Espresso is love for most people. It’s smooth, delicious, and gives a perfect start to your day.
Since it is increasingly becoming a necessity, more and more espresso lovers are turning to home/office espresso machines so they can enjoy their cup of favorite beverage any time without breaking the bank.
But if you have done any research on the types of espresso machines, it’s only natural for you to feel overwhelmed.
There is a wide variety of espresso machines available on the market with each one with unique features and varying mechanisms. But don’t worry.To help you better understand different types of espresso machines, we have compiled this post.
Here we explain different types of espresso machines according to various classifications so can grab a cup of your favorite espresso with ease and convenience.
But before we get into the details of different types of espresso machines, let’s begin by understanding how espresso machines fundamentally work.
How do Espresso Machines work?
You must know how espresso machines work fundamentally so you can better understand how the machines differ. Moreover, it will also help you understand how you get the final product.
It might come as a surprise to many of you but there is no such thing as espresso beans. Instead, your espresso machine finely grinds coffee beans and then forces boiling water, hot warm, or steam to come in contact with the finely grounded powder.
So essentially, you get your espresso when fine coffee powder comes in contact with a very hot liquid or steam.
And while the process is quite simple, many espresso machines also have a steaming wand that allows you to steam milk for drinks such as cappuccinos or lattes.
Moreover, since heating water and the formation of steam require different temperatures, you will find espresso machines that offer a variety of heating methods (and you will notice it as we discuss the different types of espresso machines below).
Now that you know how espresso machines work, without further ado, let's check out the different types of espresso machines available on the market so you can choose the right one for yourself.
Different Types of Espresso Machines
As we discuss different types of espresso machines, know that we can classify them into five categories according to differences in the following.
- Water Flow,
- Level of automation
Let’s take a closer look at each of these categories and find out more about different types of espresso machines.
Types of Espresso Machines Based on the Water Flow
Reservoir or Pour Over Espresso Machine
A reservoir or pour-over espresso machine is one of the most widely known types of the espresso machine. However, it's common for people to confuse it with a pour-over coffee maker.
Know that the pour-over espresso machine is very different from a pour-over coffee maker.
In the case of a pour-over coffee maker, all it takes is hot water that's poured over the coffee beans that are placed in a filter above your coffee cup.
On the other hand, a pour-over espresso machine has a reservoir that holds water which is used to brew your favorite cup of espresso.
The best part about this type of espresso machine is that it doesn't require installation and given the manageable size of this machine, you can easily move it.
However, when using a reservoir or pour-over espresso machine, make sure you use filtered and softened water so it does not damage your machine.
Moreover, when you use this type of espresso machine, know that you will have to regularly refill it. Furthermore, your reservoir espresso machine will also need regular cleaning and descaling.
Direct Connect Espresso Machines
Another type of espresso machine that's categorized based on water flow is the direct connect espresso machine. As the name suggests, this type of espresso machine is directly connected to the water supply.
Hence, you have constant access to the stream of water which is quite similar to the water supply you enjoy in the kitchen sink. It is due to this reason that these types of espresso machines are also known as plumbed-in espresso machines.
Since there is no need to monitor how much water is left in the reservoir or constantly refill the tank, this type of espresso machine is great for high-volume operations where you have to serve espresso often.
So while they are a great choice for commercial use, several home users may also consider the use of this type of espresso machine. However, you must know that while you can directly connect your espresso machine to tap water, it’s usually not a good idea.
Make sure there is a water softener installed so you can enjoy the pleasant taste of your espresso while avoiding the damage or scale build-up in your machine.
Volumetric Espresso Machines
The third on the list of types of espresso machines categorized according to water flow are volumetric espresso machines.
This type of espresso machine measures water flow that’s pre-programmed into the machine. Hence a certain volume flows into the machine and the flow of water is then stopped once it reaches the required threshold.
As a user, it gives you the flexibility to program the volume of water that you need and makes it an excellent choice for commercial applications. You can enjoy consistent taste shot after shot as long as your grinder is dialed in appropriately.
It is a perfect choice for espresso drinkers who like to have a consistent espresso taste every morning as well as for large-scale commercial users.
Types of Espresso Machines Based on Differences in Boilers
Next, we can have categorized types of espresso machines based on the difference in boilers which refers to the heating element that's used to heat the water or to steam milk or cream for latte and cappuccinos.
Let's take a closer look at the single boiler, double boiler, and heat exchanging espresso machines.
A single boiler espresso machine is exactly as the name suggests and it comes with a single heating element to heat both the water for brewing your favorite caffeinated drink and comes with a wand for steaming milk or cream for lattes and cappuccinos.
