The Best Espresso Machine For Home Baristas in 2021
Looking for the best espresso machine? Not sure how to choose the right one from the thousands available? This is a big decision; you’re not buying a new toothbrush here!
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In this review, we cover a few different categories to help you find the right machine to fit your style, kitchen, and budget. Just skim through our list below and find the class that suits you most.
We’ve rounded up some of the best picks from each category so that you don’t have to spend hours researching, or worse, spend hundreds on a lemon.
AT A GLANCE (SEE ON AMAZON):
What types of espresso machines are on the list?
You’re about to learn how to choose the right machine. How? Well, first you’ll have to decide the machine type best for your personal needs. This will get you one step closer to making coffee shop level espresso.
Manual Espresso Machines
The original espresso machine was introduced in 1905. These require (and reward) skill and practice. If you want to control everything about your espresso shot and milk frothing, they are the benchmark. You basically do everything, from grinding, to pushing, to frothing, and then hopefully enjoying.
Related: The best manual espresso machines.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
If you like the satisfaction that comes from hands-on espresso making but don’t want to have to do every last step yourself, a semi-automatic machine could be just the thing. You choose how much coffee to put in the filter basket, you tamp the grinds with the right pressure, you start and stop the pump to control how much water you use.
This article focuses mainly on semi-automatic machines because they tend to be the most common for home use. So we’ll cover these in detail
Fully Automatic Espresso Machines
Also known as ‘super automatic machines,’ one-touch operation is what these machines are all about. Many let you program in your preferences in coffee strength and milk frothing so that you can select your programmed drink later with no fuss. If you’re short on time and don’t want the muss and fuss of a more hands-on experience, these are a great choice.
In terms of espresso quality, they don’t quite match manual or semi-auto machines, but for those looking for something quick and easy without losing too much quality, they fit the bill perfectly.
Related: A look at the best automatic espresso machines of 2021.
Portable Espresso Makers
Also known as compact espresso machines or travel espresso makers, they’re great for people with tiny kitchens or living the #vanlife. Many of these don’t even require electricity, making them the ultimate in portability. They vary greatly in espresso quality however, so make sure you spend time choosing wisely.
Related: The best portable espresso makers of 2021.
Pod Espresso Machines
Last (and certainly least) are pod espresso machines. While convenient, they definitely don’t make the best espresso in terms of quality, in my opinion. Still, we’ve recommended one below, because they are hard to beat for convenience.
Related: Best Nespresso machines
Commercial Espresso Machines
As the name suggests, commercial machines are designed for coffee shops. So you’ll rarely see one in a home barista’s coffee space. They are expensive, but that’s because they are built to handle high volume espresso making. Still, there are a few that cross the line of commercial and home use, which we talk about below.
If you’re looking for an espresso machine suitable for a coffee shop, the machines below are not for you. Instead, read our guide to the best commercial espresso machines here.
| ||Breville BES840XL Infuser|
| ||Rancilio Silvia|
| ||DeLonghi EC155|
| ||Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista|
| ||Gaggia Classic Pro|
| ||Breville Barista Express|
| ||DeLonghi DEDICA|
| ||La Pavoni Professional Copper & Brass||CLICK FOR BEST PRICE|
| ||Philips 3200 Series|
| ||Wacaco Nanopresso|
| ||Nespresso Essenza Mini By Breville|
The 11 Best espresso Machines for Home Use Baristas
Ok, now without further ado, let’s see some of the best espresso machines that make real espresso:
Real baristas know the importance of pre-infusing the grinds to get the best extraction. With the Breville BES 840XL, this is built into the machine. A steady, low-pressure pre-infusion – much like the “bloom” on a pour over – prepares the grinds for the optimal 9-bar extraction. Unlike another Breville machine, the 800ESXL, this machine’s PID temperature controller is programmable in 2-degree increments and reduces fluctuations during extraction for consistent flavor.
