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Espresso Machine Reviews

By: Kelly Burgess on January 05, 2017

Editor's note:
Breville, Rancilio and Nespresso are still top picks in this update, but we found a few new espresso makers as well. In the super automatic category, the DeLonghi Magnifica takes over as our Best Reviewed choice. As for semi-automatics, be sure to check out our take on the Mr. Coffee Café Barista.

Breville BES870XL Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Machine type - pump Steam wand - yes Accepts pods - no

Best home espresso machine

Experts say the Breville BES870XL Barista Express brews espresso as good or better than even much more expensive machines. Loaded with features, the Breville BES870XL is easy to use, but is also highly "tweakable" for the pickier home barista, with an integrated steam wand that makes it a one-stop shop for lattes and cappuccinos. The built-in burr grinder results in the freshest espresso possible outside of your local coffee house. See our full review »

Buy for $529.95
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Machine type - pump Steam wand - yes Accepts pods - with optional adapter kit

Best semi-automatic espresso machine

A long-time favorite of both amateur and experienced home baristas, the attractive, stainless-steel Rancilio Silvia is a high-performance espresso machine that delivers impressive flavor and is built to last. You'll also want to invest in a high-quality coffee grinder as, when used with perfectly ground, fresh coffee beans, the semi-automatic Silvia brews a delicious espresso that users say rivals what you'd get at coffee shops. See our full review »

Buy for $665.01
DeLonghi EC155 Espresso and Cappuccino Maker Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Machine type - pump Steam wand - yes Accepts pods - yes

Best cheap espresso machine

The DeLonghi EC155 packs an impressive punch for a low-cost espresso machine, say experts and owners. It's simple to use, compatible with either fresh grounds or pods, and produces great-tasting espresso, cappuccino or latte. Reviewers particularly praise its self-priming feature and great frothing. Owners love the small footprint, modern, attractive styling and ability to pull eight consecutive shots in a fairly short time frame. See our full review »

Buy for $89.25
DeLonghi Magnifica Review
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Machine type - pump Steam wand - yes Accepts pods - yes

Super-automatic espresso machine

The DeLonghi ESAM3300 gets raves from coffee lovers for its big performance in a relatively compact size. Just choose the temperature, coffee strength and cup size, and enjoy delicious espresso drinks with the touch of a button. The integrated coffee grinder is a top performer as well, but there's a bypass doser if you want a cup of pre-ground coffee. The Magnifica is also self-cleaning.

Buy for $500.64
Nespresso Inissia Review
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Machine type - pump Steam wand - no Accepts pods - exclusively

Pod-style espresso drink maker

If all you need is a quick espresso drink that experts and owners say tastes as good as that you can get at some specialty coffee shops, look no further than the Nespresso Inissia. This small, very affordable espresso maker works exclusively with the Nespresso OriginalLine pods and makes two cup sizes, 1.35 and 3.72 ounces. Unlike most espresso machines, it also heats up very quickly.

Buy for $169.00
ROK Presso Manual Espresso Maker Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Machine type - lever Steam wand - no Accepts pods - no

Best manual espresso maker

Experts and users say the ROK Presso Manual Espresso Maker is easy and intuitive to use, producing excellent espresso with a rich, velvety crema. You'll need a bit of practice, but once you master the technique, the results are very consistent, and you can tweak the brew to suit your specific taste preferences. Owners say this espresso maker is very attractive and well-built, and most say it's highly durable. See our full review »

Buy for $149.00

Types of Espresso Machines

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

These are the most popular type of espresso maker and are widely considered to be the best type of espresso machine for most users. They have some automated features, like temperature controls for the boiler, a pump, and switches to activate the pump. You control when the pump is turned off and on, which means you can decide when to pause the brew to adjust the strength and flavor of the final product. A few include a grinder, but most don't.

Super Automatic Espresso Machines

As the name implies super automatic espresso makers are much easier to use because they are fully automatic from the beginning of the process to the end. They grind the beans, dose (transfer the ground beans to the basket), tamp (compress the ground coffee), extract (the process of mixing the coffee with the water to get your beverage), and, finally, eject the waste. Purists don't like fully automatic machines, preferring some degree of hands on brewing, but a good super automatic espresso machine can make great espresso without much hassle.

