We put some of the most popular and best espresso machines to the test. For those who are willing to learn the Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine is a perfect machine. Just be aware that it will require some knowhow on your part until you’re able to produce consistent, great espresso without much thought.
For those who are willing to learn the Infuse 840XL is a perfect machine. Just be aware that it will require some knowhow on your part until you’re able to produce consistent, great espresso without much thought.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Espresso Machines
|Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine||Semi-Automatic Pump Operated||1 year limited||Check Price|
|DeLonghi America, Inc EC685M Dedica Deluxe||Semi-Automatic Pump Operated||1 year||Check Price|
|DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica||Super Automatic Pump Operated||2 year limited||Check Price|
|Mr. Coffee BVMC-ECMP1102||Semi-Automatic Pump Operated||1 year limited||Check Price|
|Bialetti 6-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker||Stovetop Moka Pot||n/a||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Espresso Machine
Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
When it came down to it, we quickly found the Breville to be one of the best machines on the market for beginners. It’s easy to operate, easy to clean, and provides a thick crema that’s suitable for more artistic applications if you swing that way.
It’s got all the necessary monitoring tools to ensure that you’re getting a consistent draw on each shot, and it includes a pop up “Clean Me” label which lets you know when the drip tray is full. The BES840XL also comes with the basic cleaning equipment you need to ensure that you can perform regular maintenance on the machine until you decide on a brand of detergent.
It is a semi-automatic machine, so there’s a definite learning curve, but we found it to be the one of the best espresso machines under a thousand dollars and we’d note that it’s probably the only worthy option for aficionados which comes in at under five hundred.
- High build-quality
- Extremely consistent
- Great price for the value
- Comes with everything needed to make espresso based drinks
- Needs frequent cleaning
- A bit of a learning curve
2. Best Compact Espresso Machine
DeLonghi America, Inc EC685M Dedica Deluxe
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
We don’t want you to think this is going to compare with the higher dollar espresso machines, but for the size and price it’s a great option for those with limited counterspace. Just don’t expect to be making elaborate latte art to impress your significant other in the mornings.
Indeed, it’s a consistent, extremely simple to use machine. There’s one big flaw, however, which is that the steam wand is tempermental enough that one reviewer described it as having “a mind of it’s own… an evil one.”
The rest of the machine functions fabulously however, and for those who just want espresso instead of fancier drinks it’s a solid pick. It can actually accommodate surprisingly large cups as well, provided that you remove the double drip tray.
The espresso function is solid and consistent, and it takes up a very minimal amount of counter space which makes this espresso machine our favorite of the various compact models out there, just be aware the steam wand tends to be a bit iffy.
- Automatic flow dispenser
- Makes consistent, good espresso
- Compact size
- Low price
- Steam wand is tempermental
- Internal parts are cheap, not BPA-free
3. Best Budget Super-Automatic Espresso Machine
DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
When we were looking for a super automatic machine to bring to you, we quickly realized that most of them cost well into four figures. Fortunately, we also found this one which works extremely well and is suitable for those who aren’t yet sure they want an appliance that costs as much as a used car.
Unlike the compact DeLonghi, this one is well suited for cappuccinos and lattes and it’ll grind your beans automatically to a consistent size. While it removes much of the artistry from creating your espresso, it’s extremely simple to use and handles pretty much everything for you.
Some of our reviewers liked this one a lot more than the semi-automatic machines, insisting it produces amazing espresso with way less effort on their part. It’s not without flaws, but for the price and with a 2 year limited warranty it’s hard to pass up.
If you’re looking for something which produces consistent espresso with a minimum of effort on your part, then you’ll like the Magnifica. Those who want a more customizable experience should probably give it a pass however.
- Fully automatic start to finish
- Highly consistent
- Long lasting machine
- Compact size for a fully automatic
- Some parts are fairly light plastic
- Not as customizable of an experience
4. Best Budget Espresso Machine
Mr. Coffee BVMC-ECMP1102 Cafe Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
Mr. Coffee makes a wide range of different machines for… well, coffee. Their espresso machine is cheap, but it’s effective as long as you’re not extremely picky about how your drinks end up. With the exception of a stovetop option it’s probably the cheapest way to get espresso fresh in your kitchen.
In actuality, most of the complaints that we received from our reviewers were readily solved. Essentially, while the machine is pretty cheap overall it mostly manifests in it being particularly finicky when it comes to the grind you put through it rather than inconsistent results.
We recommend picking up a good grinder if you plan on using this one, but at the price you’ll still come out on top for the most part. It has both a milk and water resevoir and one touch buttons to let you make things super easy as well.
For those who just want to enjoy espresso drinks at home, it’s hard to beat this little machine from Mr. Coffee. Connoisseurs will want to give it a pass, however.
