Best Espresso Machines in 2021
Making espresso at home is a coffee lover's dream. Fortunately, there are now a number of affordable products on the market that deliver high quality shots. Here is our roundup of the best espresso machines in 2021.
Which Espresso Machine Should You Buy?
First, decide which kind of machine you want. There are a few types you’ll want to become familiar with: manual, semi-automatic, and super-automatic.
Manual espresso machines require a high level of skill: every stage of brewing is a hands-on experience. Semi-automatics are the most common machines, and what you find at your local coffee shop. Depending on the machine, they still require a bit of skill to operate, but the pump is automated. Super-automatic machines do all of the heavy lifting for you: grinding, tamping, and extraction.
Qualities in a Good Espresso Machine
A quality cup of espresso depends on a variety of factors, including the fineness of the grind, the pressure of tamping, the temperature at which it brews, and the pressure the machine creates to extract the coffee. Look for a machine that will generate between 15 and 18 bars of pressure.
You'll want to find something that gives you reliable and consistent heating. Many higher-quality machines use a PID controller to regulate heat. These systems often use double boiler heating, which allows you to extract and steam at the same time. However, more basic machines operate with a Thermocoil or Thermoblock system and a simple thermometer. Machines will vary by how much you can or cannot control the temperature: more reliable heating produces better-tasting espresso, but will add to the cost.
This is a good time to mention safety: using a more durable machine means you're less likely to find yourself sprayed with hot coffee. For added safety elements, look for machines with features such as automatic shut-off to prevent overheating while also conserving energy. Heating material is also a crucial element for both safety and quality. Aluminum and plastic are cheap but prone to corrosion and leaks. Stainless steel won't corrode but is more likely to attract bacteria. Brass neither corrodes nor invites bacteria, but can be quite pricey. The better the quality of the material, the longer the machine will last.
All machines will come with some kind of water tank and filter, but the size will vary. Smaller reservoirs mean you will have to regularly refill the water supply between pulling shots, so look for one that has a decently sized tank if you're looking to produce multiple shots in quick succession. Also consider how easy the tank is to manage: removable reservoirs or those filled from the top are easier to manage than those that slide out from the back.
Besides these basics, there are a lot of bells and whistles attached to espresso machines and their utility will depend entirely on your preferences and needs.
If you want to make cappuccinos and lattes, then find a machine that includes a steam wand or steamer of some kind. Some machines also come with built-in grinders for convenience, but check the blade type and quality. It may be more worth it to buy the bean grinder as a standalone machine to get one that uses a conical burr versus heat-conducting blades
Many lower-budget machines will come with accessories like frothing pitchers, espresso cups, cleaning tools, and tampers. Keep in mind that many of these are included as an afterthought and tend to be lower in quality. However, if you are just starting out and don't have any equipment, their addition might add to the value of your purchase.
Finally, check to see if the machine's components are adjustable and replaceable. Good machines will last for a while, but if something breaks then you'll want to replace just that part rather than the whole machine.
Personal Preference and Lifestyle
Everyone wants a machine capable of consistently producing good espresso, but what "consistent" means depends entirely on your skill level.
The easier a machine is to use, the less ability you have to take control over the brewing process.
If you're an experienced home barista, you should consider finding a machine that's more hands-on with customizable features. However, if you're a beginner just starting out on your espresso-making journey, advanced machines are often more likely to create frustrating experiences than great-tasting espresso—at least at first. If you want a simple, hassle-free option, a Nespresso machine might be right for you.
For the most part, you get what you pay for. Cheaper machines are often simpler but you can still find feature-filled espresso machines at an affordable price.
At-home systems are not designed to pull shots all day long like commercial-grade machines, but durability is important if you plan on brewing every day. Also, know how much kitchen space you are willing to sacrifice for your espresso and consider whether aesthetics are important.
Finally, you'll want to make sure your espresso machine partners well with your preferred coffee roast—which leads to the next question, what exactly can you do with an espresso machine?
What Drinks Can You Make With an Espresso Machine?
Honestly, the world is your oyster unless you want a plain cup of coffee. You can obviously be super classy and sip a shot (or a double) out of a demitasse, but there’s so much more you can do.
You can make a cappuccino, latte, macchiato, mocha, ristretto, an Americano… it’s all a matter of what sort of machine you purchase or the extra gadgets you get with it. A milk frother will go a long way in making some of your coffee shop favorites, and top it off with your favorite syrup (such as caramel or mocha) if you enjoy adding flavor.
