Espresso machines are a fantastic home addition. You get what you pay for, so ensure you do your research before you buy. There is also a science behind the espresso machine and your use of it because you should know what pressure you need to get the demitasse cup you love.
There are four types of espresso machines:
Automatic Espresso Machines (semi or fully): This machine is similar to the manual espresso machine except it uses a pressure pump instead of having to create the pressure yourself using the repetitious strength of your arm. Gaggia is probably the most popular brand of automatic espresso machines.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines: This machine has all of the bells and whistles including a built-in grinder. The best part is less mess. The super automatic espresso machines drop the grinds into a bin underneath and are ready for the next batch almost immediately. It has a higher-pressure system then the automatic espresso machine resulting in the crème de la crème of crema.
Manual Espresso Machines (piston machines): It may look beautiful, but it is hard work! Basically, you fill the handle, tamp down the coffee grounds (ensure they are not too fine), lock the handle and pull at the lever. There is an art to this because if you go too slow or too fast you will completely wreck your espresso.
Stovetop Espresso Machine: I like this method, but maybe it's because I'm simple. You tamp the grounds into the middle chamber, put water in the bottom of the unit till the water gets sucked up a pipe. The water runs through the coffee grounds and eventually pools in the top where you can pour it out immediately. One thing to remember is to keep the pressure gauge clear as steam dissipates out.