Best Espresso Machines

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While making a coffee or espresso at home is the most affordable option, sometimes you just need to grab a cup on the go. Skip the Starbucks and sip local at your favorite coffee shop. Check out: Where to Find a Great Cheap Cup of Coffee Across The Country

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Cheese in your coffee? Check out: 25 Crazy Coffee Products From All Around the World

Our Picks

DeLonghi EC702
DeLonghi Nespresso Vertuo
Mr. Coffee Café Barista
DeLonghi EC155
DeLonghi Nespresso Inissia
Capresso EC100
Gourmia GCM6500
Gaggia Classic
Breville Barista Express
Rok Presso
Bialetti Moka Express

DeLonghi EC702 Review

From $160 Best

Best Entry-Level Espresso Machine Under $200

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: 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.

DeLonghi Nespresso Vertuo Review

From $181 Best

Best Pod Espresso Machine Under $200

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: 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.

Mr. Coffee Café Barista Review

From $199.99 Best

Best Espresso Cappuccino Machine Under $200

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: 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.

Where to buy

DeLonghi EC155 Review

From $80 Good

Good Espresso Machine Under $100

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: 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.

DeLonghi Nespresso Inissia Review

From $112 Good

Good Cheap Nespresso Machine

Pros:

  • 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'.

Cons:

  • Takes Nespresso pods only.
  • Lacks a frothing mechanism for milk.
  • Lifespan may be limited to weeks or months, according to some reviews.

Takeaway: 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.

Capresso EC100 Review

From $122 Good

Good Espresso Machine Under $200

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: 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.

Gourmia GCM6500 Review

From $130 Good

Good Espresso Pod Machine Under $200

Pros:

  • 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.
  • Self-cleaning system.

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: 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.

Where to buy

Buying Guide

Choosing an Espresso Machine

We all know how quickly the cost of a daily shot of espresso at a favorite coffee bar adds up. But if espresso is the brew that gets you going, it's a luxury you don't need to sacrifice to save money. For scores of consumers who have purchased an espresso maker, there's no going back to the costly coffee bar routine. With the right ingredients — filtered water and superior coffee freshly ground to the right consistency — the best cheap espresso machines can satisfyingly supply your fix at home for a fraction of the cost in the long run. We filtered through expert and user reviews to identify several automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines that produce more than decent espresso and cost less than $200. As a bonus, our research turned up two higher-end models that may be worth a splurge, and we also included a stovetop espresso maker and a manual espresso maker for those who like to do things the old-school way.

Pricey vs. Cheap Espresso Machines

Serious espresso addicts generally pooh-pooh more basic, budget-friendly models of the type on our list, asserting they produce shots that are short on strength, flavor, texture, and crema: that rich, caramel-colored foam that's found atop the very best quality espresso brews. They favor machines that give consumers more control over the process, from choosing the optimal dose of coffee grounds to tamping them down for the preferred pressure to setting the temperature of the water and choosing the volume. Espresso machines that allow for all that are fancy, highly engineered kitchen appliances — often gleaming in polished stainless steel with brass underpinnings. Not surprisingly, they also cost a bundle, with prices starting in the mid-three-digit range and surging beyond $2,000. They also hog lots of countertop real estate and require a fair amount of experimentation to reach espresso zen.

For more relaxed espresso fans, the best entry-level models won't disappoint. There are fewer variables to control, making for less guesswork, and arguably more time-saving convenience. Many last a good long time, although the build quality doesn't match that of their fancy counterparts. And many come with a frothing wand, so you can make milk-infused lattes and cappuccinos.

Espresso Maker Brands

At the budget end of the market, the brands to note include DeLonghi and Breville, both of which are known for high-quality coffee makers and have entry-level products for consumers looking for something a little less spendy. Both also partner with Nespresso and market espresso machines that take proprietary prepackaged pods only. Longstanding American coffee maker brand Mr. Coffee and Swiss-backed Capresso also stake a claim with well-regarded offerings. Cuisinart shows up in this segment as well. Italian brand Gaggia and Brooklyn-based Gourmia are perhaps lesser-known but boast vocal supporters. Jura, Miele, and Saeco are the upscale labels to look for. Krups also has a few comparatively "cheap" machines at the higher end of our price spectrum.

Types of Espresso Makers

Espresso is made by forcing hot, pressurized water through tightly packed, very finely ground coffee. The result is a highly concentrated, small cup with a layer of crema on top. There are several types of espresso machines that go about this in different ways.