It's worth knowing that the water that's used for brewing espresso is not as hot as the water that's used to produce steam for steaming milk or cream. Hence, you must allow your espresso machine to cool down before you get your next shot.
Since this type of espresso machine comes with a single boiler, it is often small in size and does not take up too much space. It is also pocket-friendly and makes for a great espresso equipment to be used at home.
However, it may not be best for commercial use as it requires cool-down periods between shots.
Double boiler espresso machines are quite similar to single-boiler machines but as the name suggests, they come with two heating sources.
The double-boiler espresso machine relies on one boiler for brewing espresso while it uses another heat source to heat the water up to the boiling point which is required to steam milk.
Since there is another boiler working along with the first one, this type of espresso machine is heavier than single boiler espresso machines. Moreover, they are more expensive and take up more space than espresso machines with a single boiler.
But unlike the single boiler espresso machines, double boiler espresso machines do not require a cool-down period. Hence, you can enjoy multiple shots in a shorter period.
It makes a piece of great equipment for commercial use but if you have a lot of family members who enjoy multiple shots every morning, it can be an excellent investment for home users as well.
Heat Exchanging Espresso Machines
If you think double boiler espresso machines are bulkier, take up a lot of space, and are pricey, you can go for the heat exchanging espresso machines.
This type of espresso machine combines the benefits of having two heating sources but is less bulky and pricier than double boiler espresso machines.
Heat exchanging espresso machines come with a single boiler that's used to get the results of a double boiler.
The single boiler heats water for both brewing your espresso as well as steaming milk, but comes with a built-in system that reduces the water temperature of water heated for steaming and then uses it for brewing.
So you may end up with several shots of espresso as there is little to no need for cool down periods however, there is lesser control on the water temperature that’s used for brewing. As a result, you are more likely to end up with inconsistent shots.
Heat exchanging espresso machines may be a good choice for low volume commercial operation as they are better than a single boiler.
However, it has shortcomings that make it inappropriate for commercial applications where you need more control on water temperature as well as require quick output.
Regardless of the inconsistency, heat exchanging espresso machines make a great choice for at-home espresso lovers who prefer price and convenience over the consistency of their shots.
Types of Espresso Machines Based on Mechanism
Another classification that we can use to know about the types of espresso machines according to the mechanism using which the machine works.
Manual/Lever-Based Espresso Machines
If you look at the brewing process, the water moves extremely slowly through the finely ground espresso and takes quite a long time to make a good or drinkable espresso.
To reduce the time it takes to brew your espresso, espresso machines rely on pressure. Typically, it takes up to 15 bars of pressure to make your shot of espresso in a limited extraction time.
When you use a manual/lever-based for brewing espresso, it means you are manually exerting pressure to pull your shot. This type of espresso machine comes with a manual lever that makes it easier for you or the barista to apply pressure.
By varying the pressure, you can control the brewing time as well as the water flow and end up with a highly customized shot of your favorite caffeinated beverage.
Moreover, since there is no machinery involved, there is no risk of pumps or machinery failing due to mishandling.
Another interesting feature of lever-based espresso machines is that unlike other types of espresso machines, they don't make any noise. It's simply because there is no motor or pump that forces the water to the filter.
However, if you look at the downside of this type of espresso machine, using a lever-based espresso machine is physically demanding. It also requires proper knowledge and practice before you can get started with a lever-based espresso machine.
So if you are a home-based espresso enthusiast who loves to have control over the extraction process and enjoys customizable shots, then it's a great choice for you.
And while you can use it at your café for its aesthetic appeal, lever-based espresso machines do not make a worthy investment from a commercial perspective.
Steam Driven Espresso Machines
Steam-driven espresso machines work by using pressure from the boiling water to force the water through the grounded coffee so you can brew your espresso. The process starts with heating water to the boiling point.
Once the steam is building up, the pressure is transferred into finely grounded coffee for brewing. Hence you end up with delicious espresso without exerting any physical force.
However, this type of espresso machine is often under heavy stress and is quite delicate so you need to be very careful as you use steam-driven espresso machines to brew yourself a good quality shot.
Pump-Driven Espresso Machines
A popular choice of espresso machines today is a pump-driven espresso machine that relies on a single pump to create the right amount of pressure you need to make a great shot.
Using this type of espresso machine, you can easily skip the physical workout required by lever-based espresso machines as well as avoid problems associated with steam-driven espresso machines.
The pump-driven espresso machine produces adequate pressure using an electric pump that allows you to pump out high-quality espresso. Moreover, it has a single boiler attachment that heats the water to the perfect temperature that you need for extraction.
A pump-driven espresso machine is often a great choice for commercial application as it is cheaper than steam-driven espresso machines. Every time you brew your espresso, you end up with a consistent taste without exerting any physical effort.
