Espresso Machine Buying Guide - Best Buy Canada

October 15, 2012

Espresso Buying Guide

Channel your inner barista and make espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos with your own espresso machine. Most models are so easy to use, you’ll be saving money and brewing premium java in no time.

Espresso Machine: An Overview

If you’ve ever ordered a latte or cappuccino at your local café, then you’ve probably watched a barista operate an espresso machine. These premium coffee makers are no longer just for coffee shops anymore. You can pick one up and discover how easy it is to create your own drinks at home and maybe save yourself a few dollars too.

To get familiar with some of the features you’ll be looking at while shopping for an espresso machine, it might help to know a little about how it works:

The portafilter is filled with finely ground coffee that’s tamped down and then snapped into place on the machine. With the press of the single/double shot button hot water from the reservoir is sent through at a high pressure and mixes with the grounds to create a highly concentrated coffee that’s far more flavourful and full-bodied than your drip coffee maker can make.

For cappuccinos and lattes, you’ll want to heat up your milk and even create some froth using the steam control and an attached steam wand for your gourmet drinks.

Type of Espresso Machines

During your search for the perfect machine, you might discover that there are a couple of different types.

Semi-automatic vs. Automatic

  • Semi-automatic: With both automatic and manual pump and temperature controls, these machines give you a little bit of control along with the convenience of push-button functionality.
  • Automatic: Automated controls and a preset water volume take all the guesswork out of making espresso with the ease of pressing just a few buttons.

Steam vs. Pump Machines

Steam Machine

Steam: this type of espresso machine creates pressure by using steam. Steam is only able to generate a few bars of pressure at a high temperature. These machines are typically less expensive and easier to use than pump-driven models making them ideal for beginners.

Pump Machine

Pump: these machines are the most common and use a typical pump-driven system that is found in professional espresso machines. A pump can deliver between 14 to 19 bars of pressure, which is considered ideal by many espresso experts.

Features to Consider

Coffee Pod Machines

If you don’t want to measure and tamp down your own grounds, you can purchase an espresso machine that uses coffee pods. Some believe that using pods is simpler and cleaner, but ultimately the choice is yours.

Pump Pressure

Espresso machines use a vibrating pump that uses pressure to force water into the boiler and then through the coffee grounds. This pressure is measured in bars, where one bar equals about 15 pounds of pressure. Most machines will have anywhere from 8 to 15 bars of pressure, but some believe that 10 bars is enough while others prefer more bars to accommodate different coffee types and tastes.

Grinder

Grinder

Any espresso aficionado will tell you that while the quality of coffee you choose to grind is important, the correct grind is even more essential in producing the best possible espresso.

There are two options for grinders:

  • Built-in – choosing an espresso machine with a built-in grinder will ensure you get the right grind without having too many pieces to your espresso setup.
  • External – for the best grind buy a quality coffee grinder that uses burr or conical grinding disks. These grinders will help you achieve the fine, consistent grind you’re looking for without heating and destroying the flavour of the beans.

Cup Warming Tray

For the best espresso experience, you want to be sure that you’ve got a proper “in cup” temperature. To do that, choosing an espresso machine with a cup warmer will keep mugs warm and ready to go when you are.

Reservoir Size

The size of the reservoir you choose is really up to you. Since stale water is considered a no-no in preparing the perfect cuppa, it’s suggested that you empty the reservoir, refill it with fresh water, and run a cup of water through it if you only use your machine occasionally.

Self Priming Function

To ensure that water moves as efficiently as possible, all the air needs to be removed from the pump. That’s where self-priming comes in. Your espresso machine will automatically remove any excess air before you brew, so it’s always ready to make the perfect cup.

Must-Have Accessories

Steam Pitchers

Make after-dinner lattés for all your guests more quickly with a steam pitcher. A larger pitcher can help you make multiple cappuccinos easily.

Milk Frother

Milk Frothers

If you choose a machine that doesn’t come equipped with a steam wand, then you might want to consider a milk frother. These machines heat up and produce frothy milk so you can make a variety of beverages.

Best Buy

Take the Next Step

Online and in-store, Best Buy carries a wide selection of espresso machines that will help you turn your everyday coffee into café-style creations that will delight everyone.