For any die-hard coffee lover, having that perfect, piping hot espresso or smooth, creamy cappuccino made right at home would be a dream come true. But with so many different options, finding the perfect at-home espresso machine may seem like an impossible task.
According to the Coffee Association of Canada, coffee is the most consumed beverage by Canadian adults over the age of 16, placing it ahead of even tap and bottled water! More and more Canadians are also consuming espresso-based beverages like lattes and cappuccinos. Though these drinks are much more frequently acquired at a coffee shop or café, new technology is making it easier, more affordable, and more convenient for regular consumers to own their own espresso maker.
Whether you’re looking for a top-of-the-line espresso machine that will make you the perfect cappuccino at the touch of a button or a more economical and compact stovetop pot that can be stored away in a cupboard when not in use, there’s an espresso maker for everyone.
Stovetop Espresso Maker
- Small and compact enough to store in a cupboard
- Very inexpensive, with many types available for under $100
- Available in variety of sizes from 1-cup to 12-cup pots and more
- Takes practice to brew the perfect espresso
- Requires you to keep an eye on the stove
- Must use a separate device to create milk-based espresso drinks
The smallest, most economical option for brewing espresso beverages at home is a simple stovetop espresso maker, also known as a moka pot. Invented by Alfonso Bialetti, these devices have been around since the 1930s and can be found in homes all around the world.
The moka pot is essentially a type of coffee percolator. Historically octagonal in shape, the pots are made of aluminum and feature two main compartments with a filter and funnel in between that holds the coffee grounds. The pot can be set directly on top of a stove element to brew and once the water in the bottom compartment begins to boil, it flows up through the coffee grounds and drips out from the column and into the upper compartment.
Moka pots come in a variety of sizes from 1-cup to 12-cup pots or more, which make it easy to serve for just yourself or a whole party. They’re also fairly inexpensive with many sizes available for under $100.
While these types of espresso makers are convenient in terms of their size, it can take some practice to brew the perfect cup complete with the delicious “crema” on top. Moka pots also take longer to prepare and brew than an actual espresso machine, but if you don’t mind the wait, they’re an excellent option for both the beginner and experienced at-home barista.
Manual Espresso Machine
- Complete control over the espresso shot
- Beautifully designed
- Very expensive, can cost close to $1,000 or more
- Known to be difficult to operate and achieve the perfect espresso
If customization is important and you want complete control over every aspect of the process, a manual espresso machine might be for you.
Manual espresso machines involve a lever system, either a spring piston or direct lever, which requires the user to physically pull down on it with varying amounts of pressure in order to manually draw out the espresso shot. These types of machines are far less common, especially in homes and are known for being particularly difficult to use. They’re ideal for coffee connoisseurs, baristas, and anyone willing to take on the rather steep learning curve that accompanies them.
While they are difficult to operate, manual espresso machines are also known for their striking appearances, lending them many decorative purposes as well. These types of machines don’t come cheap either and can cost upwards of $1,000 and often much more depending on the size and style desired.
Semi-automatic Espresso Machine
- Maintain a large amount of control over the espresso
- Many affordable options available under $600
- Commonly equipped with steam wands for making cappuccinos, lattes, and more
- Not as simple to use as super-automatic machines
- Some higher end machines can exceed $1,000 in price
Semi-automatic espresso machines are a popular option for many at-home baristas because they offer a fair amount of control over the espresso shot but feature a convenient water pump that can be turned on and off.
These types of machines require the user to grind the espresso beans, add them to the portafilter, tamp it down, and then start and stop the flow of water. They’re much easier to use than manual machines thanks to the pump that automatically draws water from a tank, through the coffee grinds and into your cup when you turn it on.
Many semi-automatic espresso machines also feature a steam wand for preparing any type of milk-based beverages like cappuccinos, lattes, or macchiatos. While it takes some practice to get the thick, silky milk foam required for these types of drinks, it gives you complete control over the process and allows you to tweak it however you like.
Semi-automatic espresso machines are also one of the most preferred types because of how many great options and brands there are available at reasonable prices, often under $600. Keep in mind, however, there are also many more that exceed $1,000 depending on the different features and customizations built into the unit.
Super-automatic Espresso Machine
- Easiest type of espresso machine to use
- Some basic models available for as low as $500
- Extremely convenient features available like coffee grinders and automatic cleaning functions
- Often feature simple attachments or solutions for making cappuccinos, lattes, and other drinks
- Can be pricey depending on the number of features desired
- Little to no control over the espresso shot
Super-automatic espresso machines take all the labour out of making an espresso or espresso-based beverage. With just the touch of a button, you can brew a perfect cappuccino in under a minute!
These machines usually feature a coffee grinder and removable brew group that automatically grinds, measures, tamps, and then disposes of the used coffee pucks all within the machine. All you have to do is add water to the built-in tank and espresso beans to the hopper and then periodically empty the pucks container and drip tray as needed.
Some super-automatic espresso machines feature simple milk dispensing solutions that make brewing beverages like cappuccinos and lattes easier than ever. From convenient cappuccinatore accessories that attach right onto the steam wand to fully integrated milk dispensing solutions, you don’t need any prior experience to successfully operate one of these machines.
High-end super-automatic machines also include seemingly unlimited customization settings that allow you to do so much more. You can easily adjust the water temperature, coffee strength, taste, coffee and milk volume, amount of foam and more with user-friendly controls and picture displays that make it simple for even the most non-tech savvy individuals. Some also let you memorize and store a number of personalized user profiles for when you want to brew the exact same beverage again and again.
Many of the more economic models, however, do not leave you with much control over the taste of your espresso, which is why many people who are particular about this aspect of their coffee opt for a semi-automatic machine instead.
Super-automatic espresso machines are the most expensive of all the different home brew options, usually priced over $1,000 with high-end models priced closer to $3,000 with all the customizable features. You can still find the most basic super-automatic machines, without all the bells and whistles for around the $500 to $600 price range.
With so many different home espresso solutions available on the market today, what it will come down to for you is how much control you want over your drink, how much work you want to put in, and how much you’re going to want to spend. Once you’ve narrowed down the features you’re interested in and found a price you’re comfortable with, research brands, find reviews, and talk to experts who can guide you and help you make an informed purchase.
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