What is an espresso machine?

Espresso is a cultural delight many Americans turn to for both caffeine and community. Understanding how it’s made means becoming acquainted with espresso machines. 

What Is An Espresso Machine?

Don’t have time to read the full article? Here’s a quick answer to your question: 

An espresso machine is a coffee brewing device that focuses on espresso, using steam and pressure to craft highly concentrated shots. 

It’s a relatively new invention, crafted back in the late 1800’s as a faster way of making the drink. Before then, traditional brewing usually involved grinding and steeping in hot water. Nowadays, the espresso machine is a readily available form of equipment for both commercial and home spaces. 

Let’s take a look at the most common questions you’ll have as a new espresso user.

What’s The Difference Between An Espresso Machine And a Coffee Maker?

While superficially similar, espresso machines and coffee makers couldn’t be more different. An espresso machine is designed to craft espresso, a highly concentrated form of coffee with a layer of golden crema. This is achieved using a portafilter, steam, and pressure.

A coffee maker creates drip coffee by soaking ground beans through a paper or cloth filter. Drip coffee is thinner and darker, similar to what you achieve with a pour over. 

Is Espresso Stronger Than Coffee?

Absolutely. When measured through milligrams, a single shot of espresso can have between 63 to 65 mg of caffeine. 

Compare this to drip coffee, which has between 12 to 15 mg of caffeine. Decaf, contrary to popular belief, still has trace amounts of caffeine at 2 to 3 mg per cup.

What Is Special About An Espresso Machine?

If you’re comfortable with drip coffee or instant, you may wonder what the point of an expensive espresso machine is. When it comes to rich flavors and enticing aromas, espresso can’t be beat.

Espresso’s thin layer of crema (that golden layer on top) provides an additional creaminess that blends smoothly with milk. Espresso shots can be turned into any number of delectable drinks, including (but not limited to):

  • Latte
  • Flat white
  • Cappuccino
  • Macchiato
  • Americano

How To Use An Espresso Machine

All espresso machines have the same foundation: pressure and steam to create an espresso shot. Where they differ is in the brand, materials, and specialization. 

Let’s use a home espresso machine model to give you an idea on what to expect: the Quick Mill Silvano Evo Espresso. This model is popular for its high-quality materials, short learning curve, and industry-standard features. 

Making a standard latte will involve the following steps.

Grind Your Coffee

You need to create a very fine grind for espresso. It should look and feel similar to flour. Darker roasted coffee is ideal for espresso, though you can use any kind that suits your fancy. Consider doing a few test grinds before proceeding to the next step. 

Fill Your Portafilter

Your portafilter (short for portable filter) is what you connect to the gasket in the espresso machine. This tool holds your coffee so the water can flow through and extract your espresso shot. Before you attach your portafilter in place, you need to...

Tamp Your Grinds

You might be familiar with this process from visiting your local cafe. Tamping is a term for flattening your coffee grounds in the portafilter before connecting it to the gasket. This espresso machine comes with a black tamper for you to use. 

Choose Your Setting

Now that your portafilter is ready to go, place it in the gasket and twist it into place. Now you’re ready to turn the machine on and pull your shots. Your pressure gauge will tell you how much pressure is being applied to your espresso. 

Remember that more pressure is not automatically better: it just depends on your tastes and the coffee you’re using.

Steam Your Milk

Many espresso machines come with a steam wand attached. While this espresso doesn’t come with a pitcher, you can purchase one separately. 

You’ll need to heat up your steam bank for a few minutes before using it. Insert your steam wand into a few inches of milk (you’ll need extra room as it fluffs up) and let it swirl for ten to fifteen seconds. Once you’re done, flush out the tip of the steam wand with a few puffs to clear out excess milk. 


Pour your milk into your fresh shots and enjoy. What makes coffee so enjoyable is not just the result, but the process. 

Clean Your Machine

The more you take care of your machine, the longer it will last. Espresso machines today come with automated cleaning features at the press of a button. These cleaning protocols will flush out excess coffee from the gasket.

Best Espresso Machine Of 2021

If you need a starting point for choosing the best home espresso machines of 2021, check out our breakdowns below. 

La Pavoni Rapido Pod Espresso Machine PP-30

La Pavoni Rapido Pod Espresso Machine PP-30

This is the ultimate choice for the hobbyist homebrewer. This machine uses coffee pods instead of a portafilter to create espresso shots. It’s relatively lightweight and small compared to other machines, which means it’ll fit easily onto a kitchen counter or office desk. 

La Pavoni Domus Bar DMB Espresso Machine with Grinder

La Pavoni Domus Bar DMB Espresso Machine with Grinder

This is a well-rounded espresso machine for novice and intermediate homebrewers. It comes with standard features such as a built-in grinder, steam wand, and a pump pressure gauge. It also has additional details like a cup warmer and anti-drip valve for extra convenience. 

Quick Mill Silvano Evo Espresso

Quick Mill Silvano Evo Espresso Machine 04005-A-EVO

We touched on this model earlier on the list: the Quick Mill Silvano Evo Espresso is a powerful piece of equipment both new and experienced homebrewers will love. Its PID display is incredibly easy to use, providing a shot timer, programmable boiler settings, and a pressure gauge. 

Wrap Up

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the espresso machines on the market, never fear. Everyone has to start somewhere on their coffee journey!

We’re ready to answer any coffee equipment questions you have so you can make the best purchasing decision. Give us a call or message us at our live chat at your nearest convenience.

Tony Barlow

Tony Barlow

Majesty Coffee Technical Sales Expert - Meet the Team

Tony Barlow, with over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, is the go-to technical sales expert at Majesty Coffee. He's passionate about helping businesses find the right espresso equipment for their needs.