For many people drinking coffee is an everyday ritual. For some, it can be a necessity as they can’t function properly without a morning fix. Some of us just love the taste of it and like experimenting with different roasts and blends. But we all have to agree – there is nothing like a cup of freshly prepared coffee in the morning waking up our senses.
That’s why being able to have it all day and every day is so great. But wait… Not everybody has a cafe around the corner and not everybody has time to visit one every day. Not to mention the cost of a quality cuppa. Ouch. So what else is left? A cup of mediocre coffee-like drink made from a not so freshly ground beans of unknown origin? Or even worse. An instant coffee. Ugh…
The solution is pretty simple. Get yourself the best espresso machine you can afford and some accessories and you’ll be able to enjoy the full range of delicious coffee drinks from espressos to lattes to cappuccinos in your own home whenever you like.
There are loads and I mean hundreds of models to choose from depending on your budget and needs.
This, unfortunately, may not be as easy at it seems. Buying a first espresso machine or even upgrading can be both confusing and time-consuming and you shouldn’t just buy any random machine because you like the look of it. Doing so can leave you disappointed and out of pocket.
That’s why I’ve created this guide. To tell you all you need to know about espresso machines. Different types, desired features and overviews of some of the best ones available on the market for a variety of budgets and individual needs.
If you wonder how to choose best espresso machine and what to look for, read on. Below the overviews, you’ll find an extensive buying guide that hopefully will help you make an educated choice.
- 1 BEST SEMI AUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINES
- 2 Breville BES920XL Dual Boiler Espresso Machine
- 3 Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
- 4 Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine
- 5 DeLonghi America EC680B Dedica Espresso Machine
- 6 DeLonghi EC155 Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
- 7 Breville Oracle Espresso Machine
- 8 BEST SUPER AUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINES
- 9 DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Super Automatic Espresso Machine
- 10 Gaggia Brera Superautomatic Espresso Machine
- 11 Gaggia Anima Prestige Coffee Maker
- 12 DeLonghi ESAM3500.N Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso Machine
- 13 Jura Giga 5 Automatic Coffee Machine
- 14 BEST POD ESPRESSO MACHINES
- 15 Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee and Espresso Maker
- 16 Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker
- 17 DeLonghi Silver Lattissima Plus Nespresso Capsule System
- 18 Keurig Rivo Espresso, Cappuccino & Latte System
- 19 Breville BNE800BSS Nespresso Creatista Plus
- 20 ESPRESSO MACHINE BUYING GUIDE
- 21 Q & A
- 22 Conclusion
BEST SEMI AUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINES
Best cheap double boiler espresso machine
Breville BES920XL Dual Boiler Espresso Machine
Breville has made a name for itself by providing excellent espresso machines to make at-home barista-style coffee and it all started with this classic model. This handsome dual boiler espresso machine has two stainless steel boilers and dual Italian pumps that simultaneously extract your espresso and steam the milk. No more dilemma what to make first.
The LED display shows you the temperature, a shot clock, and a programmable 24-hour clock. It’s very easy to program the settings to dial in the shot to your liking. You can set and program volume for a single and double shot, water temperature and pressure and duration of pre-infusion(which helps extraction for fuller better-tasting shots).
This particular model also comes with a heated brew head and PID for temperature stability so important for extracting good quality espresso. The OPV valve helps release the pressure and prevents bitter tasting shots.
The auto start setting will preheat at any given time so it’s all ready and hot for you in the morning.
This is an upgraded 900xl model that allows for easy at home emptying and descaling. The reason I mention this as the previous model did not allow it and this was one of the main user concerns/complaints. Breville listened to the customers and upgraded it, making it hassle-free as well as cost-efficient(the shipping costs).
This is one of the cheapest double boiler machines on the market and if you’re looking to upgrade your old machine to something more of a prosumer level you should definitely consider this model from Breville.
Best value semi automatic espresso machine
Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
Another attractive and high-quality model from Breville is Barista Express. It’s actually a newer and updated model of the classic BES86OXL and it was the best new product 2013 by Specialty Coffee Association of America.
It features a 15 bar Italian pump and improved thermocoil boiler that heats better than the previous systems. A purge function that automatically adjusts water temperature after steaming so you can easily make several coffee drinks back to back pretty quickly.
