The 6 Best Coffee and Espresso Machine Combos in 2021

Why choose between coffee or espresso when you can have both?

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coffee espresso combo makers

The Spruce Eats/ Vicky Wasik

Groggy mornings call for the same routine: the phone alarm, the hurried shower, down to the same cup of coffee. When you want the flexibility to sip on something new, a combination coffee and espresso maker is an easy way to shake up routine without needing to leave your kitchen. Many of these devices allow users to brew drip coffee, pull a shot of espresso, and even froth milk for lattes and cappuccinos. You can start every day just how you want with the style of coffee you're craving at hand.

"Coffee and espresso makers each have their specialty," says Chris Hallowell, our onsite coffee expert and owner of Turning Point Coffee Roasters. Depending on what type of coffee drinker you are, there's one that fits you best based on which features you benefit from, such as speedy steamers, an impressive portafilter, automatic presets, or a built-in coffee grinder. “For some, the routine of grinding your coffee, tamping it, brewing espresso and steaming their own milk can be meditative,” says Hallowell. "Others might want to push a button and have near-immediate caffeine gratification from a super-automatic machine.”

We know how hard it can be to judge a coffee maker without trying it firsthand, so we tested a dozen of the top-rated coffee and espresso makers side-by-side in our dedicated Lab and rated them on ease of use, heat-up time, brew quality, and cleanup. On one of our testing days, we conducted a blind taste test, in which our coffee expert pulled more than 100 shots of espresso and cups of coffee for a panel of testers, who judged each machine's drinks based on mouthfeel, texture, and clarity.

For the best of both coffee worlds, here are our clear-cut winners for coffee and espresso machine combos, according to our Lab tests.

Our Cyber Week espresso machine pick is the De'Longhi All-in-One Coffee and Espresso Maker, which is currently $260 at Williams-Sonoma, down from $300.

Our Top Picks
Best for Drip and Cappuccino Drinkers:
De'Longhi All-in-One Coffee and Espresso Maker at Amazon
On one side, there is a café-style milk frother and portafilter for espresso; on the other, a 10-cup carafe for drip coffee.
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Enjoy a speciality coffee and espresso experience with minimal user effort required.
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Best for French Press Drinkers:
Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker at Amazon
This machine gets high praise for its ease of use, value for money, and, of course, the rich taste you’ll find in every sip.
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This semiautomatic feels the closest to a professional espresso machine, right at home.
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The stovetop design uses steam to push boiling water up through coffee grounds and into your cup.
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This device is smaller than most coffee and espresso makers, and its milk frother can be stored separately.
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Best for Drip and Cappuccino Drinkers: De'Longhi All-in-One Coffee and Espresso Maker

De'Longhi All-in-One Coffee and Espresso Maker
4.9

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Heat Up Time
    4.6/5
  • Brew Quality
    4.8/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    4.4/5
What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Large capacity

  • Convenient water reservoirs

  • Polished, modern look

What We Don't Like
  • Not the strongest espresso

  • Fairly loud

Several aspects of the De’Longhi All-in-One Coffee and Espresso Maker are designed to simplify things, making it an excellent option for anyone looking to try the barista experience. This is immediately evident from the machine’s split design. On one side, there is a café-style portafilter for espresso and an adjustable milk frother; on the other, there is a 10-cup glass carafe for drip coffee. It’s an intuitive setup that visually guides new users to their preferred coffee beverage. Plus, espresso and drip coffee can even be brewed simultaneously, so nothing will slow down your morning routine.

During our Lab testing, the De'Longhi was quickest to steam, produced the best milk, and had the fastest recovery time between drinks. The milk frother is also clearly labeled to alternate between denser, finer foam (for lattes) and lighter, more voluminous foam for cappuccinos. While the Espressione model produced a superior espresso shot on its own, if you are a cappuccino drinker, this is the clear choice among the group. Our taste testers also gave the De'Longhi top ratings in its coffee's taste. Three different testers dubbed it coffee that they would always look forward to waking up to.

We found this device relatively easy to clean, with minimal coffee grinds trapped in the crevices of the machine. However, while using the machine, water overflow began leaking out the back (without warning) as soon as drip tray was full, so we had to be mindful to clean it out often. It has a removable water reservoir on the espresso side for easier filling and cleaning, plus a front-loading reservoir on the coffee side.

