Picking The Best Espresso Machine For Your Needs
Shopping for the Right Home Espresso Machine
It took over 60 hours and a professional barista to test and review 5 espresso machines, 4 grounders and numerous accessories to single out the top espresso setup for a beginner in the price range up to $1,000. After the investigation, we recommend you start with espresso machine called Breville Infuser, since it makes pulling tasty espresso shots simpler and more accessible than similar machines we tested. Moreover, the machine comes with all the accessories necessary for a successful start.
As a former barista, who worked in a specialty shop, I can compare some espresso machines and estimate their quality, since I had experience working with diverse machines worth over $10,000 and I know the leading machines at various costs. Such prices may be scary for you, but to get consistently top-quality espresso shots you will need precision machinery, while precision is always expensive. Breville’s Infuser stands out from other espresso machines that cost under $1,000 for its ability to produce rather good espresso shots at such a competitive price. The machine was also the simplest to use: it has top documentation, user-friendly design (with easy-to-read instructions and ample labeling) and contains all the necessary accessories to get started. It has everything a beginner barista could want from an espresso machine. Once this item is sold out, or you prefer the one that can hit higher highs, the Gaggia Classic will serve a dependable runner-up.
Who Is This for?
It is for people who value good quality coffee and are ready to take time to get more information about the craft. No matter if you just enjoy visiting a local coffee shop, tasting diverse espresso notes and learning about them, or you are an experienced pour-over maker, our choices will provide you with an accessible and comparatively affordable way to immerse into a unique world of quality espresso making. Keeping on the journey, you may definitely outgrow this setup selecting more advanced and expensive espresso machines, though you will be able to decide what type of machine you need and what you’re actually undertaking before you spend over a thousand dollars on the hobby you may end up in a while.
Why are people shopping for a quality and good home espresso machine? Basically, it makes gourmet coffee and gets the most out of coffee beans. Espresso machines for home use provide consumers with rich, concentrated and dark brews favored by coffee shops and Italian bistros. It’s true that coffee beans should be finely packed and ground to offer strong coffee that is called by espresso drinkers shots served in miniature cups. If you prefer to make milk-based beverages, including lattes and cappuccinos, milk must be heated separately by using the frothing tube of machines that blast steam into milk while whipping it to froth.
It’s advisable to have a quality espresso machine at home instead of buying beverages at local coffee stands if you want to save money and provide your kitchen with a professional mystique. Nowadays, many consumers have quite high expectations when shopping for this equipment, thus forcing reliable manufacturers to improve their designs and produce perfect espresso makers to be used at home with similar features to their commercial types. Pay attention to the following top-rated espresso machine for your home use to impress your friends and family with your incredible beverages.
Best Espresso Makers for the Home Use with a Commercial Quality and Sold at Affordable Prices
Breville BES870XL Barista
This espresso machine earned one of the most reputable awards in this industry a few years ago as quality tea and coffee serving and preparation equipment. This means that consumers like this device or its ease of use and ability to produce excellent lattes, espressos, and cappuccinos. It comes with its integrated burr grinder, which is designed to limit the time taken by grinding and extraction to a few seconds, and because fresh is always the best! It’s also possible to choose your favorite grind settings, including fine and coarse, use a special filter size button that indicates if a double or single wall basket should be used, and adjust the right amount of fresh grounds to be sent into a filter basket. Besides, each box contains four filter baskets, such as two single wall and non-pressurizing filters that provide users with more space to let them experiment with a variety of ground sizes, amounts, and tamping pressures and two double wall pressurized filters which take the entire guess work out of tamping and make this espresso maker perfect for all beginners.
This coffee equipment is also ideal for those consumers who have enough experience in making espressos. Its tamper is included in the package in addition to the magnetizing storage that is simple to remove and store. Another great thing is that this espresso maker has a smaller sized portafilter made from stainless steel, and this means that it’s designed with certain commercial style spouts. It’s quite easy to empty a portafilter each time after brewing and grounds are quite dry, thus making is simple to knock them out it. You can find a 2-liter removable water tank and a water filter that is easy to fill with water both at the sink and at the machine.
Moreover, Breville BES870XL comes with its proportional, integral and derivative (PID) temperature control that offers the most accurate temperature control of brew water. This feature plays an important role in making consistent shots, and it’s usually available only in higher-end models. This espresso maker takes only thirty seconds to come up with the necessary steam temperature when users are ready to steam their milk to made lattes and cappuccinos. Its steaming wand is mounted on a quality 360-degree swivel joint to provide users with well-textured milk fast and easily.
