Updated: March 30, 2022 by Owen Richardson
Wouldn’t you want to turn your kitchen into an espresso bar and get your shot of deliciousness on demand? Make it happen by simply getting yourself the best espresso machine. In fact, this is exactly what you should do if your wish has been to make espresso or other specialty coffee from the comfort of your kitchen!
But before you get your credit card out, take your time to learn what specs and features to look for, factor in your needs and capabilities, and more importantly, check to see who the leaders are in this space.
That sounds like a lot, huh? Don’t worry. I have done all the legwork for you, and to start you off, I will show you what the best options are based on performance, tests, reviews from fellow coffee lovers, and other factors.
Let’s get started!
Breville Barista Express has succeeded in meeting the needs of amateur coffee lovers as well as those of seasoned coffee connoisseurs. You get a bit of control over the brewing process while the machine does the hard work for you. It’s also quick, fairly priced, and reliable, making it the best buy for home use.
My Best Espresso Machine Reviews
|1. Breville BES870XL Barista Express|
(Best Espresso Machine)
|2. Breville Barista Touch|
(Best for Beginners)
|3. Breville BNV250CRO1BUC1 Vertuo |
(Best Under $300)
|4. Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro|
(Best Italian Machine)
|5. Breville BES878BSS Barista Pro Espresso Machine|
(Best Espresso Machine for Small Business)
|6. Flair Espresso Maker - Classic|
(Best Manual Espresso Maker)
|7. Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine|
(Best Prosumer Machine)
1. Breville BES870XL Barista Express — Best Overall
Breville makes great espresso. It’s also hard not to love the efficiency of their automatic coffee machine. But if you still want to be hands-on, Breville Barista Express has you covered. You can grind your coffee beans to your liking and even customize your steamed milk. And that’s not all; there’s more!
- 15 bars of pressure
- Vibratory pump
- 67-ounce water tank
- Integrated grinder
- Manual steam wand
From the time you start getting the bean hopper loads ready, this unit only takes a minute at most to get your brew ready. Impressive speed, right? You can then hand-texture the micro-foam milk to make a specialty coffee of your choice.
It may be a common feature in most Breville machines, but it would be unfair not to recognize the presence of precise temperature control (PID) in this model. It’s the technology behind optimum espresso extraction and perfectly balanced flavors.
Pair this feature with dose-control grinding, and it all begins to make sense why Barista Touch easily makes authentic espresso no matter the roast of the bean you use.
- Integrated grinder and milk frother save costs and increase convenience
- Control over part of the brewing process
- Stylish stainless steel design
- Fairly priced
- Easy to clean
- Takes time for one to master manually operating it
If you are curious about coffee brewing and looking for a decent espresso machine to get you started, Barista Express would be a perfect choice. Plus, it offers so much value for less money, making it one of the best home espresso machines.
2. Breville Barista Touch Espresso Machine — Best for Beginners
If the coffee world had a hall of fame, Breville would be an esteemed member. Barista Touch is another masterpiece in their huge line-up of exceptional espresso machines.
It’s so automated and innovative that no part of the brewing process is hands-on; it’s swipe-and-select all the way. So if you prefer to immerse yourself in the coffee-making action, this isn’t the unit for you.
- 15 bars of pressure
- Vibratory pump
- 67-ounce water tank
- Touch screen operation
- Customizable settings
- Pre-programmed drinks menu
- Built-in grinder
It’s not just the preset coffee recipes you should be excited about; there’s more. You can customize the menu and save up to eight different drink options. Even the frothing wand is automated to save you time as you custom-make the milk to a temperature and texture of your choice.
The best part has to be the touch screen. Every key function has been packed into it, from the grinding and brewing to the milk steaming. Everything may look sophisticated at first, but you will get the hang of it with time.
Did I mention that brewing takes less than a minute? That’s pretty quick if you ask me! Every other feature is pretty much what you would expect from most of the other Breville machines, from optimal water pressure and digital temperature control to dose control grinding and rich, full flavors.
- Better ease of use due to touch screen operation
- Quick brewing time
- Personalized coffee settings for your unique taste
- Integrated grinder and automatic micro-foam milk texture save time and add to the unit’s convenience
- Easy to operate for beginners due to full automation
- Relatively expensive
- Takes up quite a bit of space
You will hardly find an espresso machine that is as easy to use, great at brewing, and quick as Barista Touch. If you are starting out in the coffee world, this is the coffee maker you will enjoy using.
