Espresso machines are becoming more popular. Besides espressos and cappuccinos, there is so much more you can do with these versatile kitchen appliances, such as making macchiatos, americanos, lattes, and mochas. As long as you have enough ingredients and a little time to spend, you can produce concoctions that will far surpass the flavor of the drinks at your favorite coffee shop.
There are two main types of espresso machines: manual and automatic. Choosing the best espresso machine for you will significantly depend on your needs, your budget, and your personal preferences.
Manual espresso machines are a good fit for those who are interested in old-world style machines. Quality and beauty, these items are relatively simple mechanically and often require little counter space.
Compared with their counterparts, manual models are more difficult to use, and can require more time, practice and experimentation to produce the perfect espresso shot. That’s why in this guide, we've focused mainly on automatic espresso machines, as these models are more popular, practical, user-friendly, and much less expensive.
How To Choose The Best Espresso Machine
Types of Espresso Machines
There are two different types of automatic espresso makers: semi-automatic and super-automatic. While semi-automatic models are typically the most affordable, the super-automatic ones are a bit pricier and much more convenient.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
These are the most commonly-used espresso machines, with prices ranging between $50 and $400. Usually as the price goes up, users can expect to receive a more rugged construction, more stylish design and possibly more modern features.
The advantage of semi-automatic makers is that they’re inexpensive and very easy to control. Compared with super-automatic models, these devices offer better control on some crucial espresso-making variables. However, they usually require you to have more manual intervention and hence extra time to deliver a good shot of espresso.
For those who are seeking a traditional style semi-automatic device that is built to last and brews espresso in minutes, the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine is considered a good option.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
Unlike most semi-automatic espresso machines, super-automatic devices are more complicated internally, as they are able to automatically grind the coffee, and fill and tamp the filter basket. With sophisticated construction, they all rely on one or more computer boards.
But they’re still super easy to operate. There is no special skill required. Your personal, desired tasting shot of espresso will turn out just the way you want it at the touch of a button.
Apart from making espressos, these machines are also good for preparing cappuccinos or lattes. As they can come with lots of possibilities, such as built-in grinders and programmable settings, their prices are typically higher than semi-automatic machines (above $1000), like the Gaggia 14101 Classic.
Types of Boiler
Espresso machines have two types of boiler: single and dual.
As the name suggests, single boiler espresso makers are made using one boiler which has one heating element with two thermostats. In general, the brewing temperature to pull a perfect shot of espresso should be 190 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit and the steaming temperature should be hotter than 250 degrees to stretch milk for making cappuccinos or lattes.
So, one thermostat is set for the brewing temperature range and the other is set at a temperature meant to provide enough steam pressure for frothing milk.
This means, with a single boiler model, users can’t steam or make espresso at the same time and there will be some waiting time and heat purging between these two processes.
Single boiler espresso machines are entry-level machines which are ideal for small businesses or for those who have just started to learn how to make espresso and have a limited budget.
Dual espresso machines are high-end models which provide their owners with better flavored espresso. They also offer more control over the extraction temperature when making microfoam for milk based drinks, compared with the single boiler ones.
The two boilers which are separate and completely independent. Users can make espresso from one boiler and froth or steam milk from the other at the same time. This means there is no downtime between frothing and brewing, which is greatly needed if you want to make multiple drinks quickly or simultaneously.
Clearly, dual boiler models offer a high level of efficiency, but they are very expensive. Even the most basic machine may cost $1000 or more. So, we really do not recommend them for beginners.
Electronic display: Most super-automatic espresso machines feature LED displays, which allow users to swap between drinks as well as easily adjust the coffee strength, milk texture, and temperature to suit their taste.
Self-cleaning function: Cleaning espresso machines is not an easy task, since these appliances have tons of nooks and crannies. Plus, there’s always a thick layer of espresso debris, oils, milk proteins, and mineral deposits getting stuck into the group head after every shot of espresso or frothy milk. That’s why the self-cleaning function, which can be found in many affordable models, is a nice feature to have.
Steam wands: For an easier way to make milk-based drinks, you should consider an espresso maker with an automatic milk frother. With a press of a button, your machine will do all the hard work for you: grind the beans, extract the espresso, and froth the milk. Some premier models can even pour the frothed milk into your drink. A lot of people prefer a steam wand that can be controlled manually, as it’s cheaper and allows users to froth milk to their desired texture. Using a manual steam wand is a little bit tricky at first, but not that hard once you get the hang of it. These models are suitable for those who want to become an expert home barista.
