Archive for the ‘Cheapespressomachines:Make your choice’ Category

The Inner Workings of Espresso Machines

This post ,on the inner workings of espresso machines, will be of interest to anyone who wishes to understand what goes in to making good quality espresso makers.
When buying an espresso machine you will want to purchase a product that is reliable as, over the course of it’s lifetime, you will be working the device hard. So, what are the components that make up a high quality espresso machine.

Water Reservoir
What many look for in a water reservoir is capacity. However, views can differ on this: some people prefer a large tank whilst others prefer something small as it forces them to clean the reservoir on a regular basis. From the point of view of hygiene, get into the habit of filling and refilling your tank as this will allow your shot to taste much fresher and smoother.
The other thing you will want is ease of access to the tank. Sometimes, particularly on smaller models, there may be obstructions which make accessing sections of the water tank difficult.

Pump
Many home espresso machine use a vibrating pump that pushes water into the boiler and then through to the coffee using high degrees of pressure. This pressure is measured in bars, with a ratio of 8-10 being enough to create espresso. If the pressure is set too high then you will need to use finer coffee as the water will be pushed too quickly through the coffee grounds during the extraction process resulting in over extraction.

Boiler
When looking at the quality of boilers in relation to espresso machines, it is important to note that it is not so much what a boiler is made of but what is it’s thickness and weight. The greater these dimensions then the more usage the boiler will be able to endure during it’s lifetime.

Let me provide the example of a cooking pot in order to make this point. No matter how well made the pot is and regardless of the materials that go into it’s design, if it doesn’t’ have a solid bottom then it’s not going to be able to stand the test of time. Likewise, a boiler made from lightweight materials is much more likely to fluctuate in temperature, thus affecting the consistency and taste of your brew. Stainless steel boilers probably offer the greatest advantages as they never rust.

Portafilter Handle
The portafilter handle, which holds the filter basket, should ideally be made from brass in order to provide it with greater durability. The alternative aluminum handles can weaken as the machine ages. In addition, a strong portafilter handle normally retains more heat and adds to the quality of the drink.
Without the portafilter you can have no espresso. The portafilter works hand in unison with the tamper. The tamper is the device that presses the ground coffee into the portafilter. There are many thousands of tampers on the market but the best are probably those that fit neatly with the portafilter.

Grinder
A good quality grinder is very important in producing the right quality of grind for flavorsome coffee. High quality, conical grinding disks are required in a machine to prevent the coffee tarring and burning.
The motors used to grind the coffee should also be robustly built. The heavier the motor , the slower the grind will be, resulting in the best quality, ground coffee drink.

Also watch out for dosers. These tools are used on many grinders allowing for pre measured coffee grinds. Having this exact measurement of coffee means the shot will be as ordered, taste great and will not leave excess grinds behind in the espresso machine chamber. Grinders with low cost blades cannot match the power and precision of more powerful blades.

I hope this post has provided you with an appreciation of the inner workings of an espresso machine so the next time you go to buy one you’ll have a better knowledge of what your purchasing.


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Espresso Machine Guide

In this espresso machine guide post I’m going to list the different types of espresso machines that may be purchased, the technical components that go to produce the coffee flavours and the advantages and disadvantages to be found in each machine.

The term ‘horses for courses’ applies to the espresso market as much as it does to any other market. If, for example, your into making frothy cappuccinos, steamed lattes and chocolate mochas, then the cheaper espresso machines will be more than adequate for your needs. However, if your more a student of the art of making the perfect espresso drink and want a machine to do all the work for you, then your requirements will be better met by the more expensive models.
The next question you have to ask yourself is how often are you going to be using the machine? If the answer is occasionally, during the week or at weekends, then the cheaper espresso machines will be more than adequate for your needs.

Espresso Machine Guide – Categories
Essentially, cheaper espresso machines fit into 6 broad categories:

Moka
The Moka pot has 8 sides and produces espresso using 2 bars of pressure. The pot consists of an upper and lower chamber screwed together with by a filter. The process works in the following way: finely ground coffee is placed into the upper chamber and water is then poured into the lower part of the machine. As you place the machine onto a stove the water will rise into the coffee in the upper chamber and at this point you can pour your drink. The Moka does produce a partial version of crema but before it can be classified as a true espresso it must be powered by 9 bars of pressure – this machine does not produce that type of pressure. However, the Moka comes into it’s own when you need to be on the road for any length of time as it’s small enough to take with you.

