So what is it about the best espresso machine that make then so much better at producing espresso? The problem with espresso is that it actually is quite a difficult drink to make. Like a lot of things in life its relatively easy to make a bad one and actually quite difficult to make a really good one, especially consistently.
That why espresso machine, especially the best ones, can be some much more expensive that other types of coffee machines. There are just so many ariables to factor in, nd getting as many of those variables just right as possible is the secret to a good cup of espresso or espresso based coffee such as a cappuccino or latte.
If you get your coffee from Starbucks or have a pod machine such as a Nespresso machine you may forget or not know that getting the perfect espresso is quite difficult. So what is espresso? Well take some fine ground coffee and push hot water through it as high pressure and it result in a liquid that is a coffee with lots of aroma and flavor and if well made a crema too.
Probably the starting point for a good espresso if your choice of coffee. Europeans especially Italians tend to favor coffee blends that are a mix of Robusta and Arabica coffee beans from various sources, whereas many American roasters and baristas prefer to use a single origin Arabica bean to produce their espresso coffee. But of course this really comes down to taste, so its a case of trial and error to find a roast that you prefer yourself. The key point with your coffee is to capture and much of the aromas and flavors from the beans as you possible can.
To do this your coffee needs to be fresh, which means the beans should be no more that two weeks from roasting. And of course you should have a grinder to ensure you can grind your beans to the required grind size just before you use that in your coffee machine. Within 30 minutes from grinder many of the best aromas and flavors are gone from the coffee. Thats why buying pre ground coffee is always going to put you at a disadvantage in terms of getting the best espresso as you are already starting with coffee that has lost most of the best flavor.
The key to a good espresso is consistency. The reason coffee shops have thos big commercial espresso machine is of course because they need to make a lot of coffee in a hurry. But also the machines they use are much more consistent. They will maintain the ideal temperature and pressure in the coffee machine so that they can pull a good shot every time. They will also of course have seperate boilers from coffee and steam so that they dont have wait. Coffee and steam need different temperatures so if you only have a single boiler as in most home machines, there is going to be a delay between pulling a shot and frothing your milk for your cappuccino. That might be acceptable at home if not ideal, but in a coffee shop with a queue of customer, no way.