Perhaps you took hold of your first perfect cup of espresso outside a tiny cafe in Florence, sitting in the Italian sun. Perhaps you lifted the cup and admired the mahogany tones of the foamy crema, firm enough to support a sprinkle of sugar.
Perhaps you breathed in the rich, complicated aroma before taking a tentative sip. Then, while the burst of pure coffee flavor lingered on your tongue, you had an epiphany of sorts: Once home, you would set out on a search for the best espresso maker. No lame-brewed coffee would ever touch your tongue again.
You're not alone.
Espresso consumption has steadily risen in the United States, whether served up straight or in espresso-based drinks like cappuccinos, Americanos, and lattes. This is likely due to the distinct flavor and robust experience of the espresso itself, as well as the proliferation of gourmet coffee chains like Peet's and Starbucks, which have made the wonders of espresso available everywhere.
For so many of us, the day doesn’t start until we’ve had our first cup of coffee. In some cases, the taste of the coffee isn’t even what’s important—it’s the buzz of caffeine that we count on to get us going.
That said, for a huge fraction of the population (that keeps on growing!), the overall quality of the coffee is the focus, including the taste, look, smell and, of course, the jolt of caffeine.
For these aficionados, only the best espresso maker and the perfect shot of espresso will do.
You may be shocked to learn that the term “espresso” refers to the manner in which coffee is brewed. It is not, as many assume, a particular type of coffee bean (nor is it called “expresso!”).
To make espresso, a small amount of very hot, pressurized water is forced through finely ground coffee beans. The result is an intense, almost syrupy brew with a foamy top (“crema”) and an intense flavor.
The beans do not require a special "espresso roast," though the extent of the roast can make a difference in how it tastes. A light roast may draw a more acidic brew, a darker roast brings more caramel-like, bittersweet notes. The main factor that distinguishes espresso from regular coffee is its method of preparation.
Trying out a variety of roasted bean blends and grinding settings is an inexpensive kitchen experiment, and you can be taught to be your own barista, but choosing the right espresso machine can be a baffling, and expensive, proposition.
The North Africans who were traveling through Venice introduced it to Italy. Around 1640, the Venetian merchants popularized the drink by establishing the first coffeehouses and selling the exotic drink it to the rich.
The first espresso machine was patented in Italy in 1884, but its design was awkward, quality of the shots inconsistent, and the prototype lost to history.
It wasn't until after the Milanese cafe owner Achille Gaggia invented a high-pressure, spring-loaded lever-machine after World War II that the quality espresso we know now, with a rich golden layer of crema, was invented. Many of the higher-end modern machines still bear his name.
Improvements in electronics, pneumatics, and computer control have both improved the machines and brought the costs down in the intervening years. These days, most major coffeemaker brands have a line of espresso machines for home use at a wide range of prices.
There are multiple ways to drink espresso, from a straight-up shot to flavored with syrup and topped with warm and foamy milk.
Coffee artisans believe that making the perfect cup of espresso is an art that requires four distinct factors:
Finding the best espresso maker for your particular needs and taste goes a long way to creating the perfect coffee experience. Keep in mind that the amount of water pressure is recorded in “bars” and 9 bars are considered the minimum amount needed to make a “true" espresso.
Just looking at the two beverages, it’s clear that they aren’t the same.
To begin, a single serving (or “shot”) of espresso is much smaller than a single cup of coffee. What’s more, espresso should be consumed over a short period of time, whereas it’s common to linger over coffee and even opt for a refill. If espresso sits for too long it loses its taste.
A major distinction between the two is the crema that forms on top of the espresso. Experts say you can tell a lot from the crema, including whether the beans were fresh and whether the water was significantly pressurized.
Making espresso is very different than preparing an average cup of joe. As we’ll read in this article, the best espresso makers come in a variety of shapes and sizes and price ranges.
Although some of the designs look very complicated, if you know what you’re doing, it’s actually faster to make a shot of espresso than to brew a cup of coffee due to the high temperature and pressure of the water used.
The intense flavor of espresso leads people to think that it has a higher amount of caffeine, but this isn’t the case.
Obviously, the actual amount depends on the size of the coffee drink as well as the roasting methods and a few other factors. That said, here’s a general guideline:
Much of the time, if something tastes really, really good it’s probably really, really bad for you. Good news coffee lovers! If consumed in moderation, espresso might actually be beneficial to your health.
Several studies have shown that a cup or two a day may do the following:
The bold flavor of espresso lends itself to the creation of beverages sold in cafés and restaurants worldwide. By altering the amounts of espresso, steamed milk and foamy milk, it’s possible to whip up a menu of delicious coffee treats.
Here are some of the most popular:
Ristretto: This is also called the “short shot” because it consists of just the first ¾ oz of espresso that comes out of the machine.
Lungo: This is also called the “long shot” because it consists of the first 1 ½ oz of espresso that comes out of the machine.
Single Shot (Short Black): 1 oz. shot of espresso.
Double Shot (Doppio): 2 oz. of espresso made with 2x the amount of coffee.
Red Eye (Shot in the Dark or Eye Opener): A shot of espresso added to a cup of drip coffee.
Espresso Macchiato: A shot of espresso under a layer of foamy milk.
Café Noisette: A large shot of espresso plus half of that amount of hot milk.
Cortado: Equal amounts of espresso and warm, dense (not foamy) milk.
Espresso Con Panna: A shot of espresso topped with whipped cream.
Café Breve: A shot of espresso plus steamed half-and-half (or light cream).
Cappuccino: A shot of espresso with steamed milk, often served with a dusting of cinnamon or cocoa.
Flat White: Made like a cappuccino without the foam or cocoa on top.
Café Latte: Espresso plus steamed milk and topped with foam.
Piccolo Latte: A café latte made in an espresso cup.
Café Americano (Long Black): 1 oz. of espresso mixed with 6-8 oz. of hot water.
Mocha: A cappuccino and hot chocolate combo made by mixing espresso with cocoa powder and adding steamed milk and foam.
Affogato: An espresso dessert made by scooping vanilla ice cream into a shot (or two) of espresso.
As you can see, the possibilities are pretty much endless when it comes to espresso drinks!
Just as there are many different espresso beverages to choose from, there are several types of espresso machines.
Some are compact, easy to use and perfect for newbies who are just discovering the joys of coffee, while others are large, flashy contraptions with knobs and levers and lengthy instruction booklets.
No matter your personal style, you’ll be able to find the best espresso machine to fit your needs. Here are some of the most popular:
Moka Pot: One of the smallest machines, this one works on your stovetop. Although the shape may vary (from hourglass to octagonal), they all work the same way: a bottom chamber heats water until steam filters through coffee grounds in the top chamber. This simple procedure does require a bit of practice before you can guarantee the perfect espresso blend.
Steam-Driven: Steam-driven espresso machines are similar to moka pots, but instead of working on the stovetop, you plug them in. In many ways this is the simplest of all machines, but many argue that it doesn’t produce a “true” espresso because it cannot make the crema (this method generates just 1.5 bars of pressure). However, these machines are very affordable and quick and perfect for those new to the coffee scene.
Pump-Driven: More sophisticated than the moka pot, the pump-driven espresso machine offers more control over water temperature and pressure. With a pump, there’s usually a higher brewing pressure (approx. 15 bars) that will create a richer crema and a better tasting beverage all around. In turn, pump-driven machines are often used in commercial settings like cafes and restaurants.
Semi-Automatic: Semi-automatic machines are ideal for folks who want to put in a little elbow grease and be in control of grinding, measuring and tamping the coffee and determine the amount of water used. All the machine takes care of is heating and pumping the water.
Fully Automatic: As the name suggests, the fully automatic machine doesn’t ask much of the operator. While you still have to grind, measure and tamp the coffee, the machine does everything else: determines the amount of water needed, and pumps and heats the water. It can be programmed for either “long” or “short” shots or you can customize your own extraction. These machines include a steam “wand” that heats and froths milk.
Super Automatic: The super automatic is just that – it automatically measures, grinds, tamps, and extracts espresso, plus it self cleans! It can be customized to create espresso to your exact tastes. It’s up to the operator to refill ingredients and empty the used coffee grounds. Some super automatic machines are now available in compact sizes. Keep in mind that these fully loaded machines are often quite expensive.
Lever (Manual) Machines: The lever machines require the most interaction, but many coffee lovers swear by this old-fashioned design. The lever is pumped by hand in order to pressurize the water and send it through the coffee grounds. The shot is then “pulled” when the long handle is lowered. For some, lever machines are enjoyable not just because they produce a decent shot, but because they’re nostalgic and recall the earlier, “romanticized’ days of coffee appreciation.
When you’re looking to buy an espresso machine, there are several things to keep in mind. Here’s a checklist to get your started (remember, the best espresso makers aren’t necessarily the ones with the most functions or the ones that cost the most!).
Ask yourself: just how convenient do you want your machine to be? Today you can find an espresso maker that will produce a top-notch beverage at the touch of one button. If this sounds like heaven to you, check out the machines that are fully programmable and make sure you understand all of the bells and whistles before you make a purchase.
On the other hand, if you don’t mind practicing a bit, the manual or semi-automatic designs might be a better fit (and will probably be less expensive). And if you like an old fashioned vibe, the simplicity of the moka pot may be just what you’re looking for.
Do you want to spend time cleaning the nooks and crannies of a lever espresso machine? Be sure to examine the parts to get an accurate sense of how much cleaning will be involved to keep your machine running smoothly. Keep in mind that some of the more modern designs are hailed as “self cleaning.”
Know your budget before you begin searching for your dream espresso machine. And be sure to know which features you will and won’t compromise on. For example, do you have your heart set on a steaming wand?
