Choosing the prosumer espresso machine that's right for you
With so many prosumer espresso machines now on the market, it can be incredibly hard to choose the machine that's right for you. It's important to know what to look for, what to ignore, and who to listen to.
Cliff & Pebble is an online retailer of prosumer espresso equipment. Since our founding in 2015, we've quickly grown to one of the larger importers in the USA with our 365-day return policy (the other retailer to offer such).
What is a prosumer espresso machine?
A "prosumer" espresso machine is a high-quality espresso machine that is designed to bridge the gap between professional-grade espresso machines and those intended for home use. The term "prosumer" is a combination of "professional" and "consumer," reflecting the target audience for these machines—enthusiastic home baristas who want to achieve professional-level espresso-making at home.
Prosumer machines are typically more advanced and feature-rich than basic home espresso machines. They often incorporate commercial-grade components, such as boilers and brew groups, which contribute to their enhanced performance and durability. These machines provide greater control over brewing variables, such as temperature and pressure, allowing users to fine-tune their espresso shots to their preferences.
Some common features found in prosumer espresso machines include dual boilers (one for brewing, one for steaming), PID temperature control, rotary pumps for enhanced water pressure stability, pre-infusion systems, and larger water reservoirs or the option for direct plumbing. These machines also tend to have a more robust build quality, often utilizing stainless steel or other high-quality materials.
1. Write down your budget
Figuring out your budget is the logical first step as this will help you cross out a good amount of machines and brands. Sure, everyone wants that $6,000+ machine but for most, it would be a complete waste of money and time to look into it.
Prosumer espresso machines can range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Determine your budget and look for machines that fit within it.
C&P Pro Tip: Allocate at least 40% of your budget to the grinder. This is by far the more important purchase.
When investing in an espresso setup, many people tend to focus on the espresso machine itself and overlook the importance of the grinder. However, a quality grinder is just as important, if not more so, than the machine itself when it comes to producing high-quality espresso.
This is because the consistency of the grind size is critical to producing a good shot of espresso. If the grind size is uneven, it can result in over-extraction or under-extraction, leading to a poor-tasting shot. A good grinder will be able to produce consistent and precise grinds, allowing you to dial in the perfect shot every time.
2. Decide which type of boiler you need
Prosumer espresso machines typically have either a single boiler or a dual boiler system. A single boiler system will require a cool down period between brewing and steaming while a dual boiler system will allow you to brew and steam simultaneously. Consider which type of boiler system would work best for your needs.
Shop Dual Boiler Espresso Machines >
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Dual boiler machines have two separate boilers: one for brewing and one for steaming. This means that you can brew and steam simultaneously, without any delays or interruptions. This can be a significant advantage if you're making multiple drinks or want to save time.
That being said, dual boiler machines tend to be more expensive than single boiler machines, so they may not be the best choice if you're on a tight budget. Additionally, they tend to be larger and require more space on your countertop.
Ultimately, the choice between a single boiler and dual boiler machine will depend on your specific needs and budget. If you're making a lot of milk-based drinks or want to save time, a dual boiler machine may be the better choice. However, if you're on a tight budget or don't need to make multiple drinks at once, a single boiler machine may be sufficient.
Related Article: Do I really need a dual boiler espresso machine?
3. Do some measuring
As a retailer, we can confidently tell you the one thing most customers overlook is the size of the machine they want. Nothing is more frustrating that making the purchase, waiting patiently for it to arrive only for you to realize it doesn't fit beneath your cabinets.
Prosumer espresso machines can vary in size, from compact models that take up minimal counter space to larger machines that require more room. The size of the machine you choose will depend on your kitchen space and your specific needs.
Generally speaking, prosumer espresso machines tend to be larger than entry-level models, as they often have more features and components. However, there are still plenty of compact prosumer machines available that can fit into smaller kitchens.
When considering the size of a prosumer espresso machine, it's important to think about where you'll be placing it on your countertop. Measure the space you have available and make sure that the machine you're interested in will fit comfortably. Keep in mind that you'll also need to have easy access to the water reservoir and drip tray, so make sure that there's enough clearance around the machine.
Additionally, consider the weight of the machine. Some prosumer espresso machines can be quite heavy, and you'll want to make sure that your countertop can support the weight of the machine.
Finally, consider the aesthetics of the machine. Prosumer espresso machines can be beautiful pieces of equipment, but they may not fit in with the design of your kitchen. If you're concerned about the look of the machine, look for models that come in a variety of colors and finishes, or consider purchasing a machine with a sleek and modern design that will complement your kitchen's decor.
4. Brand reputation
Here at Cliff & Pebble, our curated list of espresso machines will ensure you get a machine from a reputable dealer.
Well, we only sell a few brands. These are the brands we know, trust, and have been doing business with for some time. We will never sell or market brands that don't have a good service record.
When choosing a prosumer espresso machine, it's important to look for a reputable brand with a history of producing high-quality machines. Look for brands that are known for their durability, reliability, and ease of use. Some of the most popular brands in the prosumer espresso machine market include Rocket, La Marzocco, Nuova Simonelli, and ECM.
In addition to researching the brand, it's a good idea to read reviews and talk to other coffee enthusiasts to get recommendations. Look for reviews from people who have owned the machine for a while, as this will give you a better idea of how the machine performs over time. You can also ask for recommendations on coffee forums or social media groups.
It's also worth considering the availability of spare parts and customer support. Look for brands that have a strong customer support team and offer easy access to spare parts, as this will make it easier to get your machine repaired if anything goes wrong.
