Espresso is water, just off boil, pressed through finely ground compacted coffee, with at least 9 bars of pressure. The result of following the roughly described formula above is pure bliss.
OK, technically what you’ll end up with is a creamier, more concentrated, robust coffee drink with more caffeine per ounce than brewed coffee, but pure bliss people…
The best way to produce this cup of bliss is with a commercial espresso machine. These machines consistently provide high quality and reliability.
Since installing one of these bad boys in your home is prohibitively expensive for most people, hop on over to your local coffee shop and order up! You’ll be glad you did.
For those who are a bit more adventurous and ready to tackle making espresso at home, there are some espresso machines for home use which provide an acceptable alternative to the commercial machine. Some of these “machines” are simple, manual tools which provide a way to exert the pressure necessary to extract a shot. Others are machines which use electric pumps to create the needed pressure.
Regardless of the method, you need finely ground coffee, hot water (just off boil), and the ability to send the hot water through the coffee under pressure of at least 9 bars to make true espresso.
So, for all of you who want to jump into the be-my-own-barista world, here are some home espresso-making options.
This article, written by our friend, Dorian, does an excellent job of explaining making espresso at home. Dorian also talks about some different home espresso machines and offers his thoughts about them.
Home Espresso Machines – These home versions of the commercial machines are fairly limited in what they can do as compared to their commercial counterparts. However, for home use, there are some that can do a decent job.
These units make use of levers, gears, and plungers placed into motion by the user to create the pressure needed to pull a shot of espresso.
The fully manual espresso maker which receives the best reviews for its quality of construction and of the product produced by it is the ROK Espresso Maker. Not only does it make great espresso and last a lifetime, it also looks incredible on your counter!
Espresso Machines which control certain aspects of the espresso-making process are categorized as semi-automatic. Each machine in this category has differing features. Some semi-automatic machines control tamping pressure, some control the grind of the coffee, and most control the amount of water which is dispensed.
The semi-automatic category covers a wide range of machines, so it is impossible to make a category-level statement about features.
The Breville Barista Touch BES880BSS is an example of a full-featured semi-automatic home espresso machine. The Barista Touch has an integrated grinder and locking mechanism which allows the portafilter to catch the ground espresso directly, much like a grinder/portafilter setup your barista uses at your local coffee shop.
The Profitec Pro 700 has less features (no grinder), but is also about half the price of the Breville Barista Touch, and is a semi automatic machine. If you are looking to hone your barista skills, this machine leaves lots of room for that. Making a latte for your friends on this machine is more impressive, but more difficult to master!
Most Fully Automatic machines do the grinding and tamping for you – and even dispose of the puck (used compacted espresso after extraction) without the user having to do anything. The milk-steaming is usually done by a “Smart” steaming wand which measures the temperature of the milk and injects different amounts of air into it depending on the drink selection.
A good example of a super automatic machine is the Jura Impressa Z9. There are an array of machines you could choose from, but this one is priced right for the specialty coffee drink connoisseur who wants it all, in home, but wants the machine to do the work.
Good Control = Great Coffee
Many commercial espresso machines used in coffee shops are semi-automatic. Being able to control certain aspects of the espresso-making process oneself is preferred by baristas. For instance, being able to control the milk-steaming and frothing process is preferred to automatically controlled milk steaming for making great lattes and cappuccinos. A good barista can make better milk for an espresso drink than a machine, hands down!
For example, our machine at Sourdough Cuppa Joe is semi-automatic. It is volumetric (the water output is controlled automatically) however we grind from a separate grinder, tamp manually, and steam manually.
Our Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II has two integrated steam wands. The Barista holds the pitcher of milk and positions it and the steam wand, manually, creating steamed milk that is groomed perfectly for lattes or cappuccinos. The Aurelia II is a workhorse. It provides an extreme level of dependability and consistency.
Ready to put a commercial espresso machine in? You can find one here.
So, for a truly great latte, cappuccino, or espresso drink, head to your local coffee shop. You will be glad you did. If you want to make good espresso at home, and don’t mind a little work and an adventure to do it, a manual espresso maker would be a good choice.
Semi-automatic machines for home are a good option for the be-your-own-barista crowd. These machines allow you to hone your skills at pulling shots and steaming milk. Once you get good, you can really impress your friends with your skills by making them a good latte or cappuccino.
Super-Automatic machines for home are pretty pricey, but offer a mostly hands off approach to making acceptable espresso based drinks in your home. The drinks produced will likely not impress your friends as much, because after all, they too can press a button.
Do you make espresso at home? What do you use? Leave a review in our comments! Let’s see who makes the best ones!