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Home Espresso Maker

Q: My wife and I are looking to purchase a home Espresso maker of very good quality. Any comments are welcome.

A: I used to sell Espresso makers, and I have owned one for over four years now. I have a 'FAEMA Family" and I use it every day. It makes fabulous coffee. When you go to purchase your machine, make sure the sales person makes a demonstration of the machine for you so that you can see exactly how it works. That way, you will always follow directions and make great coffee. As any professional in the field will tell you, coffee is very fickle, if you make it right (right temperature, right grind, moisture, etc) you will achieve a beautiful Espresso with the cream of coffee rising to the top. In my opinion, Italian machines are the best (Faema, Cimbali, Saeco, La Pavoni, Elektra, but avoid the lower-end Gaggia's). Ask the salesperson about the boiler. It should be brass (or brass-plated), NOT aluminum (which will oxydize and give a taste to the coffee). Somes Saeco models are fitted with a pressurized portafilter that insures a good brew (almost) regardless of the coffee grind. Some people like this (as I do), others are more skeptical. Pressurized coffeeholders tend to produce coffee with more crema than regular ones. If you use really good coffee beans grinded at optimum setting, then you get a real great Espresso. (And your quality of life takes a turn for the better.) All machines of reasonably good quality are equally able in the milk-frothing department. Making good foam is more a matter of acquiring the skill than a technical issue. Ask for a demo. Look for a nice, thick, brownish crema on top of the Espresso. That's a visual sign of a properly brewed cup (it tells about the efficiency of the pump). The crema not only adds body, an important element of the coffee-drinking experience, but, more importantly, it contains the best aromatic qualities of the coffee. Then, taste the coffee, of course: looks are not everything! Then there are other considerations: you may prefer a machine that will look good on your counter, and whose finish is easy to clean (my Rio Vapore is finished with baked enamel, just like a refrigerator! -- others are just plastic). Also: can the machine be filled with water from the top, or do you have to open the case to get to the water tank? What's the warranty on the pump on the element? You can see I'm partial to Saeco, because I own one, but I won't tell you what to buy -- there are so many good machines on the market. In conclusion, some people think an Espresso machine is too expensive, but with proper care it will last fifteen, twenty years, and will give you thousands of good cups of coffee. Isn't it worth it? Hopes this helps. Enjoy great coffee.