So I can see that you are just as emotionally invested in coffee as I am. Since you landed on this page, I’m guessing that you are way past the stage where you were content with your humble drip-brewed coffee with a dash of milk.
You recently had a taste of espresso from a great bistro and it changed your life forever. Now you are wondering how come you didn’t taste it before! You are ready to loosen up your wallet to drink that elixir of life every day. Sounds familiar?
Welcome to the club.
About 5 years ago, I went through all the emotions you’re feeling right now. I know that choosing the right espresso machine on a limited budget wasn’t easy. And the last thing you want in your life is an awful tasting cup of espresso.
Since I have a soft corner in my heart for my fellow caffeine-heads, I have done the hard part by listing down 14 best espresso machines worth every bit of your money.
Reviews of Top 10 Espresso Machines to Root for in 2019
1. Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
Breville Barista is a complete semi-automatic espresso machine that includes a high-quality coffee grinder with a bean hopper, a steaming wand for milk frothing, and a 16-ounce pitcher. The only thing you need to buy separately is a bag of your favorite coffee beans.
That’s like all the essential barista accessories rolled into one. If this is your first tryst with an espresso maker, this could be a great machine to start from. Let me warn you that you might have to go through a couple of trials and errors before you can make that dreamy dark-brown espresso with hazel-brown crema on top. But the effort will be well worth it.
Here’s what makes Breville Barista one of the best mid-budget espresso machines you can get your hands on:
The integrated conical burr grinder is a bomb and beautifully serves the purpose. You can easily fiddle with the grind size, grind amount and tamping pressure with it until you get your coffee right.
Here’s a pro tip for dummies: fill the 54 mm portafilter up to 75% first, firmly lightly, then fill the rest of the basket. I keep filling until it forms a tiny mountain. Finally, I give it a firm tamp, affix it to the group head and start the brewing process. If you follow this method, you will be able to reach the Espresso range pressure easily and extract maximum flavors from your coffee grounds.
It uses 5 seconds of pre-infusion at low pressure to extract strong flavors from the grounds, which is exactly what you need to produce cafe-style ristretto.
It comes with a 67 fluid ounces water tank which is a big plus for people like us who drink multiple cups a day. To avoid scale build-up, there’s a water filter included too.
This machine also allows you to adjust the temperature, which is truly a rare feature in a product of this price bracket. Anyone who knows his stuff knows the importance of temperature the espresso-making process. Sometimes, the only difference between a divine shot of espresso and an ashy, thin black liquid is the gap of 35 degrees F. With this machine, you can tweak the temp depending on the freshness and grind size of your beans. This helps you pull consistently strong and delicious espresso shots with every attempt.
The equipment package also includes 1 single+1 double-wall pressurized (for pre-grounds and de-caf) and 1 single+double wall non-pressurized filter baskets (for fresh grounds).
The pressurized single-wall filter is just too shallow the non-pressurized single-wall filter doesn’t pull decent shots unless you use freshly roasted, premium-quality beans. That’s why I’d skip the single-wall filters altogether and go with the double-spout ones to avoid flavor inconsistencies.
You can make just about any espresso-based drink under the sky with this beast. It features a 360-degree steaming wand that takes about 2 minutes to produce perfect microfoam required for latte art. You can also make a quick cup of Americano using the integrated hot water dispenser.
I won’t say it’s a low-maintenance machine, but the process isn’t complicated either. I liked how the system alerts you when the drip tray needs to be emptied or when the device requires descaling and backflushing. All the necessary cleaning equipment, including backflushing disc, descaling tablets, and a small cleaning brush are included in the package.
There definitely is a steep learning curve to this machine. The good thing is that the manual is very detailed. Take your time to go through it and you’ll be fine.
I also wish it had a low water level indicator too. The bottom line is, this is not a pro-level espresso machine a professional barista would use. It pulls decent shots for the price and doesn’t take forever to clean up.
2. Gaggia Anima Coffee and Espresso Machine
Don’t want to go through the trouble (?) of choosing the grind size, dose, and tamping pressure? Then perhaps you should look for a super-automatic espresso machine like Gaggia. A super-automatic device works like a barista bot who takes care of the entire brewing process on its own. This version of Gaggia isn’t equipped with an automatic milk frother and that’s not a big deal for me. I mean, come on! Don’t be so lazy. The manual Pannarello milk wand is as amazing as it gets in this price bracket. It injects air directly into the milk, which makes it ideal for steaming rich velvety milk for a flat white.
Like any decent super-automatic espresso machine, it comes with an array for adjustments to help you prepare your beverage just the way you like it. By pressing the Espresso Lungo button, you can pull 8 oz. of strong, full-bodied and aromatic cup of espresso to kickstart your day.
