Last Updated: August 2017
Enjoying a delicious hot cup of espresso at home can be difficult to do unless you invest in the right espresso machine. Fortunately, there are a number of espresso machines available in every price range that is perfect for both beginning and advanced baristas alike. Here are some things you should keep in mind to ensure you choose the right one.
Table of contents
- Common Features
- Fully Automatic vs Semi-Automatic vs Super Automatic
- Pump vs Steam vs Manual
- Best manual Espresso machine
- Best Espresso machine under $100
- Best Espresso machine under $300
- Best Espresso machine under $500
- Best Espresso machine under $1000
- Best Espresso machine under $2000
When choosing the best espresso machine for home use, here are a few features you should consider:
- Water storage: Your espresso machine may be capable of holding up to eight cups of water, or a high-end model might also allow you to plumb directly into your water line.
- Frothing capabilities: Having a frother included will make preparing espresso much easier, and will even make it possible for you to create delicious cappuccino and macchiato beverages as well.
- Easy cleaning: You will need to disassemble and clean your espresso machine periodically, which is why it is important to purchase one that is easy to take apart and reassemble.
Fully Automatic vs. Semi-Automatic & Super Automatic
There are three basic types of automatic espresso machine: fully automatic, semi-automatic, and super-automatic. While the three are similar, there are some basic differences between each model, and these differences will ultimately affect the way you make espresso. Here is an overview of each one:
- Fully automatic: Performs all brewing functions at the touch of a button, stopping immediately whenever brewing is complete. There is no need to manually attach anything in order for brewing to begin.
- Semi-automatic: Requires users to perform certain functions such as grinding beans, tamping, filling the portafilter, and attaching it to the machine. Once these tasks are accomplished, your semi-automatic espresso machine will then automatically handle the remaining brewing processes.
- Super-automatic: Performs all grinding and brewing functions at the flip of a switch. There is no need for prep work at all, making it the ideal choice if you have a busy morning routine and wish to make brewing espresso as easy as possible.
Pump vs. Steam Machines vs. Manually Operated
Espresso machines may be either pump or steam-driven. Electric pump machines create pressure, which forces water at near-boiling temperature through the grinds and into a filter. This pressure is what is responsible for the crema, or foam that is present on the top of a cup of espresso.
Steam machines boil water, producing steam that is then forced through the coffee grounds. As a result, there is little pressure, which means there will be less crema than if a pressure-based machine were used. Stovetop models operate similar to steam machines by forcing water up a pipe and over top of coffee grounds. Both will produce espresso that tastes more like drip coffee, and the finished product will likely be very strong with a slightly burnt flavor.
Manual machines require you to apply a certain amount of force in order to move water through the grounds. This is done by depressing a lever, which acts as a pump that forces water to the filter area. Manual espresso machines do require a great deal more effort; however, they are normally inexpensive, easy to operate, and small enough to take with you anywhere. Many people prefer a manual espresso machine because they feel it provides them with greater control than a steam or pump model would allow.
Keeping the above features in mind, we have prepared a comprehensive list of the best espresso machines in a number of categories. Compare these models carefully to determine which of them might be most appropriate for you.
Best Manual Espresso Machine 2017
Handpresso Pump Pop
The Handpresso Pump Pop is generally available for under $100, making it one of the most affordable espresso machines on the market. Although small, the Handpresso Pump Pop is nonetheless loaded with features, a few of which include:
- Lightweight, weighing just over one pound
- Capable of brewing both pods and ground coffee
- Available in a number of bold colors
- 16 bar manual pump
- Does not require electricity or batteries, making it possible for you to brew espresso anywhere
- Built for longevity, as it is made from durable aluminum
- Requires no learning curve-simply fill the reservoir with hot water and you are ready to brew
- Easily portable so you can make espresso anywhere; great to take with you while camping
- This espresso maker is not capable of heating water, so another source of doing so is needed
- Very basic machine that may not be suitable for brewing other hot beverages such as latte or cappuccino
- Little control over the crema, does not produce as much froth as other more elaborate espresso makers
You will likely find the Handpresso Pump Pop an excellent choice if you would like to make brewing espresso as simple as possible. It would also be a great investment if you are looking for an espresso machine to take with you while traveling or wish to be prepared for a power outage.
