If you're looking to experiment with high quality coffee, picking up one of the best espresso machines on the market is an excellent investment. Not only will you have plenty of control over your brew, but you'll also be in a far better position to accurately taste a range of blends, brew styles, and drink types.
More and more at-home baristas are turning to the best espresso machines for a break from coffee shop prices. However, the feature sets on machines designed for beginners can vary from those aimed at professionals. If you're looking to outfit your kitchen with a premium espresso machine, it's worth making sure you're picking up a machine designed for your skill level.
That said, the vast majority of machines can offer silky smooth coffee without you having to learn the ins and outs of pre-infusion, grind sizes, and tamping pressure. The best espresso machines combine all the benefits of the best coffee makers - they're reliable, easy to use and maintain, produce high quality coffee and look phenomenal. Plus they can save you all those trips down to the coffee shop.
The best espresso for you will be determined by how you like to drink and make your coffee. Do you want to be hands-on by measuring and tamping coffee you ground yourself? Or would you rather push a button and let the machine do all the hard work. Do you just want straight coffee or do you need a steaming wand to heat and froth milk for the times you want a latté or cappuccino? There's something for everyone, and we're bringing you all the best espresso machines you can buy right now.
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The best espresso machines you can buy today
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 more: Breville / Sage Bambino Plus review
The DeLonghi Stilosa offers one of the best espresso machines at this price point. It’s a completely manual machine, which means you have to do the grinding, measuring, and tamping, as well as the frothing yourself. However you can adjust the cup size according to how intense you like your espresso, brew into a travel mug, and make either 1 or 2 cups at once. And the boiler is constructed of stainless steel, making this a highly durable machine.
The water tank holds about a quart of water or enough for many cups of espresso and can be removed from the machine to be filled at the sink. Thanks to its compact size this machine won’t hog too much of your precious countertop space. All in all, this is a great model if you want a really good cup of coffee and don’t care too much about lots of bells and whistles.
You'll pay a premium for the all-in-one convenience of Breville's flagship Oracle Touch, but you'll get a supremely easy to use machine equipped with a double boiler so you can pull a shot and steam milk simultaneously. Fill up the half-pound hopper with beans, lock in the portafilter, and the machine takes care of the rest, precisely grinding and tamping your preferred roasted beans, then extracting a judicious amount of flavor with the consistency of a professional. The steam wand even self-cleans itself between sessions.
A lot of the magic of the Oracle Touch is hidden behind its full-color touch interface with pictures of coffee drinks to choose from (a feature sure to impress guests); dose amount, water temp and pressure, and steam pressure are all internally optimized. Set the milk pitcher under the nozzle and it froths without any need for you to hold the pitcher and move it around. What makes this one of the best espresso machines, however, is the fact that there are still plenty of variables for you to dial in. From grind fineness to temperature and texture, there's plenty to tinker with, and you'll also get the option of saving up to eight settings into memory.
Coming in under $150, the Nespresso Essenza Mini offers one of the more affordable devices in our top picks of the best espresso machines. However, you're not skimping on the richness of your coffee here, with an impressive 19-bar pressure on offer.
The Essenza Mini takes all the hassle out of your morning shot of coffee, using the Nespresso pod system to offer up a massive range of blends and beans. It's certainly a no-frills approach, with no customization options and a slightly longer warm up time of around 30 seconds. However, if you're a casual espresso enjoyer and don't want to invest in a barista-grade piece of kit, this is an excellent budget alternative.
You'll find plenty more of the best Nespresso machines in our dedicated roundup as well.
Its no-nonsense style and stainless-steel panel give the Rancilio Silvia the look of a commercial machine in miniature. And indeed, this model is capable of the kind of superb extraction you expect from a professional barista. It’s a great choice for anyone who likes a hands-on approach to the espresso-making process as you have to measure out your own coffee, tamp it down in the filter, and then after pressing the coffee button, stop brewing when your desired amount is dispensed into your cup. The Silvia comes equipped with a steam wand that’s considered one of the best in its class, as it offers a complete range of motion and you can adjust steaming pressure in granular increments.
The model has gone through various improvements over the years. On the current one, there’s an improved, more ergonomic portafilter handle similar to the ones on Rancilio's higher-priced commercial machines. What you don’t get are some of the conveniences found on more consumer-oriented machines like a reservoir that you can fill at the sink and a water spout for easily making tea or Americanos. If you want hot water you need to use the steam wand.
Getting a coffee beverage from the Saeco PicoBaristo Super-Automatic Espresso Machine just might require less effort than giving an order to a barista. All you have to do is press one button on the LED screen for anything from an espresso to a flat white to a latte macchiato and the machine automatically does everything from grinding the beans to frothing the milk. You even have the option of customizing the strength of your espresso and the temperature and volume of your milk.
