Types of Espresso Machines
Updated: Jul 17
Finding the right espresso machine for making coffee requires knowing your options. Here are different types of espresso machines for coffee drinkers.
Did you know that the espresso machine was invented as early as 1884? Google Doodle even once made a special drawing to commemorate this important date along with the machine's inventor, Angelo Moriondo. Espresso machines reinvented the coffee industry and they made it easier than ever to make coffee.
Today, there are actually several different types of coffee machines such as automatic espresso machines, single boiler machines, and so on. Keep reading to learn about all about your different espresso machine options and which one might be right for you.
The History of Espresso Machines
As mentioned before, the espresso machine only came about in 1884. Its inventor, Moriondo, was born in 1851 and spent the majority of his life working with different types of drinks in the beverage industry. No doubt this beverage experience inspired him to make one of the most important machines in history.
He first displayed the first-ever model of an espresso machine at the General Expo of Turin. He obtained a patent for the invention and ever since, the espresso machine became a huge success all over the world. Interestingly, Moriondo's first model for a coffee machine is not all that different compared to the coffee machines we have today.
This original espresso machine used several boilers to process the coffee. For example, one of the boilers ran hot water through the ground coffee beans before the resulting juice arrived in another boiler. This other boiler would then continue to heat the coffee with hot steam.
After the coffee passed through all the boilers, a fresh and delicious cup of coffee would be the result. The original espresso machine was steam-powered. The machine itself was also quite large and looked like something out of a science-fiction movie.
It was not originally meant for home use. Instead, due to its size, it would be placed in a public space such as a bar. Over time, the machine's design became streamlined.
After many years, the machine finally became small enough to enter the home environment. This, of course, is the kind of espresso machine that we know today (and these machines are thankfully not steam-powered). Today, anyone can buy an espresso machine and start making coffee at home.
But what kind of espresso machines are there anyway?
Automatic Espresso Machines
Most espresso machine brands use automatic espresso machines. This is not a surprise since automatic coffee machines are very easy to use. And, of course, everyone wants their appliances to be easy to use.
An automatic espresso machine is actually quite a modern innovation, appearing around the 1970s. What makes this machine unique is that it measures the perfect amount of water to go through the coffee grounds. This is unlike older coffee machine models with which you would have to carefully measure the water for a good brew.
This is possible due to a programmable setting on the machine. Usually, on automatic machines, you can choose a set amount of water for the coffee machine to use. This is especially true for commercial coffee machines.
Some automatic espresso machines that are more advanced also have a semi-automatic option. This gives you more freedom to adjust certain variables of the coffee maker which is helpful if you need a very precise amount of water. The automatic espresso machine is so popular because it is one of the most efficient machines for making coffee.
This machine can make an espresso faster than most other types of coffee machines. This makes it perfect for home use. When you need your coffee in the morning, you won't need to wait long until your automatic espresso machine dispenses you a fresh cup.
You will need to clean this machine every month if you want it to stay in good shape. Using soap and water or a mild detergent is ideal for coffee machines made out of plastic. Metal coffee machines are much sturdier, so you can stand to use a stronger detergent with them.
Superautomatic Espresso Machines
A superautomatic espresso machine may sound like something extra fancy and it certainly is. An automatic espresso machine is only automatic to a certain extent. You still need to control certain variables to get your cup of coffee such as the amount of water.
But a superautomatic espresso machine takes care of almost everything for you without you having to lift a finger. These machines can measure coffee grounds on their own, compress the grounds inside the chamber so they're ready for extraction, and measure the right amount of water. These superautomatic machines also dispose of used coffee grounds and, of course, dispense some delicious, fresh coffee into the mug of your choosing.
You'll barely have to touch this machine and before you know it, you'll have a warm cup of coffee in your hands. Superautomatic espresso machines will also let you know if they need something such as more water or coffee grounds. As long as you keep the machine stocked, it can make several cups of coffee without you having to touch it or measure anything.
Of course, there are some superautomatic espresso machines that give you the option to control some measurements and other factors. However, this takes away from the ease of the superautomatic result. Superautomatic espresso machines are most often found in commercial environments.
However, this machine is also useful to have at home since you can focus on other tasks while you wait for your coffee to finish up.
