Last Updated: February 2017
Whether you enjoy espresso, cappuccino, latte, or a variety of other hot beverages, having the right machine is a must for your kitchen. Here are some things to keep in mind that will ensure you choose the right espresso or cappuccino machine for your skill level.
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Espresso vs. Cappuccino: What is the Difference?
Espresso is created by taking finely-ground coffee, tightly packing it into a portafilter, and then using high-pressure water to extract concentrated amounts of coffee that are known as “shots”. Known for its bold flavor, many espresso beverages are very dark and contain an almost burnt flavor, although these characteristics are not necessarily required.
Cappuccino on the other hand consists of equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and wet foamed milk. Cappuccino differs from latte in that it contains more coffee than milk, whereas the opposite is true for latte. Expect a somewhat milder, smoother flavor from cappuccino than what you would enjoy from an espresso.
Best Entry Level Espresso & Cappuccino Machine
Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker BVMC-ECMP1000
If you are in the market for a basic espresso machine that will nonetheless allow you to make delicious cappuccino or latte beverages with ease, the Café Barista BVMC-ECMP1000 espresso machine from Mr. Coffee is for you. Generally available for between $169 and $200, it is an affordable machine that will provide you with exceptional quality for the money. The Café Barista comes with some unique features such as:
- A one-touch control panel that allows you to choose either single or double shots
- Automatic milk frother, which creates varying degrees of foam or crema
- A removable milk reservoir that is easy to fill and clean
- Adjustable cup tray to make filling different size cups or mugs as convenient as possible
- Drip catcher tray, which reduces spills on your counter, making it easy to keep your work area clean
- 15 bar pump that is capable of producing a very rich, foamy crema
Café Barista Advantages
Creating latte, cappuccino, or espresso beverages couldn’t be easier than it is with Mr. Coffee’s Café Barista. Simply place coffee grounds in the portafilter, fill the milk reservoir, and then press one of the three pre-programmed buttons. After that, all you have to do is sit back and wait while this machine does all of the work for you. This espresso maker takes all the guesswork out of making hot beverages, and also allows you to save a great deal of time because you can go on doing other things while your drink is brewing.
You may also customize your beverage by manually controlling the amount of milk frothing. Simply adjust the amount of milk in each serving to your exact liking if you are unhappy with the results you achieve from any of the automatic programs. In fact, the level of customization you can achieve is virtually unparalleled among other espresso machines in the same class.
Café Barista Disadvantages
While the tank is easy to remove, there is a possibility of it leaking if it is not set properly in place. Removing and resetting the tank normally takes care of this problem. Some users also report that this machine tends to lose its pressurization capabilities after about eight to nine months of service. It seems the lifespan can be significantly shortened by hard water, so using distilled water or descaling the machine on a regular basis is highly recommended.
Removing the milk container is something that many people find difficult. It seems that a great deal of force is needed in order to seat it firmly in place. This is likely due to a faulty design of the O-ring that lies between the machine and the container itself.
Best Mid-Grade Espresso & Cappuccino Machine
Gaggia Classic 14101 Espresso Machine
Available for between $400 and $600, the Gaggia Classic 14101 is a rugged, durable machine crafted from solid stainless steel with forged brass components for added longevity. The fact that it is made from high-quality materials means you can realize better temperature control, and will not have to worry about breaking or cracking plastic parts. The Gaggia Classic is a top-selling model because of its numerous features, which include:
- 72-ounce removable water reservoir that is exceptionally easy to fill and clean
- 17 ½ bar pump with high-voltage boiler, frothing wand, and hot water dispensing feature
- Stainless steel filter basket with grounds tamper and measuring scoop makes it easy to portion out precise amounts of coffee grounds
- Brass portafilters to provide greater temperature stability and control
- High voltage warmer, which reduces the amount of time needed for this machine to warm up
Gaggia Classic Advantages
This machine gives you the ability to choose between regular ground coffee and pods for added convenience. Another advantage is the fact that it is capable of delivering two cups of coffee at once, thereby greatly reducing your morning brewing time. You’ll enjoy the convenient hot water dispenser, which makes it possible for you to enjoy tea, cocoa, or instant soups at the touch of a button. The built-in cup warmer ensures your beverages remain hot until you are ready to enjoy them again.
You’ll also find it very easy to clean and maintain this unit. All that is normally needed is for you to wipe down the exterior with a damp cloth in order to keep in clean. Certain parts such as the filter basket are easily removable so that you may wash them by hand.
Gaggia Classic Disadvantages
A few people report that the ready light on this machine is not a true indicator of temperature. This has resulted in beverages that were either scalding hot or not quite as warm as people may like. As a result, you may need to keep an eye on your machine rather than relying solely on the ready light.
This machine is also equipped with an aluminum boiler, which is subject to corroding over time. This means you must be extra vigilant when it comes to cleaning and descaling your unit. Using distilled water is recommended unless your area has very soft water or your home is outfitted with its own water softener.
Best High-End Espresso & Cappuccino Machine
DeLonghi ECAM23260SB Magnifica Smart Espresso & Cappuccino Maker
This high-end espresso machine will cost you between $1,200 and $1,700. It is recommended if you are looking for the best in convenience, style, and durability, and desire making a long-term investment in something that you will use often. Made from stainless steel and chrome, it is an attractive appliance you’ll be proud to show off in your kitchen or any other formal dining setting. The Magnifica Smart Espresso Machine contains the following features:
- Integrated stainless steel burrs, with 13 adjustable grind settings that ensure the greatest accuracy possible
- Auto clean function that automatically rinses your milk carafe when you are finished
- 8 ounce flavor-saving bean container with tight-fitting lid to ensure maximum freshness
- Self-contained milk frother that dispenses a predetermined amount of milk
- 60-ounce water tank with built-in filtration system to reduce calcification and improve flavor
DeLonghi Magnifica Advantages
The DeLonghi Magnifica provides you with lots of beverage options, allowing you to create ristretto, low-pressure coffee, latte, cappuccino, and espresso at the touch of a button. This machine’s LatteCrema system produces a thick, rich foam in every single cup, and this foam will last as long as you are enjoying your beverage.
This machine is also equipped with thermo block technology, ensuring your coffee, espresso, latte, or cappuccino is served at the perfect temperature. This feature eliminates any worry you may have over scalding. When producing multiple cups, you will find each one to be an even, consistent temperature, thereby eliminating any guesswork. It also requires very little time for this espresso maker to warm up when compared to other models in the same price range.
DeLonghi Magnifica Disadvantages
There are quite a few removable parts which must be taken out and cleaned on a regular basis. Removing and cleaning these parts is recommended prior to your first use, something which can be time-consuming and cumbersome. Pay careful attention to the instructions provided in your manual; otherwise, you are likely to find that reassembling your machine is more complicated than you had anticipated.
The fact that it contains so many pre-set features makes it difficult to “tweak” the amount of milk or espresso you add in order to customize your drink. This may not be a concern if you are satisfied with the machine’s settings; however, if you enjoy experimenting, you will likely find this issue bothersome. Keep in mind that the milk frother drips lightly at first before dispensing a full stream, something that can greatly affect your results. You may want to dispense these drips into your overflow tray first to ensure your beverage is not too watered down.
Choosing an espresso machine that is capable of performing a variety of functions is one of the best ways to ensure you get the most for your money. Investing in a top quality machine that is capable of creating delicious cappuccino, latte, and other hot beverages is one of the best ways to ensure that your guests are completely satisfied with the finished product.