Buyer’s Guide: Best Espresso Machines of 2016

best espresso machines for every budget

While many of us learn to like drip coffee or even french pressed coffee, we eventually learn to love espresso and want to be able to create it on our own, and with it we want the best espresso machine. Coffee is much different than espresso. Many luxury coffee drinks are created with espresso rather than drip coffee including macchiato, cappuccino, americano or even a flat white.

By trying combinations of espresso, water, milk and even half and half, you can create the most delicious combinations but it all starts with a quality espresso machine. Even the best coffee maker isn’t the same as a machine specifically designed to pull shots of espresso.

How to Choose the Perfect Espresso Maker

Finding the perfect espresso machine is not an easy thing to do as there are hundreds of makes, hundreds of models, and can cost anywhere from $50 to $3,000+. That said, how do you find the best espresso machine for your needs? Here are some question you will want to ask yourself.

Do you mind a learning curve?
Semi-automatic and manual espresso machines can require some practice to get right. Some require A LOT of practice. The good thing is that there are many resources, videos and tutorials out there designed to help you pull the perfect shot of espresso. If you don’t want a steep learning curve, then a super automatic espresso machine may be the way to go.

Are you frequently in a hurry?
Manual and semi-automatic espresso machines can take a bit longer than a super automatic machine. You will need to grind your own coffee beans, wait for the water to heat and wait for the extraction process. Some don’t mind this at all, but others need to be out the door in minutes and they are lucky to be able to make themselves a beverage at all! If you’re the latter, we suggest a pod machine or a super automatic machine.

Will you use your machine daily?
Espresso machines vary in size. If this is something you will use daily, you may not mind a larger espresso machine taking up space on your counter. If you rarely make espresso, you may want to reserve your counter space for appliances that are used more frequently. Whichever the case may be, espresso machines come in a variety of sizes. You may want to measure your counter space and find one that fits your needs.

How much money are you willing to spend?
First, you need to think about what type of budget you have for your coffee consumption, and how much of a coffee snob you are. If you really love the different tastes of coffee and want the ability to grind your own beans with the coarseness of your preference, want to fiddle with settings endlessly, and want to figure out how to get the perfect brew, you’ll likely want to start looking at espresso machines within the $500-$1000 range. You will want one with a quality, built-in burr grinder, or you might be able to get away with a cheaper espresso machine if you purchase a separate burr grinder.

Higher-priced espresso machines typically have a lot more features and options when it comes to customizing your cup of coffee or espresso.

If you are not as much of a coffee snob, you will likely find an espresso machine that you love within the $100-$200 range. These don’t have many options for customizing your brew, but if you’re not a coffee snob, then that’s probably okay! Many of these machines brew great espresso with simple store-bought coffee with an espresso grind.

By taking into account all of these factors, hopefully you can look at the categories below to compare various espresso machine models and find the best one for your needs and your budget.

Different Types of Espresso Machines & Terminology

There are four main categories of espresso machines that are available for sale in today’s marketplace- super automatic, full automatic, semi automatic and manual. Deciding on one of the types will really help with focusing your search. If the ideal espresso is one needing the least amount of effort to make, then the following are the most desirable, ranked from least to most:

  • Manual machines are similar to cars from the early 1900’s that have been restored- a wonderful homage to the past (source), but incredibly complicated when compared to most of the advanced models of today that are available in the marketplace. Manual espresso machines don’t have a choke or crank start mechanism to have to contend with. However, since they are unable to maintain constant water pressure by themselves, users have to manually push water through their coffee. This can make the quality of the final beverage vary quite a lot. These machines should be considered only by experienced home baristas.
  • Semi-Auto espresso makers got their start thanks to the 1938 patent by Achilles Gaggia. It introduced an electric pump to the device, which resulted in hands-free, even water pressure.  Since the operator is able to decide when the pump is turned on and off (why it is “semi” automatic) and since these makers have automated boiler temperature controls, these are most popular kind of traditional machine that is used these days.
  • Fully-Auto machines resemble semi-auto machines in many ways. However, an electronic nanny is included so that the amount of water that passes through the espresso is regulated. Quite often redundant semi-automatic controls are included with full automatics.
  • Super Automatic machines include all of the bells and whistles, which frequently include a built-in grinding apparatus along with other types of related gadgets. “Caffe crema“- which is essentially espresso-brewed coffee that has been diluted down to regular coffee strength- is currently fashionable. This is mainly due to the fact that super automatic machines are so prevalent.