Note that espresso lungo is not Americano. It’s a basic espresso with a slightly higher amount of water. For Americano, you can add hot water in your single or double espresso from the steaming wand. Apart from the shot length, you can also tweak the temperature (3 settings), strength (5 settings), aroma and grind size (5 settings) with the help of its fairly intuitive controls. For best results, get your hands on non-oily, medium roasted beans. Gaggia’s state-of-the-art Adaptive system will automatically adjust the spinning of the 8.8 Oz. burr grinder and tamping pressure to suit the specific bean type you use. The process starts taking effect after 15-16 brews.
This fantastic piece of technology ensures that your shots taste and smell only better with time. Bonus points for the bypass doser which allows you to brew using pre-grounds. Such a lifesaver when your guest demands a decaf.
This particular model of Gaggia is pleasantly slim and lightweight. So don’t worry about a coffee machine gobbling up your important countertop space. The front is made from metal which lends a plush feel to the equipment. There’s a 60 oz. water reservoir on the side which holds enough water for 7-15 cups, depending on your daily coffee intake. A drip tray at the bottom collects excess coffee and grounds. Both the tank and the drip tray pops out in a jiffy. To keep the machine running like a horse on crack for years, you should clean and grease the removable brew group once in a week. When it’s time for a descaling and decalcification session, the system will give you a prompt. Cleaning up the unit is pretty simple and straightforward, which qualifies it as a worthy investment for rookies.
The only bugbear is the spout of the bypass doze. It’s too small for my taste which occasionally creates the risk of jamming the grinder chute. This could result in a weaker coffee. However, I’m nitpicking only for the sake of it. You can easily unclog the exit chute if needed, no biggie.
Coffee Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
Who says you have to let go of your FD to own a proper, high-functioning espresso/ cappuccino maker? I have said it before and I’ll say it again, an expensive machine alone can’t make great espresso. Mr. Coffee Espresso is a mid-budget semi-automatic espresso maker that comes with a fully automatic milk frother. No kidding! It froths the milk really mask and gets the texture just right for lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites. Those who don’t know it takes three different techniques to aerate the milk for these three espresso-based drinks. The automatic frother significantly adds to the utility if you are into milk-based coffee drinks, Here’s why:
Normally, with a manual wand, you will have to figure out the right amount of milk for the specific drink you are making. For example, you will need only a drop of foam for a macchiato. Foaming a few drops of milk with a wand is quite difficult, which is why you end up frothing more milk that you will need. This ultimately results in milk wastage. In Mr. Coffee, the milk container only froths the amount your drink requires. The rest of the milk stays fresh, which can be safely used later.
Moving on, the unit is fairly easy to program, even if it’s your first endeavor with a digital coffee machine. It comes with everything you’ll need to get started, which includes a tamper, a single and double filter, a portafilter, water tank, and milk tank. Just add the grounds, add milk in the container, press the right buttons and watch the magic happen. You can pull single and double espresso shots, iced with a rich crema and low acidity in just 20-30 seconds.
As long as you let them machine heat up for 10 minutes, you should be able to consistently pull deliciously hot (177-182 degree F) cups. I can understand that some people don’t like their coffee that hot. If you identify as one of them, just switch on the machine when you are ready to make the drink. By holding down the espresso button, you can also customize the quantity of coffee and froth you want in your drink. To make your life easier, the equipment cleans up easy. Just remember to run the cleaning cycle through the wand and rinse the portafilter after each use. Follow the manual for deep cleaning, which needs to be done once a month or so.
There are two minor issues with this machine. One, the portafilter takes solid effort to get locked into place. Two, the volume inconsistency. Some users have pointed out the quantity of the milk and shots dispensed is slightly lesser than what they should be. Thankfully, you can manually override the volume preset by holding down one button. Some have encountered a roadblock while priming. Removing and re-attaching the tank a couple of times almost always resolves the issue.
3. De’Longhi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
De’Longhi is a household name in Italy. This brand has a huge fan base in many coffee-centric countries for all the right reasons. Superior craftsmanship, top-of-the-line features, drool-worthy designs, and impeccable user-friendliness are the key characteristics of their equipment. And the best part, they have something in store for every budget group.
If you are looking for an inexpensive espresso machine that makes amazing espresso and also has the reliable backing of De’Longhi, this one deserves your attention. Who is it for?
Those who want are okay with the steep learning curve and those who are really interesting in mastering the art of espresso making. There’s nothing automatic about this device, unlike the previously featured models. This means it gives you full control over every single detail. Do it right and you will able to pull better shots than those overhyped coffee shops.
Coming to the key specifications, it comes with a built-in steaming wand, a 50 mm built-in tamper, a built-in cup warmer located on the top metal part, 2 pressurized filter baskets and a holder for ESE pods. The milk wand is not bad per se, but it’s not what any coffee purist would use to make creamy milk with microfoam. It froths the milk exactly like a regular electric hand blender. If you are not much into milk coffee, this shouldn’t be an issue for you anyway.