And once you’ve settled on a model, take the time to comparison shop. Since espresso machines are so popular these days, chances are there are many deals out there to be uncovered!
How much space do you have to spare? Do you have room on your counter to keep a large model, or do you only have room for a small moka pot on your stove?
Like with most appliances, there’s always a chance that something will go wrong with even the very best espresso machines—a part will break or the machine will stop working for no apparent reason. Make sure you have access to a detailed instruction manual or you know how to reach the customer service department. If your beloved machine breaks down first thing in the morning, you’ll be desperate for a quick fix!
You can pretty much expect the top-of-the-line models to come with a decent warranty, but double check this before you make a purchase. In addition, read up on customer reviews to get a sense of how long the machine lasts. Be aware of what the machine is made of and think about what tends to happen to these materials over time (metal lasts a long time but it may rust; plastic isn’t as durable etc.).
The higher-end models will probably require regular maintenance (not just cleaning) to keep the coffee running smoothly. Make note of the parts that will need attention and research how to get replacements if need be.
Some folks think the best espresso machines are the ones that come fully loaded with extra features. Do you want to have any of the following?
The best espresso makers don’t automatically make the best espresso, it depends on the operator.
It may take a few tries before you get the hang of your machine, regardless of how complicated it actually is.
The basics are outlined below to give you a sense of what’s involved. However, keep in mind that you’ll probably want to tweak certain steps according to your specific tastes.
To keep your espresso machine running smoothly, you’ll need to spend some time cleaning and maintaining the parts.
It’s best to rinse and wipe down the machine after every use and plan on a “deep clean” every few months (check with the instructions to see what is recommended).
If you’re using a simple contraption, like a moka pot, all you need to do is wash the parts with warm water and soap. On the other hand, if you’re operating a more complicated machine, the process is a bit more complex and time consuming (but totally worth the effort!).
Below is an in-depth buyer's guide featuring all of our favorite machines, in multiple categories.
The following criteria have been used for the machines reviewed:
For the full scoop on the very best espresso makers on the market at the moment, keep reading!
Buy it now
Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
Best home espresso machine
Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker
Best small espresso machine
Delonghi Ec680m Dedica 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine
Best small espresso machine
Mr. Coffee 4-Cup Steam Espresso System with Milk Frother
Best budget espresso machine
Mr. Coffee ECMP1000 Café Barista Premium Espresso/Cappuccino System
Best super automatic espresso machine
Considered by many to be the best home espresso maker, the Barista Express has everything you need to make the perfect espresso in the comfort of home—from “beans to brew” in about 1 minute. With fully customizable settings, this is a good choice for the serious consumer (even if you’re new to the coffee scene).
With this machine you choose the size and dose of the grind (15 different settings) plus the temperature of the water and brew. You can keep the coffee beans fresh and on hand in the sealed hopper and use the swivel wand to froth milk like an expert for café-style beverages.
The 67 oz. water tank is removable and comes with a replaceable water filter. Also included: a frothing pitcher, a coffee scoop, a built-in storage tray and a cleaning kit. A handy “clean me” light shines when it’s time to clean the machine.
The Barista Express can store up to ½ pound of coffee beans in its hopper. The beans transfer directly to the burr grinder so there’s no need to purchase an additional grinding machine. The stainless steel hopper locks securely in place and can be removed for easy cleaning.
This coffee maker is crafted from stainless steel and plastic, measures 12.5" (D) X 16" (H) X 13.25" (W) and weighs 23 lbs. The no-slip bottom keeps the machine in place, even when it’s shaking from grinding the beans. It’s available in an array of attractive colors and comes with a 1-year limited warranty. We believe these qualities make it the best home espresso machine.
The Nespresso Inissia is the best small espresso machine for those looking for an easy-to-use, high quality option. Its fully-automatic, slim design is perfect for small spaces since it measures just 4 3/4" x 12 1/2 "x 9" and weights only 5 lb. 4 oz. It’s also a super choice for coffee lovers on a budget.
The Inissia uses a capsule system that is, without doubt, the simplest way to make a coffee drink. The water tank is removable and very easy to fill and holds enough water for 9 espressos. The machine heats up in less than 30 seconds. Once you snap in a hermetically sealed, recyclable capsule of coffee, just choose between a single or a double shot. That’s it! The empty capsule is then ejected into an internal container (that holds 9 – 11 empty capsules) without any mess at all. You don’t even have to worry about turning the machine off – it automatically shuts down after 9 minutes.
When it’s time to clean up, remove the water tank and wipe down the tank and machine with a soft, damp cloth. This affordable Nespresso machine is available in a variety of colors and comes with a 1-year warranty.
BONUS: Your purchase includes 16 Nespresso coffee capsules so you can enjoy an espresso drink right away!
On a budget and short on counter space? Check out the Delonghi 15-bar Pump Espresso Machine, as it's one of the best small espresso machines out there. This small and sleek design delivers professional grade, customizable espresso drinks without taking up too much space or time. The measurements are 13”h x 6” w x 13” d and it weighs 9 lbs.
