When buying your first serious espresso machine, we suggest picking a semi-automatic or super automatic. You’ll need a good machine regardless of whether you’d like to have a straight shot of espresso or a latte or cappuccino.
Generally, there are two main types of espresso machines. There are steam-driven espresso machines, which make strong coffee instead of real espresso. Then there are pump-driven ones, which make real crema-topped espresso.
These are subdivided into semi-automatic espresso machines, which need some skill to operate, and super-automatic espresso machines, which are easy to use.
Pod machines involve putting a pre-packaged capsule or pod into the machine. Pump espresso makers are equipped with a thermostatically controlled boiler, which heats the water to its optimum temperature and then passes through the ground coffee at the relative bar pressure.
That’s why it’s important to choose the best espresso machine for your intended use. Below are our top picks. You’ll be sure to find one that suits you.
Best Espresso Machines 2018
|Breville BES870XL Barista Express|
|DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica|
|Mr. Coffee Café Barista Premium|
|DeLonghi ESAM3500.N Magnifica Digital|
|Nespresso Inissia Espresso Machine|
|DeLonghi America ECAM28465M Prima Donna|
|De’Longhi EC155 15|
|Nespresso Pixie Espresso Machine|
|STARESSO Espresso Coffee Maker|
1. Breville BES870XL Barista Express – Best Overall & Under $1000 Espresso MachineBreville BES870XL Barista Express is your best option if you want to enjoy amazing café-quality espresso at home. This machine offers key commercial-grade features, affording the convenience of in-home use without compromising your brew’s quality.
This model is the latest improvement on the Breville BES860XL Barista Express. It is available in stainless steel, cranberry red, and black sesame.
It’s a semi-automatic machine. All you’ll need to do is load the coffee beans and replace the water reservoir. The machine has a built-in 15-bar pressure brewing pump, a conical burr grinder and another built-in heating system, which automatically adjusts the water’s temperature to guarantee good-quality coffee.
Your family or coworkers will love it!
2. De’Longhi ESAM3300 Magnifica – Best Espresso Machine Under $500The De’Longhi Magnifica is a fully automatic espresso machine making authentic Italian quality espresso, lattes, and cappuccinos. The machine features a dual Thermo-block system ensuing optimal brewing temperature.
The De’Longhi Magnifica features an easy to clean, extractable brewing unit that delivers optimal brewing pressure and adjusts the quantity of coffee for 1 or 2 shots of espresso automatically. The integrated burr grinder is made of durable stainless steel.
It always delivers coffee grounded to perfection with its 13 adjustable settings, delicious and fresh every time. The easy to use control panel’s coffee strength and quantity control dials enable production of customized beverages.
3. Mr. Coffee Café Barista Premium – Best Mid-Level Home Espresso MachineMr. Coffee has a long-standing reputation in the coffee-brewing business, having been around since 1970. This makes the brand among the most demanded espresso machine makers in the industry.
This espresso maker is semi-automatic. You will have to adjust the filters and place the coffee beans manually. It has an automatic milk frothing mechanism and a 15 bar pressure pump brewing system for optimal quality.
It is easy to clean and use in general. You can choose the type of brew you want on the front control panel. After using, remove the milk tank for storage or the water reservoir for refilling. If you’re using it for the first time, remember that the espresso machine needs to be cleaned before use.
All of the espresso makers of this company come with a detailed instruction manual explaining how to prime the machine before use. The manual also includes free coffee recipes, measuring scoops, two shot filters, and a coffee tamper.
The Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker comes in three colors – red, white and stainless steel black.
4. DeLonghi ESAM3500.N Magnifica Digital – Best Super Automatic Espresso MachineThis espresso machine is one of the smallest brewing systems on the market today (detachable), so you don’t have to worry about it taking up too much space on your counter. Thanks to the digital programmable menu settings, you will have full control over how your espresso tastes.
They are used to adjust water hardness, start time, coffee temperature, and clock among others. We all know people prefer different coffee strength – this depends not only on the person, but also the circumstances and other factors, like time of day or how much sleep you got the night before.