If you are very serious about the strength and texture of your coffee, don’t let the machine run for more than 20-25 seconds. This might affect the shot length a bit, but it will taste great. You can pull one cup after the other without much wait as the unit retains the heat very well.
A lot of users are apparently not happy with the tamper. While I don’t understand the point of “not liking” a tamper, you can always buy a separate one. The goal of tamping is to tightly pack the puck. So no matter which tamper you use, exert 35 pounds of pressure to firm up the grounds into the portafilters. Also, make sure to fill the filter to the brim before tamping.
To keep the machine functioning optimally, you should clean and descale the system periodically by following the manufacturer’s instructions to the tee. The cleaning guide has lots of steps which might appear intimidating at first. But trust me, it’s not. Watch a YouTube video on it and you’ll know I’m right.
There are a few cons to this machine I want to bring to your notice. Now, note that I don’t personally consider them to be a dealbreaker, considering the price.
First of all, the space between the spout and drip pan is approx 2.5-inches. A regular espresso or coffee cup simply won’t fit. Unless you already own smaller cups, you got to purchase them separately. Removing the metal grate on the drip tray might help a little. But the awkward placement of the steaming wand makes it a bit tricky to take the cup out without spilling a little. Next issue is the vibration. You might want to hold your cup while the espresso is getting dispensed to avoid mess. Keeping a rubber pad on top of the grate helps too. The vibration becomes worse when the tank is low on water. So keep it filled all the time to dial down the vibration.
4. Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee and Espresso Maker
While I’m a freshly roasted freshly ground kinda person, it doesn’t hurt to have pod system handy, especially when I am on a busy schedule. This fully automatic Nespresso machine takes care of your caffeine needs with just a push of one button.
Good news is, it can make both delish espresso and regular coffee. It comes with a separate milk frothing unit, called Aeroccino Plus. It features two whips; one steams the milk into rich, creamy goodness, the other produces microfoam for cappuccinos. Hold the button for two seconds to froth cold milk for iced lattes.
Mind you that you can only use Nespresso VertuoLine espresso and regular coffee pods with this machine. The machine scans the barcode on each capsule and adjusts the temperature and pressure accordingly. Unlike traditional espresso machines, Nespresso uses centripetal force to spin the pods at high speed and force the water through the capsule at 19 bars of pressure.
This results in thick, sweet, smooth espresso and American style black coffee with lots of body. I won’t lie. Nespresso espresso is one of the best stuff I have tasted in my life. You can brew multiple cups in quick succession as the machine doesn’t need to rest in-between brews.
On days when laziness is the only emotion you feel, you can just put the machine on auto-lock and forget about it. The unit will automatically run a self-cleaning cycle and shut itself down after 15 minutes. I am going to give it one extra star just for the self-cleaning feature.
The majority of complaint about this machine is regarding the temperature of the coffee. It’s apparently not hot enough. It won’t be a problem if you slurp your drink right out as soon as it’s made.
5. Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine
This is my second recommendation from this brand and I’m totally unapologetic about it. If you really liked what you heard about Anima but still decided to skip it because of the gleaming price tag, take a look at this one.
This skillfully crafted shiny piece of hardware does a lot of things, extracting all the flavors from the grounds being one of them. Due to the superior brewing process, the espresso made by this unit has a distinct rich taste, pleasing notes, and velvety mouthfeel. I like how, like a barista who means business, it does the job in silence.
By default, the machine dispenses a standard 1 oz. and 6 oz. of shot, depending on which setting you choose. For someone like me, who can’t function without a massive dose of coffee, that’s not enough. The good thing is, you can easily make a tall (8 Oz.) cup of fresh, strong, full-bodied coffee by tinkering with the grind size, water and strength settings.
The reservoir holds 20 oz. to keep up with the ergonomics of the machine. This is honestly not much for large daily consumption. But it’s a superautomatic machine that doesn’t cost your entire month’s salary and actually makes quality espresso. So yes, I can get past this tiny downside.
If you don’t have a bag of coffee beans handy, that’s okay. You can use the bypass doser for pre-grounds. I’d suggest choosing a medium to medium-dark roast medium-coarse grind for effing awesome results. Yes, coffee snob, I know a proper espresso grind has to be super fine. But almost all home espresso machines share a common quirk- soupy puck.
This usually happens when the machine is new. You can make this problem go away just by tweaking the grind size. Also, don’t worry if your coffee doesn’t taste just the way your local posh cafe makes it right out of the box. This baby requires some break-in time. Gaggia Adapting System gradually adjusts the grinder to the bean you are using after 10-15 brews.
Once that happens, there’s no looking back. The burr grinder built into the machine is of great quality. The hopper holds several cups of beans and the transparent lid lets you keep tabs on the amount left in the container.