To begin, this stainless steel Delonghi heats up in about 40 seconds and delivers 15-bar pressure with every shot. The 3-button illuminated control panel is easy enough for beginners to use, as is the “flow stop” technology that allows you to choose between a single or double shot. If you’re looking to make the process even faster, use pre-ground coffee (no tamping necessary!) or coffee pods (included).
With the attached frothing wand, you’re just minutes away from the perfect rich-bodied cappuccino or latte. The water tank holds 32 oz. and an alert light lets you know when the machine needs to be cleaned. Customers enjoy a 1 year limited warranty.
It's important to note that, due to its compact size, the Delonghi may overheat after brewing several cups in a row. All you need to do is let the machine cool down on its own, or you can release hot water from the frothing wand.
For coffee lovers on a budget, the Mr. Coffee might be your dream come true! With this affordable and simple to use design, you can brew up to 4 shots into an easy-to-pour glass carafe and top it off with steamed milk with the attached frothing arm.
The espresso produced isn’t quite coffee shop quality (it’s tough to make a decent crema), but for many consumers the convenience factor makes up for this. There’s nothing to assemble, so you can enjoy your special beverage just minutes after removing the machine from the box. That said, it’s always wise to review the manual or watch a video before making your first cup.
NOTE: This does not come with a frothing pitcher, so make sure you have one on hand if you want to steam milk.
Measuring 8” x 6.5” x 10.5” and weighing just 7 lbs., you may consider the Mr. Coffee to be the best inexpensive espresso machine of all. It even comes with a removable drip tray that keeps the area clean and tidy.
The Café Barista Premium is not at all like the Mr. Coffee machine you grew up with. This espresso/cappuccino system produces an impressive espresso beverage on par with what’s offered in your favorite café.
What’s more, the sophisticated technology is unbelievably easy to use. At the touch of one button, you can choose a single or double shot of espresso, a cappuccino or latte. A convenient indicator light highlights your selection. The espresso is brewed (with a 15-bar pressure) and milk is automatically foamed.
The combination of high-level performance and simplicity is why Mr. Coffee ECMP1000 is often called the best super automatic espresso machine.
The stainless steel machine measures 14” x 12” x 12.25” and weighs 9 lbs. It comes with a measuring scoop, a tamper, and a filter for single and double espresso. An added bonus is the recipe booklet that has instructions for creating special espresso beverages that your family and friends will love!
If you're looking for the best espresso maker based on your budget, check out our favorites below. We review top machines that cost less than $100, $200, $300 and $500.
Features we love
Buy it now
-Easily enjoy single or double shots of espresso
Mr. Coffee ECMP50 Espresso/Cappuccino Maker
-Heats water instantly
BELLA 13683 Espresso Maker
-Has easy-to-use steam wand
The Original Bialetti Moka Express 3-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker
Capresso 4-Cup Espresso and Cappuccino Machine
-Ability to adjust coffee strength
This compact, stylish, black-and-stainless-steel espresso machine brings to your countertop the vibe of a gourmet machine while coming in well within the budget price range.
Yet it's not all style and no substance, due to its bar-pump-driven action, which dispenses a true espresso, not just a really strong shot of coffee like you'd get with one of the steam-driven machines that proliferate in this price range.
A popular bestseller on Amazon, this model also has sexy perks like a dual thermostat, one for each of the two filter holders. This high-end feature allows you to brew straight espressos piping hot and the espresso for your cappuccino toasty warm.
Serious espresso caffeine junkies can choose to brew a one-shot or a two-shot pull depending on the filter chosen. A generous 35-ounce water tank should nicely service a household with eight or ten pulls of espresso before a refill is needed.
And don't be intimidated by this model's many options: If you're leery about the artisan expectations involved in grinding and choosing roast bean blends, this machine also allows you to use Easy-Serving-Expresso pods (ESE pods).
Any pump-driven espresso machine under $100 is a real find, but to discover one nearly half that price is mind-blowing. This model doesn't cheat on power, either, sporting a 15 bar pump, which is standard for most pump-driven espresso machines, even far more expensive ones.
This model is one price step up from this brand's steam-driven option and, considering the number of additional fabulous features, they clearly didn't put all of their manufacturing dollars just into upgrading to a pump.
The wonder of this machine is that it heats up so swiftly that you can serve up multiple drinks as quickly as any overworked barista due, according to the specs, to something called its thermal block heating system.
Couples take note: This model may as well have been embroidered with a "His" and "Hers" option, because the dual-shot brewing system allows you to whip up two separate shots at the same time, one for cappuccino, say, and another for an Americano.
A removable 40-ounce water reservoir allows for 10-12 shots before a refill is needed. The package includes filters for single- or double-shots for those who really need a caffeine boost to get going.
Sleek, stylish, and devilishly straightforward, this steam-driven espresso maker is perfect for urban apartment dwellers with very little countertop space but who still want a great cup of espresso in the morning without much fuss or muss.
