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Espresso coffee machines


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What are the rules for making coffee with a manual espresso coffee machine?

The basis of the manual espresso coffee machine is a real, Italian origin espresso drink. Therefore, the main rules of making coffee are based on the proportions of this drink. Thus, if you want to know if your prepared espresso coffee is top class, know - you have to get 25 ml of coffee extract, that was extracted at a pressure of 8-9 bar in 20-30 s. These exact parameters are considered to be classic in the coffee world . Knowing that espresso is the basis for all other coffee drinks and once you have learned how to prepare it properly, you will be able to experiment further.

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What are the differences between manual espresso coffee machines?

Manual espresso coffee machines are designed for home or professional use, i.e. catering establishments - restaurants, cafes, etc. Of course, if you want to improve your coffee making skills at home, you can always find a professional model suitable for your home as well. To make good quality coffee, you will need to learn how to properly grind, press, and push down the water at the right time and in the right amount. Manual espresso coffee machine models, designed for home are a bit simplified and their usage is not very different from a bean-to-cup coffee machine. However, unlike the bean-to-cup coffee machine, this one requires freshly grinded coffee (as fresh as possible) and the right pressure. And by pre-programming the preferred water amount, you can repeat it each time with just one click of a button .

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Why is it worth choosing an espresso (manual) coffee machine?

If you love the process of making coffee even more than the coffee itself, then a manual espresso coffee machine is just for you! When making coffee with this type of coffee machine, you have the freedom to improvise and experiment. However, in order to make the perfect coffee you will have to put some effort - get acquainted with the rules of coffee making, find the right level of coffee grinding and to test your abilities by properly brewing it. So if you are willing to spend more than a few minutes when making coffee, feel free to choose from the espresso (manual) coffee machines category.

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About Espresso coffee machines

When it comes to different coffee machine types, espresso machines are probably the fastest to grow in popularity at the moment. As coffee culture continues to evolve at an impressive speed, more and more coffee lovers are willing to dive deeper into the subtleties of coffee brewing, This ultimately results in a lot of them deciding to try on the role of a barista and setting out to produce home-brewed coffee that can compete with drinks served at their favourite cafés and restaurants. To brew proper espresso or latte, of course, they first need an espresso machine, also known as a semi-automatic coffee machine. 

Espresso Machines and the Science of Coffee Brewing 

Italians produced the first espresso machines as far back as the end of the 19th century and kept on improving them bit by bit throughout the duration of the 20th century. It’s worth noting though that due to their large size and expert skills that using them definitely required, these early incarnations were meant to be used in cafés only. Domestic espresso machines only became a thing in the second half of the 20th century, as espresso culture continued to spread across Europe.

The very name of these appliances suggests that they differ quite greatly from bean-to-cup coffee machines. While the latter brew drinks with the touch of a button, proper, handmade espresso generally requires certain skills and extreme attention to detail. That’s exactly what makes espresso machines so charming though: they cause us to view coffee brewing as a science of sorts and transport us straight to the realm of fine coffee.

When brewing a cup of coffee with the help of an espresso machine, you must first grind your coffee beans (the grind has to be suited for the espresso brewing method, while the quantity of ground coffee must be adapted to the size of your portafilter), tamp the ground coffee with a tamper (using the right kind of pressure), then carefully measure how long it takes for your coffee to be dispensed (the perfect espresso is generally dispensed in around 25–30 s) and assess the final result. If you’ve done everything properly, your espresso should boast a tiger-striped layer of crema, as well as a perfectly balanced taste, with a variety of flavours harmoniously intertwined. 

Properly—that’s the magic word here. There’s no perfect, universal recipe for the ideal serving of espresso, so you’ll have to put in some effort when trying to figure out what kind of grind suits your coffee best, how much ground coffee fits inside your portafilter, how this coffee should best be tamped… And don’t even get us started on all the numerous details involved in the art of milk frothing! 

One thing’s absolutely certain though: once you’ve tried espresso or latte brewed expertly in an espresso machine, you won’t be willing to settle for anything less ever again. 

What Should You Pay Attention to When Choosing an Espresso Machine? 

Nowadays, there’s an extremely wide variety of domestic espresso machines on offer: from particularly compact appliances that cost as little as a few hundred pounds and are perfect for those who are new to the world of coffee, to espresso machines with a price tag of several thousand pounds, fully capable of making every one of your barista dreams come true. How do they differ from one another though and what should you pay attention to when choosing the right espresso machine for you? 

Heating system. When it comes to unveiling the flavours hidden in your coffee, proper, consistent water temperature is an absolute must. That’s what a heating system is for. Depending on the type of heating system your chosen espresso machine is equipped with, you’ll either have to wait for a bit before starting to froth milk for the serving of coffee you’ve just brewed, or you’ll be able to perform both of these actions simultaneously.

