Coffee Machines User Guide

FINDING THE MACHINE PERFECT FOR YOU

 If you’re about to purchase a coffee machine, you’ve probably realized that there are a lot of choices and it’s a bit confusing trying to decipher all of the various information available.

We have made this section to help you to understand espresso machines a little bit better in order to make it easier for you to choose the model that would fit your needs.

But before we start discussing different types of machines available on the market, let’s review some basic facts about espresso. A good espresso cup is the result of forcing about 1.5 ounces of hot water through tightly packed, finely ground coffee.
The basic principles are to extract only the best part, using water which is not quite boiling and under a lot of pressure. The “best part” and “not quite boiling” bits are critical to making good coffee by any means, while “a lot of pressure” is a neat trick to manage at the same time.

Machines that can do this all at once were only invented in this century. Most low-end home espresso machines settle for “some” pressure, and cheat on the “not quite boiling” part as well. The price of these machines varies between £40 & £80 but we haven’t even considered them because the result is strong but bitter, acidic coffee, nothing like a true espresso. Most machines of this sort are the sub 100.00 machines offered by Siemens, De-Loghi and other ” Brands”, most are produced in the East and do not contain good quality components. They also produce coffee that visually appears correct but tastes nothing like the real thing.

The two categories of home machines that approach the pressure and temperature requirements are those known as “pump driven or Semi-Automatic type ” and those that are manual, lever operated machines…

THE PUMP STYLE

In pump driven espresso machines, an electric pump draws water from the reservoir and sends it in a heating chamber where it’s heated to an optimum temperature that varies between 186°F & 192°F; it is then forced by pressure of 9 to 15bar, which alters depending on the models, through the packed coffee grounds in the group.
True espresso requires pressure of at least 9 atmospheres to emulsify the oils and to dissolve the gasses that will magically appear as “crema.”

The majority of machines are equipped with two thermal units, one to heat the water for the coffee, the other to generate steam for the frothing mechanism.
The pump-driven espresso machines shown on our site can be divided in semiautomatic e super automatic.
In semiautomatic models, one controls the brewing function manually. These models require the use of ground coffee (except those models that use “espresso pods”).The ground coffee is placed in the filter holder and must be tamped carefully before being brewed.
Some of these models have a grinder with batcher incorporated and range in price from £300 to £ 200 for the less expensive and lighter weight models
The inside boiler on these machines is usually made of aluminum and the outside housing is made of plastic.
The next higher range of common household machines includes heavier models costing from £300.00 to £ 1000.00+. They usually have a brass boiler chamber and heavier filter holders, plus housing components composed partially or entirely of metal. These heavier models provide a daily usage range stand up to frequent use. Some of the top range models are also able to make coffee and froth milk at the same time, thereby giving the user the same performance as a commercial unit at a lower cost.
A quick word about Single v double Boiler machines:
Most domestic coffee machines have a single boiler, this means making coffee first and the switching on the steam function and frothing milk and then switching off the steam function. This is a bit slower than a double boiler unit where the steam function can be used at the same time as the coffee making side.

Proper Dual Boiler machines :

La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi ( has all the features possible )

Fracino Piccino ( highly recommended )

Ascaso Duo

Gaggia Baby twin ( has a thermablock for the steam part )
However there is another catagory of single boiler unit where the boiler size is 2 liters or above and these machines can also make coffee and froth milk at the same time. The reason they can is that they operate on a heat exchanger system where the water used to make coffee is only heated during the coffee making process and the boiler is used to draw steam from.

Machines that offer this feature are:
The entire range of Rocket ( best construction and reliable bar none )
Fracino Cherub ( highly recommended, fantastic value )
Rocket ( Highly recommended )
Elektra Micro Casa Semi Automatica
Rancilio Epoca
VFA Torino
Isomac Tea
Isomac Millenium
Isomac Relax
Isomac Mondiale

Our Verdict:

Good: Gaggia Baby (all models), Gaggia Classic, Ascaso Basic, Ascaso Arc, Isomac Giada

Better: Rancilio Silvia, La Pavoni Puccino, La Pavoni BD or BDL, Rancilio Lucy, Ascaso Dream, Ascaso Steel, Isomac mid range

Best: Rocket Elektra Micro Casa, VFA Torino, Rancilio Epoca, Isomac top range models, Fracino Cherub

SUPER AUTOMATICS

Super automatic machines do it all: grind the coffee beans, prepare the coffee and ejects used grounds. With a single press of the button, the entire process takes only about 30 seconds to enjoy delicious espresso. All offer excellent coffee and most of the lower priced units require you to make coffee and froth milk as a separate step. The more expensive machines can automatically produce milk based drinks for you, thereby making the process even more convienient. Gaggia Platinum, SAECO Talea and Jura unit can be further automated by adding a bulk milk frother to the unit and almost giving you the same functionality as the fully automated models (see Accessories).

Our Verdict:

Good: Spidem, De-Longhi

Better: SAECO Odea, Gaggia Syncrony, Quickmill

Best: Jura, SAECO Talea, Gaggia Platinum

THE HAND-OPERATED LEVER STYLE

These machines not only make excellent espresso, they are beautiful crafted objects that make a distinctive impression on your kitchen counter. This style of espresso maker employs a piston that is driven by means of manual pressure or a spring-loaded action.
When lifted, the piston pulls water from the reservoir into a small chamber and then forces the water into a filter of ground coffee when the piston is lowered.
A lever style machine is quiet and simple to use, once you’ve mastered it.
The skilled operator of a lever machine can attain a level of control and excellence over their shot of espresso not possible with any other type of home machine.

Our Verdict:

In this Category there is no such thing as a poor choice as all are very robust and last.

Good: La pavoni Europiccola

Better: Elektra Leva, La Pavoni Professional, Ponte Vecchio

Pod or Capsule Machines

There are two types here; one uses the ESE Pod (looks like a teabag) and the other use a capsule system. Whilst both are foolproof in producing a good espresso and being a very convienient way of producing a consistent result. All machines will also froth milk, thus permitting the user to make any kind of drink related to coffee.

The capsule system is brand dependant and of all the various types available, the Gaggia Caffitaly system produces by far the best results. This is due to the fact that these contain 8gr of ground coffee and not 6 gram most common to other makes.

So if you are someone that only has two coffees a day, then the ESE pod Machines or the Caffitaly machines are strongly recommended. The whole of the Gaggia range of semi automatic machines now can be used with ESE pods and La Pavoni has just added this function to their units as well. Rancilio machines need a pod adaptor kit, available as a separate part.
Here is a great APP available for Iphone

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