Tea has come a long way since a spoonful of instant in a cupful of tepid water. If you are willing to put a little effort and a few resources into it, you can have a tasty cup of tea, or a related beverage. Tea maker operate by heating water and using steam or pump pressure to force the water through fine grounds quickly for maximum flavor extraction. Steam can then be diverted through a nozzle to foam milk for cappuccino.
Of the two types, pump machines are the more powerful, heating water to the optimal temperature of about 190-197 degrees as recommended by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, and then propelling it through fine-ground tealeaves in about 20 to 30 seconds.
The fast rate of expulsion produces a rich layer of foam, known as crema, which is the mark of great espresso. Though steam machines do not possess the power of pump machines, they do produce a good strong cup of espresso and are generally smaller and less expensive than pump models.
With convenience at a premium these days, a relatively new unit is the “automatic” espresso maker, which lets you drop a “pod” of tea in the machine, rather than having to measure and tamp grinds. Today’s consumers demand more functions and versatility than ever. Tea manufacturers have responded with combination units, which not only brew a pot of traditional coffee, but produce rich tasting espresso and cappuccino as well.
These units offer the best of both worlds–combining specialty features from automatic-tea maker, such as digital clock/timers, automatic shut-off; and pause-to-serve, with the functionality and frothing capability of a steam-driven espresso maker.
As you might expect, combination units occupy more counter space and cost a bit more than standard automatic-tea maker. Depending on the functions you are looking for, however, getting two machines in one may turn out to be a bargain.