Reviews of The Best Espresso Machines in 2021
Here’s a list of the seven best espresso machines as well as a couple of tips on purchasing. Hopefully this article can help you single out the most suitable unit for your needs and budget.
- Breville BES870XL Barista Express – Best to Buy in 2021
- Nespresso Inissia Original – Best Home Espresso Machine
- De’Longhi ESAM3300 – Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
- Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista – Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine
- NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Genio 2 – Best Affordable Espresso Machine
- De’Longhi EC155 – Best Cappuccino Maker
- Gaggia RI9700/64 Babila – Best Commercial Espresso Machine
Here’s our picks for the Best Espresso Machines.
1. Breville BES870XL Espresso Machine -Best to Buy in 2021
The Breville BES870XL is one of the most well-rounded products to come out of Breville’s varied coffee maker collections. Its compact design, interchangeable filters and a choice of automatic or manual operation make this the best semi-automatic espresso machine for anyone, from the beginners to experienced baristas.
Strong technical support
Automatic shot controls
Takes up space
A bit noisy
Takes time to learn how to use
Automatic or Manual Operation
We’re all looking for convenience, but with this product, there’s still some room for experimenting. This means the machine is best suited for people who actually enjoy the experience of crafting their own espresso drink, as well as having the time and patience to do so. So if you’re looking for something that makes drinks just by pushing a button, this is not the machine to consider.
Digital Temperature Control (PID) Technology
The biggest difference in using this device rather than using the less expensive ones is the ability to control the strength, flavor, coffee grind, and pressure. The coffee maker brings about amazing results with every use. The flavor of your cappuccino is not only better than the one purchased from the coffee shops, its quality is also much more consistent.
Pressurized and Non-pressurized Baskets
The Breville BES870XL is a single boiler espresso machine that can grind beans directly into the portafilter. It comes with pressurized and non-pressurized baskets which are easily clicked in or out of the portafilter for cleaning and modifying.
Many owners agree that pressurized baskets are much more convenient than non-pressurized ones, because they can deal with all grind sizes and usually do not require proper tamping pressure.
Grind Size Dial and Water Tank
When making espresso, grind size is very important as the finer or coarser the grind, the more or less quickly the water can make its way through. This will obviously have an impact on the brewing time and extraction efficiency.
Every coffee has a different ideal grind size. Taking this issue into consideration, the Breville BES870XL is designed with a grind size adjustment, which makes it easier for users to experience different grind sizes. Located on the right side of the machine, the grind size dial is simple, straightforward to use, and incredibly useful.
There is also a water tank with a charcoal filter that can hold 67 ounces of water (just over 2 quarts) and can be taken out of the machine.
The machine will make a mess with some coffee grounds overflowing from the filter basket even when it’s used properly. So, if you’re looking for a mess-free experience, it’d be better to double your spending and look at fully automatic machines.
This semi-automatic model (and all that you want to go with it) does take some counter space, requiring at least 34 inches of counter width to wholly accommodate it. It’s also a heavy machine; not one you’ll want to move around often.
For the price point, this top pick is absolutely great for the majority of consumers. It’s both a high quality espresso machine and super user friendly. Buy the Breville BES870XL now to experience that unforgettable flavor right at home.Check Latest Price On Amazon
2. Nespresso Inissia Original -Best Home Espresso Machine
The Nespresso Inissia is the least expensive machine among Nespresso's original line of automatic espresso makers. It’s also the most compact and lightweight model on our list, weighing about 8 pounds, with a footprint of 18.5 by 7.8 inches. This means it’s very easy to move around and won’t take up much counter space.
Lots of smart programmable features
Compact and lightweight
Useless instruction booklet
Style and Convenience
Nespresso Inissia is a versatile machine. It brews coffee and heats/froths the milk at EXACTLY the correct temperature. It's also so quick and easy to use. Simply place your Nespresso pod in the machine, press the brew button for your coffee selection (espresso or lungo), and then let it prepare your beverage. Since the brew buttons are programmable, you can adjust the cup size by pressing and holding down either of them until your cup is filled with the amount you want.
