There was a time when getting your morning shot of espresso meant trundling down to the nearest coffee shop, possibly in neck-to-tail traffic, enduring a serpentine queue of zombie-eyed, caffeine craving, homo sapiens and paying anywhere from $5 to $50 depending on your desires.
Then the best espresso machines came along and changed everything.
Psst…here’s the best of them in the market currently.
#1 – Breville Barista Express BES870XL – Best Espresso Machine
Dimensions: 16” tall and 13.5” wide
Boiler: Heat Exchange
Extras: Integrated burr grinder, Manual Milk Frother attachment
‘Barista Express’ is an apt name for the Breville BES870XL, a fine semi-automatic espresso machine that finds the sweet spot between an affordable price tag and features that rival much higher priced units.
We are talking about ‘Barista-grade’ features like an integrated companion burr grinder, a massive bean hopper, a stainless steel portafilter, and a large pressure gauge.
If you wish to learn some of the alchemy that makes espressos so alluring, this machine is your best bet. That’s probably one of the reasons why you’d often find it in commercial outlets.
Yet, it offers enough automation for the inexperienced user.
Let’s take a peep at the Barista Express.
You’ll love to flash the BES870XL on your counter. The styling veers more towards a commercial-grade machine than a home espresso machine, with a stainless steel casing, the large pressure gauge and a bunch of buttons and rotary dials.
We’d say that the design is a tad vintage, which adds to its charm.
It stands a reasonable 16 inches tall and 13.5 inches wide. That’s about the perfect size for an under-counter unit. There are rubberized no-slip feet, which ensures that the machine stays put when its operating.
The pressure gauge is clearly the standout feature for us. It allows you to know and set the perfect pressure at which the hot water is forced through the ground brew. Other than this, the console features dedicated buttons for a single or double espresso shots, a button to select the perfect grind size in 18 increments and a dial to select the amount of ground coffee that will be used for the brew,
In fact, it may seem a tad overwhelming in the beginning for the newbie espresso aficionado. But once you fiddle with it a few times, you’d discover that it is fairly easy to use and customize.
15-Bar Italian Pressure pump
The meat of the features lies behind that swanky external casing though. The water is heated in seconds, thanks to the 1600W Thermo coil heating system and is then forced through the filter at the perfect 8 bar pressure courtesy an Italian 15-bar pressure pump. Keep an eye on that pressure gauge if you intend to pull like a barista folk.
For the wannabe alchemists, there’s a 54mm magnetic tamper included in the package that lets you add your signature touch to the brew.
If you prefer the milky, frothy cappuccino, then the 360-degree swivel action steam wand has you covered. You can steam milk and it produces a rich foam with tons of microbubbles.
The best part? You can do both, brew coffee and froth milk simultaneously.
The BES870XL is easy to clean and maintain. The integrated cleaning module auto-activates and blinking light will alert you when the cycle needs to be run.
Lastly, the BES870XL is surprisingly low on maintenance. Cleaning is as easy as activating the cleaning module when alerted by a blinking LED light.
- Commercial-grade styling
- Stainless steel casing with buttons and dials
- Multiple customization options for the brew
- 1600W Thermo coil heating system
- 15-bar Italian pressure pump
- 54 mm magnetic tamper
- Dedicated buttons for single or double espresso shots
- Easy to select the ground size or quantity
- Low on maintenance
- Affordable price tag
The Breville Barista Express BES870XL is as close to a near-perfect espresso machine as it can get. It is crammed to the brim with features, lets you get your hands dirty while brewing and at the same time, offers enough automation to get your espresso shots at the click of a button.
#2 – Gaggia Classic Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker – Gaggia Classic Semi-Automatic
Dimensions: 14” tall and 9.5” wide
Boiler: Single Boiler
Extras: Manual Milk Frother
It seems a tad strange to say that we owned the first iteration of the Gaggia Classic Espresso Maker, way back in 1997. That’s two decades ago.
Guess what? It still ticks. And thankfully, Gaggia gave it a few cosmetic upgrades circa 2003 and a few hardware changes in 2015.
