Espresso Machine Buyers Guide
If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking to get into espresso. Whether you’re a beginner looking for a simple way to make lattes at home or a more advanced lover looking to craft a rich and flavorful espresso drink, you’ll find your needs and wants for an espresso machine in different price points and categories.
Perhaps surprisingly, however, the process of buying an espresso machine is not nearly as difficult as it may seem. The key is to approach it from the right perspective. Begin with an understanding of what you need an espresso machine for, and from there, narrow your search to the machine that is the best fit for you.
Always keep in mind that an espresso machine is a tool, not the maker of magic. If you intend to use your new machine strictly for making espresso, you are unlikely to get much in the way of customization or added features.
However, if you want to take your barista skills to the next level, or simply want to make the most delicious espresso available, then you’ve come to the right place. In this complete guide to buying an espresso machine, we explain what you need to know before making your purchase.
A Little Oompf for Espresso Lovers
You’ve heard of ‘la caffète’, right? If not, let me fill you in.
Espresso is a drink that originated in Italy, where it was known as a ‘caffè’. The Italians have been using the peculiarly-named ‘espresso’ to make espresso for more than a century and now, the word has made its way into the English language. That said, not many people outside of Italy know much about espresso. In fact, many people go their entire lives without ever trying it.
Espresso machines are all the rage right now. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to make your morning coffee, a machine that gives you that authentic Italian cafe experience, or something for the home barista in your life, an espresso machine is a great choice.
What is an Espresso Machine?
An espresso machine, at its most basic level, is a small machine that boils water in order to produce hot steam. The steam then goes through a narrow tube to the end of which is attached to a container holding ground coffee beans. This container, which is called the portafilter, then forces hot water through the grounds and into a pressurized group head. The final output of this process is what we call espresso.
Depending on the type of machine you get, you can change the settings according to your taste and preference. If you’d like an Americano coffee (the shortest amount of time the water goes through the grounds, making the coffee the most concentrated with caffeine) or a caffe latte *the longest time the water goes through the coffee grounds, making the coffee less concentrated with caffeine) depends purely on your taste buds.
Types of Espresso Machines and Which Type Is the Right for You?
There are three things to keep in mind when choosing the finest espresso machine for your needs:
- how much room you have in your kitchen
- how much money you have to spend
- how much time and effort you want to put into brewing
When it comes to coffee, espresso is king. The rich, vibrant flavor of a café quality espresso is unmatched by any other drink and a home espresso machine is a preferred way to make them. There are many different types of espresso makers out there for all budgets and purposes but they can be divided into four categories listed down below.
Manual Espresso Machines
As long as you have manual machines at your disposal, you have total control over every little aspect of the coffee making, from the size of the coffee grounds to the pressure with which the water will run through them, to how good your espresso will taste. They’re better left to pros or serious coffee connoisseurs.
Semi-automatic Espresso Machines
These machines are called semi-automatic machines, as they let you do the grinding and tamping by hand, but the motor ensures a constant flow and pressure throughout the whole process. Stopping the extraction process allows you to fine-tune the amount of espresso in your cup.
While most semiautomatics feature a steamer or equivalent device for heating and frothing milk, some also include a built-in grinder for finely ground beans. Models without a built-in grinder are often the smallest and least priced.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machines
These automatic machines make espresso, latte macchiato, or any other specialty coffee drink you like at the push of a button. The grind, temperature, strength, and/or quantity are all adjusted.
Steamers for frothing milk and coffee grain grinders are almost universally available in automatic machines. With so many functions these home espresso machines take up more room in your kitchen and have more expensive price tags than other models.
If you like your coffee a certain way and want to start brewing yourself a perfect cup every morning, this type is the best for you as it does not require a lot of skill. However, be prepared to make some compromises with the counter space!
Capsule Espresso Machines
To make espresso with machines that use capsules, all you have to do is put in a capsule and click the button. This espresso maker is a pretty straightforward machine, as you put the capsule in, push the button, and out comes perfect espresso every time.
Keeping a supply of coffee capsules on hand and filling the tank with water is all that is required.
An important consideration is that these espresso makers do not have the possibility to make espresso out of fresh beans, as they do not have a separate grinder and can only use capsules.
Types of Espresso Drinks You Can Make
If you’ve ever had a macchiato, an Americano, a cappuccino, or a latte, then you’ve already tried one of the many different types of espresso drinks.