- Super cheap
- Consistent quality as long as you watch your grind
- Milk and water reservoirs for one button drinks
- Relatively compact
- A bit slow
- Very touchy when it comes to the grind of the beans
5. Best Stovetop Espresso Maker
Bialetti 6-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
For those who don’t have the budget, but do have the taste, Bialetti makes a fantastic Moka pot which makes a passable espresso with virtually no difficulty. Unlike many of the pots out there, we found this one does a wonderful impersonation of an espresso, although it’s not going to be coffee shop grade.
The octagonal design makes it easy to clean as well. Moka pots have been around for quite some time, and Bialetti has been in the game since the beginning and they still do it the best. While not strictly a “machine” it’s possible to save quite a bit of money by going with one.
The results end up being comparable to a steam-powered espresso machine with much less expense. They’re also quite simple to use, and a great alternative to normal coffee.
If you’re looking for espresso but trying to stay under a hundred dollars then you’ll find that a stove top Moka pot is the only real way to go. Cheaper machines do exist, but they’re so limited in capability and consistency we feel it’s best to go with one of these handy pots.
- Works on the stovetop
- Extremely cheap compared to more advanced machines
- Easy to use
- Extremely easy to clean and virtually no maintenace
- In no way comparable to a pump machine
- Smaller models can be hard to fit on the stove
What is an Espresso Machine?
Espresso has rapidly become one of the most popular ways to drink coffee. Whether you’re taking it straight or combining it into a variety of other coffee drinks, having a machine at home can offer you a lot of convenience. Of course, those who don’t know what they’re looking for may have some trouble finding the best espresso machine.
For most people, we favor the Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine which comes in at a decent price and is a reliable workhorse which will serve you well for years to come. On the other hand, there are a lot of different variations out there and every coffee drinker is just a little bit different. We’ve rounded up five machines which are suitable for a wide variety of uses for you, and we’ll do our level best to make sure that the machine you end up with is perfect for your own home cafe.
Espresso machines are devices which make coffee under pressure in a short amount of time.
It differs in character from regularly brewed coffee quite a bit, namely it’s generally less bitter and possesses a higher caffeine content for the same fluid amount as the usual fare.
While these devices were once the province of commercial cafes and rich connoisseurs, in modern times several of them have been made which are affordable for the average home although they’re still very much a luxury item.
What Types of Espresso Machines Exist for Home Use?
While virtually all espresso machines do pretty much the same thing, there are a ton of different types out there and understanding the differences is the key to making sure that yours makes a welcome addition to your home instead of just being a big, shiny nuisance on the counter.
The biggest differentiation is steam-driven vs. pump-driven espresso machines.
Steam-driven models are pretty basic, and a lot cheaper than their pump-driven alternatives. They function by using steam to push the water through the grounds underneath higher pressure than you’ll be able to get with a drip coffee machine.
They also provide a slightly lower grade of espresso than their more modern counterparts.
Pump-driven models use an electric pump to keep the water pressure up. They tend to form a much better head on the espresso and just generally deliver a “finer” end product. For those who are willing to spring for them they’re considered the only real option.
On the other hand, for those who aren’t really “coffee people” going with a steam-driven model is pretty much the best way to get your caffeine fix as the difference is negligible to many.
You’ll also want to consider semi-automatic vs. super automatic machines. The former require more effort to use and require you to grind the coffee and are manually controlled.
Many people actually prefer the semi-automatic models, particularly those who are quite touchy about their espresso since it allows them to make sure that everything runs perfectly to their tastes.
Super automatic machines, on the other hand, handle everything from grinding to portion control for you. If you’re not the type who cares to fuss over the “perfect” espresso then you’ll probably be in good hands through the utilization of one of these machines.
Moka pots aren’t strictly considered espresso machines anymore, although they operate on the same principle as the original espresso machines did. We’ve included one in our picks for one reason: the price of a moka pot is neglible compared to any espresso machine worth putting beans through.
The character will be slightly different from the espresso that you’re used to from cafes, but it’s not a bad choice if you want something small and cheap to produce a good coffee extraction.
Capsule Espresso Machines and Lever Machines
We excluded both of these from our run up for different reasons.
Capsule machines are handy for office settings or at home if you don’t particularly care about the quality of your espresso, but they can’t rightly be judged alongside real espresso machines. They’re just not in the same league when it comes down to it.
Lever machines, on the other hand, use a piston to put the water under pressure and drive it through the packed coffee. They’re extremely efficient, work great, and the cheapest ones are way out of the price league of most people.
They’re also hard to judge due to their superior construction, with the machines being made to last for generations rather than a number of years. If you’re looking into them, then a custom job is probably the way to go. They’re often amazingly attractive devices, with handmade parts, but they’re a bit outside the scope of this guide.
