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For many people, nothing signals the start of a new day like the smell of coffee. But why stop at a simple cup? As your need and appreciation for this staple beverage grows, you may expand your palate to explore lattes, cappuccinos, iced coffee, and other barista-curated concoctions.
However, these ‘fancier’ coffee drinks often cost more at a shop, and for most of us, spending upwards of $6 per day on one beverage isn’t exactly budget-friendly. The good news is you can recreate some of the same magic at home with an espresso machine. Not only are most consumer tabletop appliances easy-to-use, but most are eye-catching and take up little counter space.
Here, we tested eight espresso machines to determine the top selections for beginners, experts, aspiring latte artists, and ones where you just push a button and enjoy your coffee. There’s truly something for every family and budget.
What to look for in an espresso machine
If you invest the time, energy, and money into a new espresso machine, it’s important to ensure it not only produces a great beverage but fits your lifestyle and drink-making goals. We spoke with James Pergola, a coffee ambassador at Nestlé Nespresso USA, on what to consider when buying an espresso machine:
Size and space
For some, kitchen counter space is abundant; for others, a well-appointed nook is a perfectly cozy place to showcase their love of all things coffee. So, in the end, Pergola says you’ll want a machine that can fit comfortably in your planned space.
Whether you’re a beginner or looking for something more advanced, it’s important to do research and find the system that works for you. Pergola says there are several one-touch machines on the market that make simple work of brewing coffee at home. There are also more complex machines for the more advanced at-home baristas.
Another consideration when deciding on an espresso machine is what type of drink you plan to make with it. Are you an espresso purist? Or do you prefer espresso but enjoy a large cup of coffee, a latte or a cappuccino occasionally? Pergola says some machines make both espresso, coffee and milk-based beverages.
Our top picks for the best espresso machines
Best espresso machine for beginners: L'OR Barista
Part of the fun of staying in a hotel isn’t just the super-lush sheets or the fact you don’t have to make your own bed. It’s also waking up, making an espresso drink, and crawling right back under the covers. While you probably still have to show up for work, you can at least recreate this treat at home with the L’OR Barista machine. It’s a high-pressure, at-home artisan coffee and espresso system that results in that foamy layer at the top, good from the first to last sip.
We picked it as the best espresso machine for beginners since it feels luxurious without being overly complicated. Set-up for this espresso machine was super easy and took less than five minutes: Insert the capsule capture tray and overflow tray, fill the water tank, plug it in and go.
The heating time is only 25 seconds, so you don’t have to have too much patience in those wee morning hours. We found the machine slim and long without taking up too much precious countertop space. Even with the small design, it feels heavy-duty and well-constructed.
When it’s time to brew, you can choose from six different beverage sizes, from a simple shot of espresso to a mug full of coffee. Though this is a nice feature, we found figuring out the right selection for the beverage we wanted was a little confusing. Even on the biggest setting, it won’t fill an overflowing, large coffee if that’s your style. It became easier once we read the instructions and tried it a few times. We could make several drinks over a span of days without having to refill the water tank—definitely a plus for ongoing maintenance.
A downfall of the L’OR espresso machine is that you do have to use their coffee pods specifically. This should be a consideration if you aren’t a fan of their flavors. They have a wide selection, and we found we liked some more than others.
- Heats up quickly
- Quiet machine
- Can adjust beverage size
- Must use L’OR or Nespresso Original pods
- Makes small cups
- Type: Capsule
- Dimensions: 16 inches (depth) x 7 inches (width) x 11 inches (height)
- Water tank capacity: 40 ounces
- Grind settings: None
- Warranty: Two-year limited warranty
- Price: $189.00
Best capsule espresso machine: Nespresso Lattissima Pro
Some hardcore coffee drinkers take their coffee as it is—no milk, sugar, or syrups. Others appreciate a solid latte with the perfect balance of soft foam. The Nespresso Lattissima Pro can make your early morning dreams come true if you fall into the latter category. It’s our top pick for a capsule machine, which Nespresso has long been known for in the espresso category.
If you’re worried about complicated set-up instructions, the machine comes together easily: The water tank is attached and the milk container is connected. Any questions were quickly cleared up in the machine manual. All in all, it took us maybe three minutes to unbox and set up. The machine is slim, taking up less than a square foot of counter space, not to mention that it’s sleek and can serve as a statement piece in a kitchen.
