Guide to buying an espresso machine
Manual Espresso Machines
Manual espresso machines create pressure via a manual lever and piston.
These machines are quiet, low maintenance and will last a lifetime. They are also capable of producing fabulous espresso, offering a level of control that no other home espresso machine can match.
Manual espresso machines are also the most expensive and the most difficult to master. Short of near perfect technique, they will produce inferior espresso to a good quality pump machine.
Only recommended if you are prepared to put a lot of time and effort into learning how to operate them.
Semi-automatic Espresso Machines
Semi-automatic espresso machines are easy to use, but still allow for control over temperature, brewing pressure and tamp.
These are popular espresso makers since they produce excellent espresso and are less expensive than manual or fully automatic machines.
The drawback is that they are not as convenient to use as a fully automatic espresso machine and preparing coffee can be quite messy.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machines
Fully automatic espresso machines do everything for you - grind, dose, tamp and brew to a predetermined volume. All you have to do is put in the coffee beans and water. Some full-automatics even steam the milk, filter the water and feature self-cleaning.
Fully automatic espresso machines, also known as super automatics, make very consistent quality espresso and are faster and easier to use than semi-automatic machines.
Although convenient, they are expensive, require a lot of space and the quality of espresso is good, but not "perfect". Manual and semi-automatic espresso machines are cheaper and can produce better espresso when correctly used.