It comes with a half-pound removable bean hopper and has a built-in good quality stainless steel conical burr grinder with 16 settings that will let you precisely dial in the grind for the perfect shot. You can go from a freshly opened bag of delicious Arabica beans to a perfect cup of espresso in under a minute.
You’ll appreciate the extra features like PID temperature control for consistent shots like in Breville 920xl this one has a 3-way solenoid valve that releases pressure and excess water at the end of the cycle so you get nice, dry easy to knock coffee puck.
The steam wand is mounted on 360 deg swivel joint making it easy to use with any milk pitcher and is a pro-style single hole. Similarly to other Breville machines, the pre-infusion allows for better extraction.
It’s a great option for those who want quality espresso machine with a lot of features found in high-level machines but don’t have a budget for a separate grinder as well as for those that just begun their coffee making adventure. Overall, it’s the best semi automatic espresso machine with built-in grinder that you can currently find on the market in this price range.
Best entry level espresso machine with pro features
Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine
A high-quality, professionally designed machine from the Italian company of Gaggia, this classic single boiler semi-automatic is an excellent entry-level machine for those on a budget. It might not be the most expensive one but some of the pro features it has, make it very popular among coffee enthusiasts.
It features an aluminum external heat single boiler made in Italy and 15 bar vibration pump that allows brewing between 8 and 9 bar pressure.
The 3-way solenoid valve releases pressure and excess water at the end of the cycle which means a dryer puck and reduced stress on internal plumbing – more reliable and user-friendly design not found in cheaper machines.
It has a Pannarello wand that froths milk for your cappuccinos and lattes pretty automatically buy bear in mind it hasn’t got a lot of movement. The three rocker switches make it extremely easy to use. No complicated technology and a lot of confusing settings.
Brass chrome plated brew group allows for a better temperature stability and consistent shots brewed back to back. A commercial size portafilter(58mm) comes with pressurized(great for pre ground coffee or ESE pods- no grinder required)and unpressurized baskets and is made from chrome plated brass as well.
It’s a classic machine that’s been on the market for years that will let you learn about and make quality espresso. Just beware about updated version(2016) that has been stripped of some of these pro features making it less reliable and a simply cheaply made machine.
Best value, compact espresso machine with pro features
DeLonghi America EC680B Dedica Espresso Machine
The control panel comes with light up buttons that you can use to change a lot of settings like timer or volume of the shots. The aluminum portafilter comes with 3 pressurized baskets for a single, double shot and ESE pods.
Programmable buttons and pre-infusion are the features you won’t find in other machines in the same price range which makes it a great value for money. Slim, quick and very easy to use is a great option for beginners as well as coffee lovers who don’t want to go deep in learning barista skills.
In one sentence – a lot of pro features for the price point, very compact and great for tight spaces.
Best cheap espresso machine
DeLonghi EC155 Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
This machine is definitely not one fully packed with superb features but it’s a very basic one that, after some tweaking and with patience, will let you make a decent espresso. You can even find some tutorials on youtube how to pull a great shot or make a micro foam with it.
So what do you get? A stainless steel boiler and 15 bar pump. Two separate thermostats for controlling both the water and steam pressure and 2 knobs – one on top is used for controlling the amount of steam, one on the front has 4 positions – on, off, hot water/brewing position and steam on position. Easy and simple.
There’s a dual function three-in-one aluminum portafilter for ground coffee. It has a holder for one or two espresso shots, or ESE pod making your espresso simple and fast. The water tank is easy to remove, refill, and reinsert and holds 35 oz.
This DeLonghi BAR espresso machine is one of the smallest on the list so it doesn’t take up a lot of counter space and is lightweight making it easy to move and clean. Pretty decent pump driven machine for the price point.
Best of both worlds – the most automated semi-automatic
Breville Oracle Espresso Machine
It automatically grinds, doses, and tamps the perfect amount of coffee for you. Then it can steam the milk to desired temperature and foam density for either latte or cappuccino – all hands-free. It even purges the wand after it’s done. Cool, isn’t it?
A stainless steel conical burr grinder has 46 grind settings so you can set it right for the different coffee beans roasts/blends. PID temperature controlled stainless steel dual boilers and heated brew head allows for precise brewing and stability temperature. The OPV valve limits maximum pressure so you won’t get bitter shots – all you need for a perfect espresso.