  • Stovetop espresso makers are simple pots of the type found in every Italian household.
  • Electric steam-driven espresso makers are based on the same concept behind the pots but typically don't generate enough pressure to brew true espresso.
  • Manual espresso machines, also called "lever espresso machines," tend to be costly and challenging to operate. The user pulls a lever to generate the pressure to direct the water through the grounds (hence, the phrase "pulling a shot" of espresso).
  • Semi-automatic espresso makers, also use pumps to generate water pressure. They are generally less expensive and require more effort, mostly in the form of measuring out the appropriate amount of grounds and tamping them down before getting the machine started. The user is also responsible for stopping the machine when the desired shot has been poured. Semi-automatic espresso makers give aficionados a certain level of control over the brew while reducing the labor, and brute strength, needed to operate a manual machine.
  • Automatic machines are pump-driven and do the tamping, brewing, and, in some cases, grinding on their own (some even clean themselves). Automatic models ask very little of the operator — usually just turning on the power, letting the machine determine the amount of loose grounds or inserting a prepackaged pod with ground beans, and pushing a button to get things going.

Our picks include automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines, the latter being the most popular at-home machines for espresso enthusiasts. Although a mechanism for frothing milk intended for lattes and cappuccinos is common, most entry-level espresso machines have a single boiler, so they can't steam milk and brew espresso at the same time. A few contain dual thermostats so water and steam can be heated simultaneously. Some feature dual sieves for making double shots and/or a programmable function that regulates the delivery of one or two shots.

Pod Espresso Machines

Espresso pod machines are single-serve espresso machines that call for proprietary coffee capsules. They earn accolades from espresso drinkers who crave consistent results each time they pull a shot. Reviews laud the uniformity and dependability of the brew. Although users of these machines were once obliged to buy their single-serve espresso capsules from Nespresso, which pioneered the system, many are now compatible with non-proprietary ESE pods (Easy Serving Espresso). Some take pods as well as loose espresso grounds, and novices who hope to hone their brewing talents over time or aficionados who want don't want their coffee choices constricted may appreciate the versatility of a machine that offers both options. Reviews indicate, however, that most users aren't particularly fazed by the limited selection of beans and roasts available in pod form, and many approvingly note the range of options.

Espresso Beans

While single-serve pods with ground beans sealed inside are currently all the rage, espresso tradition calls for freshly ground, high-quality beans. If you plan to brew your fix from ground beans, it's worth buying a good burr grinder. (Less costly blade grinders generate more heat and static, which can damage the flavor, and some don't crush beans evenly.) Experts sometimes recommend budgeting half as much for a good grinder as for an espresso machine itself. Alternatively, find the best source for a weekly supply of freshly ground beans, or turn to beans in a can that have been specifically ground for use in an espresso machine. Brands such as Café Bustelo, Illy, and Lavazza offer high-quality ground beans for what amounts to pennies a shot.

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Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

(from $181.00)
Type Automatic
Accepts Pods
Drink Options Single or double espresso, gran lungo, alto, coffee
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother No
Pump Pressure N/A (centrifusion technology)
(from $160.00)
Type Semi-automatic
Accepts Grounds or ESE pods
Drink Options Single or double espresso
2 Cups at a Time Yes
Frother Yes (wand)
Pump Pressure 15 bars
(from $199.99)
Type Semi-automatic
Accepts Grounds
Drink Options Single or double espresso, cappuccino, latte
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother Integrated with milk reservoir
Pump Pressure 15 bars
(from $112.00)
Type Automatic
Accepts Pods
Drink Options Espresso, lungo
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother No
Pump Pressure 19 bars
(from $130.00)
Type Automatic
Accepts Nespresso-compatible pods only)
Drink Options Single or double espresso, lungo, cappuccino, latte
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother Integrated with milk reservoir
Pump Pressure 19 bars
(from $122.00)
Type Semi-automatic
Accepts Grounds or ESE pods
Drink Options Single espresso
2 Cups at a Time Yes
Frother Yes (wand)
Pump Pressure 15 bars
(from $80.00)
Type Semi-automatic
Accepts Grounds or ESE pods
Drink Options Single espresso
2 Cups at a Time Yes
Frother Yes (wand)
Pump Pressure 15 bars
(from $155.00)
Type Manual
Accepts Grounds
Drink Options Espresso
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother Manual frother included
Pump Pressure N/A
(from $20.00)
Type Stovetop
Accepts Grounds
Drink Options Espresso
2 Cups at a Time Capacity varies
Frother No
Pump Pressure N/A
(from $399.00)
Type Semi-automatic
Accepts Grounds or ESE pods
Drink Options Single espresso
2 Cups at a Time Yes
Frother Yes (wand)
Pump Pressure 15 bars
(from $470.00)
Type Automatic
Accepts Beans (built-in burr grinder)
Drink Options Single or double espresso (varying sizes)
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother Yes (wand)
Pump Pressure 15 bars
(from $181.00)
Type Automatic
Accepts Pods
Drink Options Single or double espresso, gran lungo, alto, coffee
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother No
Pump Pressure N/A (centrifusion technology)
(from $160.00)
Type Semi-automatic
Accepts Grounds or ESE pods
Drink Options Single or double espresso
2 Cups at a Time Yes
Frother Yes (wand)
Pump Pressure 15 bars
(from $199.99)
Type Semi-automatic
Accepts Grounds
Drink Options Single or double espresso, cappuccino, latte
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother Integrated with milk reservoir
Pump Pressure 15 bars
(from $112.00)
Type Automatic
Accepts Pods
Drink Options Espresso, lungo
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother No
Pump Pressure 19 bars
(from $130.00)
Type Automatic
Accepts Nespresso-compatible pods only)
Drink Options Single or double espresso, lungo, cappuccino, latte
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother Integrated with milk reservoir
Pump Pressure 19 bars
(from $122.00)
Type Semi-automatic
Accepts Grounds or ESE pods
Drink Options Single espresso
2 Cups at a Time Yes
Frother Yes (wand)
Pump Pressure 15 bars
(from $80.00)
Type Semi-automatic
Accepts Grounds or ESE pods
Drink Options Single espresso
2 Cups at a Time Yes
Frother Yes (wand)
Pump Pressure 15 bars
(from $155.00)
Type Manual
Accepts Grounds
Drink Options Espresso
2 Cups at a Time No
Frother Manual frother included
Pump Pressure N/A
(from $20.00)
Type Stovetop
Accepts Grounds
Drink Options Espresso
2 Cups at a Time Capacity varies
Frother No
Pump Pressure N/A

