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How much do you spend on takeaway espresso drinks?
I know, I know, you might not want to think about it! But that 4 or 5 bucks once or twice a day adds up.
But guess what?
It’s a great excuse to get an espresso-making set up at home instead.
It’s the ultimate coffee-obsessive’s toy: the espresso machine.
Imagine fresh, hot espresso at your fingertips every day. Working on the perfect crema, the exact intensity for your tastebuds, your at-home microfoam technique…
An espresso machine is right for your kitchen and your wallet doesn’t have to be just a dream!
And with the money you’ll save not popping to the coffee shop, an espresso machine is basically an investment that will pay for itself.
Obviously, not everyone can just get online and buy a barista-quality espresso set up at the drop of a hat! I’ve included espresso makers at every price point.
You should make a budget for buying your machine and stick to it. You should also ask yourself exactly what you need.
Are you moving around all the time? Do you want speed and ease? Or are you looking to become an at home barista?
There are options for everyone!
The Best Espresso Machines of 2021:
- Business-class appearance
- Ensures optimal espresso extraction
- 8-ounce hopper capacity
- Up to 8 cups water tank capacity
- Settings for single/double espresso shots
- 1 year limited warranty
- Commercial design
- Superb quality articulating steam wand
- Optimal espresso extraction
- Built to last
- Ensures optimal espresso flavor in every cup
- Micro-Foam Milk Texturing
- Flexible shot controlling
- Allows volume control at just the press of a button
- One-touch easy control panel
- Automat milk frothing capability
- 15-bar pressure pump
- Ensures freshest espresso in every single cup
- Manual frothing to create rich and creamy froth
- Fully customizable espresso drinks
- Beginner-friendly control panel
- Brews professional level espresso shots
- No pods or electricity needed
- Travel friendly
- Includes custom travel case
- Creates authentic top-quality espressos
- High-end look
- Intuitive interface
- High-bar pressure pump
- Energy saving
- Capsule system
- Uses K-cup pods
- Brews delicious lattes and cappuccinos at just the press of a button
- 60-ounce large water reservoir
- Includes travel mug
- Automatic espresso machine
- Programmable brewing
- Includes Panarello steam wand
- Stainless steel construction
- User-friendly interface
- Brews espresso like a pro
- Creates rich and creamy milk froth
- Includes one or double-shot holders
- Sleek design
- Adjustable cup sizes
- Smallish footprint
- High-pressure pump
- Espresso and lungo sizes
- Nespresso capsules system
- Makes authentic quality espresso
- No battery or electricity needed
- Simple to operate
After a short-overview, let's discuss top rated espresso makers of 2021 in details...
1. Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine
This top-end at-home espresso machine looks like a smaller version of something you might see in your favorite little coffee house.
The integrated burr grinder sports an auto-dose feature, delivering the perfect amount of coffee straight into the portafilter. This is adjustable via a simple grind dial for taste and to suit various beans and roasts.
The Barista Express delivers single or double shots of the perfect espresso, using a digital temperature control to avoid scorched coffee. This machine covers all the bases. It’s automatic, but there’s a manual override option if you really want to get your barista on.
Steam wands on at home machines can be lackluster, but the Barista Express delivers in the microfoam stakes. Plus, the Italian-designed pump system is 15-bar, which is a professional level.
This isn’t a cheap option for at-home espresso, but it is a cheap option for barista-style and barista-quality at-home espresso. If you want a cafe-style espresso machine, and to practice your milk magic with a real steam wand, then this is a great option.
The Barista Express comes with absolutely everything you could need for making espresso drinks. From a milk jug to a tamper, various sizes of basket, and a full cleaning set up and cleaning tabs.
Dollar-for-dollar with other similar espresso machines, there’s no doubt that the Breville Barista Express is the best bang for your buck.
2. Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
Rancilio is known for its commercial coffee machines, and the Silvia can indeed be utilized in a professional setting. As it holds only one portafilter, though, and is at the top-end of the at-home espresso machine price point, it’s also an option for your kitchen.
