Luckily, manual and automatic espresso machines take out much of the work of brewing the perfect shot of espresso. However, that is not to say it doesn't take practice to get the process just right.
Whether you're looking for a home machine or a commerical grade one for a business, be prepared to not get off cheap if you desire quality.
Stovetop PotsStovetop espresso pots are really easy to use - you simply put your coffee and water into the container and then heat it on your stove. The heat forces the water into the coffee to make the perfect espresso.
ManualWhen using a manual espresso maker, you basically control how your espresso coffee will be brewed. This is done by controlling the pump that exerts the pressure to make espresso. Automatic espresso percolators will do this for you - which does take away some of the enjoyment and means that you have less control over the end brew!
SteamAs you might guessed, a steam espresso maker works on the steam principle where water is forced through the coffee beans at high pressure to create espresso.
Semi-AutomaticA semi-automatic espresso maker allows you to keep some of the control that comes with entirely manual machines - so you can still pick and choose how your coffee will be brewed. However, you could buy a fully automatic machine, but you'll sacrifice control over the final results and that won't set well with serious espresso drinkers.
Super-AutomaticThese super-automatic makers basically handle everything for you - they'll grind up the beans and brew you a superb cup of java with all the skills from your local coffee shop - it's like having your own barista at home or the office!
As you can see, each type of espresso maker has it's own specific advantages and weaknesses. The trick is to select one that is convenient and enjoyable for you, not someone else.
And one final note: if you enjoy both coffee and espresso, but don't want to buy both, consider a combo machine.
EspressoZone.com - Excellent site that specializes only in espresso makers and related accessories. Offers free shipping when purchases are over $100.
Amazon.com - Espresso Machines - Great selection of espresso machines from the Internet's largest store. They also can offer extremely low prices because they sell a large amount of espresso makers.
Cooking.com - Espresso Machines - The name says it all! Cooking.com is your source for great deals on espresso machines from Gaggia, Briel, La Pavoni, FrancisFrancis!, and more.