It has plenty of customizable features from shot volume to brewing temperature and pre-infusion time and pressure. It’s is truly automated semi automatic. But if you want a more hands-on experience you will be able to set some of them manually.
Fear not you don’t have to remember or set all of them every single time, the machine stores settings for you perfect espresso shot so you can enjoy consistent, a great cup of coffee every single time.
A great machine for those starting their adventure within the coffee world as well as those who know their coffee but like more hands off experience that brings satisfying results.
BEST SUPER AUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINES
Best value/budget friendly super automatic
DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Super Automatic Espresso Machine
One of Delonghi super automatic machines The Magnifica. It’s a basic super automatic espresso machine for those on a budget as you can buy it for under $200 when on offer. A compact size and a lot of features often found in more expensive models make it very attractive entry-level machine.
Going from the top, the bean hopper holds up to 7 ounces of beans and the canonical, low pitch stainless steel burr grinder has 7 settings to adjust the coarseness of bean grounds. If you fancy decaf or different coffee blend you can use a bypass doser located at the top.
The compact size double boiler allows for better heat distribution important for shot consistency and temperature. It’s a double boiler but it’s not able to steam and brew at the same time.
The Pannarello frother is easy to use and produces milk foam pretty much automatically. It produces lots of foam but you don’t have not much control over it. The 360 deg swivel joint allows for any size milk jug.
It features an easy to use rotary and push button control panel. You can program the amount of water and amount of coffee grounds used. Very adjustable so you’ll be able to dial-in the settings for a perfect cuppa. Don’t worry you don’t have to do it every single time. The machine stores your settings for even quicker and more consistent, great-tasting coffee. With more settings like start time, auto off, and clock you can program it and forget it. It will be ready for you in the mornings.
The “Direct-to-Brew” system makes it very easy to clean up and with a 60-ounce water tank, you can be sure that you won’t run out of the water quickly. As I said simple easy and budget friendly super automatic.
Best entry level compact super automatic
Gaggia Brera Superautomatic Espresso Machine
The Gaggia brand was founded by an Italian named Achille Gaggia. This Brera Superautomatic Espresso Machine is certainly a stellar example of the brand. It’s an excellent entry-level super automatic that has a wide array of features you won’t find in other machines for this price.
It’s very easy to setup and use with four push button controls and a bright LED display that shows separate illuminated icons to indicate what machine is doing or what needs to be done at the moment(like descaling). You can set the shot strength and volume so plenty of room to dial in the espresso to your liking. The ceramic burr grinder has 5 settings for further personalization of your shot.
The Pannarello wand frother makes it easy to create decent foam for cappuccinos and lattes without much of a learning curve and double boiler allows for super fast steaming to brewing like under 9 sec!
The bypass doser will let you use any ground coffee like decaf without the necessity of changing the beans in the hopper.
When it’s time to clean it you can easily access the dregs drawer, drip tray, and water tank from the front of the machine. The entire brew group can be removed from the machine for regular rinsing and maintenance.
There is no timer on this particular espresso machine and with the size of the water container, it should be filled each day. The size of the water tank is only 40 ounces but it does save on counter space. The stainless steel body makes it durable and attractive. Overall it’s an entry level machine for a great price.
Best compact one touch super automatic
Gaggia Anima Prestige Coffee Maker
This another super automatic espresso machine from Gaggia -The Anima Prestige. It’s one of the compact machines, narrower and shorter than most – great for those with limited counter space. It comes with a 60-ounce water reservoir (pretty much the same as other similar machines), an 8.8-ounce bean hopper and a bypass doser on the top.
It’s pretty easy to use with one touch buttons for cappuccino and latte macchiato as well as other programmable settings like coffee strength, water volume and the amount of milk for each drink. Manu is not super extensive but even with these features, you’ll be able to make the coffee the way you like it.
It has three different temperature settings as well for the optimal level of hotness, depending on what you like. The display has a bright blue LED light and is easy to read and follow.
The removable 60-ounce water reservoir can be easily accessed from the top left of the machine and there’s also access to the bean hopper on the top right of the machine. The adjustable burr grinder is ceramic which guarantees excellent grinding for a great flavor.