Following this simple setup, we did need to consult the manual for the first beverage or two to understand what the symbols on the display meant (i.e. buttons for espresso, cappuccino, latte, etc.) The only thing that could have been clearer was how to program the amount of espresso and milk you need for each beverage type. Though the manual recommends the default balance, you can adjust it to fit your specific palette. Once we looked it up, we found it in ‘Settings,’ and the machine walked us through it from there. The display is really helpful once you figure it out.
For latte lovers, the automatic milk frother is a big benefit of Nespresso. Even if you aren’t exactly into this type of beverage, you can use it for hot chocolate or pour some foamed milk on top of your normal cup of Joe for an elevated experience. Also, the milk container can detach and be saved in the fridge, making it super easy to keep milk ready so you can just attach and go whenever you're ready for a latte or cappuccino.
For us, the biggest con is the descaling and maintenance that this machine requires. Nespresso recommends taking the pieces apart—especially of the milk container/set-up—and soaking them in, “warm, soapy water for 45 minutes every other day or every day depending on usage.” For busy households, this may be more work than a typical coffee maker, but for the espresso experience, it could be a worthwhile reminder to add to your calendar.
We also really appreciate that Nespresso has come a long way with eco-friendliness, since they now use recycled aluminum to make their pods and offer a recycling program for them, too. However, you must use their pods with this machine (hence why we selected it for the best pod system). If you aren’t a pod coffee person, it’s not the right fit for your needs.
- Easy to use and set up
- Hot water setting can be used for tea as well
- Includes automatic milk frother
- Requires regular descaling
- Must use Nespresso pods
- Type: Capsule
- Dimensions: 7.6 inches (width) x 13 inches (depth) x 10.8 inches (height)
- Water tank capacity: 43 ounces
- Grind settings: None
- Warranty: Two-year warranty
- Price: $649
Nespresso Lattissima Pro
Best compact espresso machine: Hamilton Beach Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
During the week, you’re a cup-of-coffee type of person. But on the weekends, you like to indulge in a latte or another crafted beverage. The Hamilton Beach espresso maker fits the bill for an approachable machine that’s affordable, compact and easy to use.
Once you remove the machine from the box, you wash all parts in warm, soapy water. This is the easy part, compared to the next step of priming the pump. To do this, you fill the water tank to the max line with cold water, turn it on and wait for the light to come on. Then, you place an empty container under the frothing nozzle and turn the steam control to steam. Press the pump button and wait for the button to light up again. Lastly, you’ll push the pump button again to turn the frothing nozzle off. This process, while seemingly straightforward, was time-consuming and slow, taking a solid half-hour to be ready to use the machine.
From here, though, it all became much easier. We found making different cups of coffee and lattes simple, resulting in a rich, delicious brewed beverage. While it takes some trial and error to figure out the right milk balance, it’s a fun experiment for those who love java. A bonus of this machine is that it has two brew head spouts, so you can brew two cups at once—ideal for couples or busy households who want to move beyond the pot of coffee. With a sizable removable water reservoir, you don’t need to top off too often.
Some drawbacks to consider are the noise level and maintenance of this machine. It’s not a quiet process, and while making your beverages easy, there is a bit of clean-up after each use and none of the parts are dishwasher safe. Also: compared to others we tested, the brewing process was the longest, so patience will be key here.
- Large water tank
- Easy to use
- Compact size
- Noisy machine
- Plastic material
- Brewing can take a long time
- Type: Automatic
- Dimensions: 8.20 inches depth x 12.31 inches width x 13.00 inches height
- Water tank capacity: 40 ounces
- Grind settings: Works with soft pods or grounds
- Warranty: 1 year
- Price: $100
Espresso and Cappuccino Maker (40715)
Best professional espresso machine: The Breville Barista Touch Impress
Roll up your sleeves, put on your apron and begin your barista training with this at-home, professional espresso machine. The appropriately named Barista Touch Impress from Breville is just that: A machine that helps you improve and expand your skills from the comfort of your kitchen.
Though the machine has a wide variety of settings and functions, the set-up was easy and intuitive and didn’t require special tools or complicated assembly. We specifically appreciated the instruction manual that included helpful advice, images, and descriptions, and recommended videos produced by Breville. Beyond set-up, Breville also offers a series of videos for every feature, including cleaning, adjusting the brew setting, and more. Overall, it took us about 20 minutes.
Using the automated settings was great, but we did need to test it out many times to find the right grind size for the beans to provide the correct pressure and brew (again, Breville’s online videos were helpful). To be expected, milk frothing was the biggest learning curve (since, hey, making espresso is pretty straightforward) and we had to practice a handful of times to best use the wand and get the milk temperature just right for foam.
