Epic Espresso Machine Guide: Find the Right Machine for You
Purchasing an espresso machine is a daunting task.
Trust me…I know.
I spent years fighting through traffic to get the optimal caffeine fix at my local coffee house. I would fight through traffic, wait in line (all while the anxiety of arriving to work late augmented my caffeine withdrawal), and barely be able to enjoy a sip of my decadent espresso once I stressfully made it back to my car…
…back to traffic…
…right before noticing my name had been spelled wrong on my cup…again.
Finally, I decided it was time to look for an espresso machine for my own home.
After several episodes of trial-and-error, a surplus of time spent on Google, and tons of research, I found the perfect espresso machine…for me.
But I also learned a lot about how different espresso machines suit different people, different lifestyles and different needs. I’ve helped friends, family and coworkers find their coffee companion, and now I’d like to do the same for you.
Through research, lots of taste testing and lot ﹘﹘ lots ﹘﹘ of caffeine highs, I have come up with the definitive buying guide to set you (yes, YOU) on your way to espresso heaven.
No need to thank me, because (as far as coffee goes) I’m all about the daily grind.
I’ve come, I’ve been, and I’ve seen, and I’m here to break down for you everything you need to know to purchase the right espresso machine for you.
What We Will Be Covering in This Guide
The following topics will be covered to help you easily navigate your way through this guide:
What questions should you ask yourself before searching for an espresso machine?
1. Types of espresso machines. These include:
Manual espresso machines (completely hands-on machines that put you in charge of the brewing process)
Semi-automatic machines (easier to use than manual espresso machines, while still allowing the user to get their hands dirty with grinding beans, tamping and steaming milk)
Pod espresso machines (convenient, one-touch machines that rely on pods filled with pre-ground espresso for brewing)
Super-automatic machines (one-touch machines that feature some of the latest technology for brewing coffees and espresso drinks)
2. Brewing on a budget: Our picks for best machines ranging from below $100 to $3000.
3. Other options: A categorized list of quality espresso machines ranging in price
Not all espresso machines are created equal, nor are one’s espresso preferences. Before hunting down the perfect machine, take the following considerations into account.
Ease of Use:
You will see several espresso machine reviews (including our own) that mention “ease of use.” Ease of use involves how easy it is to brew espresso (one-touch options are available on several machines) and how easy it is to clean or maintain your machine.
As far as for use and maintenance, pod machines are usually the easiest, followed by super-automatic machines that come equipped with built-in cleaning systems.
Manual espresso machines can be relatively easy to clean, but you are responsible for the entire brewing process, so these are not preferable for those who don’t enjoy a hands-on experience.
One of the biggest deterrents for people looking to buy espresso machines is the price tag. Espresso machines have a reputation for being expensive, but there are several options that don’t cost thousands of dollars ﹘﹘ some cost LESS THAN $100!
Consider this as well…
If you are a daily espresso drinker, investing in a machine could end up saving you money. According to a report, the average worker spends up to $1,100 on coffee each year. Even if you invest in a high-quality machine, the money saved (and ability to have delicious espresso drinks whenever you want) adds up.
The following considerations about use should be made before purchasing a machine:
1. Will the machine be used for a household of one to two people or many guests?
For small households and personal use, manual, pod and some semi-automatic machines are ideal.
For larger households and for those that do a lot of entertaining, semi-automatic and super-automatic machines are ideal.
2. Will your machine live at home or are you looking for a machine that will fit well in a shop or office?
Almost all of the machines we will list can live at home, depending on space.
For offices and shops, machines that can deliver several drinks at once with little maintenance are ideal. Some pod machines can accommodate this, but semi-automatic and super-automatic tend to be ideal
If you are looking for a machine that is good for on-the-go sipping, manual machines are optimal. Some pod machines travel easily as well.
Types of Espresso Machines
Manual Espresso Machines
Are you looking for a looker? Are you a hands-on person? If you answered “YES” to both of these questions, then a manual espresso machine may be for you.
Manual espresso machines can make an espresso purist salivate.
Aesthetically, few machines rival manual machines. Even the latest models have a chic, vintage look.
Manual espresso machines put you in full control of the brewing process. If you enjoy a challenge and want the satisfaction of mastering the art of coffee craftsmanship, manual machines are the way to go.
But a personal challenge doesn’t mean these classy machines lack any convenience…
Manual espresso machines are extremely compact, light in weight and most don’t even require electricity. This means you can have an espresso at home, at the office, in your car, or even during a hike.