This semi-automatic machine’s double-shot filter baskets take a dose up to 19-22 g (typically, filter baskets take 11-13 g) if you’re looking for a higher coffee-to-water ratio. Combine this with flexible shot control (including manual shot control),and you are fully in charge. The Infuser is like the Barista Express, but with less features (and a more attractive price tag) Read more about the Breville Infuser in our full review here.
The Rancilio Silvia M’s track record over the last decade has truly set it apart as a superior entry-level machine, yet it has the ability to satisfy the experienced barista. With an iron frame and stainless steel exterior, this sleek machine is built to last. This semi-automatic espresso machine is equipped with a forged marine brass group head boiler, leading to greater stability in heat and longer-lasting pieces, as well as a large 12-oz boiler, which gives an incredible steam capacity.
It has a commercial-sized portafilter and creates less mess with a 3-way solenoid valve that relieves pressure on the coffee grounds after an extraction. The one disappointment is the lack of a built-in grinder. Many users complain of having to work fairly intensively to find a grind that works. But seriously, if you’re going to invest in a machine as sweet as this one, learning how to grind coffee well should be a priority anyway.
Budget, affordable, inexpensive; whatever you want to call it, readers often ask: “whats the best espresso maker under $100?”. While we can’t answer that question directly because prices are always changing, this machine is a great starting point.
The DeLonghi EC155 espresso machine is an extremely affordable entry-level option. This espresso machine combines accessibility and ease of use with the reputation of an established company. It comes with the patented DeLonghi Cappuccino Frothing Wand so frothing milk will be a breeze and a 3-in-1 filter holder that works for both ground coffee and espresso pods.
The black and stainless steel exterior is compact and easy-to-clean, making it a seamless fit for many modern kitchens. If you’re wondering where to buy a DeLonghi EC155, or want more information click the button below or read our full review here.
The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker is all about convenience. Brewing options, an automatic frother, even the adjustable cup height on the tray make this ideal for anyone who wants to experiment without taking the plunge into more expensive machinery.
Frothing milk is done automatically (no guesswork) and the milk reservoir is removable, allowing you to store unused milk for next time, and the water tank also pops out easily, making refilling a cinch. Plus, the one-touch control panel makes selecting the kind of drink utterly convenient.
This is in many ways the “sweet spot” of the home espresso machine market: the higher-priced machines deliver more, but you can get solid features in this bracket. If you’re looking for a convenient, quick way to get a decent cup of espresso, cappuccino, latte, etc., this is a great choice. Read our Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista review here.
The semi-automatic Gaggia Classic Pro handles the basics of brewing espresso but gives you amazing control over the end product. Want to keep it simple? The portafilter comes with a pressurized basket designed to take ESE pods. Want a little more involvement? There’s also a pressurized basket for ground coffee.
Either one will give you a solid espresso with a decent crema, without weighing or tamping – all you have to do is fill the basket, then start and stop the pump. Or you can take it to the next level with the professional, non-pressurized basket which is where you can start learning finesse.
Grind size, grams, timing – the Gaggia Classic lets you develop your skills as you learnt to make world class espresso. And speaking of skills, the commercial steam wand on this and many other Gaggia products is world class. Last but not least, we can’t go past the classic design. This thing would look amazing in any Kitchen, including yours. Read our Gaggia Classic Pro review here.
Our review of the Breville BES870XL Barista Express came up with a fairly common theme: a ton of people love this thing! It’s bigger than other machines, especially in width, and exudes espresso-making authority with a host of options and variations that give you more control over the brewing process.
The Barista Express grinds beans fresh with a built-in grinder, has a 2L water tank (a removable water tank) with filter capability, and a 360-degree swivel action steam wand – all tools that can allow you to make fresh, crafted coffee at a rapid rate. The unit even comes with a dedicated hot water outlet, making it more of an all-in-one device (and making up for some of the extra countertop space it requires). Click here to check it out now.
The EC860M DEDICA is a compact, sleek machine that takes up less than six inches of counter space (in width), yet still has a 35-ounce water tank that holds enough water for 17 2-ounce shots. It’s available in black and red, as well as stainless steel.
