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For those tired of drinking the same old drip coffee every day, a combination espresso-and-cappuccino machine can bring variety to your morning routine (and cut back on pricey trips to the coffee shop). Some hesitate to look into these machines, picturing a morass of thousand-dollar price tags, but there are actually many affordable options out there that cost no more than a typical coffee maker, including ones on this list.
Keep three categories in mind: semi-automatic, fully automatic, and super-automatic. These labels denote how hands-on the brewing process will be and, as a result, indicate price. If you’re looking for a budget option, start with semi-automatic machines. If you want one-touch brewing capabilities, the more expensive path of fully automatic and super-automatic might be the way to go.
Here are the best espresso-and-cappuccino machines for the ultimate coffee lover.
Reliable steam wand
Potential learning curve
Requires regular cleaning
Customers and critics alike consider Breville’s Barista Express one of the finest espresso machines on the market. Users consistently praise its customizable settings, beautiful design, and rich espresso. Although the price appears quite high, it's fairly reasonable when compared to other products, especially considering the overall quality of this piece.
"For the quality of espresso produced with this machine, it’s an excellent option for those who have a keen interest in espresso but are unwilling to spend thousands of dollars," our reviewer wrote.
Of course, the high-end cost comes with high-end features: a built-in burr grinder, digital temperature control, and a sensor for when it’s time to clean the machine. You can purchase the product in three bold colors—stainless steel, cranberry red, and black sesame—and easily find it in-store and online at your preferred retailer.
Easy to use
Nice variety of drinks
Difficult to clean
Semi-automatic is the most hands-on category of espresso/cappuccino makers, requiring users to load the coffee grounds themselves and, most importantly, control how long the espresso shot is pulled. You'll likely want a dependable coffee grinder as well. This process is more laborious, yes, but semi-automatic machines are the most popular variety for household use.
And the most popular product within this category is Mr. Coffee’s Café Barista. It’s affordable, easy to use, and available at multiple retailers (not to mention the downright tasty coffee it makes). The item is designed with a simple and clear control panel, an automatic milk frother, and a 15-bar pump system. Ideally, espresso is brewed around 8 or 9 bars, meaning the Café Barista can make coffeehouse-worthy drinks, right in your kitchen.
Takes ground coffee and coffee pods
Integrated milk frother
Potential learning curve
The De'Longhi Dedica can brew espresso by using either ground coffee or E.S.E. pods (Easy Serving Espresso), and its manual milk frother is perfect for whipping up lattes and cappuccinos. The item is slightly on the expensive side and some customers experienced leakage issues around the base, but overall this is a dependable machine that offers more robust flavor than many of its competitors. Once the portafilter is packed and in place, all you have to do is select a single or double espresso and the Dedica dispenses the perfect amount of coffee for you.
An added perk is that the item is extremely slim, measuring just six inches wide, so it won't overwhelm your countertop like many other combination espresso and cappuccino machines. It's available in three colors—black, red, and stainless steel.
Value for money
Easy to use
Not the strongest grinder
Base can't remove for bigger cups
This 7-piece espresso set from EspressoWorks brings the café to your kitchen. Along with brewing rich, flavorful espresso, the detachable milk frother lets you craft lattes and cappuccinos from the comfort of home. The set also includes an electric coffee bean grinder, a stainless steel milk frothing cup, two porcelain coffee mugs, a filter with single and double shot baskets, and a measuring spoon.
All of this comes at an affordable price and is backed by hundreds of glowing reviews. Customers say the machine is easy to use, easy to clean, and especially great for beginners. And thanks to the Thermoblock heating system, the espresso is ready fast, brewing in under a minute. While a few users noted durability issues, saying the machine wore down after several months, many praised EspressoWorks’ 24/7 customer service and added that their replacement parts were sent promptly if any issues arose.
Many parts are dishwasher-safe
Awkwardly-placed frother tube
Every-morning trips to the coffee shop for a latte or cappuccino can get pricey. That’s why household espresso machines make great investments, especially when the machine is as affordable as the Mr. Coffee Pump Espresso Maker.