The COM532M model is a newer version of a previous De’Longhi coffee and espresso maker. The two are very similar in price and design, but this updated COM532M model has a digital touchscreen display, which provides a sleeker aesthetic and further enhances convenience. In all, this model was one of the best machines overall for its versatility, superiority on the drip coffee side, and ability to produce a cappuccino and latte with that sought-after milk texture.

Grounds or Pods: Grounds and E.S.E. pods | Grinder: No | Frother/Steamer: Yes | Dimensions: 11.02 x 14.52 x 12.79 inches | Wattage: 1,500 | Voltage: 115

De’Longhi All-in-One Coffee and Espresso Maker

The Spruce Eats/ Vicky Wasik

What Our Experts Say

"For drip, this was the Goldilocks of the group with a 10-cup carafe that makes it a versatile crowd-pleaser for nearly any coffee drinker, but where it really draws a line in the sand from other models is with its impressive milk texturing for cappuccino fans." — Chris Hallowell of Turning Point Coffee Roasters

Best Super-Automatic: Miele CM5300 Countertop Coffee System

4.8

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Heat Up Time
    5/5
  • Brew Quality
    4.7/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    4.4/5
What We Like
  • Customizable settings

  • Quality espresso drinks

  • Integrated burr grinder

  • Minimalist design

What We Don't Like
  • Coffee is closer to an Americano

  • Regular cleanup is involved

With intuitive touch controls, a sleek design, and rich, barista-worthy coffee, the Miele CM5300 Countertop Coffee Machine packs luxury into every sip. While customers should expect to pay a hefty price, we found that this product offers something unparalleled, a high-quality cup in about 45 seconds with minimal effort. The Miele CM5300 has nine preset drink options, ranging from must-haves, like lattes and cappuccinos, to more creative drinks, like ristrettos and macchiatos.

While working with it at our Lab, we found users can adjust drink size and coffee temperature. Further separating it from most coffee and espresso machines, the Miele CM5300 automatically froths and pours the milk for your drinks, too. Our at-home tester said that this was one of her favorite aspects of the machine, especially if you don't want to fuss with your coffee-to-frothed-milk ratios.

While we enjoyed the automatic cleaning system while pulling back-to-back shots during testing, other regular cleaning is still required and can be a bit time consuming. This model ranked slightly lower in our ease of cleaning category because the drip tray, drip tray cover, coffee grounds container, and water container all have to be washed regularly and the manual suggests cleaning out the brew unit and main dispenser about once a week. On the flip side, our coffee expert pointed out that while the maintenance prompts might be slightly annoying, this will also allow users to not neglect their super-automatic machines and keep their investment humming along for a long time.

Grounds or Pods: Grounds | Grinder: Yes | Frother/Steamer: Yes | Dimensions: 18.2 x 9.5 x 14.25 inches | Wattage: 1,450 | Voltage: 120

Miele

The Spruce Eats / Vicky Wasik

Lab Test Takeaway

"The user has minimal to do on their end to get coffee. The machine grinds the beans at the touch of a button with its integrated burr grinder, tamps and pulls the espresso, prepares the milk froth, and voila."

Best for French Press Drinkers: Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker

Ninja Single-Serve, Pod-Free Coffee Maker Bar
4.7

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    4.7/5
  • Heat Up Time
    5/5
  • Brew Quality
    4.7/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    4.3/5
What We Like
  • Multiple brew functions and serving sizes 

  • Amazing frother whisk

  • Well-constructed design

  • Excellent, rich coffee

What We Don't Like
  • Takes up a lot of counter space

  • No warming function

  • Doesn’t make real espresso

French press drinkers rejoice: The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker has the characteristics of a French press without the cleanup. While putting it through its paces in our Lab, we found that the Ninja—equipped with a mesh filter—produces a full-bodied cup of coffee. While there were some grounds in the bottom of its pours, fans of French presses and the oils that extract from coffee beans will love this machine.

Users can make drinks ranging from a frothy latte to a standard cup of coffee and choose between six different brew sizes (a single cup to a full carafe). There’s even an option for iced coffee drinks, a feature that further sets the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker apart from other machines we tested.

