Espresso Machine First Steps

Coffee lovers start out innocently enough with drip filters, French presses, milk frothers, and stovetop espresso makers; but then next thing you know, they’re browsing Amazon for a full-on espresso machine with all the bells and whistles. If you’ve reached that stage of coffee addiction, don’t worry, we’re here for you.

Different Types of Espresso Machine

There are three main types of espresso makers

A pod or capsule machine, pump espresso maker or bean-to-cup machine. The former involves simply popping a pre-packaged capsule or pod into the machine – when you press the button, it is pierced and hot water is sent through it to produce the espresso.

Pump espresso makers, on the other hand, use a thermostatically controlled boiler which heats the water to its optimum temperature for coffee (between 85˚C and 92˚C), after which it passes through the ground coffee at the correct bar pressure. These machines usually enable you to steam milk too.

Then there’s the bean-to-cup option, which is essentially a pump espresso maker with a built-in grinder. In other words, these automatic machines grind the coffee beans and then run hot water through them. If you go for one of these, make sure you get one with a good grinder and learn how to use it properly

There are also fully automatic pod machines like the Nespresso, which require zero assistance from you beyond popping in a pod and pressing a button. 

Espresso Machine Add-ons

  • Grinder: If your machine doesn’t have a grinder built-in and it doesn’t use pods, you’ll need to buy a grinder. Burr grinders are best, and you should try to get the most powerful one you can find. It’s key to have evenly ground coffee that’s meant for an espresso machine. You’ll get the most flavor and crema out of perfectly ground beans. Here’s a budget option: Buy the Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill on Amazon for $39.49 and a top-of-the-line option: Buy the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder on Amazon for $129.00
  • Frother: You’ll need a milk frothing pitcher for most of these machines and a milk frother for others on this list. If your machine doesn’t have a steam frothing wand, you can read our full guide on the best milk frothers here. If your machine has a steam frothing wand but no frothing pitcher, you can buy the Rattleware 20-Ounce Latte Art Milk Frothing Pitcher on Amazon for $18.75
  • Tamper: This nifty tool evenly presses your grounds so you can make the most out of your coffee beans while making espresso. Buy the Rattleware 53-Millimeter Aluminum Tamper on Amazon for $22.95