An espresso machine may not rank among the most essential of kitchen appliances, but if you like to start your day by sipping a double shot, a machine engineered to optimally extract flavor from your favorite bag of roasted beans can deliver one of life's pleasures by the cupful. Beyond producing flavorful espresso at a reasonable price, the best espresso machine should be reliable, easy to use and simple to maintain, and it should not be an eyesore in the kitchen.
Based on our research, the best espresso machine overall is the Breville Bambino Plus, which makes consistently good coffee, and at around $500, isn't too high a price for a doppio in the morning.
There are a few new notable machines on the market: Nespresso's new Essenza Plus ($150) offers four serving sizes and a one-touch button for reordering capsules.
Also out: The Philips 3200 Series Espresso Machine with LatteGo ($799) is an automatic espresso machine that makes coffee, espresso, Americano, cappuccino and latte macchiato and allows for customization of coffee strength, volume, and amount of milk. It claims to offer the easiest to clean milk system available, with only two parts that can be popped in the dishwasher.
If you're looking for a more general-purpose java brewer, be sure to check out our guide for the best coffee makers.
Here are the eight best espresso machines available today for novices and aficionados alike.
1. Breville Bambino Plus espresso machine
A reasonable price, no-fuss design and consistent brews.
Dimensions: 12.6 x 11.8 x 7.7 inches | Materials: Stainless steel | Capacity: 64 fluid ounces | Settings: Control panel: 1 Cup, 2 Cup and Steam buttons; adjustable milk temperature and texture level | Warranty: 2 years, limited | Price: $499.95
As the name implies, the Bambino is small, but despite its size, it's the best espresso machine for the price. It's capable of producing very consistent cups for any barista in training with minimal hassle. Equipped with a 1,560-watt thermacoil, the Bambino is ready in literally seconds with a press of a button, pouring double or single shots from a large, removable 2-liter reservoir that keeps the coffee coming, alongside an autofrothing and temp-sensing steam wand capable of whipping up milk for lattes.
If you enjoy dialing in the taste of your shots, it's worth noting that the Bambino ships with only pressurized dual-wall baskets rather than a nonpressurized portafilter basket. (Some reviewers note that the portafilter can stick after you pull a shot, an issue we've observed on occasion.)
Advanced users may balk at trading customization for consistency, but for most people, the compromise is as minimal as this machine's physical footprint.
2. Breville Oracle Touch espresso machine
This machine does everything well but costs as much as a personal barista.
Dimensions: 17.6 x 14.7 x 14.5 inches | Materials: Brushed stainless steel | Capacity: 84 fluid ounces | Features: Touch-screen operation, over-pressure valve, adjustable grind control, dedicated steam boiler and espresso boiler with digital PID control, 58mm portafilter | Warranty: 2 years, limited | Price: $2,499.95
You'll pay a premium for the all-in-one convenience of Breville's flagship Oracle Touch, but you'll get a supremely simple, semiautomatic machine equipped with a double boiler. Fill up the 0.5-pound hopper, lock in the 58mm 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 between sessions.
A lot of the magic of the Oracle Touch is hidden behind the simplicity of the machine's full-color touch interface (a feature sure to impress guests); dose amount, water temp and pressure, and steam pressure are all internally optimized. There are still plenty of variables for the user to dial in, including grind control, temperature and milk texture, with the option to save up to eight user settings into memory.
If you don't need the convenience of a double-boiler machine to extract and froth at once, look to Breville's Barista Touch, a single boiler model with some (but not all) of the near-commercial-grade capabilities of the Touch Oracle at less than half the price. Still, the Breville Oracle Touch is the best espresso machine for those whom price is no object.
3. Rancilio Silvia espresso machine
A consumer espresso machine with commercial-grade parts.
Dimensions: 13.4 x 11.4 x 9.2 inches | Materials: Stainless steel | Capacity: 67 fluid ounces | Features: Single boiler, commercial-grade pressure-relief system, 58mm-diameter nonpressurized portafilter | Warranty: 1 year, limited | Price: $715
An iron frame and stainless-steel-paneled design make the Rancilio Silvia look like a commercial machine in miniature. And indeed, this semiautomatic machine is capable of superb extraction with nothing more than a touch of a button. It's a simple design for simple (but dependable) operation.
