of the morning. My drink tastes exactly how I want it to, each and every time.
Great for Entertaining
I won’t lie. There’s something that’s just so much fun about owning an espresso machine. I love how classy it looks in my kitchen. I also get a kick out of offering espresso to family and friends who come to visit. My machine was a big hit at the last holiday party I hosted and I’ve even had a few friends swing by on the weekend just to chat over an espresso. If you love being social, an espresso machine simply adds to the fun.
Different Types of Espresso Machines
If you’ve started looking through espresso machine reviews, you’re probably a bit surprised at how many options you have. It’s definitely overwhelming, especially when you want to make sure you find a great espresso machine that fits your budget. The first thing you need to decide is what type of espresso machine you want. To help guide you in this decision, here is a brief description of the most common types.
I was reluctant to include this type because a stovetop version technically isn’t a machine. This is the most basic way to make your own espresso at home. The process is entirely manual so you have nearly complete control over the final taste of your drink.
To operate a stovetop espresso maker, you’ll fill the reservoir with water and then add your coffee grounds, which are enclosed by a screen. You heat the water directly on the stove. As the water boils, the steam goes into the coffee and through the rest of the unit where it eventually trickles down into a chamber. It’s kept warm until you pour it. If you’ve ever tried a unit like this in the past, you probably know that the taste is more like strong coffee rather than espresso. But in a pinch, it works.
If you’re looking for a machine that does most of the work for you but still gives you some control over the final product, one with an electronic pump is ideal. The pump forces the water through the grounds. Because you don’t need to wait for the water to boil, you’ll usually end up with a less acidic version of espresso. You’ll find that the majority of options on the market today feature an electronic pump. There are options that include manual elements or ones that are completely automatic. They’ll even grind the coffee for you. Chances are, you’ll end up with a machine like this. Just be sure to keep up on the maintenance and you’ll get the most out of your model.
If you’re a bit nostalgic, a manual lever espresso machine could be perfect for you. You have a little more control over the strength of your espresso and it’s kind of fun to take the manual approach to espresso making. If you do chose this type of model, make sure you try out the lever before making your purchase. Some are easy to operate while others require quite a bit of strength. While there’s a little bit more work involved with this type of machine, nearly every espresso lover agrees that this process results in a very rich and delicious espresso.
Want espresso at home with the least amount of work? Then consider a pod espresso machine. You won’t need to grind your own beans or fill up a portafilter. Instead, all you need to do is make sure there’s enough water in the reservoir, pop in a pod, and hit a button. You’ll have a pretty decent cup of espresso in seconds. Your choices might be limited with a pod machine and you won’t be able to adjust the strength of your drink. But if you’re after simplicity, this is the option for you.
How to Make Espresso
Never made an espresso before? That’s okay! It’s not nearly as hard as you might be imagining it to be. Now keep in mind that these directions were written based on my own machine but they should give you a clear idea on how the process works. Once you chose the espresso machine that's right for you, be sure to thoroughly read the included instructions to prevent any sort of malfunction. Now let’s make some espresso!
- Start by making sure your machine is ready to go. Either fill the machine’s reservoir with water or hook it up to a water line. The type of water you use is important. It should be cold and filtered. Never use distilled water and be cautious with hard water, as it can cause your machine to accumulate scale. If you use unfiltered water, the taste of your beverage will suffer. It takes a little extra work to make sure your water is up to the right standards, but it’s worth it in the end.
- Turn on your espresso machine. You’ll want to do this as soon as possible since it will need a little time to heat up. My machine heats up in about 20 minutes so I turn my machine on first thing in the morning and then let the dog out and start prepping for my day. I’ve heard that some machines can take close to an hour though so plan accordingly. You can also invest in a timer so that your machine is ready by the time you wake up. Before beginning, make sure that the entire machine feels warm to the touch.
- Grab an empty portafilter and place it in the grouphead. Let the machine run for a few seconds in order to heat up all the parts of the machine that will touch your espresso. This will give you a uniform temperature. Then wipe down the inside of the portafilter along with the bottom of the grouphead. Your machine should be clean and dry now.
- Next, you’ll grind your favorite choice of beans. Remove any stale grounds from your grinder and check the fineness of your freshly ground beans. The grounds should clump loosely but still look like powder. When you rub them between your fingers, you should feel a gritty texture.
- Add your ideal amount of freshly ground coffee to the portafilter. I usually add about 20 grams but you can add more or less depending on your preference. Rotate the portafilter as needed, making sure that the grounds are evenly settled. Use your finger if needed to level out the grounds and remove any air pockets.
- Next, press down firmly over the center of the portafilter basket. You want to make sure you’re pressing down evenly. Use your fingertips to feel the edge of the basket. Make sure the bed appears level.
