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A wonderful aspect of buying espresso machines (aside from tasty coffee) is the variety in choice. Products range from bare-bones budget picks to thousand-dollar devices that can make specialty drinks with the touch of a button. The sheer number of options shouldn’t feel overwhelming though—it simply means there’s a great espresso maker out there for everyone.
Start by narrowing down your price range. Then consider the features you want and, perhaps just as importantly, the features you can live without. Many prefer machines with attached milk frothers so they can make lattes and cappuccinos. Others only drink straight espresso. From there, it’s easier to tackle smaller considerations: How much space does this machine need? How hard is it to prep and clean?
From ristrettos to red eyes, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best espresso machines to buy.
Best Overall: Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
Easy to use
Nice variety of drinks
Difficult to clean
Mr. Coffee is a very familiar name particularly for electric drip coffee machines, but they have also designed a highly rated espresso machine complete with a milk frother so you can have cappuccino or lattes at home any time you want one. Since this doesn’t use capsules, you can use any coffee beans you like, whether you grind it fresh or you buy it from the store. The water and milk reservoirs are both removable for easy filling and cleaning, and a touch panel makes it simple to select the drink you want. You can also customize your drink or choose the manual setting for even more control. The machine automatically goes to sleep after 15 minutes of non-use, saving you power.
The Café Barista received high marks in our testing process, particularly because of its ease of use and overall design. "This machine is both sleek and modern looking," our reviewer wrote, "and it easily fits in with the rest of our kitchen appliances." She also noted that "all of its parts are labeled clearly" and "removable, which is convenient for cleaning and refilling."
"Compared to some of the cheaper alternatives, [the Café Barista] wins out because it is semi-automatic. With this machine, it’s easy to make cappuccinos and lattes at the touch of a button." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Best with Grinder: Breville The Barista Express
Reliable steam wand
Potential learning curve
Requires regular cleaning
Espresso aficionados will tell you that the brew is best when the beans are ground fresh, and the Barista Express makes that easy with an integrated conical burr grinder. We tested the product ourselves and found its many customizable settings to be convenient, especially concerning the grinder; our reviewer was "able to adjust the grind size, grind amount, and tamp to get the perfect espresso shot." While there might be a learning curve involved, it's worth it in the end, as the Barista Express is one of the best at-home espresso machines on the market.
The water tank includes a carbon filter to remove impurities from the water before brewing, and it holds 2 liters of water, so you’ll have enough to make espresso for a crowd before you need a refill. When you’re not making espresso, you can use the grinder on its own for your French press or cold brew coffee.
This 15-bar pressure machine has two presents for standard shot sizes, but you can override those for custom amounts, if you prefer. The steam wand finishes your beverage, with perfectly steamed milk for all your favorite coffeehouse drinks.
"After we figured out our settings, each drink we made was effortlessly delicious and comparable to something made at our local coffee shop." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Best Mid-Range: Nespresso De'Longhi Lattissima Pro Espresso Machine
Multiple functions for coffee and more
Nearly hands-off operation
Pods cost more than ground coffee
It couldn’t be easier. This machine uses convenient Nespresso capsules, so there’s no need for messy grinding, filling, and tamping, and the foamer creates the perfect milk for layered coffee drinks. Even better, the Nespresso capsules are made from aluminum, so they’re recyclable.
This machine uses 19 bars of pressure for the best flavor along with the perfect temperature for all your coffee drinks, whether you want a simple shot or an artistic cappuccino. The proprietary heating system takes cold water to the perfect brewing temperature in just a few seconds, so you’ll never have to wait for the machine to heat up. After testing the Lattissima Pro, our reviewer found that it "heats quickly" and has "virtually no cleanup," making it one of the most efficient espresso machines around.
The detachable milk container lets you store your milk in the refrigerator between coffee uses, and the auto-clean feature keeps the foamer clean. Coffee styles are pre-programmed, so you don’t need to remember settings—just choose ristretto, espresso, lungo, cappuccino, latte, steamed milk, or hot water with the press of a button.
"What you’re buying with this machine is simplicity and the ability to make a variety of coffee drinks as well as hot water and perfectly heated milk with a touch of a button." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best for Multi-Sized Servings: Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker
Choice of thermal or glass carafe
Removable water reservoir
Coffee concentrate, not real espresso
Not fully programmable
Ninja has created a lot of appliances in the food world, like this coffee maker that has six brew sizes, ranging from a few ounces of coffee concentrate (great for specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos) to a full carafe of drip coffee. While this isn't a true espresso machine, the coffee concentrate is a worthy substitute, mimicking espresso thanks to its super-rich taste and thicker consistency. Paired with the fold-away milk frother, you'll be able to make your favorite coffeehouse drinks, and much more. Even iced coffee is just the touch of a button away.