A red symbol on the top right of the unit flashes when the bean hopper needs to be emptied. Talking of symbols, you will also find similar visual alerts for low water, priming, and descaling. Like any ergonomically-sound espresso machine, this unit runs a self-cleaning cycle right after turning on and before shutting down. You will have to clean the brew group every week as well which is a pretty straightforward process. It’s so nice of Gaggia to include a small bottle of greasing solution for the brew group.
Even a thousand dollars espresso machines from the mysterious land of Italy are not completely flawless. How can this one not?
The small tank size is definitely a minor disappointment if you are planning to make bulk coffee. I’m sure super happy with the space between the portafilter and the drip tray either. But hey! These are common design quirks in almost every machine in this range. And for the last time, it makes a great espresso. I rest my case here.
6. DELONGHI ESAM3300 Super Automatic Espresso/Coffee Machine
Of course, there will be multiple recommendations from De’Longhi if the topic of discussion is the best espresso machine money can buy. What did you expect?
The ESAM3300 is a “set and forget” espresso machine, perfect for the serious espresso drinkers who don’t want to go through the trouble of dialing in their shots. This unit pays close attention to every detail viz—grind, dose, tamping pressure, extraction on its own. Your only job is to supply it with electricity, water, coffee grounds and press the right buttons at the right time.
The bean-to-brew system integrated by the unit adds a cool novelty value. In simple terms, it lets you grind the beans right before the brew for optimal aroma and flavor. The 8.8 Oz hopper holds about 14 cups of beans which is sufficient for large families or a single coffee monster like you and me. There’s a nice little chamber for pre-grounds too, in case you want a decaf to get you through the night.
The user interface isn’t super-complex, but I admit, there’s a slight learning curve to it. You will have to memorize which symbol and which light indicate what. There are lots of them. Don’t worry. You will get the hang of it after a few days of aimless floundering.
You can even program the system to remember your coffee preference (such as the temperature, shot length, strength. With that kind of customization ability, you can make practically any espresso-based delicacy you can think of. Remember that it’s not a drip coffee maker. It does not dispense filter coffee. You can easily make an Americano with it, though. But Americano is also espresso-based. Just to clear things up.
The machine gets ready in to brew in seconds and doesn’t need to rest in between brews, allowing you to quickly brew multiple cups. It maintains consistent temperature from the very first cup, which makes it even better. Because nobody likes lukewarm coffee, you can even adjust the height of the spigot to fit the cup of your choice.
And, you can double the length of your shot with one press of a button. How convenient! Talking of convenience, cleaning up the system is a breeze. Everything that you need to remove for cleaning purpose gets removed and re-attached with negligible effort. I’m sure you already know it but let me say this one more time, always use filtered water, backflush and descale periodically. Your espresso maker will thank you for it.
My first gripe with this otherwise perfect machine is the size of the water tank. You need to refill it if you make large batches multiple times a day. The second issue is the lack of a low bean indicator. It alerts you when the storage basket of the puck needs to be emptied. Hence, there’s no way to save your coffee if the hopper runs out of beans halfway through the brewing process.
7. Nespresso by De’Longhi EN80B
Two of my favorites together this time. Nespresso’s collaboration with the elite Italian manufacturer De’Longhi has resulted in some of the finest modern espresso machines we have today, EN80B Inissia being one of them. If you want to learn the ropes of espresso-making without spending hours dissecting the beans, grind size, output weight and all that hoopla, please pay attention to this review.
This fine piece of craftsmanship doesn’t leave a hole in the pocket, nicely fits on small kitchen countertops, cleans up easy and most importantly, makes hot and yum espresso. But that’s the standard description for every espresso machine ever, right? So what makes this one worth your time?
Superior mechanics, simplicity and of course, the attractive price tag.
Let’s start with the specs; it has two options or adjusting the shot length: 1-ounce espresso and 3.5 ounces espresso lungo. I have already discussed what a lungo is so you might want to scroll above to check out the Gaggia Anima review. I’m guessing you want to know if this unit prepares regular filter coffee.
Well, it technically can’t, but you can always make Americano by diluting espresso. The reason being, the filter basket is specifically designed to accommodate Grands Crus espresso-size aka small-size capsules only. So you can buy non-espresso Nespresso but only the small cup capsules.
You can simply increase the amount of water if you want a large serving. But as an avid espresso worshipper, I should warn you that it will result in bitter espresso. Bottom line, don’t do it! I should also mention that you’ll be receiving 16 capsules of different espresso capsules with the machine as a welcome gift.
The next best thing about this equipment is speed. Boy, this can make coffee fast! The machine gets ready to brew 9 cups one in 25-30 seconds after powering on. You don’t even have to refill the 23 Oz tank unless you are making multiple cups of long black. Like all Nespresso range machines, this too applies 19 bars of pressure to extract maximum flavor compounds from the coffee grounds. It leads to an amazingly full-bodied coffee with a unique flavor profile and thick copper-orange colored crema on top.
