The best espresso machines make it simple to produce good espresso at home. But even straightforward machines can be daunting at first. That’s why we selected 9 popular espresso machines across mid-range price points and brewed countless shots of espresso with them. We judged the machines on criteria like ease of use, durability, versatility, and taste.
Our best value pick, the Gaggia Classic Pro (available at Amazon) pulled the most delicious shots of coffee. However, we chose the Breville Barista Touch(available at Amazon for $1,099.95) as our best overall for its convenience and excellent performance across a variety of tasks. With its intuitive touchscreen design, it’s perfect for both beginners and experienced espresso snobs who appreciate consistent, high-quality shots.
Here are the best espresso machines we tested ranked, in order:
Breville Barista Touch
Gaggia Classic Pro
De’Longhi La Specialista
Breville Barista Pro
Breville Bambino Plus
Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista
Breville Barista Touch
Dimensions: 12.7 x 15.5 x 16 inches
Water tank capacity: 67 ounces
Pressure: 15 bar pump
Steam wand: Yes
Built-in grinder: Yes
The Barista Touch is by far the most intuitive, user-friendly, and reliable espresso machine we tested. Pulling a shot of perfect espresso takes practice, patience, and a little science, but the Barista Touch greatly simplifies it.
It includes an advanced digital temperature controller, also known as a PID (or Proportional Integral Derivative). This increases the boiler's temperature in a controlled way that results in better tasting coffee. As a result, the Barista Touch consistently brewed creamy, smooth, flavorful espresso. Plus, its thermojet heating system gets the machine ready in just three seconds.
This semi-automatic espresso machine's touchscreen sets it far above the competition. It walks beginners through the steps of making the perfect latte. For advanced brewers, it can save the specifications of your desired drinks. You can pre-program the weight of the ground coffee, the grind size, the brew time, the steam wand’s temperature, and even the texture of the steamed milk.
The package comes with four filter baskets, including a single-walled basket for aficionados who want to hone their espresso skills. The magnetic, stainless steel tamper’s weight made it easy to use. The razor trimmed any excess ground coffee once it was tightly packed into the portafilter. That uniformity helped ensure each shot we made was exactly the same.
Overall, the Barista Touch was the easiest machine to dial in, regardless of your espresso fluency. Beginners can easily learn to adjust the ground weight and grind size. Intermediate enthusiasts can watch tutorials on the touchscreen and troubleshoot any problems that may occur. Professional drinkers’ creativity is empowered by the versatility and customization.
The Barista Touch has its limits compared to commercial machines. While it’s incredibly easy to use, the espresso’s taste may disappoint connoisseurs. The tasting profile and depth of single origin beans require a more professional device to extract. The automatic frothing system also isn’t consistent for users who appreciate their milk foam with uniform quality.
Still, for the price, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better.
While not the most exciting to look at, the Gaggia Classic Pro constantly pulled the best shots of espresso in our roundup. This upgrade from Gaggia’s popular Classic features more commercial-grade components. That includes a three-way solenoid, and an over-pressure valve that helps discard dry coffee pucks easily.
The chrome-brass 58-millimeter wide portafilter is on par with commercial-grade portafilters. That may explain why it continuously delivered superior texture and full-bodied flavor in our taste tests. It also produced crema with little leopard-like speckles, which gave each shot a unique depth.
The taste was pleasant, with notes of caramel and cocoa, indicating a high-quality coffee. The commercial-grade steam wand frothed velvety milk foam that helped us create perfect lattes.
The machine comes with three filter baskets: one pressurized basket for consistency, one single-walled for creativity, and a pod basket for ESE pods.
Although we’re satisfied with its overall performance, the Gaggia isn’t without flaws. It took about five minutes to brew a double shot from start to finish—four minutes longer than our top pick. With no PID system to monitor temperature digitally, it took about 30 seconds to heat up, trailing behind the Breville models.
Additionally, Gaggia is less user-friendly than the Breville Barista Touch; we struggled to insert the portafilter under the brewhead. However, its ability to pull a cafe-quality shot makes this your best choice for the value.
The Infuser is a great balance of convenience and affordability. It provides the majority of Breville’s most advanced features, without costing you an arm and a leg.
Like the Barista Touch, this model has a pre-infusion function that gives the grounds a thorough low-pressure wash before pumping pressure through them. The PID heating system accurately controls the water temperature, adjustable in 4°F increments, for the best brewing results.
It’s also programmable, saving your favorite coffee presets for easy brewing. The analog pressure gauge can tell you whether the pressure has reached the required level, and whether you’re over- or under-extracting your coffee. This made dialing in much easier, taking out the guesswork when we first tested it.
Ultimately, the Infuser makes a great learning tool for beginners who want to learn how to become an at-home barista.
De’Longhi’s La Specialista features a dual-boiling system that heats the coffee and milk separately, which makes the brewing process a lot quicker. That’s why high-end espresso machines at busy coffee shops almost always have at least a dual-coil heating system.
The De’Longhi includes as many luxurious features as possible. It includes a built-in conical grinder, a smart tamping station, and two separate boiling systems for coffee and milk. There’s also an analog pressure gauge, 19-bar pump pressure, and active temperature monitoring. However, not all of those features proved useful during testing.
