It’s one thing to have a good cup of coffee once in a while, you can do this at your favorite café. It’s a completely different thing to do this every day and anytime you want.
This means you’ll have to brew coffee by yourself, there are manual, semi-automatic and automatic machines you can use for this.
Brewing with a manual coffee maker isn’t as easy, there are several variables you’ll have to control to get a perfect cup so there’s a learning curve to it.
Semi-automatic and automatic machines don’t have that problem and they’re all espresso machines. It’s faster to brew with them and most things can be handled with a button.
Benefits Of Espresso Machines
• User-Friendly Design
Manual coffee makers need you to figure out how well you’ll need to place the filter or how many times you need to push the lever, little things like that count in how your final drink turns out.
Espresso machines have a simple design as most things are automated so the only things you’ll need help with are what buttons to press and how many times you’ll need to do that.
• Consistent Results
With manual coffee makers, it’s hard to get the same results each time you brew as replicating the technique each time isn’t as easy.
As far as you don’t change the settings on an espresso machine, you’ll get the same results every time so if you made a great coffee once, you can repeat it at a different time.
The simplicity of these machines makes them very easy to use. You don’t have to monitor the brewing process and it’s easy to clean too. There are some customization options available so you can develop your style and have that barista feel.
Types Of Espresso Machines
There are different types of espresso machines and they’re generally classified in two ways, according to the kind of their driving mechanism and their automation.
Types Of Espresso Machines According To Their Driving Mechanism
• Piston Driven Espresso Machine
It’s also called the lever espresso machine and is generally of two types the manually driven and spring-driven piston espresso machine.
Water at high-pressure is used to brew coffee with this machine and a piston is used to produce that pressurized water. They require human effort to work so most piston machines are also called manual or semi-automatic espresso machines.
• Steam Driven Espresso Machine
This is the traditional espresso machine so it was the first to come into the market. It also uses pressurized water but steam this time and not water at room temperature.
There’s a boiler which produces the steam and it’s connected to different heads so different kinds of coffee can be made with one brew.
• Pump Driven Espresso Machine
Pump driven machines are fully automated espresso machines. Human effort is eliminated and power is gotten from an electric supply.
Pressure is varied with other espresso machines but pump-driven machines produce a constant pressure for the water used to brew the coffee.
Air pump driven machines are a modified version of these espresso machines. Compressed air is used to produce the pressurized water needed for the drink.
This compressed air can be generated electrically or manually with a hand pump. Common components of the compressed air used are nitrogen and carbon dioxide.
Types Of Espresso Machines According To Their Automation
• Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
This is one machine that can be considered as the hybrid of a manual and automatic espresso machine.
Manufacturers who produce this are trying to target the part of the market that won’t pay the premium price for a fully automated espresso machine but want a machine with the basic automated features.
A portafilter, boiler, button and piston are common features of a semi-automatic machine.
In the manual system, the user stops brewing when the right amount of coffee is out while in the automated system, the time at which the machine was programmed to stop is when brewing stops.
• Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
Human effort isn’t required with these machines and nothing works without it being programmed.
It’s very easy to operate and any kind of coffee can be brewed with a fully automatic machine.
• Super Automatic Espresso Machine
These are fully automatic espresso machines but with a lot of advanced features, these are the machines you’ll find in most five-star restaurants used in brewing coffee and other beverages where absolute attention to detail is required.
A control panel, LED display, advanced buttons, temperature control and standard pre-brewing and post-brewing controls are some of the features of the super machine.
Milk-frothing and steaming can also be gotten so these machines have also been called ultra automatic espresso machines.
There are many features the average espresso machine has but there are certain features that aid brewing and separate it from the basic coffee maker. Let’s look at those:
The pressure pump is what makes this device an espresso machine. Pressure is passed through the water used in brewing and the amount of pressure needed can’t be generated with a manual coffee maker.
9 bars is the minimum pressure required to make espresso so this is something you should check on the machine you’ve decided to buy.
The pressurized water is then heated to be used in brewing and the boiler takes care of this.
