If you’re a coffee lover, chances are you’ve already researched a few espresso machines and what they can offer. Espresso machines come in all shapes and sizes, and the price range is ridiculous – from $60 all the way to 5 grands!
This makes buying espresso machines a bit tricky. How are you supposed to decide if a sub $100 espresso machine is good enough for your needs or you need one that costs a grand? Heck, what are the things that even make a very expensive espresso machine better than a cheaper one. After all, it’s just coffee. Or is it?
Espresso machines are highly complex pieces of tech that do have a simple product, but very intricate inner workings. Depending on your enthusiasm and needs, you will want to set aside a decent chunk of money if you want the best possible espresso machine for taste, ease of use, and function.
We’ll try to help you with the rest.
The Best Espresso Machines You Can Buy in 2018
To narrow such a huge range of espresso machines to just five can be a bit of a challenge, but there are a few brands and models that stand out above the rest. Some have withstood the test of time, others are just great value for the money.
Breville Barista Express
The King of Espresso Machines
The Breville Barista Express is perhaps the most well known espresso machine out there. This is a semi-automatic machine that features a 1600W thermo coil heating system and a powerful 15 bar Italian Pump. It’s a forgiving espresso maker that produces great tasting espressos and allows you to tweak your drink in several ways.
It’s hard to come by a list or espresso machines review and not see the Breville Barista Express mentioned. This is an all-round incredible product that creates flavorful espressos and more.
The Best Budget Machine
The De’Longhi EC155 is a tried and tested product that is perfect for coffee enthusiasts looking for a machine for home or office use. This is a versatile coffee maker with a 15 bars pump, and decently sized water tank for homes and small offices, and a great espresso flavor for the money.
You don’t have to spend several hundred bucks to own an espresso machine for your home. The De’Longhi EC155 is perhaps the most frequently purchased espresso machine because of just how well it serves homes and offices without setting the buyer back so much.
The thing that makes the Breville Barista Express without doubt the best espresso machine is that it delivers incredible espresso at a fraction of other brands that can rival the taste. It’s a testament to their product design that several Breville Baristas can replace one very expensive and large espresso machine at a coffee shop without a drop in quality.
The Breville Barista has just about everything you’ll need to get going. It’s not an automatic machine, but that works in its favor. Espresso machines that are fully automatic don’t offer the kind of tinkering the Barista does.
This bad boy utilizes high quality parts that make the entire setup extremely streamlined. You don’t have to be an expert brewer to get incredibly tasting coffee from this product. And if you are an expert barista, then what this machine can offer could be considered unmatched.
Not only does it perform incredibly well, it also utilizes an integrated burr grinder. This makes it very convenient for making fresh coffee. It also has a tamper and a frothing pitcher included to really amp up the experience.
Its semiautomatic system may look a little intimidating at first, but the user manual is incredibly detailed. A thorough reading of the manual and a couple of espressos is all you need to fully understand the intricate workings of this machine and further refine your drink. This makes the machine fantastic for all levels of experience.
The Breville Barista comes with everything you’ll ever need, makes great espressos that taste better than those from machines several times its price, and is a perfect tool to master the art of coffee-making. It’s without a doubt the best espresso machine on the market right now.
- Built in burr grinder and frother
- Incredible tasting espresso
- Versatile and customizable
- Outperforms espresso machines far more expensive than itself
- Relatively easy to use and learn on
- None – this machine is perfect for the price
We consider the Gaggia Classic semi-automatic espresso machine a cheaper alternative to the Breville Barista, and we seriously value the Breville highly. That enough should tell you how good the Gaggia Classic is.
This machine comes in nearly $200 cheaper than the Breville, and while it doesn’t offer the same near-perfect performance of our favorite espresso maker, it does come close and succeeds in beating every other machine within its price range.
$400 isn’t cheap, yet it’s not hard to call the Gaggia Classic the best machine in its price range. The machine comes in an elegant stainless steel design with chrome-plated marine-grade brass 58mm portafilters and grouphead.
It has a 72oz water reservoir, which is fairly large, and a 55 watts electric pump. It also has a powerful 17.5 bar pressure pump. From a specifications standpoint, this thing is a beast.
Since it is semi-automatic, you will be controlling a lot of things in this machine though. It is not as forgiving with the tinkering and adjustments the way the Breville is, nor is it as flexible. This can result in rather inconsistent taste and quality of the coffee. The manual also isn’t as detailed to help you enough to make great coffee.
The Gaggia Classic also suffers from a few quality control issues. Make sure you keep the one year warranty card safe as there have been reports of the machine causing problems after a few months of use.
