Espresso machines are a rather large investment, for something that just brews coffee. They can be expensive – up to $1100 or more.
Perhaps you want to make fancy coffee at home, as a hobby. Perhaps you are one of those unlucky people who are many miles away from a decent cafe. Maybe you are a budding coffee artist who wants their very own foamy renditions of the Scream and the Mona Lisa to put on Instagram. Or maybe Jim the Barista left for Peace Corps and the guy who replaced him doesn’t make your coffee as good as he did. An espresso machine, when chosen properly, can be a great source of amusement and if well maintained, can last far open up a wide variety of coffee beverages far beyond a brewed cup of joe. With an espresso machine you can steam tea lattes, eggnog lattes, and almond and soy milk. You can even make nearly instantaneous hot chocolate.
Here are some extra financial considerations before buying this expensive coffeemaker that go beyond the machine itself:
1. Espresso Beans: Espresso beans are generally more expensive than regular coffee beans. To make your morning latte just right, consider the options of several different vendors to get that combination of value and taste. Also remember cafes that sell their beans directly to you.
2. Cleaning: The process of making espresso requires the regular cleaning of the filter and group head (where the espresso pours out of the machine into the cup). Most machines have special cleaning solutions for espresso machines, which is another potential cost.
3. Espresso Grinder: Some machines require that you grind the beans into espresso powder on a separate machine, while others grind them on the same machine. For example, the machines you see at Starbucks grind and pour the espresso on the same machine. Do you want to buy an entirely separate machine just to grind the beans? And no, your average coffee grinder doesn’t usually make a good enough espresso to taste.
4. Maintenance: Espresso machines can be terribly hard to fix when broken. Everything from improper cleaning to the wrong consistency of ground espresso can seriously damage your machine. Make sure you are not only properly educated on these potential pitfalls, but are also in contact with someone who can repair it for you. Be aware of the cost should your espresso machine suffer a breakdown, and familiarize yourself with websites that can provide replacement parts.
5. Supplemental Equipment Doodads: Are you one of those people who want to buy an espresso machine because they just need a latte steamed at 180 degrees? Then you need a thermometer. Or maybe you just need a flavored latte, but then you have to invest in chocolate, vanilla, almond, peppermint, or pumpkin spice syrup. Not to mention all the timers and special cups that you didn’t even know existed, but which now seem like an essential part of the coffee experience. If you know nothing about coffee going in, you could pick up some books about how to make a macchiato or what exactly is a cafe con panna, anyway?
6. Commercial/Personal: Are you looking for a fun way to make coffee at home, or opening a little cafe for commercial use? The main difference is in the volume of use. Even a small espresso stand can expect a high volume of customers, and so should invest in a heavy duty espresso machine that can take the pressure. Some have two filters, which is more recommended for business use.
7. Space: Espresso machines can be bulky. Some of them require plumbing and electricity. Living in a small apartment, it could easily take up a great deal of counter space. Less heavy users who need all the space they can get would rather have an electric espresso machine that can easily unplug and go back in the box. All in all, there are a lot of things to consider when investing in an espresso machine, but essentially, it is no different than investing in a car or a computer or in some other complex machine. Choose wisely, and you could be enjoying a nice morning cappuccino every day for the next five or ten years.