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Choosing a Home Espresso Machine

Espresso machines come in a variety of styles. Which kind is right for you?

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You've decided you need an espresso machine at home, but what kind? They all have the same basic mechanism: forcing hot water through coffee grounds under pressure. But there are different ways to accomplish that. There are 4 basic machines, and each has its positive and negative features.

Pump Espresso Machines

  • These use a powered pump to produce the right amount of water pressure
  • Usually the most expensive
  • Can be quite large, bulky and noisy
  • Produces excellent espresso
  • Pump can get clogged with mineral deposits from the water
  • Commercial machines are often this type
Lever/Piston Espresso Machines
  • There is a manual lever and piston on these models to create the pressure
  • Can be hard on the arm
  • Very quiet machine
  • Espresso quality can vary
  • Few parts, low maintenance
Steam Powered Espresso Machines
  • The steam from heated water creates the pressure
  • Pressure isn't always strong enough to make a good Espresso
  • Smaller machine, sleek design
  • Quick and easy to use
Moka Pots
  • These are simple stove-top pots
  • Water in the bottom half of the pot, forces steam through the coffee into the top half of the pot
  • Super simple
  • Less pressure than the mechanized versions
  • No milk frothing/foaming attachments
  • Least expensive of all these models

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