- Place the portafilter in the grouphead and begin to brew. My machine has a pre-brew stage but not all models have this. If yours does, be sure to take advantage of this feature. This will release stored gases before fully infusing. Let the pre-brew stage run until you see a drop or two exit the portafilter.
- Next, begin the full infusion stage. I usually make about two fluid ounces of espresso but again, this can be adjusted according to your preferences. If you are adding anything to your beverage, you can either stir it in or pour it into another cup and top with your freshly brewed espresso. Enjoy!
You might not make the perfect cup of espresso on your first try. Here are a few tips to help you along the way. Remember, practice makes perfect!
- Bitter taste: Your shot might be taking too long. For some reason, water isn’t flowing as quickly as it should. Try adding less coffee or grind the beans a bit coarser. You might also be packing the coffee too tight. You also might have over-extracted the grounds. You can try decreasing the water temperature or simply brewing for less time.
- Light taste: It’s no secret that espresso should taste strong. So if yours is watered down, water is flowing too quickly. You can either add more coffee or try grinding it down a bit more. You might also want to try packing it in a bit harder.
- Sour taste: This is the worst! If your beverage has a sour taste, you interrupted the chemical reaction between the coffee and water. To prevent this from happening again, you can try to increase the water temperature or simply brew for a bit longer.
- Other issues can be caused by the following, including using coffee that is too old, leaving air pockets in the coffee grounds, or not aligning the puck correctly. It took me about a week to really learn the insides and out of espresso making. Keep at it and you’ll be a pro in no time.
Different Types of Espresso Drinks
Click on the image to see the espresso chart in full size!
Did you know that there are many different types of espresso drinks? I was surprised at how many different kinds there were! You can go deep inside a rabbit hole and explore the many different styles of preparing espresso. Especially once you get a machine. You'll never get bored of trying all the different kinds. Who knows, you might even discover a new favorite. Below I'll explain a few of the styles.
- Espresso: The foundation. One shot of espresso in an espresso cup.
- Doppio: The double espresso. Two shots of espresso in an espresso cup.
- Ristretto: An espresso shot created with a normal amount of grounds but with half the amount of water. It produces a very concetrated result.
- Macchiato: Espresso with a touch of foamed milk to mellow out the strong taste. A dot of foamed milk over a single shot is a Short Macchiato, while over a double shot is a Long Macchiato.
- Cappuccino: Espresso mixed with steamed milk and foamed milk for a smooth taste. One shot of espresso, then an even part steamed milk over the espresso, then an even part of foamed milk over that.
- Mocha: A mix between a cappuccino and hot chocolate. Spoonful of cocoa, then a shot of espresso over. Add steamed milk then a touch of foamed milk on top.
- Latte: An espresso drink with steamed milk as the base. 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk over the espresso, with a pinch of foamed milk at the top.
- Cortado: A perfect, smooth afternoon pick-me-up. 2/3 espresso, 1/3 foamed milk over the espresso.
- Americano: Espresso with fresh hot water, that creates a strong, bold taste. 2/3 fresh hot water, 1/3 espresso over the hot water.
Espresso Machine Maintenance
Just like most appliances in your kitchen, your espresso machine will need a little upkeep. Coffee beans contain all sorts of compounds, including essential oils. The oils add body to the CO2 gas micro-bubbles found in the crema. But oils are perishable and can begin to decay after being exposed to air and heat. So if you don’t clean your machine on a regular basis, the oils left behind can begin to decay and leave you with a pretty bad taste in your mouth. Don’t let the idea of cleaning deter you. Your machine was designed with ease of maintenance in mind. A few simple steps will keep your machine clean and functioning perfectly for years to come.
When it comes to daily cleaning, you just want to make sure your machine is left spic and span after each use. This includes brushing down and wiping all parts you can reach that were exposed to coffee grounds. You should also thoroughly clean, rinse, and wipe the portafilter. Then wipe down the entire machine with a damp cloth and you’re good to go. This should only take a minute or two. If you have an all automatic machine, take advantage of the daily rinse cycle feature. If your machine has a steam arm, make sure to wipe it down and remove any milk residue to prevent mold growth.
Once a week, you should take the time to do a little more in-depth cleaning. This includes soaking your portafilters and baskets in a mixture of coffee detergent and hot water. Let them soak for at least half an hour before thoroughly scrubbing them. If your unit has a steam wand, disassemble it and soak it in the detergent mixture for about 15 minutes. Scrub everywhere, including the steam tip holes. Make sure to pay attention to any small parts of your machine. You might want to keep a small brush in your kitchen just for cleaning those hard to reach areas of your expresso machine. Let all pieces dry before reassembling the machine.
Monthly maintenance is all about making sure your water isn’t harming your machine. Check the water filter each month and replace as needed. If you’re using an inline water filtration system, check the cartridges. If you’re using your machine more than the average user, your cartridges might not be able to keep up and could actually be doing more harm than good. This can ruin the taste of your espresso and eventually, your machine. If you’re finding that your monthly checks almost always require new cartridges, you might want to start checking twice a month.