During our blind taste tests, we noticed that the Ninja's intense, full-bodied coffee taste was one of the only machines that truly had split results and came down to personal preference. Some gave glowing reviews about the coffee's richness, while others found it a bit too muddy for their liking. One other thing our testers noted is that it does not produce a true espresso, though the device does make a thick coffee that can make specialty drinks, such as lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos. While testing it out with milk-based drinks, the Ninja's fold-away compact frother successfully turned milk into a silky smooth froth.

The Ninja was efficient throughout its testing from beginning to cleanup. While brewing a carafe of coffee, it had a faster heat-up time by one full minute to the De'Longhi. Considering the number of features this machine offers, with the right audience of coffee drinkers, this maker definitely ranks in at a fair price to its competitors and is worth the purchase.

Grounds or Pods: Grounds | Grinder: No | Frother/Steamer: Yes | Dimensions: 12 x 15 x 8.8 inches | Wattage: 1,550 | Voltage: 120

Ninja

The Spruce Eats / Vicky Wasik

What Our Experts Say

"This Ninja model is great for someone who likes French press and wants that muddy, thicker morning cup, but doesn’t want to clean up after using a French press." — Chris Hallowell of Turning Point Coffee Roasters

Best for Espresso and Drip Drinkers: Espressione Stainless Steel Machine Espresso and Coffee Maker

Espressione Stainless Steel Machine Espresso and Coffee Maker
What We Like
  • Easy cleanup

  • Built-in frother

  • Temperature control

What We Don't Like
  • Not the best for dark roast

  • Longer process


This stainless steel combination maker was one of the top performers across the board in our testing, especially if you start your day with drip coffee or espresso. Our coffee expert weighed in that this machine is equipped with a paper filter for drip, so it wasn't surprising that this made it the cleanest cup of coffee that we tried throughout testing. For that reason, if you like light roasts, this is the machine for you. The coffee side of this unit can make up to 10 cups of coffee at a time and stays warm for hours thanks to its warming plate.

If it's your goal to be sipping on espressos at home without ducking out to a café, the Espressione could also be your top pick for that reason, too. With a fast heat-up time and memorable taste, the aptly named Espressione over-performed during our Lab tests while we pulled countless espresso shots. Its espresso shots were consistently longer than its competitors, such as the De’Longhi, and with gentler extractions (espresso without sour and bitter notes). That said, we noticed the De’Longhi had a nicer foam quality than the Espressione did while we compared drinks side-by-side.

If you like to be more involved in your daily espresso ritual, the Espressione could be a better fit than automatic machines, like the Miele or Jura (which didn't make our list). Texturally and flavor-wise, during our taste testing, the Espressione earned a clear 5 rating and proved that its shots were closer to the full flavor and body of real espresso that you’d find from a professional machine at your local coffee shop. But of course, this espresso doesn't come at the touch of a button. Users need to manually add their coffee to the portafilter and tamp the grounds properly.

When it came time for cleanup, the Espressione's removable frontal water tank and drip tray were both effortless to clean by hand. Overall, the Espressione feels (and looks) the closest to a professional machine you can show off on your kitchen counter.

Espressione

The Spruce Eats / Vicky Wasik

Lab Test Takeaway

“Responsible for the cleanest cup of coffee we tried during our testing and espresso with great body, the Espressione was impressionable from the start and quickly made our top list.”

Best Stovetop: Bialetti Moka Express

4.6

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Heat Up Time
    4.3/5
  • Brew Quality
    4.6/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    4.7/5
What We Like
  • Coffee has versatile flavor and body

  • Easy to use regardless of experience

  • Compact and portable

  • Cheaper than electric coffee makers

What We Don't Like
  • Must hand wash after every use

  • Uses a lot of grounds

  • Handle gets hot

The Bialetti Moka Express was invented in 1933 and has been a beloved source of espresso-like coffee for the near-century since. It does not technically produce real espresso because it brews with less pressure than commercial espresso makers, but the final product is still close to espresso in taste and consistency. In fact, moka pots are alternatively referred to as stovetop espresso makers. 

A major appeal of this device is that you can make a richer espresso-like cup or one that’s lighter and closer to drip coffee by adjusting the grind size. Allie Caran, the director of education at Partners Coffee, recommends using "a fine to medium grind for a heavier body and stronger flavor.” After testing it ourselves, we found that when using high heat on a coil burner with medium-ground coffee, it only took 3 minutes to brew. On a standard medium heat with a fine grind, it took just over 10 minutes, but this produced a very strong brew. Keep in mind that this model's handle gets very hot, so be sure to grab it with a towel or oven mitt when removing it from the stovetop.