- Built-in PID;
- Excellent customer services;
- Milk pitcher;
- Easy and fun to use;
- Its steaming wand is easy to clean and great to use;
- Perfect milk-based beverages and espressos;
- Built-in grinder with adjustable controls for grinds;
- Its infusion gauge lets consumers know when it’s necessary to adjust the tamp, grind, and amount of coffee;
- Its sturdy design without any elements that feel and look flimsy.
- Users should be ready for some mess.
Now you can enjoy professional quality espressos any time you want once you get this incredible espresso maker. It’s the best-selling equipment and one of the most popular semi-automated espresso machines in this market. It comes with a powerful and linear design, iron frame and side panels made from stainless steel. The best part is that these materials are famous for long-lasting durability and service life. So, if you want to make your favorite espressos for quite a long time, this device is your best choice. It’s sold at reasonable prices for such a quality, but you’ll get a strong grinder and PID that allow you to get a full potential of this espresso maker and get professional beverages every time you need. This equipment is quite popular, so it’s easy to find efficient tutorials and tips on how to make quality lattes, espressos, cappuccinos and other drinks online, and your friends will appreciate that.
This espresso maker has a number of commercial grade elements, including its commercial quality group head which is designed to deliver premium extraction and exceptional heat stability. Another amazing feature is its portafilter, which is quite similar to the one found in commercial espresso makers. All users are impressed with its brass boiler that provides them with super steaming power and fast recovery times between shots. This single boiler also has the largest capacity in the market of home espresso machines of the same class. In addition, it comes with a commercially designed steam knob and its articulating steam wand which offer a full range of motions when steaming milk for ideal lattes and cappuccinos. There are other incredible elements included in each package, such as two filter baskets for double and single shots, plastic tampers, and coffee scoops.
- Many commercial-quality elements;
- Its top quality design that will last for a long time;
- Incredible steaming power and fast recovery times between shots;
- Ease of use with three buttons for steam, hot water, and brew;
- Commercial size portafilter;
- Heating elements are easy to remove.
- Installing PID is recommended;
- 2-year warranty period;
- Extra costs to buy a quality grinder.
Gaggia 14101 Classic
It’s the best espresso maker for the home use in this price range, and it was designed in Italy and called a top machine for its affordable price. This quality coffee equipment benefits from its classic design and advanced technologies while allowing users to make quality cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos at home, but the best part is that it offers a number of benefits typical for commercial espresso machines. That’s mainly because its commercial-quality design includes a durable stainless steel body, an independent expansion valve, a high-voltage boiler that provides fast warm-up times and high-powered bar pump. Besides, this espresso maker contains a three-way solenoid valve that offers instant pressure release once espresso pulls are finished, thus, allowing users to take a portafilter off and prepare their next shot. Its portafilters and groupheads are made from heavy-duty and durable chrome plated brass.
This machine can function by using coffee pods, and it’s created to make two espresso cups at once. There are some more comfortable features, such as a hot water dispenser, a cup warmer and a frothing wand for creams. It’s easy to remove a special water reservoir to fill and clean, and some of its basic accessories included in each package are coffee tampers and scoops, double-shot filter baskets and single pods. Most consumers are happy with this popular espresso maker, because it provides them with professional-quality beverages while having a robust design with a good look.
However, if you prefer perfect espressos, it’s advisable to use good grinders, including Gaggia MDF and Capresso 560 Infinity, which come with high-quality grind sets and are more affordable while delivering excellent results. This coffee equipment is easily compared with commercial espresso makers, according to those users who are experienced in working at coffee shops. Its brew, steama nd power switches are easy to use, it makes perfect cream shots each time, and water reservoirs are simple to fill. Another great feature is that its frothing capability is quite good, so that all users can enjoy the art of coffee and espresso making by getting the right degree of fineness in tamping and grinding with enough pressure to produce high-quality beverages. Finally, some consumers suggest the use of bottled water to get the best results possible.
- The best quality for a reasonable price;
- All switches are easy to use;
- The flexibility of using different coffee pods and grounds;
- Commercial-grade elements;
- Commercial-style portafilters;
- Heavy-duty and durable stainless steel housing.
- Its steam wand comes with a non-articulating style;
- 1-year warranty period;
- Extra costs to get a quality burr grinder.
Best Espresso Machine Under $500
What about Nespresso?
