The 7 Best Espresso Machines, Tested and Reviewed

To find the best espresso machines, we tasted the under-extracted, the over-extracted and the just plain bad espresso so you don't have to.

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April 18, 2024

Photo by: Kamron Sanders

Kamron Sanders

Tested by Kamron Sanders

A home espresso machine allows you to become your very own barista. Fall in love with lattes, carefully craft cappuccinos and double up the doppios all in the comfort of your own home. Want a morning latte? Done. How about a post-lunch pick-me-up? Coming right up. Want an espresso martini on any given night? Cheers!

What makes a great espresso machine? First, it has to make great espresso. Beyond this, it should be easy to clean and maintain, make silky smooth steamed milk and do all of this while looking stunning on your countertop. To help you decide which espresso machine is the right one for you, we’ve tested 15 different models and narrowed down the very best espresso machines for any budget or skill level.

How We Tested

After years of working as a barista in a local coffee shop, where I pulled espresso on premium, professional-grade espresso machines, I was ready for the ultimate challenge of making coffee shop-worthy espresso at home to determine which machines are worth the investment.

To find the best espresso machine, we put a variety of different models to the test. Each espresso machine was tested for overall usability, espresso extraction and taste and the ease and quality of milk steaming. To keep things as consistent as possible, we sourced all the espresso beans from K Brew in Knoxville, TN. For each shot of this espresso, we looked for tasting notes like caramel, chocolate and nuttiness, with a subtle grapefruit finish. Of course, compatible capsules were used for capsule machines.

Photo by: Kamron Sanders

Kamron Sanders

To establish our espresso parameters, we turned to the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), which states, “Espresso is a 25–35ml (×2 for double) beverage prepared from 7–9 grams (14–18 grams for a double) of coffee through which clean water of 195–205 degrees F has been forced at 9–10 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brew time is 20–30 seconds. While brewing, the flow of espresso will appear to have the viscosity of warm honey and the resulting beverage will exhibit a thick, dark golden crema.”

In addition to the quality and taste of the espresso, the machines themselves were tested for things like user-friendliness, ease of cleaning and maintenance and overall capability, such as the ability to accurately heat the water and maintain enough pressure to pull a quality shot of espresso. To monitor the temperature of the water, an instant-read thermocouple thermometer was used.

Photo by: Kamron Sanders

Kamron Sanders

To test each espresso machine’s milk-steaming capabilities, we attempted to create microfoam using the available steaming mechanism. Some espresso machines came equipped with steam wands, while others had alternative milk-frothing devices. Once the milk was frothed, we assessed its texture and taste, then attempted to pour latte art, which requires high-quality microfoam. To level the playing field, we steamed and poured with a Rattleware 12-ounce milk steaming pitcher on every machine.

Photo By: Kamron Sanders
What We Like
  1. Stainless steel construction is easy to clean and looks great in any kitchen
  2. Integrated conical burr grinder is high quality and produces very consistent grounds
What We Don't Like
  1. Tamper is lackluster and uncomfortable
  2. Portafilter drips alot after removing it from the group head

Breville is a household name for home espresso machines, so it came as no surprise that one of their flagship machines took the top spot on this list. I found this espresso machine very easy to use and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of flavor it was capable of extracting from the coffee while maintaining balance.

The dosing dial and easy-to-adjust integrated burr grinder with 16 grind positions make it very easy to dial in espresso, preventing you from wasting coffee trying to achieve a balanced extraction. Additionally, I felt that the steam wand was one of the easiest to use among the espresso machines tested. The steam pressure felt even and controlled, which made it easy to create silky smooth microfoam.

Another feature we love is the optional manual espresso controls, which allow the user to stop the extraction at any point rather than relying on the machine's timer.

  1. Size: 15.9" x 12.5" x 13.8"
  2. Weight: 23 lbs.
  3. Water Reservoir Size: 67 oz.
  4. Cup Clearance: 4"
  5. Colors Available: Brushed Stainless Steel, Black Sesame
  6. Accessories: Tamper, Razor Dose Trimming Tool, Tablets, Stainless Steel Milk Jug, Water Filter & Filter Holder, Brush Tool & Allen Key, 1 & 2 cup Single & Dual Wall Filter Baskets, Coffee Scoop, Cleaning Disc, 54mm Stainless Steel Portafilter
  7. Cleaning Instructions: Perform cleaning and descaling cycles when notified by the machine
  8. Warranty: One-Year Limited
Photo By: Kamron Sanders
What We Like
  1. This high of quality at this low of a price point is surprising
  2. Included accessories are nicer than comparable models
  3. Brew temperature is easy to adjust
What We Don't Like
  1. Programmable features aren't the most intuitive and require referencing the manual
  2. Steam wand is a little too powerful, which may prove difficult for beginners

For an espresso machine under $500, the Solis is a standout machine. Not only was it capable of pulling a high-quality shot of espresso, the machine itself felt high-quality. The Solis and its accessories, such as the pitcher, portafilter and tamper, felt premium, while similarly priced machines felt lackluster. In fact, the tamper included with the Solis was far and away better than any other included tamper we tested, rivaling premium aftermarket tampers that you could easily spend an additional $40 to $60 on.

