Espresso Machines / Coffee Machines

Image Credit: wagg66 on stock.xchng (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/279338)

Image Credit: wagg66 on stock.xchng (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/279338)

There's nothing better to get you through the day than a coffee or two. And with the range of espresso machines now available it is easy to get cafe quality coffee at home or in your office.

All espresso machines must do one basic job well: push heated water under pressure through the coffee grinds to create coffee. And, if like most of us you want to not only drink short blacks but also lattes and cappuccinos, the machine must also be able to steam milk.

Fortunately for coffee drinkers, most espresso machines on the market will generally be good at both of these tasks.

However, there's a lot of competition in the coffee machine market, and manufacturers looking to meet every conceivable buyer desire have added a whole host of features to these reasonably simple requirements! The good news is that these additions are not useless bells and whistles, but allow the coffee machine buyer to choose from a very basic system to one which will do everything including clean itself.

Espresso machines are divided into four main types: manual, semi-automatic, automatic and fully automatic. All four types can produce a good coffee, but as the machines progress from manual to fully automatic the amount of work you need to do decreases. Of course, the more automated the machine the more it will cost you.

The manual machine

Understanding how you use a manual machine will help you decide on the level of automation you would like.

The first step is to fill the water reservoir and turn the machine on. Step two is to get the ground coffee and place it into the portafilter (also called a group handle). The coffee needs to be pressed down with a reasonable amount of pressure — this is called tamping and is important to ensure that the coffee will have a good crema. The crema is the froth that sits on top of the liquid coffee and is the goal of all good coffee makers. The portafilter is then attached to the coffee machine and a coffee cup placed underneath.

Turn on the water when the coffee machine is ready. The heated water will be forced under pressure through the coffee in the portafilter and will drain down into the cup. Turn the water off when enough has flowed through — this will be somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds.

Finally, if you want steamed milk half fill a small stainless steel jug and place it under the steaming tube. Turn on the steam and heat and froth the milk. It's important not to overheat the milk or it will burn and ruin the taste of your coffee. Once the milk is done pour it into the cup with the coffee.

When you're finished, simply empty the portafilter and you're ready to make the next cup.

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Ben Gerholt

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