The Gaggia Classic is our favorite entry-level semi-automatic espresso machine. It has high-quality components and a sleek design, as well as the ability to deliver consistently good shots of espresso with minimum effort.
By combining the best bits from semi-automatic and fully automatic machines, the Breville Oracle Touch sets a new standard for performance and ease of use. Go ahead and grab one if its hefty price tag fits in your budget.
The De'Longhi EC155M will get you decent espresso shots on a budget. If your shopping quest for better espresso has tight monetary restrictions, this is the machine to get.
The Breville Nespresso Creatista Plus will help you create milk-based espresso drinks worthy of an upmarket coffee shop. Best of all, it'll maintain the incredible convenience that makes opting for Nespresso capsules so popular.
The De'Longhi Dedica Deluxe espresso machine is a seriously stylish pick that, measuring only 6 inches wide, is great for space-starved kitchen counters. Best of all, the machine doesn't require you to sacrifice performance for compact size.
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There are three distinct types of espresso machines worth your attention — semi-automatic, fully automatic, and those that work with Nespresso capsules. Choosing the right one for your lifestyle is both a matter of personal convenience and budget.
Automatic espresso machines: As the name suggests, these are incredibly convenient to own and operate. They require a hefty initial investment, but because they use whole espresso beans, they'll save you money in the long run. They're also incredibly convenient to use and maintain.
Semi-automatic espresso machines: These will deliver the closest experience to the one found in your favorite coffee shops. They'll give you full control of the brewing and the milk-frothing experience, so you can always get the most flavor out of your favorite espresso.
However, semi-automatic espresso machines require a bit of skill, meticulous maintenance, and investing in a high-quality tamper and (preferably) an espresso grinder to deliver best results.
There are two distinct types of semi-automatic espresso machines to choose from — single-boiler and dual-boiler ones. The latter are considerably pricier, but they allow you to pull a shot of espresso and steam your milk at the same time.
Because of the difference in temperature for pulling an espresso shot and steaming milk (this requires the boiler to reach a higher temperature), single-boiler espresso machines need additional time to heat up before they can steam milk. Once you're finished steaming, you have to cool down the boiler or you'll risk damaging it.
Most semi-automatic espresso machines can also work with ESE ("easy-serve espresso") pods via a dedicated portafilter basket. Still, if you're planning to use them, make sure that the machine you choose is compatible just in case.
Entry-level semi-automatic espresso machines often come with pressurized portafilter baskets. They can consistently extract good shots, but they can't quite bring up the same aromas as their pricier relatives.
If you're shopping for a high-end semi-automatic machine, buying a high-quality grinder is pretty much mandatory. It'll allow you to "dial in" the flavor of your shots to perfection every time you change espresso brands.
You'll also need to invest at least $200 to get your hands on a proper burr grinder to pair with your semi-automatic espresso machine. Blade grinders aren't suitable for this task, as they can't grind the whole espresso beans as finely.
In addition to a quality grinder, there are three more essential accessories you'll need for your semi-automatic espresso machine — a quality tamper, a tamping mat, and a knock box. The tamper is particularly important, as it'll enable you to properly press the ground espresso into the portafilter before brewing. Uneven espresso tamping will result in shots with poor quality.
Nespresso machines: These are handily the most convenient option on this list. However, the Nespresso capsules are pricey, so if you're a heavy coffee drinker, you might be better off looking elsewhere.
Steam-based espresso machines: Though they're affordable, we don't recommend these, as they tend to deliver coffee with burnt flavor, and without the distinctive crema that makes espresso so awesome.
Cleaning Your Espresso Machine
In order to get consistently great espresso shots, it's essential that you maintain your espresso machine properly. This includes cleaning on a regular basis, as well as descaling if necessary.
Cleaning a semi-automatic espresso machine will require you to backflush its brewing unit every few weeks. The process should be described in detail in the manual of the machine.
Fully automatic machines are easier to clean and maintain. Many models will allow you to completely remove their brewing elements and rinse them with water. High-end models can even notify you when it's time to clean them.
If you don't clean and maintain your espresso machine properly over time, you'll end up with poor espresso shots, usually defined by an overly bitter, slightly burnt taste.
Ready to own your own espresso machine? Check out our top picks below, and get ready to enjoy coffee shop-worthy espresso from your very own home.
Learn More About Our Top Five Picks:
1. Gaggia Classic Espresso Machine — Check Price
Best Entry-Level Semi-Automatic
Pros: Durable design, commercial-grade components, affordable price
Con: The milk frothing experience could be better
The Gaggia Classic is a great first entry into the world of espresso snobbery. The semi-automatic espresso machine will allow you to gradually grow your home barista skills, while delivering excellent shots of espresso the entire time.
