Guide to buying an espresso machine
Just how much time you want to spend preparing espresso is an important consideration. Will you really want to deal with a complicated machine first thing in the morning?
For convenience you might want to consider getting a coffee pod-compatible espresso machine. Coffee pods are more expensive than loose coffee and you can no longer alter the grind, dose or tamp to suit your own preferences. However, if you buy a machine which accepts both pods and loose coffee you can take advantage of both systems.
For total convenience, consider getting a fully-automatic espresso machine. They do everything for you - just put in the coffee beans and water. Some even steam the milk, filter the water and feature self cleaning. The drawbacks, apart from the extra cost, are that fully-automatic espresso machines produce acceptable, but not excellent espresso.
Espresso machines are not cheap, but compared to going to your local coffee house every day, it may not take long for a good machine to pay for itself.
If you want value for money, look for factory-reconditioned models or espresso machines which are stripped-down versions of a manufacturer's more costly models. For example, the Gaggia Carezza is fitted with the same pump and boiler as Gaggia's flagship home model, the Gaggia Classic.
See the list of recommended espresso machines for more value for money models.
If you want an espresso machine for more than occasional use you should look for a robust, well designed espresso maker that will endure the rigors of daily use.
Espresso machines are available for under $100, but will never last as long - or perform as well - as a machine in the $300 - $600 range.
There's no single right way to build an espresso machine, so if you dislike the traditional design, there are plenty of modern designs to choose from.
Consider how much counter space you have available before buying - some models are very big and bulky.
Be aware that some espresso machines can be very noisy!
Go on to espresso machine components and features.