But what are they, exactly? And why choose one over the other?
Plain good espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely-ground, dark-roasted coffee beans with a short brew time. The result is a dense and concentrated beverage with a full-bodied flavor. It’s often served in small cups that are sipped slowly. If you need a caffeine fix, this is your best bet.
A latte is made by steaming milk and pouring it into espresso shots over ice cubes. This creates a creamy texture and rich flavor without needing to use sugar or flavored syrup. It’s perfect for those who want a sweeter drink without the added calories from sugar or heavy cream. You can also master latte art to impress your friends and make your mornings more enjoyable!
Cappuccinos are made by frothing milk like for lattes, but then adding espresso shots on top to create an even richer flavor profile than just straight lattes. They’re usually topped with sweet cinnamon sprinkled on top for extra flair!
Sweet, nutty, and full of flavor, a cup of Cuban coffee is a delightful treat. After a meal, it is traditionally offered as a dairy-free substitute for ice cream. You can create it by pouring a thick coating of sugary crema (instead of froth milk) on top of a powerful shot of espresso.
Caramel Irish coffee is a decadent, boozy, creamy, and caffeinated twist on standard Irish coffee. This drink has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that makes it irresistible even on hot summer days! Just add any Irish Cream, like Baileys, and a dash of caramel topping to your cappuccino or latte, and you’re good to go!
Barista Skills You Can Learn
An espresso machine is a tool and one you need to learn to wield. The key is to approach it from the right perspective. Not that you need to be a coffee wizard, but you should be familiar with the fundamentals.
If you want a full hands-on approach to your coffee, you’ll want to roast the coffee beans yourself. This affects not just the flavor of the coffee, but also how you brew it. Darker roasted beans, for example, may require a lower heat since they are more deteriorated and prone to bitterness than lighter roasts.
This knowledge of coffee helps you alter the flavor of the finished cup of coffee as the grind size, water temperature, roast level all impact the extraction rate.
There is nothing better than a cup of coffee with a splash of steamed milk. However, you want to prevent scorching the milk while getting a beautiful texture. Everything from the position of the steam wand to the pace of the pour plays an important role. There is a difference in how you hold the pot in which you are steaming the milk, depending if you want it to have more consistency as a froth, or simply be creamy steamed milk.
You’ll need some practice, but once you find your own pace and angle, you’ll rarely make coffee any other way except the preferred way!
Just don’t forget to clean your machine, grinder, filter and steam wand after every use, to keep the machine working for longer!
Our Top Picks for Espresso Machines
Of all the automatic espresso machines you’ll find on the market, we’ve picked some of our favorite espresso makers, based on the price, the size, and the bonuses it has such as a built-in grinder, steaming wand and the ability to make a perfect cup every time.
One of the best epsresso machines has to be The Breville Barista Pro. It is one of the best home espresso machines . It has a built-in grinder, and rapid heat up time, as well as a milk frother, making it easier to make professional-quality drinks at home. It’s an automatic espresso maker that will leave you breathless.
However, there are a lot of other automatic espresso machines that have their own pros and cons, so check out our extended list!
Bambino Plus by Breville
Best Espresso machine overall
This automatic espresso machine got on the list of the best espresso machines quite easily. The Breville Bambino Plus reliably delivers high-quality, perfect espresso and provides a superb automated milk frother for that extra professional finishing touch. With a quick three-second heat-up time, you’ll be sipping a delicious cup of coffee in no time at all with this specialized espresso maker.
The customizable pre-infusion settings in this machine are particularly impressive, as is the ability to change the length of the espresso shot. Additionally, the ability to steam luxurious microfoam while still controlling the milk’s temperature and texture was a major selling point.
Some people may be put off by the idea of sacrificing the ability to customize each cup in exchange for the assurance of getting the same rich, textured drink every time, but for the most part, most people will see the tradeoff as well worth it.
Breville Oracle Touch
The Best Premium Espresso Machine
Another Breville espresso maker got a spot on our ‘best automatic espresso machine’ list. Breville’s flagship Oracle Touch can get costly, but you get a machine that’s easy to operate and fitted with a twin boiler so that you can draw a shot and steam milk at the same time.
As soon as you’re done filling up and locking in your portafilter, you can relax and know that the machine is doing its best to extract a precise quantity of flavor from your fresh beans. After each use, the steam wand even cleans itself.
