The Best Espresso Machines of 2017
What are the best espresso machines you can buy today? We researched 40 options and bought 9 of the top-rated models. We then ran them through 10 side-by-side tests over 100 hours. Espresso has a bit of a mystical quality and the thought of enjoying it outside the confines of a cafe can be intimidating. Our tests show that even beginners can make good shots at home that will cure them of their coffee shop addiction. Whether you want something super convenient that will do all the work for you, or want to learn some barista skills, our side-by-side tests will lead to the right machine. Read on to make sure you get a machine you love instead of one that gathers dust while you begrudgingly fork over $5 for a latte.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated April 2017
After another close inspection of the home espresso machine market, we feel the Breville Barista Pro remains the best option for those most concerned with taste, and the Gaggia Brera still offers the best value. Our top picks for convenience remain the same as well. We did add the popular Rancilio Silvia to the review. It is a great machine for those already familiar with the fine art of pulling shots, but we definitely would not recommend it as a first espresso machine.
Best Overall Espresso Machine
Breville Barista Express
In our opinion, the Breville Barista Express is about as close as you're going to come to having a coffee shop level machine in your kitchen without spending as much as it would cost to renovate said kitchen. The espresso shots we pulled from this machine were rich and bold. From coffee amateurs to professional roasters, they were the favorite of all the people who participated in our taste tests. This machine's steam wand was also the only consumer device we came across that could produce true, latte quality steamed milk. Top that off with a high end, built-in burr grinder and the Barista Express provides everything you need to serve up any espresso drink. Just be forewarned that this machine requires a bit and effort and skill and has a slight learning curve - it does not offer the push button get coffee convenience of some other models. While it certainly is not difficult to use, it is better suited for someone that doesn't mind expending a little extra energy in order to get a higher quality drink, and/or one that enjoys having a bit of a ritual around preparing their morning pick-me-up. Already have a coffee grinder? Save a little money and get the Breville Infuser, it's essentially the same machine but without the built-in grinder.
Great tasting espresso
Cafe quality lattes and cappuccinos
Requires some effort and a learning curve
Read full review: Breville Barista Express
Best Bang for the Buck
The Gaggia Brera serves up espresso quickly and easily. All you have to do is throw some fresh beans in the hopper, select the amount and strength of espresso you want, and push go. The Brera does all of the grinding, tamping and brewing for you. Our testers loved the taste of the espresso it produced, their only negative comment being that it was a bit more watery than what they'd expect from a cafe. The built-in steam wand lends a relatively convenient way to prep milk if you're craving a cappuccino or latte. And, it does all this for a list price of only $400. Sure, this is significantly more expensive than some of the single serving capsule systems available. However, when you consider that the majority of those machines do not offer a built-in milk prepping option, and that buying coffee beans is much less expensive than buying those capsule (see our cost analysis at the end of this article), the Brera ends up being a better value.
Good tasting espresso
Low lifetime cost
Laborious descaling process
Read full review: Gaggia Brera
top Pick for Ease Of Use
Gaggia Anima Prestige
The Gaggia Anima Prestige essentially does everything for you, all you have to do is toss some coffee beans in the grinder. Want a straight shot of espresso? this machine will grind, tamp, and brew at the push of a button. Craving a cappuccino? this machine will heat and froth milk and toss it on top of the espresso, also at the push of a button. This combination of automatic espresso making and automatic milk preparation is not unique to the Prestige, but it executed it more effectively than any other product we tested, making it the machine everyone in the office kept gravitating towards.Sure the Breville made better tasting espresso, but when jonesing for caffeine we were more than happy to make a little sacrifice in taste to get our fix more quickly and conveniently. Most machines require some some degree of planning and effort if you want to make a milk and espresso drink, but you can have the Anima Prestige make you a good latte macchiato while you get a jump on your morning emails. We were generally pleased with the quality of espresso and milk this machine produced in our testing, though it wasn't quite as good as the ambrosia produced by the Breville Barista Express. If you're looking for the most convenient and easiest cappuccino possible, however, this small sacrifice in taste will be well worth the added convenience.
Incredibly convenient and easy to use
Expensive list price
Read full review: Gaggia Anima Prestige
top Pick for Straight Espresso Shot Convenience
If you're go to morning kickstarter is a straight shot of espresso, you can't beat the Nespresso Inissia for convenience. All you have to do is drop in a single serving capsule and push a button, and the machine pours out a tasty shot of espresso. Sure, the shots it pulls may not satisfy the aficionados amongst us, but most of our testers were more than satisfied with the Inissia's taste factor. Once you're done the single serving capsule system requires almost no cleanup, just discard the spent capsules when the bin starts to fill up (and may we suggest that you recycle them? Mother Earth thanks you) and you're good to go. If you like this machine but want to make milk drinks occasionally you could invest in the Epica Milk Frother, which we have found to work well. Alternatively, Nespresso does offer a bundle that includes the Inissia and a milk frother.
