Best Automatic Espresso Machines in 2021: Buying Guide and Review

By Luna Regina | Updated
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best automatic espresso machines 2020

Espresso from freshly ground coffee beans is hard to beat, and we all have our favorite amongst lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, flat whites and Americanos. Homemade espresso drinks are much more affordable than barista café drinks, and finding the best espresso machine for your needs is easy if you know exactly what the machine can and can’t do.

For one-touch convenience, there are super automatic machines, while with more affordable semi automatic espresso machines, you can get pleasure out of honing a few barista skills.

Choosing an Espresso Machine

  • Budget
  • Types of drinks
  • Amount of work
  • Volume and frequency of use
  • Available space

1. Budget

Espresso machines are quite complex and specifically designed, so you basically get what you pay for. An entry level manual machine will cost at least $500, semi automatics below $1, 000, and super automatics are all above $1, 000.

2. Types of Drinks

Know exactly what you want from your machine. Of course, espresso is the main, but the difference lies with foaming and frothing. Most automatic panarello wands aren’t good enough for latte art microfoam— this requires a hand operated wand. Additionally, super automatics are the better option for milk based drinks.

3. Amount of Work

More automation, especially one-touch machines, comes at a higher price. However, some people want more control over their drinks and take pleasure out of developing their barista skills. Tamping is the most crucial and challenging skill. Semi automatics don't have internal tamping, so you may need a machine with an easier, non pressurized portafilter and/or an external tamping mechanism.

4. Volume and Frequency of Use

If you require many back to back drinks or frequent coffees throughout the day, then you need to look for a machine with a sizable water tank. A super automatic is the better choice here for speed and convenience.

5. Available Space

This can be an issue in some kitchens, especially if you’re going to put the machine below cabinetry. Check dimensions carefully in this case and look for machines that have easy to get at front-loading water tanks and detachable brew units.

The Two Types of Espresso Machines

Espresso machines are generally categorized into two types of machine: semi automatic and super automatic.

In the simplest sense, with the former you are the barista and with the latter, the machine is the barista. As you go up in the price range, apart from having less to do, you have more features, better programmability, more sophisticated displays and higher robust, crafted construction.

Super Automatic Espresso Machines

  • Grinding
  • Tamping
  • Frothing
  • Programmability
  • Other Features

Grinding

All these machines will have an inbuilt grinder. As you go up in price, you encounter higher quality ceramic grinders with more grinding options. Super automatics usually take pre ground coffees too.

Tamping

These machines don’t have a detachable grouphead or portafilter, so the tamping, or pressing down, of coffee grinds is done internally. The spent grinds are deposited automatically into a dreg box, which you have to empty every so often.

Frothing

Automatic frothing wands are not good enough for latte art. To impress people with your latte art, look for a model that has an additional hand operated wand for making microfoam.

Other types of integrated milk frothers will have a tube that connects to your milk supply— either a countertop carafe or a thermo flask. Machines with a detachable milk carafe which can go into your fridge also cost more, but are very convenient.

Programmability

PID controls are the best because they allow you to adjust the brew strength of your coffee. Temperature control and foam control are nice features to have on automatic frothers, because you can customize your drinks more. As you go up in price, there are also options to programme in your own drinks.

Other Features

Preinfusion is pretty standard with better machines and this creates a richer, fuller flavor. If there’s a flow control mechanism, you can use this to further customize the brew strength. Some machines come with an inbuilt water filter, and you should only use filtered water in a coffee machine. A removable brew group which is easily accessible from the side, or front of the machine, is preferable because a cleaner machine brews nicer coffee.

Semi Automatic Espresso Machines

  • Grinding
  • Portafilter or grouphead
  • Frothing
  • Other features

1. Grinding

Most semi automatics will have an inbuilt grinder as a value proposition. More expensive models will grind directly into the portafilter, and may have either automated tamping or hand operated tamper lever. For lower priced models, you are the tamper.

