Choosing an Espresso Machine :: The Basics

It can be a little overwhelming deciding where to start when choosing a home espresso machine. There are so many brands and models available out there that it boggles the mind. There is certainly something for everyone; it’s just a matter of finding the right fit.

Here we’ll cover the very basic factors that you should consider when looking to fill that empty space on your counter. In a later post we’ll delve into finer technical details.

Boiler Type
There are 3 main types of espresso machine. Single boiler, heat exchanger and dual boiler (also known as dual boiler).  You can read more about these machine types here ( but the crux of the matter is that for temperature consistency and the ability to pull shots and steam milk at the same time a dual boiler is required.


Espresso machines weren’t designed with American countertops in mind. Before you buy check the dimensions of the machine, particularly the height. Also bear in mind that you’ll need a burr grinder to get the most out of your machine, which further adds to the footprint.

Water Source
Some machines have to be plumbed in. Some can’t. They instead make use of a manually filled water reservoir inside the machine. And some nifty machines have the capability to do both. Many people are renting but want the flexibility to plumb in their machine if they move houses so it’s good to have this option. If you do go for a reservoir machine be sure to check the access point is easily accessible from where your machine is going to live.


Pump Type
Vibratory pumps are the norm for standalone, non-plumbed machines. If a machine is direct plumbed it needs to have either a rotary or a gear pump. Rotary pumps are a little quieter and smoother. No pump is anywhere near as loud as a grinder, so this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

Machine Style
You may want a more traditional looking E61 brew group machine (the ones with the shiny, solid metal group head and a manual brew lever) or perhaps you’d prefer a cafe-style espresso machine with push-button shot controls. Some machines use manual paddle controls to activate the group head. They all produce great quality espresso, provided the barista’s technique is up to scratch. When it comes to style there is no right or wrong answer.

After all the above practicalities have been considered, why not simply choose the machine you most want to greet you in the kitchen every morning