Making Good Espresso is NOT difficult. There is this “fourth dimensional mystique” about Espresso. Get over it, you are just making coffee, there is no art or mystic chant required to make it – a little common sense and following instructions will work. Assuming your machine is working correctly.
There are some differences between making regular drip coffee and espresso. For example, espresso- the coffee must be ground very fine but not as fine as Turkish coffee- the coffee must be pressed firmly into the coffee portafilter- the water must be approximately 195 deg. F. and forced under pressure through the coffee grounds.
A good indicator that the above was done correctly, once the espresso has been made, the grounds when taken from the filter should resemble a hockey puck- very solid, not falling apart.
Choosing a coffee that you will enjoy is mostly subjective and it is quite common to find that people feel they must purchase the most expensive Italian coffee for a number of obvious reasons some of which has nothing to do with the taste but status.
If you are just starting out try using the coffee that you have been using in your regular drip coffee maker, except grind it much finer. It will take on a much hardier, richer flavor and just go from there, experiment but don’t ruin your espresso experience by thinking you have to use that “elite-expensive” Italian espresso coffee unless you really like it.
Remember that Espresso making is the method of processing the coffee creating a rich, robust flavor that cannot be accomplished by standard drip coffee makers.
In this selection I am listing the basic types of home machines and my favorite selections of each plus reliable sources. There are many other good solid units on the market. What I look for is design, quality, longevity, and serviceability. I get no reward from these people for listing or recommending their machines.
There are basically five types of Espresso Makers:
1. Stove Top Makers:
These are two-part units that you put water into the base and coffee into the top, screw the two together and heat on the stove, the water boils creating pressure though the coffee grounds making espresso. They work very well and have been used by Italians for a long time, I like it quite well myself.
2. The Lever/Manual Machines:
These are known as lever machines, you put water into the boiler and coffee into the portafilter, switch it on and once the water heats to a predetermined and regulated internal pressure the lever is moved up and down forcing the hot water through the coffee grounds and into your espresso cup. These are the “Purest” Espresso Machines and have been used by Italians for many years. This machine requires some art and involvement but is very rewarding. I have serviced many of these machines that are over 8 years old that have been passed down in the family. This is my favorite Lever Machine and I find them to be a work of art.
3. Semi-Automatic Machine:
This machine is more automated than the lever machine. You put water into the reservoir and coffee into the portafilter and turn it on. Once the water has come to temperature in the boiler you press a second button which turns on a pump and forces the hot water through the coffee. This machine does not require any art of the process as does the lever machine and will consistently give you a great cup of coffee and quickly, it is built to last several years and is very serviceable.
4. Fully Automatic Machine:
This machine is totally automatic and has a programmable microprocessor control unit to meet all of your coffee desires – note it is at the top right of this page. The machine has a built in coffee grinder, a water reservoir and will automatically make your coffee just put your cup in place. This is great when having several guests at dinner.
5. Commercial Grade Automatic Machine:
This is a heavy-duty espresso maker for the home and small restaurant. If you frequently have several espresso lovers in your home or office and want to look like a hard-core espresso drinker, this is it. I personally like it and it is built like a brick house.
I have listed several types of espresso machines and there are many cheapest espresso machine on the market and many good suppliers. Doing your homework prior to purchasing a new machine as in most things will save you a lot of problems later on.
There is one thing that will ruin you espresso machine- CALCIUM build up in the boiler and water flow plumbing and parts. You should always use filtered water because of flavor but filtering does not remove calcium, it is one of the minerals in water that gives it flavor. What happens is that the calcium remains when the water is heated and boils down, that is just a normal process
You must clean your machine several times a year, depending on the frequency of use. If you make 6 cups of coffee a day plan on cleaning your machine about every 3 months, this will give you a better cup of coffee plus keep you out of trouble. The product that I use is called Dip-it and can be found in the coffee aisle of most food stores. It is used for cleaning coffee makers of all types and is good for cleaning your steam iron.
Follow the directions and make sure you flush your machine out until the water runs clear. Happy Coffee Lover!