Preparing your morning cup of espresso is easy and fast if you have an espresso machine in your kitchen. Imagine being able to make barista-level espresso at any time without leaving your home. You no longer have to settle for mediocre coffee. Or you’re tired of constantly buying lattes or cappuccinos in trendy cafes at overpriced prices. Or you’re a stay-at-home dad of two who doesn’t have the time to get to the nearest coffee shop.
So why settle for mediocre coffee when you can make great espresso at home? And don’t be afraid that you don’t have any barista experience yet, you just need to have the desire 🙂 There are so many options for espresso machines on the market, from fully manual to super-automatic, so get yourself an espresso machine and become a real home barista!
An espresso machine’s goal is pretty simple: make a mean cup of joe by pumping hot water through ground coffee at around 93°C and 9 bar of pressure in just 20 to 30 seconds. And hey, it even steams up milk as an added bonus. And as an added bonus, it can even heat milk. But why is choosing the right coffee machine such an important decision?
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of espresso machines on the market from different manufacturers with different operating principles, designs, and additional features, and it’s easy for a beginner to get lost in the mix. If you are a true connoisseur of good espresso, it all comes down to making your own choice – finding the espresso machine that suits your personal coffee tastes and aspirations.
Types of Espresso Machines Acccording to Automation
The espresso machine is based on a simple principle: under the pressure of the built-in pump, hot water passes through a layer of pre-ground and compressed coffee – a kind of coffee tablet. The result is an espresso drink. The vast majority of modern espresso machines are equipped with additional nozzles that allow you to prepare other types of coffee. For example, an espresso machine equipped with a steamer or cappuccino maker allows you to use the equipment to make cappuccino, latte, and macchiato.
Espresso machines come in four main categories, each with varying levels of automation:
manual machines use levers that require hand strength to push water through the coffee,
semi-automatic machines have an internal pump that starts and stops based on user activation,
full automatic machines use an internal pump as well, but have a pre-set volume control for water,
super automatic machines are fully automated and include an internal grinder, tamping mechanism, and can make a shot with just the touch of a button.
Is a Manual Espresso Machine just a simple device?
Manual espresso machines give you complete control over your espresso preparation. Due to their ability to create a truly unique and personalized espresso taste, manual espresso machines are popular with experienced baristas and coffee enthusiasts. They require the user to control every aspect of the brewing process, you have to control everything manually:
setting the grind size
filling the basket,
But the name says it all – brewing coffee in a manual espresso machine requires the strength of your hands, so grease your elbows a bit – you’ll have to put a little effort into pushing the lever and creating pressure to get the perfect shot!
The manual espresso machine category has traditionally been considered the simplest type of espresso machine, but it has undergone some changes over the past few years. With new and re-engineered technologies entering the market, the manual category is now much more advanced and versatile than it used to be. Although manual machines were traditionally the simplest type of espresso machine, recent advancements have expanded the category and made it more dynamic.
What is the Difference between Semi-Auto, Full-Auto and Super-Auto?
In automated coffee machines, water is heated and dispensed using a built-in pump and electronics. The difference between a semi-automatic and a super-automatic machine is that in a semi-automatic coffee machine, the operator (barista) reserves the right to adjust the coffee dosage and brewing time.
While semi-automatic espresso machines must remain under the control of the operator (barista) are close to the full-utomatic espresso machines which automatically dose water and create pressure for the preparation of the drink (but the operator (barista) is also responsible for dosing and grinding coffee), the super-automatic espresso machines are equipment that completely independently carries out the entire process of coffee preparation, starting from grinding beans, moving them into the brewing chamber, compacting them, delivering a pre-set volume of water before shutting off, and ejecting the spent pack into an internal waste bin. And the super-automatic espresso machines do it all with just a touch of a button!
Both semi-automatic and full-automatic espresso machines often feature built-in grinders and milk frothers to make brewing easier. These machines may also have pre-set grinding and automatic milk wand shut-off for added convenience. The built-in grinders allow the user to grind the beans directly before brewing, and the milk frother allows for easy preparation of cappuccinos, lattes, and other milk-based drinks.
The auto-machines also typically have customizable settings, allowing users to adjust the volume and strength of each shot. You can achieve consistent and high-quality espresso shots with minimal effort and time, making them an ideal choice for busy coffee drinkers and those who value convenience.
