There are two very different machines that make coffee: the espresso machine and the coffee maker. Both work to produce a delicious, hot cup of joe, but they do it in different ways.
Espresso machines use steam pressure to extract flavor from ground beans while coffee makers rely on water that is heated up with an electric coil or heating element. So which one is better?
It really depends on your needs! If you’re looking for convenience and consistency, then a coffee maker might be right for you – they’re easy to use and almost foolproof (and most importantly, cheap!).
But if you want more control over your brew’s taste and intensity, then an espresso machine may be worth investing in because they allow you to adjust the grinds’ coarseness, pre-infusion times, and extraction levels.
What is an Espresso Machine?
An espresso machine puts intense pressure on very hot water. The intense pressure pushes the hot water through the coffee grounds, which then creates an espresso that’s loaded with your favorite flavors. You can use Starbucks ground coffee which is available online for purchase as it tastes divine.
What is a Coffee Maker?
A coffee maker puts just enough pressure on the hot water to brew coffee. It does not create espresso, unless you’re brewing an espresso roast. A good quality drip machine will extract just the right amount of flavor from your favorite coffee grounds by heating up water and then releasing it through the ground beans. Technically, the process isn’t even technically considered ‘pressing’ any more than putting hot water in a cup and stirring in some instant coffee granules would be considered ‘pressing’.
The biggest difference between an espresso machine and a coffee maker is that an espresso machine makes actual, authentic espresso while a coffee maker makes regular coffee.
Coffee makers are widely used in homes because they can accommodate cups of different sizes, brew directly into travel mugs to take their contents with them, are easy to clean up afterwards, have settings to turn off after a certain amount of time has passed, and tend to be less expensive than other alternatives. The best espresso machines make much stronger coffee in smaller amounts – typically 1 serving at a time in espresso sized portions.
Because the water is forced through ground beans under high pressure instead of being steamed or boiled like in most home machines, the result is more consistent tasting coffee with thicker bodies due to having more concentrated bean oils in them. However, espresso machines are less versatile than coffee makers when it comes to different cups, don’t have automatic shut off features, and are more expensive for what you get in return.
Ease of Use
If you like the idea of having a machine that grinds and brews your coffee all at once, then an espresso machine is better for you. They are able to take ground coffee and create different flavors and types of coffee. Simply by adjusting the water pressure, you can make either Americano/Cappuccino or Espresso style drinks.
If you prefer to use fresh grounds in order to get more control over what goes into your morning cup of joe, then a standard drip-style coffee maker with reusable filters would be best. You can choose which type of beans you want (and how fine) in order to get the flavor that suits your taste buds best.
There are a lot of different brew styles that can be made with a coffee maker, but the espresso machine has a specific style that is known for being rich and strong. For many individuals, this makes it better.
Coffeemakers take up to ten minutes to brew a pot of coffee, whereas espresso machines create perfect cups in as little as one minute. Espresso fans will appreciate the minimal wait time and ability to make more than just an ounce or two at a time.
Although it’s possible to buy two types of coffee that have almost identical caffeine contents, it’s not likely. The only way to get the same caffeine content out of your machine is if you’re using an espresso machine with pre-ground coffee beans. At this point, you’ll need to know how much caffeine is in your preferred type of whole bean coffee. An average serving size for ground coffee can be anywhere from one half ounce to one and a half ounces – so you’ll need to know how many servings are in your preferred types of whole bean grounds.
Coffee makers typically retail for a couple hundred dollars, whereas espresso machines can run upwards of $500.
Ease of Cleaning
Coffee makers typically don’t require much cleaning; just throw the filter and coffee grounds away. To clean an espresso machine, you need to run water through it several times. If you live in an area with hard water like I do, you’ll find out that your milk frother can get pretty mucky after a couple uses (and you’ll likely be using distilled or filtered water). You also have to clean the portafilter every time you use it – some machines even recommend using a toothbrush! Grinding enough for one shot is more than enough work.
Most coffee makers last two years or longer with proper care and maintenance — only requiring the occasional replacement of coffee filters and occasionally descaling if water tastes. An inexpensive espresso machine may last a couple of years as well, but quality ones can last up to 15 years with regular use.
This is a big part of what separates an espresso machine from a coffee maker. A high quality espresso machine can come with as many as 30 different settings for water pressure, shot sizes and grind fineness, which allows the user to have complete control over their cup of espresso or cappuccino.
A good coffee machine will have a few settings allowing you to get close to your desired result, but still won’t offer the control of an espresso machine. The advantage here is that for home users this will likely be enough customization in order to make high quality drinks.
Power and Convenience
Espresso machines run on steam power whereas coffee makers rely on electric or gas power. This means that in order to make an espresso you need access to a boiler where steam pressure can be built up (much like in an old-fashioned clothes iron). This requires having access to either an outlet or propane tank (for outdoor use) when wanting to use the device.
If isn’t much of an issue in a household setting but when camping or traveling the weight that the steam boiler adds to the device becomes rather burdensome.
In that respect, coffee makers are much more convenient in contexts where you need something portable and easy to use.
For the average household, having $500 to either buy an espresso machine or a coffee maker should cover all your bases. If you’re going for a high-end device, then the choice is probably already made for you.
Overall if you don’t have a lot of money and just want a versatile unit that can brew both coffee and espresso drinks then a simple coffee machine will do that job adequately. On the other hand, if it’s quality and control over your drink that matters most to you, then an espresso machine is what you need.