Convenient and easy to use
Low upfront cost
Uses expensive capsules
Does not include milk frother
Read full review: Nespresso Inissia
Like the idea of a single serving capsule system but want to be able to make coffee as well? the Nespresso Evoluo does both, but currently there are fewer espresso capsule flavors available for it than for the Inissia.
Great for Experienced Baristas and Aficionados
The Rancilio Silvia pulls a delicious shot, on par with that of theBreville Barista Express. While both of these machines are semi-automatic and thus require more user effort to pull a shot, the Silvia allows for much more customizability. Namely, its spartan controls force you turn the pump on and off, so you decide exactly how long or short the shot will be. You can even adjust the exact pressure that the pump produces, though this requires opening the machine up and turning some screws. Newcomers will likely be baffled by this machine and end up producing a lot of watery or bitter shots before they make a decent one. For those new to semi-automatic machines we would definitely recommend the more forgiving Breville. However, if you've a practiced hand the Silvia will allow you to endlessly experiment with every aspect of your technique to find that elusive perfect shot.
Allows for endless experimentation
Requires skill to use effectively
No built-in grinder
Read full review: Rancilio Silvia
Analysis and test Results
Once the sole domain of experienced baristas wielding large, heavy machines, it is now easier than ever to make espresso at home. The current offering of espresso machines has largely split into two camps: one for those that value convenience over taste, and another for those that value taste over all else. Whichever camp you fall into our testing results (summarized in the table below) will be able to guide you towards the right machine. If you're not sure whether you're in the market for a super-automatic, semi-automatic, or capsule style machine, or aren't sure what all those words mean, check out our buying advice article for more information.
If an espresso machine is actually going to keep you from spending $5 on a latte every morning it must 1) produce good tasting espresso and 2) be easy and simple to use. Consequently half of our testing focused on how good each machine's final products tasted (taking both the espresso and steamed milk into account), while the other half focused on how easy the machines were to use and clean. The following sections detail the results of those individual tests.
Espresso is like wine: some will notice subtle differences in taste that can make or break a drink, while others feel it all tastes the same. To cover this spread we enlisted a diverse group of taste testers ranging from casual coffee drinkers, to people who've owned an espresso machine for a few years, to professional coffee roasters. We had all of these testers drink both straight espresso and cappuccinos and lattes prepared using each machine, asking them to consider things like texture, mouthfeel, and overall taste. We then deliberated the relative qualities of each machine's offerings. Somehow that discussion got quite animated and energetic…
The Breville Barista Express was a favorite amongst our taste testers and brought home the top score of 9 out of 10 in our taste metric. The espresso it produced was full-bodied, rich, and pleasantly nuanced. Its milk wand also produced the best steamed and frothed milk in our testing, elevating this machine's lattes and cappuccinos well above the rest of the field. This was one of two machine we tested that we felt could really rival the offerings from an actual coffee shop. The other was the Rancilio Silvia, which makes a great shot, but requires so much skill to use that we wouldn't reccomend it as your first machine.
All of the super-automatic machines we tested were tightly packed in terms of the the tastiness of their brews, with the machines that used whole beans slightly besting the single serving capsule systems. Three different machines scored 7 out of 10 in this metric, putting them noticeably but not terribly far behind the top scoring Breville. In general, these machines make drinks that are good, but you're probably not going to be able to convince anybody that they came from a coffee shop. The Gaggia Brera's espresso had a good taste, but some testers felt it was slightly watery and a bit weak, even when it was set to produce its most robust shot. The steam wand was able to froth milk well and make a good cappuccino, but fell slightly short of that perfect latte worthy steamed milk. The Gaggia Anima Prestige performed very similarly to its sibling. Its espresso had a nice taste but was slightly watery with the shot getting thin towards the end of extraction. The milk drinks it made were very similar to the Brera's, but with the added convenience of an automatic milk frother. The De'Longhi Magnifica also made good but slightly weak tasting espresso in our testing. Its steam wand let us make good cappuccinos, but again couldn't quite get to that elusive perfect latte.
Nespresso dominates the single serving espresso capsule market. We found that those capsules produce very consistent tasting espresso, regardless of what machine they're made with. Generally our testers liked that taste, but felt it was a bit more watery than the rich shots from the top scoring Breville, and lacked just a hint of boldness compared to the super-automatic machines that used whole coffee beans as their starting point. Accordingly, all of the capsule machines we tested received a score of 6 out of 10 in our taste metric. Of those machines the De'Longhi Lattissima Pro was the only one that had a built-in automatic milk frother. It was able to satisfy our cravings for an espresso and milk drink, but didn't create quite as much cappuccino foam as other machines, and couldn't produce that latte microfoam. Both the Nespresso Evoluo and the Nespresso Inissia don't have any built-in milk prepping capabilities, so we used the highly regarded Epica Milk Frother to turn their shots into cafe style drinks. This resulted in some nice, foamy cappuccinos, but again couldn't quite attain that perfect latte.
