And we are speaking of them when we’re discussing Nespresso, Tassimo, and the best of the lot, the Lavazza. However, there are other items that look like espresso machines, are called espresso machines, sometimes even function like espresso machines, and yet under their inevitably cheap feeling plastic exterior they are nothing like a reason espresso machine. They are called “steam driven” or “steam powered” espresso machines, but people in the know usually just refer to them as “steam toys.”
Steam Toys have no moving parts, you lock in a portfalter that looks like the real deal, fill the tank with water and turn it on. The water boils, steam travels through the machine to the portafilter, condenses and pretend-espresso drips out. There is no pressure, no pump, its closer to (but less effective than) a stovetop espresso maker than it is to a real espresso machine. Also, you don’t use enough espresso, for the large output of coffee so the coffee you do get is over-extracted and yet still watery.
These machines almost ruined espresso for me. My parents owned a Krups steam toy which they thought was just a basic coffee machine. They loved it, because it would produce small batches of coffee and they didn’t have to worry about having to get filters! I knew that this thing was supposed to produce coffee, but the coffee was so terrible it almost turned me off of it completely.
Upside: these things are seriously cheap. I’m talking 20-30 bucks if you look around. But why would you ever want to do that? I mean, if all you want is a caffeinated beverage get yourself a French press for ten or fifteen dollars, don’t like to yourself and say you’re making espresso! I get it, its really tough to decide to spend more on an espresso machine than what you might spend on a refrigerator or stove, but that is an apt comparison. When you’re talking about buying an espresso machine you really are talking about buying an appliance. Something closer to a stove than to a, I don’t know, waffle iron. If anything, espresso machines can be much more complicated than many large kitchen appliances!
In any case, if you’re considering an espresso machine and are leaning towards a steam one, I beseech you to just do a little research first.