This machine comes with a milk carafe which makes it fuss-free and excellent milk frothing system for milk based coffees. The carafe is detachable and can be stored in the fridge ready for whenever you need it. For all of you that worry about any nasty residues left behind, it has a cleaning cycle after every single cup of coffee and especially after using the milk.
This is a compact, one touch superautomatic espresso machine that will make a nice addition to any kitchen.
Best cheap super automatic with built-in milk frothing system
DeLonghi ESAM3500.N Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso Machine
DeLonghi ESAM3500.N Magnifica is a simple-to-use espresso machine that will help you brew your favorite cup of cappuccino, coffee, espresso, latte drinks and much more. It comes with various features which make it quite a convenient machine to have. For instance, you will be happy to know that it has a height adaptable coffee spouts that can brew in cups with different heights. It also features an instant reheat function that makes sure the machine is ready to brew quickly.
It has 2 stainless steel boilers which allow for brewing and steaming at the same time making it very fast. You can enjoy your cappuccino in under 1 min!
Also included is the beans-to-brew system for complete extraction of the coffee beans. No beans will go to waste thanks to this added feature.
Compared to the ESAM3300 model, DeLonghi went even further in terms of features. One of the main features is the one touch system which also includes a 25-ounce milk container. This function is perfect if you love making lattes and cappuccinos. The frother comes with two lids – one for the latte and one for the cappuccino. It mixes steam and milk and creates different airy foam depending on which lid you’re using. And similarly to Gaggia Anima Prestige, you can keep the carafe in the fridge when not in use.
There is one feature that makes this machine perfect for any coffee lover that likes to experiment and that is the programmable menu that allows a lot of customization like changing coffee volume and intensity. The menu also features various options like a clock, start time, water hardness setting, water temperature and automatic shut off. The professional grade low pitch conical burr grinder has 7 settings from coarse to fine allowing for further dialing in for a perfect espresso.
This is a mid-level super automatic that is very capable of producing a tasty coffee and will serve you well.
Best super automatic for offices and large households
Jura Giga 5 Automatic Coffee Machine
Don’t let the top of the line, high price scare you off from the JURA Giga 5. It is Swiss designed and engineered for long lasting durability, so this is definitely an espresso machine you’ll have for years, if not decades. The company claims it’s not uncommon to see 10-year-old machines that have produced over 12,000 cups of coffee. The JURA is faster and easier than most other coffee machines.
It grinds fresh beans, tamps them, brews them, and self-cleans all in less than 60 seconds. You can just touch one button to operate this espresso machine. It has two bean hoppers that you can fill up with different coffee blends and it grinds the coffee by using two ceramic disc grinders. All customizable. From the grind settings to the amount of coffee used from each hopper.
You can program it to make up to 17 different types of individual coffees. And that is without the barista function where you‘ll find additional 12 recipes for various coffee based drinks. You can have espresso, latte, cappuccino, café latte, regular coffee, or any combination you can come up with. It’s a great way to impress your friends and family with this fabulous coffee center.
It also has two heating systems to produce two completely different cups of coffee at the same time. And by that, I mean different settings for each not different types(like espresso and cappuccino). You can enjoy perfect coffee in a minute or less.
It has a variable brewing chamber to create the two different brews, a specialized pre-brew aroma system that allows the coffee aroma to fully develop, a coffee spout that adjusts for the height of glass/cup, and a filter cartridge that keeps the interior of the machine clear and clean from the scale.
The high-performance pump is 15 bar and it also has a thermoblock heating system. There are many programmable settings, including the amount of water, five coffee strength levels, aroma levels, three brewing temperature levels and switch off times. The water tank holds 87 ounces and bean containers that are 9.88 ounces each.
As I mentioned it’s not cheap but if you drink a lot of coffee can afford this is all you’ll ever need.
BEST POD ESPRESSO MACHINES
Best entry level/budget friendly super automatic
Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee and Espresso Maker
The machine can make your espresso or coffee with crema in two different sizes – either a small 1.35-ounce espresso or a large 8-ounce coffee. It also features a 19-bar pressure which is more than enough. The size of the water tank is only 40 ounces so not bad for a capsule machine. In the new model VertuoPlus, it can be moved to left or right which allows for some adjusting in a case of a limited counter space as well as keeping an eye on the water level.
