Best Espresso Machines
We scoured expert and user reviews to find the best espresso machines for the money. These espresso makers produce rich-tasting espresso shots in minutes, and many have frothers for cappuccinos and lattes. We've got inexpensive pod espresso machines from Nespresso, as well as faves like DeLonghi and Capresso.
What We Considered
Our research drew on reviews and testing results posted by experts, including CNET, TopTenReviews, and Consumer Reports. We also looked to niche sites maintained by knowledgeable experts, such as Whole Latte Love, Coffee Geek, Seattle Coffee Gear, and Fourth Estate Coffee. For input from everyday users, we turned to Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Macy's, Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma, and manufacturer web pages.
We Looked At
Semi-automatic and automatic machines typically use a pump to push water through the coffee grounds. Pump pressure is measured in bars: The more bars, the more pressure. There is some disagreement about the number of bars needed to brew the best espresso. Nine bars is generally considered the sweet spot, and many experts argue that anything above this number is superfluous. Other experts say they would rather a machine tout a higher number of bars and automatically regulate down to nine bars of pressure than struggle to reach that level, and note that a higher number of bars means a shorter wait between shots.
The espresso machines on our list of top picks feature at least 15 bars of maximum brewing pressure, although brewing typically occurs at a lower level. One notable exception: With its Vertuo line, Nespresso has pioneered a new extraction method by which centrifugal action, rather than a pump, is used to circulate water through espresso pods. Termed "centrifusion" (centrifugal action plus water infusion), this technology, coupled with bar-coded pods that tell the machine exactly how much water is to be added and the optimal brewing time, is said to produce a great cup. (It also makes cleanup even easier, as the high spin rate leaves behind a completely dry pod.)
The portafilter is the long-handled attachment that holds espresso grounds or ESE pods. Pressurized water flows through this gizmo and produces the espresso and crema. A commercial portafilter gives the most control over the brewing process and occasionally appears in higher-end machines designed for home use. It also has the steepest learning curve and is far more susceptible to user error.
The pressurized portafilters on entry-level espresso machines require less expertise but have their own drawbacks. Pressurized portafilters tend to be lightweight and less durable, and they aren't as good at maintaining heat. They can produce a messy, soggy "puck" — a hunk of grounds left over after the water flows through. Users find that aggressive tamping or over-grinding can clog the portafilter and cause the grounds to explode out of it. On some semi-automatic espresso machines, it's possible to change out the pressurized portafilter for a non-pressurized one like the type found on commercial machines. Still, that's an extra expense.
Many espresso machines offer some type of cup-warming tray to take the chill off a ceramic cup and maintain the heat of the beverage. Cup-warming trays are either passive (heat from the boiler warms the cups) or active (there's a separate heating mechanism). Most machines in the budget range feature passive warming trays, which may not be all that useful. By the time the machine is ready to brew, the warmer has only just started to heat. Some users opt to run a cycle with only water to warm up the cups and then proceed with the espresso.
DeLonghi Nespresso Vertuo Review
When making espresso or coffee, it doesn't get any easier than a machine that eliminates the need for grinding, measuring, and tamping. That's one reason users rave about the Nespresso Vertuo, and pod machines in general. Another, according to reviews, is that this (Breville-made) Nespresso coffee machine makes better coffee and espresso than the other brands. This might be due, in part, to its pump-free technology: A special "centrifusion" process sends water through the grounds in the capsule and sets it spinning at high speeds to extract the blend and leave a dry capsule behind. In another technological advance, each capsule comes with a barcode that tells the machine exactly what it needs to do to achieve the optimal blend. In fact, the delivery system is so foolproof that, the only real complaint we saw from users is that the temperature of the drinks leaves many a bit, well, cold. A bundled version is available with an accompanying Aeroccino frother, which adds about adds about $35 to the price (buy it on Amazon) but also opens up the possibility of frothing hot or cold milk for uses besides coffee.
Produces high-quality, rich-tasting espresso and regular coffee, reviews say.
Uses prepackaged pods, which minimizes cleanup and adds convenience.
More options than competing espresso machines, including single and double shots, gran lungo, traditional coffee, and even alto (14 ounces).
Heats up in just 15 to 20 seconds.
Automatically turns off after 9 minutes of idle time.
