In previous articles, we have discussed the basics of espresso machines and how to afford them at different prices. As we have mentioned, there are two main types of Espresso Machines: Semi-automatic and Super-automatic.
With less than $200, you can easily sway some cheap and functional espresso makers. Bump your budget up to $500 and you can already afford some of the best choices of both the Semi-automatic and the Super-automatic genre.
Stainless Steel Boiler
Since $500 is the most popular base for non-commercial espresso machines, they are the most well-rounded machines between price and features.
However, if you are very serious about finding your best companion on the non-commercial coffee trip and you have money to push beyond that boundary, we can surely help you out.
Espresso machines from $500 and above certainly possess all the good qualities found in their cheaper peers, with improvements on many fronts that make them worth the investment.
Many of the Super-automatic machines fall into this category. Super-automatic models in this price range not only look better but run smoother, compensate any discomfort reported, and recreate your 21st-century coffee experience.
The same will go for the Semi-automatic line. They will either be more automated or less but with a wider range of programmable control. No need to spend ten grand on a stainless steel block of any kind to feel like a barista anymore when you can get such mechanical management with some of the Semi-auto choices with one tenth of the hassle.
Of course, core qualities like Temperature Stability, Water Distribution, Pressure Level, Ease of Maintenance or Appearance will all improve. For less expensive models, these features were not unattainable but not profitable with that market price.
Somehow, manufacturers had to evaluate the importance of different factors and squeeze what they can into how much you want to spend.
Therefore, when the money ground is less tight, you will get to experience an excellent model of machinery, into which their creators can put in their best work.
So if you do the calculation, it means that in the long run, more expensive espresso machines might be a better deal.
Hesitant? That’s very understandable, which is why we will review our choices in detail to help you figure out which machine will suit you best.
For those of you who have done some research in the playground of espresso machines, Rancilio must be a familiar name. Having stood in this market for more than a decade, Rancilio Silvia’s quality has stood the test of time.
Of course over the years there have been upgrades but you can be certain that with less than a thousand dollars, this machine will stay with you for the next seven to fifteen years, with proper maintenance.
Some describe this semi-automatic piece as traditional, but the type of traditional that never goes out of style. It is sleek, with a clean finish, creating a fresh and comforting feeling. With an iron frame and stainless steel side panels, no wonder it can survive years and years.
If you have not heard, Rancilio also produces the popular commercial genres of espresso machines. In the Silvia models, they skillfully integrate the commercial portafilter and group head into this affordable product line, which means that you are equipped to brew like a professional.
The portafilter handle is heavy, firm to the grip with the signature logo of Rancilio embedded at the end. It also comes with two filter baskets that lock tightly into the portafilter.
The control board is simple. Besides the power switch, there are three settings: brew, dispense hot water, and release steam.
It takes courage to mess that up. Internally, the most recent Silvia upgrade brought in a shiny stainless steel boiler core for the old copper one. It won’t burn out too quickly if overheated and can be replaced individually, instead of having to replace the whole boiler like before
But Silvia still stays a single-boiler machine with an exceptionally powerful steamer. The steam wand is more flexible than in cheaper machines, which is good news for those familiar with semi-automatic models but might cause some trouble for beginners.
However, there are a few cons of the Rancilio Silvia. The tamper that comes along in the package is plastic. You will need to spend another $40 if you do not want to deal with a sloppy lightweight tamper that can affect the density of your coffee.
It is not plumbable but has an accessible 60 oz. water tank. The drip tray is very simple, does not hold much liquid and there are only two baskets that go with the machine. Silvia blows steam quite quickly so if you do not pay attention, your milk might get too warm before it can actually form a good layer of foam.
Despite all that, Rancilio Silvia is still the espresso maker that stands the test of time. Reliability has never been this affordable with Silvia.
To sum up, here are the noteworthy features of the Rancilio Silvia:
The Breville BES870XL Barista Express with a built-in grinder. It is integrated beautifully and conveniently. The bowl sits on top of the machine, see-through, with a lock that helps you secure and remove at your discretion.