The Silvia is barely automated at all, so you’ll either need some barista experience or a bit of training time to use it! You’ll also need to purchase all the extras — from a milk thermometer (if you’re a newbie) to a grinder — because though it’s good-looking and solid this is a no-frills piece of kit.
This is an espresso machine built with baristas in mind, but it does also feature a pod-adaptor if you’re so inclined. That could be a help during busier times, or for those with less barista training. It’s essentially a slightly pared-down version of a professional, industrial express machine.
That being said, the Silvia is a big investment and if you don’t know how to use it then, frankly, it would probably be a frivolous one.
Overall, a really great machine, but only in the right hands! It looks like a real barista coffee machine because it is one.
3. Breville Infuser
The Breville Infuser is another high-end espresso machine, but this one is far more automated than most.
Settings are all customizable on the Infuser, but once they’re set it’s a matter of hitting a button. It’s a great machine for those who love coffee but don’t have a lot of espresso-perfecting experience.
This machine is named for its pre-infusion technique. An exclusive method of low-pressure pre-infusion helps make sure grinds are perfectly expanded and distributed before the 15-bar high-pressure extraction kicks in. That means you’ll be getting the best out of your coffee every single time you use the Infuser.
Automatic settings can be changed once you know what you’re doing, and there’s even a manual override option, making this a great machine for learning the ropes and becoming more coffee-making confident.
The Infuser machine comes with a coffee scoop, single and double filter baskets, a stainless steel milk jug, cleaning tools, a 54mm tamper, and a water filter. It doesn’t include a grinder, so I’d recommend picking up a separate burr grinder.
This one’s a great choice for budding baristas!
4. Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista
Mr. Coffee has long been a name in the world of kitchen counter coffee brewing. They’re known for budget-friendly coffee gadgets, and the Cafe Barista is no exception.
This is a machine for espresso making on the go. One push of a button and you get an espresso and decently frothed milk in moments, plus there’s a manual mode for lazy days or picky coffee aficionados.
Potentially a great addition to a family home, Mr. Coffee is easy to keep clean with removable wells for both milk and water and comes with everything you need to run a cleaning cycle too.
Let’s be totally honest: the Cafe Barista probably won’t please die-hard coffee obsessives with deep wallets and an obsession with the perfect crema. But it is an excellent lower budget option for daily espresso and microfoam needs, and potentially a gateway into the world of coffee for many people!
This is a fantastic, practical option that won’t break the bank and should keep almost everyone happy and caffeinated.
5. De’Longhi ESAM3300 – Super-Automatic Espresso Machine
At first glance, the price tag for this espresso machine may seem high given that it’s fully automatic and therefore doesn’t totally look the part, the part being barista-chic, but it’s actually an incredibly practical solution to making amazing espresso in a small home kitchen.
There’s even a built-in burr grinder to deliver fresh coffee straight into the portafilter! Plus, a double-boiler means your machine simultaneously extracts espresso and froths milk, saving precious time in the morning when it makes you your pre-work brew.
The key to this espresso maker’s magic is that it is also a long-coffee maker, so you can meet all your coffee needs with a single machine. The price tag is looking better now, right?
The Super Automatic, from the inimitable coffee giants De’Longhi, is the perfect machine for small spaces and busy coffee lovers!
6. Flair Espresso Maker, Classic
Okay, bear with me here: the Flair is a manual espresso press. And yes, it’s cheap for an espresso maker… but for a manual espresso maker?
This sounds super artisanal-kombucha hipster, but there’s definitely an argument for a manual espresso maker helping you get to know your coffee. You’ll need a burr grinder, of course, then it’s just you, the Flair, 60ml of water and your grind.
You will see how small changes in the grind, pressure, or water temperature change the aroma, flavor, and crema of your shot. That’s kind of neat, right?
The Flair has other things going for it too. As it’s manual, it will last a long time with a 5-year warranty as standard and excellent build quality to rely on. Plus, it’s portable, so you can take your coffee show on the road!
Most importantly, though, Flair is beautiful. It would be a real signature piece in any kitchen, and even make a wonderful gift for the coffee maniac who has all the fancy gadgets already.
Maybe it’s niche, but the Flair could just be the coffee-hipster’s, or the coffee-loving traveller’s, dream espresso maker.