In a few words, everyone wants their coffee to be either mild, stronger or in-between. This machine offers 5 coffee strength options to choose from, ranging from extra strong to extra mild. There are also three cup sizes to choose from – large (America coffee), espresso (medium), and Ristretto (small).
It is very easy to clean this machine thanks to the decalcification system it is equipped with. The automatic indicator lights up to show the machine needs cleaning. Another great feature is heat control. DeLonghi’s patented and compact Direct to Brew System ensures even distribution of heat to make for a delicious, flavorful and aromatic cup of coffee.
The professional-grade conical burr grinder helps you produce fresh, aromatic, delicious, and consistent coffee or espresso. You can also adjust the grind settings to get the coffee or espresso to taste exactly the way you want.
The machine’s cup warmer helps maintain the aroma, taste and flavor of your coffee or espresso, guaranteeing it will taste great every single time.
5. Gaggia Classic – Best Semi-Automatic Espresso MachineThe Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine (model 14101) is a combination between a semi-automatic espresso and a coffeemaker. It is a bestseller in its class, notable for its durability among other things. This company was among the first coffee-maker manufacturers in the United States.
This is the main reason why you can still find many coffee lovers using the company’s older models after decades. There have been some complaints about modifications in recent models, but proponents of the machine agree that it still makes the same great-tasting coffee.
One obvious drawback is the weight of this espresso machine – a solid 22 pounds! It is much heavier than its counterparts from other companies. The Gaggiga Classic weighs so much because of its brushed stainless steel finish and build.
This machine features a 72-ounce water container, frothing wand, brass porta filters, tamper and hot water dispenser, measuring scoop, and a bar pump with high-voltage boiler – all key aspects of a great espresso machine.
This model lets you choose between single-shot and double-shot. The electronic display on the front of the machine shows temperature and signal lights, if the machine is on or off.
You will need to use pre-ground coffee if this is your first time buying an espresso machine, because it is a semi-automatic. Also, you’ll have to learn the correct way to tamp it under the right pressure. It is natural to make adjustments before you discover your own preferred blend.
At any rate, this process will be simplified with the Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine by your side.
6. Nespresso Inissia Espresso Machine – Best Machine Under $200The first and most obvious plus of this machine is its weight – a mere 5 pounds! Look no further if you’re looking to try out a Nespresso pod coffee system. It’s incredibly compact and has plenty of functionality for an entry-level model.
It comes with the standalone Aeroccino3 milk frother. The Inissia’s repertoire is expanded to encompass cappuccinos and lattes. You have lots of choices with the range of 22 Grand Crus and compatible pods from third-party companies. The machine also comes with a variety pack of 16 capsules.
The machine is available in cream, orange, grey, or black. There’s nothing special about the shape of the Inissia, but its worktop footprint is remarkable. It’s minute compared to similarly priced machines and just under 5 inches wide – no kitchen would be too small for it.
Interestingly enough, its small size hasn’t impacted the size of its water tank much. It’s not very impressive at just 700 ml, but considering the dimensions of the machine, it fits more in than you might think. There is a perforated removable drip tray and an internal bin for used pods, so you can make several drinks before you need to empty it.
Brewing drinks is pretty straightforward – the espresso and lungo buttons are the only ones, also serving as on and off. The machine is ready to make coffee within 25 seconds of switching it on. To insert a capsule, you have to rotate the front bar backwards.
This opens up a slot for the capsule to drop into. Then you return the bar to the front and alter the quantity of water depending on whether you want a short or long coffee. The machine stops automatically when finished. Rotate the bar to the back again to release the used capsule.
The optional milk frother takes about a minute to heat, faster than comparable models. It’s operated via a single button on the front. The whisk and lid are detachable, but the body of the machine can’t be immersed in water for cleaning. After cleaning, the whisk clicks back into place.
The machine comes with a three-year guarantee, and the quality of the beverages is amazing.
7. DeLonghi America ECAM28465M Prima Donna – Best Commercial Espresso MachineThis commercial-grade machine has many great features, among which One Touch Latte, memory and LED display. Other similarly priced models make it an effort to achieve creamy delicious foam, but this one doesn’t.