God, I just drooled on my keyboard! 19 bars of pressure running through one small machine naturally leads to a lot of noise and vibration. You got to babysit the cup to avoid the mess. But just a minor issue, which I’m sure you can deal with, for a rewarding cup of espresso. And all you want is a good espresso at the end of the day.
If you want to make milk-based drinks, you have to buy the frother separately. Now, the final question on your mind would be- does it make better espresso than VertuoLine? While taste is very subjective, I’d say no. But for a quick shot of caffeine at any time of the day without going through the trouble of elaborate cleanup, Inissia is very hard to beat.
The clearance between the spout and the drip tray, the spout’s tendency to drip for a minute or two after the brewing is done and finally, the gurgling noise it makes is the negatives you have to deal with. All of them are minor inconveniences and don’t directly affect the performance of the machine. So, I won’t worry about it too much if I were you, looking for something cheap but functional.
8. Breville BES990BSSUSC Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
So you are ready to fully commit to espresso and latte art, aren’t you? Breville Oracle Touch is both an indulgence you shouldn’t feel guilty about. It’s a dual boiler fully automatic machine. The beauty of this specific type of equipment is that you can go full manual or fully automatic, depending on your needs. You can customize pretty much everything, down to the temperature and froth amount of the milk.
Two of its key features are digital temperature control (PID) and Over Pressure Valve. Both of these specs are an essential aspect of commercial-grade espresso machines used in top-notch bistros. Using these upscale technologies, Oracle Touch precisely controls the temperature and pressure for each brew to help you pull excellent shots every single time.
There’s another significant addition that truly takes this model to a whole new level. You can manually set your desired temperature on the touch screen. The device won’t start brewing until it reaches the set temperature. This provides an idiot-proof solution for temperature inconsistency or tepid espresso.
I’m genuinely impressed by the quality of the automatic milk frother in this unit. The texture of the milk comes out nearly perfect for latte art. The best part is, you can switch to manual frothing mode merely pushing the “Up” switch and get even better results if you are really into this. Now, coming to the cleaning and decalcifying process, you will get every little detail from the manual. The procedure is a tad lengthy but not intricate.
You will figure it out after one or two attempts, don’t sweat it. To sum up, even though it’s quite pricey for a home espresso machine, it will pay for itself eventually by saving you hundreds of dollars worth Starbucks coffee per month.
I have two tiny qualms about this machine. First of all, the low water warning is almost always a few seconds late. Doesn’t always cause trouble, but it is a bit annoying for sure. Secondly, according to a few users, the new Swiss filter is nothing special. It only adds up to the final cost of the unit and yet, doesn’t add much value.
9. Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine
And the unapologetic Breville fangirling continues. This model for those who really want to do master the art and are willing to work hard for it. It comes with both single and dual filter baskets, which all the best espresso machines in this category should do. If you want to take the easy road, go for the pressurized dual filter basket. The single non-pressurized basket is a little tricky to handle since you need to properly dial in your shots. It’s not easy to get it right the first time, but once you do, the quality of your pulls will be up by a few notches.
I would also suggest investing in a high-quality burr grinder with this equipment if you already don’t have one. Breville BES840XL/A will give you as much control as you want over your pulls. You have full control over the temperature, dosing, shot length, strength and the texture of your milk with the help of the steam wand. This makes it ideal for anyone willing to step up their espresso game with an entry-level machine.
It is designed to operate on 1600 watts and whip up 15 bars of pressure, which speaks volume about the speed of this device. Delightfully enough, it features a pressure dial on top which takes the guesswork out.
You could get a nice hot cup of latte ready in less than 2 minutes as long as you do everything right. It also performs a few seconds of pre-infusion at low pressure to gently open up the tissues of your coffee grounds. Any coffee snob will tell you how much impact this tiny process has on the final taste of espresso.
Fashioned after industrial-grade espresso makers, the infuser maneuvers PID temperature control to prevent temperature fluctuations during the brewing process. After extracting your shot, the steam wand gets ready to froth up the milk in merely 5-10 seconds. I am genuinely impressed by the quality of the foamer in this unit. The beauty of this tool is that it can yield both fluffy microfoams for cappuccino and silky milk with a thin layer of foam needed for flat white. Just remember to clean all the washable parts frequently and follow the instructions for backflushing and descaling. It’s nothing extra complex.
It’s loud, quite loud to be more precise. But it’s a 15 bar pressure pump and 1600 watts of energy working together in one unit to make a nice cup of espresso for you. What else do you expect, really?
The 61 Oz. water reservoir doesn’t hold enough water for large consumption. A larger tank would be nice. It’s not even a drawback in that sense. Just wanted to give you a heads up.