The Silvia is often cited as the best-value semiautomatic espresso machine because of its consistent pour delivered by way of a 15-bar water pump. The articulating steam wand is generally considered one of the best in its class, offering a complete range of motion, and it comes paired with controls to adjust steaming pressure in granular increments.
The model has gone through various iterative improvements over the years, with the latest model equipped with an improved, ergonomic portafilter handle similar to what you find on Rancilio's higher-priced commercial machines. The improved handle, along with a three-way solenoid valve designed to draw moisture out between shots, makes cleanup easy.
4. Delonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica superautomatic espresso machine
A customizable, all-in-one machine with a built-in grinder.
Dimensions: 15.3 x 14.4 x 11 inches | Materials: Plastic casing | Capacity: 60 fluid ounces | Features: 15-bar pump pressure, 8.8-ounce bean hopper with conical low-pitch burr grinder, cup warmer, milk wand | Warranty: 2 years, limited | Price: $516.95
With a built-in, conical burr grinder; tactile controls for dose, volume and brewing; and superautomatic operation (the machine will grind, tamp and brew automatically), the Delonghi Magnifica is a "beans-to-brew" machine selling at a moderate price and lauded for high reliability. The number of dials and buttons may seem daunting at first, but operations are very straightforward, permitting a good deal of control for a superautomatic machine. Flavor can be dialed in with incremental turns of two dials controlling water volume and dosing. This simplifies the making of espresso, cappuccino, Americanos and latte drinks according to preference.
Some users reported issues with dark-roast beans clogging the grinder, requiring the onerous task of agitating the hopper to free up the grounds. So this machine is best used with medium espresso roasts. The molded plastic case mars an otherwise-sleek exterior design.
5. DeLonghi Dedica EC680M espresso machine
A slim espresso maker made for limited counter space.
Dimensions: 13 x 12 x 5.9 inches | Materials: Stainless steel | Capacity: 1 liter | Features: 15-bar pump pressure, 3-in-1 portafilter, manual cappuccino system with panarello steam wand | Warranty: 1 year, limited | Price: $223.95
A space-saving, 6-inch width makes the Dedica the best espresso machine for anyone with limited countertop space. Despite its diminutive size, this machine roars up to brewing temps in an expedient 40 seconds, and it houses a powerful 15-bar-pressure pump. Drinkers who like a little milk with their coffee-based drinks will wait only 12 seconds to reach optimal steam temperatures for frothing, producing "exceptionally flavorful lattes and cappuccinos," according to CNet. Because this is a single-boiler model, you will have to wait between brewing and steaming with the manual frothing wand.
With just three buttons adorning the front — one for controlling single-shot brewing, another for double-shots and a third for steam — the learning curve for the Dedica is mild. It's equipped with an automatic flow stop, dispensing consistent single and double shots, and it automatically goes into standby mode. Drinkers who don't want to bother with grinding their own beans or scooping preground coffee have a third and more convenient option: popping in Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) pods.
6. Mr. Coffee espresso and cappuccino maker | Café Barista
Dimensions: 12.6 x 11 x 8.9 inches | Materials: Plastic | Capacity: 34 ounces | Features: 15-bar pump pressure; semiautomatic 3-in-1 espresso maker, cappuccino maker and latte maker; automatic milk frother | Warranty: 1 year, limited | Price: $199.99
Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. And the lightweight plastic construction and ho-hum industrial design of the Mr. Coffee Café Barista does reflect the lower end of the espresso machine category. Even so, the Café Barista delivers a solid value, making it one of the best espresso machines under $200. It's capable of steaming milk, pulling shots of espresso, and simplifying the process of making lattes and cappuccinos with an integrated milk container (the milk container must be stored in the refrigerator between use). You're better off upgrading to the DeLonghi Dedica listed above if espressos are your primary drink, but if dairy-laden lattes are your love, the Café Barista delivers frothed coffee beverages with user-friendly convenience.
In taste testing, CNet found that the Mr. Coffee Café Barista's 15-bar pressure pump delivered inconsistent shots. Sometimes, this resulted in particularly "intense" pulls exhibiting "a few chocolate notes," while at other times, the pulls were weaker in potency. Richer, more chocolaty roasts benefit this machine. Still, considering that the step-up DeLonghi Dedica costs $100 more, those looking to satiate their latte fix on a budget might overlook this machine's shortcomings. (Mr. Coffee also now sells the One-Touch CoffeeHouse espresso maker, an upgrade with a higher-pressure pump and sturdier build, for $60 more.)