What to Look for in Your Espresso Machine
Finding the best espresso machine, particularly if you’re not into taking out a second mortgage in order to pick up a commercial-grade machine, isn’t just about finding the type of machine which you think will suit you best.
You still need to take into account all of the following in order to ensure that you’re getting a machine that not only functions in the way you want, but will continue to do so for a long period of time after you’ve picked it up.
An espresso machine needs to function on a consistent basis. While one of the most common errors in producing espresso is coffee of inconsistent quality, some machines out there vary too much to really be worth taking a look over.
This is especially problematic with semi-automatic machines where the user most likely has their own special ritual of preparing their espresso and expected results.
There are a ton of factors which go into making an espresso just right and that’s why the market for super expensive machines has pretty much exploded over the last couple of decades.
Essentially, you’ll need consistency in all of the following in order to make sure everything comes out right:
- The grind needs to be of the same amount each time.
- The temperature of the extraction has to be spot on, this is the biggest factor which is an influence in finding a consistent machine.
- The amount of time the extraction process takes.
- The amount of water which is released through the coffee.
All of these except for the grind can be affected by a low quality machine, so you need to ensure that the machine you pick out is capable of producing the same results each time.
Not everyone who’s got a taste for espresso is going to have an enormous amount of counter space to devote to their new appliance. Even the smallest really aren’t something you’re going to be tucking in a cabinet, so you’ll want to check the footprint of your machine before you buy it.
As a general rule, semi-automatic machines are going to be smaller than super automatics. With less machinery inside of them, they’re obviously going to be taking up less space.
We recommend measuring your desired counterspace and comparing it to the footprint of the machine that you’re looking for when deciding on which to use.
Ease of Cleaning
Espresso machines require quite a bit of regular maintenance. Much more than your traditional coffee pot.
How easy your machine is to clean is a pretty big factor because of this, we recommend digging in and figuring out whether or not the machine is within your capabilities to clean before committing to the purchase.
While most machines can work for some time while dirty, it’ll lead to a lower quality espresso over time and that can be a major bummer.
Many espresso machines can be customized with various add-ons over time. It’s not a big deal to most people, who are likely to just want to make some espresso or a latte at home, but for tinkerers and true coffee aficionados it’s a big concern.
Machines with greater customizability are, as a general rule, harder to work with as they tend to be quite a bit more advanced.
We recommend taking a closer look into this bit of detail if you don’t mind dealing with a more complex machine.
Maintaining Your Espresso Machine
Once you’ve dedicated yourself to picking up an espresso machine, you’re going to have to learn how to maintain it.
Don’t worry, there’s no math involved.
Instead, for a home machine, you’ll need to make sure that you perform regular maintenance to keep that golden brown liquid flowing perfectly each time you pull a shot.
Our time frames are based on average home use, so around four shots per day or so. If you’re using it much more frequently you may need to perform maintenance more frequently and if you use it less then you may need a bit less maintenance overall.
Consult your manual to make sure you’re familiar with the parts before you begin using your machine to get the best results as the following is going to get a bit technical.
You should be cleaning the screen and steam wand after each time they’re used. Just a quick wipe down ought to do it.
It may seem a little bit on the OCD side of things, but the truth is that if you’re not going to do this every time then you’re just going to cause much more serious problems pretty soon down the line.
If your machine has a three-way valve, then you’ll want to backflush it with water at the end of the day, especially if it see’s heavy usage. No need for detergent and it only takes a moment.
Monthly you’ll want to pick up some espresso detergent and use it to clean out the inside of the machine. Follow the instructions that come with the detergent, your manual should show you how to get the job done.
You’ll also want to check gaskets and any other parts which may fail although you certainly shouldn’t be having problems just yet. It’s important to get into a regular maintenance routine ASAP, however, for the best results.
Twice a Year
Replacing gaskets and other minor services should be done twice a year. If you’re running with hard water then you’ll also want to make sure that you descale the machine using the manufacturer’s recommended descaling products.
Once a Year
At this point, you’ll need to undertake any major maintenance which needs to be done. This is where things can get a bit costly, and we recommend keeping extra parts on hand just in case of early failure for the most part.
Any major components which have problems should be replaced as needed.
The important thing is to make sure that you read your manual when you get your machine. These are just general guidelines for maintenance based on fairly light usage of the machine.
Getting an espresso machine in your home is easier and cheaper than many of us think. For beginners there’s definitely something out there, while the advanced aficianados with deep pockets might be rolling their eyes at our choices. That’s fine, we’re here to bring you the best products for the average person.
When it comes down to it, we feel the semi-automatic Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine is the best for the average beginner in the world of espresso. It’s cheap enough to not require super deep pockets but does a great job at producing a rich shot with plenty of crema.
In the end, you’ll probably end up saving money so if you’re a frequent guest in cafes you should definitely take a look into a more DIY approach. Who knows, you may just fall in love.