Espresso machine or bean to cup?
There are a lot of similarities, so it is easy to get confused. First of all, the main difference is the amount they pour. An espresso pours the strong base, and a bean to cup can usually pour up to Americano size.
With an espresso machine, you use ground coffee or sometimes an ESE pod. Bean to cup machines have an internal grinder so you can use coffee beans, and they are ground just before use for a fresher taste.
The majority of both have a milk frother and will make espressos, lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos. It all boils down to how you like your coffee.
Espresso machines are mostly dedicated to the job their name suggests. They focus on the base of the coffee, and the milk frother is almost like an added bonus which means you can turn your espresso into another form of coffee if you wish. The taste of the espresso is usually superior, and some will make two at a time.
Bean to cup machines are more substantial when it comes to their milk frothing capabilities, as they’re designed to make milk-based drinks primarily. They’re usually easier to use too.
Price-wise, a B2C machine will usually set you back at least £100 for one which is decent. Go over £500 for the best. A decent espresso machine however can be bought for £100.
In the end, espresso machines are for anyone who really likes their coffee base to be quality.
Are espresso machines easy to descale?
Before you buy, you also need to think about the other items and equipment you’re going to need. One big item is descaler.
Most can be descaled with dedicated tablets, following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Every appliance will be different, so there is no definitive answer, nor is there an absolute time scale in which this must be done.
Some machines may need descaling every two weeks, whereas others may be every two months. It all depends on how frequently it is used and your water type. Most manufacturers usually recommend using bottled, filtered water and keeping on top of the cleaning of the machine to prevent any problems arising sooner than they should.
What is an ESE Pod?
ESE stands for Easy Serving Espresso pods. They have paper filter covers and are used in non-grinding espresso machines.
Each has 7g of coffee packed inside, which is enough for a single serving. They were developed in 1989 to make espresso preparation at home seem a lot easier, so are great for anyone who doesn’t like mess and laborious cleaning.
Not all espresso machines are compatible with ESE pods, and none commonly use plastic pods (such as those used with capsule machines).
Do I need a coffee bean grinder?
If you’re going to be using your espresso machine with ground coffee as opposed to ESE pods, you will either need a grinder for fresh coffee beans or will need to buy it freshly ground.
The ideal grind is quite fine. This reduces the speed that water flows through the coffee, resulting in more pressure being needed and a stronger taste.
A benefit of a grinder is that the beans will be fresh when they go in the machine, whereas pre-ground coffee has already started losing its taste. There may also be the option to change the grinding level if you want something a bit more coarse for fuller flavour.
There is no need for a grinder, though. Pre-ground coffee is widely available in supermarkets and shops, from brands such as Illy, Lavazza, and Nescafe.