The Moka Express is sturdy, hard to break, and exceptionally uncomplicated to use earning it a 5 in our ease of use category, second to the automatic Miele. Unlike other espresso machines on this list, you can easily take the Moka Express on the go from your stovetop to a campsite and beyond.

This model is available in an array of sizes, ranging from 1 to 12 cups. Be aware that this figure can be a bit misleading, as each "cup" represents one serving of espresso; for example, a 3-cup pot produces just 4.3 ounces of coffee. Nonetheless, the item is cheaper than standard combination coffee-and-espresso machines, even at its largest size, making it a great value-for-money option.

Grounds or Pods: Grounds | Electric: No | Capacity: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, and 18 espresso-sized cups | Dimensions: 4 x 9 x 4 inches (6-cup model) | Warranty: 2 years

Bialetti

The Spruce Eats / Vicky Wasik

Lab Test Takeaway

"An outlier among all of the automated (and expensive) coffee-and-espresso makers, the Moka Express is a great option for those who prefer non-electric brewers."

Best Nespresso: Nespresso Vertuo and Milk Frother

Nespresso Vertuo and Milk Frother
4.7

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    4.9/5
  • Heat Up Time
    5/5
  • Brew Quality
    4.5/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    4.8/5
What We Like
  • Speedy drink preparation

  • High-quality coffee and espresso beverages

  • Very quiet

  • Includes 12 coffee capsules

What We Don't Like
  • Must use Vertuo coffee capsules

  • Coffee is on the stronger side

  • Makes only individual cups

The Nespresso Vertuo is more than just a space-saving capsule machine, it makes tasty beverages at rapid speed. We timed this Nespresso model's heat-up speed during our Lab testing, and it clocked in at 3 seconds, which is the fastest out of all the machines on our list. Once it heated up, it also had an extremely fast brew time, too, taking roughly 15 seconds.

When it came time to taste, we tested the model's various brew size options, including the travel-size mug, which produced a lungo with an impressive line of velvety crema. While the Nespressos can produce "coffee," it really is just an Americano, so coffee drinkers be warned (though its espresso's bold taste was great and without any acidity).

While the Vertuo’s convenience is a huge selling point (simply pop in a Nespresso capsule and press brew), we also found it shockingly quiet, durable, and easy to clean. Our editors noted the machine itself is very slim and can be swiftly stowed away in most cabinets. 

Grounds or Pods: Pods | Grinder: No | Frother/Steamer: Yes, in bundle deal | Dimensions: 8.32 x 11.91 x 11.93 inches | Wattage: 1,350 | Voltage: 120

nespresso vertuo

The Spruce Eats/ Nick Kova

Lab Test Takeaway

"Offering speedy prep, low maintenance, and excellent coffee and espresso beverages, the Nespresso Vertuo is a true bargain."

Final Verdict

While every coffee maker on our list has a specialty for the type of coffee drinker you are, the unmatched versatility and affordable price of the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker or the high brew quality of the De'Longhi (view at Amazon) are both great places to start when looking for a coffee and espresso combo machine. Another worthwhile option, especially for those who lean more toward the espresso side, is the Espressione (view at Amazon), a pricier device that offers a seamless, semiautomatic experience of at-home brewing.

coffee test
Review Editor, Collier Sutter, collecting her notes as Test Kitchen Assistant, Felisia Tan, weighs coffee grinds.

The Spruce Eats / Vicky Wasik

How We Tested

The coffee and espresso makers included in this article were tested firsthand in The Lab using our standardized methodology. We analyzed them on ease of use, heat-up time, brew quality, and cleanup.