The dual-spout portafilter means you can brew two shots at once if you’re starting the day with a friend, or a double if you need a little more coffee love in your morning.You can also fit an ESE pod. Plus you can remove the drip tray to fit a taller cup underneath the portafilter. It’s built-in steam wand means you can froth milk for cappuccinos and lattes.
True, you’ll need to provide your own steaming pitcher, and you’ll need a grinder that gives you ground coffee fine enough for espresso. But that’s true for most compact machines, especially at this price point.
Steampunk fans, your machine is ready. The Pavoni name is familiar to espresso connoisseurs around the world. A Milanese man called Desiderio Pavoni was the first to produce commercial espresso machines in 1905. Made from brass and copper, the La Pavoni Professional begs you to wear goggles and a leather flying cap while pulling a shot of espresso.
It doesn’t have a spring lever but a piston, meaning it works purely on the user’s muscle power. This – well, let’s say it – rewards practice. Pull too quickly and it blows bubbles out the portafilter; pull it just right and your espresso comes with an extra helping of well-deserved pride.
If the Chemex speaks to Mies Van der Rohe designs, the La Pavoni cries out for Art Deco china to sip your coffee from.
The Professional is also less bottom-heavy, meaning it can be difficult to keep in place in operation. (Get used to holding the base down while you lift the lever.) It has a capacity of about 32 single shots. However, as it is a piston-operated machine, achieving a consistent brew takes practice and attention. But isn’t that half the reason you want a manual machine in the first place?
There are many styles of super automatics, but in our opinion, if you’re opting for this type of espresso machine, you might as well get one that does everything at the press of a button. If you agree with that, then you’ll agree that the Philips 3200 Series is an ideal choice. With its built-in grinder and automatic milk frothing, you can prepare an espresso, coffee, cappuccino, or latte macchiato with a single touch!
The ceramic burr grinder has 12 different grind settings and is rated to 20,000 cups. And the bean hopper is equipped with an hermetic seal to keep your beans fresh. Every drink is fully customizable using the touchscreen display. You can adjust coffee strength, temperature, and volume, as well as milk volume and texture.
The LatteGo milk frothing system is what really sets the Philips apart from the competition. It whips milk and air at high speed in a special frothing chamber before delivering it to the top of your waiting drink. The best part is that it doesn’t use any tubing, so cleaning is a breeze.
Speaking of easy to clean, this model comes with the AquaClean filter, which promises 5,000 cups of coffee before you need to descale. To put that in perspective, if you drink two cups a day, you won’t need to descale for nearly 7 years!
The Wacaco NanoPresso, an upgraded and even smaller version of the very popular Wacaco MiniPresso, is a fantastic portable option for espresso on-the-go. Made of sturdy plastic, this cylindrical espresso machine comes apart into several pieces for brewing but then neatly reassembles into a single unit for storage and travel.
It should come as no surprise that this manual brewer requires you to provide your own hot water and ground coffee. However, once you have these locked and loaded, you’re ready to make some impressive espresso. The pump on the side of the cylinder pops out and after a few priming pumps, out emerges rich, glorious coffee.
A nice bonus for the lazy among us? Compared with the older MiniPresso, the NanoPresso is 15% easier to pump.
While this is obviously not the perfect choice for a simple morning espresso in your kitchen, the Wacaco NanoPresso is an affordable addition to your coffee arsenal that allows you to prepare an espresso anywhere. We think it’s a worthy addition to our list of great portable espresso makers.
There’s no need to extol the virtues of Breville as a manufacturer of quality espresso machines, and Nespresso clearly feels the same way. The Essenza Mini marries Breville’s reputation with the popular Nespresso coffee pod format, offering a wide range of different roasts and flavors.
The Essenza Mini is the most popular Nespresso brewer thanks to it’s affordable price tag and ultra compact size. As the smallest Nespresso pod machine, it fits comfortably in a kitchen, dorm room, cubical, or RV. It doesn’t offer milk frothing, which is part of what makes it so tiny, but you can choose between two drinks, an espresso (1.35 oz) or a lungo (5 oz).
