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Updated Jul 15, 2022 7:08 AM

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 quickly add up. 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 and a pleasing digestif. 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 for the best espresso machines.

How we chose the best espresso machines

As journalists, our bodies are 99.9-percent coffee. This means we have a thing or two to say about creating the coffee shop experience at home. We downed a double and had jittery discussions about our own brewing experiences, looked at product reviews, talked to coffee aficionados, and scoured coffee chat boards—yes, those exist—to find the best espresso machine for your home.

What to consider when buying the best espresso machines

Not all espresso machines are built alike. Here are some important considerations to make before purchasing the best espresso machine for you.

Price

Professional-style machines tend to cost more than ones meant for the regular consumer. If you just want to make a simple Caffè Americano or latte and don’t need bells and whistles like a milk frother or built-in grinder, don’t splurge on a barista’s dream espresso machine.

Size

Espresso machines can take up as much space as a coffee maker to an entire corner of the counter. You may want a larger, professional-style machine, but you might not have the counter set-up that can accommodate it.

Drink preferences

If you’re a mocha or cappuccino fan, you might benefit from a more technical machine that preserves the quality of the espresso. If you’re just trying to get some caffeine in your body and don’t care about the particulars, don’t worry about things like boilers and what temperature the machine gets to.

The best espresso machines: Reviews & Recommendations

Making a quality cup of joe or mug of latte takes more than hot purified water, freshly ground coffee, and time. Take the temperature of any barista and they’ll say it’s both an art and a science. At the heart of all good coffee is a great shot of espresso and at the core of great espresso is a great espresso machine—the exacting, expressive tool that lets you can pull perfect shot after perfect shot in the comfort of your own home. Here are our picks so you won’t get steamed yourself looking for the perfect pressurized apparatus.

Best overall: Breville the Barista Express Espresso Machine

Breville

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Why it made the cut: This professional-grade espresso machine pulls no punches and pulls perfect shots of espresso.

Specs

  • Capacity: 64 fluid ounces
  • Weight: 23 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 12.5 x 12.6 x 13.1 inches

Pros

  • Built-in grinder
  • Espresso in less than a minute

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not for small spaces

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 microfoam 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.

Best statement piece: Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine

Why it made the cut: This espresso machine features a smaller profile for a minimalist kitchen.

Specs

  • Capacity: 34 fluid ounces
  • Weight: 11 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 12 x 6 x 13 inches

Pros

  • Passive cup warmer
  • Slim

Cons

  • No built-in grinder

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 cups, 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 onboard chrome steam wand also makes it easy to froth milk for your fancier drinks. The Smeg unfortunately does not have an onboard grinder, so that’s something to consider.

Best for beginners: Nespresso VertuoPlus Coffee and Espresso Machine by De’Longhi

Nespresso

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Why it made the cut: This beginner-friendly machine makes barista-worthy shots.

Specs

  • Capacity: 40 fluid ounces
  • Weight: 9 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 5.59 x 16.88 x 12.79 inches

Pros

  • Hands-off
  • Thin profile

Cons

  • No steam wand
  • Pod-only

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 (1.35-ounce) espresso, double (2.7-ounce) espresso, 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.

Best smart: Café Affetto Automatic Espresso Machine + Milk Frother

Billy Cadden

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Why it made the cut: This machine can make a custom cup to your liking, no mental math required.

Specs

  • Capacity: 40.6 fluid ounces
  • Weight: 19 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 16.1 x 7.1 x 12.48 inches

Pros

  • Brews in 90 seconds
  • Compact

Cons

  • Touch panel is very sensitive
  • Water reservoir hard to reach if you have low cabinets

Are you the person with the complicated coffee order because your cappuccino has to be a certain way? Congrats, this machine is for you. This smart espresso machine is Wi-Fi connected and syncs with the SmartHQ app, which allows you to customize drink preferences by volume and strength—ristretto and beyond. And, your custom cup is available in 90 seconds at the push of a button. The froth wand rotates 90 degrees for control and convenience and the included 15.8-ounce steel frothing pitcher includes liquid measurement engravings inside. A built-in conical burr grinder includes 5 levels of grind, from coarsest to finest, to prep your beans for pre-infusion, balanced extraction, and a consistent cup blooming with flavor.

Best budget: Bialetti Moka Express, Stovetop Coffee Maker, Aluminium, 9-Cup Espresso

Bialetti

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Why it made the cut: This moka pot proves that you don’t need a fancy machine to make a good cup of espresso.

Specs

  • Capacity: 17 fluid ounces
  • Weight: 2 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 7.05 x 5.12 x 9.64 inches

Pros

  • Zero-waste
  • Hands-on

Cons

  • Takes more time to make a shot

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.

FAQs

Q: What kinds of coffee can I make with an espresso machine?

Lots! You can make lattes, Caffè Americanos, cappuccinos, mochas … you name it, it’s possible with an espresso maker. The amount of steamed milk, foam, and espresso determines what kind of drink you will have. For example, an Americano is just espresso and hot water. Lattes and cappuccinos are both made from espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, but the ratio of the three ingredients differentiates the two.

Q: What are some tips for using the espresso machine?

It depends on the kind of machine you have. But for a manual machine—the kind where you have to pull the shot—make sure you use fresh beans, clean your machine, and don’t use hard or untreated water when making a shot of espresso.

Q: How long do espresso machines last?

Depending on the quality, amount of use, and care, an espresso machine can last between 5-10 years.

Final thoughts on the best espresso machines

Making your own espresso at home saves you money, and can also add to your morning ritual. Yes, being on a first-name basis with a barista is a great humblebrag, but so is engaging in small acts of mindfulness by paying attention to the way the espresso smells when it’s brewing.