The Specialista is the only machine we tested with a smart tamping station, which means zero mess. After filling the portafilter, we used the lever on the side of the machine to tamp down the coffee grounds and we were good to go.
This machine consistently pulled full-bodied espresso shots with clarity and flavor that scored high on our taste tests. For Americano drinkers, there’s a water spout next to the portafilter for easy dispensing.
Despite the coffee’s delicious taste, the Specialista has some unhelpful features. First, the 19-bar pump pressure is frivolous. No matter how powerful the machine’s water pump is, the grouphead’s output pressure will always be the 9-10 bars that espresso requires.
With a grinder and two boilers, the machine is the tallest, heaviest, and bulkiest in our roundup. If you live in a small apartment, we don’t suggest investing in this one.
Unboxing the Barista Pro, we were immediately impressed by its brushed stainless steel appearance and heavy-duty build quality. The machine comes with a conical built-in burr grinder, an LCD screen, and an adjustable steam wand.
The burr grinder offers 30 grind sizes from coarse to fine. The portafilter can pack up to 19 grams of ground coffee. The built-in grinder has a smart sensor. Once it touches the grinder sensor, the ground coffee automatically starts to fill in the portafilter.
The pre-programmed brew presets guarantee the same shot every time you use the machine. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Barista Pro’s customization settings are easy to maneuver with the twist of a knob.
This model features a thermojet heating system and a digital temperature control system (PID), like the other Brevilles we tested. The PID primed the machine to be ready in just three seconds. The low-pressure, pre-infusion design evenly soaks the grounds in low-pressure water before the high-pressure pump kicks in. This gives the coffee consistency and smooth taste.
The Barista Pro had the potential to be a winner of our roundup. Sadly, its gigantic size makes it less appealing for counter space reasons. For beginners, this machine’s technicality may also make it intimidating to use. As its name suggests, it may be a better choice for the experienced home baristas with room to spare.
The Dedica was the slimmest espresso machine in our tests, and its set-up process was a breeze. It has all of the basics, including an adjustable steam wand and a sturdy portafilter. The 15-bar pump provides optimal 9-bar pressure on the grouphead. It comes with three dual-walled filter baskets, including one for ESE pods.
The steam wand can froth two types of foams: one for lattes and one for cappuccinos. The manual milk frothing wand lets you customize the texture of the foam, but not the temperature. Throughout testing, it frothed average quality foam but didn’t perform well at creating microfoam for latte art.
The other downside of the Dedica is the five minutes it takes to brew a double-shot of espresso. The Breville Barista Touch, by contrast, took two minutes. We also measured whether you could dial in a double-shot in under 30 seconds. It took us 5 tries to do so here.
For at-home brewing on a tight budget, the Dedica is sufficient. However, you’ll need a good grinder to get the best coffee quality.
Like the other Breville machines, the Bambino Plus has an innovative thermojet heating system that reaches the optimal temperature for a nice shot of espresso faster than its competitors. It also features precise temperature control to ensure consistency.
Its compact size makes the Bambino Plus a perfect fit for small apartments with limited countertop space. The 54-millimeter-wide portafilter packs 19 grams of coffee, which is on the heavy side of the traditional espresso weight.
The frothing wand can adjust both the temperature and texture of the milk. That makes it easy to create microfoam for cappuccinos, lattes, and even latte art. The one downside is that the wand pulls towards the user, instead of to the side, making it difficult to visually monitor the milk foam.
Other accessories are simple: two dual-walled filter baskets, a tamper, a milk jug, and a razor.
What knocked the Bambino Plus down a few spots in our testing was its long dial-in time. It doesn’t offer any guidance on dialing in the perfect shot; you just eye-ball the weight of coffee grounds. Though it comes with the best heating and pressure system, pulling consistently smooth shots was still a struggle.
My family can’t stop raving about this Cuisinart. But in testing, it never captured the full-bodied flavor of our beans.
It gives room for customization and creativity with the ability to brew both pods and ground coffee, but doesn’t pull high-quality espresso shots.
During testing, the machine pulled out relatively consistent shots with the same weight and amount of crema. However, the coffee lacked the clarity of high quality espresso. Overall, this machine is just mediocre.
Upon first impression, Mr. Coffee’s espresso and cappuccino maker seemed to cover the basic needs.
It has a 15-bar pressure pump, options for single- and double-shot espresso, and includes a plastic tamper and a scooper. It includes an automatic milk frother that takes the guesswork out of frothing. Unfortunately, not every feature impressed us.
The lid on the water tank doesn’t open or close at a convenient angle, and the automatic milk frother delivered disappointing foam that wasn’t suitable for lattes and cappuccinos. For a similar price, a pod-espresso maker can do a much better job than this model from Mr. Coffee.
I’m Valerie Li, Reviewed’s former cooking and kitchen staff writer—and I’m an avid coffee and tea drinker. For me, a day officially starts when I take my first shot of espresso, brewed by my beloved De’Longhi machine.