Classes of Espresso Machines
Espresso machines are a beloved appliance for coffee enthusiasts, offering the perfect cup of espresso right in the comfort of your own home. These machines come in various classes, each catering to different needs and skill levels. In this article, we will explore the three main classes of espresso machines:
Home Espresso Machines
Home espresso machines are designed for coffee lovers who want to enjoy a quality cup of espresso without the complexities of professional-level machines. These machines are typically compact and user-friendly, making them suitable for beginners. Home espresso machines often have automated features, including built-in grinders, programmable settings, and milk frothers. They are great for making espresso-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos at home, providing a convenient and affordable option for coffee enthusiasts.
Prosumer Espresso Machines
Prosumer espresso machines bridge the gap between home and professional-grade equipment. These machines are designed for serious coffee enthusiasts who want more control and customization options. Prosumer machines offer advanced features and technologies, such as PID temperature control, dual boilers, and commercial-grade components. They are often made of higher-quality materials and are built to withstand heavy daily use. Prosumer machines allow users to experiment with different brewing variables, enabling them to refine their espresso-making skills and achieve cafe-quality results.
Professional Espresso Machines
Professional espresso machines are the pinnacle of espresso-making equipment. These machines are typically found in specialty coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants. Professional machines are engineered for high volume and continuous use. They feature commercial-grade components, including powerful boilers, advanced pressure profiling systems, and precise temperature controls. Professional espresso machines offer baristas unparalleled control over the brewing process, allowing them to extract the full flavors and nuances of the coffee beans. These machines require expertise and training to operate effectively and are designed for experienced baristas who are passionate about their craft.
Semi-automatic machines are the most widely used, since in this type of coffee machine, along with a certain level of automation, the barista is busy as much as possible in the brewing process. The semi-automatic models allows you to influence the taste and aroma characteristics of the drink.
And now we are close to choosing your first semi-automatic espresso machine. Even with a cursory glance at the specifications of a particular coffee machine, it’s easy to get confused and frustrated, because all those letters and numbers – from the voltage level of the mains to the pressure of the internal pump – need to be deciphered, and they all show how the machine will function.
Even professionals often can’t agree on the necessary features to search for when selecting an espresso coffee machine. To help guide you, we’ve assembled a comprehensive list of primary key considerations when looking into one of these machines.
Temperature Consistency (PID)
Accurate and consistent water temperature is of the utmost importance when extracting espresso from coffee beans. Temperature fluctuations can lead to an uneven extraction, resulting in either a weak or over-extracted shot with unpleasant flavors and aromas. That’s why you need an espresso machine with a PID and you’re now finding PID controls (with limited temperature adjustments) in espresso coffee machines costing as little as $350, and full temperature adjustments available in machines costing $650 or more. Temperature control is a big feature for making better espresso, so consider it a must have.
Single Boiler or Dual Boiler
Espresso Coffee machine could be equipped with a single boiler or a dual-boiler. Single boilers involve the same boiler for both heating water for an espresso shot as well as steam wand functions, resulting in wait times transitioning temperatures; however, advanced engineering has incredibly reduced this waiting time to almost nil on many single machines.
Dual-boiler machines, found on more expensive state-of-the art superautomatic models ($1,500+), have the advantage of allowing you to brew and steam simultaneously. However, if you are a beginner looking for an espresso machine that won’t require breaking the bank – dual boiler is not necessary! Most single boilers today provide advanced features as well; meaning steaming is easy and doesn’t take long after brewing.
Pressure (Machine Pump)
Almost the vast majority of coffee machine experts believe that pressure is crucial to the success of your espresso – like the more bar the pump delivers, the better the quality of your espresso will be. However, we’ll go with the opinion of a Mark Prince, a certified Canadian Barista from Vancouver, who says literally the following.
Since the coffee machine has an electromechanical pump (or lever), I can guarantee that it will provide a pressure of about 9 bar, which is optimal for making espresso. Why not more? Because there are only a few manufacturers of vibration pumps in the world, and they are all designed for a maximum pressure of 15-18 bar, but have check valves that limit the brewing pressure to 9 bar.
For the sake of completeness, we note that a pressure below 9 is not enough to make proper espresso.
Filter Basket Size
For a successful espresso, the ideal filter basket size is 58mm – this standard has been adopted by commercial coffee machinists. When 16-19 grams of beans are loaded into the 58mm basket it creams a 1cm (roughly) thick puck of ground coffee which can easily resist water dispersion throughout. 57mm baskets achieve these same results, but 53mms may prove to be more difficult and cause extraction problems.
