If you love coffee in its purest form, one of the best espresso machines is what you need. A good espresso machine will produce a perfectly balanced shot of espresso, full of flavor, aroma and body. It shouldn’t taste burnt or bitter, and a thick layer of crema should form on top for a smooth finish. In addition, the machine itself needs to be quick to brew and quiet in operation, with an intuitive control panel. But how can you tell you’re getting all of the above?
That’s where we can help. We’ve tested a range of espresso machines to find those that deliver across the board. We set up each machine at home, and brewed a number of espressos to assess speed, consistency, temperature and flavor. If a milk frother was included, we tested it to check the quality of the milk produced. It needed to be thick, velvety and full of bubbles to score well. Following this, we considered the ease of use, factoring in the layout of the controls as well as ease of accessing the water tank. Noise and overall value for money was taken into account too. Finally, we compiled our results to find the best espresso machines, and here they are.
The quick list
Here’s the best espresso machines you can buy right now based on our testing and reviews. Scroll on for our full in-depth reviews.
The best espresso machine overall
The Breville Bambino Plus offers the best of everything. It’s compact in design, straightforward to use and brews delicious espresso, cup-after-cup.
The best budget espresso machine
The Nespresso Vertuo Plus stands out as an affordable capsule machine which delivers in every sense. It’s quick to brew and provides an authentic flavor of espresso.
The best espresso machines you can buy today
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The full list: Best espresso machines you can buy
The Breville Bambino Plus impressed us in our testing, consistently producing high quality espresso and offering an excellent automatic milk frother for that extra professional finishing touch. It's difficult to produce a bad coffee from this particular espresso machine, and with a speedy three second heat up time you'll be enjoying a fantastically brewed shot in no time at all.
Like many of the best espresso machines, you can adjust the espresso settings for a shorter or longer shot, however the adjustable pre-infusion settings here are particularly impressive. Similarly, being able to customize both the temperature and texture of the milk while also automatically steaming luscious micro-foam was a particular draw in our testing.
Some reviewers note that the portafilter that holds the filter with ground coffee can stick after you pull a shot, an issue we've also experienced on occasion. Users who love to be hands-on may balk at trading customization of each cup for consistency, but most people will find the compromise worth the guarantee that you’ll get the same rich, nuanced drink every time.
Read our full Breville / Sage Bambino Plus review.
Best budget espresso machine
The Nespresso Vertuo Plus is an example of a rare capsule coffee machine design, in that it can achieve a high enough pressure and temperature to produce espresso. Nespresso is one of the few capsule brands that’s able to do this. Add to that, the Vertuo Plus offers centrifugal brewing technology, which is why it makes the list as one of the best espresso machines. It may be pricey compared to other capsule designs, but it’s a steal when lined up against espresso machines.
This machine essentially spins the capsule as it brews, to help create an exceptional finish. And we couldn’t complain; the espresso produced on test was smooth, with a delicious rich flavor and silky texture. The machine is smart enough to adjust its temperature and speed based on the type of capsule you’re using as well — it does this by reading the barcode. So, you know it will give you the ideal brewing process whatever flavor of coffee you’re using.
You’ve got the option of producing a single or double espresso, or a 5 oz or 8 oz coffee, thanks to the large 60 oz water tank. True, there’s no built-in milk frother, but this design is often sold with a separate frother if milky drinks are more to your taste. It’s also quick to brew your espresso or coffee despite the centrifugal process, with the entire process taking about two minutes from start to finish.
In terms of ease of use, there’s literally one button to control everything, so we found operation straightforward — even when we had to use it in the middle of the night. Plus, the water tank rotates, which allows you to adjust the design to suit your space. The parts aren’t dishwasher-safe, which means you need to wash by hand when necessary, but there is a useful self-clean program to keep your machine in check.
Remember that with the Vertuo Plus, you will need to purchase Vertuo capsules rather than the Classic capsules. And you will want to make sure nothing obstructs the lid when you load them. A nearby plant cost us a couple of capsules on test.
Read our full Nespresso Vertuo Plus review.
Best premium espresso machine
If you’re a true coffee connoisseur and customization is a top priority, we recommend the Breville Barista Express. This machine looks stunning on display with its stainless steel finish and visible pressure gauge. Not only that, it delivers too; on test, we found this espresso machine performed consistently, delivering a high-quality flavor and texture of espresso complete with a thick layer of crema. It’s quick to work too, although it will need 1-2 minutes to warm up at first.
