Five Key Questions About Espresso Machines

Espresso coffee machine users are not always clear about how their coffee machine works or how to get the most out of it. Many times coffee machines are gifts or arrive at our home without us having obtained prior information about how they work, and despite using them daily, we still have doubts about their most essential aspects.

In this post, we are going to solve 5 of the most frequent questions that users ask themselves about espresso machines. Let’s start:

How do you use espresso machines?

To know how to use the espresso machines, first we have to understand how they work. Espresso machines (which in Italian means made instantly) are characterised by the fact that they prepare espressos in a few seconds, faster than Italian coffee machines or drip coffee machines.

To use an espresso machine, you must place the already ground coffee inside the filter that comes with it. After pouring it into the filter, you must press it in the right measure. If it is too pressed, the coffee will come out too thick. If it is too loose, the coffee will come out a little watery. Besides, the ideal pressure for your coffee will depend on the degree of grinding it has.

The filter holder, which is where the filter goes, usually has a characteristic arm that protrudes from the coffee maker. By turning it to the right or left, you can fit or tighten the filter in the coffee maker. An espresso machine takes just a few seconds to prepare espressos.

When you’re done, you can use the steamer tube included with many espresso machines to heat the milk and create a thick layer of foam over your coffee.

Automatic espresso machines do not have a filter or filter holder, so you cannot control as many aspects of preparation as you can with manual espresso machines. Instead, they often come with a built-in grinder that allows you to enjoy freshly ground coffee, rather than having to use a built-in grinder. Automatic espresso machines are much easier to operate than manual ones, as it is often enough to press a button for the machine to start and complete the whole process.

If you want to learn how to make a perfect espresso and know how to use espresso machines, you can start by reviewing this highly educational video. It has Prima Coffee Equipment advertising at the end, but well, we forgive you because the truth is that the video is closed and is very helpful for those who are starting in this world of espresso machines. 🙂

What coffee do espresso machines use?

Espresso machines use ground coffee, but the real secret to making a perfect espresso in an espresso machine lies in the finesse. Espresso machines need the coffee to be finely ground (it doesn’t have to be coffee powder, but quite fine and if possible naturally roasted. The beans that are used (or recommended) to make coffee with espresso machines have a darker roast than, for example, the coffee that should be used in a drip or filter coffee maker.

We have already explained in the previous section; everything comes from the operation of this type of coffee machine. The water is injected with such a pressure on the coffee filter that if it is too thick, the water will pass through it, almost without soaking it. Then the coffee will be more watery than you want, with little taste.

The same goes for the pressing: if the coffee is not pressed correctly, the same thing can happen. And if you press it too much, the water will hit a “wall” of coffee that it can barely get through. Both of these factors combine when using an espresso machine, so if you have a coffee that is a little thicker than you would like, you can always compensate by over-pressing it. And the other way around, too.

So you know: as well as investing in a good espresso machine, make sure you choose a fine enough coffee blend or grind it yourself at home with a suitable grinder. Otherwise, you may get regular or mediocre quality espressos and not take advantage of all the qualities of your espresso machine.

For all these reasons, not all grinders are suitable for use with espresso machines. Or rather, all are suitable, but not all offer sufficiently recommendable results. Before buying your coffee grinder, make sure that its finer grinding is suitable for making espressos. You can consult our guides for this and pay special attention to our analyses of electric coffee grinders.

What qualities should a good espresso machine have?

Before buying an espresso machine, you should look at several aspects so that you don’t make a mistake in your decision. Rather than labelling espresso machines as “good” or “bad”, we prefer to talk about whether or not a particular machine fits your needs as a consumer. We believe that it is much smarter to guide your decisions in this way. So before you buy an espresso machine, we recommend that you ask yourself the following questions:

Do you have experience as a user, or at least some knowledge of barista, or do you prefer a more straightforward machine? Think that a super-automatic coffee maker, although it is easier to handle, has a lot of programmable options and configurations that make it more expensive and that you may never use in the end.

Do you like freshly ground coffee? Or won’t you appreciate this nuance? If you’re in the latter case, you don’t need to invest your money in a coffee maker with a grinder.

Do you have little space in your kitchen, or do you need to move the coffee maker around often? If the answer is yes, bear in mind that automatic machines are usually much more bulky and heavy than manual ones.

Are you a cappuccino or latte fan? Then you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy a coffee maker that includes a professional steamer tube (or pannarello).

Are you looking for a lifelong coffee maker or a transitional machine to get used to coffee and coffee making before you buy a top model? If you’re in the former case, stainless steel coffee makers tend to be much more durable and robust.

What types of espresso machines are there?

As we have already mentioned in this article, espresso machines are divided into two types: manual and automatic espresso machines. The former allows a better personalisation of the coffee and control of a higher number of nuances, while the automatic ones are more comfortable, programmable and, in short, more complete. Here we summarise the main differences between these two types of espresso machines.

  • Coffee preparation is much more customisable in a manual than in an automatic. As with everything handmade, manual coffee preparation is more demanding but also more pleasant.
  • The price: automatic coffee machines are generally more expensive than manual ones. They have more technology and, above all, more electronics inside them.
  • Manageability: it is easier to prepare a coffee in an automatic espresso machine. One-touch of a button is all it takes: in just a few seconds you can go from a handful of unground coffee beans to a delicious, freshly brewed espresso.
  • Preparation time: automatic espresso machines are somewhat faster than manual ones.

Apart from this categorisation, we can establish other groups of espresso machines according to the presence or not of different elements/accessories. For example, we can find espresso machines with a grinder, with a milk frother, stainless steel espresso machines as well as the logical division of espresso machines by brand.

The five best espresso machines

And finally, these are, in our opinion, the five best espresso machines on the market. Click on them to know their characteristics, see their price at this moment, or look for them in our web for more information.

Silvia E New 2016 and Rocky NO DOSER Coffee grinder - Rancilio
Silvia Rancilio Rocky S Espresso Grinder; Distributor Siebtrgergriff Dampfdrehknopf, And In A New Design
Krups Espresseria EA8108 Automatic Bean to Cup Coffee Machine, Black
Simple interface makes it easy to achieve barista style coffee
Gaggia RI9305/11 Brera Bean to Cup Coffee Machine, 1400 W, 15 Bar, Black/Silver
Removable Gaggia Brew Unit; Ceramic grinder to retain the purity of the coffee aromas; Rapid Steam & Metal Pannarello Frother

As you can see, we keep the Saeco Intelia. We are not going to extend in the reasons, since you can read here the complete review: analysis of the Saeco Intelia. In any case, any of the other options is also, for one reason or another, safe bets in the specific coffee sector.

This small selection does not imply that there are other models that for their quality/price relation can be more suitable for you or more engaging in particular moments. You can broaden your knowledge by reviewing some of our rankings, for example.

Editor’s note: We have deliberately left out the 700 or 800 pounds espresso machines, which are obviously on a higher rung but do not always fit into every household or every economy.