So, this simple barebones semi-automatic espresso machine is our second pick. It is compact, easy to use and consistently produces some of the best espressos that you will ever taste.
It might lack the flair and frills that some of the newer machines boast of. But make no mistake, the Gaggia Classic can give a lot of them a run for their money when it comes to the quality of the brew.
All-metal, minimalistic design
The Gaggia Classic has an all-new stainless steel housing that gives it a rustic, yet clean appearance on the counter. It measures 14” tall and 9.5” wide. Compared to the Breville Barista Express, it is sleek and won’t eat up valuable counter space.
On the housing, there are just three buttons for power, steam and brew apart from a small electronic display that shows you the temperature and the signal lights. The classic also allows you to choose between single and double espresso shots.
It has the largest water reservoir among entry-level espresso machines and you can easily pull the reservoir out from the top of the unit for cleaning without having to move the entire unit itself.
A keen eye would be able to spot the low height of the coffee arm that is dedicated purely for espresso shots. If you prefer a cappuccino or a latte, then you’d have to pull out the drip tray to create some space to be able to use a larger mug under the dispenser.
Consistently good coffee with minimal effort
You’d be more than willing to let go of the few tiny niggles and the barely-there design when you take that first sip of espresso that the Gaggia Classic churns out. That’s with minimal tamping required by the way.
The crema is rich, dark and oily and for good reason. Beneath the unassuming exteriors is some serious mettle. A 17 ½ bar pump, chrome-plated brass filter and marine group, a large 58mm portafilter, and an aluminum boiler allow you to get the perfectly brewed espresso shot every time. The heat retention in the machine is top-notch.
The heat-up time is barely a couple of minutes and you can preheat your cup while the coffee is being brewed. On the right is the Pannarello frother that steams your milk in the blink of an eye.
- Classic design with a minimal appearance
- Stainless steel housing
- Three buttons for easy controls
- Large water reservoir
- Plastic tamper included in the package
- 17 ½ bar pressure pump
- Chrome-plated brass filter and marine group
- 58mm portafilter
- Aluminum boiler
- Entry-level pricing
If you are looking for a tried and tested espresso machine at an entry-level pricing, the Gaggia Classic is one of the best options you have. It is easy to use, clean and is backed by proven performance.
#3 – Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Maker – Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Dimensions: 12.4” tall and 10.4” wide
Boiler: Dual Boiler
Extras: Automatic milk frother
Automatic espresso machines at entry-level price tags are usually a hit or a miss. But Mr. Coffee’s Care Barista Espresso Maker ticks all the right boxes that one looks for in a one-touch, bean to cup machine.
It boasts of a bunch of preset settings that lets you get your fancier coffee beverages. At the same time, it is able to consistently pull barista-quality espresso shots back to back.
Remember, all at the touch of a button.
No tamping, no fiddling with knobs to select the ground size or setting the right pressure. This is the perfect hands-off coffee machine for you.
Compact, contemporary styling
Mr. Coffee uses a very streamlined design for Café Barista. The 12.4” height and 10.4” width creates a very pleasant footprint that allows you to tuck it away neatly just about anywhere on the counter. On the right is a dedicated milk carafe that can be stowed in the refrigerator when not in use.
The stainless steel housing with a touchpad enabled control panel has three one-touch buttons for Espresso, Cappuccino, and Latte. Pressing the same buttons twice lets you toggle between single and double shots whereas long-pressing it activates the manual functions.
You can choose to manually froth the milk or clean the steam wand by long-pressing the cappuccino and latte buttons whereas the espresso button activates the manual espresso mode, wherein you can select the time for which the water will be pressure-forced through the portafilter.
Also included in the package are two filter baskets for single and double espresso shots.
Coffee on steroids
The LED lights on the control panel will blink, indicating that the machine is ready to brew taking the guesswork out of the process. The pre-heating time is less than a minute and you can just select the presets and the machine does the rest.
As much as we loved the creamy espressos that the Mr. Coffee Café churns out, we loved the cappuccinos and the lattes a little more. The milk frother does a fantastic job and the integrated froth dial allows you to control the foaminess of the milk.
