words Al Woods
First off, let me say that coffee makers have come a long way in recent years and you can get a lot better value for your money. Competition for your hard earned money has pushed manufactures to include better quality parts and more features in their base models.
Even in the best espresso machine under 100 you’ll find enhancements such as larger stainless steel water tank (upward of 30oz), a stainless-steel boiler, a quality portafilter with a range of baskets and a host of useful accessories.
There are a few drawbacks however, most being that you need to manually control the features of the machine and the fact that you can use the steamer and extract coffee at the same time – more on that soon.
Types of Coffee You Can Make
With the inclusion of a steamer with most base models, you can make what every type of coffee that suites your taste. All espresso machines have the ability to craft basic espresso. The pressure of the water being pushed through the portafilter ensures a quality shot or two, given you have the coffee ground to the right level.
- Long Black – the easiest you can make, simply add hot water to the espresso you’ve just extracted. Some machines allow you to make hot water through the steam wand, else it’s easy to boil.
- Americano – similar to the long black, this coffee type begins with 1 to 2 shots of espresso. Hot water is added to a ratio of half and half or a third espresso to 2 thirds hot water.
- Latte – the most popular choice amongst most coffee lovers – steamed milk is added to espresso at a 4 to 1 ratio. The end result is a creamy rich beverage.
- Cappuccino – equally love by coffee lovers, the cappuccino begins with a single or double shot of espresso. Steamed milk froth is added in equal part to form a rich sensation.
- Macchiato – This popular coffee type also starts off with one or two shots of espresso. A splash of milk is added to take away the bitterness.
The more expansive automatic espresso machines feature a button for a single shot and a second button for a double shot. The biggest difference here is that you won’t have the buttons, but have to manually control the amount of espresso that is produced by the machine.
There is a button to press or a leave to pull that will start the coffee extraction. If you are unsure how much make, a typical double shot contains 40ml so you might want to measure it out. With a little practice, you won’t need to measure it out.
The good news here is that your will often achieve the same level of pressure as the more expensive machines – on average achieving pressure of between 10 – 15 bar. Higher pressure means water is forced through the coffee puck more easily and the oils are extracted for the best flavour.
Your milk frother will be similar to that found on the lower to mid ranged models. Your machine will feature a pannarello wand, that will have a large hole at the bottom, with its air intake coming further up the wand. The pannarello wand is designed to simplify the process of steaming milk, but can produce froth.
A regular wand will have between 1 and 4 holes at the bottom of the wand and will have no plastic parts. These wand types take a little more practice to get use to – but gives you full control over your temperature and amount of froth.
Lack of a Grinder
There are a few remaining models that feature a grinder – but these models a littered with issues, most taken off the market. A cheaper quality espresso machine won’t have this feature, but will put the cost into a stainless-steel boiler and better-quality tamper.
You can either purchase pre ground coffee or invest in a coffee grinder. It doesn’t need to be an electric model; a hand-held grinder will do a good job. Don’t use a blender, you won’t get a consistent result (but I’m sure some will try – like I did!).
As you can see, you don’t need to spend a fortune to make a quality espresso or cup of coffee at home. Things are made simpler with a pannarello wand, ensuring anyone can steam and froth milk out of the box.
The pressure coming out the group head is comparable to that of the more expensive brands, ensuring the quality of your espresso is as good as it can be. You won’t get a grinder either, but you can either purchase a cheap grinder or pre ground coffee.
So, there you have it, if you’re not satisfied with the quality once you have the machine, you can always take advantage of your refund period, but I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised!