Espresso Machines

Rich, delicious espresso just the way you like it, whenever you like it, and for a lot less cost per cup. All great reasons to consider buying your own home machine. If you’re looking for your first espresso machine, there are easy-to-use, reasonably priced models to get you started. If you’re looking to upgrade, there are mid-range and prosumer models that will take your results to the next level. Read our Buyer’s Checklist below for suggestions of what to look for.

Pick the Best Espresso Machine for Your Home:
Highly Rated Models for 2019

Model
Quick Description
DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Super-AutomaticNo Wait Between Cups + Built-in Burr Grinder
Breville BES840XL InfuserGo Automatic or Take Control + Lots of Features
Breville Duo-Temp ProExtraction Control + Extra Accessories
Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker with Aeroccino FrotherSmall and Fast + Nespresso Flavor

Espresso Basics

What defines espresso is the method used to prepare it. Even though the term is often used loosely to mean really strong coffee, not every strong coffee is truly an espresso.

What Makes Espresso Different Than Other Coffees?

The short answer is … how they are brewed.  Let’s take a cup of drip coffee as an example. Both begin with coffee beans, which are roasted, then ground, then mixed with hot water to extract the flavor and aroma. But they go about this process differently, and end up with very different results.

Drip Coffee = Roasted Beans + Ground to Desired Consistency + Hot Water Flowing Over the Grounds

Espresso = Roasted Beans + Ground to a Fine Consistency then Tightly Packed + Hot Water Forced Through the Grounds at High Pressure

The espresso process produces a stronger, thicker drink with more caffeine that is topped with a natural froth called crema.

What Do You Need to Make Espresso?

You’ll need good water, roasted coffee beans, a grinder, a scale, a tamper, and an espresso machine. Exactly which items you need and how to choose them will vary. Depending on the machine you use, some of these items may not be necessary. But for now let’s just say that these are the basics.

Types of Espresso Machines

The best choice of espresso machine will depend on (1) how hands-on you want to be and (2) your budget. Electric home machines are generally categorized into three levels of automation: semi-automatic, automatic and super-automatic. All three categories of machines can make great espresso.

Semi-Automatic

Gives you the most control.
It heats the water, but you must do the rest, including: grinding/dosing/tamping the coffee, placing the portafilter, and turning the pump on and off manually to control the amount of water used.

Automatic

Similar to Semi-Automatic
It heats the water and controls the amount of water used for a shot. You still grind, dose, tamp and place the coffee, then turn on the pump. The machine turns off automatically once the correct amount of water has been used. Many automatic machines offer programmable options.

Super-Automatic

Does everything for you.
It grinds the beans, measures the dose, tamps the grounds, and pumps the correct amount of water for your drink. On some models, programmable options let you set your own defaults for more control.

One other type of machine is the single-serve model that uses prepackaged coffee, such as Nespresso. These would not technically be considered to be true espresso machines. But the immense popularity has created its own category called ‘single-serve espresso machines’.

Pressure is Key

The unique method used to make true espresso involves forcing hot water through the grounds under high pressure. 9 bars of pressure has been adopted worldwide as the standard for creating optimal results. Commercial machines are capable of maintaining this pressure and a consistent flow of water at the same time. But home machines require more pressure in order to achieve the 9 bars while at the same time keeping a consistent flow rate. In a nutshell, a home espresso machine of 15 bars will give you about the 9 bars of pressure recommended during extraction.

Tips for Best Results

  • Read the manual for your machine. Sounds simple, but you’ll be glad you did.
  • Start with the best quality water possible. If you don’t have filtered water, consider a
    built-in filter or something like a Brita.
  • With espresso, the size of the grounds is crucial. Generally it should be about the consistency of sand.
  • Use the best tool to get that all-important grind right. Blade grinders are popular because of their lower price, but tend to create inconsistent results, which lead to coffee that may be too weak or too strong. A burr grinder is the best way to achieve the optimal grounds for espresso, consistently and quickly.
  • Weigh your dose of coffee on a scale. Measuring your dose by weight instead of volume will make your results easier to repeat.
  • Tamp your coffee so it is level and evenly compressed.
  • Water temperature should be between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. This is accepted as the best temperature for flavor and aroma extraction.
  • Pre-warm you cup before filling it with espresso.
  • An ideal extraction (for single or double) will take about 25-30 seconds. If you’re not getting the proper amount in that time, adjust the grind.