Typically priced at $100 or less, the item is designed with a 15-bar pump system, a removable 40-ounce water tank, and a milk frother for those fancier espresso-based drinks. The Pump Espresso Maker also has dual shot brewing capabilities, allowing you to make two espresso shots at once—one for you, one for a friend. Many customers add that its ease of use and value for money make it an excellent choice for beginners.
There are some drawbacks to this budget option, however. You’ll have to grind the beans and pack the filter by hand, and the coffee might not be as robust as that of more expensive machines.
Takes ground coffee and Nespresso capsules
Prone to squeaking
No more of the dreaded on-the-go caffeine drought. Staresso’s Portable Espresso Maker is small enough and durable enough to pack inside suitcases, hiking bags, purses, and more. What really sets the product apart is that, in addition to brewing delicious espresso whenever and wherever, it allows you to froth milk for specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, making it one of the only true all-in-one portable espresso makers.
The item is pumped manually, providing between 15 to 20 bars of pressure, and is even compatible with Nespresso capsules. This is an added bonus for when you don’t have access to a coffee grinder. You can find the Staresso Portable in five different colors.
Beautiful vintage aesthetic
Slim and lightweight
Easy to use
Makes good espresso drinks
Tamper is weak
Lack of customization
Regular cleanup required
Every drink from this Smeg Espresso Machine will transport you to 1950’s Italy. The style is iconic: bold letters, glossy finish, an eye-catching shape. And you can purchase the item in one of seven gorgeous colors, ranging from pink and pastel green to timeless options like black or cream.
Don’t let the vintage aesthetic fool you, though. This machine comes with modern amenities, like functions to adjust water temperature and espresso strength, as well as a removable drip tray and water tank for easy cleaning. The Smeg Espresso Machine uses a standard 15-bar pump system to produce rich, creamy espresso, and the adjustable frother allows for those all-necessary specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. Simply grab your favorite coffee mug and enjoy.
Fast and easy to use
Six drink options
Milk frother parts difficult to clean
Small capsule container
Fully automatic espresso machines are very similar to semi-automatic ones. The main difference is that fully automatic machines turn off on their own after a set amount of water is poured through the coffee grounds. This is a nice perk for users who want to do other things in the kitchen while their espresso brews.
On top of that, the Nespresso Lattissima Touch offers six different beverage options—espresso, lungo, latte, latte macchiato, cappuccino, and warm milk froth—all of which can be brewed with the touch of a button. If any of these drinks sound unfamiliar, check out our coffee drink glossary. The machine is compatible with coffee pods, so you can avoid manually grinding beans and packing a portafilter, and it uses a powerful 19-bar pump system to brew tasty espresso that customers rave over.
15 drink options
Built-in burr grinder
Numerous customizable settings
Requires frequent cleaning
Can only adjust grinder while it's on
Touch screen can be slow
Super-automatic is the highest grade of espresso machine, a designation that means the product does virtually every step of the coffee-making process for you. The Jura S8 grinds coffee beans, brews espresso, and even adds steamed milk at the touch of a button. It’s a coffee lover’s dream. Touch-screen controls let users adjust drink size, water temperature, milk volume, and more. It's also faster than the majority of semi-automatic espresso makers. As with most super-automatic machines, however, the S8 is quite pricy. There may be some options out there that offer better value for money, but if you are looking for a total splurge pick, this is the one.
We ranked the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine the best overall because of how consistently it produces high-quality espresso. Plus, it's conveniently designed and features customizable settings. New to making espresso from home? Try the Mr. Coffee Café Barista. It's so easy to use because it's semi-automatic and does most of the work for you.
What to Look for When Buying an Espresso/Cappuccino Machine
Pod or Grounds
One of the first decisions to make when looking for an espresso-cappuccino machine is whether you want to brew with coffee pods or coffee grounds. Coffee pods (or capsules) are quicker, easier to use, and easier to clean. On the downside, they cost more per serving than coffee grounds and don’t offer the same amount of variety; many pods are also non-recyclable. The main advantage of coffee grounds is clear: nothing beats the taste of genuine, freshly ground beans. So what traits are most important to you in a machine? Speed and convenience? Or flavor, variety, and a true barista-like experience?
