Allow me to present Silvia, the other woman in my life. It's ok, though - Sherry introduced us. In fact, Silvia was a birthday present over seven years ago. Ever since then, Silvia has allowed our mornings to look like this:
Forever ruined by traveling in Italy, we are addicted to a well-made espresso. Unfortunately, here in the land of "how many shots would you like in your über-grande-mocha-madness", a good espresso is very hard to come by.
Buying a semi-commercial espresso machine, while an initial high upfront cost, has definitely paid dividends. After more than seven years of constant use, our machine is still running just as smoothly as the day we got it.
As important, if not more important than a good espresso machine is your grinder. A burr grinder is an absolute must - and don't skimp on the price. We started with a cheaper grinder, but soon upgraded to the Rancilio Rocky. The difference was significant.
Rocky makes it possible to get the perfect grind. Figuring out exactly what that is takes a lot of experimentation, but once you have it locked in you'll be enjoying a perfect espresso time and time again.
Making a good espresso is definitely a bit of a Zen art - getting the perfect grind, figuring out exactly how much coffee to use, tamping it down just right. That's probably why it is so hard to get a good one.
But when you do...
It is definitely worth it!