2. Portafilter or Grouphead

Semi Automatic Espresso Machines

The distinguishing feature of an automatic is the removable portafilter. The portafilter is the metal coffee basket with a handle that attaches to the grouphead, or brewing unit, of your machine.

There are two types of portafilter baskets: a smaller (50-54mm), pressurized portafilter and the larger (58mm) non pressurized portafilter. Your machine will usually have one or the other, but some come with both.

  • Pressurized portafilter: Pressurized filters have very few holes, and are usually found in lower cost machines, but not always. They are more flexible with grind quality, especially pre ground coffees, require less tamping skill, and are more suitable for non professional users. Some are also designed to take espresso pods.
  • Non pressurized portafilter: These are commercial grade filter baskets with many filter holes and they produce a better espresso crema. They require more skill with grinding and tamping, and are suited for baristas or the serious hobbyist.
Non pressurized portafilter basket
Non pressurized portafilter basket
Pressurized portafilter basket
Pressurized portafilter basket

3. Frothing

You will always have an automatic panarello wand, and sometimes frothing can be adjusted within certain parameters. If the automatic wand can be converted into a manual wand, then you can do finer microfoaming.

4. Other Features

Like super automatics, machines may have PID temperature control. Likewise, a front-loading water tank and a detachable brew unit are more convenient.

Types of Boilers

Less costly machines—in either the semi or super automatic category— will have a single boiler. This requires some waiting time and heat purging between brewing and frothing because these processes happen at different temperatures.

Mid-range models will have a heat exchanger coil or similar thermal block technology which cuts down on waiting time between brewing and forthing. These kinds of machines lack more precise temperature control.

High-end machines typically have a dual, or double boiler and you can easily brew and froth at the same time with independent temperature controls.

Only with a double or dual boiler can you brew and froth at the same time.

If you feel that espresso, which is an unfiltered coffee, is not the best choice for you, then have a look at our reviews for the Best Coffee Machines. All of the products reviewed can be used with or without a paper filter.

Reviews of The Best Automatic Espresso Machines in 2021

  1. De’Longhi ESAM Super Automatic Espresso Machine - Best to Buy
  2. Gaggia Brera Super Automatic - Best Value Espresso Machine
  3. Gaggia Accademia Espresso Machine - Best Deluxe Super Automatic
  4. Breville Oracle Touch Espresso Machine - Best Semi Automatic
  5. De’Longhi Specialista - Best Value For an Automatic
  6. Saeco Vapore Automatic - Best Saeco Espresso Machine
  7. Gaggia Carezza De Luxe - Best Compact Espresso Machine

Here are our picks of the best automatic espresso machines.

These are all top range product selections, but you can go here to also see our reviews of more affordable espresso machines.

1. De’Longhi ESAM Super Automatic Espresso Machine - Best to Buy

The De’Longhi Magnifica often comes out as a top favorite for an entry level machine. We tried to find something better, and a somewhat more unique pick, but for the price point, the features, and the value this machine offers, it really is the best deal you can get.

De’Longhi ESAM Magnifica Super Automatic Espresso Machine review
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  • Adjustable brew flow

  • Adjustable brew strength

  • Adjustable temperature

  • Pre ground decaf option

  • Adjustable cup height

  • 80 oz water tank

  • A little noisy

  • Wand cannot do latte art

What It Can Do

The Magnifica will grind the beans, tamp the grinds, and pull you a really good espresso. For this price point, it’s not a one touch system that will make your latte, your cappuccino and froth your milk. The product is correctly labeled as an espresso and manual cappuccino system because the frothing wand will not make microfoam for latte art.

With one dial you select your dosage, and with the other the volume of liquid. After that, you simply push the button to brew one cup or two— it’s about that simple.

In addition, it uses pre-infusion which means first the grinds are wet with an initial low-pressure shot, before the main high-pressure extraction. It also has temperature control, which adds a lot of value for the price.