Stovetop
The Stovetop works of a higher degree of pressure than the Moka (4-6 bars) which is enough to provide 1 to 2 shots of coffee. The Stovetop works by loading the boiler section with water, placing a cap on the machine and waiting for the steam inside to rise. Once the machine is prepped, foam can be produced through the steam wand so long as your using the correct amount of pressure.
The machine can be frustrating to use because, after you’ve poured your first shots, you must let the Stovetop cool down before you can use it again. It contains no moving parts and has largely been superceded by more advanced machines.

Piston / Lever / Manual

The manual, or piston lever espresso machine, works by allowing a user to push down on a lever. This action pushes water out through the coffee grounds. These stylised machines normally appeal to purists who prefer to be fully involved in the art of creating an espresso, rather than letting the machine do all the work for them. As these machines are so stylised, they’ll look good in any kitchen. However, they do show a high portion of dirt marks because of their chrome finish. They also tend to be slow to warm as the boiler and reservoir are integrated into one. This results in one component pulling of the other, which results in the entire heating up process slowing down.

Semi-Automatic
The semi-automatic machine is the choice of most users as these models are the most versatile . The semi-automatic machines have electric pumps that push the water through the coffee grounds at high pressure to create silky, smooth espressos. This type of machine offers the greatest versatility in that it has a removable water tank to heat the water, coffee baskets to insert your coffee and a portafilter which manages the extraction process. A good balance is struck here between user and machine interaction as a user can choose either short or long drinks based on the amount of time they let the pump run.

Automatic
The automatic machines carry out almost identical functions to the semi automatic models, with the exception being the user has the option to pre program shots and manually switch off the pumps.

Super-Automatic
The super automatic machines work of the one touch principle. One touch of a button runs the machine through a full cycle, grinds and tamps the coffee and removes any excess waste from the brew into the basket. Some will even automatically clean themselves. One of their drawbacks is they require a greater amount of maintenance than other espresso machines.

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Should you purchase a Coffee maker or an Espresso Maker?

So, should you purchase a Coffee maker or an Espresso Maker ? Let me put this scenario to you: you’ve upwards of $200.00 dollars to spend and you like the taste of coffee but you may, from time to time, prefer drinking a  specialty coffee. This presents you with a straight choice between purchasing either a  coffee maker or an espresso maker. Both these machines have their advantages and disadvantages.

Coffee makers have made great technical advances in recent years. A user used to be able to brew no more than 3 cups in any one sitting, but now it is possible to brew up to 12 cups of coffee from one tank. In addition, the manual knobs that were there previously used to control the functionality of the coffee machine, have been replaced by digital control panels. These panels provide the user with greater precision over how the coffee is brewed.

Espresso makers, on the other hand, offer even more choice and a larger range of drinks. For example, you can make espressos, lattes and cappuccinos with espresso machines as well as adding different flavours to the drink.

In terms of the cost per cup, espresso machines offer greater savings over the traditional coffee houses. A cup of coffee from an espresso machine can work out as little as €0.50 cent  a cup in comparison to the the $5.00 a cup you could be paying to high street coffee chains.  Espresso machines also offer you greater potential in developing your coffee making skills. This is achieved by allowing you to use such add-on devices as frothers, chambers and portfilters. Used correctly these products will add an extra dimension to what you are drinking.

However, coffee makers have their advantages too. They are relatively easy to use with the focus on their main task of producing coffee. The operation of a coffee maker is generally more straightforward than an espresso maker, as the espresso maker requires greater inputs from the user. Coffee machines are also better suited to homes where living spaces are smaller.

So, if you have a larger budget, ample space and like to drink a range of specialty coffee flavors, then the espresso maker will be for you. If not, then the coffee maker is an ideal choice for making your coffee.

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