The material, weight and design of the boiler are very important things to consider. All these will determine the temperature that the boiler can generate.
Aluminum, brass and stainless steel are the common materials used for boilers. Aluminum is the cheapest among the three so most basic espresso machines will use it.
It’s a low-grade material so it will corrode before brass and stainless steel boilers and this can leave parts of it in your drink giving it a metallic taste.
Steel and brass are higher grade materials but brass retains heat longer.
Boiler thickness and weight are other things to look at. Smaller boilers will heat faster but can’t be used for larger cups of coffee while a large boiler will handle that.
Premium machines use a heat exchanger boiler to produce steam faster and also to get a consistent temperature needed for brewing.
This is the part of the espresso machine that holds the coffee grounds before and during brewing.
Most machines below $500 will have pressurized portafilters while those above come with commercial portafilters.
Aluminum and brass are common materials used in portafilters and brass is usually on high-grade devices.
The reservoir stores the water used during brewing and it’s usually taken out after brewing to prevent bacterial growth.
Make sure you get a machine with a reservoir that’s large enough for the amount of coffee you’ll be brewing and one that’s easy to remove too.
Best Espresso Machine Under £500 Reviews and Recommendations
1. Breville BES840XL/A The Infuser
The BES840XL is a semi-automatic espresso machine and is the top pick for this review and many others out there with its set of accessories for different kinds of brewing.
It can be programmed to brew espresso and comes with a 360° steam wand though this has a learning curve to it so takes some time to get used to.
During brewing, pressure is switched from low to high and this is used to extract the flavor from your coffee.
The water reservoir holds 61 fluid ounces of water and that’s quite high even for an espresso machine. BPA-free plastics are used with the device to avoid the risk of contamination.
There’s a default setting which you can use for any type of espresso you frequently brew but if you want to try something different, its customization settings allow you overwrite the initial program.
If you forget to switch off the machine after use, there’s an auto-shutoff setting so that will kick in after a period of inactivity and this will conserve power.
There’s a metal tamper and this is better than the plastic ones that don’t pack tightly and it gives you an even pack of espresso grounds.
Frothing is easier with the metal jug and there’s an indicator to put you on notice when the drip tray needs cleaning. Other accessories are the tool storage tray and the cup warmer, a portafilter with four filters are also included in the pack.
2. Gaggia Carezza Deluxe Espresso Machine
The Carezza Deluxe brewing method revolves around the use of a pressurized filter basket. It works with both coffee grounds and Espresso pods.
Its pre-infusion feature is one of the key features of the machine. It allows the grounds to get soaked in the portafilter, extracting the flavor before full pressure is applied during brewing. This isn’t a common feature on low-end machines and that’s why it’s special.
It also has a large filter basket size, holding up to 18 grams of coffee. This is an advantage especially when you’re brewing a large amount of coffee so you don’t get a watery espresso. More holes in the basket also said extraction.
This Gaggia espresso machine features a simple Italian design with a cup warmer on top. It powers up quickly and you can brew within a minute. There’s also the auto-shutoff setting after nine minutes of inactivity.
Its water reservoir with a 47 oz capacity is compatible with different water filters, especially the Mavea Inteza filter system to remove impurities from your water which can influence the flavor. The wand for frothing is an extra accessory.
3. DeLonghi EC685M Dedica Deluxe
The EC685M deserves a mention because it’s a relatively inexpensive option which has features you’ll expect to see only in high-end machines.
There’s an adjustable frother that allows you infuse your style into your brew. The automatic flow stop releases the exact amount of brewed espresso and this is better than having to manually figure it out.
The drip tray is adjustable so you can place taller cups perfectly in this position. It uses a thermoblock heating system which while not as advanced as the heat exchanger boiler, can maintain the temperature needed during your everyday brewing.
It produces a 15-bar pressure for brewing and its 35oz water tank which while not as large as the first two espresso machines, is easy to remove, clean and reattach.
What’s your experience brewing with espresso machines? The three espresso machines are all great options for the under $500 price tag.
Go check them out!