We love the customization this machine allows for. You can set the coarseness of the grounds as well as the quantity to a precise degree via two separate dials. Through this, you can adjust gradually until you find your perfect settings. Four portafilter baskets lets you switch between single and double shots, with single and double-walled options — should you use pre-ground coffee. It’s a nice touch that the tamper is held in place via a magnet on the underside of the control panel. This keeps things tidy.
The Breville Barista Express can produce lattes and cappuccinos with the use of the built-in steam wand as well. We found the milk was foamy and creamy, with a decent level of froth after steaming. Should you prefer tea, it can dispense hot water directly from here as well.
Bear in mind, this is a sizable machine, and it will take up a decent amount of counter space. We also noticed that there’s no low-water warning, which is a shame, but it’s not a deal breaker. Ultimately, if you’re happy to spend the money, and you want an espresso machine that looks as good as it performs, this is the one to get.
Read our full Breville Barista Express review.
Best compact and premium espresso machine
The sleek and glamorous look of the KitchenAid Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine means it will suit any modern kitchen. It features a compact design and at 15 lbs it’s easy enough to move around.
When we put it to the test, we found it produced nothing but delicious espresso from ground coffee, complete with a thick layer of crema and a delectable aroma. It couldn’t be more straightforward to operate either, with four buttons to control everything, from the size of the shot, to the water hardness level and temperature. There’s a useful clean cycle here to help with descaling as well. This espresso machine offers some basic functions in addition to pouring espresso — it can produce steam and boiling water via the steam wand, meaning it can froth milk as well as pour water for hot tea. It was more than adequate in both of these areas, although a little slow to reach the final product.
Our only real qualm with this espresso machine is that an aptly sized espresso cup can easily vibrate out of place when pouring. You either need to hold it in place (not ideal from a safety perspective), or use a larger, heavier cup to avoid this issue. Other than that, we loved the design of the KitchenAid Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine. It gives you the opportunity to be more involved in the espresso-making process, including measuring out and tamping down the ground coffee yourself. Bear in mind it comes with a plastic exterior though, which might not be what you expect from this brand.
Read our full KitchenAid Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine review.
Best espresso machine for ease of use
The Philips 3200 Series doesn’t come cheap, but it brings a lot to the table. This espresso machine lets the user create beverages which would usually require barista-level experience at the push of a button. It comes with several settings, including espresso, hot water, cappuccino, coffee, latte macchiato and americano. Plus there’s the option to customize your selection by strength, size and the amount of steamed milk.
When we tried it out for ourselves, we found the coffee it produced tasted good and was not overly bitter. While we were generally pleased with the results, it could have tasted stronger. This was even the case when we adjusted it to its finest grind setting. The quality of the crema was on the thin-side too. For this reason we wouldn’t recommend this machine to anyone who likes their coffee to pack a punch.
We found similar results after steaming milk as well — while it held its form, it wasn’t as dense as it could have been. However, while the overall performance was somewhat average, operation couldn’t be much more straightforward. And with the attachments being easy to remove and clean (the LatteGo parts can even go in the dishwasher), it’s a nice offering if you value simplicity above all.
How we tested the best espresso machines
We tested every espresso machine for ourselves, factoring in different types and styles to suit different circumstances. We brewed a selection of beverages, considering the speed and efficiency of the process and the flavor of the result. We also made a note of any strengths and weaknesses of the model, including the effectiveness of the milk frother and the ease of filling and emptying the grounds. As a result, we can say with confidence that that this list accurately reflects the performance of each machine. These are the best espresso machines you will find.
How to choose the best espresso machine
Selecting the best espresso machines for you comes down to 3 considerations: how much space you have in your kitchen, the size of your budget, and how much work you want to put into the brewing process.
Below we describe the four types of machines so you can decide which is best for you.
Manual: These handsome and expensive machines have a lever that you pull to deliver a shot of espresso. With a manual espresso maker, you have complete control and can produce your ideal cup but also have the best chance of messing up. We think that they’re best left to professionals or serious coffee connoisseurs.
Semiautomatic: This type, which has an electric pump is the most popular. It allows you to do the grinding and tamping yourself but the motor gives consistent flow and pressure. You control the quantity of espresso in your cup by stopping the extraction process. Most semiautomatics have a steam wand or other mechanism for heating and frothing milk and some have a built-in grinder as well. Those without a grinder are generally the most compact and least expensive. You can find a good machine in this category for under $500.