Best Espresso Machines in 2021 [Reviewed]
Here are some of our picks for the best espresso machines on the market. Keep in mind these are all designed for specific consumers and most differences will come down to customization, ease of use, and price point.
Breville has been in the coffee game since 1932 and is serving coffee in more than 70 countries now. The Dual Boiler Espresso is a sturdy, no-nonsense machine that can make shot after shot without flinching, but it also works best under the touch of someone with some coffee industry know-how.
Between the stainless steel dual boiler system and 15 bar pump, this high-end machine will have even baristas drooling over the endless amount of customization. There is an LED display, pressure gauge, magnetic tamper, dedicated hot water outlet, and top-loading 84oz reservoir. Brew temperature, steam temperature, pre-infusion pressure and duration, shot volume, extraction time, and machine alerts are all programmable.
If you got lost somewhere in that paragraph (perhaps between pressure gauge and magnetic tamper), this beaut will likely require some Youtube education before actually pulling your first shot. If you’re willing to invest the time (and possibly wasted beans), your friends will be lining up down your front door walkway to get some perfectly pulled morning brew.
Despite the required education, this model has more capability than previous editions—it can steam and brew at the same time, and it doesn’t require professional help to descale it every few years, which is a major perk.
Hailing from Italy, Rancilio began back in 1927 producing commercial-grade espresso machines and eventually home-kitchen machines. This model debuted more than 20 years ago, and finally began selling in the US in the early 2000s.
This highly durable machine uses a chrome-plated brass boiler system, giving it impressive steam capacity and recovery time, especially in the affordable, high-powered espresso machine category.
The chromed brass portafilter and grouphead are commercial grade and produce a high-quality espresso that makes us forgive the cheap plastic tamper and silicon tubes. The 64 oz reservoir is adequate and leaves enough room for six espresso cups to warm on top, setting the perfect scene for the ideal morning.
Another huge positive with the Silvia is that it’s highly serviceable—the parts are widely available and affordable, which can extend the life of this machine indefinitely. When it comes to making a solid investment, the Silvia checks all of the boxes.
Reportedly, one of the most finicky aspects of the Silvia is ensuring the shot is being pulled in the golden range of coffee brewing (between 195 and 205 degrees fahrenheit) since it’s a non-PID machine, which means there are points in the functioning cycle when the machine isn’t heating the water. You can see a few tricks on handling the heating problem here.
Breville is a top name in the coffee field, so it’s unsurprising that there are multiple great contenders on this list. Grind, brew, and decorate all with the same involved machinery using the Barista Express.
When I say “all-inclusive,” I mean all-inclusive: you get an integrated Burr grinder, steaming wand, integrated tamper, 67 oz removable water reservoir, and both one-cup and two-cup single and dual wall filters. There are so many features included, but the best part is that there is enough customization to appease experts while still including beginner-friendly options, such as pressurized brewing baskets that are more forgiving when the grind isn’t quite perfect.
Plus, thanks to the integrated steaming wand, it could be argued that making cappuccinos and lattes is mandatory. The Barista Express Espresso Machine’s wand is capable of creating the kind of micro-foam that’s great for the ever-coveted latte art, so don’t be afraid to think creatively when brewing your morning cuppa.
Again hailing from that boot-shaped country, Gaggia was founded in 1947 by Achille Gaggia. All Gaggia does is espresso machines, so you can rest assured that a lot of thought has gone into this stainless steel classic. It’s great for beginners and professionals alike.
With a 17 bar pump, this is a classy machine that gives you a high-quality espresso at an affordable price. This semi-automatic machine has many of the elite features of the more expensive ones, like a commercial grade, chrome-plated brass portafilter, three-way solenoid valve, and large reservoir. Yet it has the option for espresso pods making it novice-friendly. Gaggia keeps the price down with an aluminum boiler and plastic controls scattered around the stainless steel shell.
If you’re looking for some fancier tricks, the Gaggia Classic features a Pannarello wand, so it’s primed and ready to serve up some latte art. It includes an entire wand assembly kit, so it’s adaptable to many styles and designs. Get creative!
Read our full review here.
If the dollar signs attached to previous models have given you a bit of sticker shock, the DeLonghi Pump Espresso Machine will be a little easier to swallow. Pump driven and producing 15 bars, it automatically self primes so it’s ready to produce a strong, delicious shot at your beck and call.
