Last time, I discussed the financial implications of a daily (or even weekly) espresso habit and how it made sense to me to invest in my own equipment rather than paying the big bucks out to a local coffee shop. This week, I want to talk about some of the things you'll need to know before going down this road for yourself.
The most important purchase you will make for a daily espresso habit at home is your espresso machine. Surprisingly, there are a dizzying array of options out there for these two products, and no shortage of advice on what you should or should not purchase. So let me start with the principles I used to guide my decisions:
- I want to be able to brew a product equivalent to what I would receive at a coffee shop. This immediately weeds out low quality, steam-driven machines.
- To accomplish that, I need a reasonable amount of control over the brewing process. This means I want to avoid the automatic and super-automatic machines, as well as those designed to exclusively use espresso pods.
- My machine will primarily be used once or twice a day, typically only pulling a handful of shots in a day. This means I don't need the speed of a higher-end semi-commercial machine.
- De'Longhi EC155 - Although it's quite small, this machine is otherwise a great deal. It's pump driven, heats up quickly, and delivers a quality shot. Yet, you get all of this for under $100. It's no wonder that this machine is the #1 best seller on Amazon for semi-automatic espresso machines. The only caveat is the low milk frother, which definitely limits the amount of milk you can froth at a time. But if you're on a tight budget, this is a great choice.
- Gaggia 14101 Classic - When choosing espresso machines, you can't go wrong with a Gaggia. While it's $300 price tag seems high compared to the previous entry, for your money you get a near commercial quality machine for a fraction of their price. It's sturdy, comes in elegant stainless steel, easy to work on, and even features a three-way solenoid valve, which allows a faster recovery time between shots. Some people have complained about issues with the steam wand, but I've never had an issue with it.
- Rancilio Silvia - If you survey serious espresso enthusiasts for their choice on home machines, more often than not this is the machine they name. This is truly a professional level machine, and will require some serious barista skills to get the most out of it. But for those who truly want to excel at their craft, and are willing to pay over $600 for the privilege, this is an excellent choice. The only complaint I've heard about it is that is can be slow to come up to temperature when it's turned on for the first time.
Next time, I'll take about the rest of the equipment you'll need to get started. Don't worry - the espresso machine is by far the most complicated and most expensive purchase you'll make for your daily espresso habit.