We recommend this professional espresso machine for anyone that is looking to take the next step without having to do every part of the process manually. The automatic dosing and tamping make the brew consistent and very user-friendly, while the manual settings allow you to use the machine more like a traditional espresso machine, with complete control over the brewing process.
Some consideration to note is the size, since it’s definitely the largest on our list. This means it will take up quite a bit of room on your countertops. Also, all the pieces are hand-wash only and need to be rinsed after each use.
- User-friendly digital screen guides you through the process
- Heats up very fast
- Many options for drink settings and using different kinds of milk
- All pieces and attachments are hand-wash only
- The learning curve to understanding how to use it
- Type: Automatic
- Dimensions: 16.4 inches (width) x 14.1 inches (depth, including tamping handle) / 13.1 inches (depth, main body) x 13.5 inches (height)
- Water tank capacity: 67.6 ounces
- Grind settings: 30 grind settings and has a built in Baratza? European Precision Burrs conical burr grinder
- Warranty: Two-year Limited Product Warranty
- Price: $1,499.95
The Breville Barista Touch Impress
Best fully automatic espresso machine: JURA E6 Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
As an avid coffee drinker, you’re ready to dabble into the world of espresso machines, but you don’t want any of the manual labor required. This fully-automatic espresso machine from JURA is the best solution to meet your needs, and it looks great on your countertop.
The setup process was pretty easy, with a clear step-by-step instruction manual. As you go through each step, the display screen shows exactly what you’re doing, so you can ensure you’re performing the right task. There are a few parts you need to connect to the machine, but not an overwhelming amount. Once everything is assembled, it goes through a few cleaning cycles and is ready to use. Honestly, since the espresso machine is a tad heavy, the hardest part was getting out of the box. All in, it took us 25 to 30 minutes to complete.
When you’re ready to start brewing, you can select from a variety of different beverages. On the screen, you can choose the strength and size of your beverage, along with other intuitive options. Another bonus is the ability to change the temperature of the water, which is helpful if you’re someone who doesn’t like to wait for your coffee to cool before taking the first sip. We found the ‘normal’ setting blazing hot and switched it to ‘low’ for the just-right, drink-right-away temperature.
After we used the machine a few times, we became faster and more confident with different drink types. The taste was great with all, but our favorite was the cappuccino, which came out foamy and delicious. If you like more or less milk, you can adjust it, and if you like more or less foam, you can change that, too.
You can personalize almost everything about your drink with this model, in fact, saving presets so you don’t have to go through the whole selection process every time. While it is fully automatic, you can choose from fine to coarse grind settings to find the right fit for your preferences.
One thing to note: The machine is pretty loud but it’s fast, so you don’t have to worry about waking up your whole household.
The JURA is a worthwhile investment for those who enjoy making various drinks and experimenting with all the options offered. But maybe not if you typically just make a good ol’ fashioned cup of Joe.
- Long lasting machine
- Easy to use
- Simple to maintain
- Loud machine
- More expensive than others
- Type: Automatic
- Dimensions: 11 inches (width) × 13.8 inches (height) × 17.6 inches (depth)
- Water tank capacity: 64 ounces
- Grind settings: Adjustable from fine to coarse
- Warranty: 2-year limited
- Price: $1,699
JURA E6 Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
Best espresso machine with touchscreen: Capresso Caf TS Touchscreen Espresso Machine
Maybe you’ve been using a pod machine for a while, you love the taste, but now, you’re ready to upgrade your skills. Yet, you’re still somewhat of a newbie and aren’t ready to invest in an expensive espresso machine. This option from Capresso is a happy medium with a clear and easy-to-use touchscreen, allowing you to craft cappuccinos, lattes, espresso, and more.
Overall, the setup was straightforward: The machine and parts were nicely packaged, and not much was required as far as installation. While it was fairly easy to figure out, and we were able to set up the machine in less than five minutes, the instructions were lengthy and not necessarily linear. The details were helpful, but we would have liked a quick set-up guide to streamline the process.
We appreciated the built-in steam wand that makes flavorful, frothy, and delicious milk-based beverages. The touchscreen is also illuminated, making it easier to turn on and off, even when you’re still waking up in the morning. Like other machines on our list, you can adjust beverage type and size based on your preference.
The most challenging part was placing the portafilter, since the machine is quite light and the portafilter requires a bit of strength to tighten properly. After testing it out a few times, it became easier, but it requires more hands-on experience. With this in mind, we recommend this machine to someone who enjoys crafting an authentic espresso in the morning and has some prior experience with portafilters. However, it might not be the best fit for a newbie (or an overextended parent) who doesn’t have time to spare in the mornings.