10. Breville BES920XL Dual Boiler Espresso Machine
As long as money isn’t a huge concern and you are confident about your technique, a dual boiler machine like this should be the way to go. At least that’s what every accomplished barista worth his salt will tell you to do. Breville BES920XL is one of the most frequently recommended dual boil espresso makers for domestic purposes. And I’m sure you want to figure out why. So here we go:
The first and biggest advantage of owning this machine is the quality of shots. A great espresso is as much about the temperature, pressure and timing and it’s about the quality of beans, dose and grinds size. With the help of shot clock, pressure gauge, and precise temperature control, you can deftly control all the variables to hone your barista-ing skills.
Like a faithful friend, the machine tells you when the grind, pressure, and strength hits the sweet spot for a perfect pull. The auto-on is great if you are the kind of person who can’t think straight in the morning before coffee. Waking up to a machine that’s already ready to brew is every coffee lover’s wet dream. At least, for me.
I am particularly fond of its glitch-free and consistent pressure control. I can’t stress enough how important this feature this to avoid bitter, awful tasting espresso. For safety, it includes an auto-fill feature whose job is to prevent the heat coils from burning up.
The second extraordinary advantage is that it lets you brew your dark brown liquid goodness and steam milk at the same time. That way, your beverage will be ready before the espresso dies. For this reason alone, I would happily give away my money. The system alerts you when its time for descaling and backflushing. Read the instructions carefully by taking your time and you won’t likely face any problem with that.
The LCD panel interface honestly looks dated. For a semi-pro level espresso maker from a name brand like Breville, I expected a little better. It can be tricky at first to figure out the button combinations to control the multiple parameters. Won’t be a big deal for those who have already dealt with this kind of machine before, though.
11. Delonghi EC680M DEDICA
The classic Italian design of this machine will make anyone visiting your home go “wow!”. Dedica is undoubtedly De’Longhi’s most tastefully crafted piece of equipment in this price group. Its small footprint makes it ideal for a modern apartment kitchen is quite a big deal.
Moving onto the performance, De’Longhi’s low-budget espresso machine is engineered to deliver bistro-style espresso with minimum fuss. It is not loaded with tons of bells and whistles, which is great if you are still learning the ropes. It comes with pressurized filter baskets only, which makes cleaning the grounds significantly easy. But as I repeatedly said in earlier reviews, non-pressurized filters yield the finest espresso with true crema. There are several instructions online on how to fit a non-pressurized filter basket into this devices’s portafilter.
However, if you only use pre-grounds or don’t want to put extra efforts on dialing in your grinder and tightly packing the puck, the pressurized ones will do just fine.
The unit is pleasantly fast. It takes about 30-60 seconds to get ready and 15-25 seconds to dispense a shot. After pulling, the steam wand takes about 15-30 seconds to get ready for frothing. I’m not super psyched about the frothing ability of this wand. It produces thick, fluffy foam which is perfect for a nice cup of a cortado, cappuccino, macchiato, latte and so on. But for latte art, you need true microfoam which is an accumulation of millions of bubbles. This device fails to provide the right milk texture for latte art. Not a tradeoff unless you want to go all Van Gogh on your coffee.
I cannot fault the brewing ability of this machine, though, even if I want to. For someone with mid to upper-mid level skill, pulling cafe-style shots won’t be a biggie. The right combination of temperature and pressure yields dream results. Although not advertised by the manufacturer, it does pre-infuse the grounds for 5 seconds in very low pressure which elevates the flavor to a whole new level. Overall, it’s a great little espresso machine that looks classy, brews fast, cleans up easy. All these under $200 is a steal deal.
I’m not very happy with the quality of the built-in tamper. It’s sort of flimsy. If you are going to use a non-pressurized filter basket, buy a separate tamper too to avoid flavor inconsistencies.
12. DeLonghi EC702 15-Bar-Pump Espresso Maker
Beautiful design with luxe metallic finish on the front is the first thing that catches attention when you unbox. But you are not here to buy a cute metal box, so I’m going to head straight to that to save you time.
EC702 is everything I’d and you should look for in an entry-level espresso machine. From temperature, steam pressure or volume, it lets you easily adjust 3 essential variables of espresso making. It takes some practice to get everything like but once you do, you’re in for a treat. By keeping the temperature and pressure consistent, it produces true copper-orange hued rich crema on top. You get consistent volume in every cup which is rare for even some higher-priced machines.
The clearance between the spout and the drip tray is wide enough to comfortably accommodate standard 8 Oz. mugs. You will find the cup warmer on top, but you will hardly ever need it since the coffee comes out pretty hot on its own. The unit gets the ideal pressure for espresso in roughly 2 minutes and another 15 seconds for the shot to be ready. After the first pull, the green light gets back on in merely 5 seconds which indicates that the device is ready for brewing again. Therefore, you can seamlessly pull back to back shots until the reservoir runs out of water.