7. Breville Nespresso Creatista
It’s happened! Behold, the bastard child of Nespresso and the barista coffee machine.
But before you turn away in horror… well… this machine is actually great. I already concluded that Nespresso pods and machines are the espresso-lovers single serve solution. Nespresso makes good espresso. They care about water temperature, crema, the origin of their beans… they’re one of us. Real coffee lovers.
Obviously, it’s kind of annoying to have to buy pods for your espresso machine. But it’s also super convenient to just click a couple of buttons and have a perfect cup of espresso waiting for you.
The automatic steam wand also works great, with adjustable settings for various levels of microfoam so you can have anything from a cortado to a cappuccino in literally a few seconds.
The Creatista isn’t cheap, and it’s obviously a showy gadget, but it also does exactly what it promises. Great espresso, and a good at the home approximation of milky coffee shop offerings ready in your kitchen in mere moments.
It’s a wonderful machine for gadget-lovers who are also coffee-lovers, and are often short on time.
8. Keurig K-Cafe Coffee Maker
Ostensibly the Keurig K-Cafe is in the same category as the Nespresso Creatista, as it’s a single-serve pod machine with a milk frothing attachment. The difference, though, is in the price bracket and the intended user.
The K-Cafe is really good value, and the K-Cup system is great for value too compared to many other coffee pods. Of course, to an extent, you get what you pay for. This small, nifty machine will fit on any kitchen work surface with ease and the coffees it makes will scratch your espresso itch.
The machine is simple — a couple of button presses and you’re on your way. There’s also plenty of space to make your fancy coffee in a travel mug. That’s a telling detail included on all the copy about this machine… it’s clear for making your morning coffee before you dash out your house.
What I’m saying is, there are better coffee makers that work with this much ease and speed, but there aren’t any at this price point!
This is the best option for busy people looking for value, especially those who like a milky espresso drink.
9. Gaggia Brera
The Gaggia Brera looks a little like an espresso machine of the future.
The Brera features a light-up LED screen and knob dials, allowing you to adapt every stage of the espresso-making process to your liking.
It also remembers settings, so you can repeat the perfect pour time and again, and includes a ceramic-burr grinder. Ceramic burrs, to my mind, can’t be beaten.
The brewing apparatus is completely removable, so it’s also easy to keep clean.
This espresso machine certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it if you want really professional level coffee at the touch of a button -- or in this case a dial!
10. De’Longhi ECP3420 Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine
This machine allows you to go full DIY and enjoy the personal barista experience, or use pods with a filter. That means you can teach yourself the old fashioned way, but in the meantime, you can just get your morning coffee made!
This is all super affordable, plus the milk frother can be used to make microfoam to your personal taste just like you’re a real barista.
Impressively, this is a 15-bar machine.
This is definitely the best call for all the budget wannabe baristas out there!
11. Nespresso Pixie
The Nespresso Pixie is basically the perfect pod coffee machine.
The machine is neat as can be, with LED water level indicators, and a tiny footprint that will suit any surface. It doesn’t froth milk, but it’s also really cheap and, if you are willing to shell out for pods, it makes a great espresso.
It depends on your priorities, but if you’re okay with single-use pods and frothy milk isn’t your jam then the Nespresso Pixie might be for you.
If you want espresso on a budget and don’t care about extras, go with the Pixie.
12. Wacaco MiniPress
This is solidly a travel coffee maker — unless you want to impress with minimalism I guess?
This is a system built for travel, and for that, it’s truly exceptional. This is a super-compact way to grind and brew, and it’s also great value for money.
This tiny press uses vacuum pressure (like an Aeropress) which is apparently equivalent to 18 bars. Plus it’s only 16cm tall and easy clean!
I haven’t actually had to chance to use this system yet, but it sounds great for an approximation of espresso on the road.
This might just be the best espresso option if you’re mad about van life!
Things You Need to Know To Pick Right Espresso Machine
1. Automatic vs DIY
One of the biggest questions when you decide to take the plunge and get an espresso machine for home is whether to get an automatic, semi automatic or manual espresso maker.