Many users complain about lukewarm output.
Takes only proprietary Nespresso pods; some pushback in reviews over price and limited supplier options.
Pods are recyclable, but doing so can be a hassle.
1-year warranty; some Nespresso machines offer longer coverage.
DeLonghi EC702 Review
A good entry-level espresso machine, the semi-automatic DeLonghi EC702 pleases hundreds of owners with its ease of use and high-quality espresso with the requisite crema, which strikes some reviewers as totally authentic. With separate thermostats for water and steam, brewing and frothing can be accomplished simultaneously, so the espresso and milk can come together at optimum heat. The downside, according to some reviews, is a relatively short lifespan, and like most of the competition, it carries only a 1-year warranty.
Accommodates pods or ground coffee; single or double shot.
Self-priming unit heats quickly; stainless steel boiler maintains temperature, so users can brew several cups without waiting.
Separate thermostats for water (coffee) and steam (milk).
Milk frothing wand; cup warmer on top.
User-friendly operation appeals to novices.
Scattered gripes in reviews that shots are weak, the water reservoir is tricky to remove, and the filter may fall out.
Puck is on the wet side, so cleaning can be messy, owners say.
Must be shut down manually.
Some reports of early demise.
Mr. Coffee Café Barista Review
The semi-automatic Mr. Coffee Café Barista might not satisfy espresso geeks, but a vast majority of owners are thrilled with its performance and the money saved by preparing their daily brew at home. Users crow that it makes espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes that rival drinks at popular coffee chains. Although it's not incredibly powerful, at 1,040 watts, it has a full 15-bar pump and turns out a cup with a good crema in less than two minutes. The integrated milk frother, which deposits steamed milk directly into the cup as espresso pours out, is a winning feature; neither the espresso nor the milk has a chance to cool while awaiting the addition of the other.
Mixes frothed milk and espresso directly in the cup for cappuccinos and lattes.
Produces single and double shots; accommodates ground beans and pods (with purchase of a pod portafilter).
User-friendly controls: Just select the brew type and hit a button.
Control dial for choosing the foam level for milk.
Adjustable cup tray lets users select any size cup or mug; cup warmer shelf on top.
Programmed cleaning cycle.
Some complaints about inconsistent water temperature and insufficiently hot water for top-notch espresso.
Longevity may be limited to a few years, reviews suggest; 1-year limited warranty.
Scattered grumbling about dripping after extraction.
Portafilters clog if beans are ground too fine, according to some reviews.
DeLonghi Nespresso Inissia Review
This unassuming, little Nespresso machine by DeLonghi makes a good number of espresso drinkers happy with its price and performance. It's a fast and easy way to get good espresso consistently, reviewers say, and many consider the brew just right, although a few say the lungo can be hit or miss. Reviews also say the Inissia (EN.80) is well-suited to office environments, taking up little space, producing no mess, and requiring little cleanup. Cappuccino and latte fans may want to look elsewhere, given the absence of a frothing mechanism, or they can look for a bundle that includes an Aeroccino frother along with the machine. Those worried about finding the pods will be happy to know that, in addition to the online site, Nespresso has an app that allows users to order replacement pods directly from their phones or find stores that sell them nearby. The app also provides recycling locations.
Cheapest Nespresso machine available.
Makes espresso (ristretto) and lungo sizes; automatically shuts off.
Heats up in 25 seconds; 19 bars of pressure.
Drip tray folds up to fit larger cups.
Incredibly compact, at just 4.7 inches wide and 9 inches high; easily stows away; carry handle.
2-year warranty is longer than many competitors'.
Takes Nespresso pods only.
Lacks a frothing mechanism for milk.
Lifespan may be limited to weeks or months, according to some reviews.
Gourmia GCM6500 Review
A cheaper version of the iconic Nespresso machines, the Gourmia GCM6500 sates many users' thirst for espresso, cappuccinos, and lattes at a budget price. In fact, according to many reviewers, it makes the best espresso going. This model also wins over fans with its simplicity and precision — there's no guesswork or learning curve. It uses prepackaged pods, and milk for cappuccinos and lattes is frothed and meted out automatically. But for the ease, users sacrifice some control, quality, and choice, and aficionados caution against expecting a brew that rivals the offerings of the best high-end café. Reliance on Nespresso-style pods specifically is a pitfall; users gripe about their limited availability.
