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 3 presets. Sports a frothing wand for foam art.
Big and expensive. Requires more manual control.
A great choice for espresso beginners. Easy cleanup and reassembly. Will save you a lot of money making your own at home.
Not quite as many bells and whistles as other models.
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.
Equipped with a warming tray to serve drinks at the right temperature. Has an enlarged portafilter to adequately wet grounds to extract maximum flavor. 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.
Classic milk frother. Simple-to-read touch display. Easy to make a perfect espresso, cup of coffee, or milk-based drink. Ceramic grinders. Features 12 grinder settings. Uses an AquaClean filter.
Take up a large amount of countertop space.
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 like lattes and cappuccinos, a good maker comes in handy when you want some variety in your morning pick-me-up.
Choosing your espresso machine often depends on how much work and labor you want involved when making your beverage. Ranging from manual, semi-automatic, fully automatic, to super automatic, different machines either require you to do all of the work or automate certain tasks like regulating the water pressure, grinding coffee beans, or keeping track of time.
We've made this handy guide to give you the information you need to buy the best espresso machine for your needs. If you want to avoid spending hours learning about the fine details between different espresso makers, check out our recommendations for the best espresso machines.
Espresso machines fall into four main categories: semi-automatic, fully automatic, manual, and super automatic.
Semi-automatic and fully automatic machines are the most popular types on the market today, largely because of their convenience.
Semi-automatic machines deliver even, hands-free water pressure, and the user decides when to turn the pump on and off.
Fully automatic machines regulate the amount of water traveling through the machine; users don't control the pump at all.
Manual machines require more labor, as 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 and often include features such as a built-in grinding apparatus.
While clever baristas 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, they 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.
Espresso con panna
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 syrups, chocolate, liqueurs, and even tea, a clever home barista could potentially brew a different espresso drink every day of the week.
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:
Obtain some dark-roasted coffee beans. The best varieties hail from Italy.
Grind the beans down to a powder-like consistency.
Pour the espresso into the machine’s portafilter. A portafilter is a handle with a small cup holder at the end.
After the portafilter is filled, use a small, flat-edged device to tamp down, or “flatter,” the grounds.
Attach the portafilter to the gasket, which locks it into place. Turn the portafilter about 20 degrees counterclockwise until it tightens into place.
If you’re taking an espresso shot, pour the dark goodness into a six-ounce cup and enjoy.
If you’re making cappuccino, pour the coffee into a slightly larger cup. 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.
All espresso machines do essentially the same thing: they create rich, dark coffee. But individual models differ in their “ease of use” 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 determines this. The market offers models with tanks large and small. Some machines include a filter that removes impurities from the water.
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.
You’ll also notice that some espresso machines have a built-in bean grinder whereas others require you to grind your beans elsewhere.
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. Machines from other manufacturers may take longer.
Frothing aids, 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.
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’s a fun experience.
A top-notch 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.
Q. How should I care for my espresso machine?
A. After every brewing session, run a shot of water through the machine to keep it clean. Sediment can build up through repeated use.
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.
Q. What is a “Red Eye”?
A. It’s a powerful combination of espresso and strong drip coffee. It can be drunk with or without milk or creamer.
Q. I know that Seattle is the nation’s top coffee-drinking city. Where was its first espresso bar?
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.