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About to Buy Your First Espresso Machine? Read This Guide Before You Decide

Updated on May 15, 2016

Why Espresso Coffee Is Awesome

The main reason why more and more people are switching from coffee to espresso is the simple fact that espresso coffee tastes much better than regular coffee. The aromas, the flavors. There's simply nothing quite like a well-made cup of espresso coffee.

Here's another reason why espresso is great: sometimes ordinary coffee just isn't enough. For those mornings when you need a little extra boost to get going, a hot cup of espresso can really help put a spring in your step. Espresso has much more caffeine than regular coffee.

Yet another good thing about espresso is that it's super quick and easy to make. You don't have to wait for an entire pot of coffee to brew if you have a speedy espresso machine.

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3 Reasons to Buy Your Own Espresso Machine

1. Cost savings. The price of coffee has skyrocketed in recent years. The good news, though, is that the price of espresso machines has actually gone down. In the past, espresso machines were super expensive. They were also pretty hard to use. Today's espresso machines are actually pretty inexpensive and user friendly.

2. Convenience. It's nice to be able to walk over to your kitchen and enjoy a hot cup of espresso whenever you want-- especially if you're a writer or if you work from home.

3. Health benefits. A slew of recent research has proven once and for all that caffeine is not dangerous at all-- it's actually quite good for you. Caffeine slashes your risk of mouth and throat cancer in half. It also decreases the risk of diabetes. Caffeine even helps alleviate asthma symptoms. The list goes on and on.

How Are Espresso Makers Different?

  • More heat, more pressure. Most coffee makers use a slow drip system to make coffee. Espresso machines, on the other hand, blast coffee grinds with hot, pressurized water.

  • Finer grinds. Espresso coffee requires extra processing. That's why espresso coffee is much finer and softer compared to regular coffee grinds.

  • Less time is required. You don't have to wait long for espresso. Just put the coffee into the machine and press a button.

  • More caffeine. Just one shot of espresso contains about five times as much coffee as a normal cup of joe.

  • Much better taste. Once you get used to drinking espresso at home, there's no going back to normal coffee.

  • The price. Espresso machines aren't quite as expensive as they used to be back in the 80s, but they are still a bit more expensive than normal coffee makers.

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Questions to Consider Before You Buy

Can the espresso maker handle fresh ground coffee? Espresso made from coffee disks is okay, but it doesn't compare to espresso made from fresh coffee grinds. If taste is your priority, get a machine that will take fresh coffee grinds.

If the espresso machine only accepts coffee disks, how good are the disks? If you decide to go with an espresso machine that can only take disks, it makes sense to try some of the different flavors before you buy if you can.

How durable is it? If you decide to go with an expensive, high end espresso machine, check out the fine print on the warranty before you buy. Also, check around to see how much replacement parts cost.

What kinds of accessories do you need? Espressos are supposed to be hot. That's why it's not a good idea to drink an espresso from a normal coffee cup. Thick cups leech heat away, causing your drink to get cold fast. Thin, small coffee cups made specifically for drinking espresso help your drink stay hotter, longer.

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Manual vs. Electric Coffee Grinders

When it comes to espresso, your final product is only as good as your grinder. That's why if you get an espresso maker that will take fresh ground coffee, it makes sense to invest in a high quality grinder.

Manual coffee grinders. Though the thought of grinding up your coffee beans yourself may seem appealing to some, the truth is that manual coffee grinders just don't work very well. Manual coffee grinders simply can't compete with stronger, more efficient electronic grinders.

Electric coffee grinders. If you want to get the best tasting espresso possible out of your espresso machine, invest in a quality electronic coffee grinder. The finer your grind is, the better your coffee will taste. Your taste buds will thank you later.

The 4 Best Espresso Machines on Amazon

No matter what kind of espresso machine you're after, the list below has something for everyone.

If you have any questions, just drop me a line in the comments section.

The Dedica EC680 by De'Longhi is the espresso machine of my dreams. It's a bit pricey, but it's made out of shiny stainless steel and it's built to last forever.

Strengths

  • Versatility. The EC680 does just about everything. It takes both coffee disks (a nice option if you're in a hurry) as well as fresh ground coffee.

  • Semi-automatic control. The Dedica is a semi-automatic espresso maker. That means that you can control how much hot water goes into your shot of espresso.

  • Compact size. This mean little machine measures only 13 x 5.9 x 13 inches. That's small enough to fit on almost any kitchen countertop.

  • Style points. The Dedica looks and feels like an authentic Italian espresso machine.

Weaknesses

  • The warming tray isn’t so hot. The good news is that the Dedica comes with a built in warming tray. The bad news is that the warming tray takes forever to warm up. Overall, it's not a big problem... but in this price range, everything about this espresso maker should be outstanding.

This espresso machine from Nespresso is the best casual espresso maker out there right now. It doesn't take fresh grinds, but Nestlé's coffee disk flavors are actually pretty decent. Overall, the CitiZ&Milk is a nice, inexpensive little automatic espresso maker that’s perfect for use in an office.

Strengths

  • It can froth milk. Most espresso machines in this price range don't froth milk, but the CitiZ&Milk can.

  • It’s super fast. The CitiZ&Milk will churn out a fresh espresso in under 25 seconds.

  • It’s easy to maintain. Some espresso machines are hard to clean because you can't take them apart. But the CitiZ&Milk's water tank snaps off, so it's easy to wash.

Weaknesses

  • You can’t put in fresh grinds-- only coffee disks. Most budget espresso makers can only use coffee disks, and the CitiZ&Milk is no exception.

The 15 Bar Espresso Coffee Machine from Jack Stonehouse is a solid all-around espresso maker. The best thing about this espresso machine is that it can handle fresh coffee grinds, but the steam arm feature is quite useful as well. It's not quite as nice as the De'Longhi Dedica, but it's also much less expensive.

Strengths

  • Steam arm. The steam arm allows you to exert control over the built-in milk frothing machine.
  • Coffee shop style design. This espresso maker has more plastic surfaces than the De'Longhi Dedica, but it still looks quite stylish.

  • Accessories are included. It comes with a matching filter holder and tamper.

Weaknesses

  • It doesn't take coffee disks. Chances are you won't miss coffee disks once you start grinding your own coffee. Still,the ability to make coffee both ways would have been a nice feature.

4. Best Coffee Grinder / Espresso Maker Combo

Most built-in coffee grinders aren't as powerful as standalone coffee grinders, but the Magnifica ESAM4000.B's internal grinder is an exception to the rule. The "bean-to-cup" mode turns whole beans into high quality, steaming hot espresso in just a matter of minutes.

Strengths

  • Surprisingly powerful built-in grinder. The internal grinder actually works quite well and is a nice, no-hassle option for quickly churning out fresh coffee.

  • It cleans itself. This machine rinses itself out with hot water each time you use it, which prevents coffee slime from accumulating over time.

  • Great for espresso beginners. Everything on this machine is automatic.

Weaknesses

  • Replacement parts are expensive. There are many moving parts in this machine. If something breaks, it's expensive to fix. The warranty will cover you for two years, but after that you're on your own.

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