You can adjust the fineness of your ground coffee. And the coolest part is the automatic grinding system that activates right when you place the portafilter into the grinder holder. No button to push, your freshly ground coffee will just fill up inside your portafilter when you put it in place. Yes, it is that convenient.
The Breville BES870XL shares similar features with the BES840XL: visible pressure monitor, programmable buttons, four filter baskets, magnetic tamper, great water reservoir and a smart drip tray. But because the BES870XL has a built-in grinder, there is an additional layer to the drip tray to catch bits of coffee powder.
It uses thermo-coil boiler and thermo-block steamer, in which the water is heated slowly and results in a steady flow of steam. This feature is great for beginners or those who want to master the art of frothing milk. This steaming speed allows better control and will save you from overheating your milk pitch too early.
In general, this model by Breville is one step closer to ideal. Although it probably will not last as long as Rancilio, the price it came in already saved you a separate grinder, which usually costs around $50 and consumes a great deal of countertop space.
Breville is like the Apple of espresso machines. We are impressed at how well-thought every item inside a product is. There is no excessive space and everything was designed to serve the convenience and the experience of the user. Such dedication charged at less than four digits is certainly fair enough.
To sum up, here are the noteworthy features of the BES870XL:
Although the Nespresso, or so called Capsule Machines, are the most inexpensive type of super-automatic espresso makers, they are known to be harmful to the environment because of their single-use capsules. If you want a super-automatic model under $200 then that’s almost all you can afford.
Unlike those, the ESAM3300 Magnifica represents a more authentic way of automating the espresso making process. What makes it special is the appearance of the “brew group”, where the measuring, tamping and brewing process happen. This “brew group” is usually removable but some other brands may not allow this maintenance step. Instead, they provide chemical cleaning tablets.
Manual cleaning or descaling the brew group is not hard work. You only need to take it out once a week if you drink daily and rinse it under clean water. Just think about all the processes that used to require a portafilter and many accessories, now can be done at a push of a button thanks to this “brew group”, the cleaning step suddenly becomes easy.
The DeLonghi Magnifica has two boilers, which enable an instant switch between steaming and brewing, something so rare with machines of the semi-automatic genre. The control board is simple, with visual infographic next to each setting. Buttons are to initiate or end an order; dials are to adjust volumes and setting preferences. In one way or another, it works like a radio, but to satisfy your taste buds rather than covering the daily news.
There is a manual frothing wand, easy to use with a removable head. The water reservoir pops right out from the right side of the machine and holds up to 60 oz. The drip tray is attached to the ground coffee bin ejected from the brew group and you can empty them all at once when they are full. Of course, the machine will tell you when.
With this DeLonghi Magnifica, you can choose to enjoy either freshly ground coffee from the built-in grinder or your own purchased ground coffee, especially suitable for those who favor decaffeinated types.
However, you should not use too oily coffee beans, since it may clog the brew group. Then, the coffee powder will be compressed and brewed under pressure inside the machine and drip straight into your cup. This whole process, surprisingly, won’t take more than a minute. That’s what they call effective!
Also, the cup warmer is such a bonus. Keeping your cup well-heated will ensure you the perfect fluid temperature as it flows out from the spout. All the best will stay in your cup.
It is quite hard to search for a downside of this machine, since it was designed carefully to be the barista on your countertop. Sometimes, the grinder may get a little noisy, but it still sounds smoother than many of the Semi-automatic models.
To sum up, here are the noteworthy features of the DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica:
So there we have it, the best three espresso machines under $1000. Among these models, I would choose the DeLonghi Magnifica for me and my family. I like the simplicity, and I know how much my parents will be amazed and excited at such technology. My mother will not have to clean up so often and my father can still have the strong coffee shots that he loves with little effort. The Magnifica seems like a good Christmas gift this year for me.
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