Top-Rated, Most-Popular Espresso Machines by Budget

Under $200: De’Longhi ECP3630

This 15-Bar Pump Espresso Maker by De’Longi is an impressive machine that comes with many different features.

This De’Longhi espresso maker weights in at 14 pounds and features dimensions of 11″ x 9.1″ x 11.6″. It can also make a functional and attractive centerpiece for your coffee bar, kitchen island or kitchen counter top. This machine is very solidly built.

If you would like to fine tune your espresso making, the machine features 2 separate thermostats. They allow you to control the steam pressure and water pressure separately. If you aren’t a real big espresso geek and just would like have something easy and tasty, there is the dual function holder, which is patented by De’Longhi, which allows you to use both ground coffee beans and pods without hassle, and also helps to make brewing an easy and fast process. They make it quite easy to get delicious tasting espresso.

Who wants to wait? A self-priming operation is featured on the De’Longhi ECP3630, which brews a lot faster than a majority of other espresso machines that are available in the marketplace. If you are concerned about your cup of espresso getting cold if left on the tray for a while, don’t worry about. There is a warming tray that comes with the espresso maker, so your cup will be kept warm and all ready for you.

The following are other features included with this espresso maker: high quality, durable stainless steel boiler and 15-bar pump pressure, that ensure that the proper espresso is produced each time; an ESE filter, that helps to make brewing hassle-free and quick; a Sempre Crema filter, that makes it possible for you to make tasty cream each time; De’Longhi’s very own patented cappuccino frother, which allows you to make creamy, rich froth for lattes and cappuccinos, and anti-drip design and 44 ounce removable water tank, which both make it very easy to clean the espresso machine.

The steaming wand was this machine’s only minor flaw. It simply doesn’t function as well as some other machines. However, all of its other features definitely make up for the minor flaw. This machine definitely can’t be beat when it comes to quality for less than $200.

Find more under $200 >>

Under $300: Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma

The Breville ESP8XL, with its powerful 15 bar thermo-lock pump, industrial stainless-steel housing, frothing jug and stainless-steel coffee cup set is certainly one of the finest espresso machines available.

The Brevile ESP8XL Cafe Roma, with its unique design and stunning style, helps it standard apart from all of the rest.  However, what really makes this espresso machine so good is its stainless-steel construction.

The very first thing that made me really start obsessing about this particular espresso machine was it bold utilization of steel and beautiful design which really brought the overall look out in very best possibly way. However, it isn’t just beauty that the Breville ESP8XL exhibits, which completely captures people’s imagination, it is also loaded with a very powerful list of various features which pushes the espresso maker into an entirely new level.

Its steam wand doesn’t just help you produce a wonderful frothing for a nice cup of cappuccino, it acts as a coffee maker as well. To make a good frothing with milk, just the use the wand with its tip intact. After your espresso is made you can side the tip off.

The power supply plug is one of this coffee maker machine’s major advantages. It has been made with style and great advanced standards. However, it is useful beyond its good looks. Notices the spherical gap that is on its plug. It can be the best way of helping to secure the appliance from a power outlet as well as removing it.

Find more under $300 >>

Under $500: Gaggia Brera Superautomatic

This Gaggia Brera Superautomatic Espresso Machine has plastic on its top and sides, but the front metal panels provide it with a classy look. We don’t really like the plastic main control knob however. It feels very cheap.

When getting ready to use the Gaggia Brera, you have to be prepared, since whenever it is turned on, the system is flushed. Therefore, you’ll need a waste water mug for placing under the spout. Waste coffee grounds go on the right, water goes left of the spout, and the roasted coffee beans go in the top. You may be able to squeeze in two porcelain cups under the nozzle at the same time. However, there’s definitely not that much room for more chunky earthenware.

Adjusting the coffee grind is easy. You use the control knob within the coffee hopper.  The strength of your espresso can also be adjusted using the control that is underneath the power button located on the front of the maker. There are separate buttons for americano-style long coffee and espresso.

