At home, we almost exclusively drink espresso or espresso-based coffee. On the weekend, we usually have cappuccinos in the morning with breakfast. In the late morning, we have macchiatos. Sometimes, in the afternoon, we have straight espressos.
We went though several iterations of espresso makers. We have been using an Italian-made basic espresso machine called Rancilio Silvia for more than 10 years. We are on the 4th and probably best model we have had. Before this one, we used Gaggia classic which also made decent espresso coffee. Silvia is a totally manual model without anything automatic or fancy. It has only one boiler so you have to wait (probably close to 1 minute) for the boiler to heat up for steaming the milk after brewing the coffee.
It requires some effort but it does make a good espresso and also steam. It froths the milk adequately for cappuccino and latte. I have replaced and upgraded parts during the year but one advantage of owning Silvia is many 3rd party tune-up/ improvement parts in addition to the replacement parts are readily available. One noteworthy is the flat shower screen (with flat screw head). Being an Italian machine, the screw head of the original shower screen protruded which made an indentation mark and broke the integrity of surface of the coffee pack (since the Italian method does not make a “pack” of coffee grind but uses loose coffee when brewing espresso, this may not be a problem for them).
The frother of Silvia is a no-frill basic steam wand and requires some practice to make nice froth but the froth is not as stable or creamy as one made with a commercial espresso machine. Recently, I got a milk frother Nespresso Aeraoccino4 and it works really well. It is rather small and I have to run it twice for 2 cups of cappuccino or latte but it can make small amounts of frothed cream for macchiato. the Breville model can handle larger amounts but not a small amount of cream for macchiato.
To prevent overflowing, it is important not to overfill beyond the max line for frothing milk. It does produce a very creamy stable foam and heats up the milk nicely.
The picture below shows the pattern on the crema indicating good extraction. Silvia is very pesky to have a perfect dose and grind. I use low-speed bur grinder Rancillio Rocky grinder to get the perfect fineness of the coffee grinds. I tamp it only lightly. The machine also requires regular cleaning (back flush using a blank back flush basket with detergent – I use Cafiza) once a week and descale the machine using espresso decalcifier/descaler once a month. Since I use reverse osmosis filtered water, I do not have much of a calcium deposit problem. There are articles explaining how to make good espresso using Rancilio Silvia.
We get green beans (several espresso blends) and roast them at home (using both hot air and direct heat drum roasters) but that is for another time.