Like all capsule-based single serve brewers, convenience is the name of the game. Just pop in a pod, push one of the two buttons and get ready to sip.
How to Choose the Best Espresso Maker for Your Home
If you’re overwhelmed by this huge list of great espresso machines, don’t worry. This buyer’s guide is here to help you narrow it down to the perfect model to suit your home. The only other thing you must do is learn to use your machine to brew damn fine espresso. Hello deliciousness!
Espresso Machine Brands
An espresso machine can be a big investment, so it pays to buy something from a reputable brand. Here are a few of the top names in the industry.
Established in 1932, Breville has manufactured some of the most respected small kitchen appliances on the market. It has won awards for creating innovative products that are as affordable as they are high quality (3).
It’s not surprising that they produce some of the best espresso machines for households, because they design products with features for everyone from espresso beginner to expert. Not only are the features easy to use, but they allow for the perfect cup of coffee every time.
Breville offers a one-year limited warranty on all products – meaning while you get to know your machine you’ll have no fear of showing it some tough love.
Check out the customer favourite Breville machines here.
Located in Treviso, Italy, DeLonghi manufactures a wide range of kitchen appliances (4). Originally incorporated as a machine-tool maker in 1902, they diversified in 1950 and bought the rights to manufacture Braun household products in 2013. DeLonghi produced their first espresso maker, the BAR5, in 1993 and their first super-automatic espresso maker, the Magnifica, in 2004. In 2007, they launched their first product in partnership with Nespresso, the Lattissima.
Nespresso debuted the coffee-capsule concept in 1986. Four coffee flavors and two machines made up their original product line.
As early as 1991, concerns about the aluminum coffee capsules led Nespresso to begin a recycling program in their native Switzerland, with 34 recycling centers around the country (5). They maintain programs in sustainability and environmental responsibility to this day, not only in ethical trading in coffee but in sourcing aluminum for their capsules. In 2015, Nespresso opened Switzerland’s first LEED-certified manufacturing facility.
Beginning in 2010, competitors began making coffee capsules that would work in Nespresso machines. Nespresso now works in partnership with Breville and DeLonghi to produce many of their machines.
Achille Gaggia patented the first steamless espresso machine in 1938, introducing a new way of making espresso. The hot-water method is also credited with first producing the layer of crema that espresso lovers enjoy today. Their Gilda, introduced in 1952, is considered the first espresso machine intended for home use (6). In fact, because early Gaggia machines introduced the lever-action espresso maker, we have them to thank for the term “pulling a shot” to refer to producing an espresso.
Mr. Coffee is known for pioneering the automatic drip coffee maker way back in 1972 (7), but the brand’s expertise now extends to low-cost espresso machines as well. Their long history means the company knows a thing or two when it comes to proper extraction of ground coffee, whether that’s in a gentle drip brewer or a high pressure espresso machine.
Lingo and Features
It might feel like espresso machines come with their own language, which can make spending a big chunk of cash on one feel even more intimidating. So here are some definitions to help guide you.
Single Shot or Double Shot
At the simplest level, these describe the volume of espresso you pull from an espresso machine. A single shot is about 1 ounce of espresso made from 7 grams of ground coffee. A double shot is approximately 2 ounces of espresso made from 14 grams of coffee, though these days we are seeing larger and more intense double shots.
The piece that holds the filter basket, which you typically lock in place before pulling a shot. Portafilters come with various diameters, from 40 to 60 mm, with 58 mm being the commercial standard. This matters if you’re buying spare filter baskets or a tamper.
The piece inside the portafilter that holds the ground coffee. Many espresso machines have interchangeable filter baskets for different sizes (and strengths) of espresso shots. Some also have a filter basket designed to hold an ESE pod.