The only drawback is that you have to purchase the milk frother separately for milk based coffees but the deals available on Amazon are usually better than buying everything separately. The cost difference comes to around $60 and the frother by itself is around $100 so you can get yourself a really good deal.
This VertuoLine uses a Nespresso patented extraction technology. You insert the capsule and close the lever to start the brewing process. When it’s activated, the capsule spins up to 7,000 complete rotations per minute, blending that ground coffee inside the capsule with water and producing the perfect ¼” thick layer of crema.
Brewing parameters are adjusted by the machine and are based on the barcode written on the capsule rim, so you don’t have to change settings. It automatically detects different settings, but there are no temperature controls. Only specific Nespresso capsules fit in the machine and you can become part of the Nespresso coffee club to order and receive more.
Built into the design is also a power-saving feature, so this machine is perfect for those who are concerned about energy bills.
Best cheap and compact pod espresso machine
Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker
Another model by Nespresso is the Inissia. This machine uses only Nespresso coffee capsules. The capsules are easy to insert into the maker and remove. It features a quick preheat system and it only takes 25 seconds to preheat the machine and there is a 19 bar high-pressure pump. You won’t have to wait long for the machine to warm up before you can make your coffee. The brew time is about 30 seconds.
It also features two coffee programming options – either Espresso or Lungo. The water tank is removable and just like the VertuoLine but holds only 24oz but keep in mind it’s a single serve and very compact machine.
As for the drip cup tray, it’s foldable and can accommodate tall glasses. There’s even a used capsule container that can hold between 9 and 11 used capsules allowing you to make up to 9 coffees without having to empty it.
Another great feature is the auto shut off option. If this espresso machine is inactive for 9 minutes or longer, it automatically shuts off, making it energy efficient. This Nespresso Inissia has a one touch operation that utilizes its high-pressure pump. It comes with a welcome set of 16 flavored coffee capsules and you can order more through the Nespresso capsule Coffee Club. It is smaller than the Nespresso Pixie and CitiZ models. It uses 120 volts of power and has an electric cable that’s 2.6 feet long. It measures only 4.6” wide, 12.6” high and 9.1” deep, with a very small weight of 5.29 pounds.
Budget-friendly and very compact size. Very neat and clean. No need for clean up except descaling. There is a big variety of capsules-different blends. It’s very easy to use, but just the single serving only.
Best compact pod machine with built-in milk frother
DeLonghi Silver Lattissima Plus Nespresso Capsule System
With its patented thermoblock heating feature, it is ready to use in 40 seconds. There’s a single touch button to start the frothing process. This machine is compatible with regular Nespresso coffee capsules and it cleans itself. The carafe is 12 ounces in size and is detachable so you can put it in your refrigerator to keep it cold.
The buttons are illuminated and can be seen easily and there are controls for cappuccino, latte macchiato, espresso, coffee, or even hot milk.
The size of the water tank is only 30 ounces, so it’s more suited for small households. Also, includes a complete control panel which features two coffee and three milk selections. It lets you select the drink you want.
Best entry level/budget friendly super automatic
Keurig Rivo Espresso, Cappuccino & Latte System
Save time in the morning with this Keurig espresso machine that makes your espresso, cappuccino, and lattes in under one minute. It features a double design for brewing and frothing, with three different frothing modes. Whether you prefer your espresso in the short size of 1.4 ounces or the tall Lungo size of 2.8 ounces, you’ll enjoy it with this machine.
There are 15 bars of pressure and it also includes a water tank which is quite large and this holds up to 60 ounces, however, it doesn’t feature a water filter. Unlike its competitor, the Nespresso VertuoLine, the Keurig actually features an inbuilt milk frother which adds to its convenience.
Of course, since it’s a Keurig, it uses the special coffee pods. It comes with 12 Rivo Packs to make the signature blends from Lavazza. Keep in mind this is quite a large machine with a counter space size of 15.8” x 15.6” x 15.1” and a weight of 22.4 pounds.
Best entry level/budget friendly super automatic
Breville BNE800BSS Nespresso Creatista Plus
Coming from a fusion that connected two well-known brands Breville and Nespresso is this machine Breville BNE800BSS Nespresso Creatista Plus. A truly luxury pod espresso machine that has a lot to offer. For those who want no fuss no mess automated system, this machine would be a great buy.