7. Gaggia Carezza
Fun retro-style design and a micro-frothing feature.
Dimensions: 12.75 x 12.5 x 11 inches | Materials: Plastic, ABS and stainless steel | Capacity: 47 ounces | Features: 15-bar vibration pump, boiler temperature gauge, frontal water-tank access, adjustable coffee strength | Warranty: 1 year, limited | Price: $349
The Gaggia Carezza is one of the best espresso machines, graced with a retro-Italian design that signals aspirations of la dolce vita. This machine also comes paired with a range of features normally found only on higher priced, semiautomatic machines: professional-grade filter baskets, automated preinfusion for optimal extraction, microfoam frothing for barista-style latte art and an automatic shut-off feature. A single, dual-use boiler shares duties for heating water for both espresso and steamed milk, with a 15-bar vibration pump delivering pressure to extract optimal flavor from the 18-gram-capacity portafilter basket.
Reviewers at Good Housekeeping reported that Carezza can produce "technically near-perfect espresso test after test," gracing every pull with great color and full-bodied flavor, topped with thick crema. The Good Housekeeping team did run into problems while steaming milk, but other reviewers were able to produce desirable milky microbubbles for latte art after removing the wand attachment.
8. Espressione Concierge
This superautomatic machine does everything with a minimum of input.
Dimensions: 15.7 x 12.6 x 7.1 inches | Materials: Brushed steel | Capacity: 42 ounces | Features: 19-bar pressure pump, LED display, 5.6-ounce bean capacity, LED display | Warranty: 1 year, limited | Price: $492
The superautomatic Espressione Concierge is the epitome of convenience, not only grinding, leveling and tamping from a selection of five grind settings, but also heating up extremely fast, requiring only 22 seconds to start extracting flavor and begin a pour. An integrated steam nozzle sits ready to froth milk to make a latte, cappuccino or macchiato.
Like the Gaggia Carezza, the Concierge prewets ground coffee before brewing to ensure improved infusion before utilizing 19-bar pressure to combine water, heat and grounds in an espresso. But there are no extra user controls to fine-tune flavor beyond the preprogrammed settings.
Epicurious describes the Concierge as "seemingly effortless" to use but still notes that the resulting espresso falls a bit short of "the full flavor and body of a real espresso," a shortcoming of all superautomatic machines.
How we picked
When researching the best espresso machines, we looked for top consumer models as reviewed by sites including Wirecutter, Wired and CNet, as well as coffee specialty sites, Epicurious, vlogs and user discussion boards dedicated to the art of making coffee. From there, we narrowed the list down to eight models, each representing the best combination of features, performance, ease of use, design and value.
Espresso machine buying tips
If you've never shopped for an espresso machine, the terminology specific to the category can seem daunting. Beyond the design and size of any potential espresso machine, here are a few features to look for:
Semiautomatic vs. superautomatic
Most espresso machines require the user to grind, tamp and load a serving of coffee before the process of extraction begins. These are called semiautomatic espresso machines. There are also superautomatic machines — the majority priced north of $1,000 — designed to grind, tamp and pull a shot with the touch of a button. The former offer a greater degree of variable control, the latter convenience.
Bar pump pressure
Unlike drip coffee machines, which require only gravity, heat and time to brew beans into a beverage, an espresso machine requires the additional element of pressure to extract flavor from a finer grind. Most espresso machines today use a motorized pump to produce a certain amount of pressure. The measurement is a bar, one unit of atmospheric pressure. Although 8-9 bars is considered sufficient, most espresso connoisseurs regard 15-bar pump pressure to be an optimal figure.
More and more consumer-grade espresso machines now come equipped with a PID (proportional integral derivative) control, an algorithmically controlled device engineered to incrementally adjust boiler temperatures, resulting in a constant and more accurate temperature control. Though precise temperature stability is desirable, beginners are better served by paying attention to grind size, dosage, tamp pressure and the freshness of their beans.
Pannarello steam wand
If you like to drink cappuccinos and caffe lattes, you'll probably want a machine with a built-in steam wand to froth milk. Usually found sitting on the left side of the machine, the extension forces steam into milk while also gently warming it, resulting in a pillowy foam. A pannarello wand infuses a small amount of air with the steam to improve and speed up the production of microfoam (in theory). The majority of semiautomatic machines under $500 have pannarello adapters, and nearly all superautomatic models employ some form of this microfoam-enhancing technology.