A function that lets you make espresso with the push of a single button. Many super-automatic espresso machines let you program a specific drink, then brew it with a single button. For example, you might program the amount of coffee used in a drink, the ideal temperature of the water, and the amount of steamed milk you prefer. Later, you can brew your custom drink with one touch.
The internal parts that heat water for brewing espresso and steaming milk, if your machine has a milk frother. The wattage and design of an espresso machine’s heating system have an effect on how quickly it heats up and whether it can maintain a stable temperature.
A heating system that uses one boiler to provide hot water to make espresso and steam for the milk frother. With a single-boiler heating system, you can’t pull a shot of espresso and steam milk at the same time. Some higher-end espresso machines have dual-boiler systems, which means you can steam milk and pull a shot using separate boilers at the same time.
The removable section where you rest your cup while pulling a shot. Drip trays catch any drips after you remove the cup (or carafe). When you remove them, you can empty and clean them without having to take the entire espresso machine to the sink. Some espresso machines let you remove the drip tray to fit a taller cup or mug under the portafilter.
The part of your espresso machine that steams milk for cappuccinos and lattes. Some steam wands are operated by a button; others require you to turn a knob controlling the volume of steam that passes through the wand and into your milk. Some milk frothing systems pull milk through a valve that froths and heats it, allowing you to pour the milk directly into the drink.
The container holding the water you use to make espresso and to generate steam for the milk frother. The larger your water reservoir, the more espresso shots you can pull without refilling.
Alternatively, watch our video on espresso basics:
Milk Frothing Options
When buying an espresso machine, an easy way to narrow down your options is to think of what drinks you enjoy. If you like milky drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, you’ll want something with a milk frothing system (or you can buy a separate frother). On the other hand, if you prefer a basic espresso or Americano, you can save money buying a simpler system without a frother.
If you do want to froth milk, there are several ways to do it. The most common is a manual steam wand. These take a bit of practice to master, but if you want the silky smooth microfoam you need for a latte, they’re your best bet. Some machines add modifications to their steam wands to make frothing easier, such as Gaggia’s patented Panarello steam wand.
Alternatively, some super automatic espresso machines offer automatic milk frothing. You program your preferred milk texture and temperature, and it delivers it to your waiting cup. The quality isn’t quite on par, and keeping these systems clean can sometimes be a headache. But the convenience is undeniable.
What about machines with no frothing?
If you choose a super-automatic or automatic espresso machine, it likely has a milk frother, or at least a steam wand for making cappuccinos and lattes. But if you buy a budget espresso maker, you might need a way to make steamy, frothy milk for your beverages.
If your espresso machine doesn’t have a steam wand and you can’t face the day without a cappuccino, check out our review of the five best milk frothers.
If you feel like you’re ready for making latte art, watch Steven’s beginner’s guide:
What Else You’ll Need
Depending on the espresso machine you choose, you might need to purchase one or more of these accessories for making espresso. If you want amazing crema-rich espresso, sometimes you need to invest a little more. But seeing as you’ve read this far, i’m guessing you want the best espresso available.
A Burr Coffee Grinder
Most aficionados agree that a burr grinder is the best choice for consistency and quality of grinds, which is vital when making espresso (9). Whether hand-crank or electric, a burr grinder crushes the coffee beans into evenly sized grounds, optimizing the flavor extraction.
Ground coffee for espresso must be much finer than for drip coffee because espresso is brewed much faster. So the most important characteristic for a coffee grinder to use with your espresso machine is that it produces a very fine and even grind.
If you like the old-school approach, a hand grinder gives you fine control over the coffee grounds you produce. Plus, it doesn’t use electricity, and saves you money. If you’re getting a small, portable machine like the Wacaco Nanopresso for camping or travel, take a look at our review of manual coffee grinders. See whether one of these would make a great addition to your go-bag.