No matter how big your kitchen is, counter space is always a key consideration when purchasing a new appliance. For comparison, espresso-cappuccino machines are usually longer and wider than drip coffee makers, while item height is often similar. Make sure to measure ahead of time, and don’t forget to measure the distance between your countertop and cupboards. If space is especially tight, it may be worth buying an espresso maker and milk frother separately. There are many affordable frothers that can be stored in a cupboard or pantry when unneeded.
Espresso-cappuccino machines can be equipped with three kinds of milk frothers. Luckily, the differences are easy to spot just by looking at the device. The first is a steaming or frothing wand. This is what most people picture when thinking of an espresso machine because it’s the kind that coffeehouses use. Frothing wands are powerful and offer a great deal of control but can get loud and messy. Second, a more automated espresso-cappuccino machine may have a frothing tank. For these all you have to do is hit a button and the machine will froth milk for you, but they are more time consuming to clean. Finally, some models come with a separate milk frother (especially Nespresso-brand products). These save space but strength and effectiveness varies.
Ease of Use
Some espresso-cappuccino machines are hands-on, others do the majority of the work for you. The way to distinguish an item’s ease of use is by checking its level of automation. This topic is covered in more depth later on, but espresso-cappuccino machines are essentially sorted into three categories: semi-automatic, automatic, and super-automatic. A semi-automatic machine is what you see in a coffee shop, where the barista does everything by hand. Automatic is a little less hands-on; the main upgrade here is that the machine stops brewing the espresso for you when it’s perfectly extracted. The final type, super-automatic, makes espresso and espresso-based drinks for you just by hitting a few buttons. It is, naturally, the most expensive of the three.
Many may hear the word “espresso” and think it comes from “express,” as in something done quickly. But espresso actually stems from a Latin word meaning “to press out.” All this is to say that, unfortunately, espresso isn’t always brewed fast. It only takes about 30 seconds to pull an espresso shot, but it can take a machine anywhere from a couple minutes to half an hour to heat up. Then you have to factor in the time it takes to steam milk for those interested in a cappuccino. If making drinks quickly is of the utmost important, an automatic machine may be the way to go. If you don’t mind waiting a little longer, the whole world of espresso-cappuccino machines is open to you.
Types of Espresso-Cappuccino Machines
Semi-automatic machines offer the full barista experience. Users pull espresso shots and steam milk all by hand. Despite the hassle, many prefer this type of machine because it provides a lot of control over the coffee—plus it’s usually the cheapest kind of espresso-cappuccino maker. For espresso newbies, don’t let the learning curve dissuade you, as there are many excellent semi-automatic machines out there.
Automatic machines, sometimes labeled as “fully automatic,” are the middle-tier category. With these, you still have to do a lot of work yourself, from grinding the beans to pulling the espresso shot. The main difference is that automatic machines stop the flow of water by itself when the coffee is perfectly ready. It’s only a slight upgrade over semi-automatic machines, but it does make the brewing process that much easier. These often come at a similar price to semi-automatic machines or are a little more expensive.
The ultimate luxury in the espresso game, super-automatic machines can brew a bevy of drinks without the user having to lift a finger. They usually have a built-in grinder as well, so every aspect of the coffee-making process is of the best quality from start to finish. Super-automatic machines also allow users to adjust a number of features like water temperature, coffee strength, and drink size. Such craftsmanship and convenience comes at a price, of course, as these are the most expensive type of espresso-cappuccino machine.
Breville has long been a trustworthy source for appliances, from blenders to toaster ovens and more, but the brand is perhaps best known for its array of coffee products. Its espresso-cappuccino machines come in a range of prices, but expect the majority to be high-end. Breville’s most popular item in the category is the Barista Express—a well-rounded option for all kinds of coffee lovers. Those looking for the absolute best of the best should check out the Oracle and the Oracle Touch.
This century-old Italian manufacturer offers an incredibly wide array of espresso-cappuccino machines. Customers can find affordable semi-automatic options all the way up to super-automatic machines that cost a few thousand dollars. A blend of craftsmanship and variety is where the brand shines. As a side note, De’Longhi is also partners with Nespresso and helps distribute the Swiss company’s famous pod-based espresso makers.