Some of you would ask why not buy a super automatic that can easily fit in this price range? Well, the answer is you can. But that’s not the point. Pod espresso machines offer different coffee experience desired by many. No dialing settings for a perfect cup of Joe. Just put the capsule, press the button and it’s done.
Preprogrammed buttons are fully customizable and you can choose from wide variety of drinks like Ristretto, Espresso, Lungo, Cappuccino, Latte, Flat White & Latte Macchiato. The only thing you have to remember is to top up the water and milk for your drinks.
This machine comes with automatic built-in milk frother that has 11 temperature settings and 8 different milk foam settings. Fully automatic, hands-free milk texturing. The manufacturer goes as far as claiming that it’s able to produce a micro foam for latte art.Are the results satisfying?
It depends. You can even produce micro foam with a frothing wand so why not a with a robust machine with a Breville steam wand.
At the end of the day when it comes to pod espresso machines, it’s all about convenience.
ESPRESSO MACHINE BUYING GUIDE
How to choose best espresso machine for your needs?
1. TYPES OF ESPRESSO MACHINES
In a nutshell. If you like more a full hands-on approach to making coffee and you have some knowledge about this topic then you should consider semi-automatic or even lever/manual machines. If you like to have everything ready at the touch of a button or like having people over and serving barista-style coffee drinks without wasting time, the super automatic espresso machine will be the way to go. If you only need 1 cup at a time and hate or don’t have time for cleaning up the one cup espresso makers like Nespresso should suit you best.
There is even an option for people on the go with no access direct access to power source.
Of course, every type has some pros and cons and typical features that you should consider. So let me explain a bit more what kind of espresso machines are available on the market. Who would they suit best and what you should look for when looking to buy one.
What kind of espresso machines can you find on the market? There are several to choose from:
- Pod espresso machine
- Super automatic
- Semi automatic
- Manual portable
The order of this list is not accidental. I’d like to start with the type of espresso machine that is the simplest to use and require no experience or specific knowledge. Many of you will ask why I even include this type of coffee makers. They not using “real” coffee just some pods with questionable quality ground coffee beans.
Well, the answer is simple. There is always going to be someone whose lifestyle and taste will fit perfectly into this niche. Be there a student with little space or a busy single parent with hectic school runs etc. As long as there are people who benefit from it I’ll try to do my best and provide thorough information. And besides, there is no accounting for taste(this statement doesn’t include instant coffee ;))
Pod/Capsule Espresso Machine
Pod style espresso makers like Nespresso or dolce gusto are extremely compact and easy to use. They don’t use ground coffee or beans, instead, they utilize special pods/capsules with ground coffee to make espresso or coffee drinks.
There seems to be many different types and manufacturers on the market but most of them are made by Nestle Group from Switzerland. Nespresso system machines are sold by/licensed to many different manufacturers including Krups, Magimix, Miele, Siemens, and DeLonghi, but are mostly manufactured by Eugster/Frismag.
That’s why you can find so many different models from different manufacturers. Dolce gusto is also a system manufactured for Nestle Group by Arno, Krups and DeLonghi and Keurig. This system offers a wider range of coffee-based drinks. I’m not going to go into too many details here but just wanted to shed some light and show you the difference. Most of the dolce gusto coffee pods contain ground coffee(like espresso, americano or latte) plus a milk capsule with milk and other ingredients like sugar.
Some of the milky drinks like mochas, iced lattes coffee capsules contain instant coffee, cocoa powder, and other stuff.
The idea behind this system is to have a real coffee experience with no mess, no fuss and at an affordable price. On top of that, the compact size of these machines makes them very popular.
Super Automatic Espresso Machine
If you like great coffee, but setting everything up every single time and getting your hands dirty doesn’t appeal to you, you should consider a super automatic espresso machine.
This type, also called bean-to-cup, will take care of everything for you. All you need to do is top up the water and coffee beans and at the touch of a button, you’ll be able to make amazing barista style coffees on your countertop. Easy, isn’t it? No experience necessary.
