If you’re anything like us, coffee is what gets you out of bed in the morning. A good coffee means a good start to the day, and there is no better investment to make than an espresso machine.
Espresso machines work by forcing hot water through a compacted puck of coffee grounds into a cup below to give you barista-quality coffee from the sanctuary of your own home. Your wallet will thank you, and without having to wait in line at Starbucks, you will get an extra 15 minutes of beauty sleep!
We have rounded up the top 5 espresso machines on the market for you, ranging from low to high-end options.
We have highlighted our top choice below if you are in a rush. We have chosen no pod-based machines for this roundup for more accurate comparison, but there are many good pod-based espresso machines on the market too.
We have also written a Buyers’ Guide to help you with your search and answered a few FAQs.
In a hurry?
Our top pick for espresso machines is the De’Longhi EC155 Espresso and Cappuccino Maker.
This is a slightly pricier model but the additional features make it well worth the extra bucks. This is a true investment and you will save enough not buying coffees out to even out the cost in no time!
Top 5 Best Espresso Machines
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
The De’Longhi pump model is on the dearer side of mid-range price, but you get a lot of bang for your buck.
The machine has a steam wand with dual thermostats to allow distinct steam and water control. It has a dual function filter holder, meaning you can use pods or grounds. The Advanced Cappuccino System allows cup after cup to be made with no waiting.
The machine has a self-priming operation meaning that you will never need to wait for your espresso machine to warm up again. There is a steel drip tray and a removable water tank, both of which are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
- Stainless steel
- 35oz water tank capacity
- Cup warmer
- Can be used with pods or grounds
- No Cons
The Brewville is the most expensive pick by far, but has a built-in coffee grinder with a bean hopper capacity of ½ lb.
The machine is made of stainless steel and has a 67oz water tank. The machine can switch between manual and automatic operation. It has a 9 bar extraction and 15 bar Italian pump.
You can adjust the grind size and the machine comes with interchangeable filters.
- Built in coffee grinder
- PID technology
- ½ lb bean hopper capacity
- 67oz water tank
- Very expensive
This is a fairly inexpensive steam espresso machine. It is made primarily of plastic, with stainless steel elements and a glass decanter.
The water tank capacity is 8.5oz and the machine can make up to 4 cups of coffee. There is a steam wand to make lattes and cappuccinos and the machine is semi-automatic. The coffee is produced under 3.5 bar pressure and has a 22 second extraction time.
The machine is FDA certified and comes with a removable drip tray for easy cleaning.
- Mid-range price
- Made of stainless steel and plastic
- Makes up to 4 cups of coffee
- Only 3.5 bar pressure
- Single boiler
The Aicook espresso machine is very similar in specification to the Sowtech. It is slightly cheaper but you still get a glass decanter with measurements to indicate the number of cups worth of coffee.
The capacity is 8.5oz and allows 4 cups of coffee to be made. The steam machine is semi-automatic and has a steam wand to make milky coffees.
The Aicook has a removable drip tray and nozzle, as well as a detachable funnel, making it a breeze to clean.
- Low cost
- Made of stainless steel and plastic
- Removable drip tray
- Single boiler
- 3.5 bar pressure
The Mixpresso espresso machine is the cheapest of our picks by far.
This is a lightweight and compact machine, ideal for single person use. The machine is made of plastic so may not be as durable as the others, but is perfect for students.
The water tank capacity is 10.5oz but the machine does not come with a steam wand for frothing milk.
The coffee machine works on a drip system and requires coffee filters.
- Cheapest of our picks
- Drip coffee
- Made of plastic
- No steam wand
- Very basic
Best Espresso Machines Buying Guide
As with any purchase, price is an important factor to consider. We have rounded up a selection for our top 5, but there are many models at varying price points.
The more expensive models are likely to come with better quality materials and may have additional features. If you are serious about your coffee and are seeing an espresso machine as a serious investment, it is worth splashing a few extra dollars to get a higher-end machine.
If you are a novice to the intricate world of coffee brewing, or just want a morning coffee that isn’t instant, there are many budget-friendly espresso machines on the market. They will all make a decent cup of coffee, and cheaper ones are likely to be easier to use as the design will be more basic.
Your espresso machine is likely to live in your kitchen, therefore it is important to consider the space options you have.
There is no point spending a lot of money on a luxurious machine and then having nowhere to put it.
Cheaper machines are likely to be made from cheaper materials that may not be as durable. Where more expensive machines are made from metal, low-end espresso machines are often made of plastic.
This is not an issue in the short term, as both materials will function effectively. The plastic parts will wear out and break faster than the metal counterparts. If you are looking for a machine that will last for years, it is worth spending a little more money on an espresso machine made from metal.
It is a good idea to look for an espresso machine with a stainless steel rather than plastic boiler, even if the rest of the machine is primarily plastic. These will be much more durable and will also brew better coffee!
Pod or grounds
When you think of espresso machines, they are split into 2 distinct categories: barista-style and pod-based.
Barista-style machines make coffee by pushing hot water through a puck of compacted ground coffee beans, infusing the water with the coffee flavour as it does so. These tend to be slightly more expensive, but some people prefer the taste that comes with using ground coffee.
Pod-based machines are brands like Nespresso, where you insert a drink pod into the hatch at the top of the machine and press a button, forcing hot water through the pod and making the drink.
Many people love these as they are simple to use and you can buy a huge variety of pods, making it possible to make any drink you crave at the push of a button. Pod-based machines tend to be cheaper.
Manual or automatic
There are 5 types of coffee machines: pod-based, super-automatic, automatic, semi-automatic and manual.
