A detailed guide to choosing an espresso machine. It will help you figure out how a single boiler with a heat exchanger differs from a double boiler or a lever, which types of machines are more suitable for making cappuccino, and understand which coffee machine you need. Or is it unnecessary: suddenly an aeropress and a funnel are yours?
Three facts about espresso, or why you need it
Fact 1: Espresso and dairy-based drinks are the most expensive way to make coffee. Most expensive in all respects. If you want a big cup of delicious coffee, the funnel and the aeropress will solve this problem for a much more modest amount. If you want espresso and are willing to spend a lot of money, read on.
Fact 2: you need a suitable grinder to make espresso. The one that knows how to grind grain evenly and finely enough. And it is highly desirable – with stepless grind adjustment. I can say with absolute certainty that buying an espresso machine is pointless without a suitable coffee grinder (with a few exceptions, which I will talk about at the end).
Fact 3: Making espresso takes knowledge and skill, which means learning. Which means time. Barista courses, reading specialized forums and books will be very helpful.
Requirements for the coffee maker
It sounds trite, but the espresso machine should allow the user to make a good espresso. What is espresso? The answer to this question is given by the standard of the Italian Institute of Espresso.
To prepare a single portion of espresso, you need equipment that allows you to spill hot water (88 ± 2 degrees) through 7 ± 1 gram of ground coffee at a pressure of 9 ± 1 bar for 25 ± 5 seconds and get 25 ± 5 ml of the drink, including the foam (t .n. cream). For a double espresso – 50 ml of beverage from 14 grams of ground coffee (pressure, temperature and time are the same as for a single espresso).
The document above has a standard for cappuccino too. The standard requires steaming milk to be added to the espresso. The milk should be whipped into a fine-textured foam that is distributed throughout the milk. If you want to drink espresso-based milk drinks (cappuccino, latte, flat white, raf), then your coffee maker should be able to steam milk. There are coffee makers (in the widest price ranges) that do not have a cappuccino maker, which does not interfere, however, with making good espresso with them.
Ground coffee is poured into the basket, the basket is in the holder (horn). The coffee in the basket is evenly distributed and compacted (tempered) with a special tool – a tamper. The grind should be selected so that the compacted coffee in the basket creates an obstacle for the water passing through it and the cherished 25 ml of the drink is spilled in 25 seconds. Note that it is the coffee pill that creates the resistance to spillage, and not the “enhancers” that I will discuss below.
Household espresso makers
This category includes espresso machines sold in home appliance stores under well-known brands: Vitek, Delonghi, Polaris, Phillips, Saeco, etc. We will not consider espresso coffee makers without a pump, in which the pressure is created by steam, because they will not squeeze espresso, despite the name.
You can brew coffee without qualifications. These coffee makers are easy to use and are the cheapest units capable of making espresso. They quickly heat up and reach their operating temperature. Many are equipped so that a user without the qualifications of a barista can make a minimum of mistakes. For instance:
You can improve the result. To get a real dense espresso, you will need to buy a basket without an “enhancer” for your coffee maker. Such baskets are sold on Aliexpress for about 300 rubles. Some models of household coffee makers are sold with a regular basket without an “enhancer” – for example, Delonghi EC145. The Panarello maker can be removed from the cappuccino maker and the milk can be frothed without it. If the length of the cappuccino maker is enough (and often not enough), then with some skills you can whip milk of the correct texture.
Semi-professional one-boiler coffee makers
This category includes coffee makers with one boiler. The boiler heats water for espresso, in most models it can be switched to steam production. Usually the boiler is copper or brass, less often made of stainless steel. In such coffee makers, there is often a professional team that ensures a stable flow temperature.
Professional accessories are suitable for such machines. Well-known companies simultaneously produce both semi-professional and professional machines for coffee shops and bars. Professional accessories are suitable for home versions, for example, holders, various baskets and temperas, as well as some spare parts.
The temperature can be controlled. Some models (Lelit PL41Plust, Bezzera Unica) are equipped with a special PID controller at the factory. It allows you to set the temperature at which you want to spill the espresso. As soon as the temperature of the water in the boiler changes (for example, if the cappuccino maker has just been turned on or you have made an espresso), the PID will turn on the heater in the boiler and turn it off when the water reaches the desired temperature. The PID can be purchased separately and installed by yourself. Without PID, the temperature of the strait can be controlled using the “temperature surfing” technique. You can find information about this technique on the Internet.
You can make real espresso. Coffee makers from this group allow you to prepare a real espresso and give out good dry steam, especially models with larger boilers (Bezzera Unica, La Spaziale Rossini).
They come with a built-in coffee grinder and a separate thermoblock. Among single boiler coffee makers, there are models with a built-in coffee grinder, for example, Lelit Anita, Lelit Kate. This is a pretty good starting point, but a separate grinder would be a more practical option. There are single boiler coffee makers with a separate thermoblock (flow heater) for steam. For example, Nemox Top Pro, old versions of Ascaso Steel Duo (new ones with two thermoblocks). It is much easier to prepare milk drinks with such coffee makers, but they are also rare.
Manual espresso machine
Perhaps these are the most unusual and unusual coffee makers for us. It was on the displacement coffee makers that it was possible for the first time to get espresso in the form in which we know it today. Some models are truly legendary: the progenitor of the lever-operated manual espresso machine La Pavoni Europiccola turns 60 in 2019! And Europiccola itself is 58 years old.
In coffee makers, the role of the pump is played by a person: he pushes hot water with a piston through the coffee in the basket. A lever is used to provide the required pressure. Lever coffee makers are divided into two types: manual and spring-loaded.
In manual coffee makers, the person creates pressure by applying force to the lever. The harder a person presses, the higher the pressure. It is realistic to reach 9 bar if you apply a force of 14 kgf to the lever (equivalent to the pressure exerted by an object weighing 14 kg).
In spring-loaded displacement coffee makers, a person cocks the spring with a lever, and the already cocked spring presses on the piston. An obvious plus of this approach is that your hands are free while the espresso is pouring. At this time mYou can whip milk. Spring-loaded coffee makers give good repeatability of the result: the spring, unlike a person, presses on the piston the same every time.
Price. The cost of the younger (in terms of price, but not in quality) La Pavoni models is comparable to the price of one-boiler semi-professional coffee machines. Models with a spring are already more expensive, at a price comparable to younger models of coffee machines with a heat exchanger or two boilers.
Can be repaired and repaired. The design of such coffee makers is quite simple. There are entire communities of coffee maker lovers, and most bought their copies in substandard form at flea markets and restored to fully functional condition.