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How to Buy an Espresso Machine

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Get the taste and luxury of a barista-made coffee beverage at home with an espresso machine. Whether you're a coffee connoisseur or just looking for a quality cup of espresso, there are a variety of espresso machine types to fit your morning routine and entertaining needs.

There are two general styles of espresso machines categorized by how they create espresso by forcing water through the coffee grinds. We break down the two main types of espresso machines below, and then the different machine options available within those two main types of machine. 
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Steam-Driven vs. Pump-Driven

​Steam-Driven Machines

Steam-driven espresso makers use steam pressure to move water through the coffee grinds. While this type of machine is generally more affordable, it does not produce as high-quality, flavorful espresso as pump-driven machines.

  • Moderately priced
  • Often stove top or manually operated
  • Brews one carafe at a time
  • Cannot be opened during operation to make more espresso

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Pump-Driven Machines

Pump-driven espresso machines use an internal pump to force heated water through the coffee grinds. Because the water is pushed through at a higher intensity, it creates more flavorful and higher-quality espresso than steam-driven. 

  • Higher-end machines at a higher price point 
  • Can be refilled at any time to make lots of espresso at once
  • Choose from different levels of automation and programming
  • Offers an array of features, such as automatic frothers, warming trays, and multiple cup size options

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Espresso ​Machine Types

Combo: Combination espresso machines can make both espresso and regular coffee. 

Pod: These espresso machines make single servings of espresso or coffee with single pods of coffee grounds that you can place into the machine. 

Automatic: Automatic espresso machines feature automated temperature controls and water volumes. Some or all of the functions can be performed at the press of a button.

Manual: Manual espresso machines are either lever-operated or stove top. Lever-operated machines let you use a lever to control how much water goes through the grinds. Lever-operated machines are more of a vintage, antique style of espresso machine. 

Consider your daily routine when deciding on an espresso machine. If you want a customized latte every morning, look at an automatic machine. For an affordable option for occasional use, stick with a stove top or manual espresso machine. 

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 Types of Automatic Options

Semi-Automatic: Requires you to manually control the amount of espresso by using a dial or lever to start and stop brewing.
These machines operate automatically and usually come with additional features for the ultimate experience. 

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Types of Manual Machines

Lever-Operated: Lever-operated espresso machines give the espresso maker and drinker the most control over their drinks because the operator is the only source of force for pumping hot water through the espresso grounds. However, they take more time and can be quite expensive.

Moka Pots: Although not techincally an espresso machine, moka pots produce a similar rich, dark coffee by using steam-produced vacuum pressure. Most of these metal pots work on the stovetop, but electric models can also be found. 

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Drip Tray: A small built-in tray below the spot where you can place your cup and avoid any spills. 

Milk Frother: A built-in frother or additional piece that can be used to make lattes and cappucinos.

Hot Water Dispenser: A built-in tray and spout that automatically heats water for hot drinks and tea. 

Programmable: Features a timer and settings for automatic preparation, additional customization, and coffee strength options. 

Cup Storage: Features a space underneath the spout for directly serving into a cup or thermos, depending on the machine size. 

Internal Grinder: Allows for fresh, flavorful coffee by grinding the beans directly before brewing. Also offers more options for coffee strength if there are settings for different grind levels. 

External Milk Container: An attachable container for easily loading milk from the fridge into the machine for automatic lattes and cappucinos. 

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