The impressive Latte Cream System is actually patented, and also has a cleaning function. The memory feature is extremely impressive. There are five strength settings for your coffee and four one-touch drinks.
The LED display panel is easy to read and use. There is a timer to plan when you want your coffee and to turn off the machine, automatic shut off, and temperature adjustment.
One of our favorite features about this machine is that you can pick the strength of your coffee. If you’re very busy and want to make a fantastic cup of coffee or espresso, this is a great machine. The instant 1-touch drinks make it convenient and easy to use.
Finally, the design is extremely sleek. It will look great in a kitchen with stainless steel appliances or any commercial establishment like a restaurant or a coffee shop.
8. De’Longhi EC155 15 – Best Budget/Most Affordable
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This results in optimal brewing pressure. The machine also comes with a small built-in tamper and a frothing wand.
It has a patented dual function filter holder. This helps you prepare your serving of espresso fast and simple. It has a self priming operation, so you don’t have to wait too for it to start up.
If you want to experiment, this espresso machine is for you. You don’t need to be particularly knowledgeable in order to use it well. Most users report having used this machine for well over 5 years.
It is not immune to faults, but is nonetheless a worthy alternative to other high-end machines on the market. At less than $100 for this machine, it is really a best bang for the buck choice.
9. Nespresso Pixie Espresso Machine – Most Compact Espresso MachineThe Nespresso brand of espresso makers is of European origin and was not available in the United States until a few years ago. Now, this espresso maker is one of the most popular espresso machines on the market due to its durability and its top quality coffee.
Nespresso’s Pixie Espresso Maker is a super-automatic espresso model, meaning you no longer need to grind coffee or adjust pressure settings and temperature manually.
The Pixie machine is part of a line of espresso machines that are compact enough to fit in any kitchen or office, no matter how small.
It bears a likeness to an oven toaster and features 30-second preheating time, a removable water tank, and an adjustable dip tray to fit small or tall glasses. It also lights up when the water level is low, and shuts off automatically.
This machine works with Nespresso capsules just like other automatic espresso machines. You can also try other Nespresso compatible pods available in the market.
New buyers of the Nespresso Pixie get a free pack with 16 Nespresso Grands Crus capsules. This way you can try the different coffee flavors and aromas that Nespresso offers.
10. STARESSO Espresso Coffee Maker – Most Portable Espresso MachineThe Staresso SP-200 Coffee Maker is a noteworthy portable espresso and cappuccino maker. You can operate it manually without the need of a power source.
While it may not have all the high end features of the other espresso makers, we chose it because it is the most portable option, while special producing a good cup of espresso.
It can produce between 15 to 20 bars of pressure to guarantee an authentic espresso with a full crema perfect for a variety of coffees, among which Americano, cappuccino and latte.
Impressive and robust, the machine guarantees consistent espresso extraction and is easy to use.
Things You Must Know Before Buying An Espresso Machine
When looking for a coffee machine, look for stable and replaceable parts because you want the machine to last longer. All of the espresso machines reviewed here have replaceable parts, which you can find online. Another issue is the boiler.
There are 3 types of boilers in espresso machines: aluminum, stainless steel and brass. The best is brass, because it won’t corrode or breed bacteria, but this contributes to the price. The worst is aluminum.
It’s budget-friendly, but corrodes. The optimal choice is stainless steel, because it won’t corrode easily. On the downside, it is said to attract bacteria.
A key consideration is user-friendliness. Maybe you are a great barista, but is everyone in your household? Take this into consideration when buying a machine and check out our section on “How to use your machine” below.
As far as adjustability goes, go for a machine with spouts that can be adjusted if everyone in your household or office wants a different size of coffee.
Heating Up and Safety
If you’re always on the go, then we suggest getting a machine that makes your coffee real quick in the morning. However, don’t compromise on safety.
Check reviews online to see whether the model you intend to buy has any safety issues. Finally, if you’re not good at cleaning, go for an easy to clean option.
Life Of Ownership
Obviously, you don’t want to spend more on an espresso machine than you did on your stove or fridge. But the general principle of economics is valid here too – you get what you pay for.
