High-End Espresso Makers for an At-Home Cafe
It takes a lot of power to make a cafe-quality espresso.
Really getting into making espresso is one of the hardest, most finicky, and most expensive habits in the food and beverage world. But it can also be incredibly rewarding. If you’re looking for cafe-quality espresso at home, these machines can help you.
One of the key ingredients in making espresso is power. Unlike other forms of coffee, espresso is made by forcing hot water through coffee grounds at exceedingly high power, measured by a metric called “bars.” Espresso machines in coffeeshops are industrial devices, not meant for the home user, but if you’re looking for a home espresso machine, look for one that advertises its bar count—nine bars is the standard pressure for espresso.
Many higher-end espresso machines include a grinder built right in. Coffee grinders are a little bit of an obsession for espresso fans who will sometimes spend hundreds of dollars on a grinder alone. Ideally you’re looking for a conical burr grinder. Smaller coffee grinders often use blades, which chop beans into uneven pieces. Uneven pieces means that some of the coffee will be over-extracted (and bitter) and some will be under-extracted (and bland). Burr grinders instead use two rotating cones, set at a variable distance apart, to crush the beans. This creates an even grind, and also doesn’t result in any extra, unwanted heat.
Home espresso machines—the good ones, at least—can be roughly separated into two categories. The first is for the hobbyist, the person who wants to mess around with temperature controls, grind settings and extraction times and who weighs out coffee to the gram. The second category is an automatic system, for those who want as good an espresso (or cappuccino, macchiato, or latte) as possible, but don’t want to mess with all those options. Decide what kind of espresso drinker you are before buying; you don’t want to miss out on options you want, or be forced to learn a bunch of stuff when you just want really excellent coffee.