3. Breville BNV250CRO1BUC1 Vertuo Coffee and Espresso Machine — Best Under $300
Nespresso coffee machines generally save you all the hard work you would have done if you were using a semi-auto or manual espresso machine. Breville BNV250CRO1BUC1 Vertuo is so heavily automated that you only have to press a button to activate the brewing. But before that, you will have to insert a capsule, which is as simple as putting stuff in your wallet or handbag.
- Manual Nespresso machine
- 19 bars of pressure
- Uses rapid capsule spinning to generate pressure
- Brews five different cup sizes
- 40z removable water tank
- Nespresso Aeroccino milk frother included
- Auto shut-off
Different cup sizes mean that you can brew single, double, gran lungo, and other brews. Such versatility on a Nespresso machine is welcome because this is not a unit you have too much control over.
That said, this coffee maker is clever enough to decode your capsule’s barcode and brew a drink that matches your needs. You don’t have to worry about it delivering results you didn’t expect.
The addition of a milk frother is also a nice thing to see because it gives you the freedom to froth milk for your preferred specialty coffee at the touch of a button. And to start you off on this path, the manufacturer has included a set of Nespresso capsules.
- Capsule recognition technology for blend-specific brewing
- Easy to operate as you only press a button for brewing
- High-capacity water tank minimizes refilling frequency
- Automatic shut-off saves energy
- Descaling alerts warn you when its time to take care of your unit
- Only works with Nespresso Virtuoso capsules
If you are looking for the best espresso machine under $200, Breville BNV250CRO1BUC1 Vertuo Coffee and Espresso Machine has you covered. It’s fast, simple to use, and able to produce perfect crema and well-balanced brews.
4. Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro Stainless Steel Espresso Machine — Best Italian Machine
One thing Italians hardly get wrong is espresso machines. Gaggia RL9380/46 Classic Pro is one of the finest to ever come out of Italy, and it impresses in nearly all key areas, from how it brews coffee and steams milk to ease of use and pricing. It may be a bit slow in brewing, but the outcome makes the wait totally worth it.
- Vibratory pump
- 12 bars of pressure
- Commercial steam wand
- 72-ounce water tank
You could easily confuse this coffee maker for a commercial-grade model, but it’s not. However, it borrows a lot from the latter, like the commercial steam wand and portafilter. This is what draws a lot of coffee lovers to it.
It’s not easy to pull off barista-level latte art and specialty brews when you are a novice using a consumer-level espresso machine, but it’s easier with the Gaggia Classic Pro. The commercial steam wand offers you full control over frothing and steaming, making it easier to make tight, velvety microfoam for latte art and brews of your liking.
The portafilter includes a commercial basket that works with your grinder to make expert espresso and a pressurized basket for use with pre-ground coffee beans or ESE pods. Such versatility isn’t easy to come across in an entry-level espresso unit. But if you are still curious to explore other models, I’ll admit that the Miele one-ups the Italian machine. You might want to check it out.
- Plenty of control over frothing and steaming
- Streamlined appearance and stylish design
- Simple control panel that improves ease of use
- Several filter baskets that cater to your brewing preferences
- Quiet while brewing
- Doesn’t accommodate large cups
- Slower brewing time
While the user manual will be quick to remind you that this is an entry-level coffee machine, that shouldn’t kill your eagerness. Gaggia Classic Pro does more than the basics and has exceptional versatility.
5. Breville BES878BSS Barista Pro Espresso Machine — Best Espresso Machine for Small Business
Barista Express may have stood the test of time, rising to become the go-to espresso machine for home use, but ever since its successor, Barista Pro, came out, the tides seem to be turning. The Pro is much faster and quieter, with more innovative digital controls. But it has yet to make its mark on the coffee market like its predecessor.
- 15 bars of pressure
- Integrated grinder
- Faster heat up times
- Manual steam wand
- LCD display
- 67-ounce water tank
Pulling a shot with this unit is an easy touch-and-go affair. And to make the entire process even more convenient, you have an LCD display complete with a set of dials and buttons that let you fine-tune your brew. Compared to the Barista Express, this model has more adjustment settings making it more versatile.