The Gaggia Classic of course isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t need to be to make incredible espresso. You can get a lot from this machine if you have the coffee-making skills down, which is why we highly recommend it if you don’t want to spend extra for the Breville.
- Sophisticated, well-built design
- Excellent capacity
- Great value considering the quality design
- Has the potential to make fantastic espresso
- Very powerful pump
- Some users have reported quality control issues
- Has a learning curve to get great espresso
- No burr grinder
If you’re looking for espresso machines that cost less than $100 and don’t come across the De’Longhi EC155, then you’re probably looking at the wrong place.
Small, elegant, and very reasonably priced, this is versatile espresso maker known for its great affordability and excellent value. It can’t obviously compete in capacity, functions, or taste when going head to head with the Breville Barista or even the Gaggia Classic but it outperforms all espresso machines under $100 and even many up to $200.
The De’Longhi EC155 has a 15-bar brewing capability which makes it powerful for its size and capacity. There is a manual frother in this machine as well, which is an added welcome and uncommon at this price range.
The large capacity (for the price) 35oz water tank is also a great feature, making it ideal for homes with multiple coffee lovers as well as small offices. The tank is also very easy to remove for cleaning and refilling.
The espresso machine features a patented dual function filter holder that allows for single shots, double shots, and espresso pods, giving you enough options to fulfill your caffeine needs for the day.
The De’Longhi is a simple and efficient device, and the ideal espresso machine for anyone who isn’t an enthusiast but needs the everyday morning kick. It’s not a smart device and requires regular maintenance, but it is without a doubt the best espresso machine under $100.
- Great value
- Good tasting espresso considering the price
- A well-built water tank
- Manual frother is a great feature
- Powerful pump
- Certain parts can be flimsy
- Lacks finer settings
The espresso machines of the future are here. The Jura Ena Micro 1 is what you’d expect from a full automatic espresso machine. If Darth Vader wanted to be a coffee machine, he’d look like this.
The Jura Ena Micro 1 is incredible for people short on time who want a quick espresso. It has a touch panel with three user-defined cup sizes and multiple aroma levels, making selection swift and incredibly easy.
The spout that dispenses the coffee also has an adjustable height, allowing you to put taller cups. Alternatively, you can lower the spout into the cup to get the foamy creaminess on top from the frothing effect. The machine does include a milk steaming compartment and a steamer to create the foam.
Think businessmen/women and corporates when you look at this machine (and its price), as it makes coffee in an instant with bare minimal input from the user. It also has a built in burr grinder, so you’ll get the freshness and smell all coffee lovers covet.
The Micro 1 is an ultra-compact model, so it does have a limited serving. However, it is very consistent in the taste it produces, which is nothing short of excellent, in our opinion. It is quite pricey considering its limited capacity, but this is a product designed for those who don’t want to go through the joy (and from their perspective: hassle) of brewing their own espresso.
In our opinion, this is one of the best automatic espresso machines out there, and certainly the best “corporate” espresso machine you can buy.
- Built-in burr grinder
- Produces wonderful tasting coffee
- Requires minimal input
- Sleek modern design
- Low capacity
One the best selling espresso machines on Amazon, the Mr. Coffee Café Barista has over 2,500 reviews and countless purchases. Why, you ask? Because this thing costs $200 and produces incredible coffee, looks sophisticated, is highly efficient, and an all round great espresso machine for amateurs and professionals alike.
The Mr. Coffee Café Barista is a semi-automatic 3-in-1 espresso, cappuccino, and latter maker. It has a powerful 15-bar pump capable of brewing coffee in single and double shot options of varying sizes.
The incredible thing about the Mr. Coffee Café Bartista is its design. It has a fine blend of vintage and modern looks, but it is incredibly intuitive to use and even easier to clean. This makes it an ideal choice for use in the kitchens of homes and offices.
A lot of espresso machines at this price don’t have a built-in milk frother, but the Mr. Coffee Café Barista comes with one built in. This is the most striking feature as the container sits straight at the face of the machine. It results in great creamy drinks that are incredibly easy to make.
It’s easy to make because of the control panel, which needs no manual to understand because of the pictures drawn next to it. This makes brewing a complex coffee for yourself extremely easy with this machine.
- Automatic milk frother is excellent
- Comes with plenty of extras to get you going
- Easy and intuitive to use
- Very easy to maintain
- Great value
- Durability isn’t the best
To be quite honest, there are many different types of espresso machines as there are different levels of automation. Automation is merely just how much of the work the machine does for you.
