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Sep 28, 2012 03:50 PM

Espresso machine advice

I have always wanted to own my own espresso machine, but never had the counter space in my kitchen to justify the purchase; until now! So, I am looking for advice on what to buy.

I anticipate using it primarily for lattes and cappuccinos. I already own a drip coffee maker and am not really a fan of Americanos. I mostly use caffeinated beans, but might want the option of decaf for guests or the occasional evening mocha.

I like the convenience of a semi-automatic where I don't have to measure and tamp the grinds, but not sure if I want to go the pod route. You are so locked into certain blends and the packaging seems wasteful. I have tried frothing milk on my own, but seem to get it foamier than I like for lattes with machines with the wand, so maybe a built in milk frother?

Please let me know what you all like/dislike and pros and cons of various machines and brands available. I look forward to your thoughts.

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  1. Avoid the pods. They are too expensive for most people.

    I have a Pasquini® Livia 90 and love it. It blows away the machines available at the shopping mall places. The commercial style brewing group is very nice. Great espresso is very easy with this machine and Illy coffee!

    10 Replies
    1. re: Sid Post

      I use a Melitta filter machine for coffee every day, and frequently have an espresso at my local Peet's. I have tried Nespresso machines, but am not thrilled with their coffee and am looking at other options for having an occasional espresso at home. Please do not take this wrong...i am being totally serious...but please tell me why I should even consider buying a Pasquini machine for $1,700 when probably >95% of espresso coffee consumed by Italians is made at home in a stovetop Bialetti Moka or other similar pot which retails for about 25 bucks. Is the stovetop coffee so inferior? Is it strictly a matter of convenience? I'm wanting to think that the quality of the ground beans may be more important that the machine, but I really don't know. Please tell me why buying a $25 stovetop Bialetti Moka is not a good option!

      1. re: josephnl

        BIALETTI and two or three other similar make great coffee."EXPRESS" Water under pressure up through the grounds.In the truest sense it is not espresso.The stove top coffee is not inferior,just different.Certainly good enough that small "espresso machines" haven't been a sales hit in Italian homes.

        Espresso is water pressured down through the grounds.This isn't a task well performed by scaled down machines.Good machines run $900.00 and up.Often,US, you can find the machines in every price range,with and with out bean grinders,dedicated water lines etc discounted by more than 40%.

        Would I recommend one method over the other? NO! Your taste and wallet decide.

        Our house in Italy has a small,dedicated water line restaurant,cafe machine purchased in 1989 ,used.Service is same day.All in all it has needed service twice.Oh and a BIALETTI on the range.
        In Maryland its hand pour CHEMEX and BIALETTI,and I have no desire for an espresso machine.CHEMEX & BIALETTI with my water and off the shelf beans or ground both make GREAT COFFEE.

        1. re: josephnl

          If economy is a priority, a moka pot is ok for coffee. But it's not espresso. Nowhere near.

          1. re: chuckl

            No, it's not espresso, but it gives a brew that is very satisfying without the crazy price tag. You are using the same roast and fine grind that you would use in an espresso maker, but under substantially less pressure. The flavor and consistency certainly is way closer to espresso than drip or press coffee, no not sure what you mean by "nowhere near".

            Here's the deal...sounds like you are usually not drinking shots of espresso, but taking the espresso and thinning it down with steamed milk. THAT'S's just that you might not need true espresso to give you the results that YOU are looking for.

            Give it a try for $20 for the pot + $10 for a can of illy espresso. Bialetti makes a fancy model that will steam and froth your milk, but I think that's overkill...just get the basic 3-cup model (6 oz). Bialetti makes the classic six-sided model in various sizes, Bodum makes one that is a little more stylish, but works on the same principle.

            1. re: MikeB3542

              never got blueberry juice out of a mokapot.
              Did get levitation, however.
              If you're afraid of levitating kitchen appliances, I suggest steering clear.

              1. re: Chowrin

                Not sure how a leviathan can fit in a moka pot...maybe with a little lecithin.

                Seriously though, moka pots shouldn't go airborne...if you set the flame low, don't tamp down the grounds, and keep the water level below the pressure-relief valve, there ought not be any drama.

          2. re: josephnl

            Coffee bean quality is an important factor but, I can tell you there is a world of difference between a Moka, Starbucks espresso, and my Pasquini espresso.

            It's not that different from buying beer at your local grocery store. Do you want the cheap swill, the mass produced swill, or the craft brews? They are all beer but, most people can certainly tell a difference in quality and flavor.

            1. re: Sid Post

              So, are you saying that the coffee most Italians drink from their Bialetti Moka (type) stovetop pot is " cheap swill"? Sounds like it!

              1. re: josephnl

                yes. I don't particularly like italian roast either.
                I pull shots of straight Kenyan espresso.

                1. re: josephnl

                  It's better then nothing. Life is too short for cheap beer and bad coffee though.

          3. Try using the wand without the frothing aid, it helps it not get so bubbly.

              1. I've never had a great shot of espresso from a pod machine and they seem really expensive to me. I have a Gaggia and a burr grinder (mid range, around $100). I've been very happy with both and both have lasted for years.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JeremyEG

                  I have the same set-up and, when you do things right, it can make fine espresso with crema. I've never tried making cappucino, though. Does the foaming work fine for you with the Gaggia? That's what the OP will need.

                  1. re: Bada Bing

                    Foaming works well but I don't use it often (I'm an espresso guy and sometimes have a machiato) but I don't do cappucinos every morning or anything like that. I have found that the wand itself sometimes needs to be taken apart for cleaning.

                2. how many do you drink a day?

                  If you like playing around with the grinding, tamping etc then there are many choices.

                  I have two nespresso units (a built in Miele and a small tabletop) and both make very good espresso. Are there better choices? absolutely, but i have little interest in all the alchemy of making one espresso

                  the pods do cost more (60 cents or so) but well worth the ease of use and quite frankly i think that most people couldnt tell the difference. Most retail and restaurant espresso is quite bad - no crema, just mud. The nespresso is quite good and consistant