Service and Warranty
Think about an espresso machine that is easy to maintain. It’s no secret that there are quite expensive low-end coffee machines on the market that have a short warranty period, and some parts are not available for replacement at all – you can only buy a brand new machine. At the same time, there are many very cheap coffee machines that can be repaired for ten years or more. You should also keep this in mind – rather than spend money on a new coffee machine again in ten years, you can spend a tenth of that on a small repair and the coffee machine will work like new again.
Ease Of Cleaning
It’s important to maintain the cleanliness of your coffee maker to ensure the quality of your coffee and to extend the lifespan of the machine.Usually, a quality coffee machine will last much longer if you follow the care recommendations.
But the requirements for the frequency of cleaning are also important. I don’t think you will like it if you start every Saturday morning not with making coffee, but with the ritual of cleaning the coffee machine – changing the filters, cleaning the carafe and the machine itself.
Finally, we come to what is called the least but not the last: the grinder. And the question goes something like this: “Should I look for a built-in grinder in my new espresso machine?”
Semi-automatic coffee machines can come with or without a built-in grinder, and most semi-automatic espresso machines do not have a grinder. It is a well known fact that a separate grinder works better than a built-in grinder, and therefore buying a quality coffee bean grinder is just as important as buying a coffee machine itself.
And while it also means more work and more expense – you’ll have to grind the coffee yourself and set aside more space for espresso equipment – I recommend investing in a quality grinder which pairs with your new espresso machine. Pre-ground coffee loses its flavor quickly and you will have to adjust the grind size… To continue this list, you will find more arguments in favor of ground coffee in our article Best Coffee Maker with Grinder – Buyer’s Guide.
The first on our list of the Top 5 espresso makers is a manual coffee maker – the one that is called the “new era” in manual coffee brewing, and its price about $600 is also seems to come from the next era of manual coffee machines.
Flair 58 Espresso Machine
The Flair 58 is the budget espresso machine of your dreams. It owns its name because of containing the industry-standard 58mm portafilter and robust frame, while a lever allows for effortless extraction of your favorite espresso at higher pressures.
You’ll have complete control over everything from flow to temperature, so you can make your espresso just the way you like it. What sets it apart from other models is the addition of a plug-in electric temperature controller. The sleek black box and cord really make a difference in the look of the machine. With this controller, you have the power to set your brewing temperature to low (85°/185°), medium (90°C/194°F), or high (95°/203°).
The Flair Espresso Machine has a lever system that allows the direct application of pressure to water that is then filtered through coffee grounds – no electricity required. All you need to do is provide it with your preferred water, and watch as your perfect cup comes alive.
And for those looking for even more convenience, multiple portafilter options and an electric grinder will make your espresso making process super fast and efficient. Another new feature is that the 58 model requires the use of a sieve to ensure even extraction. This mesh comes with the 58 and seems to work effectively for even distribution. Alternatively, you can use an Aeropress filter, but ground screeng will work better.
Video: Flair 58 Review – Better and Worse
Bezzera New Hobby
The New Hobby boasts many industry staples, making it a remarkable small machine. Its 58mm portafilter, commercial-grade group head, and commercial-style steam wand provide quality tools to make your coffee drinks at home. The machine is equipped with the 3-way solenoid valve specificallywhich is used to control the flow of water and pressure during the extraction process and helps to ensure that used coffee pucks are kept dry, making disposal easier.
An Italian engineer revolutionized the process of making espresso by developing a method for extraction and determining the ideal temperature and pressure for maximum flavor. Today, the Bezzera Hobby and New Hobby machines uphold this legacy by delivering excellent espresso extraction. In terms of steaming, the New Hobby is a standout performer, quickly heating up and switching from brewing to steaming in just 30 seconds. Its steam power is also top-notch, surpassing other machines in its class.
Despite the high power of the boiler and the declared steam control mechanism, the steam control function on this machine requires some practice on the part of users, given the frequent complaints from consumers about how the steam works. Although boilers on single boiler machines are not typically too powerful, temperature regulation can be achieved by adding slightly cooled water to the tank or allowing the machine to rest in the off position, highlighting the importance of PID.
To cool down the group head, it is recommended to run water through it, as boiling water can cause scorching of the beans in the next shot. To minimize this risk, after steaming, it is advisable to turn on the pump and run the steam wand until water is expelled. This helps to refill the boiler with cooler water.
As a relatively new arrival in the US market, Bezzera components may not be as widely available. However, you should still be able to find essential replacement parts like gaskets and bottomless portafilters that might need to be swapped out over time.