Like most of the models on this list, it comes with an attached steam wand for warming and frothing milk for lattes and cappuccinos. Did you just brew some espresso but were called away by your neighbor, the mailman, a delivery, or a phone call you couldn't ignore? With this model, you have no worries because it has a special steaming function that keeps your brew toasty until you come back.
Not only is this machine easy to use, but it's easy to clean. The steam-pressurized safety cap reduces the amount of leakage, so you don't have to wipe it down after every use. The parts, including the 4-cup carafe, are dishwasher safe. The maker backs up the quality of the machine with a generous 2-year warranty.
A discussion of the best espresso machine under $100 wouldn't be complete without mention of the classic, Italian-made, stovetop espresso maker that isn't only uber-cool but is also within anyone's budget.
It looks like an eight-sided, classic aluminum percolating coffee pot with a chic, kicked-up design, but don't be fooled by its simplicity. Such stovetop espresso makers are found in every respectable Italian home where coffee connoisseurs abound.
This model makes three double-shots of smooth, incomparable, purely Italian expresso within five minutes. Entirely portable, it doesn't need electricity, just an available stove, which makes it ideal for a college student needing double-shots to make it through finals week.
With a patented safety valve to avoid build-up of steam pressure, and very simple construction, it may be the easiest to clean of all the espresso makers reviewed. The manufacturer offers a generous 2-year warranty for this simple yet elegant piece of working stovetop art.
This unique espresso and cappuccino machine offers brewers the rare option of choosing the strength of the resulting pull. As a steam-driven machine, you're really getting a forceful coffee rather than a true espresso, but even within that range you can go really, really strong, or on the lighter side of strong, depending on how far you choose to push over the sliding lever on the front of the machine. Whether you choose to brew 2 or 4 cups, you'll see a foamy top develop that's a nice approximation of a stiffer crema.
A great beginner's machine, this model works best with medium grinds and you don't have to bother with tamping the coffee. A thumb guard on the filter holder is a nice safety feature, as is the gasket atop the water boiler that's gauged to release excess pressure. The carafe is dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.
Between $100 and $200 is a price sweet spot for a certain kind of espresso maker. Steam-driven espresso makers dominate the market for under $100, but all of the machines in this category have either a 15-bar or higher pump. You're guaranteed to get a real cup of espresso from any model you buy on this list.
Many of these machines are automatic or super automatic, so you won't have to do too much tinkering before having a sip of a tasty, hot brew.
They're great machines for the beginning at-home barista who wants a real espresso and can afford better features than are available among less expensive machines but isn't ready yet to dive into the mostly higher-price-point semi-automatic or commercial super-automatic machines.
Features we love
Buy it now
Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker
Philips Saeco Poemia Espresso Machine
DeLonghi EC702 Bar-Pump Espresso Maker
-Capability to brew
Capresso EC100 Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
NO PHOTO AVAILABLE
-Removable 46 oz.
-Easy to use swivel frother
It's tough to resist the urge to grab the handle of this chic, easy-to-use, and lightweight espresso-only maker and carry it, swinging, to your friend's house: the one who doesn't have a home espresso machine.
Built with style and compact enough to fit in a very small niche on your countertop, this model is ideal if your brain doesn't kick in too quickly in the morning, yet you're the kind of caffeine junkie who wants a consistent pull of straight espresso right before heading off to catch the subway to work.
Like other models of this line, this espresso machine uses pre-packed pods in a variety of blends, most with fancy Italian names but not a lot of flavor details. Aficionados may sneer, but lots of folks prefer to pass over the trouble of packing and tamping filters in favor of the convenience of pods.
The proof is in the pudding: This model is Amazon's #1 bestseller in super-automatic espresso machines. If the ecological issues of pod waste trouble you, the manufacturer offers a pod recycling program.
This espresso maker gives off the vibe of a fancy, much more expensive machine, and not just for show.
One of its many specialty features is a cup warmer, which allows you to pull a piping espresso into an already-warmed cup so that the brew doesn't start cooling the minute it hits the china.
Another is a specialty crema filter that effortlessly ensures a strong, stiff, long-lasting golden foam atop your espresso, a hallmark of high quality that's not always found, even in the best espresso machine under $200.
The best part is that you won't pay for these specialty features with less automation or convenience. For example, if you're not one to bother with tamping down your grounds to the 30 pounds of pressure required for a maximum quality pull, no worries. The built-in pressurized portafilter will do the job for you.
Alternatively, you could use the pod adapter and pop in a commercial ESE (Easy Serving Espresso) pod in the flavor of your choice.
For the budding barista on a budget, this automatic espresso maker makes a powerful impression while displayed brightly in your kitchen. Make sure to invite a dozen friends to ooh and aahh at the sleek style and countertop footprint, which shows how much you're committed to a perfect pull.
While they're there, serve all of them a piping hot cup, pre-heated by the cup warmer base, without pausing to refill the 44 oz. removable water tank.