The machine’s life cycle or life of ownership is contingent upon planning to use the products wisely and your expectations of how they will work. The purchase of an espresso machine is a lifelong investment. You can justify the cost when you consider where you want to go with this product.
If you are hoping it will last a decade or two with daily use, the investment will pay off. I bought a coffee machine for over a thousand dollars five years ago.
Recently, I upgraded to a newer version of it and sold the old one for around $700. This made my investment in the machine at around $300 only, and I ended up with a new espresso machine.
Factoring In Future Costs
Think about how long you expect your espresso machine to last when deciding on your budget. If you are going to buy an espresso machine without a grinder, deducting the amount you’ll spend on a good grinder. Think about the cost broken down over the next two, three, four, or five years of ownership.
It could even be 10 years if you plan on it lasting that long. All of a sudden, the high-end machines reviewed here won’t look so pricey when the cost is distributed over several years. The bonus is that most espresso machines priced at around $500 (plus or minus $100) are really built to last.
Almost all of the machines reviewed here are built with many commercial parts, and the same goes for grinders. We know it can be tempting to buy the cheapest espresso machine you can find that has a few decent reviews.
And you won’t always be wrong to do it – there are many machines, including some of these here, costing $150 to $250 that have the minimum specifications required to make a great shot of coffee.
Another risk is the pressurized filter starting to fall apart. All of a sudden, it makes spending $1000 on a more professional machine seem much more reasonable and less stressful than mailing a $200 machine to the other side of the country for repair.
All while suffering the pain of lack of espresso for a period that may well exceed several months until you get your machine back.
Another important issue you want to consider is upgrading. The types of people who get top-end machines are one of three types: to attract attention, to enjoy great coffee and to upgrade to something better at one point.
For the latter two types of user, spending a lot right off the bat on a well-researched, planned product will pay off for sure. Chances are you’ll be using the machine almost every day, and the commercial-grade quality of the interior parts on a pricey machine means not having to worry about breakdowns or any other issues.
You probably don’t feel as bad about spending more on a coffee machine than a stove now, do you?
I know what you’re thinking. Does a high price guarantee it won’t have any problems? Are more expensive machines really less prone to damage? I couldn’t argue that. There are plenty of stories on forums about $1,000 machines requiring trips back to the store.
One advantage of more expensive machines is that they use commercial-quality parts that are readily available to most vendors and machine repair centers. And usually, if problems don’t surface right away once you open the box and start using the machine, your investment will most likely give years or even decades of worry-free service.
If you plan on getting a brand that is made abroad, you should know that most of the espresso machines available today are handmade in Europe in very small series. Handmade sounds great, and generally is exactly what is sounds.
However, it also means that there may be more quality control issues than if you get a factory brand that churns out hundreds of thousands of machines of a specific make each year.
What Types Of Espresso Can You Make With Your Machine?
So you’ve bought your espresso machine – or haven’t yet but are wondering what you can make besides the regular espresso and cappuccino? Check out our list of delicious beverages below.
Depending on the machine, there may be no limit to what you can make – you can practically make everything on the Starbucks menu with some machines.
You can’t wait to get creative? We have the following suggestions – some of them are a lot of fun to make!
- Café Breva – Cappuccino with half-and-half milk instead of whole milk.
- Mocha/Mochaccino – A cappuccino or café latté with added chocolate syrup.
- Café Latté – A shot of espresso with steamed milk at the ratio of 3:1.
- Americano – A shot of espresso watered down with about 7 oz of hot water.
- Café Macchiato – A shot of espresso with steamed milk at the ratio of 4:1.
- Cappuccino – Equal parts of espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk. To make it look restaurant-served, you can add whipped cream, chocolate flakes or cinnamon sprinkled on top.
- Dry Cappuccino – A cappuccino with less foam and no steamed milk.
- Shot in the Dark – A mix of drip coffee and one shot of espresso served in a regular size coffee cup. Also known as Hammerhead (for some reason that’s beyond us).
- Frappé – A cold espresso with ice and milk, just like a coffee milkshake.