Best Espresso Machine under $100
DeLonghi EC155 15 Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
Available for between $89 and $99, the DeLonghi EC155 is the ideal entry-level espresso machine for home use. This machine features:
- A swivel jet frother that will allow you to easily prepare cappuccino and latte
- A dual-function filter holder, which permits you to switch between pods and ground coffee
- Self-priming operation to make start-up easier
- 1,100 watts of power to ensure your beverages are served piping hot but not scalding
- Cup warmer to ensure your beverages stay hot
- This espresso machine is very compact, being only 8 x 11 x 10 inches. As such, it takes up very little storage space inside your cabinets, and will also fit nicely alongside any other small appliances on your kitchen countertop. Its small size also makes it ideal for common-use areas such as employee breakrooms where space may be at a premium.
- This machine will make espresso very quickly, as it takes very little time to heat up. There is also a minimal amount of wait time between the frothing and brewing processes.
- Much of the guesswork is eliminated when it comes to brewing the right quantity of espresso, as the water level is clearly displayed via a see-through window located just behind the basket.
- Some users have difficulty getting water to come out of the tank. This can usually be resolved by banging on the tank.
- The built-in tamper does not always perform to standard, leaving many people choosing to use a spoon in order to tamp their grinds instead.
- The grounds basket winds up being very watery or “soupy” after the brewing process is complete. As such, you must be extra careful when emptying it so as not to make a mess.
All in all, the DeLonghi EC155 Espresso Cappuccino Maker is a reliable machine that will provide you with desirable results with very few bells and whistles. It would be an excellent choice for anyone who desires simplicity, as well as those who are on a very limited budget.
Best Espresso Machine under $300
Nespreso D1111-US-BK-NE1 Citiz Espresso Maker
The Nespresso D1111-US-BK-NE1 Citiz Espresso Maker can be purchased for between $185 and $249. It is a good choice for anyone who would like slightly better quality than what the DeLonghi EC155 offers, without investing in one of the higher-end models. Some features of the Nespresso Citiz include:
- Fast preheating time; in most cases, you can complete the preheating function in under 25 seconds
- Automatic shutoff that turns the espresso machine off after 9 minutes of inactivity
- Pivoting cup tray that is adjustable for tall and short glasses
- 19 bar high pressure pump
- Automatic and programmable quantity control
- Renowned for its elegant, contemporary design, which resulted in it winning the Red Dot Design Award
- Contains two automatic buttons for espresso and lungo, both of which can be reprogrammed to accommodate custom volumes. These buttons also contain backlighting, which makes them very easy to use.
- Energy savings, as this espresso maker consumes up to 60% less energy than other models with an “A” rating
- 16 Nespresso capsules are included with each purchase, and consumers also have the option to join the Nespresso club in order to purchase future capsules at a discount.
- A common problem seems to revolve around the mechanism that is used to puncture the capsules malfunctioning. This problem appears to be so prevalent that Nespresso has taken measures to resolve this design flaw in future models.
- The fact that capsules must be ordered directly from Nespresso is something many people find to be a hassle. However, if you plan accordingly and purchase in advance, you can not only save a great deal of money, but will also ensure you always have pods on hand.
- This espresso maker may sometimes leak around the bottom, but the amount of water that seeps out is usually rather minimal.
The Nespresso Citiz is a highly-effective espresso machine that takes a great deal of guesswork out of brewing beverages. The company is always coming up with new flavor capsules, ensuring you never get tired of drinking the same ones over and over again.
Best Espresso Machine under $500
Breville BES840XL “The Infuser”
The $500 price range is what many espresso aficionados refer to as the “sweet spot”, as this amount of money will allow you to purchase a quality espresso maker without spending an extreme amount of cash. One that is highly recommended for under $500 is the Breville BES840XL, which features:
- 1,600 watt thermocoil heating system, which allows you greater control over beverage temperature
- Auto purge function to automatically adjust steam extraction temperature
- 15 bar Italian pump that provides volumetric control, allowing for preset or manual overrides
- Single and dual wall filter baskets
- Stainless steel bowl inside portafilter to reduce heat loss
- Draws flavor evenly from the coffee grinds to provide a beverage with a superior, well-balanced taste
- Advanced pre-infusion technology, PID temperature control, and thermocoil heating system place this machine in a class by itself when compared to other models in the same price range
- Special alerts let you know when it is time to empty or clean the machine, ensuring your coffee is always fresh and that the unit continues to operate efficiently
- Allows you to easily set shot volumes, thanks to the easy-to-use volumetric control function
- Some users report that this espresso machine no longer auto-purges after several months of use. A buzzing sound is sometimes heard when a shot is pulled as well.
