If you're thinking of buying an espresso machine but have no idea where to start, you're at the right place. In this article, we share some useful information you should know before buying a coffee machine, and our recommendations of the best coffee machines out there.
How many boilers?
This is probably the most important question you'll be looking at when purchasing an espresso machine. In general, the more boilers a machine has, the more expensive it will likely be. So, how do boilers factor in an espresso machine and why do they matter? To understand that, we have to know a little about the way espresso machines generate heat.
In a single boiler heat exchanger system, there is only one boiler in the machine set at steam temperature. A heat exchanger rod with cold water running through it passes through this boiler. As cold water passes through the hot boiler, heat is exchanged and the cold water heats up. This water ends up at your group head, for extracting your espresso. The imperfection of this system is that you do not have precise control over the final temperature of the water that ends up at the group head, and there could be fluctuations during extraction due to the fluid nature of water continuously running through the heat exchanger.
In a double boiler system, there is one boiler for the steam wand and one boiler for the group head. As you can imagine, this allows you to exercise precise control over the exact temperature you would like to have. This also gives greater consistency during extraction, making a more delicious cup of coffee. These days, you can even find multi boiler system espresso machines, offering customised temperature controls over each individual group head. Of course, these are only used in commercial settings and are hardly considered by homeowners.
Key considerations for home baristas: Price, Size & Water Setup
Functions wise, we would say that a single boiler espresso machine would be able to satisfy most home users who make just a few cups of coffee per day. You'll be able to find a range of such machines at an accessible price point. But of course, if you have the budget to spare and love to geek out on coffee, you can splurge on a double boiler machine.
Counter space and water setup are two factors that could potentially limit your options. Espresso machines that come in smart, compact designs are ideal for home setups with limited space. We also recommend that you opt for an espresso machine that comes with a built-in water reservoir, as they are ultra convenient to use and do not need to be connected directly to your water pipes. The Bellezza Chiara Leva is a great choice that ticks all these boxes.
Key considerations for commercial settings: Performance, Consistency, Design
If you're purchasing an espresso machine for your cafe, we would definitely recommend a double boiler machine as it would give you more control and consistency over your espresso extraction. This goes a long way towards building a reputation for great cup quality among your customers. If you're worried about the higher setup costs, consider rental or working out an arrangement with your coffee supplier. If your supplier is a one-stop coffee service provider like us, they can most likely work out a solution that covers coffee and machines together.
As for design, it is entirely up to what you personally like. There are many beautiful espresso machines out there -- Slayer, Synesso, Victoria Arduino and the list goes on. As for us, we always go back to the sophistication of Kees van der Westen machines. Their steam punk inspired aesthetics and sleek lines never fail to remind us of high-end car engines. The Spirit is well-known for being a super high-performing and reliable espresso machine catering to high volumes, and the Speedster is a snazzy piece of gear for smaller cafes, or even as a luxurious showpiece for your home.
Now that you've got your espresso machine, don't forget that it's only one half of the equation. Regardless how powerful your espresso machine is, you won't get a good cup of coffee if you're grinding with the wrong grinder. There's a good reason why people say that the espresso machine and coffee grinder are the two most important pieces of equipment you need to invest in any coffee setup. You can read more about how to choose a coffee grinder in our other article.
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