Key Upgrades

This newer ESAM Magnifica has a few key upgrades compared to older models which are still available. The adjustable cup height is more with a maximum of 4.7 inches and the 80 oz water tank is larger. It’s a little bulkier than previous models, but lighter with a more polished appearance. It also has a water hardness test kit, a rapid steam function, and 30 min to 3 hour standby.

ESAM Magnifica

Frothing Wand

Most people find that the frothing wand takes a little longer than desired, but it does a good job. The machine has a single boiler with a thermal block system, so if you do steaming first, it needs to cool down or be purged. You can, however, easily pull shots back to back. The steam wand also doubles for a water pourer in case you want to make Americano or tea.

Grinder and Beans

The grinder has up to 13 incremental grind settings, and it’s recommended that you stick to medium roast beans and avoid wet, or oily grinds. It’s a Burr ceramic grinder and it can grind up to 8 oz or enough for 14 shots—after which you should empty the dregs box. The grinder is, however, a little on the noisy side.

The grinder box is easily accessible from the top by opening the left flap, and there’s an additional chamber for pre ground coffee or espresso pods. With a press of a button, you can switch to the pre ground option.

Other Features

The brew unit can easily come out the front of the machine to rinse off. De’Longhi actually pioneered the front loading water tank which is now a common feature in all their machines and other manufacturers’ too. This machine also has a warning light for when the tank runs low, and another for when to descale your machine.

Verdict

This De’Longhi is the best choice for people who just want a fast and easy approach to making good espresso. It’s ample capacity and ease of use makes it perfect for a busy home or an office.

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2. Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine - Best Value Automatic Espresso Machine

The Gaggia Brera is a well established favorite and excellent value model in the super automatic class. It’s a compact machine at 14 inches high so it will easily fit below a countertop overhang, but the tank only holds 40 ounces.

Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine review
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  • Compact

  • Front-loading tank

  • Front-loading dreg box

  • Rapid-steaming

  • Can take additional filter

  • Pre ground coffee

  • Quiet grinder

  • No temperature PID control

Programmable Brew Length

The best function is you can program how much liquid you want for a specific sized cup, and the spout is adjustable too. While brewing you hold down the cup button, then press and release when the liquid reaches your preferred volume. It automatically does a double grind for a double shot. The brew options are light, medium and strong according to grind volume.

Frothing and Panarello Wand

Although a single brewer, it has a rapid steam function using a thermal block mechanism that cuts down time between brewing and frothing. The pannarello wand is good enough for latte-macchiato foam, but not for latte art.

Other Features

Other features include a bypass doser so you can use pre grounds coffees. Both the water tank and dreg box easily come out the front, and it has an additional Mavea Intenza water filter. There are five settings on the grinder, and compared to a lot of other machines, it’s not so noisy at all.

Verdict

Somewhat smaller and relatively cheaper than the De’Longhi, this Gaggia can get enough espressos going for a small dinner party. It’s fast, has an additional water filter, and the grinder is pretty quiet.

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3. Gaggia Accademia - Best Deluxe Super Automatic Espresso Machine

The Gaggia Accademia is, in the truest sense, a super automatic espresso machine. It will do everything for you including latte, latte macchiato, cappuccino, and cafe lungo. It has a convenient, detachable milk carafe that goes straight into your refrigerator, and there is an additional commercial grade steam wand for micro foaming. It also has an internal water filtration system, so basically, everything is taken care of.

Gaggia Accademia review
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  • Fully programmable

  • Attachable, self-cleaning milk carafe

  • Micro foaming hand wand

  • Temperature control

  • Brew strength and milk foam control

  • Flow dial

  • Top loading water tank

  • 54 oz water tank

All Drink Options Programmable

For whatever drink option you select on the color touch screen, you can also select the amount of coffee, pre-infusion, temperature, coffee and milk length, as well as milk foam. Temperature, coffee and milk length have three basic ranges to choose from. There’s a flow dial right in the center to slow down or speed up the brew time for stronger or weaker shots. You can also use this machine to make hot chocolate.

espresso machine All Drink Options Programmable

Additional Programmables

There really is a lot you can do with the Accademia through the LCD touch screen. One of these is three programmable start up timers with the option of On / Off for each day of the week, tone sounds, and the water filter. You can also choose from various languages and auto-clean functions to name a few.