The 44 Oz. tank is transparent to make sure the machine doesn’t run out of water mid-brewing. Ingenious design, indeed. Taking out and putting the tank back in place is a cinch too. Yes, the equipment is loud, but most 15 bar pump-driven units are somewhat noisy. For easy clean-up, the components are dishwasher safe, which makes me fond of this model even more. It even comes with a bottle of descaling solution to get you started. If you brew a lot, you should clean the water system once a month to keep everything functioning optimally.
Coming to the steam wand, it’s neither brilliant nor bad. The wand size is a bit small, but you’ll get used to it in no time. It gets the milk texture 80% right for lattes and flat white, enough to impress the most critical coffee drinkers out there. Make sure to froth the milk in 140-144 degrees F to yield the best results.
The only major negative I found was the warm up time. It takes 15 minutes to get the optimal temperature for brewing which does test your patience. At least, it would test mine. But the truth is, I’m willing to wait that long as long as the coffee comes out great without burning a big hole in my pocket.
13. Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
Rancilio from Italy has managed to make its mark in a market dominated by brands like Breville, De’Longhi, and Nespresso. This speaks volumes about the credibility of the brand. Silvia is compact, stylish, not super heavy and can fit snugly in the corner of a small kitchen countertop.
This unit has many features common with giant espresso makers engineered for commercial use. It comes with a 58 mm tamper which is what most pro baristas use for firming up the grounds to build adequate pressure. You can control the extraction time, pressure and temperature with this to produce espressos exactly how you like it. It will start dispensing with one push of a button and stop with another gentle push. You should ideally let it run for 26-30 seconds for a 1.8 Oz. double shot. Anything longer will make you end up with watery espresso, which is an abomination in our sacred coffee world.
Let me give you a useful tip to make the most out of this machine: temperature surfing. In case you haven’t already heard about it, let me explain that for you quickly. To pull perfect espresso from this machine, you should steam the milk first and then run water through the nozzle to draw out all the steam.
This prevents the boiler from getting too hot and instead, get to the right temperature for brewing espresso. The waiting time will be significantly less if you follow this. However, if you don’t add milk in your espresso, just turn on the device, run the water through it for 10-15 seconds and you will be good to go. The steam wand yields excellent results only after you figure out the correct technique. Let me clear one thing up for you, it’s not a machine to toy with. You need to apply the right technique in each step to make the device work in your favor.
Invest in a quality burr grinder, pay close attention to the details like dose, tamping pressure, water, and milk temperature. I know it sounds like a lot of work but there’s a reason why Rancilio Silvia is the go-to recommendation by some of the top baristas around the globe. The reason is the mechanics. The boiler, as well as many other components, are made from premium-quality brass. This bad boy is built to last and give you amazing pulls for years with the same precision. You can find the cleaning instructions very lucidly explained in the manual. Clean the filter and backflush the unit every day to keep everything running smoothly.
You will have to descale more frequently if you are using hard water in the tank.
Controlling the temperature in this device is not an easy job. But here’s good news, you can install a PID thermometer in the unit to reduce the temperature inconsistencies to a great extent. The extra cost is worth it because everything else about this machine is near-perfect for its price.
14. DeLonghi ECAM22110SB
Finally, I am closing this segment with one of the most reliable mid-range automatic espresso machines De’Longhi has blessed us with.
ECAM22110SB is great too look at and has a small footprint which makes it ideal for every kitchen, irrespective of the size. The built-in grinder of this machine is a real gem. It offers 13 grind settings and delivers what you can only expect from a high-end grinder. Skip oily beans for this device as it could create feeding issue in the grinder.
Like almost every traditional espresso machine, it one too makes a roaring sound while brewing. It’s not super loud, though. But you will still be able to hear it from another room. It’s convenient to use if you have prior experience with automatic or semi-automatics. There’s definitely a learning curve to it, but the hard work pays off. You can manually control the grind size, dose, espresso temperature, and steam by pressing the right buttons.
The machine heats up real fast. It integrates Rapid Cappuccino system to maintain a steady temperature to help you pull back to back shots. For added convenience, the system remembers your preferred variables e.g the grind size, shot length and strength. The cup clearance could be better, though. You can’t fit standard American coffee mugs under it. Buy glass or porcelain double shot espresso comes if you are going to purchase this machine.
I should also note that you can steam the milk even without brewing the coffee, which renders it useful for making hot chocolate too. Making silky smooth textured milk with microfoam with this wand is very much possible with the right technique.
To keep the parts working in good condition, you have to clean the parts frequently. To keep the guesswork out, the unit will give you alerts when it needs descaling and backflushing. Don’t forget to clean the portafilter baskets and catch pan too from time to time. The ease of cleaning would always give De’Longhi machines a clear edge above its competitors, IMO.
While running the self-cleaning cycle, the wand splashes water all over, creating a lot of mess on the counter space. You could lower the wand and hook a cup into it during the self-cleaning to minimize the mess. Thank me later.