Buyer's Checklist

  • Coffee
    Do you want to use coffee grounds or prefer the convenience of pods? Some machines accept only grounds, some accept only pods and others adapt to both. If you use fresh coffee, do you want to grind the beans yourself or purchase a machine that grinds, measures and tamps for you?
  • Automation
    Consider convenience vs. control. From semi-automatic to automatic to super-automatic to manual, espresso machines come in a wide spectrum of hands-on and hands-off functionality. The entire process from grinding to frothing can be in your control, or done for you, or a combination of both.
  • Heat & Pressure
    Heat and pressure are key to true espresso. Does the machine reach at least 9 bars of pressure (15 bars for a home machine)? Look for a machine that heats up quickly to optimal temperature (some do so in one minute) and has a short lag time between brewing and reaching steaming temperature.
  • Extra Features
    These can make all the difference in everyday use. They vary widely from model to model, but include such things as: cup warmer, water filter, hot water outlet, auto shut off, adjustable cup tray height, notification indicators, and more.
  • Total Cost
    Initial purchase cost is obvious, but don’t forget to consider any accessories you might need. When making espresso, these items may include a good coffee grinder, coffee pods, scoop, tamper, and steaming pitcher.
  • Clean & Maintain
    Espresso machines require consistent upkeep. Find out what daily maintenance is required, what periodic maintenance is required, and if there a self-cleaning function.
  • Dimensions
    Espresso machines require consistent upkeep. Find out what daily maintenance is required, what periodic maintenance is required, and if there a self-cleaning function.
  • Warranty
    Things break. Be sure to check out the warranty and customer service, just in case.
  • Usability
    The machine should be easy to use and understand. Are notifications and indicators clear? Is there ample clearance for your favorite cups? Are the controls easy to navigate? Do parts assemble and disassemble smoothly for use and cleaning? Do extra features add real value?
  • Water Supply
    If you don’t already have filtered water, you may want to look for a model with a built-in filter. This will improve the taste of the coffee. Also, its ideal to have an easily removable water tank with a large enough capacity that you don’t need to refill constantly.
  • Materials
    Generally users prefer metal over plastic construction. But machines incorporate a combination of materials. Each material has it strengths and weaknesses. So look at which parts are made from which materials. For example, some people prefer all parts that come into contact with water to be stainless steel.
  • User Feedback
    Read a good number of reviews (Amazon.com is great for this) by people who already own and use the product. Don’t be scared off by a handful of negative reviews. And don’t only give attention to the positive reviews. Look for overall trends and you should get a good feel for the strengths and weaknesses of the product.

DeLonghi ESAM3300 Magnifica Super-Automatic Espresso/Cappuccino Machine

No Wait Between Cups + Built-in Burr Grinder

The Magnifica takes the convenience of a super-automatic machine and adds a number of adjustable features to customize your coffee. You can easily adjust all of these via the control panel:  coffee grind, quantity of water, quantity of coffee, cup size.

You won’t be sitting around between cups until the machine is ready again. Brew cup after cup with no waiting thanks to the patented stainless steel double boiler system and instant reheat function.

Category: Super-Automatic
Pressure: Electric Pump (15 bars of pressure)
Heater: Double Boiler (Stainless Steel, Removable)
Milk: Steam Wand with 180′ Swivel
Coffee: Integrated burr grinder (stainless steel) with 13 adjustable settings; Accepts pre-ground coffee as well; No pods
Includes: No Accessories

Breville BES840XL Infuser Espresso Machine

Go Automatic or Take Control + Lots of Features

The Breville Infuser offers the advantages of an automatic machine with the flexibility of a semi-automatic model. Use the pre-programmed settings or take more control and customize your own. The technology duplicates best brewing practices, and the added features make using it a pleasure.

Category: Automatic with Semi-Automatic Flexibility
Pressure: Electric Pump (15 bars of pressure)
Heater: Thermocoil (stainless steel) + PID technology
Milk: Steam Wand with 360′ Swivel (stainless steel)
Coffee: Grounds only, no pods
Includes: Single (Unpressurized) & Dual (Pressurized) Wall Filter Baskets, Coffee Scoop, Stainless Steel Jug, Cleaning Disc & Tablets, Cleaning Tool, Water Filter with Holder

Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker
with Aeroccino Frother

Small and Fast + Nespresso Flavor

The Inissia is small and lightweight, and presents itself in a sleek design and an assortment of bold colors. Simplicity is key, with the only option being a choice of cup size. Speed is really its strength with a quick 25 second heat up time. After that you can brew up to 9 coffees without having to refill the water tank. Nespresso’s patented extraction system and branded variety of grounds work together for a delicious coffee experience. When you’re ready for the milk, the included Aeroccino Plus milk frother will do the job. No need to use a wand, it delivers hot or cold frothed milk in seconds at the touch of a button.

Category: Single Serve Espresso Machine
Pressure: Electric Pump (19 bars of pressure)
Milk: Aeroccino Plus milk frother included (usually sold separately)
Coffee: Nespresso Capsules (made of recyclable aluminum)
Includes: Welcome pack containing 16 Nespresso capsules, instruction booklet, information folder

Mr. Coffee Café Barista Premium
Espresso/Cappuccino System

One-Touch Control + Automatic Frothing

The Café Barista control panel has preset buttons for both single and double versions of espresso, cappuccino and latte. It really can’t get much simpler. And the convenience continues as the automatic frother steams and dispenses the right amount of milk for your drink selection. This moderately priced machine is a great choice if you want to use your own grind (no pods) and just want to enjoy the final product without being hands-on.

Category:Automatic
Pressure:Electric Pump (15 bars of pressure)
Heater:Single Boiler
Milk:Automatic Frothing with Removable Milk Tank
Coffee:Grounds only, no pods
Includes:Single Shot Filter, Double Shot Filter, Measuring Scoop, Tamper, Coffee Recipes