Espresso Maker Reviews: 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.

Consumers who have made the switch to one of our top picks are well pleased with the results: They get a satisfying espresso drink in a matter of minutes and save pennies to put toward other small indulgences. There are a few grumbles about shots that aren't hot enough or strong enough, but for the most part, owners are enthusiastic about the overall value of these entry-level machines in espresso maker reviews.

Pump Pressure

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.)

Ease of Use

Regardless which espresso machine winds up on your kitchen counter, if it's not fully or semi-automatic, it's bound to be a complicated device. Fans of espresso drinks may justify their addiction to high-priced coffee shop fare because of anxiety over acquiring the skills needed to make a comparable brew. A rich, luscious drink requires that both you, the at-home barista, and the machine do your parts. But reviewers say the results and savings from an espresso machine that automates at least some of the steps — even at the budget end of the market are worth it.

Of course, pod espresso machines have garnered such a huge fan base because they're just so simple to use. Sealed, single-serve, capsules or paper-filter discs packed with carefully measured espresso grounds eliminate guesswork. Loose grounds are messier, and the end result is somewhat less consistent. Die-hards, however, insist that loose grounds produce a superior cup. And they're obviously cheaper: A single-serve pod costs anywhere from about 30 cents to $1, and sometimes even more.

Portafilter

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.

Frothing

Most semi-automatic espresso machines come with steamer wands for steaming and frothing milk for cappuccino and the like. These wands sometimes draw complaints for their low clearance, which makes it difficult to fit a cup or pitcher underneath. Some cappuccino lovers solve this problem by setting the machine on top of a chopping board or at the edge of the counter. Experts prefer machines with knobs that control the amount of steam, but this feature is rare at the low end of the market.

Cup-Warming Tray

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.

Durability and Maintenance

One of the advantages of high-end espresso machines over budget models is durability. They're generally crafted from more stainless steel and brass components, sit heavier on the countertop, and can pull shots in sequence without struggling to reheat between brewing. Cheaper espresso makers aren't likely to last as long as these workhorses, but some are surprisingly sturdy for the price. Regardless of make, the warranties on most of these machines extend for only about a year.

Coffee aficionados recommend choosing a model that's primarily metal and/or stainless steel. Not only is this construction aesthetically pleasing, it's also practical. Metal parts tend to hold up longer, and stainless steel construction adds to the weight. (Heavier machines shift less on the countertop when you're inserting or removing the portafilter and frothing/steaming the milk.)

A quick cleanup after each use is a must with a budget espresso maker and helps maintain its functionality. Milk left to crust on the wand can clog steam pores; ditto for grounds left to harden in the portafilter. Descaling is required periodically, particularly if you have hard water. Most parts are not dishwasher-safe; be sure to follow manufacturer instructions. Of course, one way to minimize cleanup stress is by using sealed pods. Although you must dispose of the pods, the portafilter just needs a quick rinse.

Additional Products We Considered

Gaggia Classic Review

From $399

Bonus: Classic Italian Espresso Machine

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: 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.

Where to buy

Breville Barista Express Review

From $470

Bonus: Espresso Machine With Grinder

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: 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.

Rok Presso Review

From $155

Bonus: Manual Espresso Maker

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: 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.

Where to buy

Bialetti Moka Express Review

From $20

Bonus: Stovetop Espresso Maker

Pros:

  • 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.
  • Bargain-basement price.
  • 2-year warranty.

Cons:

  • 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.

Takeaway: 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.