The machine makes espresso drinks, as good as Starbucks in a simple button push. Once you want a proper espresso drink right at home, though, don’t have enough patience or time to learn and practice the ins and outs of espresso making, opt for Nespresso. The starting price of these machines is just $100, while you have an opportunity to pay more for advanced features, such as built-in milk frothing, faster preheating, etc. However, they all have a similar brewing mechanism, thus, produce the same quality, good-tasting coffee. The coffee pods for the machine cost over 70¢ for a shot (approximately $50/pound). That is a rather good price for a decent espresso, which sometimes tastes better than Starbucks and takes no effort to prepare. Simply fill the reservoir with water and put a pod. Unlike other single-serving espresso machines, Nespresso has a unique prepaid pod-recycling program. Generally, Nespresso makes tasty coffee each time, though even a beginner can achieve great results with a bit of practice working with an inexpensive espresso machine. Nespresso is much easier.
Espresso Machine Summary
We have singled out the Breville Infuser from similar machines due to its exclusive features, such as ease of use, both milk and espresso steaming and, surely, attached accessories required for the beginning of the process. The machine made a flavorful, decent espresso shot, while it was easy to use. Mark Hellweg from Clive Coffee commented on the Breville’s espresso machines, saying that “the Infuser is the example of the top home-use espresso machines developed with professional requirements in mind”. Moreover, the Stumptown’s coffee education program professionals were impressed by how simple it was to get a proper espresso with the Breville Infuser. The machine starts working from the moment you open the box.
People who tried the espresso that came out of the Infuser were simply impressed by its taste. Every shot had a pleasant mouth feel and foamy and dense crema on top, like what high-quality cafés offer. While its top-tasting shots could not be compared with the ones pulled from the Rancilio Silvia and Gaggia Classic, we took numerous ultimate barista-quality shots from the finicky to use the Silvia that had lower lows tainting higher highs.
We are convinced that most beginners are well-to-do with a more featured machine, which will hold you a bit better, though the Gaggia Classic has been approved to pull decent espresso shots since 1991. Irrespective of its age, the Classic deserved a close second as it wasn’t that consistent. It produced some good quality shots, though the pump sometimes skipped a beat mid-shot causing pressure fluctuations.
Both the Classic and the Infuser were intuitive and easy to use. The only things you need to do are to put coffee into the port filter, attach it to the espresso machine, press a button and start the process. The Classic pulled great shots that were similar to the Infuser, even though it seemed to have problems holding constant pressure after numerous simultaneous shots. (To be honest, almost every machine that costs less than $1,000 suffers from the issue).
Types of Various Espresso Machines
Espresso is such an innovation! But while the modern concoctions spend time on unnecessary processes, amateurs and connoisseurs all around the world utilize wonderful, complicated and fully legal kitchen countertop machinery in order to get the high-grade buzz people are ready to pay good money to drink.
Newcomers striving to break into the biz will find purchasing the right equipment a serious affair, complicated by the diversity of prices and differentiating features of espresso machines available. However, rest assured that a proper espresso machine is out there. The good news is that Eliot Ness isn’t going to confiscate any of them any time soon, since he’s dead. Following our guide to purchasing an espresso machine you’ll have the sophisticated schooling needed to pick a perfect home setup.
Currently, there are four main machine types, including manual, semi-auto, full-auto and super automatic. Selecting one of these categories will focus the buyer’s search. Once ideal espresso requires the least effort to make, the following items are ordered from least to most required and desired:
- Manual machines resemble a restored car from the 1900s, being a perfect homage to heritage, but extremely difficult to compare with the most advanced models currently available. There are no chokes to contend with or crank start mechanisms on manual espresso machines, though due to their inability to keep constant water pressure, users have to constantly push water through the espresso manually that can change the quality of the product. In brief, these machines may be considered only by experienced home baristas.
- Semi-Auto espresso makers should be grateful to the patent of Achilles Gaggia in 1938 that introduced electric pumps to devices, which resulted in hands-free water pressure. As operators can choose the moment to switch the pump on and off (that is why it is called “semi” automatic), and as these makers have automated boiler temperature controls, this is the top popular category of traditional machines nowadays.
- Fully-Auto espresso machines share the features of semi-auto items, but contain an electronic nanny to balance water amounts passing through espresso. Additionally, fully automatics frequently include semi-automatic controls that are already not necessary.
- Super Automatic machines are equipped with all the doodads, commonly including a grinding apparatus and other built-in gadgets. Nowadays, “caffe crema”, an exceptional coffee type, appeared as a result of super automatic machine development.