Milk Carafe and Frothing

There are a number of unique functions that no other super automatic espresso machine has. For one, the milk carafe is self-cleaning and this happens automatically when you switch the dispenser nozzle back onto the carafe—and there’s an additional one-touch option for further cleaning.

What you won’t find on any other super automatic is an additional hand frothing wand—and a commercial grade one too— so you can use this for your own latte art or a handmade cappuccino. Because this is a double boiler, you can brew and use the wand at the same time.

One really nice feature about the milk carafe is that the plug for the carafe attachment port is magnetic— so you can just attach it to the side of the machine.

Water Tank, Grinder and Brew Group

The water tank and brew group are both accessible from the top of the machine. The tank can be removed from the back, or filled from the top. It only holds 54 oz, and a filter is included which you can switch off if necessary. The box also comes with a water hardness test kit.

The grinder is of course high grade ceramic with 8 main adjustable grind settings, and it can grind from 7 to 10.5 grams for your coffee dose. There’s also the option for pre ground coffee, and the bean hopper is completely air tight.

The front of the machine opens up so you can access the brew group and the dregs box, and there’s an additional cleaning function for the brew group, if you don’t want to take it out so often.

Verdict

This is an all-in-one espresso solution for one touch drinks and those who want to do a few things for themselves. It will add value and prestige to your kitchen and will keep everyone happy and awake at work.

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3. Breville Oracle Touch - Best Semi Automatic Espresso Machine

The Oracle Touch is the latest in Breville’s line of espresso machines and occupies a niche of its own. It does just about everything a super automatic can do— but gives you the look, the feel,and the illusion of operating a more classic espresso machine.

Breville Oracle Touch review
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  • Non pressurized portafilter

  • Automatic tamping

  • Incremental brew temperature

  • Incremental froth temperature

  • Foam level control

  • Add 8 custom drinks

  • 84 oz tank with charcoal filter

  • Start up timer

  • Pre ground needs tamping

Essentially, you have to work the machine with the best incremental settings you’ll ever find, and in return, the machine lets you do your own latte art with perfectly frothed milk. That’s not asking a lot from you, but it does ask a lot more from your wallet!

If you’re in the mood for a more affordable option in terms of semi automatics, then we suggest you have a look at the next review of the De’Longhi Specialista.

Programmable Controls

What’s truly unique about this machine is its incremental programmability. Brew options include a single, a double, or a brew-by-time. Brew temperature can be increased incrementally (1 degree increments) for all drinks, and milk frothing has an incremental range up to 170℉. Frothing foam levels also have incremental adjustment, and you can program up to eight of your own personal drinks.

Water Tank and Other Features

The Oracle has a pretty inpressive 84 oz tank which includes a charcoal filter, and while the tank can be taken out from the back, you can also fill it up from the top. The machine has convenient bearing wheels for easy moving, and the function is accessible once you take out the drip tray.

A few other nice extras are a heat stabilizing element in the portafilter, preinfusion, a back lit water level indicator, illuminated drip tray, internal tray for tool storage, and it comes with a knock box and frothing jug.

Oracle Touch vs Barista Touch

Breville Oracle Touch
Breville Oracle Touch
Breville Barista Touch
Breville Barista Touch

Both Breville machines, the Oracle Touch offers a lot more than the humble Barista Touch. The former has the same touch screen, but lacks key features which would have made it worth the price point.

The Oracle Touch, in contrast, has a dual boiler so you can pull shots and froth at the same time. It grinds beans directly into the commercial grade portafilter and automatically tamps the grind. This saves you time and the need to master the art of tamping which is necessary for the perfect crema.