We found that there’s a little variation in temperature that can lead to a slight inconsistency in the taste of the espressos. But it’s not too severe, nor does it result in an under-extracted brew or an overly bitter one. So, it’s just a tiny niggle that doesn’t affect the output too much.
Cleaning is extremely easy as most of the parts that come into contact with liquids and coffee are removable for a quick rinse. There’s no integrated chopper or grinder. So, fewer parts to clean as well.
- Entry-level pricing
- Super-automatic espresso machine
- Multiple manual settings
- Easy to use touchpad control panel
- LED Lights
- Presets for cappuccino, espresso, and latte
- Integrated milk Frother
- Froth dial to control the level of foam
- Easy to clean
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better super-automatic espresso machine at this price point. The multiple presets, ease of use and the very affordable price tag, make this a great pick for anyone looking for a one-touch espresso machine without breaking the bank.
#4 – DeLonghi ESAM 3300 Magnifica – Dual Purpose Espresso & Coffee Maker
Dimensions: 11” tall and 15.3” wide
Boiler: Dual Boiler
Extras: Bypass doser, Patented Steam system that rotates 180 degrees, integrated grinder
All-inclusive bean-to-cup espresso machines are a very alluring concept. You can walk into your kitchen, press a button and get a delicious espresso shot in less than three minutes. But they are often marred by poor performance or lack of consistency in brew quality.
That’s why we rate the DeLonghi ESAM 3300 among the best espresso machines.
This best budget espresso super automatic machine can churn out cup after cup of the most delectable espressos with zero variation in taste, crema or temperature. What’s more, there are presets for brewing coffee, latte macchiato, long coffee, hot water and of course, a cappuccino.
Does it sound like a dream fully automatic espresso machine? It’s pretty close to one, we’d say.
Modern but minimalistic
The DeLonghi ESAM 3300 is a mix of modern styling and vintage-inspired housing. There’s a clutter-free control panel with a bunch of buttons and a few rotary dials that allow you to select your brew and fine-tune a few of the features.
But there’s no LCD or LED display which is a common feature in most coffee makers these days.
We guess that DeLonghi has chosen to retain the classic design due to the proven performance. Just in case, you were unaware, the ESAM 3300 has been around for a decade now.
On the top side of the machine is the bypass door, which allows you to store pre-ground coffee beans along with regular coffee beans of your choice. This is an excellent feature for anyone who prefers to switch over to a different brew without having to empty the bean hopper every time.
DeLonghi also throws in a water hardness tester kit in the package. That’s a much-appreciated feature by purists who opine that the hardness of the water can affect the taste of the espresso. Not to mention that it can calcify the metal parts prematurely. So, you run the hardness test as part of the priming process.
At 11” tall and 15.3” wide, the ESAM 3300 is not the most compact unit that we’ve seen. But thanks to the clean design, it’s far from an eyesore. In fact, it blends easily with your backsplash and fits under the counter.
Integrated Burr Grinder with patented ‘Bean to brew’ system
There are a lot of patented firsts that make the DeLonghi ESAM 3300 a breeze to use.
There’s a water level indicator, automated cleaning, and decalcification modules, a water reservoir and a removable drip tray accessible from the front of the unit. The only time when you’d have to move the unit is to remove the ground coffee beans which get emptied into a container that’s accessible via the back.
The machine alerts you for most of the tasks that demand immediate attention. For example, if the grounds container is full or empty, the water reservoir is empty, the decalcification module needs to be activated and so on.
The ESAM 3300 has an integrated bean hopper that lets you customize the ground size in 7 size increments. At the heart of the machine is the super-compact, removable brew unit powered by dual stainless steel boilers that offer excellent heat exchange.
The patented steam knob or cappuccino system rotates 180 degrees allowing you to customize the size of the milk reservoir. Also, the spout is height adjustable and you can easily accommodate a larger cup under it.
