Updated: October 15, 2021 by Owen Richardson
Recently, I went to a store and stood in front of the coffee machines thinking – why are espresso machines so expensive? Do I need to spend all this money on a branded espresso machine, or can I make good espresso with one of the less expensive machines? Is the price of the machine somehow related to the taste of the coffee?
These are all good questions, and if you are wondering about them, you are not the only one! When I first had this dilemma, I started doing a lot of research on espresso machines and found out why some of them are so pricey. After I share the information with you, you will realize that the price of some of these machines makes sense!
There are a ton of espresso machines that you can choose from. There are branded ones, ones that work with pods only, others that work with instant coffee, and another group that comes with steamers or levers. Some of them come with a bunch of other features you never knew you needed. These are all things that you have to take into consideration when choosing your espresso machine, but they will affect the price of the machine.
In this guide, I will tell you everything you need to know about espresso machines and how to choose one that will fit your needs. I hope that what I share will help you make a more educated decision and help you save some money. So let’s dive into the world of espresso machines and see what they are all about!
What is an Espresso Machine?
In simple terms, an espresso machine is one that passes hot water through coffee grounds with a pressure of around 9 or 10 bars in order to extract that luscious liquid gold we call espresso.
The way a traditional machine works is simple: you tamp some finely ground coffee in a portafilter, which you then attach to the machine. Then, the machine uses pressurized water to go through the coffee grinds and, from the portafilter, thick, creamy coffee starts coming out.
From the time the first espresso machine was invented, these machines have changed quite a bit. There are models now that automate any or all of the steps described above, so you can have as much or as little involvement in the process.
Nowadays, there are a lot of espresso machines that you can look into – steam machines, pump machines, lever machines, automatic machines, and super-automatic machines. Let’s see what they are about:
Lever Espresso Machine
The first espresso machine ever made was a lever machine, where the barista has to push a lever for the coffee to express. You can find machines with manual and spring levers.
This type of machine is not one that you usually find in regular households; it is more common for coffee shops or even restaurants. When using this machine, the barista is in complete control of the coffee extraction, so you will have to have a certain level of knowledge and expertise to literally “pull off” a good espresso.
Steam Espresso Machine
This machine uses steam pressure or regular steam to force water through ground coffee. It is the least expensive type but not the best. The main disadvantage with this type of machine is that the pressure generated by the steam is usually just around 3 bars. In the end, you get a cup of espresso with some crema that will be nice but not the best. If you are looking for high-quality crema, you should look into pump-driven espresso machines.
Pump Espresso Machine
The machine uses an electric pump to push hot water through the coffee grounds. You can find automatic, semi-automatic, and super-automatic pump espresso machines.
If possible, I would recommend that you get a pump-driven machine because it’ll give you better-quality espresso than steam type machines. That is due to the fact that machines of this type can generate up to 15 bars of pressure, plus there are usually two separate systems in the machine, one that generates pressure and another that controls the temperature of the water.
Automatic and Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
You push a button and the machine “presses” the coffee, stopping the water supply on its own. You do not need to oversee the machine to prevent it from overfilling your cup. The difference between the automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines is in the control that you have of the brewing process.
If you get an automatic machine, you do not participate in the brewing in any way. On the other hand, with semi-automatic machines, you need to grind your beans, then tamp them, and finally attach a portafilter to the machine. After that, the machine brews the coffee on its own.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machine
You just put the coffee beans in the machine and it will grind them, weigh them, set them for brewing, get the water going, and stop it when you get the perfect amount of coffee. This is the simplest coffee machine you can own!
One important thing you should keep in mind with this type of machine is that you should always clean it after brewing coffee. The machine might make the coffee on its own, but it will not be able to fully eliminate the mess that is created in the process.
Why Are Espresso Machines So Expensive?
Several things can affect the price of an espresso machine. You might not think that it is necessary to invest a lot of money in something like an espresso machine, but I am here to tell you that you should! Here is why some espresso machines are expensive but still worth every penny:
An espresso machine is a marvel of science and engineering, make no mistake. There is a team of people who work endless hours to develop a good machine, one that will fit your needs and provide you with good shots of espresso.
In addition, the company needs to do market research to find out what kind of machine people would be interested in. They consider all this information when creating the machine, adding features that they think people would benefit from.
I have to admit – even I sometimes overlook the effort that it takes to make something from scratch. I think the people doing the research and development part are most to thank, and they deserve to be properly paid for the effort they put into making great coffee machines for all of us. It might lead to the machine having a higher price, but it is worth it!
When it comes to coffee machines, having a machine made only from plastic or a material that can easily corrode is not going to cut it. That kind of machine will only end up in the trash after a short while, and you will find yourself looking for a new machine to buy.
I recommend that you always buy espresso machines made from the best materials – that would be stainless steel, brass, or some other non-corrosive metal. These materials can keep the brewing temperature stable and leave you with a cup of coffee that will taste amazing.
However, you have to keep in mind that machines made from better materials will usually cost more. In return, you get better tasting coffee and a more durable machine, so we conclude that it is better to invest more money than to be cheap when buying an espresso machine.
As I mentioned briefly before, the more expensive espresso machines can come with a lot of great features that make the brewing process that much easier. You can get adjustable brewing temperature, pressure control, a digital display to check the settings or adjust them according to your needs, and so on.
You do not have to get an espresso machine that just makes the espresso – you can get one that grinds the beans, or one that has a steam wand or nozzle for your milk so you can turn your espresso into macchiato, cappuccino, or latte!
Finally, purchasing an espresso machine from a well-known brand can affect the price that you pay. Even though branded machines usually come at higher prices, they are worth the price.
The brand has to make a machine that will live up to the image of the brand and the standards that they have set. So you can expect a branded machine to work like a glove, just as advertised. If you have questions about the machine, you can turn to the company’s customer service to get answers.
All of these things might not be available to you if you purchase a machine from a random brand or a machine that does not have a brand. So that is also something to consider – are you willing to pay more to get something from a reliable manufacturer, or are you going to put your money into the hands of a brandless machine?
How Long Does an Espresso Machine Last?
A high-quality, expensive espresso machine should last about 20 years. This is mainly because of the high-quality materials used for that machine.
On the other hand, regular espresso machines can last anywhere from five to ten years. Depending on how often you use and clean them, their longevity can change, but it will usually not exceed ten years.
Ready to Invest in an Espresso Machine?
If this guide taught you anything, it should be that great espresso machines are completely worth it – they last longer, they make the brewing process so much easier, and most importantly, they make better coffee!
I strongly urge you to find a good espresso machine and get it. Drinking good coffee can change your life for the better and make you more productive and energized. If that is not worth the investment, I do not know what is!