The coffee concentrate also sets this machine apart from the typical single-serve espresso maker, as it allows you to make multi-sized servings at a time. You can purchase this machine with a glass carafe or a thermal stainless steel one, both of which hold up to 50 ounces, or roughly 10 cups. The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker is also certified by the SCA Golden Cup Standard, which is an extensive set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality of at-home brewing.
Best Splurge: Breville BES920XL Dual Boiler Espresso Machine
Makes steamed milk and espresso simultaneously
Many customizable settings
Complicated to set up
Requires involved cleaning after every use
Yes, this espresso maker from Breville has a high price tag, but compared to some of the other machines on the market this machine is actually a steal. Plus, it’s reliable, durable, and produces consistently great coffee.
Dual-boiler espresso systems are undoubtedly the gold standard for home or commercial equipment: they allow the machine to maintain the optimum temperature for simultaneously brewing espresso coffee (195–205 degrees F) as well as for creating steam (closer to 250 degrees F), which means no waiting around, watching your crema disappear while you wait to steam milk. The Breville also has programmable options for softly pre-infusing the coffee, and has a control valve that monitors extraction pressure—two things most home machines don't feature. If espresso is your go-to coffee every day, this is the machine for you.
Best Commercial: La Pavoni Bar-Star 2V-R 2-Group Volumetric Commercial Espresso Machine
Two group heads
Electric programmable dosing
Longer shipping time
Only comes in red color
While this is probably a little over the top for most casual home users, it would be quite impressive on the kitchen counter while you’re pulling shots of espresso during family holidays or dinner parties. Made for commercial use, it’s NSF and CSA certified so you can move it from your kitchen to your coffee shop. It has programmable dosing for the perfect shot of espresso every time, and a huge 14-liter copper boiler so you can make espresso shots for the entire neighborhood before you need to refill. A water softener and installation kit are included.
Best Budget: Nespresso Essenza Mini Espresso Machine
Doesn't fit tall coffee mugs
Nespresso has made its name as the go-to capsule espresso maker. The machines are easy to use, the capsules are recyclable, and the flavor is highly praised by users. This is one of the smallest Nespresso machines you’ll find, built to fit a slim space with the water reservoir behind the machine where it’s out of the way, and it comes at a budget price. This provides 19 bars of pressure for excellent extraction of the best flavor, and can be ready to brew in just 25 seconds after pressing the button to start the process. After 9 minutes, the machine turns itself off to save energy. This makes two sizes of coffee: espresso (1.35 ounce) and lungo (5 ounces) so it’s not as versatile as larger, more expensive machines, but it still makes a great cup. This includes a welcome pack of 14 capsules of different types of coffee, so you can find the one you like best before you commit to just one, or to a few.
Best Stovetop: Bialetti Moka Express
Easy to use
Clean after every use (hand-wash only)
Not real espresso
Buying a coffee maker can be a headache, but the decision is much easier when a product has been trusted for as long as the Bialetti Moka Express. The Italian company has been manufacturing coffee makers for over 80 years, and this espresso maker takes less than five minutes to produce up to 3 demitasses (2 ounces) cups of rich, espresso-like coffee. It's made from polished aluminum in a classic octagon shape that will look good on your stove or table, while the shape also helps to diffuse heat perfectly. It has a patented safety valve for protection and is easy to disassemble for cleaning.
Making espresso is simple—just fill the lower pot with cold water to below the valve, insert the funnel and fill with ground espresso, then screw the upper part onto the base. Then, just heat until the water boils and coffee comes through the center post. When the top pot is full, the coffee is done.
"Even though it's not a true espresso maker, the Moka Express brews coffee that's strong enough and thick enough to mimic the real thing. It's an affordable way to add variety to your coffee routine." — Derek Rose, coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats
Best Non-Electric: Flair Signature Espresso Maker
Cleaning after each use (hand-wash only)
Similar price as electric espresso makers
An espresso maker unlike any other, this item is portable and doesn't require electricity, so you can get your caffeine fix anywhere from the kitchen to that cozy cabin in the woods. Simply pack the filter with ground espresso, pour hot water, and use the manual lever-pull system to make a delicious espresso shot with a rich layer of crema. A ratio of 18 grams of coffee for 60 milliliters of water is recommended, but you can play with the proportions to achieve your ideal flavor and consistency.
Customers say it's easy to use and put together—though, there are several small pieces to keep track of—and most love the eye-catching design. While you can find many electric espresso makers in the same price range, the Flair Espresso Maker is perfect for coffee enthusiasts who appreciate the simple beauty of a good cup of espresso.