There is no need to wait for the machine to warm up first since the water can be preheated to the ideal brewing temperature in just 25 seconds. Plus, you can get shot after shot without any waiting time in between. The machine can even automatically shut off after nine minutes of inactivity— a surprising feature at this low price point.
Intelligent Espresso Maker
Although this automatic espresso maker is inexpensive, it comes with lots of smart programmable features, including an integrated capsule chamber elegantly hidden away and a very smart drip tray located beneath it.
The capsule chamber can hold about 10 used coffee capsules and it’s perforated so you’ll know when it’s full. The extension tray where you put your coffee cup flips up and down to accomodate all cup sizes. It can also channel spilled liquid to a hidden reservoir that holds about one-third of a cup of water. The whole assembly slides out of the coffee maker very easily and comes apart, making cleaning a breeze.
Water Tank Capacity
The plastic water tank is on the back of the machine and can be taken out entirely. It can hold 0.7 liters of water, which is enough for nine small cups of espresso.
This single-serve espresso machine also includes the Aeroccino Plus Milk Frother which heats and froths while you are brewing your ground coffee. The automatic frother has 2 interchangeable whisks that you keep stored in the frother itself: one for latte and one for cappuccino. Insert the desired whisk and then fill to the maximum line for each version and you’ll have almost instant, hot, frothy milk.That being said, it is very loud when functioning. So loud that it will wake up your kids if their bedroom is nearby. Luckily, it brews quickly.
What Can Be Improved
One notable problem is the instruction booklet. We suppose the manufacturers decided to publish the instruction booklet almost entirely with images as opposed to images accompanied by text instructions to make the manual easier for people who speak a variety of languages.
But, these terrible instructions are not worth the time they saved in translations. They’re totally useless. We suggest viewing the slick YouTube videos for useful visual instruction.
If you’re hunting for an automatic espresso machine with the minimum acceptable pressure of 15 bars (this one has 19 bars of pressure), for under $100, the Nespresso Inissia is absolutely the model you have been looking for. For the budget price, this little gem is worth every penny.
Want more products from the Nespresso line? Check out the Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker, another great find.Check Latest Price On Amazon
3. De’Longhi ESAM3300 – Best Automatic Espresso Machine
The De’Longhi Magnifica ESAM3300 is a solid piece of equipment that performs an excellent job of grinding and brewing. There’s simply no mess from using the machine, and the latte, drip coffee, and espresso it makes are exceptional. With normal everyday use, this workhorse can last for a long time before needing more thorough maintenance.
Good at brewing and grinding
Simple control panel
Almost no waiting time for brewing
Poorly constructed grounds bin
No fancy LED/LCD readouts
Regarding the performance of the automatic functions, this machine can let you know when you are out of water, when the dregs are ready to be thrown away, and when the unit needs descaling. One of the great features lets you choose how much hot water you want to go into your cup, and the machine will automatically add more or less coffee to the hopper.
The milk steamer is great and can create very fine “micro bubbles” (with some practice) for perfect espresso drinks. Also, the warmer works well and helps to keep up to 3 shot cups warm at a time. Unlike its brother – the De’Longhi EC155, it heats up more quickly when turned on (about 3 mins), saving you time and hassle.
Despite lacking fancy LED/LCD readouts, it offers easy to use and effective controls for the strength of the shots as well as the size and fineness of the grind. It does take some time to find the perfect grind consistency, water volume and coffee strength for your taste, but for many owners that is a huge advantage.
Furthermore, the wide range of adjustments means you can get exactly the coffee you want from this appliance.
Most of the negative reviews are from users who don’t know the importance of keeping an espresso machine clean. C’mon guys, don’t expect it to work properly if you don’t take care of it.
So, try to clean it on a regular basis unless you want to incorporate unhealthy drinks into your daily routine. Thankfully, this device requires just half the cleaning time of many other models which require chemical cleaning tablets monthly.
The only real drawback is that the unit’s grounds bin is made of lightweight plastic and has tabs sticking out around the edge which could easily be broken off. This flaw is absolutely an invitation to future annoyance, as these tabs perform a crucial function.