- Espresso Con Panna – Espresso with whipped cream on top.
How Do I Use My Espresso Machine?
Before using your espresso machine we suggest buying an espresso grinder, espresso beans, demitasse cups, and water. Be aware that bottled spring water is not the best option. The amount of minerals found in spring water may ruin your espresso machine. We recommend using filtered water instead.
Here is how to use your espresso machine:
Pour clear, cold, filtered water into the water chamber of your machine. Secure the boiler cap. An ounce of water per shot is needed.
Put the coffee basket in the filter holder and lightly pack in the ground coffee. Most filters help you to measure how much espresso you want.
Remove any grounds on the sides and top of the filter and then place the filter holder in the espresso machine.
Put your cup or glass carafe under the spout. Turn on the machine and when the water is heated to the right temperature it will then move through the coffee grounds.
Remove your cup or carafe when the foam starts to turn white. The perfect espresso has brown foam, which Italians call “crema”, on the top of the coffee. When it starts to turn white, this means that the best tasting liquid has already been extracted.
How Do I Clean My Espresso Machine?
You have heard that you need to clean your espresso machine. Do you know how?
If you decide to get a super automatic, it is equipped with automatic cleaning functions, and you can skip this part.
However, if you decide to get a semi-auto or pod machine, take the following steps to clean it.
Perhaps it may even outlast its suggested life cycle. The key part here is that you’ll have great-tasting, pure espresso every time! So here are the steps of each cleaning type:
After Shot Cleaning
This could very well be the simplest and easiest cleaning process. All you need to do is clean the milk wand thoroughly using a damp towel and release some steam to get rid of any milk trapped in the nozzle hole. Then you can make another cup of coffee.
If you don’t want another coffee, you should empty the filter basket and rinse thoroughly starting from the head of the group, then wipe it dry and put it back in the machine. To rinse out any remaining stains after that, run some water through the head from the spout.
Wipe off the residue on your shower screen with a damp towel and put the backflush portafilter basket in the portafilter. Run water though the group head and move the filter handle around to rinse water over the shower screen and parts around the group head.
Keep in mind that the water splashed out is hot and use lower boiler temperature to prevent getting burnt. Tighten the filter handle and run water into the group head like you would if you were making espresso. For 15 secs, let the water pressure in the machine build up, then release it.
The stains will go out along with the water. This process is known as backflushing. You should repeat it at least four times or until the water released from it gets clear.
Remove the drip tray and portafilter. You may notice there are small coffee particles and the water has a brown tint. To remedy this, rinse the drip tray and remove any undissolved detergent if you are using such. Reinstall the portafilter and drip tray after cleaning.
This is very similar to daily cleaning. The only difference is that you will need to add detergent for weekly cleaning. Measure the recommended amount of the detergent as instructed by the manufacturer, then pour it into the portafilter basket.
Install the backflush basket into the portafilter and add the recommended amount of detergent into the portafilter. After that, you just have to follow the steps outlined in the daily routine. You also have to soak both the backflush portafilter basket and the portafilter in a water container with detergent and scrub them clean.
If your group head is removable, you need to scrub it clean as well. Just remove it and soak it into detergent water.
Cleaning Every Three To Six Months
This routine is intended to remove minerals collected in your machine, so it will depend on the hardness of water. The lower the mineral content, the softer the water is. Water strips or test reagent can be used to test hardness of water.
Empty the water reservoir and fill it with descaler of appropriate amount or according to the manufacturer’s instructions in the user manual. Start the machine for the descaler to enter the boiler and pipes.
Run some of the solution through the group head and hot water wand too and leave the machine switched on for at least twenty minutes with descaling solution in it. Empty the reservoir and refill it with clean water. Rinse the machine as you did before. Repeat as needed.
You could use a litmus paper to test the pH of the water to make sure there isn’t any descaler left in the machine. Rinse with clean water again if the blue litmus paper turns red.
Our Final Say On the Best Espresso Machines
Last but not least, always remember that there is no such thing as a perfect espresso machine. Try to get the best one within your budget range.
We hope we’ve been helpful with this review of the top 10 espresso machines in 2018!