Your Guide to Buying an Espresso Machine—Plus, Our Top Picks
Start your morning off with a shot (or two) of the strong stuff.
Whether you're hoping to curb your habit of buying an expensive latte every day or just like to play barista at home, an espresso machine is just what you need to perk up your morning coffee routine. When you need a jolt, there's no greater convenience than making your favorite drink at home by pulling a shot and frothing milk. From small but mighty machines to all-out powerhouses, there are a number of home espresso machines that get the job done. Of course, with a range of machines at different price points and capabilities, it can be difficult to determine which machine is right for your needs. We turned to Andrea Allen, co-owner of Onyx Coffee Lab, for guidance.
What to Consider When Shopping for an Espresso Machine
It's important to consider functionality, design, and budget when shopping for a new espresso machine, says Allen. Don't choose the flashiest or most expensive machine if you only enjoy the occasional cup of espresso or aren't keen on smart technology. Espresso machines can easily cost thousands of dollars, so setting a firm budget will be the first thing to narrow your choices. "More expensive machines tend to have more high-tech, interactive control panels. These can be nice but they are most certainly not necessary to make great coffee," says Allen.
However, any good-quality espresso machine will cost more than $100, so consider where you'd like your money to take you. "Any espresso machine is an investment, so purchasing one that you can easily learn how to use and will do the job you are looking for is paramount. That might mean buying from a company with great customer service or support," says Allen. "It might mean choosing a machine based on how well it fits beneath your kitchen cabinets or one that has the functionality to produce a lot of drinks in a short amount of time."
Looking for a simple, no-fuss option? Italians love stovetop espresso machines for their ease and ability to produce a big-batch of espresso. And who couldn't love the under-$100 price point?
Automatic Versus Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine
When shopping for an espresso machine, you'll find that they're often described as automatic or semi-automatic. So, what's the difference? "An automatic machine is engineered to grind and extract coffee on its own. The settings and performance depend on the person preparing the coffee to set them and evaluate them," explains Allen.
A semi-automatic machine is designed for the person prepping the coffee to make even more choices about how they want their final cup of coffee to taste. "This can mean choosing different levels of grinding coffee, tamping, and turning water off and on," says Allen. This type of espresso machine is for the bean nerd who wants to experiment to find just the right proportions of grounds to water to satisfy their taste buds.
Breville Bambino Plus
Short on counter space? This semi-automatic, petite espresso maker that's a favorite of assistant food editor Riley Wofford is just the gadget for latte lovers who have a small kitchen. You can easily program the machine to extract one or two shots of espresso, and the steam wand produces foamy, silky milk that's perfect for building a latte or cappuccino.
Shop Now: Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine, $499.95, amazon.com.
Breville the Oracle Touch Espresso Machine
Featuring an LCD screen, three-second heat-up time, and built-in grinder, this full-sized, super automatic espresso machine has all the bells and whistles. Allen calls it the "literal Cadillac of espresso machines" and loves its "time-saving automation while producing incredible espresso and steamed milk."
Shop Now: Breville the Oracle Touch Espresso Machine, $2,499.95, williams-sonoma.com.
Cuisinart Defined Espresso Machine
Compatible with Nespresso pods, this fully programmable machine will help beginner baristas brew the perfect shot of espresso. Users have the ability to adjust the brew temperature and flavor strength to customize each cup; the machine produces a velvety, smooth crema.
Shop Now: Cuisinart EM-15 Defined Espresso Machine, $199.95, amazon.com.
Nespresso Vertuo Coffee Maker & Espresso Machine
From a basic shot of espresso to large cups of flavored coffees, the Nespresso Vertuo offers something for every coffee lover. One of the original machines to brew espresso from pods—rather than whole beans—the benefit of this semi-automatic model is that it brews both espresso and regular coffee, which makes it a favorite for entertaining.
Shop Now: Nespresso Vertuo Coffee Maker & Espresso Machine, $199.95, williams-sonoma.com.
Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker
This iconic Italian espresso maker doesn't take up any counter space and brews a delicious cup of espresso in just minutes. It doesn't necessarily have the features found on more expensive espresso makers, nor does it come equipped with a milk frother, but is just right for anyone who enjoys a basic shot.
Shop Now: Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker, from $34.95, williams-sonoma.com.