No measuring required: pod-only system for coffee and a preprogrammed amount of milk.
1-touch operation: just press a button for an espresso, lungo, cappuccino, or latte; auto shut-off.
Milk reservoir; frothed milk automatically flows directly into the cup.
High-powered, at 1,500 watts; 19 bars of pump pressure; heats up in 60 seconds.
Removable drip tray accommodates taller cups.
Takes Nespresso or Nespresso-compatible pods only.
Thin crema, according to reviews, and drinks aren't hot enough.
Some complaints about build quality, leaking, and short lifespan.
Capresso EC100 Review
The Capresso EC100 (model #116.04) is a good gateway into the world of at-home espresso brewing. This semi-automatic machine is a breeze to use, according to owners, producing hot and flavorful shots with a thick, rich crema. Some more experienced reviewers, however, say the water doesn't get quite hot enough to turn out a truly optimal espresso. Still, the brand claims its share of loyalists, and some who've had an older one conk out report buying the same one again because of the value for the price. Costco members can snag even greater savings on this Capresso espresso machine, which is widely available at a number of bricks-and-mortar retailers.
Option to brew 2 cups simultaneously.
Heats up quickly, reviewers say.
Takes ground beans or prepackaged pods.
Frother adjusts to 2 positions for lattes or cappuccinos.
Removable drip tray allows this machine to accommodate a regular-size cup.
Stainless steel cup-warming platform on top.
Some complaints in reviews about dripping and leaking.
A few consider the brew to be on the weak side.
Limited lifespan, according to some users.
DeLonghi EC155 Review
The DeLonghi EC155 may not win a gold star for unassailable performance and design, and it also doesn't pack a ton of power, at just 1,100 watts, but it delivers a convincing and satisfying brew, according to hundreds of reviews. This is espresso as it should be, many reviewers report. The machine comes with a very modest price and convenient features, including the option of using pods or ground beans and making two separate shots at once. The compact footprint also makes this user-friendly, semi-automatic model a good gift for any household of espresso fans.
Takes ground beans or pods.
Produces a single or double shot, or 2 cups simultaneously.
Self-priming function heats quickly, so there's no wait between brews.
Anti-drip design; puck comes out dry if the grounds are well-tamped, users say.
Frother for lattes and cappuccinos; cup warmer on top.
Separate thermostats for water (espresso) and steam (milk); adjustable steam.
Unusually lightweight, at 3.5 pounds; doesn't take up much counter space.
Accommodates small espresso cups or shot glasses only.
Frothing wand is low; some reviewers complain that a pitcher doesn't fit.
Shots are inconsistent, experts say, because the temperature control is not always consistent.
Some reports that the pump gives out within a year or so.
Other Products We Reviewed
The Nespresso Citiz C110 (starting at $230, Amazon) makes the espresso experience as easy as possible with its proprietary, single-serve coffee capsules. Nespresso Citiz C110 reviews rave about the no-muss, no-fuss technology. Postings on sites such as Crate & Barrel say the capsule-only design produces a perfect cup with each push of a volume-control button indicating a larger or smaller brew. Consumers' reviews say the taste is excellent and start-to-finish takes less than 2 minutes. Some Nespresso Citiz C110 reviews at Amazon assert you can't do better with an at-home machine largely because the capsules ensure consistency. Clean up is also a snap, say reviews -- the empty aluminum casings drop into a special container and the removable parts just need a quick rinse (or a dip in the dishwasher).
And yet, some users gripe about the monopoly hold of Nespresso on the raw ingredients (the coffee capsules, that is) and about a brew that's not super hot. Also note that the Nespresso Citiz C110 is a one-trick pony -- no lattes or cappuccinos because there's no wand for frothing and steaming milk.
This model boasts 19 bars of pressure and a pump that stops and starts automatically depending on the choice between espresso (1.5 ounces) or lungo (3 ounces). For the best results, though, a Nespresso Citiz C110 review at Brookstone suggests using only the espresso size and adding water or milk if you want a larger drink. A common problem on cheap espresso machines is the low brew head, which has clearance for only a shot glass; the Nespresso Citiz, however, features a cup holding tray that moves up and down to accommodate different sized cups. The stainless steel tank holds 34 ounces of water and the retro design is available in red, black, silver, or white. There are 16 capsule varieties, including three decaffeinated and three organic.
