Steaming Hot: Espresso Makers

Originally published in Potentials magazine, May 2007

The last decade has seen a revolution in American coffee drinking. No longer satisfied with weak, flavorless beverages, discerning drinkers are turning increasingly to espresso as a delicious alternative to traditional brews. Home espresso machines are an ideal gift to cater to this developing taste. The best products now on the market enable anyone to become a master barista in the comfort of her home kitchen.

Espresso was introduced to the world at the 1855 Paris Exposition, when Edouard Loysel de la Lantais unveiled a large machine that used steam pressure to force very hot water through ground coffee. Modern espresso machines are descended from ones developed in Milan in the 1940s. Most use a piston lever or a motor-driven pump to produce a single serving of a beverage distinctly different to conventional coffee. A well-brewed cup of espresso is easily identified by its rich consistency; intense, sweet coffee flavor and aroma; and the crema—thick, golden brown foam that floats on the surface and clings to the side of the cup. High-end machines are fully automatic, so all you have to do is put in beans and water and press a few buttons. At the other end of the scale, stove-top espresso makers provide a portable and convenient way to make a delicious and thick dark coffee similar to pressure-brewed espresso but without the distinctive foam.

Krups Compact Automatic Espresso Machine XP7230

The XP7230 is simple to operate and easy to maintain. The user-friendly digital controls make it a cinch to brew the perfect drink every time. Can also produce steamed milk for a cappuccino or latte.

La Pavoni 8-Cup Chrome Euro EPC-8

This sleek, piston-driven machine is the Ferrari of espresso makers, designed to pull up to eight shots of espresso consecutively, one or two at a time. A separate spout has controls for frothing or steaming milk.

Francis Francis! X6 TRIO

The latest in the Francis Francis! X series combines a captivating retro appearance with easy to use functions. Special serving pods ensure a perfectly measured beverage.

Bialetti Mukka Express

Unique among stove-top espresso makers, the fashionable bovine-themed Bialetti Mukka Express can brew two cups of coffee and froth milk simultaneously, creating a flavorful cappuccino in a matter of minutes. Also available in a plain polished aluminum version.

Interested in other gifts a recipient can use in the comfort of their own house? Click here to read about health and wellness products designed to be used at home.

For more ideas, tips, and tools for better meetings and events, get Successful Meetings' weekly e-newsletter to your inbox