  • Entry-level espresso machines are equipped with the simplest of heating elements, a so-called thermoblock that keeps heating water until it reaches a certain temperature. It’s certainly convenient: an espresso machine of this type is ready to brew coffee in an instant and you don’t have to wait for the water to reach the required temperature. However, what this system cannot do is guarantee temperature stability. Some espresso machines currently on the market boast an improved system called “thermocoil” though: this one’s more durable and capable of ensuring greater stability.
  • If you were to go up a step, you’d find espresso machines with a built-in boiler there (these are the so-called “single-boiler machines”). In these boilers, a certain amount of pre-heated water is always maintained, which ensures stable temperature during the process of brewing. Depending on the size of this boiler, you may have to wait anywhere from a few to a few dozen minutes for your machine to heat up before making a cup of coffee. 
  • The next step up involves dual-boiler espresso machines, with one of these boilers dedicated to brewing coffee and the other one meant to produce steam. What this means is that you’re able to froth milk and brew coffee all at the same time! Keep in mind though that appliances of this kind are more expensive and take longer to heat up. 
  • Another popular option is the so-called HX-type heating system (HX here stands for “heat exchanger”). An appliance like that is equipped with a single steam boiler, yet there’s a tube with cold water travelling through it. This water is used exclusively for brewing coffee and is heated separately until it reaches the temperature required for making espresso. Machines of this type are cheaper than dual-boiler ones, but they still enable their users to brew coffee and froth milk simultaneously. They also use less electricity. 

If you’re going to choose a machine with a boiler (or a couple of them), consider the capacity of this boiler as well: the larger the boiler, the longer you’ll have to wait for the machine to heat up before brewing a cup. 

Water temperature adjustment options. Water temperature has a huge impact on coffee taste. Some varieties are better suited to higher temperatures, while others do better at lower ones. Different temperatures can also unveil different flavours hidden in coffee beans. Given all of this, you can probably see why it’s important to ask yourself whether the espresso machine you’re eyeing allows you to adjust water temperature and, if so, how this is done. 

Type of brew group. Consider the brew group your espresso machine is equipped with. Depending on its construction and type, it’ll ensure greater or lesser temperature stability. You’ll find this information in coffee machine descriptions on our website—or you can reach out to Coffee Friend’s consultants and ask for some advice! 

Portafilter size. Espresso machines aimed at brewing beginners are usually equipped with smaller portafilters, their meshes measuring around 49–53 mm. Appliances of a higher class have portafilters with a diameter of 57 mm, while the professional standard is 58 mm. What does that mean, you wonder? Well, the more coffee you can fit in the mesh, the richer the taste of your drink will be—and the closer you’ll get to meeting the standards put in place by professional baristas.  

Milk frothing system. Is simply frothing some milk not enough for you? Would you like to do that professionally or even try your hand at latte art? If so, you’ll need an espresso machine with a steam tube that will allow you to do just that. Entry-level models are equipped with wide steam tubes that enable you to froth milk for your milk-based drinks—but that’s about it. To obtain that perfectly silky consistency marking a proper latte, you’ll need a narrower tube with a rounded wand and upwards of 2 holes. Only then will you be able to produce milk foam that’s truly worthy of a professional barista.

Coffee grinder. Most espresso machines come without a built-in coffee grinder, so you’ll probably have to purchase one separately. However, those of you who are on a budget or have a limited amount of space in your kitchen will still be able to find some espresso machines with a built-in grinder on the market. Seeing a constant demand for such models, manufacturers now produce them more often.

Operation and programming. Consider the way your chosen espresso machine is operated. Does it have buttons, levers or a single large lever that can be lowered when needed? The latter option may seem particularly attractive due to its impressive look and the chance for you to be in full control of the brewing process, but keep in mind that this method of operation will require even more skill and a decent amount of physical strength. If you prefer operating your machine with the help of buttons, ask yourself whether they are programmable, i.e. if you’ll be able to program the desired portion size (this feature definitely results in some added comfort).

Display. A built-in display will definitely come in handy when operating your new appliance, so consider whether your chosen espresso machine has one and, if so, what kind of features can be controlled using it.

Option of plumbing the machine in. Most domestic espresso machines are equipped with integrated, removable water tanks. However, if you want to plumb your machine in and forget all about having to fill the water tank up day in and day out, choose a model that can be connected straight to the mains water supply. 

Measurements of the appliance. The measurements of your appliance are, of course, important too. Domestic espresso machines still tend to be quite large, so make sure that your preferred model will fit nicely on your kitchen counter. 

Innovations. As espresso machines grow more and more popular, manufacturers keep coming up with new models and are constantly searching for ways to minimise the amount of effort required to brew a cup of delicious coffee while maximising the pleasure this process provides you with. That’s why the latest models are always worth checking out: innovative features can make your daily coffee ritual even easier and more enjoyable.

The Finest, Best-Known Espresso Machine Manufacturers

Coffee Friend’s assortment includes espresso machines produced by some of the world’s finest, best-known manufacturers. Whether you’re taking your first steps in the world of coffee, are a seasoned coffee connoisseur or dream about becoming one someday, you’ll definitely find something for you here!

Beginner baristas would do well by choosing one of the popular home espresso machine models produced by De’Longhi or Sage. If you’re an experienced home barista or would like to progress to being one as quickly as possible, then the Italian brands Lelit, Rocket Espresso, Rancilio and Elektra all definitely deserve a closer look. 

Here at Coffee Friend, we’re always adding new models to our assortment, so you’re guaranteed to find all of the finest espresso machines currently on the market!

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