Over at ROASTe, they question whether steam driven espresso machines should even be called espresso machines?
It’s not a straightforward question to answer. Steam alone can’t create a really good espresso — that most certainly requires a pump.
But as with many products all is not equal. The cheapest steam driven espresso machines can leave a nasty taste in your espresso. The nicer steam driven espresso machines will be more than enough to make something like what you’d get at your average chain coffee shop.
Personally, I got started with a steam driven espresso machine, but quickly graduated to a pump powered machine. If you’re using a steam driven espresso machine, consider the upgrade. You won’t regret it.