Useful Hacks for Choose the Right Espresso Machine: A Friendly Buying Guide
If you think merely reading the reviews will magically direct you to the right product, sorry to disappoint you. Espresso machines are a complex piece of engineering. On top of it, most machines of a specific price range have more or less the same features. The devil is in the details. To help you analyze, compare and contrast the features of multiple machines side by side, I’ve chalked out a comprehensive buying guide below. Here we go:
A. Espresso Machine Types
If you are an espresso amateur, I am going to ease you into this by keeping this as lucid as possible. I have divided the espresso machines types into two broad categories based on two key factors: power source and mechanism. These two categories are further divided into a few subcategories. Let’s see what they are:
Espresso Maker Type Based on Power Source: Steam vs Pump-driven Machines
All automatic and super automatics are pump-driven machines. You need precisely controlled pressure and temperature to make good espresso and rich crema. Pump-driven devices are generally considered to be superior because of their consistency and the amount of control they allow you over key variables.
Steam-powered units are cheaper and they would work fine if you are an amateur who just wants a nice cup of espresso to kickstart her morning. But I should remind you that these units are finicky. It can get either too hot or not hot at all at times.
Do yourself a favor, spend a few extra bucks and get yourself a pump-driven machine. The machine will pay for itself in no time.
B. Espresso Machine Type Based on Mechanics
You have heard me mention these terms multiple times throughout this article. It’s time you learn what they really mean. A little extra knowledge won’t hurt.
The name itself is pretty self-explanatory. In manual machines, you will find a manual level that you have to pull to extract the shot. The method is old-school, takes a lot of work, but the satisfaction of pulling a perfect shot with full control is unmatched. I haven’t featured in a manual machine in this article because it’s most suitable for commercial use and my article is for the likes of you and me, budding home baristas. I’ll save it for another day.
The next best thing after classic manual machines. Semi-automatics give you absolute control over all the parameters, starting from pressure, grind size, down to the texture of steamed milk. Anyone who doesn’t mind the learning curve attached to it should blindly opt for it. The machine literally grows with you and the coffee keeps getter better as you improve your skills.
Basically, more efficient twin big brother of semi-auto. The only major difference between an automatic and a semi-automatic espresso machine is that the former has a built-in timer. It automatically stops pulling after releasing the preset amount of espresso. This helps to maintain flavor consistency without the additional headache of cutting off the shot on time. You can also manually override the setting to modify the quantity. This kind of models works great for both amateurs and medium-skilled brewers alike.
With semi-auto and automatics, you have to pay close attention to details like grind amount, size, dose, tamping pressure, choose the right filter, set the desired temperature. For some people, the steps can be a handful.
Super-automatics are so advanced that some people would jokingly say “it does everything except reading the paper to you”. It’s true. They take care of all the steps involved in espresso-making, starting from grinding the beans, down to steaming the milk and even mixing it with espresso for you. In the near future, say 20 years from today, I’m quite sure super-automatics will feed the coffee to you as well.
Now that we have learned about the types, let’s focus on the other important factors that come in play:
Single vs Double Boiler
A boiler is a metal container where the water gets heated for brewing. Frothing the milk to get the right texture needs a higher temperature than what’s needed for extracting flavors from coffee grounds.
The single boiler has only one boiler do perform two functions: brewing and steaming. You need to brew the coffee first to get the steamer hot enough for frothing milk.
A double boiler has two separate units two perform these two different functions. It not only lets you do both at the same time but also yields better results by maintaining the correct temp for both the milk and the espresso.
Double boilers are way more expensive than single boilers. Single boilers work just fine for everyday use unless you are an uncompromising perfectionist.
The wrong grind can mean substandard espresso, that’s coffee-making 101. If you buy a machine that already has a built-in grinder, you will be saving a lot of money. Most models designed for domestic use come with conical burr grinders. They are not as good as flat burrs but a hundred times better than blade grinders.
Any high-quality espresso machine worth your time should come with a large portafilter that can accommodate two different filters for single and double shots. A single shot requires 7-9 grams and a true double shot is anywhere between 14-18 grams. The inaccurate dose can ruin an espresso in the most heartbreaking way possible.
Manual steaming wands with a long nozzle that rotates in every possible angle are a tell-tale sign of a quality espresso machine. It allows you enough flexibility to texturize your milk for different espresso-based drinks. Small nozzles with a big plastic cap on are generally incorporated in cheaper devices. If your technique isn’t strong, it will make you end up with large milk bubbles, not microfoam.
Now that you have a full-blown list of the best espresso machines made today keep going. Pick a one that caters to your specific caffeine needs without shooting up your budget. I’m sure there’s at least one model that fits the bill perfectly. Before I wrap up, here’s one more thing I’d like to say. A great cup of espresso is as much about the technique, bean quality, grind size and dose as it’s about the machine quality. The bottom line, invest in high-quality, aromatic beans and master the basics of espresso making before you splurge on an espresso machine. Cheers!