The best thing about this model, though, has to be the faster heat-up time. Its innovative ThermoJet heating system gets you the perfect extraction temperature in less than three seconds, after which you get your tasty shot. Unfortunately, you may have to wait a little bit between brews.
Even though the Barista Pro’s steam wand is manual, the upside is that it ‘s more robust and capable. You’ll have an easier time frothing your milk with it, even if you are a beginner.
- Faster heat-up time
- Easy-to -use control panel and display
- Quieter brewing
- Perfect for moderately busy environments like a small office
- Robust steam wand for your speciality brews
- Lacks a pressure gauge so you have to get the time and grinding right in order to pull a great shot
Barista Pro is a promising espresso machine that consistently makes a great brew, whether it be in a home or cafe setting. View other prosumer espresso machines in our roundup.
6. Flair Espresso Maker – Classic — Best Manual Espresso Maker
If you are trying to visualize simplicity, this is the item to look at. It won’t take you long to figure out how to operate it. The best part is you can do this from anywhere, be it at home, work, or from the mountains when you are camping. At only 4.9 pounds, this is one of the lightest and best personal espresso machine makers you can ever have.
- Manual espresso machine
- 9 bars of pressure
- Detachable brewing head
- Carrying case
If you doubted that this coffee maker can’t pull an authentic shot, you are wrong. Fair Classic produces up to nine bars of pressure, which is enough to make great-tasting espresso and other drinks, like Americano. Since it’s manual, there will be a bit of a learning curve in understanding how to use it properly, but this won’t take you long if you are a quick learner.
The other fascinating thing about this espresso maker is its design. First, you have a detachable brewing head that’s easy to clean. The convenient placement of the lever also makes it comfortable to use the unit. I shouldn’t forget to mention the sleek overall design and attractive appearance.
Also, this one makes cleaning an espresso maker a very smooth affair.
- Simple to operate
- Easy to clean
- Portable enough to be carried around
- Enough pressure for authentic espresso shots
- Attractive and stylish
- You have to buy a grinder separately
- Takes time to master using it properly
Flair Classic Espresso Maker may not be as cheap as other manual espresso makers, but you get the best bang for your buck. It’s the best personal espresso machine that’s built to last and is sure to serve you for a very long time.
7. Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine — Best Prosumer Machine
Sometimes you want an espresso machine for home use that works as hard as the commercial-grade models. At one point, I wished for such a unit as well, something that could pull shots back to back, cater to huge crowds, and take a beating. Guess what? Rancilio Silvia turned out to be a perfect choice.
- 9 bars of pressure
- Vibratory pump
- 12-ounce removable water tank
- Articulating steam wand
First off, don’t let Rancilio Silvia’s traditional style and looks trick you into thinking that it’s not innovative. Just like its rivals, this unit is equipped to brew coffee and froth milk in a relatively short time with no recovery periods in between. This means that it can make those tasty shots back to back.
Regrettably, this unit cannot accommodate larger cups, but the brewing experience totally compensates for that. The extraction quality and heat stability aren’t different from what you would get from a commercial espresso maker. That’s why it’s able to pull barista-level shots without rest.
Its higher capacity should be good news for those with huge families or in situations that require more cups to be made quickly. This unit will get the job done without a fuss.
- Stainless steel design makes it very durable
- Articulating steam wand provides a complete range of motion
- Higher volume capacity
- Decent control over the steaming process
- Comes with single- and double-filter baskets for your different brewing needs
- No room for larger cups
Rancilio Silvia has plenty to offer as a home-based coffee maker. It borrows from the best commercial-grade espresso makers to offer you a barista-like brewing experience. Who wouldn’t want that?
How to Pick the Best Espresso Machine
Before you set out to buy an espresso machine, spare a few minutes to learn how to spot the best one for your needs. You do not want to part with hundreds of dollars only to realize that you picked one that’s totally unsuitable for you. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Home or Commercial
This is quite self-explanatory. You will come across espresso machines designed for home use and also those made for commercial purposes. The latter are more expensive and can handle massive volumes.
There’s also a hybrid of the two known as prosumer coffee machines. They combine the best of both worlds so that consumers can have a unit that’s great for home use with features that make it capable of enduring constant use and high-demand situations.
Bars of Pressure
Pressure is the major thing that makes espresso different from other coffee brews. It’s the trick behind rich flavors and the crema we all love to see in coffee.
