I know that buying the espresso machines is a hip thing to do in the US, but you don't need to spend 50, 60 bucks for a good espresso. The only place you see those machines in Italy is in a cafe, bar, or restaurant. At home, the Italians use what is called a "Mokka". They come in all different sizes, from a one cup on up. I have a two cup Mokka that cost about 10 bucks (it was a gift) and it makes some damn good coffee:
So how does it work? It's very easy. It's comprised of three parts and unscrews in the middle:
You put the water in the bottom part (on the right), put the middle piece (the screen) inside the bottom piece and fill it with as much coffee as you want. I like it strong so I usually use less water and more coffee:
After that, screw the top part back on and place it on the stove on very low heat. As the water gradually heats up, it flows upward through the middle part that holds the coffee and then through the metal tube that connects it with the top part:
You'll know it's done when you hear the air start hissing a bit, letting you know that all the water has gone up through. It's important to cook it on low heat as cooking it too high and fast will make the coffee taste burnt.
Another thing I've learned from my Italian friends is that the more you use it, the better the coffee will taste. For example, last weekend I went upstairs for a coffee and my neighbors were explaining that it wouldn't taste quite as good because they'd been away on vacation for a few weeks and it hadn't been used. In fact, the Italians will tell you that the more coffee-stained the Mokka, the better the coffee will taste when you use it.
Lastly, if you ever buy a Mokka in the Us, remember that you need to use either espresso or very, very finely ground coffee. None of that "Maxwell House" crap...