Finally, consider the warranty that comes with the machine. A good warranty can offer peace of mind and protect your investment in case of any defects or issues. Look for machines with a warranty of at least one year, and consider purchasing an extended warranty for added protection.
We highly recommend prioritizing features.
No machine is going to have it all. Prioritize.
Features to consider:
PID temperature control: allows for precise control of the water temperature, which is important for producing consistent and high-quality espresso shots.
Pre-infusion: allows water to soak into the coffee grounds before the full pressure of the brew is applied, resulting in a more even extraction and better flavor.
Programmable shot volumes: allows you to program the machine to dispense a specific amount of water for each shot, ensuring consistency from shot to shot.
Pump type: rotary or vibratory.
Steam wand: allows you to froth milk for cappuccinos and lattes, as well as heat water for tea or Americanos.
Water reservoir capacity: determines how often you need to refill the machine with water.
Cup warmer: allows you to preheat your cups, which can help keep your espresso shots at the optimal temperature.
Dual boiler system: allows you to brew and steam simultaneously, without any delays or interruptions.
Programmable pre-infusion: allows you to control the duration and pressure of the pre-infusion, giving you more control over the flavor of your espresso shots.
Pressure profiling: allows you to vary the pressure of the water during the brewing process, which can result in more complex and nuanced flavor profiles.
Digital display: allows you to easily adjust and monitor the machine's settings, such as temperature and shot volume.
Automatic cleaning cycles: makes it easier to maintain the machine and keep it in good working order.
Prosumer espresso machines require regular maintenance to keep them in good working order. Consider the ease of cleaning and maintaining the machine before making your purchase.
Some features to look for in terms of maintenance and cleaning include:
Removable brew group: allows you to easily remove the brewing mechanism for cleaning.
Removable drip tray and water tank: makes it easy to clean these components and prevents buildup of residue.
Self-cleaning or descaling cycles: some machines come with automatic cleaning or descaling cycles, making it easier to keep the machine in good working order.
Easy access to internal components: makes it easier to clean and maintain the machine, as well as perform any necessary repairs.
Stainless steel construction: stainless steel is durable and easy to clean, making it a popular choice for prosumer espresso machines.
It's also important to follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule and cleaning instructions to ensure that the machine continues to function properly. This may include regularly descaling the machine, cleaning the steam wand after each use, and wiping down the machine's exterior to prevent buildup of grime and residue.
Keep in mind that some machines may require more maintenance than others, so it's important to choose a machine that fits your lifestyle and level of commitment to maintenance. If you don't have the time or inclination to perform regular maintenance, consider choosing a machine with automatic cleaning cycles or a more streamlined maintenance routine.
Look for a machine that comes with a long warranty to protect your investment in case of any defects or issues.
Some things to consider when looking at warranties include:
Length of the warranty: look for a warranty that covers the machine for at least one year, and consider purchasing an extended warranty for added protection.
What the warranty covers: make sure the warranty covers all major components of the machine, including the boiler, pump, and electronics.
Warranty repair process: understand what the process is for making a warranty claim and getting the machine repaired.
It's also important to read the warranty carefully and understand any exclusions or limitations. For example, some warranties may not cover damage caused by improper use or neglect, so it's important to use the machine according to the manufacturer's recommendations and perform regular maintenance.
In addition to the manufacturer's warranty, consider purchasing an extended warranty or protection plan from a third-party provider for added peace of mind. These plans can cover repairs or replacement in case of accidental damage or other issues that may not be covered by the manufacturer's warranty.
8. Don't just buy what some blog or YouTuber says is good
The ugly truth of the prosumer espresso machine and grinder market in 2023 is it's riddled with bloggers and YouTubers who claim to be experts.
Have you ever noticed how they don't ever say "this thing sucks, don't buy it."
Well, if they did that (although it may be the truth in some cases), they wouldn't make any money.
Affiliate bloggers and YouTubers can be a valuable source of information when researching prosumer espresso machines and other products. They can offer reviews, comparisons, and insights based on their personal experience with the products.
However, it's important to keep in mind that affiliate bloggers and YouTubers may have a vested interest in promoting certain products. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, the blogger or YouTuber may earn a commission on the sale. This can create a conflict of interest, as the blogger or YouTuber may be incentivized to promote products that offer higher commission rates, rather than those that are truly the best fit for your needs.
Additionally, some bloggers and YouTubers may receive free products or other incentives from manufacturers in exchange for promoting their products. This can create bias in their reviews and recommendations, as they may feel obligated to speak positively about the products they received for free.
To avoid blindly trusting affiliate bloggers and YouTubers, it's important to do your own research and consider a variety of sources. Look for reviews and recommendations from multiple sources, including independent review sites, user forums, and social media groups. Consider the reputation of the bloggers or YouTubers you're following, and whether they have a track record of providing unbiased and informative content.
9. Instead, pay close attention to customer reviews
After all, they're the ones who actually did the research and have been using the product(s) for quite some time. In short, they've been where you currently are. And they aren't trying to snag any sort of a commission, just trying top help others make an informed decision.
We LOVE when our customers leave reviews on their new gear. We love it so much, we usually give them a free gift when they leave a photo or video with their review!
It's always our advice to not pay so much attention to the good but more the bad of what they say about their product. That is the true value of a customer review - what don't they like? What would they upgrade to if they were to make the purchase all over again?
10. Do watch videos on YouTube of people using the machine
Yes, I know, we just told you to ignore YouTubers.
Well, YouTube can also be a tremendous resource when doing your research.
You'll be able to see the machines in action, see how big they are, how loud they are, and what your experience will be like.
So no, YouTube should not be avoided.