Espresso Machine Buying Guide
Where to begin? Price - may be the method for those who use their wallet to narrow down the choice. Looks - may be used to ensure everything in the new kitchen matches. Features - is the sure way for those who won’t settle for anything but the best. For the rest of us it is probably a mind numbing combination of all three. Well, I am here to tell you there is another way! It is our surefire-never-miss solution almost guaranteed to find you that perfect match. Yes, I said, "match". The way we look at the selection process is very much like finding that perfect partner in life. They are all different and have their own idiosyncrasies that can make or break a relationship. And we want the relationship to work the first time. That Gaggia wants a good home, Saeco hates rejection and Rancilio doesn’t want to be stuck up in a cabinet. So, like the matchmaker we strive to make sure you make beautiful coffee together.
How do we start? With style! I am talking about how you operate the espresso machine. This is where relationships are made. The owner needs to understand and appreciate the way each style operates. They differ in many respects, suchas:to ease of use, speed, maintenance, coffee and frothing, consistancy, flexibility to name the first 6 things that come to mind. And each Style has it’s own strenghts and weaknesses. So, match your expectations to a style and you will be on your way to a perfect match.
Lets get down to it: there are three basic styles of espresso machines and they are Automatic - Semi and Fully, Super Automatic and Manual or Piston machines.
Semi-automatics and fully automatics are the result of the Achilles Gaggia patent in 1938 that mated an electric pump system to the espresso machine. It matched the pressure created by the manuals and enabled the masses to make high quality espresso in the home. Gaggia created a revolution that continues today and is evident in the vast majority of espresso machines sold. Like the manual machines it has a portafilter handle that you fill with coffee, but it uses the pump to create the pressure instead of your arm power. A pump is very consistent in its delivery. It is this consistency that is so important to each extraction (brew). Variations, even slight ones, can profoundly effect the final product. Fully automatic machines are based on semi-automatics but have an electronic control system that delivers measured amounts of water through the espresso. To create the perfect cup we teach our customers to employ what we call the "Ritual". This is a combination of the coffee roast, the fineness of the grind and the pressure of the tamp. To fully understand this process it will be important to read that article. We highly recommend that you check out out one of these machines in our exclusive Flash Tours. This is a great way to be introduced to the machines in an interactive environment. Look around it, inside it and click on different parts to learn more. You’ll find most of the top machines on our Tours page or just start with the Rancilio Silvia shown below. Ready to see another one in action? We have put together many product videos that are designed to break the mystique and show you what it is all about. The Gaggia Classic pictured below is a perfect example. Open up our custom video player to see the rest. We also offer consumer reviews of these machines as well as comparisons of both features and, direct from Whole Latte Love Labs, performance specifications. To see these results I suggest that you use our exclusive Compare-O-Matic. It brings all the content of our web site together. Simple and easy to get around.
Super Automatics are the next generation of espresso machines and have created a revolution of their own. Super Automatics are fully automatic machines mated to a built-in grinder and a whole bunch of special features designed to make any choice of coffee drink. They are designed for speed, convenience and less mess or maintenance. They have a whole gambit of amenities that will have the feature lovers out there in pure Java Heaven. These are pretty exciting machines and are huge in Europe. They use them to make the standard espressos and cappuccinos, but the current rage is "Café Crema". This has been a major reason for the excitement about these machines in the US. Café crema is the replacement for drip coffee. It is coffee that benefits from the far superior pressure brewing process of the espresso machine but dilutes the intensity to a "regular coffee" strength. The result is a much more flavorful and robust cup without the bitterness that we have put up with over the years. These machines will grind a pre-measured dose of espresso beans and extract a specific amount of coffee - a demitasse espresso to full cup of coffee or café crema. The used coffee grounds are placed into an internal bin for later disposal. They come with an amazing array of features that are well explained throughout our site.
We have Flash Tours on many machines that are interactive. We encourage you to click around and learn at your own pace. Check out our Tour Page to see them all. Here is a great example with the Saeco Vienna Deluxe. Open up our video player to see the rest.
And as with the rest of our machines, use the Compare-O-Matic to compare, see reviews and check performance specifications against each other. Use this as the ultimate portal to see other Flash tours and videos as well.
Manual espresso machines are mechanically beautiful and the most difficult to use.They were the first true espresso machines that were capable of producing the correct brewing pressure of 8+ atmospheres. They required skilled baristas to operate them and produced an excellent product. The coffee bars in Italy used them over the previous steam powered machines that could only produce about 3 atmospheres and would burn the coffee by comparison. With a manual machine you fill a portafilter handle (just like they do at the cafés), tamp down the coffee (compact it with a tamper), brush off any loose coffee grounds and lock the handle into the "group". The finicky part of the process is the "pull". Here, you grab the handle and pull down. Sounds simple, but if you pull to fast or too slow the espresso will be far less the optimal. If your coffee grounds are too coarse or too fine the results will suffer horribly. This style of machine is for the purist or those that are up for a rewarding challenge. To learn more about these machines see the manual summary page.
After all that, if you need guidance just call and talk to one of our specialists toll free at 888-411-5282. We are here to match the machine to your needs, help you create the best java with it, and handle any service issues. We do it all, and are proud of it. We have thousands and thousands of happy couples over our 5 years of business and we would like to help you too.