You won’t see crema in coffee brewed using a drip coffee maker because there’s very little pressure to create it. Moka pots do try, but more often the result is fairly bubbly, light brown foam that wouldn’t qualify as good crema. It’s only when your ground beans are extracted using nine bars of pressure or thereabouts that you get that much-desired crema that is thin, golden-colored, tasty, and able to linger for long.
That’s why it matters that you get a machine that produces enough pressure for a great-tasting shot. Some units, especially from Breville, have technologies that help them achieve optimal pressure and precise extraction temperature.
Nine bars is the sweet spot for that perfect shot. You will notice that most espresso makers produce more than that, say 15 or 18 bars, but that’s because some of it is lost between the pump and group head, so in the end, your machine will still be getting the perfect amount of pressure. Some units even have a valve that makes sure the pressure doesn’t drop below nine bars.
Automatic and semi-automatic models more often use either vibratory or rotary pumps to produce the required bars while the manual units use either a spring-piston or lever to generate that much-needed pressure for full extraction.
Steam vs Pump
Just as the name suggests, these steam-driven coffee machines use steam to brew. Unfortunately, these machines cannot make barista-level brews.
These coffee makers use steam from their generic boilers to generate the pressure, which isn’t enough to get the extraction process right. That’s why this machine is unable to pull that authentic espresso shot.
Another inefficiency these kinds of units have is that the generic boiler has to produce steam and also brew your coffee, a task they handle quite poorly. Temperature regulation is pitiful, so it’s not surprising to get coffee that’s over brewed, acidic, and lacking crema.
Pump-driven espresso makers, on the other hand, produce up to 15 bars of pressure from sophisticated heating systems and have electric pumps that force water through the boiler at optimum pressure for proper extraction. Because they get the temperature and pressure right, such units are able to create rich flavorful, well-balanced brews.
Also, the boilers have thermostats that help them to cleverly switch between brew and steam temperature with ease and accuracy. This explains their ability to pull great shots consistently.
Your search for espresso machines will yield thousands of results spread out across different categories. It would help you a lot to know more about these categories since they determine factors such as cost, ease of operation, level of control, and programmability.
I’ll examine them briefly in order of price and innovativeness.
This is probably the most affordable yet challenging espresso machine to use today. But their major upside is that you get complete control over the brewing process.
First, you have to measure, grind, and tamp the coffee beans and then decide the amount of water to use. The machine will do the brewing after you pull the handle or lever. If you want to make specialty coffee, milk frothing will still have to be done manually.
Lever espresso machines fall under this category. Interestingly, there are a few of these manual units that come with a special filter that works with ESE pods.
Semi-automatics still give you a bit of control, but the machine takes over when it comes to deciding the amount of water to use. You don’t have to measure as you would with a manual.
The measuring, grinding, and tamping of coffee beans is on you. The milk wand too will be manual. Some options under this class have a hot water dispenser for times when you need tea or hot chocolate.
Espresso makers under this class have most of their features automatized, from the grinding and brewing to milk steaming. You can actually store the settings so that you don’t have to repeat the steps every time you brew.
An integrated grinder and buttons for single and double shots are common features for automatic models. Some even go the extra mile to include a separate filter for ESE pods.
Other notable features include a removable drip tray and cup warmer.
Super-automatic espresso machines not only optimize the key functions but also make the entire brewing process a touchscreen or press-button affair.
Expect a built-in grinder that does all the tasks for you, from grinding to tamping. Even the milk wand will be automated, only requiring either the switch of a knob or the press of a button.
When it comes to brewing, you can use preset coffee recipes or customize the brew strength, milk quality, and water quantity to your preferred settings. You can then save your personalized drink options and even create a user profile.
Other features worth mentioning that are common in these units include:
- Water filtration system
- Automatic shut-off
- Visual alerts
All these bells and whistles make super-automatic espresso machines some of the most high-end, and thereby the most expensive in both the home and commercial class.
Pod/Capsule vs Portafilter Machines
These are automated coffee makers that use either pods or capsules. You simply put one into the machine, and your drink will be ready in seconds.
The Nespresso range is a perfect example. Unfortunately, you may have to use the Nespresso pod only. However, there are capsule coffee machines that work with just about any pod.