The Gaggia Classic features the same commercial-grade portafilter and brewing group as the Italian maker's commercial machines. This means that you'll be getting a similar user experience at home as you would from the barista in your favorite coffee shop.
The machine comes bundled with pressurized portafilter baskets (single and double), as well as a nonpressurized double. In case you want to take your skills to another level, there's also the option to invest in a bottomless portafilter. A plastic tamper and a measuring spoon are also included.
Other key features of the Gaggia Classic include a high-quality boiler system with external heating elements, intuitive controls, and a sleek-looking stainless steel housing. As expected from its price tag, the machine has only one boiler, so you can't brew coffee and steam milk at the same time.
2. Breville Oracle Touch Espresso Machine — Check Price
Pros: Incredible espresso and milk foam quality, easy operation, using the portafilter is really satisfactory
Con: Expensive, not ideal for smaller kitchens
If your search has no budgetary restrictions, the Breville Oracle Touch is the espresso machine to get. The automatic machine gives users an unbelievable amount of espresso brewing and milk frothing controls via a large color touchscreen. Best of all, unlike other fully automatic offerings, the Oracle Touch has a commercial-sized, 58-millimeter portafilter, which allows you to get the satisfaction of being directly involved in the process of creating a coffee drink.
The centerpiece of the Breville Oracle Touch is undoubtedly its 4-inch color touch touchscreen. It gives you the option to customize every single step of the coffee making process, make popular espresso drinks with a single tap, as well as create your own beverages and save them in the machine's memory.
The tools for customizing drinks are pretty incredible. They include the ability to select the exact espresso grind, shot length, and milk texture. The last one is particularly impressive, because thanks to its cutting-edge steam wand, the Oracle Touch can steam the milk to your exact liking on every occasion.
In line with its hefty price tag, the Breville Oracle Touch has a dual boiler setup. This means that you can extract a shot of espresso and froth milk at the same time. The espresso machine has a large 84-ounce water tank, too.
Like all automatic espresso machines, the Oracle Touch works with whole espresso beans. As expected from its price tag, the machine comes with a rich set of bundled accessories, including a frothing pitcher.
Because it's packed with tech, the Breville Oracle Touch takes up quite a bit of space. The machine is almost 18 inches tall and 15 inches wide. The manufacturer backs the machine with a robust two-year warranty.
3. De'Longhi EC155M Espresso Machine — Check Price
Best Budget Buy
Pros: Affordable price, good espresso quality
Con: Build quality not as strong as pricier machines
If you're shopping for an espresso machine on a really tight budget, you need to have the De'Longhi EC155M on your short list of options. The machine is capable of extracting good espresso shots, so long as you manage your expectations accordingly.
The EC155M has a pressurized portafilter, so it can work well with all types of ground espresso. Other highlights of the machine include a compact footprint, intuitive controls, a durable stainless steel boiler, and a handy attachment for frothing milk. Its reservoir can fit 35 ounces of water.
The De'Longhi EC155M costs less than $100, so don't expect to be wowed by its looks or build quality (it's made from cheap plastic). The machine comes bundled with two portafilter baskets and a plastic tamper. We highly recommend you upgrade the latter to a heftier metal option ASAP.
4. Breville Nespresso Creatista Plus Espresso Machine — Check Price
Best for Nespresso Capsules
Pros: Stylish looks, great build quality, superb performance
The Creatista Plus by Breville has been designed for those who love the convenience of the Nespresso OriginalLine capsules, yet still want the ability to create pro-grade milk froth. Its built-in, high-quality frothing wand has eight milk-texture levels and 11 temperature settings. A handy LCD display allows you to choose from the numerous options available.
With 19 bars of pressure, the Creatista Plus will also ensure that you can make the most out of your Nespresso capsules. Best of all, once your shot is ready, the machine will take only 3 seconds to heat up and be ready to froth milk.
The machine has stainless steel housing, so it's as durable as it is great looking. It comes bundled with a frothing pitcher and a set of Nespresso capsules, so you're ready to get started the moment you receive it.
Priced north of $400, the Breville Nespresso Creatista Plus is surely not an impulse buy, though it’s well worth the investment if you like milk-based Nespresso drinks.
5. De'Longhi Dedica Deluxe Espresso Machine — Check Price
Best for Small Kitchens
Pros: Incredibly compact footprint, good espresso quality, colorful design
Con: The water tank is a tad small
Measuring only 6 inches wide, the De'Longhi Dedica Deluxe espresso machine is a perfect option for space-starved kitchens. Available in a quartet of stylish colors (black, white, red, and stainless steel), the machine is capable of extracting good shots of espresso, as well as good milk foam.