Best Automatic: Cuisinart EM-1000 Espresso Machine
Built-in burr grinder
Intuitive touchscreen controls
Milk tube detracts from aesthetic
Espresso making can be an art, requiring skill in tamping and an education on how to pull the perfect shot. That’s great for some folks. Others just want an easy espresso, cappuccino, or latte. That’s where this machine really shines. With the touch on the screen, the machine grinds the beans, froths milk, and brews the coffee. It’s completely programmable, so you can adjust your brew strength as well as the amount of milk you’re adding, or just choose single or double espresso, cappuccino, latte, regular coffee, steamed milk, or hot water.
This can also brew larger quantities, so you can choose a carafe with 4, 6, or 8 cups. If you have pre-ground coffee, you can turn off the grinder function. The water reservoir holds 48 ounces and the coffee bean hopper holds 8 ounces.
With its multiple drink options, ease of use, and affordable price the Mr. Coffee Café Barista is a clear winner if you're trying to get value for your money. If you're operating with a slightly bigger budget, however, the Breville Barista Express is a higher quality machine that will transform your home coffee routine and stick around for years to come.
What to Look for in an Espresso Machine
Ease of use
Some espresso machines are simple to use, while others include many different settings to help you fine-tune your brew. No matter if you like experimenting with different features or if you’re happy to simply add coffee and let the machine do the work, there’s an option for you — just think about what you prefer.
A machine with built-in frothing capability gives you a wide range of fancy coffee drinks that you can create, but it also gives you one more thing to clean and maintain. Do you need to froth milk? Does this versatility offset the extra cleaning? Also, since there are separate devices that can froth milk, you may still want to buy a machine without this capability that's otherwise perfect for you.
A very large machine will likely make a permanent home on your counter, while a very small machine can easily be moved in and out of storage. Mid-sized machines can be moved if you need the counter space. Consider how much room you have, as well as how portable you’d like your machine to be.
What are bars of pressure?
Espresso drinkers often see machines advertised as “15 bar” or “20 bar” and wonder what the designations mean. For starters, a bar is a unit of pressure. The more bars an espresso maker has, the more pressurized the water that passes through the coffee grounds. Early in the 20th century it was discovered that espresso tastes best when brewed with 9 bars and water at 195 to 205 degrees. Although it sounds contradictory, an espresso machine actually needs a 15-bar pump to brew with 9 bars. Many customers then naturally wonder if larger pumps are better, and the answer, surprisingly, is no. All you need is a 15-bar pump for delicious espresso; anything higher produces the same quality.
Why is my espresso weak?
Weak espresso can be caused by a number of factors. Fortunately, it’s usually easy to identify and remedy the main culprit. Start by checking the roast date of your coffee beans. If it’s been weeks since roasting, they have likely lost their flavor. Another common issue is, simply, not using enough grounds. It’s recommended to use 6 to 8 ounces of ground coffee for a single shot of espresso, but experiment on your own if this still doesn’t suit your taste. Weak espresso can also be caused by using grounds that are too coarse or not thoroughly tamped; make sure to use finely ground coffee that’s firmly packed into the portafilter. A final issue to look out for is low water temperature. An espresso maker needs to heat the water up to 195 to 205 for ideal extraction.
What is a portafilter?
A portafilter, also referred to as a “group handle,” is the handheld basket that attaches to an espresso machine’s group head in order to brew. The term will frequently appear when searching for espresso machines, particularly manual devices. Portafilters are typically made of stainless steel, although some cheaper espresso makers come with plastic ones. They can also be pressurized, which is the easiest to use for beginners, or non-pressurized, which is great for those who want more hands-on control over their espresso.
What coffee beans do you use for an espresso machine?
Technically, any kind of coffee bean can be used to make espresso, but certain types produce better results. The first factor to look out for is the roast. Espresso usually tastes best with dark roast coffee because darker beans are sweeter, more balanced, and less acidic than light ones. When you come across bags of coffee labeled “espresso roast,” it’s typically because the beans have been roasted at high temperatures for a long time. A second factor, especially for those who buy pre-ground coffee, is grind size. Very finely ground coffee is needed to achieve the flavor and body of a good espresso shot. Too coarse and your espresso will be weak, watery, and lack crema. There’s a chance your go-to coffee beans can brew multiple kinds of coffee, including espresso, especially if it’s a French or an Italian roast. When in doubt, see what brewing method the brand recommends.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a freelance food writer who specializes in product reviews and recipes. Her work has appeared on Serious Eats, Fine Cooking, and her own recipe blog, Cookistry.com. She's also the author of Make Ahead Bread, a cookbook meant to simplify the bread-baking process.
This piece was edited 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. He uses the Bialetti Moka Express at home, complementing it with a separate milk frother to make lattes and cappuccinos.