- Fully loaded super-automatic espresso machine
- Clean and clutter-free design
- Easy to use and customize
- Integrated alert system for most tasks that demand attention
- Bypass Doser allowing you to store pre-ground and whole coffee beans
- One-touch access for espressos and cappuccinos
- Integrated bean hopper
- The patented steam wand that rotates 180 degrees
- Patented Bean to brew system
- Removable brew system
Absolutely! We could go on about this for another day and yet not stop raving about it. The DeLonghi ESAM 3300 is Italian engineering at its best. Do yourself a favor and buy it already.
#5 – Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine – Best Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
Dimensions: 13.7” tall and 12” wide
Boiler: Single boiler
Extras: Revamped swivel steam wand, cup warmer, 3-way solenoid valve
A lot of people have compared the Rancilio Silvia with the Gaggia Classic. Both are entry-level semi-automatic espresso machines that can give you café-quality espresso shots consistently.
Both have been around for more than a decade.
Both have undergone a few cosmetic and hardware changes.
But the similarities are limited to the functioning and the customization options.
On the counter, the Silvia edges out the Classic. She’s a beaut and will be a much better pick for customers who are fussy about the aesthetics.
Under the exteriors, she boasts of a beast of a commercial-grade, chrome-plated, brass group head that’s clubbed together with the boiler. The result? Excellent heat transfers and temperature stability. For a discerning barista seeking perfection and consistency, that combination speaks volumes about the popularity of Silvia.
Small on size, big on performance
We love the brushed stainless steel linear housing with the powder-coated black iron frame on the Silvia. It is as durable as they come and more importantly, it makes it appear a lot more contemporary and easy on the eyes when placed on the counter. It stands 13.7″ tall and is just under 12” in width making it a very reasonably sized unit.
Many a newbie might be a little surprised at the lack of sophisticated touchpads on the Silvia.
In fact, there are just four rocker switches and a rotary dial to access all the customization options in this powerhouse. But therein lies the fun. You can really grease your elbows with this machine and in process, hone your espresso pulling skills to professional levels.
On the right is a revamped, articulating, chrome plated steam wand with a one-hole tip that can also be used for making Americanos or Hot Chocolate or plain hot water.
The button in the center is the main power switch, the one on the left is the brew button, the button in the middle on the left will dispense hot water from the steam wand and the one on the bottom activates the steam function. The rotary dial is the water and steam control knob.
The Silvia also features a passive cup warmer on the top that can accommodate as many as 6 espresso cups. The drip tray is a little shallow and may need emptying after every drink especially if you use the Silvia more for Americanos than espressos. But that’s but a small quibble when you compare it with the near-flawless performance.
Commercial grade components and infinite customization options
Most of the components in the Silvia are commercial-grade ones found in Rancilio’s much higher priced units. There’s a large 58mm portafilter with a chrome plated brass holder, a chrome plated marine brass brewing group, a 15-bar water pump, a large 12 oz. marine brass boiler and a 3-way solenoid valve that releases the pressure.
The rule of thumb for commercial espresso machines is that more the brass, the better the heat transfers and retention.
That’s where the Rancilio Silvia really shines. The temperature, taste, TDS levels and the pressure are consistent (even though we’d have loved a pressure gauge on this one) cup after cup.
To take it further, Rancilio throws in two thermostats, one each for brewing and steaming temperature maintenance and one high limit function to prevent the boiler from overheating.
If you want to get the best out of the Silvia, we highly recommend that you spend some time with the manual, club it with a good quality burr grinder and make a lot of practice shots. Before you realize, you will be churning out the most delicious shots with ease.
- Iron and stainless steel exteriors
- Compact design
- Semi-automatic machine for skilled and novice baristas
- 58mm portafilter with a chrome plasted brass holder
- Brass brewing group
- 15-bar water pump
- 12 oz. marine boiler
- 3-way solenoid valve
- Cup holder
The Rancilio Silvia is a beast of an espresso machine. It churns out the best espressos and cappuccinos that money can buy. True, it does come with a learning curve. But that’s the appeal of using a semi-automatic.
If you are looking for one-touch access with minimal fuss, go for the Breville Barista Express.
