Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee that is made by forcing
hot water through finely ground coffee at a high pressure.
In order to force the water through the fine-ground coffee, espresso machines use pressure that comes from heating water inside a sealed vessel. Some machines a pump driven, while others are steam driven. Pump driven machines generate more consistent pressure at the optimal brewing temperature. Most commercial grade machines are pump driven. A steam driven machine is most common at the lower-end of the consumer market.
Espresso machines can be bought from around $30 up to many thousands - and there are even variations of the espresso machine made especially for camping trips. All machines work on the same basic principles.
Finding the Right Espresso Machine for You
Making a quality espresso drink is an art form. Fortunately, options are available that match your skill level - or desire for ease of use. Some machines will do everything for you. Other espresso machines require a high level of operator skill and interaction. Tip your barista well!
It's important to consider the various elements involved. You may want supreme simplicity in a home espresso machine - insert
espresso pod, push go, wait 45 seconds and enjoy.
Or you may be in the market for a commercial grade machine which requires a commercial grade grinder, direct plumbing and electrical.
Why buy an espresso machine?
You might be a little shocked and surprised when you start your espresso machine shopping adventure. These machines aren't cheap! Not the good ones anyway.
But, if you take out pad and pen and do the math, you will quickly decide that a home machine - a good home machine - will pay for itself rather quickly.
Let's assume that you buy just one espresso drink per day at the modest cost of $3.50 (I know most drinks run higher and many of us cannot get by on just one per day!) That adds up to over $1277 per year! If you have friends, roommates, family (my wife, oh my wife!), then you can easily see the cost-effectiveness of an the commercial grade home models.
Plus, when you get good at making drinks (and that's a lot of fun), you can wow friends and family. It beats a card trick most everytime.
A Word of Caution when Buying an Espresso Machine
If you're budget minded, like I am, you might be tempted to snap up a $60 expresso machine at Target. Hey, I love Target too. But you will likely be disappointed by the performance of the machine. Frankly, I think a good barista can make a decent drink on any machine - but you'll likely wish you saved up a bit over time and purchased a higher quality pump-driven model.
It's true that the pump-driven espresso makers are bigger, heavier, and more difficult to use (until you learn to use it). But they'll produce a better cup of coffee. And you will be happier in the long-run as a result.
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