The convenience of having an all-in-one machine instead of separate machines to grind and brew is awesome. That’s why The De’Longhi Magnifica is absolutely a no brainer.Check Latest Price On Amazon
4. Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista – Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Mr. Coffee is a reliable semi-automatic espresso maker. It can’t be compared with one of the fancy ones like our top pick— the Breville BES870XL, but what it does, it does very well. It makes excellent drinks, and with minimal effort on your part. It also looks nice enough to be left out in the kitchen while being compact enough to store away in a cabinet.
Easy to use
Automatic milk frother
One-touch control panel
Cannot be used for high volume
Some problems with the filter holder and milk froth cleaner
Customized Espresso Drinks
This espresso maker offers three different drink options: ESPRESSO, CAPPUCCINO AND LATTE. There is one button for each option. Under those buttons, it also has another feature which lets users set the amount of froth. Clearly, it’s pretty much an all-in-one system without the thousand dollar plus price tag.
To make espresso, you can either let the machine do it all with one button press, or you can make an espresso first, do the manual milk in a separate container and then pour it over the espresso.
However, truth be told, if your goal is to get beautiful, coffee shop style latte art, this is not the machine for you, since it’s practical and not artsy. Though it can make a darn good latte or cappuccino, it does not get frilly.
Easy to Clean
After you are done making the drinks, cleaning up is a breeze. Just hold the top button for the coffee grind connector to get cleaned, then hold the bottom button for the milk frother to get cleaned.
Many users noticed the milk froth cleaner not getting all the milk out of the metal tube completely.
Another issue is that the filter holder somehow keeps on dripping water long after the espresso brewing process is finished. Some people reported that they had followed the instructions to tamp the coffee grounds firmly, but nothing improved, and enough water is left in the filter to continue dripping for a while.
If you want to make regular espresso followed by decaf, you will either have a long wait for most of the water to filter through, or brave opening a messy, soupy filter.
If you’re looking for something that would let you make coffee both automatically and manually, this is it. Though it does take a little time to get into the routine of using it without spilling coffee grinds all over the place, once you get the hang of it, it shouldn’t be an issue.Check Latest Price On Amazon
5. NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Genio 2 – Best Affordable Espresso Machine
The NESCAFÉ is one of a few pod style espresso machines that can make tea, chocolate drinks, and all sorts of coffee (black and white) in either cold or hot versions. With a small footprint, this single-serve espresso machine is best suited for low-volume applications.
Compact yet powerful
Allows for hot and cold brewings
Exclusively for Nescafe Dolce Gusto capsules
Small water tank
No used capsule container
Compact and Efficient
In terms of performance, it works similarly to the Nespresso Inissia but is a little bit slower. Its interface is very intuitive, with a green display and a little scroll wheel which lets users adjust the amount of water running into their cup.
Height-Adjustable Drip Tray
The machine’s drip tray is removable and can be set at three different heights for a variety of coffee mug sizes. It can also power off on its own after five minutes of inactivity to conserve energy.
Keep in mind that this sturdy appliance is only compatible with the official Dolce Gusto capsules. Besides, it doesn’t have a used capsule container, so you will have to discard the used capsule after each use.
The NESCAFÉ is not a one touch system, but this doesn’t mean it’s less efficient. It’s fast, affordable, and very convenient. We highly recommend it!Check Latest Price On Amazon
6. De’Longhi EC155 – Best Cappuccino Maker
If you’re on a tight budget, but looking for a high-quality automatic espresso machine, the De’Longhi EC155 might be a great option for you. This little Italian device is compact, reliable, and highly efficient. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do – produce milk-based coffee drinks every time with lovely crema on top. It’s so simple to use and definitely won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how it works.
Good for espresso beginner
Can’t handle a full mug
Up to 15 mins heating time
Vibrates too much
Starting from the beginning, assembly is a snap. All of the parts in the box are either wrapped in foam or tape that have little edges that you can lift with your fingers.
It comes with a single shot or double shots insert for the coffee grounds, and is easy to maintain, requiring less cleaning than some other models. Its self adjustable valve allows users to start the pressure low and quickly ramp it up as they need. Plus, the water reservoir holds more than enough water and is easily removable for refilling.
However, it vibrates so much while brewing that you can feel it along the countertop. So the cups sitting under the filter holder are steadily dancing away from the espresso being poured unless you hold the espresso cup in place and rest your hand on top of the unit.