Once a season, schedule a few hours to decalcify your machine. My machine actually has a decalcify indicator light that lets me know when it’s time. No matter how well you clean your espresso machine, it’s sure to build up some deposits. If you skip this crucial step, calcium buildups will continue to grow and you’ll be left with some really bitter espresso and eventually a machine that no longer operates. You can either use a descaling agent or just a bit of diluted white vinegar.
Espresso Machine Troubleshooting
Even the most well-maintained espresso machine can have a bad day. If you’re having an issue with your machine and you’re not sure why, check out this list of the most common espresso machine problems and how to fix them.
No Espresso Coming Out
This issue can be incredibly frustrating but it’s usually a simple fix. First, make sure that there is water in the reservoir. If your machine is hooked up to a water line, make sure that the water hasn’t been shut off at the source. If your machine has a boiler, make sure that the water is making its way into the boiler. This can be done by priming the pump. If everything seems okay with your water, the coffee might have been grounded up too finely or tamped too firmly. You might also have put too much coffee in the basket. If you haven’t descaled your machine in quite some time, buildup could be preventing water flow. The screen inside the grouphead could also have buildup. If you think this is the problem, use a screwdriver to remove the screen and rinse it out.
Pump Making Loud Noise
This issue is alarming for sure. If there’s a loud noise coming from the pump, first make sure that there is water in the reservoir or that there are no issues with the water line your machine is attached to. If your machine has a boiler, prime the pump to make sure there’s water inside. The last thing to try is grounding up your coffee into finer pieces. If all of these troubleshooting tips checkout, you might want to call the manufacturer to see if there is a warranty or service option for the pump.
Steam Wand Malfunctioning
If your unit has a steam wand, it’s crucial to keep it clean to prevent malfunction. If it’s not operating correctly, remove it from the machine and take it apart. Look for any dried milk that could be clogging the wand. If you just turned on your machine, it might not be hot enough yet. Give it another minute and make sure it’s in steam mode. The last likely culprit is buildup. If you think your machine needs to be descaled, make the time to do it sooner than later.
Watery espresso comes out too quickly. It will have very little to no crema and taste nothing like what you hope it to. The most likely culprit is coffee that has been ground too coarsely. The finer your coffee grounds, the more surface area there is for the water to rush by, increasing the flavor of your drink. You also might not have tamped the coffee grounds strong enough or made sure that they were evenly distributed and level. You also might not have put in enough coffee. If you feel like you’ve done all of the previously mentioned instructions correctly, check the date on your coffee. It might be too old. You should try to grind the beans just before using them so don’t try to save time by grinding a week’s worth or more in one session.
Espresso Tastes Burnt
Bitter and burnt are not words you want to use when describing your espresso. If your espresso just doesn’t taste right, try grinding your coffee a little less finely. Don’t pack it in so tight and maybe add a bit less coffee to the portafilter. Check the screen as well. If you notice a buildup of coffee residue, clean it well before trying another cycle. Finally, make sure that your pump is in working order. If it’s not getting enough water or too outdated, it might not have enough pressure.
First, grab a towel. Then, look for a rubber gasket inside the grouphead. Is it worn down? This can happen over time. Try cleaning it first. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to replace it. There could also be coffee grounds on the rim of the portafilter. This can disrupt the seal so always make sure the rim is clean before placing the portafilter in the grouphead. Also, check the consistency of your coffee. If water can’t flow through with ease, it will spill out in other areas of the machine.
Empty Tank Light On When Tank is Full
I’ve had this happen to me and it’s incredibly frustrating. But once I figured out what was going on, it was an easy fix. Most tanks have a magnetic floater that sits in the back corner of the tank. This is what tells the machine when it’s low on water. But if the floater is stuck at the bottom, it will tell the machine it’s out of water when it’s not. Try cleaning the floater after loosening it. It should freely float again now.
Malfunctions aren’t ideal but they do happen on occasion. Luckily, most espresso machines are built to be very user friendly. With a little research, some patience, and a tool or two, you can usually get your machine back up and running in just a few minutes. If your issues seem too advanced to fix yourself, you have several options for service. Always speak with the manufacturer first to see if anything is covered under an included warranty.
If you’re ready to keep more money in your pocket but plenty of espresso running through your veins, it’s time to purchase your own home espresso machine. Once you get through a few growing pains, like learning how to make an espresso and how to keep your machine up and running, you’ll find yourself loving espresso even more than you already did. Now you'll have a warm drink to pair with some yummy cinnamon rolls! Once you mix your favorite drink with the convenience and time and money saving attributes of a machine, you’ll wonder why you ever waited so long to make the switch in the first place. The perfect espresso machine for you is out there, waiting for you to take her home. Don’t leave her out there alone for too long. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to make myself an espresso. Cheers!