Built-in bean grinder gives you control over final product. "Clean Me" light provides helpful reminders. Has great curb appeal as it resembles a café-quality machine. Easy to use and delivers delicious results.
Relatively high-priced, but owners find it to be well worth the extra cost.
The 15-bar pump creates a powerful, flavorful cup of espresso. One-touch controls make it quick and easy to whip up your beverage, so it’s a good choice for beginners. Equipped with an auto shutoff setting that turns off the machine once the foaming cycle completes. Decent price for all the features you get.
Comes with a learning curve, and it's essential to read the manual to learn the ropes.
Classic milk frother. Easy-to-read touch display. Its’ easy to make a perfect espresso, cup of coffee, or milk-based drink thanks to the easy brewing process. Ceramic grinders. Features 12 grinder settings. Uses an AquaClean filter.
Takes up a large amount of counter space.
Equipped with a warming tray to serve drinks at the right temperature. Has an enlarged portafilter to adequately wet the grind for maximum flavor extraction. Designed with a built-in milk frother for making lattes and other specialty café drinks.
Some consumers felt the filter was unusually difficult to access.
Integrates burr coffee grinder and "smart" tamping station for control over quality and freshness. Dual heating action warms water and milk simultaneously. Offers active temperature control as well as three presets. Sports a frothing wand for foam art.
Big and expensive. Requires more manual control.
After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested most of our top five — the De'Longhi La Specialista Prestigio Espresso Machine, the De'Longhi Espresso and Cappuccino Maker, and the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine — to be sure that these products are worth your time. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.
For many people, using an espresso machine in the morning is the next best thing to visiting a barista every day. Since espresso is the foundation for many drinks, such as lattes and cappuccinos, a good espresso maker comes in handy when you want some variety in your morning pick-me-up.
Your choice of a home espresso machine may hinge upon how much work and labor you want to put into the creation of your beverages. Machines range from manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic to super automatic. A machine will either require you to do all the work yourself or automate certain tasks, such as regulating the water pressure, grinding coffee beans, and keeping track of time. Regardless of machine type, the goal is to craft quality espresso with bold flavor.
As we’ve discussed, espresso machines fall into four main categories: semi-automatic, fully automatic, manual, and super automatic espresso machines.
Semi-automatic and fully automatic espresso machines are the most popular types on the market today. This is largely due to their convenience and ease-of-use. Semi-automatic espresso machines deliver even, hands-free water pressure, and the user decides when to turn the pump on and off.Fully automatic espresso machines regulate the amount of water traveling through the machine; users don't control the pump at all.
Manual espresso machines require more labor. The user must manually push water through the machine. Because of this, results can vary. Experienced espresso makers tend to fare well with this type of machine.
Super automatic machines do all the hard work for you. These machines often include high-end features, such as a built-in grinding apparatus.
Although not technically espresso machines, French presses and pour-over coffee makers can be used to make espresso. For the best results, use dark coffee grinds or espresso coffee beans to achieve the bold flavor that is the key feature of espresso brews.
While clever barista pros are always coming up with twists on common coffee staples, the most popular beverages are based on a shot or more of espresso and steamed milk with a layer of foam artistically placed on top.
Cappuccino is among the most popular espresso-based drinks, but with some clever applications of milk and cream, the sky is the limit as to what you can create.
Here’s a look at six of the most popular coffee shop drinks you could be enjoying at home with the help of an espresso machine:
A double espresso with hot milk and a layer of froth or milk foam, cappuccino is often served with cinnamon or nutmeg sprinkled on top.
This is espresso with steamed milk. In some areas of Europe, caffè latte is known as café au lait.
This strong drink is espresso with hot water added to taste.
Literally translated, this Italian culinary delight is espresso with whipped cream.
This is steamed milk mixed in over a double shot of espresso.
Order this if you want espresso with just a dollop of steamed milk.
The six beverages above represent the basics. By adding flavored syrups, chocolate, liqueurs, and even tea, a clever home barista could potentially brew a different espresso drink every day of the week.
For the best tasting espresso, make sure your machine’s portafilter, filter basket, and group head are clean and free of old coffee grounds that could cause new brews to take on a bitter flavor.
The ideal espresso is rich, smooth, velvety, and strong. Creating the perfect cup is an art that requires some trial and error.
The steps may vary slightly by machine, but here’s a general list of procedures to follow:
If you’re taking an espresso shot, pour the dark goodness into a six-ounce cup and enjoy.
If you’re making a cappuccino, pour the coffee into a slightly larger cup and froth milk. Layer on the steamed milk and top with some froth.
Different espresso machines perform in different ways. Some machines make multiple servings while others brew just one cup at a time. Some machines allow you to prepare more than one type of drink at a time. The size and power of an espresso machine correlate with its required power supply.