- User-friendly touchscreen
- Can adjust beverage size
- Flavorful coffee
- Small frothing wand
- The instruction manual has missing information; this can make set-up and learning how to use the machine difficult
- Takes practice to create the right beverage
- Type: Pump
- Dimensions: 11.75 inches (height) x 8 inches (width) x 10.5 inches (depth)
- Water tank capacity: 50 ounces
- Grind settings: None
- Warranty: 1-year limited warranty for household use
- Price: $199.99
Capresso Caf TS Touchscreen Espresso Machine
Best multipurpose espresso machine: Philips 3200 Series LatteGo with Iced Coffee
We all have those mornings when the alarm blares, and we wish we could snap our fingers to summon a coffee fairy that brings us a strong mug of java. While this machine doesn’t deliver to your bedside, the Philips LatteGo does pretty much everything else. The intuitive touchscreen helps you craft lattes, cappuccinos, iced coffees, and other beverages, all catered to your unique preferences.
There are a few steps to set up the machine, including installing the water filter and rinsing off parts. The provided instructions were involved but not too hard to follow, and it took us around 30 minutes to be ready to brew. Once we were good to go, the machine heated up in less than a minute, so it didn’t require much waiting time.
Now, onto the best part: Testing out coffee drinks. You can decide between coffee size, bean strength, grind setting (12 of them!), foam level, and much more by pressing a few buttons. We tested different options, including a small and large cup of coffee, a shot of espresso at various strength levels, and even lattes. The attached frother does require quite a learning curve to create the best latte, but over a few days, we started to get the hang of it. The ‘hot water’ button is a nice feature for tea drinkers, since you don’t have to heat up an entire kettle.
For maintenance, the Philips LatteGo is reasonably straightforward, but it is a daily chore. You have to empty the discard tray of grinds and refill the water tank every day if more than one person uses the machine. We like that you can pull out the discard tray, easily dump the grinds into your compost bin, and spray it down, though. Another consideration is the noise level: It’s a bit on the louder side if you have a sleeping baby (or partner) in the next room within earshot.
The options for drinks and the sleek look of the machine make it feel futuristic and cool, even if it does take up a larger piece of real estate in your kitchen. It’s a good-looking machine—something you like having on your counter and having guests comment on—and it’s easy to use once you practice.
- Easy to use and clean
- Brews quickly
- Can make several different kinds of beverages
- Drip tray needs to be emptied often
- Noisy machine
- Type: Automatic
- Dimensions: 9.75 inches (width) x 17 inches (depth) x 14.75 inches (height)
- Water tank capacity: 1.8 liters
- Grind settings: Ceramic grinders with 12 adjustment settings
- Warranty: 24 months
- Price: $799.99
Philips 3200 Series LatteGo with Iced Coffee
Best single-serve espresso machine: Illy Y3.3 Single Serve Espresso and Coffee Capsule Machine
One sip from this single-serve Illy espresso machine and you’ll be transported back to your Italian vacation, sitting at a cafe, sipping away. Budget- and user-friendly, we love the ease and rich flavor this capsule espresso machine offers.
Set up was fast and easy, with a helpful instruction manual featuring graphics. We liked being able to follow along step-by-step, giving us the confidence we were assembling correctly, taking about 15 minutes from start to finish. The slim and sleek machine mimics the modern Italian aesthetic, with clean and minimalist lines, and doesn’t take up a significant portion of your counter space. You can choose from black, red, white or blue.
Much like those creamy, frothy espresso shots you had in Italy, this capsule machine creates a perfect espresso each time, with your choice of single or double shots. Keep in mind that, unlike others on our list, this machine only does espresso—no milk frothing, no lattes, nothing fancy. However, it’s ideal for those who crave a full-bodied espresso or like to make an iced americano at home. You can only use Illy pods, but they do have a vast selection, from light to dark roasts.
One word of caution: While we didn’t experience this in our short testing period, some users say the machine can leak or malfunction over a long period of use, and the brand only offers a 30-day warranty.
- Easy to use
- Modern design
- Easy to clean
- Made of plastic
- There can be issues with leaking
- Machine can malfunction
- Type: Capsule
- Dimensions: 10.3 inches (depth) x 12.2 inches (width) x 3.9 inches (height)
- Water tank capacity: 25.4 oz
- Grind settings: None
- Warranty: 30-day satisfaction guarantee
- Price: $149
Illy Y3.3 Single Serve Espresso and Coffee Capsule Machine
How we selected the best espresso machines
We researched some of the most top-rated home espresso machines and compared factors like ease of use, maintenance, the learning curve involved in using the machine, price, ease of setup, capacity, and brewing capabilities. (We also consulted with coffee experts to arrive at the factors for which we compared models.) We zeroed in on models that stood out in each category and put them to the test at home, making dozens of espresso drinks with friends. The best espresso machines that scored highly in our taste tests and all other real-life factors made our list.