Though this is an automatic model, it does have one feature that'll have you looking like a star. Two separate thermostats allow you to control water and steam pressure, which provides the option for a more perfectly brewed espresso as well as a more perfectly steamed cappuccino.
You can also fill the filter with your own specialty blends and tamp the grinds yourself, or, if you're in a hurry, you can pop in an ESE pod of your favorite flavor.
If your dirty little secret reason for buying an espresso machine isn't really for the straight espresso itself, but for the specialty drinks that you require the espresso to make, don't despair. You may have noticed that budget-level espresso machines focus on features that improve the brewing process but don't always provide the five-star quality foaming and steaming features you crave. The good news is that there is an ideal entry-level machine for you.
With this espresso machine model, you can make steamy lattes and foamy cappuccinos one after another, without having to wait for the machine to cool down or reheat or be cleaned or refilled.
Nicely engineered and easy to use once you master the general technique, the swivel frother arm can be used with a frothing sleeve for cappuccinos, or you can remove the sleeve and use the arm as a steamer for lattes. If you like making large-volume specialty drinks, this model allows for both single- and double-shot pulls.
Having a half-dozen friends over for a lovely dinner? Want to serve them all a fabulous cup of espresso, cappuccino, and latte to go with desert? This espresso machine model self-primes, heats up quick, has a huge reservoir, and offers continuous steam output so you won't have the first cups of cappuccino cooling on a tray while you purge the machine in order to brew the next batch. Furthermore, if one of your guests prefers an Americano, or even (gasp!) tea, you won't have to put on a separate kettle. You just flip the model's hot-water switch, and you're ready to go.
For a beginner's automatic machine at the low end of this price point, this espresso machine offers some neat perks, including a cup warmer, an easy-swivel wand that both froths and steams, and a sixteen bar pressure pump that produces a good, strong espresso with impressive crema. It also has a nifty, hidden storage compartment to put spare sieves so they're not lost in the black-hole of the "miscellaneous" kitchen draw.
While most espresso machines under $100 are basic steam-driven models, and the available espresso machines under $200 offer a real step up in pump pressure and features, those under $300 tend to be outliers on the opposite ends of the spectrum, from super-duper-automation to hands-on manual lever machines, often with highly artistic and arresting designs.
So whether you're on a quest for a machine you can use with your eyes closed in the woozy hours of the morning, or you prefer to take time to personalize pump pressure and technique, water temperature, and tamping force, you'll find an espresso machine for you in this price category, often with a design flair.
Here is a look at our favorite machines and some of their most outstanding features.
Features we love
Buy it now
UniTerra Nomad Espresso Machine
-Interactive pressure control
Nespresso CitiZ Espresso Maker With Aeroccino Plus Frother
-Easy to insert and remove capsules
Francis Francis X7.1 Iperespresso Machine
-Convenient auto-stop feature
-Single-touch hot milk system
ROK ROKMAKERCOP Presso Manual Espresso Maker
-No electricity needed to operate
Francis Francis for Illy 60068 Y5 Duo Espresso & Coffee Machine, Black
-Allows you to choose between coffee and espresso
If the rich, crema-thick espresso that comes out of this tiny, portable machine doesn't wake you up in the morning, the blinding, fluorescent green housing certainly will.
As a new millennium version of the classic lever espresso machine, this ecologically-conscious model requires no electricity, no battery, and no source of power greater than what you can provide with your own hands. Yet you don't need to be a muscle-bound gym rat to pull a beautiful shot. All you have to do is manipulate the lever with a seesaw motion to activate inner piston water pumps. Pressure builds until the unit reaches the 8 to 10 bars indicated on the pressure gauge for the best crema.
Skeptics might note that most pump-driven machines use 15 to 19 bars of pressure to pull a great espresso. The manufacturer of this Kickstarter-launched machine compensates for the lesser bar pressure with a special "True Crema" valve, which removes the guesswork and experimentation that comes with choosing the fineness of the grind or the pressure of the tamping in order to deliver a great shot every time.
Weighing less than three pounds and small enough to fit in a tote bag, true espresso junkies can carry it wherever they go.
If you crave a strong, consistent shot of espresso but don't have the time to pre-heat a machine or the inclination to fuss with filters and tamping, this may be the best automatic espresso machine under $300 for you.
With 19 bars of pump pressure and a boiler that goes from cool to piping hot in less than half a minute, you'll have a perfect shot in your hands long before your toast pops up.
If you run out of the house for a meeting before shutting it off, no worries. This model automatically shuts off after less than 10 minutes of inactivity.
Similar models from this manufacturer are available a lower price points, but this model comes packed with a separate jug that heats and froths your milk with the press of a button. You can add a latte or a cappuccino to your busy workday mornings without having to climb the steep learning curve involved in mastering the use of steaming arms and frothing sleeves.