As the name suggests, Mr. Coffee manufactures drip coffee makers first and foremost. However, the American brand also produces a few affordable espresso-cappuccino makers worth consideration. This is a name to remember for those on a budget, as well as those who are new to espresso and looking for a simple starter machine.
Nespresso is certainly one of the first brands people associate with espresso makers. The Swiss company revolutionized coffee in the mid-20th century when its pod-based espresso machines, renowned for speed and convenience, took off. Just keep in mind that not all Nespresso products can make cappuccinos. The ones that can will either be equipped with a built-in frother or come in a bundle deal with a separate milk frother.
There are several small tasks you will have to do (some after each use) to properly maintain an espresso-cappuccino machine. Once finished with your coffee, dump the used grounds into the trash or compost, then scrub the portafilter and grouphead with a brush to remove any remaining grounds. If you used the milk frother as well, wipe the end off with a towel to prevent milk build-up. Every so often you will also want to rinse the frother with hot water and wipe inside the arm with a small brush or even a paperclip.
Another essential maintenance task is backflushing the portafilter. To do this, simply lock the portafilter into the grouphead and run the brew cycle several times until it’s completely rinsed and the water is clear. Coffeehouses perform this task at the end of every work day, but home users only have to backflush every few days—you can also backflush with detergent every few weeks for a deeper clean.
Finally, we get to the most rigorous part of maintaining an espresso-cappuccino maker: descaling. This is the process of removing mineral residue that builds up inside the machine. Some manufacturers recommend descaling once a month, though you can likely get away with doing it every three months. The easiest way to descale is by wiping all parts of the machine with a combination of vinegar and warm soapy water. But check your product manual beforehand, as some manufacturers advise against vinegar. If you don’t regularly descale, your machine will likely face a number of issues like clogging, altered coffee taste, not getting hot enough, or not running altogether.
Among all of the wonderful tools and accessories to pair with an espresso-cappuccino maker, one of the most useful is a coffee grinder. Some machines, particularly super-automatic ones, have built-in grinders, but the majority do not. Purchasing a separate grinder ensures the freshest possible roast and, as a result, the tastiest cup of joe. There are two varieties of grinders out there: burr grinders and blade grinders. Burr is the superior option, offering the utmost consistency, though it’s also much more expensive. Grinders can also be manual (often relying on a hand crank) or electric. Hario is a go-to brand for a reliable manual grinder, while Breville and Bodum make top-grade electric grinders.
What is a cappuccino?
Even die-hard coffee lovers may not know what exactly is in a cappuccino. Fortunately, the recipe is simple. Start by picturing the timeless Italian drink in three equal layers. The bottom layer is a shot of espresso, the middle is steamed milk, and the top is milk foam. That’s it. A surprisingly simple beverage that can be made at home with an espresso-cappuccino machine. For a more personalized cappuccino, you can add flavored syrups like vanilla and caramel, or sprinkle the top with cinnamon or cocoa powder.
Are espresso beans actually different than coffee beans?
Nope, not really. There is no set difference between espresso beans and coffee beans, though the labels are still worth paying attention to. If you see a bag of beans in the grocery store labeled one way or the other, it indicates what brewing method the brand thinks will bring out the best flavor. Beans marked for espresso likely pair well with the high pressure and small cup size of espresso, but that doesn’t mean they can only be used to make espresso. Conversely, some beans labeled for drip coffee may actually brew delicious espresso. It all comes down to personal preference, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
What is a portafilter?
You will quickly come across this term when searching for espresso-cappuccino machines, and it may very well be unfamiliar, especially for those who have only owned drip machines before. A portafilter is the handheld basket that you attach to the machine in order to brew. Also referred to as a group handle, portafilters are commonly seen in coffee shops and typically have a stainless steel basket attached to a black plastic handle. The quality of a portafilter will certainly affect the quality of espresso. Portafilters can be purchased in two varieties: pressurized, which is great for beginners, and non-pressurized, which is ideal for those who want more hands-on control over their espresso.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This piece was written by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He researches a variety of coffee products, from measuring scoops to commercial espresso machines, and interviews field experts for their insight. At home, he typically makes coffee with the Bodum BRAZIL French Press—a great budget option, especially for those who prefer non-electric brewers.