P.S. if you wish to get one step closer to becoming a PRO in espresso making, watch our video:
An Espresso Tamper
The tamper is a tool used to evenly compress the espresso grinds into the filter basket of the espresso machine, a key step to make a high-quality shot of espresso. A few espresso machines come with a good tamper, but most offer only a cheap, plastic version. In this case, it’s worth buying one. You want something metal with a hefty feel and comfortable handle. You can even buy a nifty spring-loaded tamper that puts just the right pressure on your coffee grounds.
Read about our favorite tampers in this article.
A Steaming Pitcher
If your espresso machine has a steam wand and you plan on enjoying lattes and cappuccinos, you’re going to want a steaming pitcher to pair with it. The best steaming pitchers are stainless steel, with tapered sides to help contain the splashes as you steam milk and a spout for pouring latte art.
Speaking of latte art, if you really want to show off your skills, be sure to pick up some cool espresso cups too.
An Espresso Knock Box
You can make espresso without a knock box, but this can make your espresso-making sessions a breeze. An espresso knock box serves a container for used coffee grounds. Just knock your portafilter on it to catch the puck. This accessory needs to be sturdy and able to hold hot coffee grounds. Here are some great espresso knock boxes.
And there you have it: everything you need to know about finding the best espresso machine for your home. Our top pick this year is the Breville Infuser, which will satisfy both beginners and experts alike with its range of professional grade and easy-to-use features.
You should choose the machine that best fits your lifestyle. Pod machines are more convenient but the trade-off is that their shots are poorer quality. They also have a negative environmental impact due to the extra waste created by the pods. Pod machines are usually cheaper than genuine espresso machines but the pods themselves are more expensive than buying beans. So over time, an espresso machine will pay for itself.
If you want the convenience of a pod machine without the downsides, consider instead a machine with a built-in grinder like the Breville Barista Express.
Typically, espresso is brewed using medium or dark roasted beans, because they contain the highest amount of natural oils and are the least acidic. This yields the golden crema and chocolatey flavor profiles we often associate with espresso. But there’s no reason you can’t brew any beans you love using an espresso machine.
The ideal pressure for making espresso is 9 bar, and most home espresso machines have pumps rated much higher than that, typically 15 bar. Sometimes you’ll see even higher pressures advertised, but this is meaningless. If you see espresso machines offering more than 15 bar, know that it won’t make any qualitative difference to the shots you pull (10).
When making espresso, the brewing temperature should be between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit (11). The best machines not only achieve this temperature but hold it very steady during brewing for the best possible extraction.
- National Coffee Association. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncausa.org/about-coffee/how-to-store-coffee
- Ltd, R. and M. (2019, April). Global Coffee Pods and Capsules Market – Growth, Trends, and Forecast (2019 – 2024). Retrieved from https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/4763958/global-coffee-pods-and-capsules-market-growth
- Herborn, D. (2018, July 17). From Australia to the world: Jim Clayton. Retrieved from https://www.theceomagazine.com/executive-interviews/manufacturing/jim-clayton/
- History. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.thegreatitaliancafe.com/history.html
- Rawes, E. (2019, April 9). How to recycle (or reuse) Nespresso Pods. Retrieved from https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/how-to-recycle-or-reuse-nespresso-pods/
- Bryman, H. (2019, February 19). Historic Brand Gaggia Milano Revived with New Commercial Line. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/02/19/historic-brand-gaggia-milano-revived-with-new-commercial-line/
- Hensel, A. (2015, August 4). Mr. Coffee Co-Founder (and Industry Disruptor) Dies. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/anna-hensel/mr-coffee-cofounder-dies.html
- Kilbride, D. (2018, June 21). How Does Pressure Affect Espresso Quality? Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/06/pressure-espresso-quality/
- Mazzarello, B. (2018, April 4). The Right Grinder for You. Retrieved from https://blog.bluebottlecoffee.com/posts/the-right-grinder-for-you
- Muhl, R. (2016, December 14). Brew pressure explained. Retrieved from https://www.fivesenses.com.au/blog/brew-pressure-explained/
- How to Brew Coffee The NCA Guide to Brewing Essentials. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncausa.org/About-Coffee/How-to-Brew-Coffee