In terms of maintenance, more complex machines tend to require more cleaning. Accessories like pumps, boiler setups, and thermostats usually forecast the amount of cleanup and maintenance that will be required over time. Buyers should be aware that machines with plastic outer coatings can crack with repeated use, leading to the need for expensive repairs or even replacement.
Although espresso machines differ from standard coffee makers, they do essentially the same thing: they create rich, dark coffee. But individual models differ in their “ease of use” when it comes to brewing espresso and the amount of control they offer the home barista.
How much espresso do you want to make at once? The size of your machine’s water reservoir impacts the quantity you can produce. The market offers models with tanks large and small. Some models include a filter that removes impurities from the water. What’s more, some machines have a removable water tank for quick and easy refilling.
Plenty of espresso machines on today’s market can accommodate “regular” beans, but some machines require specially designed pods. For example, Keurig machines accept pods that are called K-Kups.
You’ll also notice that some espresso machines have a built-in burr grinder that allows you to create the perfect grind size. However, others require you to grind your beans elsewhere. If you choose an espresso machine that doesn’t have a bean grinder, investing in a stand-alone model is an easy and inexpensive solution.
The amount of time it takes a machine to reach the perfect temperature depends on its heating element. High-end machines from the likes of Breville and Keurig often reach their ideal temperature in less than 10 minutes. However, machines from other manufacturers may take longer.
Most quality espresso machines can produce frothy steamed milk to top off coffee brews. While some models have built-in milk frothers, others have a steam wand. Both types of frothers heat the milk, resulting in its frothy finish. Once an espresso beverage is ready, the frother or steam wand is made to deposit the froth into the hot brew for delicious results.
Decanters with measuring marks, cool-touch handles, and removable drip trays are just a few of the other features you may wish to consider before making a purchase. Read on to learn more about the particular features offered by each product in our product list.
After frothing milk, add it to an espresso beverage immediately so the crema is warm, foamy, and ready to enjoy.
After choosing the best espresso maker for your needs, consider a few accessories that you may need to make the most out of your purchase so you can create delicious coffee beverages with ease.
This machine offers you control over the consistency of your coffee grind. Consider a burr grinder if uniformity and flavor matter to you when you grind your own coffee beans.
An espresso tamper is the perfect accessory for preparing coffee grounds for espresso brewing. This handheld tool gives you precise control over the grinds before the espresso is made.
You’ll find great espresso machines from established brands in this price bracket. Machines in this range often boast automated features and versatility.
If you want to be daring, you could purchase a stovetop espresso maker for under $25 and take the “old school” approach to creating espresso. The process required here is as simple as automatic machines, but the principle is the same: You heat water through finely ground coffee. This approach isn’t for amateurs, but it can be a fun experience.
A high-quality espresso maker could cost up to $600. If this price gives you pause, consider that a 16-ounce cappuccino from a coffee shop costs around $4. That means that after 150 drinks at home, you’d break even on the cost of the machine.
Premium espresso machines that make gourmet brews can be pricey, with some costing $1,000 or more. As we mentioned, the cost of buying coffeehouse beverages can add up, so an expensive machine will pay for itself over time. What’s more, if you are a dedicated coffee connoisseur, think of a luxury espresso maker as an investment in making your favorite beverages from the comfort of your home.
Most espresso machines are versatile. In addition to making espresso, they can also brew cappuccino, latte, macchiato, and other coffee-based beverages.
There are many quality espresso machines on the market with features to suit different needs. In addition to the models on our shortlist, we found several other quality machines that impressed us.
The Wirsh 15-bar Espresso Machine has a trim design that fits nicely on small countertops. Its sleek stainless steel construction gives it an appealing appearance. The Jura D6 Automatic Coffee Maker is a premium model with proprietary Pulse Extraction technology that produces rich, full-bodied espresso, cappuccino, and other coffee beverages.
The affordable Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker uses an immersion brewing process to produce delicious brews with minimal effort. Finally, pro coffee brewers will appreciate the commercial quality of the Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine. It’s surprisingly easy to use despite its advanced features that include single and double shot baskets and rocker switch controls.
A. After every brewing session, run a shot of water through the machine to keep it clean. Sediment can build up through repeated use. Wipe the exterior of the machine to keep it clean and looking great.
If your machine permits it, you should also perform a clean water backflush every 10 to 15 shots. This requires you to put a stopper in your portafilter to reverse the water flow.
A. It’s a powerful combination of espresso and strong drip coffee. It can be drunk with or without milk or creamer.
A. Seattle’s first espresso bar was Cafe Allegro, located near the University of Washington. The owners worked with Starbucks to create the company’s original espresso blend.