Six bucks for a cappuccino? You’ve got to be kidding me. Coffee shops these days are charging top dollar for espresso drinks, and if you’ve got a daily milk and espresso habit, the cost is going to add up quick. Imagine enjoying a cappuccino in the morning without waiting in line or speaking to a soul. Alternatively, imagine impressing guests at a dinner party by serving macchiatos with dessert. Espresso also tends to be less acidic than drip coffee, so many people find it to be easier on the gut. Depending on how advanced you want to get, there are home espresso machines for the pro barista and layperson alike. Here are some of our favorites to help you start your search.
The Barista Express has an on-board burr grinder that allows you to adjust the grind size and grind espresso beans directly into the portafilter. It also portions out the beans so that you get the amount for a perfect single or double shot. You will have to tamp your grounds the way the pros do (don’t worry—it’s easy), and the tamper is cutely nestled into the machine for storage. This machine also has precise temperature control so that your espresso is being extracted at the perfect temperature. For milk, it has an advanced steam wand for micro foam and latte art and comes with a stainless steel milk jug. Because this espresso machine is heavy duty and professional, it requires a slightly more involved cleaning regimen, but all the necessary cleaning tools come included.
This is a great option for someone who isn’t a pro barista but cares about their espresso and their aesthetics. It is made of stainless steel with a filter holder for either espresso grounds or pods depending on how involved you want to get. The control panel is easy to use with buttons for one cup, two cup, and steam. It also has a one liter water tank that can be removed for filling. For the more detail-oriented espresso hound, this machine allows you to adjust water hardness and extraction length. The on-board chrome steam wand also makes it easy to froth milk for your fancier drinks. The Smeg unfortunately does not have an on-board grinder, so that’s something to consider.
This machine is great for home or office; just insert a Nespresso capsule, push a button, and watch it go. The Nespresso VertuoPlus gives you options for single espresso (1.35-ounce), double espresso (2.7-ounce), or americanos in 5-, 8-, or 14-ounce sizes. Any of these pours can be extracted from a single capsule. The removable water tank holds 40 ounces and it can store up to 12 capsules before the container needs emptying. This is a more hands-off option for somebody in search of a quick fix. The espresso drinks pour nicely with crema on top, but the VertuoPlus does not have a steam wand for milk. It comes with a complimentary assortment of 12 capsules to get you started.
This is the old-school Italian way to make espresso at home, and it works like a charm. Just fill the lower chamber with cold water, add ground espresso to the filter, and screw the top chamber on. Put it on the stove over medium-low flame and let it bubble until the water travels through the grounds and into the top chamber. The result is delicious and complex considering you don’t have to plug anything in. The Bialetti is compact to the point that you could travel with it, so it is quite the opposite of any of the other counter-space eating espresso makers on the market.