This machine will give you the quality of espresso made by the Gaggia Classic or Breville Duo Temp with much less effort on your part. The DeLonghi Pump Espresso takes care of the controls and works with either pods or grounds, so it’s totally up to your discretion. The result is that this is a great option if you're looking for an entry-level machine that does the heavy lifting for you but still gives you an excellent espresso.
If you’re looking for the downside here, it only exists if you’re very particular and want total control. What you sacrifice with this model is mostly customizable options, controls, and extra features—though it does have a patented, easy-to-use milk frothing wand so fancy lattes and cappuccinos are still on the menu!
The tagline for this model is literally “Barista quality coffee at an affordable price.” Breville gets credit for reading its audience, because the Duo-Temp Pro fills in a market gap. The brushed stainless steel machine features a 61 oz. water tank, low-pressure pre-infusion for even extraction, and a micro-foam milk wand.
This is similar to the Gaggia Classic and DeLonghi Pump Espresso Machines: it will produce impressive, quality espresso for a more affordable at-home price. Pressure and heat control is automated, but the machine comes with both single and dual wall filters and the extraction is still manual so shot quality will depend on your tamping skills.
This is a good stepping-stone for someone between newbie and expert who is ready to have a little more control over the shot for their latte. That video is only 44 seconds long and it’s easy to see that it takes just a hair more effort than walking up to the counter at your favorite coffee shop.
The Breville Café Roma Stainless Espresso Maker is the quintessential entry-level machine because it holds your hand enough to reduce the number of terrible tasting shots produced while still giving you an authentic espresso-making experience.
The 15-bar thermoblock pump is designed to extract shots at the perfect temperature and the dual wall filter system is ideal for creating stellar crema. Top it off with a cup warming plate, a removable drip tray to make cleaning up unfortunate drippage easy, and a space-conscious size, and it’s hard not to imagine it as a daily gadget on the counter. Oh! And there’s a frother, so experiment away with making some classy leaf patterns on the top of your morning joe.
Small features like the handy window into the water tank level and simple design are what make some people prefer the Café Roma to the Duo Temp. The Cafe Roma simply doesn’t require much work for a tasty shot with classic crema, and there’s definitely a market for that.
If you absolutely need to stick to a small budget, then you should take a closer look at the Mr. Coffee Espresso/Cappuccino Maker.
You're still getting the 15 bar pressure pump so the result is ultimately a good cup of espresso, and, thanks to the thermal block heating system, performs at the barista level with both brewing and heating. It also features a frother, which opens several cool options for lattes and cappuccinos. However, you're going to sacrifice a lot of machine quality to meet this price point. If you are willing to spend the extra money or know you will be using your machine every day, I suggest moving up to the DeLonghi EC702 or Breville Café Roma.
Nespresso is the Keurig of espresso shots. It’s a different kind of espresso machine than the previous entries because there’s minimal human input—the Inissia does it all for you.
This is the first super-automatic machine on this list and its extra-simple functionality means you are essentially going to push a single button every morning for your espresso. It’s designed for the ultimate ease of use and yet somehow still uses 19 bar pressure. The only choice you have to make is whether you want an espresso shot or lungo shot, and for some people that’s quite enough decision-making before caffeine.
The DeLonghi Magnifica Espresso Machine is a great option for espresso drinkers who want to options regarding their shots of espresso but don’t want to deal with any of the tweaking and experimenting to get there. This super-automatic has a built-in burr grinder and stainless steel double boiler heating system. You set your preferences for ground fineness, coffee strength, temperature, and espresso size and then press start. (Read our full review here.)
Though the Breville BES920XL Dual Boiler System is by far the most high-end and adjustable machine listed here, our pick for best overall goes to the Breville BES870XL Barista Express.
The quality of the espresso produced by this machine rivals the fancier products like the Breville Dual Boiler and the Rancilio Silvia.
The Barista Express maintains enough user-friendly features to be attainable for beginners, but unlike the Gaggia or the Breville Duo Temp, it still offers enough customization for experienced users to get exactly the pull they want. All of this comes with a built-in professional-grade grinder making this our top pick for an all-inclusive, affordable option.
There’s a lot to take in here, but it ultimately comes down to your skill level as a shot puller or how many Youtube videos you’re willing to watch to get there. It can also be dependent on how much time and energy you want (or are able) to put into brewing your caffeine at the crack of dawn each morning.
Once you’ve analyzed your personal habits, wants, and needs, it’s time to choose the ideal espresso maker and get to pulling some delicious shots!