Level of experience as a barista comes into play: Do you know, for example, how long it should take to pull a shot? Are you confident exploring different grind sizes and new beans?
Even if you don’t have the experience yet, it might sound fun to learn. A semi-automatic machine, or a machine that has the option of auto settings and a manual override (the Breville espresso makers I looked at are both good for this) means you can learn on the job.
Of course, the key here is having the time to play around trying to get the perfect microfoam from your steam wand, and drink eight flat whites on the bounce before you manage a latte art fern good enough for Instagram!
Many of us, if not most of us, don’t have that kind of time. I love coffee, it’s a passion and the first cup is one of the best parts of my day, but I rarely have spare time to just enjoy it! So, that’s where all the auto features of many available coffee machines come in.
Whether it’s presets on a semi-automatic, or the total automation of (often smaller, cheaper) pod machines and machines made by companies that focus on the home coffee machine market (hey, Mr. Coffee! I see you!).
Look at each machine’s specific programmability, because this varies from semi-auto to semi-auto. Is there a way to make coffee quickly when you don’t have time for the full barista experience? This might even be a pod attachment, like with the De'Longhi ECP3420.
There’s also the option of just a totally manual espresso machine like the Flair. These are great for traveling, living lightly, or budget-minded coffee lovers. They are, however, a different coffee experience than a barista-style or even a pod machine.
2. Extras: But are they?
I say extras, but what’s more essential than a grinder?
As I’ve discussed before, burr grinders are best.
If the espresso machine you’re considering has a burr grinder attached, great. If it doesn’t, do you have the space and the cash for one? What if you have one already and love it? Maybe you should go for a slightly cheaper semi-automatic machine without a grinder attached.
Equally, with espresso-style machines in particular, you have to think about a milk pitcher, tamper, cleaning materials… are these all included with the machine or will you have to purchase them separately?
Of course, if you’re going for a really good espresso set up that will last, it’s not only the cost of all this you need to think about but also researching and purchasing really good equipment to go with your perfect espresso machine!
A Cheat’s Guide
Here’s what you need to think about with most espresso makers…
This is what grinds your beans! Some have blades, others burrs. Burrs crush beans far more evenly.
Single and Double Shot
This one’s easy -- it’s about volume of espresso. Double-shot drinks are stronger. Most espresso makers can make single or double espressos, but do check.
The portafilter slots into the bottom of the machine, fixing the espresso grounds and filter basket in place. These range in size by a few mm.
The filter basket holds the espresso grounds in place. You can choose different basket sizes to accommodate the size and strength of your desired espresso shot. Many espresso machines use removable filter baskets to also utilize espresso pods.
Bar is a measure of atmospheric pressure. Most espresso makers go up to about 15-bar pressure, with some as high as 19 and traditional methods using from 7 to 9.
Tamping means compacting the grounds before the portafilter goes into the espresso machine. This makes sure the water is uniformly pushed through the grounds when your espresso is brewing.
Usually, espresso machines use either boilers or coils to heat water. A single boiler machine uses one boiler for both espresso making and steam wand. This means you can’t pull a shot and steam milk at the same time. Double boiler machines, however, have a boiler for each, meaning you can steam and pull simultaneously.
The steam wand heats milk, creating microfoam.
A water reservoir holds the water needed for brewing and steaming.
Professional machines often warm cups on their top surface. This is an added extra, but espresso is best drunk from a warmed cup.
The espresso makers I have reviewed here vary wildly in price. Be realistic about what you need, and what you can afford. There really are some great bargains out there -- the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista, for example, is a really budget way to get lattes and cappuccinos at home. Or you can go totally old school and get a gorgeous Flair!
Even at the higher-cost end, there might be a couple hundred bucks between one model of marista-style espresso maker and another. What are you getting for the extra money? A better grinder? More bars of pressure? Additional auto settings?
A Few Final Words
Your espresso machine is a big decision, and I like to think I’m helping lots of people make that decision, but you should also be doing some independent research. I’m not in your brain! Only you know exactly what you want and what you need.
Do you want a professional level coffee drink, or do you just want it to taste good? Or good and quick? Do looks matter? Counter space and footprint?
Choose well! Your perfect espresso is waiting...
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