Verdict

The Breville Oracle Touch surpasses any super automatic in the degree of control and programmability. It’s a stylish and high-end machine for those who still want the look and feel of a classic espresso maker, the convenience of a super automatic, and superior quality milk drinks.

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4. Delonghi Specialista - Best Value For an Automatic

The Specialista is a no fuss, easy to use machine with a comfortable balance between automation and a hands-on experience.

Delonghi Specialista review
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  • Advanced tamping system

  • Smart ginder technology

  • Dual heating system

  • Adjustable steam wand

  • Extra hot water spout

  • Hot water rinse for portafilter

  • No pressurized portafilter

  • Back access water tank

The coffee grinds directly in the pressurized basket which comes with a single and double basket. There’s a hand level you pull to tamp the grinds, so this cuts out any mess. It has unique grinder sensor technology, so as you adjust the grind coarseness, the grind time is automatically adjusted for the perfect fitting dose.

There’s a special hot water rinse for the portafilter, which you use before grinding, and the machine uses preinfusion. The three presets—espresso, americano and long coffee— which can be slightly customized. For Americano and long coffee, there’s an extra hot water nozzle that goes in the cup as you do the brewing.

La Specialista, although a single boiler, operates off a thermal block, dual heating system so there is very little wait time between frothing and pulling your espresso. The milk frother can easily be adjusted for flat or foam drinks.

De’Longhi Specialista vs Breville Barista Express

DeLonghi Specialista
De’Longhi Specialista
Breville Barista Express compare
Breville Barista Express

The De’Longhi Specialista was the answer to Breville’s highly popular Barista Express. We prefer the De’Longhi because it has smart tamping, a thermal block heater, and the frothing system is more advanced. Also, the De’Longhi is much better at pouring and measuring Americanos.For the experts, the Barista Express comes with a commercial pressurized portafilter, but the De’Longhi only has a pressurized basket, however, you may be able to buy a non pressurized basket from a third party.

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6. Saeco Vapore Automatic Espresso Machine - Best Saeco Automatic Espresso Machine

The Vapore Xsmall is a very basic automatic espresso machine, but it does a good job for a limited amount of drinks. Although it’s not as robust as more expensive machines, the all black design makes it a little unique.

Saeco Vapore Automatic Espresso Machine review
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  • Programmable shot length

  • Detachable brew unit

  • Front-loading tank

  • Front-loading dreg box

  • No pre ground coffee

  • Torque wrench adjusts grinder

There are 5 grind settings, but you have to use a torque wrench to turn and select the options. There is no by-pass doser, so you can’t use pre ground coffee, and there’s no typical cup warmer on top. One thing you can do though, is program the length of your shot for the cup size you use.

It has a basic parallelo wand steamer, so don’t expect micro foam for fine latte art. The steam wand works off a thermal block system, so you need to purge the machine and wait between brewing and frothing. This is a compact machine, so it only holds up to 34 oz of water, and you can add a custom Intenza water filter.

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7. Gaggia Carezza De Luxe - Best Compact Automatic Espresso Machine

This stylish retro looking Gaggia has some unique performance features which makes it a cross between a manual and an automatic. This compact machine doesn’t have a grinder, but has some design features that enable you to get the very best out of pre ground coffee or espresso pods.

Gaggia Carezza De Luxe review
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  • Unique portafilter technology

  • Compact

  • Preinfusion

  • Panarello / manual wand

  • Micro foam

  • Cup warmer

  • No inbuilt grinder

Pre ground coffee tends to brew a weaker and less flavorful espresso, however, this Gaggia uses a dual filter system to overcome this issue. Its large, non pressurized basket holds 18g of coffee, compared to 12g in models such as De’Longhi, and fitted below this is a pressurised valve plug which gives you the advantages of both portafilter types.

