9 Best Espresso Machines | December 2016
- makes perfectly balanced cappuccinos
- high pressure release safety valve
- frother takes some skill to perfect
|Rating||3.5 / 5.0|
- makes very strong shots
- compact design fits in small spaces
- cannot make regular drip coffee
|Rating||3.7 / 5.0|
- includes hot water dispenser for tea
- built to last for years
- housing is too thin
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
- accepts most types of coffee grounds
- removable milk reservoir
- tough to insert the poratfilter
|Rating||4.4 / 5.0|
- thorough instructional book
- lightweight water tank
- short mug space
|Rating||3.8 / 5.0|
- easy to adjust strength of coffee
- makes short or long espressos
- pods get pricey
|Rating||3.8 / 5.0|
- thermoblock system
- empty water tank detection
- very expensive option
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
- automatically powers off
- folding cup tray
- available in 6 different colors
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
- interface is simple to understand
- easy to clean inside and out
- has a cup warmer on the top
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
Common Misconceptions About Espresso
You may think espresso started as an Italian achievement, but a French guy invented the first machine in 1822. Admittedly though, it wasn't much longer before the Italians took it over and made the espresso machine a real work of art.
The Italian with the first patent for an automatic espresso machine went on to found the Illy Caffe company in 1933. On its website the company defines authentic espresso as a, "pure sensorial pleasure." It doesn't get much better than that, people.
Now let's tackle two other common misconceptions about espresso: the definition and the pronunciation.
Espresso is defined as: 1. a method of coffee preparation whereby water is forced through coffee grounds with great pressure. 2. a cup of coffee prepared by forcing water through coffee grounds with great pressure.
So you see, the term "espresso" does not refer to the texture of the grind; nor is it a type of roast. Now that you have this bit of information under your cap, you can begin to build a little coffee snobbery of your own.
As for pronunciation: that's another thing that many rookies get wrong, especially those with no experience with romance languages (we are not judging here). Definitively, there is no "X" in espresso; not real nor implied. I promise I will explain the origin of the word a little later. Till then, don't fall into the trap.
Drop the "X." Pronouncing it right won't make you sound smart, but pronouncing it wrong might make you sound a little stupid. Just sayin'.
A Little Espresso History For You
As legend has it, Ethiopian goats were the first to discover the delightful properties of coffee beans when they ate the raw beans right off the stem. The goats nibbled happily away at the beans, probably right around 2 o'clock every afternoon, until finally an astute goat herder noticed the goats' perky behavior, gave the beans a taste, found them quite stimulating, and rushed them off to the nearest monastery.
The monks thought the goat herder was a fool, and told him as much by throwing the beans in the fire. Sigh. Well, soon the enticing aroma of fresh roasted coffee was too much to ignore. The monks henceforth reversed their snubbing of coffee beans, scooped them out of the fire and threw them into some hot water. Then they drank the dark brew. Ta-da! The first cup of coffee! That was back in the year 850CE.
From there, coffee has continued to enjoy a storied and well-documented history. But we will confine our discourse to espresso, which came about many years into coffee's journey through the millennia.
Skip now to the year 1906. Milan held a World's Fair they called, "L'Esposizione Internazionale del Sempione." At the Piazza d'Armi, Luigi Bezzera and Desidero Pavoni unveiled the first working coffee machine to brew a single cup. They served "cafeé espresso" to the visitors on a wide countertop; the baristas dressed in black jackets and bow ties.
For the first time in the entire history of coffee, finally, in 1906, people could enjoy coffee made expressly for them: espresso. (I told you I would get back to this). And, while rumor has it the first espresso tasted pretty bad - watery and bitter, they say - the Italians stuck with it, perfecting it, marketing it, teaching people how to enjoy it.
Espresso didn't become the lovely bevvie it is today until after WWII, when a cafe owner named Achille Gaggia invented the lever-driven machine. Not to get too technical or anything, but the result was a consistent one-ounce shot of espresso with crema on top.
A whiz at marketing, Gaggia managed to convince the public that this was not coffee scum produced by his invention, as they originally suspected; it was, rather, coffee cream. Now it's the standard. Baristas believe that the richness of your crema indicates the freshness of your beans.
Everybody's Doing It: The Four M's of Espresso
Here we are now; ready to be a home barista?
Let's take a moment to review the four M's of espresso. These are all Italian words that you will understand easily.
And if you memorize them, you can whip out these expert terms while you're pulling the perfect shot for your guests.
First comes, miscela, or mixture. This refers to the blend of beans. You want to use the high quality sh*t here; no store brand foolery allowed.
Second: Macinazione, or the grind. A fresh grind is uber-important. A true coffee aficionado wouldn't dream of using grounds that are more than 30 seconds old. The grind texture should be somewhere between fine and powder.
Third: Macchina, or machine. Here's where we came in, what with you shopping for an espresso machine and all. Hope we've helped.
And fourth: Mano, literally hand, or your barista skills. You've got the miscela di destra (the right beans), the macianzione perfetto (the perfect grind), an awesome nuova macchina (new machine). Now it's time to show us your mano di talento (talented hand).
Nowadays, you can even get group or private barista lessons, just to show off, to enjoy an artful cup of coffee at home, or because you want a new or second career. Don't knock it. Did you see Mike Jones handling that foam?