Coffee Maker

The Spruce Eats/ Vicky Wasik

We put these machines through their paces with tasks, such as quantifying heat-up times, measuring beverage temperatures, identifying crema, and tasting for flavor, mouthfeel, and texture. Throughout our testing, we called in an onsite coffee expert to offer technical and mechanical input (and barista skills) while he pulled over 100 espresso shots, cups of coffee, cappuccinos, and more for our panel of taste testers. If a maker came equipped with a milk frother, we messed around with it using both whole and oat milks. After we analyzed the data, reviewed insights, and determined ratings, we used our findings to finalize our list you see above.

coffee maker

The Spruce Eats/ Vicky Wasik

Other Options We Tested

  • Mr Coffee All-in-One Occasions Coffee Maker: This maker had a lot of potential due to its impressive-tasting coffee, but it had way too many internal issues. While testing with it, water consecutively spilled out the back of the maker, leading it to be an unreliable option. We also didn't love its faintly lit LED interface.
  • Jura A1 Piano: The other super-automatic coffee and espresso maker we tested alongside the Miele was the Jura A1. While both showed up in their sleek designs, fast recovery times, and effortless coffee experience, when it came down to the taste tests, the Jura's drinks tasted very watery. We inevitably went with the Miele, which had well-rounded texture and bold flavor.
  • Nescafe Dulce Gusto Coffee Machine: While the Nescafe has convenience on its side for a streamlined way to get to your morning coffee, it did not outperform the Nespresso Vertuo, a similar concept. While this product could be reconsidered in future tests because of its impressive foam, it did not earn a high enough rating in our blind taste tests to add it to the current list.
  • Keurig K-Cafe Single-Serve K-Cup Coffee, Latte and Cappuccino Maker: An earlier version of this list included the Keurig K-Cafe, but after testing it alongside this group of espresso and coffee combo makers, it did not perform in taste. When we sat down our taste testers, the Keurig drinks were rated a bit lower than most on the list, and while it hits a 5 in ease of use, there's not enough else to back it up.

What to Look for in a Coffee and Espresso Machine Combo

Level of Automation

Coffee and espresso machines can be sorted into categories based on their level of automation: manual, semiautomatic, fully automatic, and super-automatic. With manual machines, you have to pull on a lever to create pressure; it's a difficult process, which is why you won't see any on this list. Semiautomatic machines involve packing the portafilter by hand and deciding when to stop pulling the shot, giving you the most control over your coffee. However, they're also messier and more time consuming.

With a fully automatic machine, you still have to pack the portafilter by hand, but the flow of water automatically stops when the espresso is finished to prevent over-extraction. Finally, super-automatic machines make every drink with the touch of a button, from regular coffee to cappuccinos—they can even froth the milk for you. They tend to be the most compact, but they're also the most expensive.

coffee maker

The Spruce Eats/ Vicky Wasik

Temperature and Pressure Control

Some machines allow users to control key espresso factors, like pressure and water temperature. Just like drip coffee, espresso tastes best when the water is between 195 and 204 degrees Fahrenheit. Any less than that and it’s hard for espresso to reach the proper extraction percentage, meaning it will be weak and watery. Pressure is a more complicated matter. Brands love advertising that a product can reach 20-plus bars of pressure, but all you actually need is 15 bars. Anything higher is superfluous. A 15-bar machine is able to create the perfect amount of pressure at the brew head, which is nine bars. 

Grounds or Pods Compatibility

Some machines are compatible with both coffee pods and coffee grounds, but you typically have to choose between the two. Freshly ground coffee beans are usually more flavorful than pods and can be adjusted to make coffee stronger or weaker. Grounds are also more affordable than pods over time and can be purchased in a wider array of flavors and blends. Pod-based machines offer convenience, as they speed up the brewing process, make cleanup easier, and eliminate the hassle of packing the filter by hand. These are predominantly single-serve, while brewers that use ground coffee can often make multiple servings at once.

Types of Coffee and Espresso Machine Combos

Semiautomatic

Semiautomatic offers the most hands-on type of coffee and espresso maker. Users have to do a lot of work themselves, like filling the filter for drip coffee, pulling an espresso shot, and steaming milk. Even though it’s more of a hassle, many customers prefer this type of machine because it provides a lot of control over the coffee, as well as a barista-like experience. Semiautomatic machines are also cheaper than the other two types: automatic and super-automatic. Those new to coffee or espresso may be daunted upon seeing the many parts, knobs, and gauges, but after learning the ropes, it's easy to create café-worthy drinks right from home.

Automatic

This category is, unfortunately, quite vague at times. It’s easy to assume that a coffee and espresso maker labeled “automatic” would do every step of the process for you. In reality, automatic machines are very similar to semiautomatic ones. For both, users have to grind and tamp coffee by hand. The main difference is that an automatic machine stops by itself when the coffee is ready. It’s only a slight upgrade over semiautomatic machines, but it does make the brewing process that much easier. These often come at a similar price to semiautomatic machines or are a little more expensive.