Additionally, the inclusion of a manometer (pressure gauge) on a relatively inexpensive espresso machine felt like an unexpected perk. The manual offers easy-to-follow instructions for utilizing the manometer to monitor and dial in your espresso shots.

  1. Size: 12.5" x 7" x 17"
  2. Weight: 18 lbs.
  3. Water Reservoir Size: 57.48 oz.
  4. Cup Clearance: 3.75"
  5. Colors Available: Stainless Steel, Black, White
  6. Accessories: Portafilter, Single Portafilter Basket, Double Portafilter Basket, Pressurized Single Portafilter Basket, Pressurized Double Portafilter Basket, Backflushing Basket Insert, Tamper, Scoop, Steam Wand Cleaning Tool, Frothing Pitcher, Water Filter
  7. Cleaning Instructions: Perform cleaning and descaling cycles when notified by the machine
  8. Warranty: Two-Year Carry-In Warranty
Photo By: Kamron Sanders
What We Like
  1. Milk-sensing technology makes steaming high-quality microfoam easy for beginners
  2. Machine is fairly sensitive to parameter changes, making it easy to dial in espresso
What We Don't Like
  1. Portafilter drips excessively when removed from the group head, leaving a mess
  2. Milk texture may be a little too foamy for some people's taste

Just like the Breville at the top of our list, the Bambino Plus delivered a delicious shot of espresso at the push of a button. However, what really won us over about this machine was Breville’s MilQ technology, which can complete the entire milk-steaming process from start to finish, with easily-programmable control of the foam level. It's an aspiring latte artist's secret weapon.

What I loved even more about this machine was that the steam wand can still be used as a manual milk-steaming wand, allowing you to control how much assistance you want from the machine and take back the reins as you perfect your milk-steaming skills.

  1. Size: 12.2" x 12.5" x 7.6"
  2. Weight: 11 lbs.
  3. Water Reservoir Size: 64 oz.
  4. Cup Clearance: 5"
  5. Colors Available: Brushed Stainless Steel, Black Truffle, Red Velvet, Sea Salt, Black Stainless, Olive Tapenade, Damson Blue
  6. Accessories: Cleaning Tool and Cleaning Disc, 16 fl.oz / 480ml Stainless Steel Milk Jug, the Razor Precision Dosing Tool, 1 & 2 Cup Dual Wall Filter Baskets, 54mm Tamper
  7. Cleaning Instructions: Perform cleaning and descaling cycles when notified by the machine
  8. Warranty: Two-Year Limited
What We Like
  1. Integrated tamper arm makes tamping the perfect shot foolproof
  2. Integrated conical burr grinder yields a high-quality grind
What We Don't Like
  1. Auto-dosing feature isn't very intuitive
  2. Relying on auto-dosing feature in testing resulted in too much volume and a bitter, over-extracted taste

We've already established that the Breville espresso machines are capable of producing great espresso, but the Breville Express Impress machine has an impressive feature that wasn't on any other machine we tested: An integrated tamper.

I’ll admit, when I saw the integrated tamper arm on this machine, I was highly skeptical. It felt a little gimmicky. But that all changed once I used it because it yields a perfect tamp every single time. Hats off to Breville for developing this very effective integrated tamper that allows even the greenest barista to pull shots like a pro.

