The 7 Best Espresso Machines for Coffeehouse-Quality Drinks at Home
The thought of making espresso at home might be daunting, but dedicated fans of those small shots of concentrated coffee (and gateways to all sorts of specialty drinks including lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos) find it super satisfying. Making your own espresso drinks can help you avoid an extra stop in your morning routine, and it's also much cheaper in the long run than regularly paying cafe prices.
We researched dozens of different home espresso machines, evaluating their size, price, efficacy, and reliability. We also asked Jiyoon Han, co-owner of Bean & Bean Coffee and a Coffee Quality Institute-certified Q grader (basically, a sommelier for coffee), for her advice on how to take care of an espresso machine. Charlie Eisenstat, head roaster at Edda Coffee, also weighed in on how espresso machines work and what to look for when you're shopping.
Eisenstat says that if you're not familiar with espresso machines, the prices might come as a shock. But he notes that most espresso machines are designed to last a lifetime, provided you keep up with regular cleaning and maintenance—unlike your typical drip coffee maker, which might hold up for a few years at most. That's because very few espresso machines have plastic components or other parts that can degrade over time.
We named the Breville Bambino Plus as our best overall pick, because it's an affordable, compact machine that you can program to make one or two shots of espresso at once.
Here are the best espresso machines for home use, followed by expert tips on how to buy the best espresso machine for your needs and skill level.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall Espresso Machine: Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine
- Best Budget Espresso Machine: Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Machine
- Best Splurge Espresso Machine: Breville Oracle Touch Espresso Machine
- Best Small Espresso Machine: Nespresso Essenza Mini by Breville Espresso Machine
- Best Espresso Machine for Beginners: De'Longhi Dedica Deluxe Espresso Machine
- Best Espresso Machine with Grinder: De'Longhi La Specialista Maestro Espresso Machine
- Best Stovetop Espresso Machine: Alessi 9090 Espresso Maker
Best Overall Espresso Machine: Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine
Best Budget Espresso Machine: Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Machine
Best Splurge Espresso Machine: Breville Oracle Touch Espresso Machine
Best Small Espresso Machine: Nespresso Essenza Mini by Breville Espresso Machine
Best Espresso Machine for Beginners: De'Longhi Dedica Deluxe Espresso Machine
Best Espresso Machine With Grinder: De'Longhi La Specialista Maestro Espresso Machine
Best Stovetop Espresso Machine: Alessi 9090 Espresso Maker
The Breville Bambino Plus is our best overall pick because it's fast and easy to use, particularly for people new to making espresso, and has a very small footprint, so it can easily fit on your countertop. Plus, it's available in several different color options to match your existing kitchen decor. For a more budget-friendly pick, the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista is a fuss-free espresso machine that can also make lattes and cappuccinos.
How to Shop for an Espresso Machine Like a Pro
There are several iterations of espresso machines to choose from. Some are better suited for learning to make espresso, while others allow you to brew your beverage with the touch of a button. Here's a quick primer to the different types of espresso machines:
Manual Espresso Machines: Manual espresso machines can be tricky to master—after all, they feature no automation whatsoever. Not only does this mean you prepare the coffee grounds yourself, but you also heat the water and create the pressure by force, using a pull-lever. While this does give you complete control over your brew, it also means there's more room for error. Manual machines are harder to come by, given the conveniences of semi- and super-automatic espresso machines.
Steam Espresso Machines: Steam-driven espresso machines heat water until the evaporation creates pressure. Although these are some of the most affordable and easy-to-clean espresso machines out there, they operate at lower pressures, which creates espresso that lacks depth and flavor when compared to that of other espresso machines. One common type of steam espresso machine is a stovetop espresso machine, or Moka pot. The stove heats the water causing steam to flow up through the grounds, which eventually drops back down and infuses the water.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines: This is the most common type of espresso machine for both at-home and professional use. Semi-automatic espresso machines usually don't come with a built-in grinder, so you'll need to grind and prepare the beans yourself. The machine then automatically moves water through the brewing chamber at the right pressure, but you have control over when to start and stop dispensing your brew. If you're really wanting to learn how to make espresso, this is the best option, because it gives you full control over how much water you dispense to create your perfect espresso shot.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines: By far the most expensive of the bunch, super-automatic espresso machines work with the touch of a button. These machines grind and tamp coffee beans, pull steam, and pour your drink for you, requiring you to do little more than select your chosen espresso beverage by pressing a button. Many have self-cleaning functions, too. However, they offer little room for customization, and are not the best fit if you're interested in learning how to make espresso for yourself.
Pod/Capsule Espresso Machines: Though not technically "real" espresso machines, these machines use coffee pods to mimic espresso. Like super-automatic machines, they don't leave room for experimentation and prioritize convenience over customization.
Eisenstat says that espresso is a "precision beverage—as much science as it is art." Making your own espresso at home is nowhere near as simple as easy as plugging in a drip coffee machine—there are multiple steps involved, and potential for things to go a little bit haywire while you're learning wrong. If you're fascinated by all things espresso and ready to pick up a new skill, or if you're an experienced home barista, a semi-automatic espresso machine will be a great addition to your home. But if you'd rather just push a button and have a latte waiting for you, a pod or super-automatic espresso machine will be the better option.
Pricing on espresso machines really runs the gamut, and Eisenstat says that, for the most part, you get what you pay for. A cheaper machine may not last very long, but it might be better for beginners who aren't sure they want to commit to a pricier model.
High-end home espresso machines will last decades if you take good care of them, so think about how much time you're willing to spend on cleaning and maintenance. If the answer is "not much," definitely consider a super-automatic machine or a stovetop machine that requires low-effort cleanup.
Questions You Might Ask
How do espresso machines work?
"Espresso machines force pressurized water close to boiling point through ground coffee," says Han. "There are many different models and designs of espresso machines, designed for commercial or home use, but most espresso machines will have a grouphead, a portafilter, and a steam wand." A grouphead disperses boiling water into the coffee grounds, a portafilter is a spoon-shaped container where the coffee grounds live during the brewing process, and a steam wand is used to heat or froth milk.
What are the benefits of an espresso machine?
Other than impressing guests with your fancy coffee drinks, Eisenstat says that the "speed, unique flavors, and characteristics of espresso" are well worth the effort. Plus, learning how to make specialty drinks at home can save you the time and money you might spend picking up a latte a few times a week.
How do you clean an espresso machine?
Han stresses that it's very important to clean your espresso machine after each use. "You need to wash your grouphead every day, and your portafilter every day, as coffee oils will get stuck in it," she says. Han uses Cafiza powder to clean her equipment.
Eisenstat recommends cleaning and drying the portafilter each time you make a new drink. Plus, "the steam wand should be wiped with a clean, damp cloth and purged to prevent suction of milk into the steam boiler, where the milk proteins will cook onto the surface of the boiler and leave a bad burnt milk smell," he says.
To clean the innermost parts of the machine, Eisenstat recommends weekly "backflushing" to "clean out all the internal boilers that can't be reached by hand." Since every machine is slightly different, follow your machine's specific care instructions on how to clean the insides.
Take Our Word for It
This article was written by Nina Bahadur, a writer with over 10 years of home and lifestyle experience. She spent hours researching the best coffee makers to fit different needs, considering factors like type, brew size, and ease of use. She also asked experts Jiyoon Han, co-owner of Bean & Bean Coffee and a Coffee Quality Institute-certified Q grader, and Charlie Eisenstat, Head Roaster at Edda Coffee, to weigh in.
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