Supers, semis, manuals, single serves, oh my! With all the different machines available at Whole Latte Love, it can be hard to figure out which one is best suited for your needs. Even with our serious online archive of reviews, videos, and articles, designed to help you make an educated buying decision, the assessment process can still seem daunting.
Matching an espresso machine to your needs or style, as we like to call it, is the most important decision you can start with. If the machine does not offer the proper balance of "ease of use" to "user control" to match your style, then the experience and the outcome will be less than optimal. Not a good thing!
That's why we've decided to put together this fun little pop quiz to help you decide. Don't worry, this isn't the kind of test you have to study for— just grab a pen and piece of paper, keep track of your answers and we'll have you matched up to the perfect machine in no time!
How often do you plan on using your espresso machine?
What kind of espresso-making experience do you find most appealing?
How often do you entertain with your espresso maker and for how many people?
How do you feel about clean-up and maintenance?
You consider an espresso machine to be ________
You consider yourself to be______
If you answered mostly A's, you are a connoisseur that likes having things done for you. You should consider a Super Automatic!
They are perfect for someone that loves having things done for them. You like the idea that the coffee grounds are kept inside the machine. You also like the idea of dialing in the perfect cup of coffee and getting a consistent shot without the chemistry of it all.
These machines are simply that— super automatics. They perform the entire ritual for the user in a fraction of the time. They contain water reservoirs and integrated coffee grinders. This is push button technology at its best! Press the brew button and the machine will grind the perfect amount of beans, tamp the ground beans, and extract a predetermined amount of coffee. Some will give you the ability to change the coffee strength by controlling the amount of coffee used in each extraction. The machine will then dispose of the puck (left over coffee) into an internal dump box.
Frothing is also very simple. They all have frothing adapters, which help in the aeration of the milk to produce a thick froth. They react very quickly and are capable of steaming continuously.
Some Super Automatics even provide a bypass doser. This feature allows the user to bypass the whole bean coffee grinder with pre-ground coffee. The most common use of this is for decaf.
Certain models will even help the user maintain the machine through their own cleaning cycles, decalcification cycles and auto-rinse cycles.
If you answered mostly B's, you're an artist, a craftsman who would enjoy owning a Manual!
You will love the hands-on experience of perfecting your art through practice. These machines are best suited for people that thoroughly enjoy the ritual of making espresso— a coffee culture enthusiast. The ease of use is low and the learning curve is high. However, the coffee they are capable of extracting is on par with the best machines. The exterior of the machine has a brass, chrome or even copper finish. These machines are considered pieces of functional art!
Before the invention of this style of machine it was not possible to generate the necessary pressure to extract an espresso in the manner that we enjoy today. The introduction of the piston style enabled baristas to generate the 8 to 9 atmospheres of pressure necessary for a true espresso. In the 1930's this process was further refined to use water heated below boiling at around 190 to 195 degrees. This refinement kept the integrity of sensitive aromatic oils; coffee flavors and produced a previously undiscovered coffee experience!
Manuals have nice frothers, powerful enough for home use. Some come with an auto-frother to simplify the process.
It does take strength to extract a shot by hand-pumping the machine instead of the traditional electronic pump. If you don't mind this as you only extract a couple of shots a day, it's worth having this beauty sitting in your kitchen.
If you answered mostly C's, you are a hobbyist, a do-it-yourself person. You should consider a Semi-Automatic!
You are into new experiences, a hobbyist in many areas and like to try new things, like the creation of espresso. You will love the idea that you control the extraction, the grind and want that true café quality espresso. You want to create that perfect espresso or latte, and maybe even dabble with latte art. These machines offer a great balance between control and ease-of-use.
These machines operate in what we call the semi-automatic mode. This means that the user starts the pump with an on/off switch and stops the pumping action when the extraction is complete. Ease of use is good and the learning curve is average. This is the most popular style of machine for use in the home!
Most Semi-Automatics use a boiler like the piston machine, except they also have a separate water reservoir. This is effective for users that require greater capacity and hot water for teas or cafe Americanos.
Frothing on these machines vary from simple to requiring some skill. Any of the machines we sell will steam at least 14 ounces of milk, which is far more than you will normally need. All of the machines we sell are capable of using a 20oz frothing pitcher. Anything larger is not recommended— the height of the frothing pitcher starts to become an issue because it will inhibit your range of motion.
If you answered mostly D's, you are a connoisseur, a perfectionist and a do-it-yourself person. You should consider a Prosumer Machine!
Being a Prosumer means you are taking previously learned techniques to the next level. You may even discover using a prosumer machine makes it easier to get the results you want. You want to learn and practice everything you can when it comes to making that perfect espresso or what you may someday call a "God Shot". Yes, espresso has been known to sometimes take on an almost biblical reverence among its most ardent students.
Odds are, if you purchase a prosumer machine you are more than likely about to embark on a great journey to espresso nirvana! You may have suffered from upgrade-itis and decided to take the plunge and get a prosumer machine. You may have even decided you don't want to suffer the pangs of upgrade-itis ever again and have gone with a double boiler machine, a great grinder and even a bottomless portafilter. You are most likely always wondering what you can do better, what the machine can do better and what kind of coffee best suits your palette when making espresso.
What you are hoping to accomplish when buying a prosumer machine is the ability to extract an espresso you can't get when you are normally out. You may also realize when you do get that "God Shot" at a retail location you may want to buy some of that coffee, even ask the Barista what temperature they brew at, what is their ideal shot time, how many grams of coffee, and maybe even when was it roasted.
You are the kind of person that may like to talk about coffee as if it is a fine wine. In fact, you may even join or be involved in online discussions about your machine, your grinder and your coffee.
You expect your machine to perform to the limits you can push it to. You may also take milk steaming and make it into an art form (There are even competitions for latte art!). You have patience and knowledge and realize that this is a never-ending, joyful learning experience that you can either keep to yourself, or that you have the equipment to share with your friends. This may be one of your only true passions or it may be one of many, but you're someone that will know as you try a different coffee you have the chance to learn all over again on your quest.
You are most likely the person to say something at a café when you don't get a good shot and you realize, "I can do that much better." Or you may just walk out and not say anything because what you have at home is much better. Your machine is beautiful and you wouldn't trade it for another— it was well worth the price!
If you answered mostly E's, you know exactly what you want (even if it's a little bit of everything), and you don't want to wait for it. You should consider a single serve!
Go, Go, Go! Living a busy life and have no interest in slowing down, but want to stay caffeinated...quickly? You'll like the idea of using a pod, capsule, t-disc, or k-cup to get a variety of drinks such as coffee, tea, chai, hot chocolate and cappuccinos and more in less than a minute. These machines are made for people on the go, and are also great for places such as small offices, spas, or doctor's offices because of their variety, speed and great taste.
One of the most exciting coffee maker technologies to hit the market is the single serve machine. They deliver a single, precise extraction every time by just inserting a capsule, pod, t-disc or k-cup and pushing a button. Single Serves are exactly that, cup by cup with minimal clean up, producing great flavor time and time again. The ease, simplicity and diversity of these single serve machines have made them extremely popular.
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