Also, make sure to have one hand available to turn the knob again to stop the water from coming out; there is no auto stop.
There are some who complain they have to wait 15 minutes for the machine to draw its first shot. For us, that’s not such a big deal. You can turn the machine on to heat up while you’re getting ready in the morning and then make your favorite drinks. I have been able to pull quality shots in just under 10 minutes. The tamper works quite well too.
Unfortunately, there’s not much clearance under the handle to accommodate an actual coffee mug. If you do want to use a full mug, you’ll have the added step of brewing the espresso into one cup that fits, and then pouring it into the mug you intend to drink from. Truly, this is slightly inconvenient.
But, don’t panic, we have a plan for you. Buying perfectly sized (and fairly inexpensive) espresso cups can help you avoid this issue; no need for a full mug, just drink espresso straight.
Though the De’Longhi EC155 is not the best espresso machine ever (so don’t get your expectations up too high), it does better than anything else at this price point, making the perfect, frothy steamed milk in no time. Of course, there are drawbacks. However, for the money you’re paying and what you’re getting, it’s rather unreasonable to ask for more.Check Latest Price On Amazon
7. Gaggia RI9700/64 Babila - Best Commercial Espresso Machine
Gaggia Babila is the most expensive model in our list. It’s also one of two super-automatic espresso makers with both a carafe and a commercial style steam wand available on the market.
Customizable coffee dispenser
Self-cleaning milk carafe
A variety of drink options
With the extra big bean hopper, spacious water tank (1.5 L), and the internal dreg bin holding up to 11 pucks of used coffee, this one-touch system is absolutely a serious, sound investment that can be used for commercial purposes.
The Gaggia Babila is a double boiler espresso machine, offering 8 drink options and 15 unique grinding settings. For whatever drink option you choose, you can program the temperature, the pre-infusion level, the amount of milk/coffee, and the strength of your coffee.
There are five different strength settings: extra mild, mild, normal, strong, and very strong.The auto-cleaning milk carafe is very easy to remove from the machine and can go straight into your fridge to keep things cool. It comes with automatic frothing for a variety of milk-based drinks, including cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos.
The flow knob, located right in the center, is a nice feature to have. You can use it to customize levels of extraction for stronger or milder espresso. You can also use the manual steam wand to texture the milk for pouring latte art or for creating customized milk-based drinks to your own preferences.
The only problem is that the machine itself is quite noisy while grinding. The noise is tolerable, but you might have to raise your voice to have a conservation.
The Gaggia Babila is a fancy stainless steel espresso machine that comes with a wide range of customizable features. If money is no object, this is the best model for you.Check Latest Price On Amazon
Top-rated Espresso Machines Comparisons
|Product||Pump pressure (Bar)||Water tank capacity (Liter)||Warranty (Year)|
|Nespresso Inissia Original||19||0.7||2|
|Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista||15||N/A||1|
|NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Genio 2||15||1.3||1|
|Gaggia RI9700/64 Babila||15||1.5||2|
Best Espresso Machine Brands
When it comes to espresso machines, Breville may be the most popular and trusted brand in the market. Though their prices are slightly higher than other manufacturers, there’s a Breville espresso maker for everyone, from the budget conscious beginners to the luxury seeking customers.
De’Longhi is known for its high-quality super-automatic espresso machines, which offer a lot of compelling features at a very affordable price.The company also has a reputation for providing top-notch customer service.
Nespresso makes some really good espresso machines, which work well and are exceptionally durable.
If you are looking for a good manual espresso machine, then you should consider the La Pavoni. Simple yet powerful, the Italian espresso machine stands out from the crowd with the unique lever design and budget-friendly price tag.
Miele is one of the higher-end brands, but not many users are familiar with it. Its super-automatic espresso machine may cost up to $2500, and it performs virtually identically to our top pick— the Breville BES870XL. This German-based appliance company is trying to gain recognition in the market.
All in all, our top overall pick for the best espresso machine to buy this year is the Breville BES870XL because of its compact design, high efficiency and long service life. If you don’t have the budget for this premium model, there are also some more affordable alternatives, such as the NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Genio 2. Though it’s inexpensive, it’s equipped with plenty of notable features, including the automatic operation, LED display, and height-adjustable drip tray.
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.