#6 – Gaggia Brerra – Best Espresso Machine For Making Americano
Dimensions: 12.4” tall and 10.3” wide
Boiler: Dual Boiler
Extras: Ceramic burr grinder, bypass doser, programmable settings
An Italian made, bean-to-cup super-automatic espresso machine with a futuristic design and a generous dose of customization options thrown in.
That’s the Gaggia Brerra for you.
This lightweight, compact machine is an excellent choice for anybody looking for hands-off access to their java. It offers ample one-touch presets for your favorite beverages, an integrated ceramic burr grinder and an LED display among other impressive features.
Most importantly, despite all the frills, it does not cost an arm and a leg.
The most stylish espresso machine in this list
If there were an espresso machines beauty contest, the Brerra would walk away with the crown. This one is a looker with its contoured edges, stainless-steel front panel and the side panels in black (also available in silver). There is a hint of chrome in the accents which further accentuates the appearance.
There’s the stainless steel Panarello wand (rapid steaming) seamlessly integrated into the housing on the left and there’s the height-adjustable dispenser on the right side.
The control panel features a bunch of pushbuttons, a large control knob, and a medium-sized LED display. Illuminated icons guide you through the many settings and menu options on the Brerra.
You get convenient one-touch access to espresso, a café lungo, and a cappuccino and can choose between single and double espresso shots.
The integrated ceramic brurr grinder is located on the top of the machine making it easier to load the bean hopper. The Brerra features a bypass doser by the way. So, you can store both beans as well as ground coffee at the same time. Go get your decaf.
All the parts that may need frequent cleaning including the water reservoir and the container for the ground coffee beans are accessible from the front of the machine and a normal wipe down with a wet cloth gets the shiny casing back to new.
All in all, the design is pleasing to the eye and well thought out.
Customize your espresso strength
There have been instances where we’ve come across seemingly impressive bean-to-cup machines that were a nightmare to get a hang of. Not the Gaggia Brera.
It has to be one of the simplest of super-automatic espresso machines that we have used. And we have used a lot of these.
You can customize the strength of the espresso, adjust the coarseness of the ground beans and also fine-tune the volume of the brew. If you choose a double espresso shot, the Brera grinds the beans afresh for the second shot instead of using the same ground beans. This ensures consistency in taste and aroma.
Your last used custom setting is automatically stored in the Brera until you unplug it.
Powering the Brera is a 15-bar pump and a stainless steel boiler. Irrespective of whether you are using ground beans or preground coffee, the taste is near-flawless. Even the most skeptical espresso savant who hates automation will be pleased with the oily and thick crema that the Brerra produces.
When its time to descale the machine, an icon pops up on the LED screen and it continues to blink. You can also choose to buy the Mavea Intenza water filter that’s recommended by the manufacturer to delay scale buildup.
- Feature-rich super-automatic machine
- One-touch access to espresso and a café lungo
- The integrated ceramic burr grinder
- Bypass Doser
- LED display with illuminated icons
- Multiple customization options
- 15-bar pump and stainless steel boiler
- Cup warmer
- Telescopic dispenser
- Swiveling 9-second foam wand
- Extremely easy to clean
If you seek complete automation for your morning cup of joe, consistency in taste and quality, and aesthetic design, a few customization options for days when you feel like an alchemist and a great price tag to boot, then the Gaggia Brera is what you seek. May the coffee gods shine upon you!
#7 – Hamilton Beach Espresso Maker – Best Affordable Espresso Machine
Dimensions: 13.2” tall and 10.2” wide
Boiler: Single boiler
Extras: Manual milk frother, cup warmer, milk carafe
We hate to admit it, but it was the price tag on the Hamilton Beach Espresso Maker that first caught our attention. How could any manufacturer make a semi-automatic espresso machine at that price point?
After a closer look and running a few tests, we discovered that this is a very useful espresso machine for home use that can churn out good quality espressos and cappuccinos at the touch of a button.