- The machine may jar or move around when putting on the portafilter, something that can easily be overcome by placing it on a non-slip surface
- Despite the fact that this is not an entry-level machine, it is missing a water-level indicator, something that is normally included even on the most basic models.
If you are looking for a high-quality machine that will provide you with a few more bells and whistles than the Nespresso Citiz, and do not mind shelling out some extra dollars, the Breville BES840XL could be for you. At this price range, you can expect a tad more convenience and slightly better durability as well.
Best Espresso Machine under $1000
Breville BES870XL “Barista Express”
If appearance and functionality are both a primary concern, you’ll want to have a look at the Barista Express BES870XL from Breville. Normally costing around $999, you can sometimes find incredible deals that will allow you to save up to 40% off the list price, meaning this machine could cost only slightly more than the BES840XL. Some features you’ll enjoy include:
- Stainless steel conical burr grinder that is capable of grinding a half pound of beans at one time
- Purge function that automatically adjusts the temperature of water, producing steam that is ideal for espresso extraction
- 15 bar Italian pump
- Available in three colors: stainless steel, cranberry red, and black sesame
- 360-degree swivel wand, which makes preparing lattes and cappuccinos a breeze
- The fact that this machine contains a built-in grinder makes grinding and brewing your own espresso more convenient than ever, and also reduces the amount of storage space required in your kitchen.
- Contains a filter size button, which easily allows you to adjust for single or double-wall filter baskets. This feature also allows the grinder to dispense precisely the right amount of ground coffee based on the filter type you select.
- Removable drip tray contains an “empty me” feature to let you know when the tray is full.
- At this price range, many people are hoping for an espresso machine that is capable of handling high volume. Unfortunately, the Barista Express is designed primarily for home use and is not suitable for commercial purposes.
- The fact that it contains a few more advanced features means that there is a learning curve associated with using it. Fortunately, even beginning users find that it takes relatively little time to master it.
- The unit may make an annoying buzzing sound, particularly if calcification occurs. Regular cleanings are needed in order to prevent this from happening.
The Breville BES870XL is a nice choice if you are looking for a long term investment, and plan on preparing several espresso or cappuccino beverages per day. It will also serve you well if you regularly do a great deal of entertaining, although it will probably not function as desired if you plan on serving more than 50 beverages during a single gathering.
Best Espresso Machine under $2000
Gaggia 1003380 Accademia Espresso Machine
The Gaggia 1003380 Accademia Espresso Machine can usually be found online for anywhere from $1,600 to $1,850. This top-of-the-line model has numerous features, including:
- An adjustable telescopic coffee dispenser that is capable of accommodating multiple cup sizes
- Ceramic burr bean grinder with tightly-sealed hopper that preserves aroma and flavor for added freshness
- Integrated coffee grounds container to reduce mess and make cleanup easier
- Programmable quantity function, which allows you to choose from between 7 and 10 cups
- Shiny stainless steel finish provides an elegant appearance, matching any cabinetry or appliances
- One-touch programmable controls easily allow you to create espresso, cappuccino, latte, macchiato or lungo on demand, simply by pressing a button
- High performance, providing near consistent results each and every time
- Allows greater control over coffee strength, milk, water, etc.
- Milk must be manually steamed, meaning you are unable to easily produce hot milk drinks such as cocoa. Even so, the temperature of the milk is normally sufficient for creating latte beverages.
- Inside and outside drip trays must both be emptied quite frequently, something many people find to be a hassle
- Produces hot but not boiling water, something you may find inconvenient when steeping tea
This machine is one you will want to consider as a major investment due to its price; however, it is one you will likely consider well worth the money you spend if everyone in your household has entirely different tastes in hot beverages.
Of course, the models listed here are only suggestions, as there are actually numerous other choices in every category from which to choose. Your final decision should be made after carefully researching the various models and reading up-to-date consumer reviews to find out how others rate them.