Fully Automatic: With a fully automatic espresso maker, even the amount of water is determined by the machine. All you have to do is fill it with beans and press a button and the machine delivers your drink of choice whether it’s an espresso or a latte macchiato. Many do give you the opportunity to customize the grind, the temperature, the strength, and/or the amount to your liking. Virtually all feature steamers and burr grinders. Because they have so many features these machines will take up the most space in your kitchen and come with the highest price tags.
Capsule: The machines provide the ultimate convenience. You pop a capsule in, press a button and you get a cup of espresso topped with a layer of crema. The only thing you have to do is keep a supply of coffee capsules on hand and fill the tank with water. Choose from a variety of configurations and models with and without on-board frothers or steaming wands. Capsule espresso makers aren’t cheap but won’t set you back as much as a fully automatic model.
Other features to consider
In shopping for an espresso maker, you’ll also hear a lot about Bar Pump Pressure. An espresso machine requires pressure to extract flavor from finely ground coffee. The pressure in pump machines is measured in bars or units of atmospheric pressure. Although 8 to 9 bars is considered sufficient, most machines, including all of our best espresso machines, have at least 15-bar pumps.
In addition to the built-in conveniences mentioned above, like burr grinders and steam wands, many espresso machines also come with some added accessories, like scoops and tampers to get your measurements just right. All of these extras and more are highlighted in our selections above.
Espresso machine FAQs
Is an espresso machine worth it?
If you want the freedom to experiment with nearly everything about your coffee's brewing process, an espresso machine is absolutely worth it. Even if you're a beginner looking to produce cafe-style drinks from the comfort of your own kitchen, there's plenty of value in an all-in-one home setup. These days, the best espresso machines pack a wide range of features but also cater to varying skill levels, so you can gradually grow more confident in experimenting over time.
If, however, you just want a simple cup of coffee and don't have time to grind your own beans, fill your brew basket, tamp, pre-infuse, and froth your milk, then it might be worth sticking with a drip machine or pod coffee maker. There is a little extra effort involved when brewing from an espresso machine, not including the sometimes fiddly cleaning schedule.
How do you maintain an espresso machine?
To ensure that your espresso machine functions well for as long as possible, it must be regularly maintained and kept clean. There are a few main areas to look for:
Over time, minerals and sediments can build up inside the water tubes in your espresso machine, which will lessen the amount of water that can get though. It's important to know how to descale a coffee maker to remove this buildup.
Most espresso machines will have a drip tray that catches excess water and coffee grounds. You should clean this out regularly to avoid bacteria from growing in the water.
If you make a lot of lattes or cappuccinos, chances are you're using the steam function on your espresso machine. You should wipe this clean after each use to prevent milk residue from accumulating and hardening.
Used coffee grounds
Some espresso machines will deposit used coffee grounds in an internal storage area, while others will require you to dispose of the grounds after each use. Instead of throwing the grounds in the trash, use them in your garden: they're great for composting.
When should you replace an espresso machine?
The best espresso machines typically come with a one or two year warranty and stay in operation anywhere from 7 to 10 years. As you would expect, an expensive fully automatic model will last the longest. When you buy a machine, don’t spring for an extended warranty. It’s unlikely that it will cost less than repairing your machine during its lifetime.
Among the things you’ll notice when your machine breaks down is that stops building up pressure or your espresso doesn’t come out as hot as it used to. These problems could be indicative of a faulty pump or heating element that isn’t worth fixing. If you bring it in for a repair and are quoted a price that is over 50% of the cost of a new unit, we recommend buying a replacement. To keep your machine in good working order as long as possible, be sure to clean your coffee maker thoroughly. Defer to the instruction manual for this, as well as information on regular maintenance on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.
When you buy a new espresso machine, you’ll also find features available that aren’t offered on older models. Electronic displays, hot water spouts, and frothed milk dispensers are now common. Steam wands have been improved so that they are easier to use and give better foaming. Whether you like the convenience of premeasured pods of coffee or want a machine that grinds beans for each dose of coffee, you can now find more machines to meet your needs.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are still rarely available on espresso machines with the exception of smart coffeemakers from Nespresso. They allow you to control the machine and get alerts when you’re running low on capsules on an app on your mobile device.
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