The machine can maintain its temperature for easily making multiple espresso drinks. Despite its compact dimensions, the Dedica Deluxe can easily accommodate larger cups.
The frothing wand of the espresso machine has dedicated settings for creating foam or simply heating up milk. As expected from its compact dimensions, the machine has a modestly sized 35-ounce water tank.
De'Longhi has equipped the espresso machine with a pressurized portafilter, and you'll get single and double shot baskets out of the box. The Dedica Deluxe is covered by a one-year warranty.
More Highly Rated Options to Choose From:
Looking for more espresso machines? These other picks might be more your style!
6. Jura A1 Espresso Machine — Check Price
Best for Busy Espresso Purists
Pros: Consistently great espresso extraction, pleasantly understated looks, easy to operate
Con: It can't steam milk
The Jura A1 automatic espresso machine is tailor-made for busy espresso purists. Sleek and surprisingly compact, the A1 will consistently deliver great espresso shots, thanks to a cutting-edge pulse extraction process.
Being an automatic machine, the Jura A1 will always grind just the right amount of whole espresso beans right before making your shot. You can choose between single, double, and ristretto (really short and strong) options. Choosing your drink is as easy as tapping on an illuminated touch panel.
The pouring spout of the machine has an adjustable height, and its reservoir can fit 37 ounces of water. The machine weighs a rather hefty 20 pounds, and it comes with a nice two-year warranty.
Lack of any options to froth milk is the largest Jura A1 shortcoming, so you'll need to spend extra on a dedicated milk frother if you like lattes and cappuccinos.
7. Wacaco Nanopresso Espresso Maker — Check Price
Best Ultra-Portable Pick
Pros: Incredibly portable, easy to operate, pulls surprisingly good espresso shots
Con: You need access to hot water to make it work
The ultra-portable Nanopresso by Wacaco has been designed to pull espresso shots on the go — all you need to get started with the gadget is ground espresso and hot water. The end results aren't quite on the same level as your favorite espresso machine at home, but they're still quite respectable given the size of the Nanopresso. You'll even get a good layer of crema in your shots.
The impressive capabilities of the Wacaco Nanopresso come courtesy of a patented, highly capable pumping system. It allows the tiny espresso maker to extract great espresso with little effort and preparation.
Maintaining the Nanopresso is as easy as thoroughly rinsing it after each espresso shot. The retail package of the device includes a removable cup and a carrying case. Wacaco offers a variant of the Nanopresso that’s compatible with Nespresso capsules, too.
The optional accessories for the Nanopresso include a barista kit with a larger water tank, a bigger espresso cup, a tamper, and two double espresso baskets. If you're serious about pulling shots on the go, we recommend that you spend the extra $30 for it.
8. Gaggia Brera Espresso Machine — Check Price
Best Entry-Level Automatic
Pros: Easy to operate, consistent performance
Con: We wish the warranty was for more than one year
The Gaggia Brera is a great entry-level automatic espresso machine made by one of the industry's heavyweights. The Brera is capable of delivering excellent shots of espresso at the touch of a button, as well as steam milk for your favorite beverages. It has a built-in water filter by Mavea, as well as a pre-infusion feature, which ensures each shot has just the right amount of flavor.
Gaggia has made the Brera incredibly easy to maintain, too. The machine's brewing group is easily removable for cleaning and maintenance, and you can also access its water and espresso waste bin from the front.
The espresso machine is designed to work with whole espresso beans, but it can utilize ground espresso, too.
You can choose your Gaggia Brera with a white or black housing — each option has a stainless steel front. The machine comes with a one-year warranty, but considering it's a fully automatic product, we wish that Gaggia backed the Brera for a longer period.
9. ECM Classika II PID Espresso Machine — Check Price
Best for Advanced Home Baristas
Pros: Beautiful industrial design, exceptional performance for skilled users
Con: You need to invest in extra gear to make the most out of the machine
The ECM Classika II PID semi-automatic espresso machine is a splurge-worthy option for experienced home baristas. The machine has a gorgeous industrial design, a polished stainless steel housing, and, most importantly, the ability to brew heavenly shots of espresso when tuned correctly.
The Classica II is all about giving the user full control over the brewing experience. The machine has a built-in brew group with exceptional quality and a dedicated gauge for monitoring brewing pressure. It also gives you the option to control the exact temperature of the water for your shot, so you can extract the best possible flavor from the espresso you've chosen.
Of course, the ECM Classika II PID espresso machine comes with a commercial-grade portafilter made of chrome-plated brass. It's not pressurized, so it's imperative that you invest in a high-quality grinder in order to make the most out of the espresso machine.
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