The most basic are manual espresso machines, which only the hardcore and badass baristas use nowadays. They come with a lever that needs to be physically operated to create the espresso. A lot of work for one coffee, and a huge learning curve.
In the modern world of full automation, you wouldn’t expect a machine that is “semi-automatic” to be the most popular variant. Yet in espresso machines semi-automatics dominate. This is because they eliminate the physical workload by introducing electric pumps and various other motor functions to speed up the process.
However, unlike fully and super-automated espresso machines, semi-automatics also give a lot of control to the user. This allows individuals with great brewing skills to have more control and induce more variety and/or complexity to the flavor of the coffee.
Automatics and Super-Automatics
Then come the most convenient types, where you’re expected to push a few buttons and let coffee pour into a stationary cup. It’s what we’d expect in the modern day world, and that’s what automatics and super-automatics do.
How do you discern between fully automatic and super-automatic? You don’t. These are labels often used for just a few extra functionalities. Super-automatics are the ultimate espresso machines for the lazy people who want to press a few touch buttons and expect magic to happen. The Jura Ena Micro 1 is a good example.
Super-automatics tend to be the most expensive type of espresso machines on the market. They’re mostly purchased by corporate companies for executives or by businessmen who can easily afford $1000+ espresso machines that do everything for them.
Not all espresso machines can make all types of coffees. Most espresso makes are pretty good at making the regular two: lattes and cappuccinos. However, if you’re looking for something more complex, such as chocolate mochas, you’ll want something a bit more versatile and specialized.
That’s where parts like milk frothers come into play. Depending on the drinks you like, you want a machine that gives you the required options. This should be one of the biggest factors in your process of elimination when selecting the espresso machine that is right for you.
There are tons of other things to consider that can be an entirely separate article if needed. Although the products of espresso machines are the same, you want to look at intricate features to maximize the flavor, usability, and functionality of the machine.
The weight of the coffee machine is one such thing that is often overlooked. While you want a machine to be as light as possible, you don’t want an espresso machine to be so light that handling its frothing pipe or any lever will result in the entire thing moving around. This is not only inconvenient but also dangerous, and a surprisingly large number of models are guilty of this.
If you’re paying a good amount of money for your espresso machine, you also want to know about aspects such as the pressure of the pump, the type of burr grinding and how finely it can grind the beans, the technology used in the steaming, and more. These intricate details add up quickly to either make or break the experience.
Of course, there are a bunch of other things to consider as well. Easy of cleaning is one often overlooked thing. Many coffee machines spill and spray all over the place. A machine with parts that are difficult to disassemble is always difficult to clean.
Similarly, you want to look at the water tank design for cleaning purposes as well. Some have water tanks that are ridiculously hard to remove. Others have tanks that are shaped oddly, making them difficult to clean.
This all might sound incredibly pedantic, but if you’re paying so much for a machine that basically helps spit out coffee, you should be looking at every micron and judging it.
In the end though, there’s no right or wrong choice. It all depends on the user, their budget, and their general preferences.
Does price always correlate to taste?
Yes and no. There are some cheap espresso machines that can brew great coffee, but only if the user is skilled. There are others that brew great tasting coffees but are very limited or not durable.
Similarly, there are some highly expensive espresso machines that can be difficult to use (like the Gaggia Classic), but they have high quality parts and are powerful enough to serve many individuals quickly.
Price should be looked at holistically and not just attached to flavor. Your overall purchase should be about convenience and your enthusiasm more than anything else.
What is the learning curve of brewing great coffee?
The learning curve can vary depending on the machine. An espresso machine like the Breville Barista Express is incredibly complex but it is so forgiving that you can make great coffee even as a beginner. It also comes with an incredibly detailed manual that will improve your skills.
It all depends on the machine you learn on and how much of the control the machine gives in our hand. There are also many brewing guides available online to help sharpen your skills.
What are the most important parts to look at when purchasing espresso machines?
While every screw and nut is important, we recommend you should look at the maximum pump pressure and see if the pump primes itself. You should also look at how easy the device is to clean (the water tank is essential here).
Finally, tighter mechanical parts of higher quality will always result in more consistent flavor, so be sure to see how durable the machine is.
Why would I need a semi-automatic machine when I can get a super automatic one?
Highly automated espresso machines offer a lot of convenience, but if you have the skills of making great coffee, they won’t match what you’d be able to brew with a semi-automatic. Simply put: semi-automatic machines give way more options and control to the user, which is a good thing if you know what you’re doing.