We discovered that the best espresso was produced from a combination of the two-bean strength setting (out of three) and the best possible grind. It resulted in a bitter, good shot of espresso, along with cream that wasn’t overly white, and a fair 64 degree centigrade temperature. The shot isn’t able to completely match the oily richness produced by the finest manual machines’ espresso.  So for pure espresso shots, this wouldn’t be our top choice, but for a longer coffee it makes a good base.

The foam wand helps to create the standard of our drinks. It produces just the right type of frothy milk that we wanted, along with bubbles that are tightly-packed to make a pleasant foam- which is ideal for a latte.

The Gaggia Brera Superautomatic Espresso Machine is an espresso maker that we really like. The quality of the espresso produced by it doesn’t quite match with the finest manual espresso machine, however it was very close. This is also a good-looking and compact machine. And in terms of cutting down on all of the mess, nothing can beat a beans-to-cup machine. This is a good buy if you are in search of the ultimate convenient coffee.

Find more under $500 >>

Under $1000: KRUPS EA 8442 Falcon Fully Automatic Espresso Machine

The thing that really surprised me more than anything by the KRUPS EA8442 Falcon Fully Automatic Espresso Machine was just how easy it was to use. A 2 year warranty is offered, which appears to be standard for the high end and mid end kinds of machines. At this $900 price range, I wouldn’t recommend it to somebody who doesn’t drink coffee on a regular basis. If that is the case, you probably won’t get the value from this gem, if all you did was have a cappuccino or latte once per week. I actually wouldn’t recommend anyone who doesn’t drink coffee everyday get an automatic machine.

In terms of the coffee’s quality, I’ve tried different kinds of coffee with this specific machine, such as the espresso shot, a cappuccino and latte. The coffee’s quality was very impressive. Another thing I really liked about the KRUPS Falcon machine was that when it is done, it produces very hot coffee. Some other machines aren’t as attractive due to the cooler temperatures.

This espresso machine comes with all of those “little things.” When you add them all up, it makes for a very fine machine, like the precise tampering system for extracting the most from every load; the helpful thermoblock system that speed the heating process up and always keeps the water ready for brewing and hot; the universal filter that allows you to use both pods and ground; a flexible froth wand or making lattes along with other kinds of drinks; and its cake-eject system which makes cleanup very easy. A free measuring spoon also come with this espresso maker. For all of the value that your receive this automatic espresso maker is an excellent git for any coffee lover.

Find more under $1000 >>

Pod: Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker

4.6 Stars out of 319 customer reviews

The Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker does have it place, even if it isn’t a truly hardcore machine. These machines are very convenient. Whenever you don’t have enough time for making coffee completely from scratch, all you need to do is throw a pod in and you’re good to go.  Weighing in at 13.3 pounds and 12 3/4″ x 4 3/4″ x 9 3/4″, the espresso machine comes with a space-age, modern design. Consider how most espresso machines are designed, which over the past decade hasn’t changed all that much, this is truly a breath of fresh air. Is is fairly small, especially for a super automatic espresso machine. It can fit easily on your countertop without taking up a lot of space.

If you don’t want to wait to get your morning fix, this espresso maker promises it brews in under a minute. This espresso machine is able to heat water to the correct brewing temperature in 25 seconds.

If all out drink is full-flavored espresso, a 19-bar pressure pump system comes with this espresso machine to ensure that as much flavor as possible gets extracted from each coffee granule.

The other features included with this Nespresso Pixie are: it’s patent-pending, heat-resist panel which allows you to put your espresso machine on top of the draw directly without needing to worry whether it’s going to sag or not or whether the heat that this espresso machine emits will have any adverse affect on coffee capsules that are stored inside of it; 24 fluid ounce removable water tank for easy cleaning; storage drawer made out of high-impact black polystyrene and chrome handles that helps to ensure that this machine is durable and and holds as many as 50 capsules

There doesn’t appear to be any complains about the actual espresso machine.  However, there are complaints that the capsules are too expensive. Just remember that this machine is for brewing Nespresso products only and doesn’t come wit a frother, which means it isn’t equipped for steaming milk for a cappuccino or latte. That a great option if you’re searching for a process that is more automated without having to grind your own beans.