Some might say the types of espresso makers are expensive, more expensive, and most expensive, but that’s not (entirely) the case. For most shoppers, you should have no problem finding a model that meets your needs without breaking the bank. Here are your choices:
Manual: They may take a little extra effort to master, but manual machines easily offer the most customization of any other espresso makers. To operate, you’ll need to deposit your grounds into a portafilter, or group handle, then attach it to the brew head and pull a lever to pour water onto the grounds. (Ever hear that phrase “pulling a shot”? This is where it comes from!) These models need to be calibrated, so if you don’t have the bandwidth for regular maintenance, this probably isn’t the option for you.
Automatic: Unlike manual machines, automatic makers brew espresso using a button instead of a lever. These programmable models are much more consistent and require less guesswork, making them a great option for beginners who want to graduate to a “true” espresso machine, but aren’t ready to go full throttle. Note that some automatic machines don’t do all the hard work for you; you might still need to grind and tamp your coffee beans.
Semi-Automatic: As RuPaul says, “You better work”, and if you want to reap the rewards of making your own espresso, a semi-automatic machine may be just what you’re looking for. These models offer more consistency than a manual machine, but still require a bit more of a learning curve than an automatic option. You’ll still need to keep an eye on your brew and grind and tamp your own grounds, but this is a great choice if you want a little more precision with its controllable settings and lever-free design.
Super-Automatic: We get it, sometimes we don’t want to lift a finger when making our coffee either. Luckily, super-automatic espresso makers exist. These machines have all the convenience: programmable settings and the ability to measure, grind, and tamper your beans. But they come at a cost. (Literally, they’re the priciest option out there.)
Capsule: Great for beginners or those looking for a more low-maintenance (and low-cost) at-home espresso maker, capsule systems use pre-measured containers like K-cups or Nespresso pods to dispense that sweet, sweet bean juice. In addition to offering more versatility, they’re a breeze to operate and are relatively consistent between drinks. However, the capsules themselves can be pricey, and because they’re filled with pre-ground coffee, you don’t get all the benefits of freshly ground beans.