Air-Pump Driven Espresso Machines
Air-pump-driven espresso machines are among latest additions to all things coffee.
Unlike all other types of espresso machines, the air-pump-driven espresso machine relies on compressed air that creates the pressure you need to get the espresso of your choice.
Using this espresso machine, you can release the pressurized hot water through coffee through the air pump. The hot water that you pulled is then channeled into a vacuum flask through a hand pump or electric compressor which in turn results in the formation of compressed air.
Nitrogen gas is often used to create the pressure you need similar to how a cartridge with carbon dioxide is used for creating pressure.
A distinguishing feature of this type of espresso machine is that it's light in weight, and can easily fit in anywhere, hence it is more portable.
Types of Espresso Machines Based on the Level of Automation
We can also classify espresso machines based on the level of automation.
Here are some of the types of espresso machines according to the process automation they offer.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
As the name suggests, a semi-automatic espresso machine offers some level of automation but it also requires input from the user. This type of espresso machine starts the brewing process through the push of a button.
However, it is not programmed as the volumetric espresso machine. The user needs to be vigilant when it comes to the flow of espresso so you can enjoy customization of your shot.
If you want to change the amount of water you are using to prepare your shot, unlike the volumetric espresso machine, you don't have to re-program. Instead, you can simply stop by pressing the button that will cease the water flow.
Moreover, this type of espresso machine often includes an option for steaming milk.
Semi-automatic espresso machines are a great choice for commercial-use. However, it requires constant attention from the barista so make sure you have some experienced people handling the machine.
Automatic Espresso Machines
Automatic espresso machines are quite similar to semi-automatic espresso machines. However, they can shut the water off on their own. This means that automatic espresso machines give you lesser control over the brewing process as well as the water temperature.
In turn, you get a machine that you can set up and it will continue to function without you paying any attention to the process. In fact, you can also find automatic espresso machines that allow you to set on timers so you can wake up to freshly brewed espresso.
If you are someone who prefers the set-it and forget-it style of espresso brewing, then an automatic espresso machine can be a great choice for you.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
Take automatic espresso machines to the next level and what you get is the super-automatic espresso machines.
Using this type of espresso machine, you can enjoy the freshest espresso as it not only has an automatic shut-off option and allows you to set on timers but it can also grind coffee beans for you.
This type of espresso machine offers less customization and is quite expensive. However, if you prefer convenience over customization and price, then it’s a great machine for you.
Ultra-Automatic Espresso Machines
When you combine super-automatic espresso machines with an option where you add in milk steaming and frothing, you end up with an ultra-automatic espresso machine.
The machine is fully automatic, freshly grinds coffee beans, and adds in the milk you desire. It's simply like waking up to a fresh cappuccino or latte.
However, when you go for the ultra-automatic espresso machine, you end up with no customization at a very high price.
Types of Espresso Machines According to the Structure
The structure of your espresso machine is another categorization for classifying espresso machines.
While the structure of the machine you choose is completely your choice, the type of espresso you enjoy and your purpose are two great determinants in the type of espresso machine you end up with.
Let’s look at the types of espresso machines based on the structure.
Stove Top Espresso Machine
A small and compact espresso machine that's also perhaps the cheapest option you will find on the market is a stovetop espresso machine.
It is simple and convenient to use where you simply fill in the machine with water and coffee grounds and let the water heat gradually over the stove on medium heat.
Once the water boils, the steam pushes through the grounded coffee and you end up with your favorite caffeinated beverage.
While it’s a great alternative for people who do not have any experience with brewing espresso, it’s usually not an option for espresso enthusiasts who prefer customization and more control over their shot.
Pod Espresso Machine
If you are looking for a single-serve espresso shot, then a pod espresso machine is your best bet.
The machine is simple and convenient to use and takes small pods that are filled with grounded coffee. It also relies on the use of a pump that creates enough pressure so you can make a single shot of your espresso.
Most of the pod espresso machines that you will find on the market do not come with milk steaming options and the ones that do are usually quite expensive.
Pod espresso machines are great for home users especially those who have limited time in the morning. However, they are not suitable for commercial use.
Espresso is one of the best caffeinated drinks but it's also highly personalized. There are countless ways of making and customizing your favorite drink and that’s where your espresso machine comes into play.
As you head out to choose the right type of espresso machine, the numerous options that you can find on the market can easily overwhelm you. And that’s precisely why we have compiled this list of different types of espresso machines based on various criteria.
Using this list as your guide, you will have enough information about different types of espresso machines. And we hope that using this information, you can choose the espresso machine that perfectly suits your taste and lifestyle and brew you the cup of espresso that you deserve.
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