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I've liked coffee for years and I'm thinking on buying a espresso machine. Before that, I want to know why the coffee seems more tasty when it is done that way than with a french press or a drip coffee maker and what are the pros and cons of a espresso machine. Thanks!

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3 Answers 3

The best explanation of I've ever seen of what espresso really is can be found here. It starts with the basics, and if you read the PDF at the bottom of the page, gets into some of the details.

The thing that makes espresso espresso is that the high pressure in the machine extracts much of the aromatic oils from the coffee grounds, which form the "crema" on the top of the espresso. You don't get this emulsion of oils at normal pressures, so no matter how strong you make a drip or press coffee, it's not espresso.

Dr. Joseph John often gives talks at Coffee trade shows, and he sells an excellent espresso blend. (I'm not affiliated with Josuma coffee, except as a satisfied customer.)

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I believe that one of the major differences between espresso and other forms of coffee (especially French Press) is that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds for much less time. It's pressurized to move through the fine grounds fast (I believe that that's where the name comes from).

In drip coffee and even more so in a French Press, the water and the grounds are in contact for much longer. This would mean that if there are flavor elements which take longer to move from the coffee to the water, they'd have time to do that. This can enormously change the flavor profile of the coffee -- even if you're using the exact same beans.

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To answer the second part of your question ('the pros and cons of an espressomachine'):

Pros:
- Taste. If done right, you will capture much more of the coffeebean in your cup.
- Milk foaming. Most espresso machines have the possibility to froth milk for cappuccinos or lattes. Look up 'latte art' on Google Images for some inspiration :-)
- Process. The making of coffee becomes an enjoyable ritual with shiny machines, hot water and steam.
- hobby: there is an enormous amount of ustensils, tools, cups, coffees, online forums etc. to discover for enhancing your espresso.

Cons:
- Taste! as much more taste ends up in your espresso cup, you will also taste the defects much better (bad or stale coffee, badly grind, wrong water temperature etc.) will give you a sour or bitter cup.
- Technique. It takes practice to prepare a good espresso (except if you opt for a machine that takes coffee pads - but your choice of coffees will be limited and often not fresh).
- Cost. Espresso machines (good ones) are costly. And it doesn't stop there. To make really tasty espresso you might want to grind the beans yourself, so you'll need a grinder that can grind fine enough for espresso. After that you might start to suffer from upgraditis...
- Room on the kitchencounter. An espresso machine can take up quite some space.

Hope this helps!

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+1 for listing taste as both a pro and a con. –  Marti Nov 22 '10 at 15:33
    
Ah...upgraditis. I hate it when that happens. –  dmckee Nov 22 '10 at 19:29
    
Add cleaning to the cons. –  Chris Cudmore Nov 23 '10 at 14:18
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