So you've decided to take the plunge into the world of Espresso.
You've carefully gathered together your best recipes, various cups and pots, and your beans are sitting there on the counter, ready for roasting. You even grabbed a book or video on how to make Espresso the proper way. So what's missing?
The Espresso Coffee Machine, of course!
Before you can dip into the beautiful brown waters of Espresso coffee making, you need to use one of the Perfect Espresso Machines. But if this is your first time as a specialty coffee maker, you may be completely overwhelmed when you go to the kitchen appliance section of your local store.
We've consulted with some coffee and Espresso fanatics and put together an article that's sure to steady your coffee-hungry nerves. You can enjoy this article either as a shot with some milk, or take a steaming cup of it over to your favorite window ledge and enjoy.
There are two main types of coffee makers: the drip system that most tabletop and industrial coffee machines utilize and the pressure system most commonly associated with Espresso.
Both systems have several advantages over the other. However, since we are focusing on the perfect Espresso machine for your home or restaurant, we won't spend a lot of time on the drip system.
Let's say that the standard countertop drip coffee maker is a lot easier to use than the pressure system. You throw in some coffee grounds, add water to the reservoir, and turn it on. The water is boiled and splashed into the filter holding the grounds, which then drops into your pot. You job is over as soon as you hit the start button, and within minutes you have a freshly brewed pot of coffee.
But you don't want just any plain old coffee, do you? Of course you don't. Otherwise you wouldn't be reading this article.
You want Espresso!
If you ask any Espresso Elitist who's worth his coffee grounds what kind of machine he (or she!) uses to make their tiny cups of brown Heaven and they'll tell you a pressure machine is the only way to go.
The pressure system is far more complicated. It forces hot steam through the coffee grounds, thus brewing to perfection. Coffee experts agree that this is the only way to get Espresso just right.
These machines can cost you as little as $50 for a countertop Espresso machine to upwards of $1500 for a fancy, restaurant-size all-in-one unit. Obviously, before deciding on a price you should figure out whether you're going to be making Espresso for you and your friends on a countertop Espresso coffee maker or providing the tasty drink for sale at your restaurant with a commercial espresso machine.
Some Common Features
Basically, all Espresso coffee makers do one thing-they all make espresso. However, depending on your tastes and the size of your pocketbook, you may want more than just the basics. If you're going to be making Espresso with Commercial Espresso machines, then you're definitely going to need some extra features.
With the advent of push button technology, espresso machines have become even easier to operate. In fact, some are so advanced that they could rival even the simplest drip-coffee makers!
Some of these push buttons machines even have auto timers you can use that will properly measure the amount of time needed to steam the coffee grounds and make a great Espresso shot. If you are interested in this hands free approach, make sure that the timer is adjustable. Your idea of a great Espresso shot may be far different than the default settings on the machine would allow.
Another great feature on many commercial espresso machines and home counter top coffee machines is the adjustable volume option. In this way, you set the volume, add the right amount of water, and never have to worry about extra mess or cleanup afterward. Why use two cups of water when all you need is enough for a few shots of Espresso?
Additionally, why would you want to stand around and make single shot after single shot of Espresso when what you really want is a full sized Crema Coffee?
A feature considered by many to be a luxury with the Espresso and specialty coffee crowd is the addition of heating platforms to Automatic Espresso Machines. Often, commercial coffee makers come with heating platforms for pots of coffee to sit for a while at a steady temperature, but you should be prepared to pay a little extra if you want one designed to heat the serving cups.
A cold cup will reduce the temperature of a shot of Espresso, and thus will reduce the aroma and flavour at the same time. Getting your Espresso in a paper cup from Starbucks is one thing, but in order to properly serve it your cups should be preheated for the full effect.
If you are looking to sell Espresso or other specialty coffees in your café or restaurant, than another feature you should seriously look at is a hot water and frothy milk dispenser. You've probably seen these before at your local convenience store where coffee is sold. With a hot water dispenser you can make teas and ciders in seconds because you always have a supply of scalding water on tap. Additionally, a frothy milk dispenser will keep your milk hot and bubbly, perfect for serving hot chocolate or other frothy drinks.
Considering the amount of variation that coffee drinks allow for and the many varied ways in which their prepared, the possibilities are practically limitless. As such, there really is an Espresso machine out there for every taste, preference, and occasion.
Don't be afraid to ask questions before you buy your coffee or espresso machine, and do some homework. Remember that just about every Espresso machine out there will make a decent cup of Espresso, but if you want a really great drink it's up to you to find the right ingredients and use the machine.