True, it may not have a flashy design or the bells and whistles of some of the others in this list of the best espresso machines. But if you are shopping with a limited budget, then this is one of the best choices in the market currently.
Eye-pleasing, retro-inspired design
At first glance, we couldn’t but help compare it with one of those old drip coffee makers. Not a flashy design as we mentioned earlier. But it looks great against the backsplash with the black plastic housing and silver aluminum control panel.
Minimalistic but effective.
There are just three buttons on the control panel, one for power, one for espresso and one for froth/steam functions. A large rotary dial on the right allows you to fine-tune the pressure of the steam and a couple of LED lights indicate the power supply and whether the machine is brew ready.
On the rear is a 40 oz. clearwater reservoir that allows you to keep an eye on the water level. If you have a busy kitchen or like to entertain a lot, this prevents the need for frequent refills.
A swiveling froth wand is positioned on the left and the two brew head dispenser is integrated on the right side of the housing. The dispenser is positioned high enough to allow even tall glasses under it. The drip tray, the frothing nozzle, and the brew head can be removed from the front of the machine for a quick clean up.
As surprising as it may seem, Hamilton Beach also throws in a cup warmer into this nifty little machine making it a jack of all trades of sorts.
Use Pods or Grounds
You can use both coffee grounds or pre-ground coffee pods with the Hamilton Beach Espresso maker. Just use the appropriate portafilter holder.
There’s a 15-bar pressure pump that forces the hot water through the portafilter and the quality of espressos is decent. It’s not the best that we’ve tasted. But for a casual coffee lover, there should be no reason to complain. It is rich, oily and has crema.
To get the best out of it, use the perfect-sized coffee grounds. Too coarse and it often results in an under-extracted brew. Go too fine and it might clog the portafilter.
The frother attachment produces excellent quality foam with micro-bubbles and a great quality milk-based beverage is only a touch of a button away.
You can also set the desired temperature for the brew and switch between brew and steam modes manually.
The package includes a plastic tamper (best upgraded) and a milk carafe for good measure.
- Shoestring priced semi-automatic machine
- 15-bar pressure pump
- Multiple portafilter holders
- Use ground coffee or espresso pods
- Milk frother
- One-touch espresso
- Single or two cups
- Cup warmer
- Easy to clean and maintain
The Hamilton Beach Espresso maker produces good quality espressos and milk-based beverages without the need for fussing or tinkering with it too much. If you are looking for a budget-priced first espresso machine, then it’d be impossible to find a better package.
How to pick an Espresso Machine? (Buying Guide)
If you find yourself heading out to the nearest café every now and then, craving an espresso or one of its derivatives, then an espresso machine will be completely worth every dime you spend on it.
You can get your daily dose of caffeine without the commute or the effort. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper and will easily repay itself over the next few months.
Most importantly, it gives you that gratifying feeling of pulling your own espresso shot, something that’s nothing short of art in itself.
But buying a reliable espresso machine that’s easy to use, maintain and clean is no longer a walk in the park. For there are hundreds of options in a mindboggling array of configurations, price points, and sizes.
How then do you know which one’s right for you?
Well, we just made your job easier by picking the best ones right here. To make things even better, here’s a brief buying guide on how to select an espresso machine.
Questions to ask yourself first
The answers to each one of these questions will help you narrow down to a list of probable best choices. Alternatively, you can pick one from the above list of the best espresso machines.
What is your experience level brewing an espresso?
Some types of espresso machines require a more hands-on approach than others and may not be the best of options for you if you are a rank newbie to the brewing process. Are you aware of the brewing process? Have you spent time to learn about the various factors that can affect your espresso shot? Do you know how pressure and temperature affect the output? You don’t need to be a professional barista. But general awareness will help you a lot when you decide to purchase an espresso machine.
How much effort are you willing to put in every day to get your espresso shot?
Can you spend time grinding the coffee to the right coarseness? Manually tamping it, heating the water to the right temperature, setting the precise pressure and then pulling the shot? Or do you prefer to press a button and be done with it? Read about the different types of espresso machines below and make an informed decision.
