Buying a home espresso machine can be a daunting task. The extensive research may seem a painful process, but will prove to be extremely beneficial in the long run. Ben Bicknell, from the Australian Barista Academy, tries to shed some light on the process and helps with comprehensive info about home espresso machines.

So, you’ve finally had enough! Your local cafes aren’t up to standard and none of them are located within metres of your lounge room. It’s time to get serious … what you need is your own espresso machine for home!

But where oh where do you begin?! Two litre boilers, thermoblocks, auto-frothing, manual, automatic, 15-bar, doserless, burr grinder … and that commercial machine looks so good. More importantly $200? $600? $3000?

To begin with, if you’re serious about wanting to produce some good coffee on a piece of equipment that will last more than a year, I’d dismiss everything under $500. If you’re not keen on spending this much to get your morning pick-me-up then I’d go for a burr grinder and a plunger.

The two really important characteristics that most machines in the $500+ range offer are constant, high pressure steam for heating your milk, and a pump and basket design that will allow you to get a good speed of pour (and therefore flavour) with your coffee.

The internal make-up of most home espresso machines can be simplified into two categories: thermoblock machines and boiler based machines.

The thermoblock is basically a coiled, heated pipe through which cold water is pushed, slowly heating up until it reaches the correct temperature for either brewing or steaming milk — somewhat similar to how a car radiator works.

There are now also dual-thermoblock machines on the market, which have a thermoblock dedicated to steaming and a separate thermoblock dedicated to heating the brewing water.

The boiler-based machines have something similar to a self-contained kettle: a cylindrical container made of aluminium, stainless steel, copper or brass and a heating element within it that brings the temperature of the water up to either brewing or steaming temperature.

Also included in the boiler-based machines are the heat-exchanger systems. These systems utilise a boiler which is dedicated to steaming (always at that temperature) and then run a small pipe through the center of this boiler to heat cold water up to brewing temperature. This system allows the user to steam milk and brew espresso at the same time.

If you’re really serious about your coffee and enjoy the process of finely tuning your morning espresso, the next area to look at is the temperature stability of your machine.

Both thermoblock and single-boiler espresso machines will retain temperature stability fairly well during a single shot or 100ml pour, with a short heating cycle after each. Any more than that (or the use of the steam boiler), however, will result in colder water being pumped into the heating systems, which drops the overall temperature. The twin-thermoblock and heat-exchanger systems will provide much more stability from shot to shot. As a general rule of thumb the bigger the boilers (or thermoblocks), the more metal used overall. The more that metal is made of stainless steel or brass, the more heat retention and temperature stability your espresso machine will have.

I’d recommend you check out our range of espresso machines in Domestic Equipment on the Five Senses website.

If you have any more questions about home espresso machines, feel free to send email us at Happy brewing!

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