The layered taste of coffee and its deep aroma can only be extracted by careful processing. It’s a lot like alchemy, and the elaborate coffee preparation methods definitely produce magical beverages.
Espresso easily tops the list of the hardest types of coffee to prepare. To get the true profile out of espresso coffee, you should typically extract the brew quickly, powerfully, and avoid an extra hot medium.
A good espresso coffee can only be had by passing pressurized steam quickly through packed coffee grounds. This almost industrial process naturally takes a special kind of espresso maker.
Here’s a roundup of the 5 best Italian espresso machines capable of providing a truly authentic cup. In addition, you’ll find everything you need to know about espresso makers.
Top 5 Best Italian Espresso Machines
BEST ITALIAN ESPRESSO MACHINE
DeLonghi is one of the biggest players in the home appliance business. Having spent around a century as market leaders, they certainly know how to make top-notch machines. Being Italian definitely helps in creating an espresso maker that provides an authentic espresso coffee shot.
This compact model can fit easily on a home counter, and once it’s in place, you can enjoy a wide variety of your favorite specialty coffee beverages. It has a patented dual-function coffee holder that you could fill up with ground coffee or pods.
It’s a pleasant surprise that such a tiny device comes with a swivel jet frother, so cappuccinos and lattes are all possible.
It’s a compact coffee machine that’s easy to operate, easy to clean, and comes at a great price. It has a milk frother / steamer all-in-one appendage, and can prepare a couple of espresso coffee shots simultaneously.
The distance between the nozzle and the tray is a bit limited. It’s barely sufficient for the tiny espresso cups, and provides little space for handling.
This model is a mini-me of the professional espresso machine you’d see in a coffee bar. It has huge capabilities considering its tiny stature. It can provide one shot, two shots, milk-based beverages, or capsule espresso, all in mere minutes.
On top of that, it comes at a phenomenally affordable price.
Coffee drinkers worldwide have Achille Gaggia to thank for the delich espresso shots. From that turn of the century till today, Gaggia products are among the most respected in the industry.
The Breta is an all inclusive espresso machine. It takes the coffee beans, and with a push of a single button, gives you an incredible brew. Your choice of espresso, latte, or any other combination you’d like.
You also have the choice of loading it with beans or grounds. It can handle both. And if you’d like some steam for an Americano, or some frothing for the Cappucino, the Pannarello Steam Wand provides all that.
The Breta is designed to give you full access to everything. You can fill up the coffee machine, clean it, and maintain it, without twisting and turning. It’s all in the front.
It’s an intuitive, versatile, and easy going machine. On top of that, it’s good-looking and doesn’t take up too much counter space.
The burr grinder isn’t too durable, so you might want to take it easy with the whole beans. The good news is that the warranty covers that. The not so good news, you’d have to pay for the shipping to and from the service center.
It’s a user friendly espresso and latte maker. If you’re new to the coffee making world, this super automatic machine will take care of almost everything.
It’s never a surprise to have two DeLonghi espresso machines in the same roundup. The previous model was compact and economic, but this one is total luxury.
This ultra-automatic espresso machine comes with sensors and controllers for everything. Starting with the beans, the compaction of the coffee grounds, all the way to the super consistent temperature, pressure, and degree of milk frothing.
This naturally makes for a perfect coffee beverage every time you push the button and prepare one. It also doesn’t take long at all, as it heats up in one second. And if you need an Americano or hot water for your tea, you’ll have that right away as well.
As an added bonus, it comes with a milk pitcher which is optimal for all the delicious lattes and cappuccinos. In addition to a descaling solution and cleaning brush, to help in keeping the coffee machine at top shape inside and out.
A perfect espresso at the push of a button. The quality doesn’t fluctuate, as this coffee machine is designed for high precision. The latte system is also quite advanced, and you can get a barista touch on your homemade cup.
Moreover, it’s a beauty, with its classical good looks and steel frame.
It’s a bit tall, wide, and rather heavy. You’d need to dedicate some space on the counter for this espresso machine, and let it stay there.
It’s not an outrageously expensive espresso machine, yet it provides a superior cup like the best of them.
This is a commercial-grade semi-automatic espresso machine that you can use at your house. The user can exercise plenty of control over the beverage emerging from this coffee machine. This includes moving the articulating steam wand for the best frothing and form.
The Rancilio has the distinctive airs of Italian-made machines. It has all the elegance and charisma that you’d want around you. It’s a bit massive, with all the metal that goes into its frame, but it doesn’t take up too much space.
Furthermore, there’s an optional pod and capsule adaptor you can add to this machine, if that’s more convenient.
Sturdy, quick, and streamlined. A prime quality semi-automatic espresso machine.
The drip tray is small, so you’d need to be careful with overflowing. It’s also rather expensive.
If you’re a seasoned coffee connoisseur, then you’d appreciate the degree of control this machine gives you. Its performance in milk based beverages is also remarkable.
The best part about the Saeco is that it pampers the user. With very little effort, you get a wonderful shot of espresso or latte. The second best thing is that it’s built to last.
The cutting edge appearance of the Saeco matches its capabilities and precision. This is also well demonstrated by the user-friendly panel and spot-on controls. You don’t need to be a pro or a tech savvy to make the best espresso shot.
The outer frame and inner structures are all made from highly durable materials. As for maintaining it, you can remove the brewing group entirely, and make sure it stays in top shape.
Full-automation provides for a quick and easy espresso shot. This is complemented by the built in milk reservoir, which you only need to replenish, then the machine gives it the perfect form. It has a sturdy frame and prime quality components, so this coffee machine will live with you for long. Finally, it’s quite easy to clean-up and maintain.
It’s a pricey machine.
Ultra-automatic espresso machine, that also gives a rich and authentic cup.
7 Things You Should Consider Before Buying an Italian Espresso Machine
Buying an espresso machine isn’t the same as buying a washing machine, mainly because it’s not an appliance where functionality comes first. It’s the provider of your energizing, relaxing, or socializing beverage.
That’s why you need to look at its features in a different manner. And as you browse through the multitude of models on display, aim for selecting the one that matches your lifestyle, pleases your eyes, and goes beyond the essentials. Here are a few pointers that should help you in selecting the right espresso machine.
1. General Usage
This is basically the decision of whether you need a quick cup of espresso with a press of button, or would you rather have more control over the brewing process?
The number of people who regularly need an espresso shot also matters. Are you alone in the house, or is this a larger household?
And here’s something people sometimes overlook, how often do you have friends over? If you live alone, but your friends are constantly at your place, then a larger machine is in order.
2. Preferred Beverage
The type of beverage you often use also matters. If you’re a straight out espresso drinker, you can forgo the latte and cappuccino appendages. Which lets you focus more on other coffee bean related features. If you like milk-based beverages, then it’s best to get a machine with two separate boilers.
The availability of a built-in coffee grinder is good if you like a hassle-free cup. But it would be an unnecessary add-on if you’d rather roast and grind your coffee beans. There are machines that provide both options, which is even better.
This also allows you to use flavored coffee, since putting them in the machine’s grinder would leave a lingering taste. It would probably be difficult to get rid of, as it’ll pass through the internal conduits from the burr grinder to the brewing parts.
If you’re into espresso K-cups or capsules, make sure that the machine you’re buying has that option as well. Not all of them do.
3. Counter Space
Sizes vary significantly. And coffee makers, in general, need a bunch of add ons beside them. A digital scale, roaster, burr grinder, and a variety of coffee beans, are a few add-ons you’d want to keep beside the espresso machine.
Limited counter space shouldn’t stop you though. There are some amazing compact units with a tiny footprint for such cases.
4. Volume and Accessibility of the Water Reservoir
A large capacity water reservoir lets you prepare many cups before needing a refill. Accessibility is also something to look for. Some designs look stunning, but good luck with reaching the reservoir! An inconvenience like this is the last thing you need to do first thing in the morning.
5. How Quickly Do You Need Your Coffee?
Some home espresso machines act like divas, and take forever to get ready. While others are revved up little engines always ready to go. It depends largely on the design of the device.
6. Ease of Use
This usually gauges how easy it is to operate the espresso machine.
In addition, you should look at the required cleaning and maintenance to keep it in good shape. Some home espresso machines are a breeze to tidy up, with parts that you can throw into the dishwasher, and a removable overflow tray. Others aren’t so cooperative.
This is the last consideration, but definitely not the least important. Form and function should always go hand in hand. And there are so many models out there, that you can always choose a style that matches your house decor and personal preferences.
What Kinds of Italian Espresso Machine Are There?
Here are the main types of home espresso machines that people like to use.
The Moka Pot
It’s actually not a stretch at all to describe the moka pot as a machine. It’s an extremely elementary form of a steam generator, in other words, a machine.
The steam passes through the bottom layers where the water is boiling, to the middle part where the packed coffee grinds are waiting to be extracted. Finally, the super-heated extracted coffee pushes its way to the top section of the pot. Then, you can pour it and have a basic form of espresso.
The problem with that arrangement is that the pressure is too low and the temperature is too high. Also, the extraction time is much too long. The sum total of all these factors is a cup of espresso that hardly tastes like espresso. It’s filled to the brim with caffeine though.