Gaggia Carezza De LUXE Espresso Machine

For a machine at this price point, size and grade, it’s still able to offer you preinfusion which is something a true manual machine cannot do. Another key feature is the thermal block heater and the panarello wand– which can easily be converted into a manual wand. Therefore, this machine is capable of microfoam for the best latte art.This Gaggia Carezza is perfect for a small space such as a studio apartment, a small office or reception area where you don’t want grinder noise, so you just use pre ground coffee or espresso pods. It measures 12.7 inches high and 11 inches across and has a cup warmer too. The front loading water tank is 47oz, you can insert an Intenza+ water filter, there is a water level view panel and a cup warming tray.

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Top-rated Automatic Espresso Machines Comparison Chart

ModelTank > BoilerFrotherNotability
De’Longhi Magnifica
Super automatic
80 oz / 2.3 L
Single boiler Thermal block
Automatic
No microfoam
Detachable brew unit
PID controls
Pre infusion
Gaggia Brera
Super automatic
40 oz / 1.2 L
Single boiler
Thermal block
Automatic
No microfoam
Adjustable spout
Programmable volume
Adjustable spout
Gaggia Accademia
Super automatic
54 oz / 1.6 L
Dual boiler
Attachable jug
Additional microfoam wand
One-touch drinks
Color LCD
Flow dial
Breville Oracle Touch
Semi automatic
84 oz / 2.5 L
Dual boiler
Automatic
No microfoam
Incremental controls
Automatic tamping
Fully digital display
De’Longhi Specialista
Semi automatic
67 oz / 2 L
Single boiler
Thermal block
Automatic
Manual microfoam
Tamping lever
Sensor grinder
Extra water nozzle
Saeco Vapore X-Small
Super automatic
34 oz / 1 L
Single boiler
Thermal block
Automatic
No microfoam
Programmable volume
Detachable brew unit
Gaggia Carezza
Semi automatic manual
47 oz / 1.3 L Single boiler
Thermal block
Automatic
Manual microfoam
Advanced portafilter
Pre infusion
Cup warmer

Best Automatic Espresso Machine Brands

1. De’Longhi

DeLonghi Logo

De’Longhi is an Italian based manufacturer in Treviso. Apart from their top range of espresso and coffee machines, they make kitchen gadgets and other home appliances across many categories. In 2001 they acquired the British company Kenwood, and in 2012 the Braun brand— which also manufactures coffee machines.

2. Breville

Breville Kitchen Faucet

Breville is an Australian based company located in Sydney. Their appliances are well-known for their polished, stainless steel designs and unique digital interfaces. Theymake a wide range of kitchen appliances including coffee machines, toasters, blenders, sous vide and more. In 2016, they started manufacturing Nespresso coffee machines.

3. Gaggia

Gaggia logo

Achille Gaggia, who founded the company, pioneered the concept of espresso coffee making with the first patent filed in 1938. The Gaggia brand exclusively makes espresso machines ranging from manual to super automatic. Most products are still all made in Italy, but in 1999, the company was purchased by Saeco—another Italian company. In 2009, the Dutch company Phillips in turn purchased Saeco.

Saeco

Saeco logo

This Italian origin company was founded in 1981 and they were the pioneers of the first fully automatic espresso machine. They later expanded their range and expertise through the purchase of Gaggia. Although branded separately, many of their machines also use Senseo espresso pods. Their products in America are marketed through the parent company, Phillips US.

Conclusion

Our selection of the best automatic espresso machines include fully automated, one-touch espresso machines, to various grades and designs of semi automatic espresso machines. If you have any comments or questions regarding our reviews, please use the comment feature below. We are always here for you.

Luna Regina

A writer and entrepreneur, Luna’s day doesn’t start at the computer keyboard, but in the kitchen.

Half of her working hours are spent on mixing ingredients for her recipes. The other half involve working with the tech team to research and test the tools and appliances that promise to make kitchen work effortless and mess-free. From a kitchen knife or water filter to the Instant Pot, if it can help save time and effort for the home cook, Luna and her team are on it.

Luna’s extracurricular pastimes include camping, travel, and photography.