Why I'm Skipping Starbucks for This Little Espresso Machine

You can keep your Starbucks. I've been testing the Illy Y5 espresso machine ($299), and it's become my go-to for a quick shot of caffeine. Regular coffee just doesn't cut it for me anymore. I need that jolt that you can get only with a ristretto or lungo, and the Y5 delivers that eye-opening pop.

First off, the machine looks great. It's got a very modern, minimalist design — basically one small rectangle perched atop another. Its 28-ounce reservoir is translucent, so you can see when it needs to be refilled (which will be often if you're using the device to make full-size cups of coffee).

The Y5 makes both espresso and regular coffee using small plastic capsules. What differentiates this machine from other, nonsmart espresso makers is that you can control it from your smartphone, adjusting things such as the water temperature and the size of your brew. When you settle on a formula you like, you can save it in the app. Weirdly, while the Y5 has a scheduling feature, it's just a reminder for you to start the machine. The Y5 won't start brewing by itself at your scheduled time. A little more autonomy — as well as Alexa or Google Assistant integration — would go a long way here.

Making an espresso takes about 15-20 seconds on this device. But, annoyingly, it takes a few minutes for the machine to wake up and get ready — which is why a real scheduling feature would come in handy.

Not surprisingly, the Y5 uses only Illy coffee, but that's not a bad thing; after all, millions of Italians can't be wrong. The espresso that comes out of the machine tastes great and has that nice layer of crema on top — an absolute must. The Y5's regular coffee, though, was on the weak side.

A replacement can of 21 capsules costs about $17, depending on the blend you prefer (Illy offers several varieties), which works out to about 80 cents a cup. That's pricey compared to other espresso pods (Illy's ESE pods sell for about 63 cents each, while a 150-pack of Lavazza ESE pods is half that), but cheap when you consider that a single shot of espresso at Starbucks costs $2.45. Assuming you drink one espresso per day, you could pay off the machine, plus the price of the capsules, in half a year.

I need that jolt that you can get only with a ristretto or lungo, and the Y5 delivers that eye-opening pop.

Still, the Y5 makes it pretty convenient to order new coffee. You can either do it from the app itself or set it up with the Amazon Dash Replenishment Service, which will automatically order new coffee when your supplies run low.

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You can recycle the capsules, but it's a bit of a process; you have to ship them back to Illy. Still, I like that Illy at least offers this as an option.

Now, the Y5 costs $299, not including the coffee. That'll buy you a lot of frappuccinos. But if you're like me, and want the convenience of making espressos at home and being able to customize them to your liking, a buon gusto!

Credit: Tom's Guide

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.