Pod-Style Espresso Machines

Although these are considered super automatic, in that they do all the work for you, pod-style models are not, technically, espresso machines. Still, experts agree that for all but the die-hard espresso purist, pod-style machines make a terrific espresso or espresso-based drinks, and they do it quickly and easily.

Manual Espresso Makers

Ranging from lever-style machines to stove top moka pots, these espresso makers are hands on from start to finish. Lever-style machines can be difficult to learn and to use, because they require quite a bit of tweaking, and you can't expect much consistency unless you're a pro or until you've had a lot of practice. However, these are the choice of true espresso aficionados who like to control every step of the brewing process for the ultimate in customized brews. Stove top moka pots, sometimes referred to as "the poor man's espresso machine," make a strong, complex coffee that is close to espresso. They are easy to use and very inexpensive, but still very hands on.

You can make perfect espresso at home

Espresso machines designed for home use are popular with coffee lovers who love a perfectly personalized shot of espresso. Espresso is also the base for other specialty coffee drinks like cappuccino, latte, Americanos and other concoctions that add water or warmed milk to the espresso shot. However, you may need additional equipment, such as a milk frother or stainless steel frothing jug for that expanded repertoire.

Most espresso machines use ground beans, and one of the most important things to know about an espresso machine is that unless you opt for an espresso machine that includes a grinder, you MUST have a top-quality coffee grinder, and we cover some great choices in a separate report. Experts and users all agree that this is important because the best espresso is made from the freshest beans and using the correct grind. For those willing to sacrifice espresso perfection for convenience, some espresso machines use pods (pre-measured, pre-ground and pre-packaged coffee), however, either exclusively or in addition to ground beans.

All of the espresso machines in this report are pump-driven machines -- the only type that makes real espresso. Steam-driven units are less expensive, but can't brew true espresso because water is forced through coffee grounds at only one to three bars of pressure, far less than the minimum nine bars required to make espresso (one bar is equal to the air pressure at sea level). With a steam-driven machine you are brewing concentrated coffee, rather than espresso.

Do you need a coffee maker instead?

Espresso refers to a special preparation of coffee beans for a small, concentrated shot of coffee.. You then consume it over a fairly short period of time. Think of it more as a snack, rather than a full meal. Making espresso can also be a hassle, quite frankly, and requires time, dedication, patience and, often, a good chunk of change. We read many a lament by people who were hoping to be able to make espresso at home and found that it is not as easy as their local barista makes it look -- even with a high-end machine. Those who don't have the time and patience will need a super automatic machine or a pod-style espresso maker instead.

Also, an espresso machine is not a coffee maker. If you're the type who likes to sip coffee all morning, or are making coffee for a crowd, see our report on coffee makers. If you like a cup of fresh coffee whenever you feel like it and like a high degree of variety with each cup, see our report on single cup coffee makers.

Finding The Best Espresso Machines
Our Sources
1. CNET
"Coffee Maker Reviews"
"The Best Espresso Machine, Grinder, and Accessories for Beginners"
"Manual Espresso Makers"

While there aren't a lot of professional roundups or tests of espresso machines, we found a few quality expert sources, including TheSweethome.com, which focuses on espresso making for beginners, and CNET, which does thorough, well-documented reviews of individual espresso makers across a range of types and price points. Older, but still valuable, tests from Cook's Illustrated and ConsumerReports.org were also helpful. We also looked at reviews of individual machines by knowledgeable editors of coffee-oriented sites like Home-Barista.com, SeattleCoffeeGear.com, and WholeLatteLove.com. Most important, we evaluated hundreds (sometimes thousands) of owner reviews to determine how each of these machines work in real-life situations. The results of our research are the best espresso machines available, from high-end (and high-priced!) machines that do all of the work for you, to the best, manual, hands on models that allow you to customize every sip.

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Espresso Machines buying guide

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  • Adjustable pressure.
  • Stainless-steel housing.
  • A movable steam arm.

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