Posted by Bethany Warren on March 12, 2014
a long-term, stable relationship
easy on the eyes wouldn't hurt
and long walks on the moonlit beach
An espresso machine should be (almost) all those things. Maybe lacking in the romantic gestures area. Choosing an espresso machine can feel as daunting as finding a good date. Or maybe like an arranged marriage, commitment-wise.
When you set out to choose an espresso machine, ask yourself a few questions: is this for home or commercial use? What's important to you in a machine's performance and design? What level of automation is appropriate for your use? (warning: I'll use a bit of technical terminology here)
If you're looking for a serious home machine, look past the department store brands and right to the lighter professional models. The problem with most home machines is boiler capability- they simply can't get enough power to get the right pressure needed to brew espresso and steam milk. Some lighter single grouphead commercial machines can use regular household 110 electrical outlets and still maintain the correct pressure in the boiler.
(the "grouphead" is the brewing mechanism that delivers pressurized water to the coffee. One thing to consider is how many of these brewing heads you want/need. Home = 1. Most cafes = 2. Super-busy-crazy-lines-out-the-door-all-the-time = 3.)
Commercially, the options are seemingly endless. A good place to start is a machine's level of automation. Do you prefer a more or a less manual approach to brewing, and how much do you want it to do for you? Here's a look at the major automation levels in espresso machines.
The more manual end of the spectrum requires the barista to have knowledge of the science of extraction, what to look for, how to properly adjust the grinder, etc. Both semiautomatic, automatic, and manual espresso machines require skill and understanding, and if your people are well-trained and well-managed, can give very consistent results. There are pros and cons to all of these, and the items in that list would change position based on what's important to you and what your setting is like, so I don't want to get into that here. But you can contact us if you'd like to talk about it!
Other things to look for:
A good espresso machine, properly cared for and maintained, will last a long time (like a car, or a solid relationship). If you're running a coffee bar, this is the main piece of equipment you need to produce your main product, so don't skimp! This is definitely not the place to cut corners.
PS- does your espresso machine have a name, like you might name a guitar or car?