Super-Automatic

Super-automatic is the top tier of coffee and espresso makers. Virtually every aspect of the brewing process is controlled by the machine. While features vary, a super-automatic machine usually has a built-in grinder to start your coffee off with fresh beans. Then, all you have to do is touch a button on the machine’s digital display, and it can create a number of drinks in seconds. Super-automatic machines often even steam milk for you, so you can be sipping a latte or cappuccino without having to deal with espresso filters or frothing wands. Sometimes you can adjust a number of details, like water temperature, coffee strength, and drink size.

Coffee Combo

The Spruce Eats/ Vicky Wasik

Brands/Manufacturers

Bialetti

The Italian manufacturer Bialetti has a number of coffee makers to offer, but we’re highlighting the company specifically because of its popular stovetop brewer, the Moka Express. It stands out in comparison to other coffee and espresso makers because, well, it’s not exactly a coffee and espresso maker. The Moka Express brews a cross between drip coffee and espresso. You can drink the coffee by itself—it will taste like an Americano—or mix it with milk for a latte. Other benefits of the unique brewing device include its compact size and budget price, both of which far outshine the majority of options in the coffee and espresso category.

Keurig

With its signature K-Cups, Keurig is a beloved brand already found in many households. The company is primarily known for quick drip coffee, but it also manufactures a small number of coffee and espresso makers. Two worth checking out are the K-Café and K-Latte. As expected, the main advantage of Keurig is ease of use. As an added bonus, its products tend to be more affordable than competitors in this category. Just keep in mind that Keurig machines don’t produce real espresso. They use a condensed, bolder form of coffee known as coffee concentrate, and although it's great for ease of use, Keurig did not pass our Lab tests.

Nespresso

Nespresso has long been known for its high-quality espresso machines. The Swiss company was founded in 1986 and, for many years, espresso was its primary focus. That changed in 2014 when Nespresso released its VertuoLine machines, designed to brew coffee in multiple sizes along with its classic espresso. The brand often adds and discontinues different models, but between its Vertuo and Original machines, there are always many great options to choose from. Several are affordably priced around the $200 mark, but others quickly move into higher price echelons. And, of course, the company’s defining characteristic is its patented coffee capsules, which are quick, easy to use, and available in dozens of varieties.

FAQs

How do you clean a coffee and espresso machine combo?

The proper routine to maintain a coffee and espresso maker is similar to that of a standard coffee maker. Both machines require regular descaling, which is a more thorough and rigorous process than normal hand washing (more on that below). Those who own a more advanced product may have a separate (and simpler) maintenance routine. Some machines have a light-up sensor that notifies users when it’s time to clean. Others may even have an auto-clean function that eliminates the hassle altogether.

Machines with a traditional espresso group head also require a cleaning process known as backflushing. Start by rinsing all the coffee grounds out of your portafilter, and then brush underneath the group head to remove stray grounds from there, as well. After that, all you have to do is lock the portafilter into place and run the brewing cycle several times. Coffeehouses backflush machines at the end of each day, but home users only need to do it weekly. Several products are available to make the process easier, from cleaning solutions to single-use tablets.

What coffee beans do you use for an espresso machine combo?

While espresso can be made with any kind of coffee bean, certain characteristics produce a far tastier result. First, the roast. Espresso is generally 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 mainly because the beans have been roasted at high temperatures for a long time. Another detail to keep in mind, especially for those who buy pre-ground coffee, is that espresso requires a very fine grind size. If it's too coarse, your espresso will be weak, watery, and lack crema. There’s a chance your go-to coffee beans can brew both drip coffee and espresso, especially if it’s a French or Italian roast, but when in doubt, see what brewing method the brand recommends.

What is descaling?

Descaling is when you remove the mineral residue that builds up in a machine over time. Some manufacturers recommend descaling once a month, but you can likely get away with doing it every three months. The easiest way to descale is by wiping all parts and pieces with a combination of vinegar and warm, soapy water. If your coffee and espresso maker has a coffee pot, pour the vinegar solution into the water reservoir, run the brew setting, and let it sit in the pot for 30 minutes. Just check your product manual beforehand, as some manufacturers advise not to use vinegar. Many brands even sell specialized descaling solutions to make the process easier. If you don’t regularly descale, the machine will likely face a number of issues, like clogging, altered coffee taste, not getting hot enough, or not running altogether. 