From moseying to 7-Eleven for a quick caffeine fix to traveling to Blue Mountain plantation in Jamaica, I’ve sampled coffee of many different origins and varieties. Like everyone else at Reviewed, I’m passionate about scientific testing, which I use alongside my own palate to judge a good shot of espresso.
We spent around 80 hours researching and testing popular espresso machines. We used Peets’ Major Dickerson coffee beans across each test. That standardization helped determine whether each machine could produce coffee with the same flavor profile.
We used our favorite coffee grinder, the Baratza Encore (available at Amazon), to dial in the espresso machines that don’t come with a built-in grinder. For the ones with built-in grinders, we evaluated the reliability and user-friendliness of the grinders, measured by how long it took to dial in the best shot of espresso.
We evaluated the consistency of the temperature and taste. We also tested the wands’ ability to froth milk well enough to create microfoam for latte art. We pulled four shots and frothed two cups of milk from each machine. Then we taste-tested countless espresso drinks, bringing in other Reviewed staff to help.
What You Should Know About Espresso Machines
Venturing into the world of espresso machines is like learning a new language. To help you get started, here are some things to know about brewing espresso.
What Does 'Dialing In' Mean?
Dialing in refers to the adjustments you make before brewing to get the perfect shot. This includes getting the right grind setting, brewing time, and brewing ratio. Different varieties of beans have different density and oiliness, so baristas have to constantly re-dial in machines to make sure the coffee has been appropriately extracted.
Over-extracted coffee can be bitter, and under-extracted coffee can taste sour. To draw out the perfect flavors, it’s crucial to understand dialing in. That’s why the first thing we looked for in each machine is a straightforward dialing-in process.
What’s a Brewing Ratio?
The next thing to understand is the brewing ratio. This is the weight of ground coffee to the weight of liquid espresso in the cup. By adjusting the ratio of a shot, we can change the taste and mouthfeel of the espresso.
Generally, a 1:1 to 1:2 ratio is a ristretto espresso, a 1:2 to 1:3 ratio is a normale espresso, and a 1:3 to 1:4 ratio is a lungo espresso. Smaller ratios give more full-bodied textures, but larger ratios give more clarity in the shot. For context, a typical cup of brewed coffee is around a 1:15 ratio.
To achieve the most precise shot of espresso, we recommend measuring the coffee grounds with a digital scale before you start brewing the espresso. Every country (or even region) has different brewing ratios, as barometric pressure and climate changes the humidity of the coffee grounds. We carefully measured the ratio during our tests to eliminate any chance of unfair judgment on a cup of coffee.
What’s a Portafilter?
A portafilter is a spoon-like device that houses the coffee grounds. It attaches to the grouphead (brewing head) while the brewing process takes place. It has a handle, a spout, a filter basket, and a spring clip.
Typically, an espresso machine offers two sizes of filter baskets. More advanced machines might have four filter baskets, including two single-walled filter baskets. The single-walled baskets are for experienced users, who are more comfortable creating espresso shots to their personal preferences.
To securely attach the portafilter to the brewing head, insert the notches (on the edge of the filter) under the grouphead and give it a slight twist. Although the mechanism is almost always the same, different types of portafilters can suit different needs.
For beginners, it’s wise to start with a pressurized portafilter, which gives the ground coffee additional pressure to ensure consistency. It greatly reduces small mistakes that newbies might make in terms of tamping and grind size. As your skills improve, you can move on to more advanced portafilters and baskets, including bottomless options.
How Much Pressure is Enough?
By forcing hot water under high pressure through finely-ground coffee beans, espresso machines produce gorgeously syrupy, dense coffee. In 1884, Italian inventor Angelo Moriondo patented the first known steam-driven espresso machine. Today’s electric machines generate even more pressure.
The optimal output pressure on the grouphead is between 9 to 10 bars. To reach that, the water pump must achieve 15 bars. You can buy machines with more powerful pressure pumps, if you want. But for at-home use, anything beyond 15 bars won’t do much, except maybe raise your utility bill.
What Difference Does a Steam Wand Make?
To create the most nuanced latte, an espresso machine should produce silky, velvety microfoam without large bubbles. The quality of the steam wand can change the whole value of a machine. Lower-grade wands tend to create milk foam that’d be called a “latte-cino,” which is a barista’s nightmare.
What’s the Verdict on Built-In Grinders?
In our roundup, we tested four machines with built-in burr grinders. The big issue with a built-in grinder is longevity, and it’s hard to gauge that during a testing period. Although Breville sells the burr replacements on Amazon, it may still be a hassle to have to fix a broken grinder.
If you’re determined to buy a machine with a built-in grinder, avoid oily coffee beans. The oil makes cleaning and maintenance more difficult.
For coffee drinkers with a tight budget, we advise dividing the budget in half, and getting a high-quality grinder along with your espresso machine. Low-end grinders don’t micromanage the size of the grind, making it impossible to get the espresso you want.
Valerie Li Stack is a senior staff writer for Kitchen & Cooking. She is an experienced home cook with a passion for experimenting with the cuisines of countries she's visited. Driven by an interest in food science, Valerie approaches the culinary scene with a firm grasp of cooking processes and extensive knowledge of ingredients. She believes food speaks to all people regardless of language and cultural background.
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