I mean…who doesn’t crave a robust espresso after a long hike?
● Puts you in control of perfecting an espresso shot
● Fun for those who enjoy a hands-on challenge
● Aesthetically pleasing (it’s like you traveled back in time for a perfect espresso)
● Small size means easy travel and great for on-the-go brewing
● Uses little or NO electricity
● Puts you in control of perfecting ﹘﹘ or ruining ﹘﹘ an espresso shot
● Requires practice and patience
If you are like me, the last thing you want to do before getting a caffeine fix is to think.
I am not among those in the niche manual espresso machine audience.
However, I live with a carpenter, and he REFUSES to brew with anything that doesn’t require manual effort. And since manual machines are small, both his and my espresso machines can coexist in perfect harmony.
Brands to Consider
ROK Manual Espresso Maker
ROK puts you in charge of every part of the brewing process. The machine was featured in GQ magazine’s “Best Stuff of 2012” and is backed by a ten-year warranty.
Despite its small size, the ROK is equipped to make more than just espresso. A milk frother allows you to make cappuccinos and lattes as well.
The best part? The price tag comes to less than $100.
This machine is perfect for personal use in households with one or two people.
Flair Espresso Maker
Like other manual machines, this espresso maker is for those who want to master their coffee craftsmanship. The bundle set includes a carrying case that makes for easy traveling so that you can enjoy your espresso anytime, anywhere.
La Pavoni PPG 16-Cup Espresso Machine
At over $1000, this model is quite pricier than our aforementioned manual machines ﹘﹘, but it’s worth it.
La Pavoni delivers a true piece of art with this brass machine, complete with rosewood handles. As beautiful as it is, the machine also delivers gorgeous, flavorful espresso shots and can also make more advanced espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
In fact, at just 14 pounds, the La Pavoni can pull up to 16 manual shots of espresso!
And this beautiful brass baby was built to last. You won’t need to worry about dishing out another grand any time in the near (or distant) future after making this purchase.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
There are the espresso purists (our aforementioned manual espresso machine folks) who treat coffee as an art form…those who want to have their hands on every part of the process, from the grinding of beans to the boiling of water, to the frothing of milk and the physical pulling off a shot.
Then there are people like me.
As mentioned before I am an espresso aficionado who lives, loves and breathes any and everything coffee. I live for the smell, the taste, the crema…
Honestly, I think optimal crema is an experience in itself that deserves its own Facebook event.
But I digress…
I do not function before caffeine hits my bloodstream, which is why I consider myself a lover of the pod and super-automatic machines.
But what about the people who like something in between convenience and craftsmanship?
Enter the semi-automatic espresso machine. Semi-automatic espresso machines allow users a decent amount of hands-on control (grinding beans, tamping, steaming milk) while also taking care of some of the grunt work.
These machines allow you to program an optimal extraction time between 20-30 seconds (which is considered barista quality) and also come equipped with several other manual and programmable options.
● Easier to use than manual espresso machines, while still offering the hands-on owner control
● Some cost as little as $100-$200
● Automated controls make it easier to pull a perfect shot with optimal crema than manual machines
● Not as easy as many super-automatic machines
● Can be messy
Brands to Consider
De’Longhi ECP3420 15″ Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine
With the De’Longhi ECP3420, you can brew like a pro for less than $200! And this machine proves that good things come in small packages.
At 10.55 pounds, the De’Longhi ECP3420 delivers quality cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, mistos and more. Some other great features include:
● Manual milk frother that doesn’t require movement; mixes and steams milk to your exact preference
● Adjusts to cup size
● The ability to make several drinks with no wait time
Breville Infuser Espresso Machine
One key feature that makes this machine stand out from the rest is the PID temperature control. This ensures temperature stability for ideal espresso shots with optimal crema.
Another key feature of the Breville Infuser is its low-pressure, pre-infusion system. This system allows low water pressure to gently expand grinds for better flavor and optimal extraction time.
This machine is small and mighty, making it great for the home and small offices.
Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
Tap into your inner barista with another small-yet-mighty machine from Breville.
While the various knobs and dials may seem intimidating at first, the machine is pretty easy to use.
Its programmable options, ease of use and efficiency make this a great machine for the home, small offices and small cafes.
Pod Espresso Machines
If convenience is the name of the game, then pod espresso machines are winning every round.