The PicoBaristo heats up fast and after brewing, it practically cleans itself. Push a button and it rinses out the milk carafe. A special filtration system minimizes scale build up inside the machine, so you have less maintenance to perform. As you would expect, all this automation does not come cheap. And you should be prepared to give it a big chunk of space in your kitchen.
A space-saving, 6-inch wide design makes the DeLonghi Dedica EC680M the best espresso machine for anyone with limited countertop space. Despite its diminutive size, this machine houses a powerful 15-bar-pressure pump and roars up to brewing temps in just 40 seconds. If you like a little milk with your coffee-based drinks you’ll only have to wait 12 seconds for the machine to reach optimal steam temperatures for frothing. CNet found it produces "exceptionally flavorful lattes and cappuccinos." Because this is a single-boiler model, you will have to wait between brewing and steaming.
With just three buttons — one for single-shots, another for doubles and a third for steam — the learning curve for the Dedica isn’t steep. The machine dispenses consistent single and double shots. If you don’t want to bother grinding your own beans or even scooping pre-ground coffee, you have a third and more convenient option: popping in Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) pods.
Using recyclable aluminum capsules, the Nespresso CitiZ & Milk churns out espresso with a picture-perfect topping of crema, the frothy head that's the hallmark of a true espresso. It works by reading the barcode on the recyclable capsules to determine the proper brewing time. With just two settings for an espresso and a less intense lungo, operating this machine couldn’t be more convenient: You press down a lever and select your beverage. If you like your drinks a little more or less concentrated, you can easily reprogram the settings. On the side of the CitiZ, there’s a removable milk frother that also operates with the push of a button and excels at creating foamy milk.
This machine is tall and sleek. While it doesn’t occupy too much space on your countertop, it does make a statement with its beautiful design. Other Nespresso machines that work exactly the same way are available, but offer different styling and features. If you like the convenience of this type of machine, you can choose whichever appeals to your needs, sense of design, and budget with the confidence that you’ll get a great shot of espresso. With any Nespresso, you will have to keep a stock of capsules on hand and at about 70 cents a pop they’re not inexpensive.
With its retro-Italian design, the Gaggia Carezza will give you a taste of la dolce vita. This machine boasts a range of features normally found only on higher priced, semiautomatic machines: professional-grade filter baskets, automated moistening of the grounds for optimal extraction, a steam wand that gives microfoam frothing for barista-style latte art and automatic shut-off. However, it’s not fully automatic, so it’s up to you to stop the brewing process when the amount of espresso in the cup is to your liking. A single boiler heats water for both espresso and for steaming milk so you’ll have to pull a shot before you froth milk.
Reviewers at Good Housekeeping reported that Carezza produced "technically near-perfect espresso test after test," gracing every pull with rich color, full-body, and a thick layer of crema. The Good Housekeeping team did run into problems while steaming milk, but other reviewers were able to produce milky microbubbles for latte art after removing the wand attachment.
The Jura A1 Piano is an espresso aficionado's machine. It grinds, levels, tamps, and times the brew to consistently give excellent results — and all in under 30 seconds. You have the option to customize the amount of ground coffee and the volume of your beverage to suit your personal preferences as well. However, this machine is strictly for people who appreciate the nuances in a fine cup of crema-topped black coffee. Because it doesn’t have a steam wand or other mechanism for heating and frothing milk for cappuccinos and lattes.
This Piano has a removable water tank and touch controls that make it easy to fill and program. It also comes with a water filter and has a cycle to alert you when it’s time to descale. Like its musical namesake, this is a sleek and beautiful machine with a gleaming black finish. It’s also available in white.
If you have a big budget, the Philips 3200 LatteGo just might be the best bang for your buck. Not only does it grind, tamp, and brew, it tops your espresso with foamy milk automatically. The innovative LatteGo system consists of a frothing chamber with a spout that hooks onto the front on the appliance. Before it pulls a shot, the machine whips up milk in the container and dispenses it into your cup. After you’re finished you can pop the LatteGo parts in the dishwasher. While the machine does all the work, you have the option to customize the grind of your beans and the temperature, strength, and quantity of your brew. Best of all, testers rave about the quality of the coffee and the fact that even a cappuccino is delivered in under a minute.
We had trouble coming up with downsides, aside from the premium price. It doesn’t have a traditional steam wind which you might miss if you wanted to heat and froth a pitcher of chocolate milk. And keep in mind that this is a big machine and the initial setup is a bit complicated.
How to choose the best espresso machines for you
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.
When to replace your 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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