How to Select Espresso Coffee Machines

EspressoCoffee MachineInstant coffee out of a tin, or at best “Pour and Serve” filter coffee machines were the main way of providing coffee during the past thirty years. The need for real espresso based coffees has increased dramatically. Espresso is a concentrated beverage that is made by brewing and forcing extremely hot water through finely grounded coffee beans. From the traditional Italian style Espresso machine to the more complex Bean to Cup automatic coffee machines, it is possible to produce a wide range of high quality espresso based coffees very simply.

Traditional Espresso coffee machines are the type you see in restaurants and coffee shops.  Although most commercial espresso machines have automatic dosing these days, the coffee making process is by hand. The coffee shot … single or double … is prepared using the machine. The milk is foamed using the machine steam wand. The coffee is then put together to make any one of the most popular coffees … Cappuccino, Latte, Mocha and Macchiato etc. All of the preparation adds to the “Theatre” of the coffee experience.

Barista training is required to ensure quality and consistency. With practice, staff will be able to provide customers with a superb range of popular speciality coffees. Coffee making in this way is looked on very much as an “Art form.”

The size and complexity of espresso machines vary. Choosing the right machine to suit business requirements is important and should be given consideration. A person formally trained in coffee preparation and has served coffee on a full time basis for a number of years is known as a “Barista.” The word comes from the Italian name for a male or female bartender.

Bean to Cup Coffee Machines

Bean to Cup coffee machines are relatively recent additions to the coffee machine market. The principle is to be able to duplicate, more or less, the range of espresso based coffees that are normally handmade on an espresso machine … all at the “Touch of a Button”. Bean to Cup machines are found in many self-serve environments such as cafeterias, company canteens, offices and also these days, many people have domestic Bean to Cup machines in their kitchens.

A Bean to Cup machine grinds the coffee beans to make espresso coffee on demand. These systems also have built in automatic milk frothers that are able to produce steam and frothed milk for producing Lattes, Cappuccinos and other milk based drinks simultaneously. The process of producing coffee from a Bean to Cup machine differs from a traditional espresso machine. The coffee beans are ground into a brewing chamber and then a ram forces the hot water through the coffee, extracting the espresso coffee. A traditional espresso machine creates pressure that forces water through a “group head” to produce the espresso coffee.

If you are considering a Bean to Cup machine for your business it should be noted that they are manufactured to different volume categories. Machines have to be matched to daily cups/day requirements/estimates, drink size and how quickly they will be needed.

Home Style Coffee Machines

Given the popularity of espresso as a social coffee beverage and the advent of smaller and affordable home style coffee machines, espresso coffee machines have now penetrated many homes all around the world.

There are three main selection criteria that are most significant in your purchase.

  1. The first relates to automation;
  2. the second is size; and
  3. lastly cost.

All three are related with all criteria affecting each other. Espresso coffee machines can be semi automatic, automatic and super automatic.

Semi-Automatic Coffee MachineSemi automation: this coffee maker uses the manual instruments such as the grinder, to grind the coffee and a pump, to force the hot water through. The control of water volume, the brew time and the froth is by way of experience. Whilst this allows for control, this type of machine is generally not suitable for the typical home but more so for coffee aficionados. However, they are generally more traditional in design and are smaller in size. This allows for them to be used in smaller spaces and not requiring a connection to a water supply. They are also the cheapest of all three types given reduced automation.

With automatic machines, the brewing process, the volume and brew time is managed by the machine. The coffee maker simply places a glass in the holder, presses a button and the coffee is brewed. However, in this type of machine the management of the coffee and water is still somewhat manual. The user must manually add coffee and water for each brew and the user must also establish the settings for brewing. Automatic espresso coffee machines are very popular for homes as they are quite reasonably priced in the market today. Many leading electronic brands make them and they therefore come in many sizes depending on the number of heads. The more heads, the wider the machine and the more applicable they are for commercial purposes therefore the higher the price.

Lastly, super automatic espresso coffee machines provide all the functionality and settings that only require the coffee maker to press one button to make the cup of espresso. The machine will grind the coffee beans, tamp it and extract the shot. Water is connected to a water supply and there is typically a hopper for a large stream of coffee supply. Some even come with automated milk frothing and exact temperature controls. In most cases, this type of espresso coffee machine makes no counter mess. So for the typical home user, super automatic espresso coffee machines essentially provide speed and convenience but come at a higher price.

Finally, in terms of cost, the greater the automation, the greater the maintenance cost. This is true for cleaning, regular maintenance and for when things go wrong.

So when selecting an espresso coffee machine, select one that provides the functionality you need balanced with speed and convenience of brew, size and required placement of machine as well as purchase and ongoing costs.

Cleaning is especially important when using coffee machines. It’s also a good idea to have some knowledge of coffee beans so you can choose a blend that will to suit yours and your customers’ tastes.

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