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You don’t have to be a java snob to enjoy the morning ritual of making coffee. The best home espresso machines offer much more than a basic brew, which is why they appeal to both newbies and budding baristas looking to take their caffeine devotion to the next level.
Of course, the best home espresso and coffee makers can vary as much as your local cafe’s drink menu — so whether you’re looking to pull the perfect double shot or want to whip up a homemade latte, you’ll want to invest in a machine that’s just right for your needs. That’s why it’s good to know some of the basics when it comes to the types of espresso machines and their features and benefits.
What Makes a Good Espresso Machine?
You can have all of the coffee maker bells and whistles, but they won’t do your cup of joe good if you don’t use them. To make espresso, you’ll need to grind your beans and tamper the grounds into the portafilter. And if you want to add lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, and other drinks to your menu, you’ll also need a milk steamer or frother. Here’s what to keep in mind before you buy an espresso machine for home.
Budget: Are you willing to put down a pretty penny for a high-end appliance, or do you prefer to start basic to ensure you’re committed to your coffee cause? Home espresso machines can vary from under $100 for a decent one to upwards of $500 and even $2000 and beyond. You’ll also want to consider how much you’ll be spending on ingredients, including the beans, milk, and sweetener. You may also need to buy additional accessories such as a grinder, tamper, frother, and frother pitcher (to name just a few extras) if they’re not included in the machine. Then, compare your annual costs of buying your beverages to-go versus making them at home.
Time: You’ll want to think about how much time and effort you really want to devote to your coffee habit. If you like to keep your routine simple with a single or double shot, you might find you don’t need an all-in-one machine with a built-in frother. But if you’re ready to expand your repertoire to cappuccinos and beyond, a “prosumer” option might be a worthwhile investment that pays for itself.
Maintenance: Your espresso machine will need to be cleaned regularly. Things like removable drip trays, built-in grinders, and the portafilter (the handled accessory that holds your coffee grounds during brewing) are all things that need care and cleaning, so keep that in mind too.
Types of Espresso Machines
You can go with a steam-driven option like a stovetop or electric espresso maker (which don’t require any moving parts), or you can go with the more popular pump-driven machine. Below are some of the most common types of pump-driven appliances:
Manual Pump: If you’re looking for a truly hands-on experience, go with an electricity-free option that requires you to manually pump the espresso yourself.
Semi-Automatic Pump: With this type of espresso maker, it’s on you to grind the beans, tamp the grounds into the portafilter, turn the machine on, and turn it off when your shot is ready.
Automatic Pump: This type of machine will do the brewing for you, but you’ll also need to grind your beans and tamp them down first. You won’t need to stand by as it will automatically turn off when your espresso is done.
Super-Automatic Pump: If you’re looking for an all-in-one appliance that handles everything from grinding and tamping to the entire brewing process, this type of machine is for you — but be ready to make an investment.
What to Look for in a Home Espresso Machine
Single vs. double boiler: An espresso machine with a single boiler means you can’t brew coffee and steam milk at the same time; rather, you’ll pull your shot first, wait for the broiler to heat up again, and then steam (or vice-versa). A double boiler lets you cut down on time and do both simultaneously.
Burr grinder: The first step to making espresso is finely grinding whole coffee beans, and that’s where a burr grinder comes in. The best ones will ensure an even grind so that your espresso has the best crema (that decadent top layer of oils and fats) and flavor.
Frother or steam nozzle: Whether you’re concocting a classic cappuccino with dairy milk or an oat milk latte, you’ll need a frother for that. Some espresso machines come with a built-in steam frothing wand, but not all include a frothing pitcher.
Tamper: This handy tool will help press your coffee grounds down evenly.
Automatic and manual settings: Presets are great when you want consistency and are short on time. For those who want a more personalized cup, manual settings will let you customize your coffee strength and more.
What Are the Best Espresso Machines?
Whether you’re a beginner home barista or you’re ready to become your household’s resident espresso expert, keep reading to shop some of our top home espresso machine picks.
1. Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine
For home brewers ready to take their java up a notch, Breville’s Barista Express espresso maker is an excellent and versatile choice. From customizable settings to convenient presets, this semi-automatic machine is easy to use for all skill levels and perfect for beginners.