  1. Size: 12.9" x 14.9" x 16.1"
  2. Weight: 14.3 lbs.
  3. Water Reservoir Size: 67.6 oz.
  4. Cup Clearance: 4.25"
  5. Colors Available: Brushed Stainless Steel, Black Truffle, Damson Blue, Sea Salt, Black Stainless
  6. Accessories: Integrated Tamper, Razor Dose Trimming Tool, Tablets, Stainless Steel Milk Jug, Water Filter & Filter Holder, Brush Tool & Allen Key, 1 & 2 cup Single & Dual Wall Filter Baskets, Coffee Scoop, Cleaning Disc, 54mm Stainless Steel Portafilter
  7. Cleaning Instructions: Perform cleaning and descaling cycles when notified by the machine
  8. Warranty: Two-Year Repair, Replacement (at the sole discretion of Breville)
Photo By: Kamron Sanders
What We Like
  1. User interface is intuitive and easy to use
  2. Capsules simplify the espresso-making process
  3. Machine can make much more than just espresso
What We Don't Like
  1. Capsules limit the kinds of coffee you can make
  2. Capsules aren't the cheapest option
  3. No milk steamer or frother

You rarely hear anyone bragging about the coffee quality coming from a capsule or pod-style coffee and espresso machine. Usually, qualifying statements like “for a pod machine” follow any positive reviews. However, the Bruvi seems like a step up from the run-of-the-mill capsule coffee machine offering well-balanced espresso and even delicious cold brew coffee from eco-friendly capsules. In fact, the Bruvi was able to pull a picture-perfect, crema-topped espresso shot with surprisingly good flavor, which wasn't accomplished by any other capsule machine we tested. What we loved most about this machine was the incredibly intuitive user interface that made it a joy to use.

The only thing this machine lacked was a means of steaming milk. For that, you'll need to purchase a separate milk frother.

  1. Size: 11.5" x 10.2" x 12.6"
  2. Weight: 13.2 lbs.
  3. Water Reservoir Size: 70 oz.
  4. Cup Clearance: 7"
  5. Colors Available: Cream, Black
  6. Accessories: Bruvi Brewer, Variety Pack B-Pods, Water Filter Kit, Reusable Canvas Bag
  7. Cleaning Instructions: Thoroughly hand wash components using mild detergent and water every two to three months or as needed
  8. Warranty: One-Year Limited
Photo By: Kamron Sanders
What We Like
  1. Manual steam wand lets you create great microfoam
  2. Beautiful design
What We Don't Like
  1. Steam wand has little movement, making it difficult to use comfortably

The Café Affetto looks like a futuristic espresso maker because it is a futuristic espresso maker. Out with the old steampunk-adjacent espresso machines of yesteryear and in with something that can complement your home's style.

But its looks aren't the only thing it has going for it. With an espresso mode, americano mode and a "my cup" mode, which is programmable via the SmartHQ app, you can make several great espresso drinks at the push of a button.

This machine has all the makings of a super-automatic espresso machine, but it maintains the manual milk steaming wand, which we love. Most alternative milk frother options tend to make the milk far too foamy, which leaves little room for pouring latte art. Plus, for those of us who cherish true microfoam in a latte and cappuccino, a manual steaming wand is a must-have espresso machine feature.

While certainly not a dealbreaker, the steam wand wasn't very ergonomic, which made it more difficult to use than other machines. It feels like the steam wand design prioritized form over function.

  1. Size: 12.5" x 7.25" x 15.75"
  2. Weight: 18 lbs.
  3. Water Reservoir Size: 40.5 oz.
  4. Cup Clearance: 6.25"
  5. Colors Available: White, Matte Black, Silver
  6. Accessories: Cleaning brush, Cleaning Pin, 3-pack Descale solution, Water hardness test strip, Stainless steel frothing pitcher
  7. Cleaning Instructions: Perform cleaning and descaling cycles when notified by the machine
  8. Warranty: One-Year Limited
Photo By: Kamron Sanders
What We Like
  1. Machine does everything for you
  2. Great product warranty
What We Don't Like
  1. Milk was too foamy for latte art

The Magnifica Evo from DeLonghi doesn’t feel like it belongs in your home, but rather at a hotel espresso bar. This machine truly does every step of the process for you. From grinding the beans to pulling the shot to frothing the milk and even dispensing it into your latte, it’s a true hands-off espresso experience. With seven different recipes at the touch of your finger, including lattes, cappuccinos and iced coffee, this all-in-one machine is the equivalent of having a barista in your kitchen.

Is the Magnifica Evo going to rival the espresso beverages at a third-wave coffee shop? No. But it will easily replace your daily stop (or twice daily, we're not judging) at your go-to drive-thru coffee shop without sacrificing any of the convenience.

  1. Size: 14.17" x 9.45" x 17.32"
  2. Weight: 21.16 lbs.
  3. Water Reservoir Size: 60 oz.
  4. Cup Clearance: 5.5"
  5. Colors Available: Silver
  6. Accessories: Carbon Active Filter, Measuring Scoop, Total Hardness Test, Cleaning Brush, Descaler 100mL, Removable Water Spout, Milk Carafe
  7. Cleaning Instructions: Perform cleaning and descaling cycles when notified by the machine
  8. Warranty: Two-Year + One With Product Registration

What to Consider When Shopping for an Espresso Machine

Type: When deciding on an espresso machine, consider how involved you want to be in the making of your espresso. This will help you determine if you want a fully automatic machine, a semi-automatic machine or a manual machine.