Many of the Oracle Touch’s magic is concealed behind its full-color touch interface with images of coffee cups (a feature guaranteed to impress guests): dosage quantity, water temperature and pressure, as well as steam pressure are all internally adjusted. With this Breville espresso maker, there’s no need for you to hold or move the milk pitcher while it froths, so you don’t have to worry about spills.
Because there are still a lot of factors that you can control, this is one of the finest espresso makers. As far as the grind fineness, temperature, and texture are concerned, you’ll have lots of options to experiment with.
Best professional-grade espresso machine for home use
The Rancilio Silvia looks like a commercial espresso maker thanks to its simple design and stainless steel panel. And you’ll be surprised to know that this model is capable of the same high-quality extraction that a professional barista can provide.
To make an espresso with this machine, you must measure out your own freshly ground beans, tamp it down, and then push and hold the coffee button until the correct amount is in your cup.
So, as you can see, this is a manual espresso machine in a way that it does not own a built in grinder, and you need to keep pushing the button until the desired level of coffee is reached. This is a wonderful option for those who want a hands-on approach to the espresso-making process.
The steam wand on the Silvia is widely regarded as one of the best in its class, thanks to its wide range of motion and the ability to precisely control steam pressure. This makes frothing the milk a breeze.
DeLonghi Stilosa Espresso Machine EC260BK
Best Priced Espresso Machine
When it comes to affordable espresso machines, the DeLonghi Stilosa stands out. Because it’s one of the few entirely manual espresso machines, all of the grinding and measuring, tamping, and frothing must be done by hand. The cup size is adjustable, and you may brew either one or two cups at once, depending on how strong you like your espresso to be. With a stainless steel boiler, this manual epsresso maker is extremely sturdy.
You can fill up the water tank, which contains roughly a quart of water, at the sink so that you can make many cups of espresso.
Compact in size, this appliance won’t take up much room on your counter.
Finally, this is an excellent choice for those who simply want a wonderful cup of coffee and don’t worry too much about fancy features.
DeLonghi Dedica EC680M
The best compact espresso maker
For those with limited counter space, the 6-inch wide DeLonghi Dedica EC680M espresso machine is the ideal option. With a 15-bar pump and a 40-second heating time, this machine packs quite the force for its little stature.
It will only take 12 seconds for the machine to attain the appropriate steam temperatures for foaming if you want a little milk in your coffee drinks. You’ll have to wait between brewing and steaming because this model just has one boiler.
The Dedica’s learning curve isn’t severe because it just has three buttons: one for single shots, another for doubles, and a third for steam. There is no variation in the number of shots it produces.
Nespresso Essenza Mini
Best Mini Espresso Machine
The Nespresso Essenza Mini, which retails for about $150, is one of our top recommendations for a great espresso machine. With a powerful 19-bar pressure, your coffee isn’t going to be light on flavor.
With the Nespresso pod system, the Essenza Mini provides a wide variety of coffees to choose from, making your morning cup of coffee a breeze.
With no customizing choices and a warming-up period of roughly 30 seconds, this is definitely a minimal-frills approach.
However, this is a wonderful low-cost option if you’re a casual espresso drinker who doesn’t want to invest in any commercial machines.
Jura A1 Piano
The best espresso machine with a built-in grinder
The Jura A1 Piano is the espresso machine of choice for true connoisseurs of the coffee. And it does all of this in less than 30 seconds – grinding, leveling tamping, and timing the brew. You may also adjust the volume of your beverage and the amount of ground fresh beans in it to suit your tastes.
This machine, on the other hand, is only for those who appreciate the subtleties of a great cup of crema-topped black coffee. It doesn’t have a steam wand or any other mechanism for heating and foaming the milk to make cappuccinos and lattes.
This Piano features a water tank that can be removed and touch controls that make it simple to fill and program. You’ll also get alerted when it’s time for a descale.
Gaggia Carezza Deluxe
The best-designed espresso machine
The Gaggia Carezza will transport you back to the good old days of la dolce vita with its vintage Italian style. Automatic shutoff and microfoam frothing for barista-style latte art are among the features generally seen exclusively on more expensive semiautomatic machines.
You have to stop the brewing process when the amount of espresso in the cup is to your satisfaction, as this espresso maker isn’t fully automated. You’ll need to draw a shot of espresso before you froth milk, because it has a single boiler for both espresso and milk steaming.