Want to make a true style statement in your kitchen? Check out this high couture version of an espresso machine that's sure to be a conversation-starter whenever you entertain.
The brainchild of Luca Trazzi, a renowned Italian architect, this model benefits from the artistic expertise of a man whose career spans from building a city center in Kuala Lumpur to designing lighting furniture, watches, and espresso machines.
Unlike most other espresso machines that use an automatic single-pressure-pull system, this model boasts a patented two-stage process for pulling the best taste out of its exclusive pods.
Once your espresso is brewed, you can switch to the steaming mode and wait less than a few minutes for equilibration to the new temperature. Switching back and forth between modes is simple, allowing you to accommodate your guest's individual requests for Americanos, lattes, and cappuccinos, one after the other, while chatting about the model's 1950's-inspired design.
There are many kinds of coffee lovers in the world. Some are satisfied with a regular cup of filter-brewed joe, while others prefer specialty blends. Some won't be satisfied with their daily espresso until there's a quarter-inch of golden crema on top, stiff enough to stand firm under a rain of sugar crystals. Others want a strong, syrupy espresso, but only so that it can be combined with steamed milk or a froth so fabulous that the first, second, and third sip leaves a foamy mustache on their upper lip. Some want to fiddle and fuss with brewing options, while others want the elixir to appear as quickly as possible.
This fully automated espresso machine model frees you from filling filters, tamping grounds, cleaning out those grounds, and learning the messy intricacies of self-steaming and frothing milk. It heats up in less than a minute and offers programming options to adjust the quantity of milk and espresso you prefer, so you can brew your perfect espresso or specialty drink every time. With nearly 600 on Amazon and a 4.5-star rating, it clearly makes the grade.
No list of the best espresso machines under $300 can omit this durable copper, manual lever model that GQ included on its list of "Best Stuff" of 2012.
Perfect for travel in the tin in which it comes, this model uses no electricity except for what might be needed to heat the water and warm the milk. Tuck the tin in your backpack before going camping, and heat the liquids over an open fire. Give this model as a gift to your graduate student who has gourmet coffee tastes but bargain-bin pockets.
Aficionados of home-pulled espresso will love being able to control every aspect of the espresso brewing. No pre-tamped pods for this model! The thickness of the crema and the acid and bitterness of the pull relies wholly on your expertise.
You fill the portafilter with the blend and grind of your choosing, do your own tamping, and add water heated to the perfect temperature. You get to pull the shot, pausing and pressing twice to maximize the soak and the extraction. The package even comes with a hand-frother for making specialty drinks.
Some days you may be in the mood for a smooth cup of joe. Other days, you may need your brain lit up with a super-strong shot of pure espresso.
Maybe you'd prefer to have two separate machines to do each job, or maybe you'd like to take a gander at this unique model, which allows you to switch between brewing espresso or regular coffee with the touch of a button without cluttering up your counter with multiple appliances.
Launched in 2015 with an Italian design, this dual espresso and regular coffee machine uses two different kinds of pre-packed pods to ensure that the espresso is rich and creamy and the coffee is as bold or smooth as you choose.
It's fully automatic and easy to clean as the pods are automatically ejected into a storage compartment that can hold ten pods before it needs to be emptied. Left alone for thirty minutes, the energy saving mode kicks in. For the environmentally-minded, there's a pod recycling program to reduce waste.
If you're looking for the best espresso machine under $500, you've come to the right place. This is the ideal price point for the serious home-brewing espresso lover, whether you're looking for a super-automatic machine that'll get the job done fast, a perfect latte or cappuccino maker, or a semi-automatic machine that gives you the option to play with the vital elements that control the quality of the brew.
Durability and quality are the fundamental selling points for espresso machines in this category. The biggest complaint that comes from reviewers of more affordable machines is the lifespan of the units. Pump-driven machines require 15 to 19 bars of pressure, which puts a lot of force on plastic or low-cost parts.
And whether you're dealing with steam-driven machines or pump-driven ones with steam settings, the machine is exposed to extended high water temperatures. Steam penetrates every fissure and crack and metal does expand under high heat. Over time, high temps can take a toll on gaskets, carafes, the handle of the portafilter, and aluminum boilers.
All the units reviewed are pump-driven at sufficiently high bar levels to extract a great shot. They all include a steam arm for frothing and heating milk, though some have automatic systems. Several have cup warmers, though most users shrug at this feature since it often takes 20-30 minutes for mugs to be warmed sufficiently to make it a worthy perk. The classic models have temperature and pumping automation but rely on your expertise in choosing the right beans, roast, grind level, and tamping. They all require regular descaling. Others take advantage of pre-packaged pods for increased simplicity and ease of cleaning.