Even though they are quick, convenient, and relatively cheap, the bigger disadvantage such units have is that you have little control over the brewing process.
Portafilter machines also rely on the same high pressure that pod/capsule units use for extraction, but that’s where the similarities end. Even though they are button/dial-operated, there’s the part where you have to be hands-on.
To begin with, you may have to grind your coffee beans, place the correct portion into the portafilter, and then tamp them using the right pressure. As you can already tell, these are delicate processes that require special skill.
Portafilter machines also give you a bit of control over the brewing process so that you can customize your drink, which again is a process that requires some specific knowledge and skill to get everything just right.
I know this may not be good news for novices, but you should know that there are plenty of resources out there nowadays to get you started on this journey. Be consistent at it and soon enough you will be almost as good as a barista.
Bonus Tips on Built-In Grinders
There won’t be a need for a grinder if you choose to go for an espresso machine that only uses pre-ground coffee beans. But that’s a path not too many coffee connoisseurs are willing to take. Many of us prefer to buy whole beans and grind them ourselves to our liking.
Some espresso makers come complete with an integrated grinder that caters to that. Obviously, such units are more expensive than those that come without a grinder. But there won’t be much of a difference if you opt for the latter since you will still have to budget for a grinder separately.
It’s up to you to weigh the available options to figure out which combination works best for you.
It may be tempting to just pour milk into a glass and drain it right into your shot, but the resulting brew would be nothing close to what you would call specialty coffee. That’s where a milk frother comes in.
Some espresso makers come installed with a milk wand (either manual or automatic) and as you might guess, such units cost more than those without one. Manual milk frothers give you more control over the steaming process compared to automatic ones.
You can still buy a milk frother separately if your machine lacks one. This is actually not negotiable, especially if you identify as a true coffee connoisseur.
In a crowded market like this, you are better off with a brand that has stood the test of time. It may be tempting to go for the lesser-known manufacturers because of their cheaper prices, but that’s a gamble you don’t want to take. The risks are high.
Instead, choose brands that have built a name for themselves and earned solid positive espresso maker reviews from expert coffee drinkers and baristas. Here are some of them:
Remember to also check home espresso machine reviews on coffee forums and online shopping platforms. You will get a good idea on which models and brands to go for and avoid.
Which Espresso Machine Lasts the Longest?
Unfortunately, there’s no specific espresso machine I can point to and say it lasts longer than the rest. How long such a unit lasts depends on a number of factors, some of which are out of your control, like the materials used.
But if you take proper care of your espresso machine by using it properly, cleaning, descaling, and maintaining it according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, it should be able to serve you for between five to 20 years.
That said, units made from stainless steel and copper tend to last longer. The heating system in your model also affects its durability. For example, boiler outlasts both thermoblock and thermocoil heating systems.
Generally, manual and semi-automatic machines last longer than the automatic and super-automatic models.
Is Buying an Espresso Machine Worth It?
Quick question for you: Would you rather go to a coffee shop and spend $4 to $8 on a cup every day or part with hundreds of dollars for an espresso machine and never have to go to a coffee shop for a cup of joe again?
Most coffee and espresso fans agree that owning your own espresso maker is absolutely worth it. The initial cost may be high, especially if you choose to go for anything else other than a manual model, but the rewards are priceless, from convenience to saving on costs in the long run.
Why Do Espresso Machines Cost So Much?
Unlike regular coffee makers, espresso machines use more pressure, top-grade materials, and advanced brewing mechanisms. A lot of human effort and science goes into making one. That’s part of the reason they cost so much.
You have probably noticed that most espresso machines on our list cost upwards of $500. In fact, a great commercial model won’t cost you anything less than $2000. However, if you are on a budget and can’t raise such figures, you can always find a great manual option that still gets the job done.
Take a Shot at Making a Shot
I understand you have unique preferences when it comes to picking an espresso machine, but if you are wondering whether there’s a unit you can count on to at least satisfy your needs and tastes, I would recommend the Breville BES870XL Barista Express.
Whether you are a novice or expert or fall anywhere in between, this model has you covered. It’s also rich with all the precision features you would expect to find in the best home espresso machine. Examples include the digital temperature control, built-in grinder, and stainless steel design, just to name a few. It’s also built to last and more importantly make rich espresso shots.
All the best as you venture deeper into espresso!