Companies like Nespresso have created machines with ready-to-brew espresso pods ﹘﹘ containers resembling half and half creamers that contain ground espresso. This means that you don’t need to worry about measuring, grinding and tamping. You can simply place the pod in the machine, press a button and VOILA!
Cleanup is also minimal. Other than dumping the pods into the trash, there isn’t much other maintenance work involved in most pod machines.
● Easy to use and clean
● Many affordable options
● Many machines are compact for easy travel
● Using pods means you don’t have control over the strength or weakness of your espresso (you get what you get)
● Frequent need to replenish coffee pods costs more than beans
Brands to Consider
Aicok Espresso Machine for Nespresso Capsule
How would you like a machine that saves energy, delivers barista-quality espresso drinks, is easy to use and costs less than $100?
If all of this sounds good to you, look no further than the Aicok Espresso Machine for Nespresso Capsule.
As far as aesthetics go, the sleek, classic black Aicok is a real beauty. The only thing that may be more pleasing to the eye is the espresso shots it pulled. I was honestly a bit taken aback by the rich, chocolatey shots and caramel-colored crema that came out of my Aicok after I simply touched one button.
And this small machine has an even smaller carbon footprint thanks to the energy-saving heating element. You only need approximately 25 seconds to preheat before getting your coffee, and an energy-saving mode on the machine also makes the machine switch off automatically after a certain period.
This is a great machine for your home and personal use.
Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe Coffee and Espresso Maker:
One size doesn’t have to fit all with this gorgeous machine.
The VertuoPlus Deluxe allows you to choose up to four different cup sizes at the touch of a button for a variety of coffees and espresso drinks. Along with delicious espresso, this machine also makes delicious crema coffees.
Purchase of the machine also includes a complimentary welcome gift of 12 Nespresso Vertuo capsules with unique aromatic profiles. Although that doesn’t necessarily speak to the machine quality, it is nice to have, considering that you need to keep purchasing the pods specific to this machine.
DeLonghi Silver Lattissima Plus Nespresso Capsule System
My favorite thing about this machine? The single-touch milk system.
As a big fan of froth, this system is a dream come true. With just the touch of a button, this system delivers perfectly layered foam for cappuccinos, macchiatos, lattes and more. You don’t even need to worry about fighting with a steam wand ﹘﹘ it does all the work for you.
Plus, a removable milk carafe means you can refrigerate any milk you have leftover, so none will go to waste!
Another great feature is De’Longhi’s patented espresso extraction system. With 19 (yes, 19) bars of pressure, this machine can draw the most flavor and preferred temperature in each cup.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
A super-automatic espresso machine is basically like having your own in-house barista. You can get the same service without the worry of waiting in line or your name being misspelled on your cup.
If you want the finest of espresso drinks without any of the efforts, a semi-automatic machine could be for you.
These high-end machines are capable of brewing coffees, cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos and more with one simple touch of a button. Some even have their built-in cleaning and water filtration systems!
They tend to be on the pricier side, but the price tags come with more technology, longer warranties, and ﹘﹘ often ﹘﹘ a much greater shelf life than some other machines.
● A bevy of drink choices (more than espresso and coffee)
● Easy to use (one touch is all it takes)
● Easy maintenance
● Many are expensive
● Lack of challenge for those who enjoy a hands-on experience
Our Top Picks
Jura Z6 Espresso Machine
If your perfect morning starts with a quality espresso drink, then the Jura Z6 could be your new favorite barista.
The Z6 offers a bevy of drink choices at the touch of the button, and also includes Jura’s proprietary Pulse Extraction Process (P.E.P.Ⓡ) and intelligent Water Filtration I.W.F.Ⓡ) technologies.
P.E.P. ensures optimal extraction time and gorgeous crema for each espresso shot. I.W.F. is a “smart water” system that reminds you of exactly when you need to change a filter and eliminates the need for descaling, so your machine can have a long lifespan with little maintenance.
Another great feature is Jura’s TFT (Thin-Film-Transistor) display, which makes brewing virtually any type of coffee or milk-based espresso drink as easy as the touch of a button.
Using a dial on the top of the screen, you can easily scroll through pictures of various drinks. With one touch, you select the beverage your heart desires and simply wait (as little as one minute) for the perfect drink.
This machine is ideal for home, office and commercial use.
Gaggia 1003380 Accademia Espresso Machine
If you’re short on space, this machine is not for you.