Semi Automatic Espresso Machine
If the idea of playing with different factors and training barista skills is appealing to you definitely should consider a semi-automatic espresso machine. It provides that hands-on experience many coffee lovers are after and allows for total control over the brewing process. You’ll be responsible for every aspect from grinding the beans to tamping to dialing the settings and finally frothing the milk for milk-based coffees.
The downside(for some) is that it takes a learning curve and a lot of practice to achieve desired results. The other thing is it takes more than a good quality espresso machine to pull a perfect shot. In this case, you have to buy some additional gear like a good quality burr grinder to start with and some great beans as well as other accessories like tampers, milk pitchers, and thermometers.
These kind of machines are not cheap and require a lot of experience so not really recommended for beginners. While semi-automatics have some of the processes automated, these machines are as hands-on as it gets.
They haven’t got a pump to push water through the coffee grounds. For direct lever machines, you act as a pump and push water through the coffee. On other hand, for spring piston lever machines the calibrated spring is used to push the water through coffee grounds at the declining pressure.
It’s a more complex topic and I won’t be writing about it here. Plenty of material for many posts. I just wanted to mention these for those interested what is available on the market.
Manual Portable Espresso Machines
These machines are fairly new and there are several manufacturers offering a quite wide range of different types. These type of machines don't need any electricity to produce an espresso so are great on the road(car, plane) or while camping or anywhere where the access to an electric is somehow restricted. If you interested there are many models on the market at the moment like Aeropress, Handpresso or Rok.
For most of you, the main factor determining your choice is going to be your budget. But I think you should decide what kind of espresso machine you want and then find out one that fits within it. Usually cheaper espresso machines don’t have as many features as the high-level ones. Or the quality of materials might not be as good.
You’ll probably have to compromise at some point. You’ll probably have to compromise at some point. That’s why it is important to determine which features can help you pull a great espresso and which features are necessary for yourself when using this kind of machine every day. If the money is no issue, that’s great you‘ve got a much bigger choice but I’m sure you’d still like to find a machine that suits your needs best. You just have to determine what features are necessary for you and if you want to more manual or more automatic machine.
What features should you look for?
Super Automatic Espresso Machines
Depending on the price super automatics can offer a wide range of features that improve overall user experience. Generally, most of them have the basics in common like bean hoppers, brew group, grinders, water pump, boiler or water tank. The difference is in the quality of these components and any extra customizable features that they may have.
For all super-automatics, the coffee system consists of a bean hopper, a doser, a grinder, a brew group, coffee spouts.
The number of extra features usually depends on the price of the espresso machine as well as manufacturer.
Other settings you should look out for are an automatic turn on/shut off, energy saving mode, a clock descaling or empty hopper/water tank alert.
Semi Automatic Espresso Machines
This type of espresso machines has gained popularity over the last few decades and has made its way into our homes offering true espresso experience previously found only in cafes and coffee shops. The semi-automatics became hugely popular especially now with the rise of specialty coffee and more and more people want to recreate this cafe quality but with a lower price tag and in the comfort of their own home.
Similarly to super automatic espresso machines, the features included and materials used vary and depend mostly on the price. However, the basic features common for every model aren’t as broad as in super automatics.
Most of the time you’ll have to pay extra for any additions. Saying that you can still find superb machines with a lot of top quality features in the lower price range it just takes a bit more digging. It’s worth mentioning that there are many models considered as prosumer/semi-commercial level machines that offer commercial quality and features for home users but that usually comes with a higher price tag.
What about machines with a built-in grinder?
Well, they have their place in the espresso machine niche. They’re fairly new and I think only made by Breville at the moment. In my opinion, they’re great for beginners with a modest-ish budget. This type of machines is perfect for those who want more automation or have limited counter space(as can’t afford or fit a grinder).
Pod/Capsule Espresso Machines
Pod espresso machines are usually the simplest ones without many complicated components. If you decide to go this route check what is the pod variety, if they’re widely available, the overall size of the machine and any milk frothing system it has/can be added. I’d look for any programmability and energy saving setups.
Q & A
Quality espresso machines allow you to brew an authentic Italian espresso and prepare an enjoyable latte or cappuccino and right in your home or office. But they don't come cheap and that's why it’s important to look around and make an educated choice. I hope this guide has shed some light on the best espresso machines available on the market as well as the important features you should look for when buying one. If you have any other questions leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them to best of my knowledge.