Video: Bezzera Hobby Home Espresso Machines
De’Longhi EC 153 Bar Pump
Indulge in the perfect cup of coffee with the De’Longhi Bar Pump, where your foam preferences take center stage. With just a simple selection of ‘cappuccino’ or ‘hot milk,’ the frother automatically adjusts the foam level, creating a rich, creamy froth for evenly textured drinks that suit your taste.
Experience Every Cup Personalized to Perfection. The 15-bar professional pressure ensures consistent quality results with every brew. Take control of your coffee experience with adjustable controls, allowing you to make modifications to suit your personal taste preferences. It’s your brew, your way.
Whether you prefer a single shot or a double, the De’Longhi Bar Pump has got you covered. The three-in-one filter holder, included with the unit, accommodates one espresso shot, two shots, or even an easy-serve espresso pod. Choose the option that suits your mood and enjoy a perfect cup of coffee every time.
The Rapid Cappuccino System maintains the optimal temperature, ensuring you can brew cup after cup instantly. Say goodbye to long waiting times and hello to coffee on demand. You can customize your coffee experience based on cup size. The adjustable bottom tray makes it easy to fit taller cups or mugs, allowing you to enjoy your coffee in the vessel of your choice. No need to compromise on your preferred cup size.
Refilling the water tank is a breeze. The tank is designed for easy removal, refill, and reattachment, making the process quick and hassle-free. Plus, the water level is clearly visible, eliminating any guesswork.
Video: Delonghi Coffee Machine Review
The Breville Barista Touch is mentioned as the best espresso maker for beginners on most coffee enthusiast sites, and professional baristas share the same opinion. If you want a coffee maker that is good enough, easy to use, and has many drink options, then you need one!
Breville Barista Touch
The star of Breville Barista Touch starts with an integrated conical burr grinder – using its 30 adjustable settings, you’ll have complete control over the fineness of your coffee grounds. This feature is a game-changer and is sure to elevate your espresso-making experience. So, whether you prefer a fine grind for a rich, bold espresso or a coarser grind for a lighter brew, the Barista Touch has got you covered.
The Barista Touch is a single boiler machine, so you’ll have to switch between brewing and steaming, but there’s a minimal wait time between the two. There’s also the PID temperature control and pre-infusion which delivers water at precisely the right temperature ensuring optimal espresso extraction. The automatic steam wand is super user-friendly – just place your milk pitcher on the temperature sensor under the wand and you’re ready to go. Choose between automatic or manual frothing, and pick your desired temperature and milk texture. Cleanup is a breeze too – the wand automatically purges itself after frothing, so you can focus on enjoying your perfectly frothed milk.
The stylish touchscreen display allows you to easily scroll through images of pre-programmed drinks and make your selection with just a few taps. Want to customize your coffee experience? No problem! You can adjust the settings to your liking and even save your preferences for future use. With five pre-programmed drinks and the ability to save up to eight of your own recipes, you’ll never run out of options. Plus, you can fine-tune the grind, brew, milk, strength, and drink temperature for each recipe, ensuring that you get exactly what you want every time.
Among the disadvantages is that some parts of the machine made of brushed stainless steel about $1 K look cheap and plastic, which detracts from the overall impression. Additionally, the portafilter measures at 54mm, which limits your options for accessories, upgrades, and third-party products that can be used with the machine. This can be a frustrating constraint for those who are looking for a more customized coffee experience.
Video: Breville Barista Touch | Crew Review
The Oracle Touch, the most expensive of the Brevile espresso machines, costs about $2,650, looks like a great gadget machine similiar to commercial espresso machines.
Breville Oracle Touch
The Breville Oracle Touch is a fantastic coffee maker that offers a wide range of settings to choose from with automation of every step thanks to the touch screen. If you are unsure about how to make the perfect cup of coffee, the machine has a tutorial directly on the screen that takes you step by step through the process.
One of the key features of the Breville Oracle Touch is the built-in grinder automatically grinds, doses and tamps 18-22 grams of coffee. That allows you to choose the coarseness or fineness of the grind with a simple dial. The machine also has preset options for popular drinks such as latte, cappuccino, flat white, espresso, and long black.
The dual boiler system of the Breville Oracle Touch allows for brewing and frothing milk at the same time, which is a very convenient option for coffee lovers, as well as an automatic power-on timer. The milk wand produces a fine frothy texture, perfect for lattes. The machine also has a large 2.5-liter water tank and a replaceable water filter for added convenience, together witn locking mechanism to keep it securely in place on your kitchen counter.
