Our morning cup of coffee is as important and personal to us as are our clothing choices. Some prefer a simple t-shirt and jeans, while others prefer designer suits, lavish dresses, the finest material put together by the finest maker.
In the coffee world, some prefer espresso over all other types of coffee. To make that espresso, you can go several different ways, and today we will discuss the most authentic method: Italian espresso machines.
Let’s be honest; shopping for an Italian espresso machine isn’t something everybody does. However, if it is something you find yourself doing, we’ve done the hard work, ground the beans, tamped the shot, and steamed milk. Here are our reviews.
|DELONGHI ESAM 3300|
|Gaggia Brera Super Automatic||1 Year||4.5/5|
|Delonghi EC680M DEDICA|
(Best Moka Pot)
|Nuova Simonelli Oscar II||2 Years||3.9/5|
With the Delonghi ESAM 3300, you don’t have to be a trained barista to prepare yourself a latte or cappuccino. Delonghi’s patented Cappuccino System does everything from grinding the beans, pouring the shot, and even frothing the milk. This won’t yield as good of a cup as a world-class barista, but you also won’t have to pay it by the hour.
This machine is easy to use and easy to clean, which makes it ideal for larger gatherings or even your morning cup. It’s also a really good looking machine, so you won’t be embarrassed to have it on your kitchen counter. It’s easy to see why this is our number one pick. Anything with a patented Cappuccino System is bound to generate ooh and ahh at parties.
On the other hand, if you are a trained barista, this machine will take out all the fun of preparing your cup.
This Gaggia Brera Super Automatic is not quite as easy to use as the Delonghi ESAM 3300, which is to say that you have to do more than just push a button. It isn’t our top pick for that reason, but it might be a better machine for some of you out there. Here’s the thing: this bad boy has options. From the strength of your coffee to the grind of your bean, this machine will let you decide. It doesn’t come with the patented technology that our first model does, so you’ll have to figure frothing out on your own. Of course, once you become proficient as frothing your own milk, you’ll be able to make better drinks, so in the long run, this machine could yield a better product. Let’s also be clear – this is not a hard machine to use; it’s just harder than the first machine.
Of course, there are drawbacks. The water reservoir is small. It’s not a tall machine, so some cups won’t fit under the dispenser. And the steam wand dispenses the hot water, which might seem fine to some. We kind of think it’s gross.
This machine is good; it’s just not as the ESAM 3300. The shots are great, and it comes with three different baskets for one, two, or three shots. The water stays at a temperature needed to produce a wonderful drink – all for a fraction of the cost of the ESAM 3300.
However, there are some less appealing aspects of this machine. It’s not as easy to use as the ESAM 3300. It won’t steam the milk for you, so you’ll have to figure that out.
Now, some things about it might be more attractive to a prospective buyer than the ESAM 3300. It is smaller but still sleek. Some people prefer to be in control of frothing milk and with this machine you will be. It’s tall. There is no cup too tall for this thing!
But let’s get down to why this is number three. Durability. This bad boy is more of a soft boy and has been known to break down in just months for some people. Sure, it comes with a warranty, but nobody gets a warranty with hopes of using it.
There is something so joyous about the simplicity of a moka pot that we had to put it on this list. Sure, it lacks all the bells and whistles of an electric machine, but with a little bit of care and attention paid, you can get the best espresso you’ve ever had out of one of these little guys. With that being said, the Bialetti 06800 is, in our opinion, the best Italian moka pot. Why? It’s durable, cost effective, and easy to use – if you know what you’re doing.
Yes, you have to pay attention to this. Conceivably, your morning espresso could literally blow up in your face if you don’t. But, it doesn’t take long (about 5 minutes) and it is small and easy to store. Other than the whole blowing–up thing, the only other downside is the Bialetti cannot be used on an electric stove.
This machine is as close to commercial as it gets for home use, so it wouldn’t be recommended for those who want the work done for them. To put it another way, if our top pick intrigues you, you should stay away from this machine.
Once you have the barista skills and knowledge to make a great drink, this machine gives you really fun options. The steam wand is a lever as opposed to a wheel, making things easier on your wrist. With the lever controlled wand you also have a better chance of not accidentally burning your milk (read: steaming your milk too hot, burning yourself, then pulling the milk from the steam wand). You can control the temperature of the grouphead, which adds some pretty interesting possibilities. You can also choose between single shots, double shots, timed shots or volume shots.
Aesthetically, this machine is beautiful. Fair warning though: don’t expect to get extra stuff (milk pitchers, grinder, etc.). You paid for an awesome espresso machine, and that’s what you got. It may seem pricey, but if you compare it to a machine that a coffee shop would use, which goes for the cost of a new car, then you realize that you got a good deal.
So, you’ve decided to buy an Italian espresso machine. Before you endeavor to buy, we implore you to think about something first: What kind of coffee drinker are you? That should be the one thing that informs your buying process.
How much coffee do you drink? Do you really need a Simonelli Oscar II? Do you even need to be able to steam milk? Do you even know how? These are good questions to ask yourself before making your purchase.
Is your Italian espresso machine just for your morning pick-me-up or do you have saucier desires? Maybe you’re going to host a party and you want it to be the centerpiece. If that’s the case, maybe aesthetics matter more than functionality.
Yes, you should worry about how much you’re spending, but you should also worry about how much you want to drink. Some machines have small reservoirs and can only yield a few cups, while others might be more suitable for social gatherings.
For instance, if you were having your buddies come over to try a new bean, you probably wouldn’t want to do so with a Bialetti 06800; but instead, you might want to shell out the extra thousand dollars for the Simonelli Oscar II.
So, there you have it. All of these are good machines that produce a good cup (if you know how to use them properly). If you are new to coffee, maybe it’s best to start with something fully automatic. If you want more of an experience but are still a novice, maybe take a class or two. You could also invite your local barista to give you a few pointers. Once you gain some experience, you can work your way up to a semi-automatic machine.
Maybe you never steam milk and all you need is the bean and the water. Maybe you prefer the manual way of doing things. There’s nothing wrong with that! Simplicity can produce the best drinks and the best prices!
The trick is, there isn’t a right way or a wrong way. It all depends on how much you want to spend and what you need the machine for. We understand that there are a lot out there, so hopefully, these reviews have helped you ease your way through the complicated maze of machines. The day is bright, and in the distance you can see the end of the maze. Sitting there is a little table with a saucer and a demitasse filled with your favorite espresso.
Featured image credit: Espresso at Le Café Alain Ducasse, Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross by Bex Walton is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Table of Contents
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How to Reduce Bitterness in Your Coffee
What’s the Best Kind of Water for Coffee? (It Makes a BIG Difference!)
How To Make Vietnamese Coffee at Home
21 Different Types of Espresso Drinks (With Pictures)