Types and Variations of Espresso Machines

Mon, Oct 12, 2009

Espresso Machine Guide

Are you overwhelmed by all the technical names of the espresso machine types that you don’t know which to choose? No worries, I’ve made a summary here for you so that you know which is which.

Basically you will find two COMMON types of espresso machine that people use in their homes. These 2 types are:
1) Steam-driven espresso machine
2) Pump-driven espresso machine

Other less common types are the piston-driven (which is an older version of the pump-driven), the air-pressure-driven (which is handheld) and the Moka Pot coffee maker (which is stove top).

Frankly, I hardly think that a stove-top coffee maker can be called an ‘espresso machine’, but I’ll mention it for good measure anyway.

I’m sure that as you read this you realize that each type of espresso maker makes different ‘levels’ of coffee. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, you know that strong coffee is NOT the same as espresso.

Steam Driven Espresso Machine
Many people consider this is not truly an espresso machine rather than just an improved version of a Moka Pot coffee maker. So if you are serious about making espresso, I don’t recommend buying any steam driven espresso machine. The steam driven espresso machine would not produce enough pressure and right temperature of hot water to create an authentic espresso but rather than just create a strong coffee.

The best steam driven espresso machine that can produce the closest flavor to real espresso is the Mr.Coffee ECM160.

Pump Driven Espresso Machine
This is the type of espresso machine that makes true espresso by pumping the water from the boiler and forcing it through the coffee grounds. Most espresso bars and coffee houses now use this type of espresso machine. Here are a few variations of the pump-driven:

Semi Automatic

      – This is the espresso machine that you see in Starbucks. It is much easier to operate and your job is to grind the coffee beans and tamp them into the portafilter. Then you just press the button to turn the machine on. When you see you have the right amount of dark, creamy liquid coming out, press the button again to stop the brewing.

The best budget semi automatic must be DeLonghi EC155 Espresso Maker. Perfect for college students!


    – It is very similar to semi automatic machine but you don’t have to push the button to stop the brewing. But you still need to do the grinding, tamping it into the portafilter and cleaning on the used puck. Unless you get one of those that uses proprietary pods, which is very convenient and easy to clean, and the pods are quite affordable as well.

Super Automatic

      – Well, this machine will truly run all the processes automatically including grinding the coffee beans, tamping the coffee beans, boiling the water, pushing it through from just the right pressure and discarding the used grounds into an internal waste box. Definitely the most convenient espresso machine compared to other types of espresso machine, and of course it comes with a heavy price tag too.

I recommend the DeLonghi ESAM3300, which is a good value super-automatic.

Piston Driven Espresso Machine
This is, as I said earlier, an older version of the pump driven, and it’s manual! You will need to manually press the hot water through ground coffee to make your espresso. The learning curve is a bit high for making good espresso shots using manual espresso machine. I don’t recommend a beginner getting a manual espresso machine. Besides, it is rather hard work to make many cups for guests!

Air Pressure Driven Espresso Machine
This handheld device is made to be a portable espresso machine, so that you can make a cup of espresso when you need it while traveling. It can only make one shot at a time but the quality is crema-topped real espresso.

Well, I hope you find this easy to understand! For more tips and guides to buy an espresso machine for yourself, go to my best espresso machine website.

Reviews for various types of espresso machines can be found in my blog.

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