Why is Espresso Machines so Expensive: things to know (2021)

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Have you ever wondered why the best coffee in the world is found at tiny Italian cafes?  It’s not because Italians are more caffeinated than anyone else!  It’s because they have amazing espresso machines.

Espresso Machines are a lot like cars. A Toyota Corolla isn’t going to get you where you want to go, but if it has a Ferrari engine inside, suddenly it can do anything.

Same thing with an espresso machine – if its internals are top notch, then your drinks will be perfect every time.  The question is: how do I find out what makes for good quality inside? Good news – we’re about to tell you everything about Espresso Machines that matters!

1. What is an espresso machine?

– Espresso Machines are unique because they have a “pressurized brew group.” When you turn the machine on, water is heated to near boiling (between 195° and 205° F) and pushed through the coffee with such high pressure that it actually makes espresso. This entire process takes between 25-40 seconds, depending on how much coffee is being brewed.

– Because of the pressurized brew group, it’s very important to only use coffee with espresso machines that has been ground specifically for this use.

– Espresso Machines are also different because they don’t require electricity – at least on most models.  A few can be plugged in if desired, but on most you need to either have natural gas or propane available to heat the water that makes your espresso.

2. Why is Espresso Machines so Expensive?

Espresso Machines

Espresso Machines are often the most expensive piece of equipment in a cafe.  Can you imagine paying $20,000 for a grinder?  It seems crazy to think about and yet we do it all the time without thinking about it.  So why is an espresso machine so much more than other things around the shop?

Well, it’s complicated.  In general, espresso machines have a ton of different components that require a lot of precision to build and calibrate. In other words – no two machines will be *exactly* the same inside.

This means you could spend $10,000 on 2 different machines and they would perform completely differently from each other.  It’s because of this that espresso machines need constant calibration by professionals to get the most out of them.

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Plus, the manufacturing process for these things is a LOT more involved than just snapping together a few pieces of metal. They have tiny components that need an expert touch to place and connect to each other in just the right way.

So what do you get for all this extra money?  A reliable machine that makes amazing espresso and steam-powered drinks over and over again! If you’re going to be working in a cafe, then having a good machine is important – the better it is, the more shots of espresso you can pull in a day without sacrificing quality.

Thinking of buying one?

If you’re thinking about buying an espresso machine, then get ready for some big numbers.  The cheapest machines are around $1,500 but the most expensive ones can be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 (and that’s not even counting the grinder).    

If you’re serious about making a business out of this, then spending the money is well worth it.  However, if you just love espresso and want an awesome machine at home, there are plenty of choices for prices under $1,500.

3. The 4 Categories of Espresso Machines

Espresso Machines

There are four types of espresso machines that you’ll find when looking at different options.  Each type has its own special advantages – so it’s important to think about what you need before picking out the right machine for your needs.

Electric Pump vs Manual System

This is pretty much like asking, “Do you want manual or automatic transmission?”  One is simple and cheap, the other is complicated but provides better performance.

Manual Systems are what you’ll see in Italy – they’re just a few levers, some gauges, and that’s it! They don’t cost very much money but they aren’t easy to work with.

You have to know exactly how much pressure to use on the coffee, how long to make the shot, etc. Plus – they require a lot of manual “work” on your part! There are pros and cons to this method but if you’re interested in learning more about manual systems check out our blog post.

Pump Systems are pretty much the opposite – they rely on electricity rather than your muscles. They are way more complicated than all the levers on a manual system, but they do most of the work for you!

You can buy pre-programmed “shots” so that it pulls the perfect shot every time or create your own custom profiles to fit your exact needs.  These machines tend to be expensive – some even go up to $40,000 – but they’re fantastic for professionals and beginners alike.

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Steam vs Non-Steam – Which is Better?

There’s a lot of debate about whether or not steam-powered machines make better espresso than non-steam machines.  The answer is that it depends on what kind of machine you’re using – how the steam capabilities are made to work with your particular machine will make a big difference.

For example, some machines use “special” boilers which you can only fill with fresh hot water (no direct hookups to faucets).

This means that the water never goes through the boiler at lower temperatures like it would on an espresso machine without steam capabilities.  With these machines, the steam is just for powering the pump – not making your espresso hotter.

Other machines have boilers that are separate from the water reservoir so you can either use fresh hot water or steam to power it (which is great for if you want cappuccinos and other drinks on top of your espresso).  In these cases, the steam will heat up your water as it powers the pump.

There are pros and cons to both kinds of machines but it’s important to think about what you’ll be using your machine for most often before making a decision.

Further reading:
Best Espresso Machine Under $500
Top 7 Coffee Makers under $200

4. What are the benefits of an espresso machine?

Espresso Machines

Aside from giving you a quick caffeine fix, espresso machines are actually pretty versatile.  You can use them to make other drinks besides espresso – cappuccino, macchiato, americano… the list goes on!

These machines also provide consistency which is great for businesses who need to serve their customers the exact same drink every time.  

It’s also perfect for beginners learning to make espresso drinks because there are so many options for ways you can brew the coffee – all of which produce different tastes and flavors!

For people who want an easy way to get into the world of home espresso, there are super automatic espresso machines that have built-in grinders, frothers, and other functions that make the brewing process easier.

FAQs:

1. How do you clean an espresso machine?

A: This is a great question and it’s actually easier than you might think! All the parts of your espresso machine (inside and out) can be cleaned with distilled white vinegar – no scrubbing or hard work required.

Just make sure to dump out any water from inside the reservoir, and then add a cup of vinegar to the water and turn it on. Once the reservoir is empty, you can start rinsing/soaking any other parts in vinegar while the machine heats up (it should be warm when you add the vinegar).  Then just rinse everything off with clean water and set out to dry!

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2. How much coffee should I use in my espresso machine?

A: The perfect ratio of water to roasted coffee is around 1-to-14.  So, if you have a 14g dose of coffee, you’ll want to use 100g of water.  If your machine has an adjustable pump pressure dial, try starting at around 8 bars since this is the ideal pressure for espresso brewing.

3. Why is my espresso machine making a loud noise?

A: There are a couple things that could be making your machine loud so you’ll want to check the water tank, grinder, and anything with moving parts around the pump.  If it’s still making noise even with nothing in the water reservoir, there might be something stuck in the pump.  

Either way, if you can hear it while everything is turned off, there’s definitely something wrong and you should contact the manufacturer for repair – especially if the noise seems to be getting worse!

4. Why does my espresso machine leak?

A: Leaking usually comes from two different things: a clogged steam wand or a punctured water line.  A clogged steam wand could be caused by milk build-up, mineral deposits from hard water, or even old/dirty filters.  

If you don’t clean your steam wand after every use, it’s best to soak it in vinegar and scrub with an old toothbrush to remove any residue.   

A punctured water line is caused by hard water buildup which causes the metal to corrode and crack over time – this kind of damage usually can’t be fixed, so you’ll need to replace the machine.  

Either way, if your espresso machine has started leaking, it’s best to clean all your parts and contact the manufacturer for warranty information.

Conclusion:

Ultimately, the decision of which espresso machine to buy comes down to your preferences and lifestyle.  Do you like experimenting and trying new drinks and techniques?  Are you looking for a machine that’s perfect for beginners or do you need something more reliable for an everyday business?

Whatever you decide, we’re here to help!    Take a look at our espresso machine buyer’s guide and we’re sure you’ll find the perfect choice for your needs.

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