The simplicity, build quality, and performance of this espresso maker are hard to beat. The proprietary capsules are pricey, but there's no learning curve and no surprise results. If you can tolerate the ongoing cost of the capsules and value the uniform brew, this is the machine for you.
Saeco Aroma 00347 Review
Beginning baristas are fans of this model, according to Saeco Aroma 00347 reviews. Users consider it one level above a starter espresso maker but still easy enough to master. Reviews at Seattle Coffee Gear stress the importance of reading the directions to get the hang of it, not to mention the best results. Consumers generally say this model is relatively forgiving about the size of the grind and produces a quality drink, although a couple gripe about the consistency of the crema and the frothed milk (too much bubble in both). Users who posted reviews on Amazon aren't quite as thrilled, with detractors describing the brew as weak and not hot enough when you make several shots in succession. A few gripe about disappearing steam, a frothing wand that's hard to adjust, and time-consuming clean up (components are hard to take apart and reassemble). Other posts on this site, however, like the solidity of this model and say the brew tastes like what they remember from trips to Europe.
The Saeco Aroma 00347 (starting at $219, Amazon) boasts an enormous 85-ounce stainless steel water tank and 15 bars of pressure. It takes either E.S.E. pods or loose grounds, and you can upgrade to a non-pressurized portafilter once your barista skills improve. This model can make hot water for other drinks and it keeps cups warm while the espresso is brewing. The Saeco Aroma 00347 features an all-metal housing and removable plastic drip tray and is covered by a one-year warranty.
Despite some grumbling, consensus opinion says the Saeco Aroma 00347 makes a reputable espresso drink and affords the chance to show off your talents by switching out to a non-pressurized portafilter at a later date.
Cuisinart EM-200 Review
The Cuisinart EM-200 has good points and bad points, but Cuisinart EM-200 reviews indicate that the weaknesses outweigh the strengths. Consumers who posted reviews on Best Buy, for example, say espresso and related drinks taste as they should, hit the right temperatures, and showcase the proper consistency. The machine also wins points for ease of use: push a button to order up a single or double shot or choose manual control to dictate your pour preference.
And yet, users gripe about a variety of operational problems. Cuisinart EM-200 reviews at Whole Latte Love say pump pressure is often inadequate and others report that the pressure lessened over time. On Amazon one user writes that the pump never worked quite right despite frequent priming and attempts to brew a cup became an exercise in frustration. Other reviews variously complain that the machine takes a long while to build up sufficient pressure before it starts brewing, needs to rest between espresso making and milk frothing, and is fussy about the size of the grinds and the type of beans. Additionally, critical reviews report that the electronics go haywire, durability is limited, and the wand tends to leak and is awkwardly placed.
Like most inexpensive espresso makers, the Cuisinart EM-200 (starting at $179, Amazon) features a 15-bar pump and takes E.S.E. pods or loose grounds. It's distinguished from many by the pre-programmed push-button operation and a design that provides enough space under the brew head for a full-size mug (up to 7 inches). There's a 69-ounce water tank and atop the brushed-chrome housing sits a warming tray. This model comes with a tamping tool and stainless steel frothing cup and a generous thee-year warranty.
Although some consumers are pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Cuisinart EM-200, others are exasperated and disappointed. The mixed reception suggests that you think twice before loading it in your cart.
The Gaggia Classic (14101) is a favorite of experts and enthusiasts. It's a heavy-duty machine that makes European-style, coffee-house-quality espresso with plenty of rich crema at a temperature that's just right, reviewers say. This semi-automatic model requires more user involvement and initial trial and error than entry-level machines, but users who have mastered it are thrilled with the results. The pressure can even be adjusted to individual preference, up to a maximum of 15 bars. The Gaggia Classic takes a while to heat up, which some users find frustrating; the actual extraction time, however, amounts to just 25 seconds for a 2-ounce shot. The frothing wand can also be used for dispensing hot water.
Hefty commercial-style portafilter allows more control over the brewing process; also includes a pressurized portafilter for beginners.