Pod-based machines are described above, and are the most consistent with the quality and taste of the drinks.
Super-automatic machines do most of the process for you. They grind, measure and tamp the coffee beans before making the coffee. You can choose a pre-set coffee type or customise your own perfect cup.
Automatic espresso machines have pre-programmed and customisable coffee sizes. They are more consistent than manual and semi-automatic as the water is pulled through the grounds via an electronic button as opposed to a manually-controlled lever.
Semi-automatic espresso machines are less consistent than automatic and use a button or dial to control the water flow through the coffee grounds.
Manual machines are similar to the ones that you see in cafes, where ground coffee is scooped into a portafilter (the part of the machine that looks like a handle) and tamped down. This is then placed under the brew head and water is manually pulled through the grounds with a lever. This is widely regarded as the hardest method of making coffee.
Pump or steam-powered
Steam-powered machines tend to be cheaper, but can only average around 3 bars of pressure. The coffee is also placed under a high temperature so that steam is created, which can lead to the coffee having a slightly burnt taste. Steam-powered espresso machines often cannot create the layer of crema (the light brown foam) on the top of the espresso.
Pump-powered machines can produce in excess of 15 bars of pressure at a lower temperature, resulting in a smoother tasting espresso. These machines heat the water to 2 different temperatures to optimise both the espresso brewing and crema frothing.
This stands for Proportional, Integral, Derivative and is a technology designed to increase the stability of the water temperature in espresso machines.
Before PID technology, the water in the boiler would have a thermostat that turned the boiler when the water temperature dropped below a certain threshold. The boiler would then shut off when the temperature reaches the upper temperature limit.
This rise and drop in the temperature levels makes for an inconsistent cup of coffee, as you cannot guarantee the water is a specific temperature. PID technology keeps the temperature of the water close to the operating temperature consistently, allowing for much more precise temperature control.
This is important as the water temperature impacts how the coffee will taste. Too hot and the coffee will taste bitter, almost burnt. Too cold and you will have a bland, weak coffee.
To make the perfect cup of espresso, experts say it should be brewed at around 6-9 bars of pressure. A pressure gauge will allow you to see what pressure you are placing the coffee under, and adjust it as necessary.
For people who really want to delve into the coffee making world, a pressure gauge is a handy addition to the espresso machine.
Most home espresso machines will have removable water tanks located at the back. These should be lightweight and easy to remove, so that refilling will be easier.
If you are looking for a machine just for personal use, one with a small water tank will be fine. However, if you are looking to make multiple coffees at once, it is a good idea to try and find an espresso machine with a larger water tank.
For industrial or commercial use, you can buy espresso machines that have a pipe so that the machine can be plumbed directly into the water source. This is handy as it means you will not have to keep refilling the water tank.
If you are partial to a milky coffee like a latte or cappuccino, a steam wand is a vital part of your espresso machine. This is a small metal stick extending from the side of the machine that you can adjust.
When the espresso has been brewed and the milk steaming unit is warm, place the tip of the wand in a metal jug of milk. Steam wands have adjustable gauges so that you can achieve the perfect foam and temperature of your milk.
Steaming milk is a process that takes a while to get used to, but once you have got the knack it is a wholly therapeutic process.
Single or double boiler
This is only applicable on machines with a steam wand.
A single boiler machine can only handle brewing coffee or steaming milk, not both. This means that you must wait for the steaming unit to warm up after brewing an espresso before you can steam milk. If you drink a lot of lattes, or frequently make drinks for large groups of people, a single boiler may not be the best choice for you.
A double boiler machine can handle both functions simultaneously, and makes your coffee making process slightly faster. However, if you are only making a couple of drinks at a time, a double boiler is not necessary.
Some higher-end espresso machines may boast an electronic display so that you can customise the size and strength of your coffee.
Other machines may come with a second tap, also known as a tea water dispenser. This is useful if you drink a lot of tea or want a source of instant boiling water in your home. For most people however, this is likely a mostly defunct feature.
Some espresso machines, as mentioned above, come with an in-built coffee grinder so that you can always have freshly ground beans. For the coffee aficionados this is a nice bonus feature in an espresso machine, however most average coffee drinkers likely will not notice the difference between fresh and pre-ground coffee beans.
Ease of cleaning
Espresso machines have a reputation for being impossible to clean, but this is not always the case. Regardless, it is vital to clean your espresso machine regularly to keep it in working order and to help the longevity of the machine.
It is a good idea to research how easily the machine is to take apart and how to clean the different elements. Check whether any parts require soaking or specialist cleaning materials.
Frequently Asked Questions
What drinks can you make?
With an espresso machine, you will have the freedom to create any cafe style drink from home. If you buy a pod-based machine all you need to do is buy the pods for the drinks you want.
For other machines, once you have made the shot of espresso the drinks you can make depend on your milk. The most common are americanos, cappuccinos, lattes and flat whites. An americano is a shot of espresso topped up with hot water to make a full cup of black coffee.
Cappuccinos are made of ⅓ espresso, ⅓ steamed milk and ⅓ foam, layered up in that order. They are traditionally served sprinkled with either cocoa powder or ground cinnamon.
Lattes are served in a long glass and are a shot of espresso, topped up with steamed milk and topped with a thin layer of foam.
Flat whites are simply espresso topped with steamed milk and often served in a slightly smaller mug.
What does tamping mean?
Tamping is the process of pressing down the coffee grounds into the portafilter.
Tamping simply means that you put enough pressure onto the grounds to compact them into a level puck. This helps the water run through the grounds more easily for a better cup of coffee.
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