How to use an espresso machine
You may know what a shot of espresso is and how it takes your coffee to different strength levels, but do you know how a machine functions? According to Matthew Davis, the US product and coffee expert for Breville, the only inherent difference between drip coffee and espresso is the application of pressure. He outlines how it usually works at your local cafe:
- Generally speaking, the barista will take what’s called a portafilter and grind coffee into the basket of the portafilter. The coffee will be finely ground to ensure the water doesn’t flow too quickly.
- Then, the coffee needs to be compacted or tamped to remove any air pockets and, again, encourage the water to pass through the coffee as evenly as possible.
- The portafilter is placed into the group head after the coffee is prepared. This is where a shower of water is released onto the ground coffee, but also where the magic of espresso takes place.
- A pump forces the water at around nine bars of atmospheric pressure through the coffee. This is what creates that luscious foam on top of espresso, called crema. Getting the water to flow through the coffee within the right amount of time is the key to a great shot of espresso.
Most at-home machines automatically complete this process, giving you a professional taste without the elbow grease or expertise.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What is the best espresso machine for at-home use?
What’s the best espresso machine of them all? All baristas and coffee aficionados will have their own opinions. Because of that, there’s no single right answer, since it depends on your lifestyle, goals, and preferences. To help you navigate the buying process, Davis reminds shoppers that coffee should be fun!
“Don’t sweat the inherent frustration that comes with playing with coffee. It takes some time, so try to enjoy the journey,” he says. “Ask questions and just know that no matter where you are, a local barista wants to chat for hours about your experience. Trust the process and never waste a shot of espresso. Taste the bad ones and learn about your palate. Celebrate your preference, but keep an open mind. There are thousands of coffees out there waiting to be tasted.”
How do you clean an espresso machine?
Just like any other home appliance, cleaning your espresso machine is an essential part of its lifecycle and, as such, should be a critical part of your coffee routine, Pergola says.
This is because, over time, water used during brewing may cause internal mineral and limescale buildup—the severity of which depends on the hardness of your water—which can affect the flow rate, water temperature and overall performance of your machine, he explains.
How often you should clean or descale it usually depends on the type of machine you have and how frequently you use it. Espresso machines should be emptied and rinsed daily, while the deeper clean should happen once every few months for most brands, and often, warm, soapy water is the best tactic.
“Though vinegar and other acids, like lemon juice, may be great general household remedies, they are not a catch-all solution for cleaning an espresso or coffee machine and, in fact, may do more harm than good,” Pergola says. “As always, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s recommended process for maintenance. They may often recommend a specific descaling solution or even offer their own branded option.”
How do you maintain an espresso machine?
A good rule to remember is that you get out of your machine what you put into it, and an ideal cup of espresso is a direct product of how well your machine operates, Pergola says. Here’s how to maintain your machine and extend its life:
- Take good care of your machine on the outside. Generally, it’s okay to wipe the machine’s hard surfaces with a warm, damp, and soapy cloth, then rinse and dry. Don’t forget about the spare or detachable parts like the drip tray, capsule bin, and water tanks: Clean those regularly with warm, mild soapy water or place them into your dishwasher if permitted, Pergola says.
- Take care of your machine on the inside. Maintaining the cleanliness of your machine's internal, unseen parts is key! This is, after all, where the water and coffee run through. As mentioned, following the instructions for how to clean your machine and when to descale, according to the included manual, is best.
- Take care of your machine’s milk-related parts. Another important tip is the maintenance of any steam wand, jug or milk frother. It is key to properly clean any milk from your devices immediately after use to avoid the build-up of any bacteria. Again, you may even be able to place detachable parts in the dishwasher to clean and sanitize.
When should I replace an espresso machine?
Pergola says there are a few things to watch out for when it comes to replacing or troubleshooting your machine. With each of these, contact the brand to troubleshoot, replace a part or otherwise find a solution:
- If your machine has puddles or water dripping when it didn’t prior
- If there is a burnt or “off” taste to your espresso
- If it is running slower than usual
Apart from functionality, you may also decide the right time to replace is when looking to upgrade. “If you’ve enjoyed automation for years and find yourself searching for more control and engagement, then maybe it's time to explore the world of manual espresso,” Davis adds.
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