|Home Espresso Machines
Espresso coffee is an acquired taste. If you have it, you got
it at the local coffee shop at $1.50 a shot. The fancy brews—the
latte and cappuccinos—cost twice as much. So why not be your own
and get your ‘espresso fix’ at home?
Well, the principal reason is that the machines are very pricey and,
at that, some do not make a product as good as the coffee shop. Worse
still, making the stuff can be messy if one buys a low-end machine that
requires handling pre-ground coffee and spent coffee grounds before and
after each and every shot. You can get around that by selecting a
machine (1) that uses capsules or pods of pre-packaged ground coffee or
(2) an automatic machine that makes the espresso from stored coffee beans.
The former are expensive ($200 to $500), the latter are very expensive
($800 to $2200). Some machines are both manual and pod capable. Manual
machines are less expensive. Of these, the least costly are the “boiler-type.”
They run in the $90 to $150 range. I have one. It is slow,
messy and produces an inconsistent product. It gathers dust atop
After consideration of cost vs. convenience, specifications are needed.
Nespresso’s Suzanne Dilenge provided these parameters: The machine
makes espresso by forcing hot water through specially blended and ground
coffee that is packed into a small, sturdy chamber.
· Water temperature and temperature control are important.
(The boiler-type machines fail both.) Water temperature, as it passes
through the ground coffee, should be in the range of 186 to 197ºF.
Too cold and the extraction process is not complete and the coffee is not
hot enough in the cup; too hot and the ground coffee is burned in
the process of extraction. (Folklore has it that Starbucks’ espresso
is produced at a higher temperature to impart a desired degree of burnness.)
· High pressure is necessary to extract the essential
oils from the ground coffee and to produce the crema on the surface of
the espresso. This pressure is measured in “bars.” Pressures
range from 15 to 19 bars. Higher is better. Nespresso touts
19 bars of pressure as the highest in the industry.
There are many machines out there. If you’re interested, don’t
buy without consulting these Web sites:
· wholelattelove.com is a great site in that
it provides detailed information on the machines they carry, including
customer reviews that are very informative. In general, the reviews
confirm that you get what you pay for. But even the high-end machines
have design quirks that may annoy you.
· nespresso.com presents Nestlé’s capsule-only
machines, their numerous capsule coffee selections and their international
support system. Their ‘Nespresso’ machines are very good and very
competitively priced, since they make their profit from selling coffee.
· cafemaison.com carries a wide array of machines
and sells coffee, as well.
In How to Cook a Wolf, M.F.K Fisher says that, “Coffee is one
thing that cannot be made skimpily. If you are going to economize
with it, do so by using it less often, but never by trying to make it with
less coffee and cooking it longer. Coffee, when it is brewed intelligently,
is a perfect accompaniment . . .”