Whether you want an espresso machine at home just for fun, convenience, or because your daily espresso habit at the local coffee shop is adding up, this guide is for you. Espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely ground beans under pressure. Each shot has three layers: the body, heart, and crema. You can enjoy it on its own, with milk in the form of a latte or cappuccino, or with hot water as an Americano. Espresso machines can be automatic, semi-automatic, or manual. A manual machine gives you total control over the entire brewing process, however they can be more difficult to master and could potentially result in ruining your espresso if you don't know what you're doing. In using an automatic espresso machine, with the touch of a button, the correct amount of water is pushed through the coffee grounds, and the machine stops on its own. Semi-automatic espresso machines find a nice middle ground and tend to be popular among home espresso machine users.
Espresso machine prices can range from budget-friendly at under $100 to several thousand dollars. They may have a single boiler or a dual boiler, which allows for the capability of both brewing and steaming. You want a machine that can produce a quality drink, is durable, and preferably with a good warranty as well. Keep in mind that you will also need to buy tampers, grinders, and a steam pitcher (if you want to froth milk) to make your perfect espresso at home.
Our Winner: Breville BES840XL Infuser Espresso Machine
The Breville BES840XL Infuser is a semi-automatic espresso machine with low pressure pre-infusion and programmable shot volume. It measures 12.5 inches by 12.5 inches by 13.25 inches. The espresso pressure gauge monitors espresso extraction pressure. It has a 61-fluid ounce removable water tank with replaceable water filter. The tank is removable so you can take it to the sink to fill up. You can choose from the preset 1 and 2 cup volumes, as well as manually override or re-program the shot volumes. Excess water is removed from the ground coffee creating a dry puck for easy disposal. When a cleaning cycle is required, the Clean Me light will come on. The espresso machine was easy enough to use. There is a cup warmer on top of the machine. The machine overall was pretty easy to use, though of course there can be a learning curve with steaming the milk to perfection. You can choose to add a 3- or 4-year protection plan when purchasing from Amazon.
Runner-Up: Mr. Coffee ECM1000 Café Espresso/Cappuccino System
The Mr. Coffee ECM1000 Café Espresso/Cappuccino System is a budget-friendly choice for someone who can afford a little more than the De'Longhi EC155. It scored highly more for its budget-friendly price and ease of use than for creating the highest quality beverages. If you are an espresso connoisseur, this may not be the machine for you. This machine measures 12.6 inches by 8.86 inches by 11.22 inches. This espresso machine aims for a simple user experience. The water reservoir is removable. The control panel is easy to figure out for brewing espresso and frothing milk just the way you like. There are buttons for espresso, cappuccino, and latte. Long presses can initiate custom brewing, manual frothing, or cleaning. It has a one-year warranty, and you can add a 3- or 4-year protection plan on Amazon.
If money is not so much of a restriction, we recommend that you consider the Breville BES920XL Dual Boiler Espresso Machine. This machine is on the bigger side, measuring 16.25 inches by 15 inches by 15 inches. Like the lower cost Breville we reviewed, this one has a pre-infusion function that gradually increases the pressure during the extraction process. The water tank is capable of holding 84 ounces. YIt has a backlit LCD display that shows current settings. The stainless-steel wand can swivel in 360 degrees, and it has a 3-hole tip to create silky frothed milk. The shot clock indicates the duration of the espresso shot that is being pulled. The espresso it produced was considered excellent by our tasters. "Clean Me" will display on the screen when a cleaning cycle is required. Once this cycle starts, it will count down 370 seconds until it completes. You can choose to add a 4- or 5-year protection plan when purchasing on Amazon.
Classic Choice: Gaggia Classic Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker
The Gaggia Classic Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker is a little more affordable than the Breville BES840XL Infuser. It measures 9.5 inches by 9 inches by 14.2 inches. As its name suggests, this a classic machine that has been very popular over the years. It has a 72-ounce water reservoir that you can remove to make filling it simple. It does not offer a taller clearance for large mugs, instead working best with small espresso cups. We found the coffee itself to be good, but it did not have the best steam wand as compared to other espresso machines. As with other machines, it works best with beans that have been ground finely, and you get the best flavor when grinding just before usage. You can choose to add a 2-year warranty when buying on Amazon.
Great Choice: De'Longhi EC155 15 Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
The De'Longhi EC155 15 Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker can be used with both pods or ground coffee thanks to its dual function filter holder. The filter holder is also capable of holding two shots when using ground coffee instead of a pod. This machine measures 7.5 inches by 9.5 inches by 11.12 inches, making it relatively small as compared to other espresso machines. It has a 35-ounce removable water tank for easy cleaning and filling. If you are just getting into making espresso at home and don't want to invest in something more expensive, this is a good starter machine, however the espresso quality doesn't match that of higher class espresso makers. You should descale with citric acid about every 200 coffees. You can choose to add a 2- or 4- year protection plan when purchasing from Amazon.
Capsule Espresso Machine Pick: Nespresso CitiZ & Milk
If you prefer a capsule espresso machine, check out the Nespresso CitiZ Espresso Machine. This machine is compact, measuring 5.1 inches by 14.6 inches by 10.9 inches. It has a removable water tank capable of holding 1 liter of water. It has a sleek design and two automatic buttons: espresso and lungo. You can also re-program the machine for custom volumes. It heats up within 25 seconds when you turn it on. This machine is easy to operate and intuitive to figure out how to use. There is a spent capsule container so you can empty used capsules easily. You can add a 3- or 4- year protection plan when you purchase on Amazon.
Bottom LineWhen choosing a home espresso machine, keep in mind that everyone is going to have different needs and expectations based on how they intend to use it, price range, and how much experience they have and work they want to put into the machine and creating great espresso beverages. Good quality beans which are finely ground just before use also make a big difference in how your espresso will turn out. The Breville BES920XL Dual Boiler Espresso Machine is an amazing machine that we love, however it lost points during scoring due to the high price tag of over $1,000. For this reason, the Breville BES840XL Infuser came in first place for us. While this machine is still expensive, it costs less than half as much as the Breville BES920XL and still produced consistently good espresso. If you mostly want to save money while still being able to create espresso and foam milk, the De'Longhi EC155 15 Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker is our next choice, boosted by it's less than $100 cost, though espresso itself wasn't as high quality. The Gaggia Classic is a classic espresso maker that is also a good choice. The quality of the espresso was good, though the milk steaming function wasn't as great as we had hoped. If you are looking for an espresso machine that is very easy to use, consider the Mr. Coffee ECM1000 Café Espresso/Cappuccino System. Finally, if you want a capsule-based espresso machine, we recommend the Nespresso CitriZ & Milk