A beautiful behemoth, the Gaggia Accademia is made to be seen and to brew lots of espresso drinks. It would be great for offices, shops and for those that have a large space and plenty of guests to partake in its majestic drink delivery.
If you’re looking for a perfect espresso machine for entertaining guests and office mates, look no further than the Gaggia Accademia. It can brew drink after drink after drink.
DeLonghi America Prima Donna Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
The Prima Donna a gorgeous silver machine that doubles as a mindreader.
The memory function allows you to save preferred setting so that you can have a fully customized drink whenever you want it. You also don’t have to worry about with the Prima Donna.
Cleaning is also made easy with the Prima Donna. A removable water tank and patented brewing system with thermoblock technology provide excellent heat distribution, and it’s removable for easy cleaning.
The machine also includes a removable milk carafe that is designed so that you can refrigerate leftover milk rather than waste it.
The machine’s abilities make it great for office and commercial use, but the compact design also makes the Prima Donna a great fixture for any home.
And, if you happen to be a late night coffee drinker, this machine brews quietly to ensure you can pull a late night without disrupting anyone else’s sleep.
Brewing on a Budget
It’s possible to have expensive tastes without a bulging bank account.
Case in point: I adore decadent coffees, sushi, fine wine and crab-stuffed lobster.
Do I enjoy these things on a daily basis? No…
Well, except for the decadent coffee.
Although purchasing an espresso machine may seem like an astronomical expense, it doesn’t have to be.
The following machines are what we consider the best of the best overall, from less than $100 to $3000.
Hamilton Beach Espresso Machine with Steamer
This little machine packs a wallop thanks to a powerful 15-bar Italian pump. It is easy to use and delivers quality coffee, espresso and cappuccinos and is compatible with grounds and pods.
Moreover, the removable 40-ounce water reservoir makes maintenance and cleaning easy as can be.
Other features include:
● Easy-to-use milk frother for the perfect, fluffiest cappuccinos
● Simple push-button operating system
● Easily removable reservoir for refilling and cleaning
Nespresso Inissia Espresso Machine
Compatible with Nespresso capsules, this sleek machine delivers gorgeous beverages with a simple touch of a button.
Another great feature of this machine is that it can brew up to nine cups of coffee without any need for refilling the 24-ounce water tank.
Other features include:
● Folding drip tray to accommodate larger cup sizes that automatically drops down upon mug removal
● An energy saving mode that switches off the machine after nine minutes of non-use
● Heats and brews within 25 seconds
Breville Cafe Roma Stainless Espresso Maker
This machine, like others from Breville, contains several high-end features without the high-end pricing.
Along with making a variety of drinks easily, the intuitive design also lets you know exactly when it is ready to brew. Additionally, a cup warming tray is one extra touch that provides you with the perfect morning beverage from home.
Other features include:
● Dual-wall filter systems to enhance the quality of crema
● Removable water tank
● 15-bar thermoblock pump
Gaggia Classic Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker
This is possibly the most affordable semi-automatic espresso maker you’ll be able to find, but it doesn’t operate like a bargain.
The Gaggia Classic includes a pannarello wand for perfect frothing and can make both single and double shots.
Other features include:
● A portafilter, tamper and measuring scoop
● Removable 72-ounce water reservoir for easy filling and cleaning
● Stainless steel housing for a simple and clean look
Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine:
This machine is appearing more than once in our guide for a good reason.
Along with its quality above, affordability, and ease of use, the Barista Express also has technology that captures the optimal freshness of espresso beans to ensure that you have the most delicious espresso.
Other features include:
● 15-bar Italian pump and 1600 watts thermo-coil heating system for optimal temperature and fast heating/brewing time
● Removable water tank with handle for easy cleaning and filling
● Purge function that automatically adjusts water temperature for optimal espresso extraction time
Jura WE8 Professional Automatic Coffee Machine
When it comes to super-automatic espresso machines, Jura tends to hit it out of the park.
This is true for newer Jura models especially, thanks to the P.E.P. mentioned above and I.W.F. technologies.
The Jura WE8 has all the capabilities of more expensive machines and also includes a new automated “flat white” setting for true coffee connoisseurs.
Despite the higher price tag, the Jura WE8 delivers consistent quality and eliminates the need to visit a coffee shop again…ever.
Other features include:
● Fine foam technology with the ability to produce “feather-like milk foam” (it’s the perfect way to impress your friends with some foam art)
● Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display makes it easy for you and your friends to pick perfectly customized drinks