Features we love
Buy it now
Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine Brushed Stainless Steel
-Brews two cups at once
Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine
-Built in grinder
Breville 800ESXL 15-Bar Triple-Priming Die-Cast Espresso Machine
-75 oz. water tank
De'Longhi EN550BK1 Lattissima Touch Nespresso Single Serve Espresso Maker
-Features patented espresso extraction system
De'Longhi America EN750MB Nespresso Lattissima Pro Machine
-Auto cleaning milk carafe
If you're looking for a solid, easy-to-use, automatic espresso maker that's going to heat up fast, pull amazing shots, and work for years to come, check out this classic model.
Mimicking the durability and engineering of a commercial-grade unit, this much less expensive home machine is housed in stainless steel and has a chrome-plated brass portafilter.
Its 17 1/2-bar pump has a pressure regulator to push water through tamped grinds or ESE pods at the perfect pressure.
When it comes to daily usage, the model manages to combine convenience with automatic features tuned to hit all the right espresso brewing techniques. Engineered with two heating units on the boiler, the water reaches about 190 degrees within five minutes of powering up. Steam is available within 20 seconds.
After brewing, the three-way solenoid valve releases pressure, allowing you to remove the portafilter, tamp out the grounds, and quickly prepare a new shot. The valve also reduces the sputtering and leaking that many users complain about in less expensive machines.
This compact, counter-top espresso machine may be the best home espresso machine under $500 for folks looking for an easy-to-use, super-automatic model to provide an excellent caffeine fix as quickly as possible.
This model is engineered to heat up within 1 minute and provide steam within 9 seconds. If you've got a train to catch in the morning but need your high-quality morning shot, you can avoid the fuss of grinding, filling the portafilter, and tamping. All you'll have to do is press a button and you're good to go.
The biggest advantage of this super-automatic machine is that you don't exchange convenience for quality.
First, the brewing cycle begins with the infusion of the grounds, to make sure they are fully soaked before the high-pressure pull. Second, you're not restricted to using store-bought pods, which are often a feature of lower-cost super-automatic espresso machines. With this model, you can use store-bought grinds or choose your favorite gourmet beans.
Integrated into the design of this machine is a top-level ceramic burr grinder with five grinding settings, saving you the expense of buying a separate grinder.
If you're intent on making a serious impression as an espresso connoisseur, you're not going to buy a machine with flimsy construction or cracking plastic parts. Instead, plant this die-cast model with classic Italian design in your kitchen. After sipping the hot, crema-rich espresso that you home-brewed, your friends, family, and dinner guests will be duly impressed, even if all the effort you made was packing the portafilter and pressing a single button.
Though this machine lacks the one- or two-shot brewing option as well as programmable features for volume control, it trades bells and whistles for an attention to brewing quality and simplicity of use.
Its Triple Prime Pump feature is engineered for maximum flavor extraction, soaking the grinds before a pull. It's also got some neat design features, including a large water reservoir that can be pulled out from the front, and a special accessory tray for storage behind the drip tray.
No collection of reviews for the best espresso machine under $500 would be complete without a tip of the hat to those who want espresso not purely for the crema, but rather for the frothy delights of the latte, cappuccino, or macchiato.
Although espresso machines at this price point almost always have a swiveling steam arm that can both steam and froth for making milky espresso confections, few include steaming and frothing as a super-automatic feature.
This sleek model saves you space on the counter and time from your busy schedule. It takes less than thirty seconds for this machine to heat up. Brewing up your favorite drink is a matter of dropping in a pod, filling the water and milk receptacle, and choosing one of the six options: espresso, a short-shot ristretto, a long-shot lungo, cappuccino, latte macchiato, or hot milk.
The 19-bar pump pushes with sufficient pressure engineered to get the best flavor. When your drink is done, you can enjoy it and not worry about cleaning out the portafilter.
Built by the same quality manufacturer as the previous espresso machine that specializes in super-automatic milky confections, this pro model sports a high tech, touch-screen design and a sturdier stainless-steel housing. It's the upgraded version of an earlier model which, in 2013, was the best-selling espresso machine in North America.
With a larger milk container, water reservoir, and spent-pod reservoir, this model is geared toward the convenience of more frequent use. You can serve a small dinner party without having to stop to refill liquids or dump pods.
Six settings offer up an instant ristretto, espresso, lungo, latte, cappuccino, and hot milk, but this pro model adds a hot water option for tea or to add to an espresso for an americana. It also offers programmable volume options, if you prefer a weaker lungo or a milkier cappuccino.
Espresso lovers who drink a cup or more every day should consider purchasing one of these sturdier, long-lasting models under $500.
If you're not a daily user, are on a tight budget, or are just starting your exploration into the various brewing techniques, you may want to look for your perfect unit among the other reviews for the best machines under $100, $200, and $300.
We hope that you enjoyed this major coffee adventure with us, that you learned a lot and, most importantly, that you found the best espresso maker for you!
It was 3 a.m. at a roadside diner when Jack Riordan took his first sip of coffee, a bottom-of-the-carafe brew he swigged black, without sugar. At the time, he was a junior in high school trying to impress a college girl. He has long forgotten the girl, but not the coffee. He currently lives in Seattle where the rain always smells like roasted beans.