True espresso is defined by the extraction process, specifically the following criteria:
- 200ºF water temperature
- 9 bars of pressure during extraction
- 25-30 seconds of extraction time
There are 5 different types of machines that make espresso (or espresso-like beverages), each described below.
Check out our guide to the 20 Best Espresso Machines in 4 different pricing tiers!
Table of Contents
1. Capsule Espresso Machines
The simplest to use, capsule espresso machines use pre-packaged capsules to make your espresso. Nespresso is the most popular manufacturer of these machines and you’ll see 3 Nescafe machines below.
Some capsule espresso machines are also pump espresso machines, but that isn’t universally true. For example, Nespresso OriginalLine brewers are pump espresso machines but Nespresso VertuoLine models aren’t. Instead, the VertuoLine models use centrifugation (really fast spinning) to build pressure and extract your beverage.
Read More: Nespresso vs Keurig: The Ultimate Guide
The pressure used to extract your espresso will vary from machine to machine, and some may not make a true espresso according to the definition above.
2. Stovetop Espresso Makers
Resembling large, complicated coffee pots, stovetop espresso makers aren’t really espresso makers — they don’t have the pumps needed to reach the requisite 9 bars of pressure.
Instead, these devices leverage steam pressure generated by the heat of the stove to force hot water through your coffee grounds. The result is a concentrated, rich espresso-like beverage.
You can read about stovetop espresso makers in more detail here.
3. Steam Espresso Machines
Powered by electricity instead of the stove, steam espresso machines function in much the same way as stovetop espresso makers — they use steam pressure to pull your shot.
Also not a true espresso, steam espresso machines get pretty close to the real thing but often are a fraction of the cost of pump-powered espresso machines and are great for entry-level espresso drinkers.
Actually, our top-ranked Krups espresso machine is a steam espresso machine.
4. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
Equipped with the proper pump to hit all of the essential espresso criteria, semi-automatic espresso machines are the real deal. While some of the best espresso machines under $200 are pump machines, many will cost $500 or more.
5. Superautomatic Espresso Machines
The Cadillac of the espresso world, superautomatic espresso machines usually are the best money can buy.
The term “superautomatic” refers to the do-it-all functionality of these machines, which do everything from grind your beans to self-wash with the push of a single button.
As great as these machines are, they do have a couple shortcomings:
- They’re expensive to purchase
- Because of the included grinder, they don’t do well with oily espresso beans.
Let’s take one last look at the 5 types of espresso machines in handy table form:
|Type||Price||True Espresso||Coffee Bean||Grinder||Cleaning||Electricity|
|Capsule Espresso Machine||$100-$200||Possibly||Capsule||Not required||Minimal||Required|
|Stovetop Espresso Maker||$25-$50||No||Whole bean or pre-ground||Required||Moderate||Not required|
|Steam Espresso Machine||$50-$150||No||Whole bean or pre-ground||Required||Moderate||Required|
|Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine||$125-$500||Yes||Whole bean or pre-ground||Required||Moderate||Required|
|Superautomatic Espresso Machine||$500-$2,000||Yes||Whole bean; non-oily||Included||Minimal||Required|
Ready to take the dive in home barista-hood? Check out The Coffee Maven’s Espresso Central!