Accommodates ground beans and prepackaged pods; produces 1 or 2 cups.
Dry puck is easy to clean.
Sturdy build, with stainless steel housing and chrome-plated brass portafilter.
Big learning curve for optimal brew; variables include grind size, pull time, and froth (for cappuccinos and lattes).
Some grousing in reviews that the frothing wand is too low to fit a pitcher underneath.
Maximum cup height of 3.25 inches.
Some reports of early breakdowns, mostly related to the pump.
The best way to ensure a perfect cup of espresso, experts say, is by grinding the beans in a burr grinder immediately before brewing and automatically dispensing the proper dose. The Breville Barista Express (BES870XL) makes that easy with its built-in grinder, a convenience and flavor booster that users value. They also appreciate the versatility of choosing between preprogrammed settings or taking more control over the grounds, water temperature, and tamping pressure. This high-end model comes with a host of accessories, including a dose trimming tool, coffee scoop, stainless steel milk jug, and integrated tamper. It garners stellar reviews from experts who say the end product, convenience, design, and ease of use exceed expectations.
Brews single or double shots with adjustable water levels; programmed or manual control.
Integrated conical burr grinder; adjustable grind size and dose.
Preprogrammed or customizable temperature control.
Hot water dispenser for tea or Americanos; clearance for tall cups.
Auto shut-off; indicator light to alert when the machine needs cleaning.
Comes with a pressurized filter basket for beginners and a non-pressurized filter basket for experienced users.
Die-cast stainless steel housing.
Powerful, at 1,600 watts and a maximum of 15 bars of pressure; built-in pressure gauge.
Reviewers stress the need to clean the machine thoroughly after each use.
Scattered reports about leaks, loss of pressure, and random malfunctions after several months.
Frothing wand seems a tad slow to some users.
Rok Presso Review
Manual espresso makers are sturdy works of precisely engineered art that typically cost well over $500 and often exceed $1,000. The Rok Presso, priced comfortably in budget territory, manages to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. As with any manual espresso maker, there's a steep learning curve to getting that perfect cup. But patience pays off, with reviewers expressing pride in their newfound craftsmanship. The water chamber and portafilter require preheating for the best results, which seems like a minor inconvenience to some. After that, though, shots are extracted in about 20 seconds. For espresso geeks who crave complete control, this is the model to buy.
Produces excellent shots, according to many home users and enthusiasts, with complete manual control (press down on the arms).
No electricity required or electronic controls to break down.
Compact, eye-catching design; sturdy metal frame with slip-resistant legs.
Easy to clean, and disassemble if necessary.
Portable, with included storage case.
Comes with a manual frother and splitter spout.
10-year warranty on metal parts.
Inconsistent, users say; many variables to control, including the volume of water, temperature, grounds, and amount of pressure exerted.
Some reviewers declare the crema mediocre.
Can be messy, with extra water in the chamber after a shot is pulled.
Plastic components can break and are not covered by the warranty; replacements may be hard to find.
Manual milk frother is nearly useless, reviewers say — it produces bubbles, not steamed, foamed milk.
Bialetti Moka Express Review
This classic espresso pot works the old-fashioned way: Steam pressure in the bottom of the pot forces boiling water through the coffee grounds in the middle chamber. The steam doesn't have enough pressure to create a crema, but reviewers who love espresso don't seem to mind, because the end result is superb. Sweeter yet, the cost of a Bialetti Moka Express, whether in a 1-, 3-, 6-, 9-, or 12-cup serving size, pales in comparison to even the cheapest at-home electrified espresso machine. A fair number of online reviews say the build quality of the Bialetti Moka pot available in the United States is a watered-down imitation of the product sold in Europe, but more than 80 percent of the nearly 7,000 consumers who have reviewed the pot on Amazon award it 4 or 5 stars.
Quick stovetop brew yields rich, strong espresso, hundreds of users report.
Straightforward process: no electricity, no tamping, no pumps — just ground beans and water.
Traditional Italian eight-sided design for optimal heat diffusion.
Very little maintenance required.
Does not produce crema.
Requires a bit of patience; users say the brewing process can take up to 10 minutes.
Some reports of leaking around the seal, discoloration on the pot, and generally disappointing build quality.