Budget: Next, establish how much you want to spend. With espresso machine prices, the sky is the limit. Determining your budget is about finding what you can spend and then striking a balance between cost and quality. The happy medium seems to be $500 to $1,000. In this range, you can make great espresso at home without breaking the bank. Plus, if you need help justifying the purchase, just calculate how much you will save by skipping your daily trip to your favorite coffee shop.

Integrated Grinder: If you don't want to buy a separate grinder, we recommend purchasing a machine with a built-in grinder. You should always grind espresso yourself rather than buying ground coffee, as this allows you to tailor the grind's coarseness to the machine and dial in your espresso extraction while maximizing the freshness and flavor.

Photo by: Kamron Sanders

Kamron Sanders

Size: Espresso machines come in all shapes and sizes. Before you purchase an espresso machine, check its dimensions to ensure it will fit in your desired spot. Some espresso machines, especially those with top-mounted bean hoppers, may not fit beneath upper cabinetry.

Photo by: Kamron Sanders

Kamron Sanders

Essential Accessories for Making Espresso

While espresso machines usually include basic accessories like a tamper and a steaming pitcher, you may find that you need to upgrade your espresso tools to unlock your full barista potential. Other espresso tools, like a dosing funnel, knock box and a tamping mat, likely won’t come with your machine, but you’ll be kicking yourself for not buying them sooner. Oh, and if you opt for an espresso machine without a grinder, add a good conical burr grinder to your shopping list, as most standard coffee grinders won’t match your espresso machine’s capabilities.

Espresso Machine Terms to Know

To help you better understand what makes a good espresso machine, we’ve outlined some common features, specifications and other terms you should know below.

  • Manual Espresso Machine: A manual espresso machine doesn't feature a pump, instead handing off the act of forcing the water through the coffee grounds to the user via an external mechanism.
  • Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine: A semi-automatic espresso machine features a pump that forces the water through the coffee grounds, but the user is in control of turning the pump on.
  • Automatic Espresso Machine: An automatic espresso machine does everything for the user. It completes all the steps of pulling an espresso shot on its own, from grinding the beans to pulling the shot.
  • Super-Automatic Espresso Machine: A super-automatic espresso machine covers all the same steps as an automatic espresso machine, while also covering the milk frothing aspect as well.
  • Capsule Espresso Machine: An espresso machine that utilizes capsules or pods rather than loose coffee grounds inside of a portafilter.
  • Steam Wand: A steam-emitting wand typically located at the side or front of an espresso machine that's used for aerating and heating milk.
  • Milk Steaming Pitcher: A metal pitcher used to steam milk with a steam wand.
  • Filter Basket: The small metal basket that holds the espresso grounds during the extraction process.
  • Portafilter: The handled tool that holes the filter basket and locks it into the espresso machine.
  • Group Head: The portion of the espresso machine that delivers the water to the espresso, where the portafilter locks in place.
  • Tamp: The act of compressing the coffee grounds inside the filter of the portafilter.
  • Tamper: The tool used to compress the coffee grounds inside the filter of the portafilter.
  • PID Controller: Proportional Integral Derivative, more commonly called "PID," is a highly sensitive temperature control device within some espresso machines, which helps the machine to consistently deliver precisely heated water throughout the extent of the extraction process.
  • Crema: The light-colored, foamy portion of the espresso shot that sits at the top. A quality crema on top of an espresso shot is evidence of ample pressure exerted by the espresso machine.
  • Microfoam: The silky smooth texture necessary for latte art, accomplished by delicately heating and aerating milk using the espresso machine's steam wand.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the different types of espresso machines? The most common types of espresso machines are manual espresso machines, semi-automatic espresso machines and automatic espresso machines. Recently, "super-automatic" has been used to describe machines that do more than the average automatic espresso machine.
  • How do you clean an espresso machine? Nearly every espresso machine on the market comes with detailed instructions for cleaning it. Typically, the process of cleaning an espresso machine consists of running a backflushing cycle, during which the machine cleanses its numerous internal parts using its own hot water.
  • How do you descale an espresso machine? For most models, the process of descaling an espresso machine consists of adding a descaling agent to either the water tank or the portafilter, then running a descaling cycle, which dissolves the descaling agent and cycles it through the internals of the espresso machine.

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