Prosumer Espresso Machines
"Prosumer" is a mix of the words "professional" and "consumer." What does this mean for you and your coffee machine, you might ask? It means that a prosumer espresso machine has all the abilities of a commercial coffee machine while still being accessible enough for the average consumer.
Prosumer machines have some of the best functionality of all coffee machines. In a way, this is the Corvette of espresso machines. These machines usually have double boilers which allow the machine to brew and steam the coffee at the same time.
This makes the process of making coffee faster than ever before. Having a double boiler is also important for making specific types of coffee such as lattes. This machine also has a lot of automatic features.
For example, a prosumer espresso machine can measure the steam pressure within the boilers. This makes it so you get a perfect cup of coffee every time. This machine also can monitor the temperature of the coffee as it's brewing so the water and steam aren't too hot or too cool.
Some prosumer espresso machines even come with touch screens for ease of use. Needless to say, this is the coffee machine you'll want to use if you want to brew a high-quality cup of coffee.
Single Boiler Espresso Machines
As mentioned before, the original espresso machine came with multiple boilers. However, you don't need many boilers to make a good cup of coffee, and single boiler machines are living proof. Single boiler machines are actually surprisingly versatile.
They can brew both espresso and regular coffee, but they also have the unique ability to froth milk. These machines are usually on the smaller side which makes them ideal for small kitchen spaces. There is usually a manual element to single boiler machines such as a steam wand.
If you really want to make an investment, some single boiler machines come with automatic temperature and pressure stabilization settings. This would make the machine more similar to a prosumer espresso machine. Of course, with these additional settings, you'll be able to enjoy perfectly brewed cups of coffee for many years to come.
You will need to spend a bit more money on this kind of machine. However, if you are a serious coffee enthusiast and can't live without this drink, this espresso machine would certainly be a good use of your money.
Double Boiler Espresso Machines
As the name suggests, double boiler espresso machines contain two boilers and each has a specific function. One boiler is responsible for brewing coffee. This boiler usually has an opening that allows water to leave for the extraction of espresso.
The other boiler is responsible for steaming. This boiler often has an opening that allows steam to escape at high pressure. This steam is perfect for frothing milk while you wait for your coffee to finish brewing.
The steam boiler is usually at a much higher temperature than the brewing boiler. The use of both boilers in the coffee-making process allows the coffee to achieve the perfect temperature. The great thing about double boiler espresso machines is that it is virtually impossible to make a mistake when using them.
You will find these machines most often in commercial environments such as at chain coffee bars. This is because double boiler espresso machines make it easy to make coffee even for new baristas. Double boiler machines take on most of the heavy lifting themselves, so you won't have to worry much about measuring or adjusting anything.
This is not to mention that double boiler machines are very consistent. You can make a hundred cups of coffee with a double boiler machine and you will find that every cup will more or less be exactly the same. For that reason, if you value consistency, a double boiler espresso machine will be the perfect option for you.
Heat Exchange Espresso Machines
A heat exchange espresso machine only has a single boiler, but it isn't quite the same as your typical single boiler espresso machine. For heat exchange machines, the single chamber is set to the same temperature a normal steam chamber would usually have. This makes the chamber very hot compared to a normal brewing chamber.
However, there is actually a much smaller boiler inside of the main boiler. While this doesn't technically make the heat exchange machine a double boiler machine, it may be considered a machine with 1.5 boilers. The second, tiny boiler contains a rod that is responsible for the exchange and regulation of heat.
The cool water that passes through the heat exchange rod will inevitably rise in temperature until it is hot enough to heat the coffee. The only downside of a heat exchange espresso machine is that the temperature inside the machine does not remain stable throughout the brewing process. For example, when the machine first starts brewing the coffee, it is very hot due to the main boiler existing at steam temperature.
However, once cool water passes through the heat exchange rod and then heats up, this will destabilize the overall temperature, cooling it down before heating back up.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you may find that the flavor of the coffee from a heat exchange espresso machine will be somewhat different compared to the coffee produced by machines that stay at a constant temperature throughout the brewing process.
All About Different Types of Espresso Machines
There are so many types of espresso machines to choose from that it can be hard to make a choice if you don't know what to look for. From single boiler and double boiler machines to heat exchange and prosumer machines and beyond, each coffee machine is a little bit different. Some allow you to have manual control over the coffee while others are completely automatic.
By knowing more about the different types, you can more easily make the right choice. To learn more about coffee, contact us here.