Nevertheless, the machine requires regular cleaning and maintenance and has various tools for both, and remember about the cost of water filter replacements and other consumables. Also, the customers have reported that the customer service team won’t allow the unit to be replaced even if there is an issue, as the warranty only covers repairing and not replacing.
Video: Breville Oracle Touch – The TRUTH about Breville’s Most Expensive Espresso Machine
A prosumer espresso machine is intended for home use but has many features of a commercial machine. Prosumer-grade machines often include double boilers, pressure gauges, and professional steam wands. Diletta Mio is a quire good example of such machine.
The Diletta Mio is a coffee machine crafted in Italy by Quickmill for Seattle Coffee Gear. It is an upgraded version of the QM Silvano Evo with added features and modification, which cannot found on other machines in this price range.
The 2L water tank is conveniently located on the side for easy refilling, even under low cabinets. The machine features a 400mL brew boiler and a separate thermal unit for steaming, allowing for simultaneous brewing and steaming, even though it is not a dual boiler. The steam circuit has a separate power switch to conserve energy when not in use.
It has a digital PID controller that’s easy to adjust with button presses. It precisely controls the water temperature during brewing. The eco mode saves energy by putting the machine to sleep after a set time, reducing heat-up time. The machine heated up quickly according to the temperature gauge, but we waited 10 minutes for stability according to the designer. The pressure gauge consistently showed brewing between 8-10 bars and the portafilter felt sturdy, using a 58-mm size (note: this is different from less expensive machines using a 54-mm portafilter).
The Diletta Mio is user-friendly, requiring less effort than single boiler machines. If you have previously only ever used super-autos and an machines with a pressurized portafilter, this machine will either be a challenge or a learning opportunity. But the many functions of this machine can be your own path to mastering the art of delicious espresso.
At the same time, some users note disadvantages, for example, due to the small ground clearance – you won’t be able to put a cup high enough to make a large cappuccino. There may also be problems with a lack of understanding of how the eco mode works. Therefore, keep the manual handy to find answers to all questions about this high-tech espresso machine.
Video: Diletta Mio Espresso Machine | Crew Review
If you’re new to espresso brewing, the entry-level Italian Gaggia Classic Pro might be the perfect choice to commence your espresso journey.
Gaggia Classic Pro
The Gaggia Classic, priced at $700, is a sturdy and commercial-grade espresso machine that delivers great espresso and milk texture. Equipped with pressurized filter baskets, it eliminates the need for a separate grinder, allowing for use of both pre-ground coffee and coffee pods.
With a simple design and functional appearance, the Gaggia Classic compensates for its appearance with its top-notch espresso. Equipped with commercial-grade components like 58mm group heads and durable boilers, this machine can last a lifetime with proper care.
The Classic Pro has traditional single-wall filter baskets, a plus for aspiring baristas. However, without a PID controller, maintaining shot consistency may prove challenging during consecutive pulls. Expect to use more beans when perfecting your brewing method with a sensitive roast.
Gaggia has made a few adjustments to the Classic Pro since 2019, including a slightly upgraded steam wand. But as before, the machine’s biggest problem is that it still too often turns out underwhelming milk texture. After refilling, the initial power of the steam wand decreases fairly quickly, making it difficult to froth milk for drinks larger than 4 oz. cappuccino. You won’t be able to froth a larger volume for a latte, and it will only taste bland or burnt.
Internals of the machine are easily accessible and replacement parts can be readily ordered for repairs, upgrades, or modifications.
Video: Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine: A Comprehensive Review & Test
How Long Do Espresso Machines Last?
Reputable brands like Breville offer quality machines that are built to last, while bargain brands may not meet the same level of quality. The type of machine is also a factor, with fully automatic machines typically lasting longer than semi-automatic and hard cap types.
A quality semi-automatic espresso machine can last between 10-15 years if made with durable materials and quality components. Proper maintenance and cleaning can also help prolong its lifespan. However, the more frequently the machine is used, the shorter its lifespan will be.
To extend the lifespan of your espresso machine, it’s important to keep it clean and perform routine maintenance. Regular descaling and cleaning can help prevent mineral buildup and ensure optimal performance. Additionally, following the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance and repairs can also help prolong the life of the machine.
We have also prepared some reviews of the best home appliances for coffee