Interestingly, many people favor this taste, as it’s what they had at their homes while growing. It’s also what many diners and restaurants offered. So out of familiarity, the Moka pot espresso became a thing.
It’s worth noting that these pots look quite appealing, and they cost close to nothing compared to an espresso machine.
Steam-Driven Espresso Machine
This type is rather historic and nostalgic. The first one was a sensation though, as its inventor Angelo Moriondo displayed it at the Turin General Exposition in 1884. It was the start of a newage in coffee beverages preparation.
The principle of operation of these machines is similar to the moka pot, but works with a higher pressure of 1-1.5 bars. This is still way below the 9 bars of pressure necessary for a good cup of espresso, but it certainly led the way towards that end.
Some modern day machines use electricity to generate pressurized steam, but they have the same shortcomings that come with a moka pot. Namely, over extraction.
Lever-Driven Espresso Machine
The pressure here comes from the mechanical action of spring loaded pistons. The barista has full control over the exposure time, pressure, and temperature, and flow rate of the hot water through the coffee grounds.
This is exciting when you think about all the different ways you could brew a cup of coffee. It’s also highly uncertain, and the outcomes would be different with every cup.
The main advantage of this espresso machine is that steam cools off a bit before reaching the coffee. This provides a much better profile for the espresso, and also shows in the full form and texture of the brew.
Pump-Driven Espresso Machine
These are the more common machines that we have in our homes and see around coffee shops. They employ the services of a dedicated pump to create the high pressure needed to fully extract coffee.
Being that effective and popular, motivated manufacturers to develop several forms of pump-operated espresso machines. The designs of the pumps vary, as well as the degree of automation of the espresso machine. They range from the semi-automatic all the way to the ultra automatic espresso machine. Here are the basic features of each.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
The main characteristic of pump-driven espresso machine is their consistent performance. The pressure and temperature can be adjusted to specific values, and they wouldn’t stray too far from them.
The operator handles grinding the coffee, measuring it, and tamping it in the portafilter. The extraction time is also to be decided by the user or barista.
Automatic Espresso Machine
These machines know when to start and when to stop, and exactly how much water needs to be used in an espresso shot. That’s in addition to the controlled pressure and temperature.
You just need to put in the right amount of coffee grounds in the portafilter, add water in the reservoir, and press a button. You don’t need to stay alert, or keep the machine from overflowing like the magic porridge pot.
It’s worth noting that the very first fully automated espresso machine was a Gaggia, and it came out in 1938.
Fully-Automatic Espresso Machine
In addition to all the perks of automating the previous type of espresso machine, this group does the grinding, measuring, and tamping. The user only supplies the roasted coffee beans, and the machine does the rest.
One of the best features of these machines, is that the coffee beans are ground to an optimal level of fineness or coarseness. And accordingly, the best possible pressure, temperature, and extraction time are implemented.
You can imagine the flavor of the espresso shot that comes on the other end. Furthermore, there’s usually a chute, where users can add ground coffee or flavored blends. There’s a wide variety of espresso-based beverages that you can get with these setups, but not lattes. That’s what the next type of machines would do.
Automatic Espresso Machine with Milk Frother
The frothing or steaming of milk are essentials for making a decent latte or cappuccino.
Often, these machines require a bit more care and maintenance than the regular espresso machine. But if you appreciate a morning latte, it’s totally worth the effort.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pressure affects the taste of espresso, that’s an undisputed fact. If the pressure is too low, your shot comes out bland and boring. While subjecting the coffee to too much pressure causes over extraction, and a bitter espresso. Both should be spilled in the sink.
The standard is around 9 bars, but some baristas swear by the 15 bars of pressure
Q: Why do I need to drink the espresso shot right away?
The crema is the best part of the espresso shot. It’s an emulsion containing the aromatic oils that get extracted in the coffee. It’s taste and texture are what makes the espresso shot worth having.
Unfortunately, it starts dissolving within seconds of brewing. That’s why Italians always order their espresso by the bar, you can’t let the crema go to waste!
Q: What’s the best extraction time for espresso?
If you’re using finely ground coffee, then 25 seconds is the perfect time for extraction.
Q: Can I put milk instead of water in the water reservoir?
You can, but you absolutely should not! It could easily contaminate or clog your espresso machine.
If you’d like to enjoy a truly authentic shot of espresso, I suggest the Gaggia Brera Espresso Machine. It’s versatile, easy to operate, and has the best balance of what you’d like to control, and what the machine can do for you.
It’s worth nothing that it has all the heritage of the original espresso machine. In its name as well as in its performance.