Just before you go shopping for an espresso machine, ask yourself an essential question: What do you want? Due to the fact that various machines’ specialties and faculties differ greatly, the initial step in espresso travel is deciding what types of coffee you want to make (cappuccino, straight espresso or both?). Moreover, depending on the quantity of drinks you’re looking to make in one swoop, as well as its frequency, the questions of sustained durability and performance may come into play. Will you be able to use a direct-plumb espresso machine, which is directly connected to the water pipes in your home? (If not, then be ready to fill the water reservoir manually every time). Since certain machine types require comparatively more juice, you’ll also have to determine the kind of power supply available.
What is possible to obtain for the money you have? Let’s talk boilers. There are only three price points to think over, each offering various boiler configuration with diverse accompanying mechanicals. Machines that cost less than $1,000 are usually dual-use setups, single-boiler: as these items utilize a single thermostat to maintain the water temp (that can be manually switched from one boiler to another), they cannot brew and steam milk at a time. Another mark that reaches $1,000 and more will offer mostly heat-exchanger, single-boiler machines that feature a bigger boiler, which keeps water around 240 degrees Fahrenheit and makes it possible to steam and brew simultaneously. In machines with the price over $2,000, you will find a dual-boiler. Such items are equipped with two separate boilers that can brew and steam simultaneously. While dual-boiled espresso machines seem to satisfy serious espresso nerds, bear in mind the 110V power outlets of North American devices that can’t always handle the requirements of these machines. Nevertheless, these days North American brands are coming up with ultimate approaches in our market.
We talked to Enrico Maso, who is a senior product manager at DeLonghi and knows a few things about espresso. We had a quick chat and discussed a couple of life’s most vital issues.
GP: Why is espresso considered to be the finest coffee drink?
EM: I am convinced that numerous factors make espresso the best coffee drink ever: high extraction process pressure that advances the coffee body and aroma. The extraction time plays a vital role in making fine espresso, since the right timing will warn an under-extracted or over-extracted brew. Proper water temperature (that may vary from 92 up to 96 degrees Celsius) is another key factor that impacts the taste. Consequently, we can claim espresso to be the finest drink due to its harmonious combination of multiple elements.
GP: What is crema and what are the reasons of its high importance?
EM: Crema is a thick and flavorful foam layer, which sits on the very top of the coffee body. Sipping the drink you break this layer first, and you can enjoy all of the diverse flavors and elements that go into the coffee. Why? Since Crema serves an emulsion of gases, water, coffee and air that appears in the result of the extraction process, it is regarded to be one of the main elements in espresso that provides the drink with an exclusive body and aroma.
GP: How often is it necessary to clean an espresso machine? Are there any special practices?
EM: In order to avoid residue left behind the use, an espresso machine should be cleaned every day; this residue can cause staleness or over-extraction, leading to a burnt taste. De’Longhi home espresso machines have a unique design for easy cleaning (for example, the Gran Dama Avant features a special clean button, which automatically performs clearing of the milk tank, removing unwanted residue). A great number of espresso machines have easily removable parts that make it simple to wipe them down with a cloth. If you take care of the machine, it will pay you off in exclusive espresso experiences that will become better each day.
When actually buying a machine pay due attention to how easy it is to use and maintain, as well as how intricate it is. Investigate on the maximal pump pressure, and once it’s self-priming, check out if there is a thermostat included and what type of boiler setup it has — these features will determine the amount of personal effort necessary to put into every drink. Additionally, make sure the water tank is of a good size and make sure you like the design and the size of the machine. There are many large and heavy espresso machines that run the aesthetic gamut.
Lastly, let us offer you some advice. You must invest in a top-quality and decent bean grinder which you will know how to use. Once you fail grinding properly, your espresso will be a completely mediocre and disappointing mess. Besides, mind that while the ideal world of the most option-laden and outfitted choice is the most desirable, it also has numerous optional espresso machines that should be avoided. Do not even pay attention to crema enhancers, since they will damage your espresso instead of making it better. Machines featuring high-bar pressure rates (reaching 15, 16 or 18) don’t commonly deliver those pressures due to overflow valves or restrictors, so any item claiming over 9 bars will not make a difference. Frothing assistants may look useful, but the technique is easy to master with no extra help, while these aids can decrease the natural mild sweetness as they administer heat. Steam buttons are also a no-go: they’re on-or-off, binary affairs.