What is the best water for coffee?

One factor that determines mineral buildup is the kind of water that you use. Hard water contains a high amount of dissolved minerals, especially calcium and magnesium, so it will lead to faster mineral buildup in your coffee maker. Soft or filtered water, on the other hand, is easier on your machine and will cut down on the frequency with which you need to descale. But keep in mind that minerals are also an important factor in the taste of your coffee, and a moderate amount is necessary for proper extraction. Lots of minerals will overpower coffee; too few and you’ll get a weaker, even salty cup of joe. Experiment with different kinds of water to see what suits your taste buds. 

What is coffee concentrate?

Many machines actually brew a beverage called “coffee concentrate” instead of real espresso. The key difference between the two is pressure. To make espresso, highly pressurized water is rapidly forced through finely ground coffee beans, resulting in the delicious little shots we know and love. Coffee concentrate (not to be confused with cold brew coffee concentrate, which is a condensed form of cold brew that’s meant to be diluted with milk or water) is made more like standard drip coffee, as the water is slowly filtered through coarse and loosely packed grounds. Think of it as a cross between coffee and espresso.

Brands are generally transparent about the difference in product descriptions, but it’s worth keeping an eye out because all machines in this category are called coffee and espresso makers regardless of whether they make espresso or concentrate. If you want the most flavor and most control of your coffee, go with espresso. After all, nothing beats the real thing. For those who prefer convenience, want to save some money, and don’t mind a slightly weaker taste, coffee concentrate may be your best option. 

Are steamed milk and frothed milk different?

There isn’t a major difference between frothing and steaming. The former provides more aeration, while the latter always uses heat, so don’t get bogged down by that when buying. What’s more important is understanding how machines incorporate frothing/steaming capabilities. A frother/steamer comes in two forms. First, it can be built into the machine itself, typically in the form of a steaming wand. Second, it can be an entirely separate device included with your purchase—this is frequently seen with Keurig products.

These separate devices come in three varieties: manual, handheld, and electric. Expect manual and handheld frothers to be smaller, cheaper, and slightly less powerful. On the contrary, electric frothers can lead to café-quality drinks, but are more expensive. If you buy a machine that doesn’t come with a frother/steamer, it’s easy to purchase one separately should you change your mind.

What is a portafilter?

The term "portafilter" pops up often when searching for coffee and espresso makers, but it may be unfamiliar to those who have never owned an espresso machine before. A portafilter, also referred to as a "group handle," is simply the handheld basket that attaches to the espresso machine in order to brew. You will likely recognize the little stainless steel devices from coffee shops. It's important to note that the quality of a portafilter does 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. 

What are must-have accessories for my coffee and espresso machine combo?

There are many wonderful tools and accessories to pair with a coffee and espresso maker, but one of the most useful is a coffee grinder. Some machines have built-in grinders, but the majority do not. Purchasing a separate one ensures the freshest possible roast and, subsequently, the tastiest cup of joe. There are two varieties of coffee grinders out there: burr and blade. Burr is the superior option, offering the utmost evenness and 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.

coffee maker

The Spruce Eats/ Vicky Wasik

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

The author of this piece, Review Editor Collier Sutter, personally tested each coffee and espresso combo maker in our Lab to determine the best picks to recommend, replicating the same recipes and measuring specific data points. She also included insights from our freelance reviewers to get the home cook's perspective.

This piece contains additional reporting by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He uses the Bialetti Moka Express to shake up his everyday coffee routine and make café-style drinks, like lattes and Americanos, right from home. It’s the perfect partner to his primary coffee maker, the Bodum Brazil French Press (view at Amazon).

Chris Hallowell, founder of Turning Point Coffee Roasters was our onsite expert for Lab testing and helped pinpoint the best machines on this list. When he's not pulling espresso shots and running his coffee shops, he's fine-tuning his own line of coffee. While the Espressione (view at Amazon) was his favorite maker during testing, he currently has the Miele in his family kitchen.

Allie Caran, the Director of Education at Partners Coffee, was also previously interviewed for this original piece. She has worked in the coffee industry for more than 15 years and joined Partners when it was founded in 2012.

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