Besides its sleek stainless steel housing, we love the built-in conical burr grinder (which can be adjusted to your preferred grind size), the 360-degree swivel steam nozzle, and the interface that allows you to see everything from the brew volume to the water pressure and temperature. All of this means it really doesn’t get any easier to pull the perfect espresso shot: You can automatically “load” the right amount of grounds into your portafilter and choose between one or two cups.
Other great features include the cup-warming tray, a hot water outlet for whipping up Americanos, a cleaning alert, a storage tray for accessories, and energy-saving automatic turn-off and sleep modes. It also comes with a frothing pitcher and four filters: two dual-wall and two single-wall.
2. Flair Manual Press Espresso Maker
If “less is more” is your coffee mantra, this professional-quality manual espresso press by Flair will give you complete control over your pull. So long as you have a good burr grinder (sold separately) and quality dark roast beans, this machine will give you a great 40-milliliter espresso with the perfect crema.
This machine has a detachable brewing head for easy cleaning. It also features a sleek, built-to-last design that’s also quite eye-catching in any kitchen or coffee corner. The unit also comes with a padded carrying case, making it travel-friendly.
3. De’Longhi Dinamica Automatic Espresso and Coffee Machine
You’ll have an espresso, latte, or cappuccino in minutes with De’Longhi’s super-automatic machine. It comes with a built-in burr grinder with 13 settings, or you can use your own pre-ground beans in the second chamber. In addition to selecting from automatic single or double brewing options, you can also customize the espresso strength, size, and temperature to your tastes.
Even if you’re more of an iced coffee drinker, this machine’s got you covered: with De’Longhi’s “True Brew” technology, the Dinamica crafts smooth, full-bodied iced coffee that will never taste watered down. For hot coffee, though, what we really like is that it features a built-in manual steam wand that can be adjusted to your milk preferences — meaning you’ll have the perfect foam for a flat white, macchiato, latte, and more. Your favorite settings can even be programmed into the machine for easy brewing in the future.
If you’re looking for a more affordable version, De’Longhi has a highly-rated 15 bar Pump Espresso Maker. The compact, countertop espresso and cappuccino maker sets up in seconds and is one of the easiest ways to make cafe-quality espresso drinks at home.
At under $150 right now, it’s also one of the best-values too. We’ve been using the 15 Bar Pump for our morning cup of Joe and an afternoon pick-me-up, and it delivers perfect pressure and extraction every time. Even generic store-bought beans taste more flavorful and fuller bodied when run through this machine. The included milk frother is super simple to use and works well to heat up both regular milk and alternative milks as well (we’re partial to oat milk). This makes a great gift too!
4. Staresso Portable Espresso Machine
If portability is of utmost importance, consider a portable espresso machine like this one by Staresso. Weighing less than a pound, this compact coffee maker takes ground beans or Nespresso pods and it’s a great option for on-the-go, camping, or even at home. Thanks to its slim design, it’s ideal for kitchens where space is tight.
This manual coffee maker is pretty straightforward. To make your espresso, just add your grounds or pod, pour hot boiling water into the chamber, and press down on the pump. We like that the device also doubles as a milk frother.
What’s also great about this travel-friendly appliance is its modular design, which makes it easy to clean.
5. Nespresso by Breville VertuoPlus Deluxe Coffee and Espresso Machine
If you want the time-saving convenience of pre-measured pods but enjoy crafting custom coffee creations, you can get the best of both worlds with Nespresso’s VertuoPlus coffee and espresso machine. It heats up in as little as 25 seconds and has an automatic one-button brewing function for five different cup sizes, meaning your java will be ready in about a minute.
It also comes with an Aeroccino 3 frother so you can easily make lattes, cappuccinos, and other milk-based coffee beverages.
Measuring 11 inches wide by 15.5 inches high by 14.75 inches deep, the appliance doesn’t take up a ton of space and the attached 1.2L water reservoir can be arranged to fit your counter setup.
6. Krups 15 Bar Pump Espresso and Coffee Maker
This two-cup espresso and coffee maker by Krups is a great entry-level option. Its removable 1.5-liter water tank is located in the back, so the appliance is great for counters with limited space.
You can pull a single or double shot with this machine, and the steam nozzle allows you to heat and froth milk for cappuccinos, lattes, and more drinks. There’s also a cup warmer to ensure temperature consistency.
Note that this is a semi-automatic unit, so you’ll need to keep a close eye and turn it off when your espresso is done.