Philips 3200 Series LatteGo
The best espresso machine for lattes
The Philips 3200 LatteGo may be the finest value for money if you have a large budget. It grinds, tamps, and brews your espresso, but it also automatically tops it up with frothy milk.
The frothing chamber and spout of the LatteGo system attach to the front of the appliance. When the shot is ready to be pulled, the machine will have already prepared the milk and dispensed it into your cup for a barista grade drink.
Even though this is a fully automatic espresso machine, as it does everything, you have complete control over the grind, temperature, strength, volume, and brew volume of your coffee.
Aside from the hefty price tag, there aren’t any drawbacks.
Keep in mind that this is a large machine, and the initial setup might be a bit of a challenge.
Nespresso CitiZ & Milk
The best capsule espresso machine
Nespresso CitiZ & Milk produces espresso with a beautiful crema, the frothy head that distinguishes great espresso. When this automatic espresso machine is preparing a cup of coffee, the timer reads the barcode on the recyclable capsules to calculate how long to brew.
Operating this espresso maker couldn’t be simpler, with only two options for espresso and a milder lungo setting: Once you’ve pressed the lever, you may choose your drink.
For those who prefer their beverages a bit more or a little less concentrated, it’s simple to change the settings. The CitiZ has a detachable milk frother on the side that can be used to make frothy milk with the touch of a button.
This machine is tall and slender in stature. It doesn’t take up a lot of counter space, but its gorgeous design makes a statement.
As long as you appreciate the convenience of this sort of machine, you may pick the one that best suits your demands and your sense of style and budget.
Other Aspects To Take Into Account
Bar Pump Pressure Gauge is a term you’ll come across when looking for an espresso machine. Espresso machines use high pressure to extract the flavor from finely ground coffee beans.
Bars or units of atmospheric pressure are used to measure the pressure in pump devices. Many of our best espresso machines feature at least 15-bar pumps, despite the fact that 8 to 9 bars is considered adequate.
To help you create the perfect shot of espresso, many espresso machines come equipped with additional tools like coffee grinders and steam wands to froth the milk with.
Is It Worth Investing in an Espresso Machine?
Espresso machines allow you to experiment with practically every aspect of your coffee’s brewing process. There’s a lot to be gained even if you’re a novice who wants to make cafe-style beverages in the comfort of your own kitchen.
There is a wide variety of possibilities in today’s top espresso machines, so you may progressively gain confidence in trying new things as your skill level increases.
To save time, a drip machine or a coffee pod maker may be your best choice if you’re just looking for an easy cup of coffee and don’t want to deal with the hassle of grinding your own beans and pre-infusing and frothing your milk.
However, professional grade espresso makers require a bit more work and knowledge, not to mention the time it takes to clean it.
When Should You Replace an Espresso Machine?
Most high-quality espresso machines have a one- or two-year guarantee and last for seven to ten years on average. It seems to reason that a costly, fully automated machine will provide the most value for money. But don’t be fooled – manual machines can last just as long if not longer with proper maintenance.
When your espresso machine is close to breaking down, you may notice that it stops producing as much pressure or that the espresso isn’t as hot as it used to be. These issues might stem from a defective pump or heating element.
You should consider getting a new espresso maker if you’re offered a repair charge that’s more than half the cost of a new one.
Make sure to clean your coffee maker properly to maintain it in good operating condition for as long as possible. Consult the user manual for details on how often to do daily, monthly, and annual maintenance.
Final Words: What To Look For When Buying An Espresso Machine
As was noted in the introduction, picking the right machine for you can take some time. This is why we recommend that you keep the following considerations in mind before making an espresso machine purchase:
-Do I want to make espresso at home?
-Do I want a coffee shop quality beverage?
-What are my budget limitations?
-How important is convenience to me?
-Do I want a one or two-cup machine?
-Do I want a steam espresso machine or a pressure/steam machine?
-Do I want to learn barista level skills or just make basic coffee?
If you’ve done your research and answered these questions, then congratulations! Choosing the best product for you should be no problem.
If not, don’t worry. Simply follow our guide and decide whether you need the beginner’s espresso machine or a more high-end state-of-the-art espresso machine that requires a little bit of previous knowledge.
Good luck in finding your perfect match!