Do you seek an espresso machine that can solely churn out espresso or do you prefer something that can also give you a cappuccino or a mocha or a latte?
Most manufacturers these days try to cram in as many features as they can in an espresso machine and you can very easily find a machine that can churn out good quality milk-based beverages along with an espresso. Look for one with a milk frother attachment.
How much space can you allocate for the machine on your counter?
Real estate on the kitchen counter is always invaluable and you can do without a gargantuan sized addition to it. So, it is important to check the dimensions of the unit before you purchase it. We have listed both compact and medium-sized espresso machines for your convenience.
What are you willing to spend on it?
It is almost impossible to generalize the price of an espresso machine because there are umpteen factors that can affect it. From the brand to the type of machine to the extra features and quality of construction, everything needs to be taken into consideration before just looking at the price tag. However, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $600 for a reasonably consumer-grade espresso machine.
What extras are you looking for?
Are you looking for an espresso machine with an integrated burr grinder or do you have a separate burr grinder? Other desirable extra features include programmable settings, a cup warmer, a water filter and a bypass doser.
Types of Espresso Machines
There are three main categories of espresso machines.
Manual Espresso Machines
These are for experienced baristas or connoisseurs who like to tinker around with all the variables that go into creating that perfect espresso. You will be in control of everything from the coffee ground, the temperature, the pressure, the tamping and lastly, the pulling of the espresso, as they call it. If you are inexperienced, then you will most likely end up with a bland shot or an overly bitter one.
Manual espresso machines are also more expensive than the other varieties and for this reason, we haven’t included one in our list of the best espresso machines.
- Can help you churn out authentic, delicious espressos
- Completely manual process
- Most models are decorative and aesthetically pleasing
- Can be the most expensive among all three
- Takes time and practice to get a decent espresso shot
- Not a great choice for the casual coffee lover or a busy individual looking for a quick cup of joe
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
Semi-automatic espresso machines are just what the name says they are. They are midway between a fully automatic machine and a manual one and typically have a bunch of automated functions while allowing you to customize a few others manually.
The most common manual function being the brewing pump.
Essentially, you decide when to stop the flow of water that will be pushed through the coffee beans at high pressure. So, if halfway through the brewing process, you feel that you have a potent espresso shot that could get diluted if more water is added, you stop the pump manually.
Apart from this, you’ll have to froth the milk manually and you can also control the brew strength, ground size and temperature in some of the models.
- Entry to mid-level pricing
- Excellent quality espressos
- Loads of manual control options
- Usually includes presets for commonly used beverages like lattes and cappuccinos
- Might need a basic understanding of espresso and the brewing process, in general, to be able to customize your shots
Of the four semi-automatic machines that we have tested and picked in the list, we highly recommend the Breville Barista Express. It is our top pick and offers a near-flawless espresso shot with great consistency.
For budget-minded shoppers, the Gaggia Classic Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker and the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine are great choices too. And then there’s the Hamilton Beach 40792 Espresso with its throwaway price tag.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machine
These are one-touch bean to cup machines that give you your coffee in a convenient, hassle-free way. The caveat is that almost every factor that can affect the quality of your brew is automatically set by the machine. Almost nothing can be customized manually.
Having said that, all the bean to cup machines in this list create near-perfect espresso shots that could satisfy even hardcore connoisseurs. That’s the Gaggia Brera, the Delonghi ESAM3300 and Mr. Coffee Barista Espresso maker for you. Our personal favorite among the three is the Delonghi ESAM3300 followed by the Brera and then Mr. Coffee.
- One-touch, no-fuss access to your coffee
- Aesthetic designs with LED displays and touchpad controls
- Available in a wide price range
- Perfect for anyone irrespective of their skills or experience with brewing
- Can churn out an espresso shot in minutes
- With little to zero manual customization options, it is not the best choice for a purist who seeks consistency and perfection in every drop of coffee
To sum it up
While this may not be the most exhaustive list of options that you have, these are certainly among the top rated espresso machines in the market. Do you have your personal favorite to add to this list or personal experience with one of these machines to share with us? Do give us a holler.