At the bottom of our taste test results was the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista, which scored a 3 out of 10. No matter how much we tinkered we couldn't get it to produce anything but very burnt and bitter tasting espresso. Its automatic milk frother created decent foam, but could not rescue the bad taste of the espresso.
Ease of Use
Apart from taste, ease of use is the most important aspect of a home espresso machine. If your machine isn't easy to use it will end up rusting in an appliance graveyard instead of providing your morning caffeine indulgence. If your machine isn't easy to use We tested ease of use by making an unhealthy amount of espresso on each machine, paying close attention to the intuitiveness of each interface. We also conducted cappuccino time trials to see how long each machine forces you to wait for your mandatory morning caffeine boost.
The Gaggia Anima Prestige earned the top score of 9 in our ease of use testing and secured our top Pick for Ease of Use Award in the process. Apart from a somewhat lengthy initial setup process everything about the Prestige is easy. All you need to do is make a few selections with some intuitive and well labeled buttons and a clear LCD display, then just under 3 minutes later you're presented with a nice cappuccino. The Nespresso Evoluo also scored a 9 in this metric due to its incredibly simple insert capsule, press button, get espresso functionality. It even has a barcode reader that identifies what kind of capsule you've put in and modifies its settings accordingly. It didn't pick up an award for ease of use because you need a separate milk frother to make any milk drinks. However, using one we were able to make a good cappuccino in just over 2 minutes.
Rounding out the group of top scorers were the other single serving capsule machines we tested. The Nespresso Inissia scored an 8 out of 10. It features the most simple and straightforward operation of any of the models we tested. Just insert a capsule and press one button if you want a normal shot and another button if you want a long shot. It didn't score a 9 because that two button simplicity makes it very difficult to make any adjustments if you're not satisfied with the factory setting, and the user manual left a little to be desired. The De'Longhi Nespresso Lattissima Pro also scored an 8 in this metric. Its use of capsules again makes operation very simple, and we were able to make a cappuccino with the built-in automatic milk frother in less than 2 minutes. It missed out on a higher score because its buttons are only labeled with symbols that aren't completely obvious, so it requires a little manual reading and memorization.
Just behind the top scorers in our ease of use testing was the Gaggia Brera, which earned a 7 out of 10. Its super-automatic functionality meant making espresso was straightforward and simple. It lost some points because using its built-in steam wand pushed its cappuccino making time over 4 minutes, and its buttons aren't intuitively labeled and take a minute to get used to. The Breville Barista Express received the relatively low score of 6 in our ease of use testing. This was mostly due to the fact it requires the user to select the grind size, grind, and tamp the coffee manually. If you're interested in having a full espresso making experience this may sound great, but it is undeniably not as easy as the super-automatic machines. It also logged the slowest time in our cappuccino time trial: 5 and a half minutes (though it did make the tastiest one). It somewhat makes up for this with a top notch user manual and a greater user interface. The De'Longhi Magnifica also scored a 6. It can make espresso at the push of a few buttons, and using its steam wand we made a cappuccino in just over four minutes. However, its buttons are only labeled with symbols, which can be a little confusing, and its steam wand often shoots water onto the counter while heating up.
Again at the bottom of the score sheet was the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista, which scored a 4 out of 10. It has a decent interface, but its water tank is very tall and difficult to fill in shallower sinks. Its portafilter is also quite difficult to clean, which pushed its cappuccino making time up to 5 minutes. Not to mention it requires the use of a separate coffee grinder.
Ease of Cleaning
An arduous cleanup process can ruin even the best caffeine high. After making more shots of espresso than we can count, we have a very good idea of what cleaning each one of these machines entails. For this metric we evaluated daily cleaning (portafilters and steam wands), weekly cleaning, things like emptying and washing the drip tray, and long term cleaning, which is most comprised of running a descaling process. This flushes a solution through the machine that removes and mineral buildup. This can be required anywhere from every two months to just once or twice a year depending on how often you use the machine and how hard your water is. See our buying advice article for more info. While no machine felt particularly difficult to clean, we did see significant differences between models.
Three models shared the top of our ease of cleaning podium, all receiving a score of 8 out of 10. The Nespresso Inissia's capsule system leaves almost no cleanup unless you use a separate milk frother to make a milk drink. Its descaling process only took 15 minutes and was fairly straightforward when using the included instructions. The De'Longhi Nespresso Lattissima Pro also has a cleanup free capsule system. The descaling process was easy and all parts of the automatic milk frother are dishwasher safe (and it can be stored in the fridge to negate the need for daily cleaning). the De'Longhi Magnifica was the only non-capsule machine to grace the top upper tier of our ease of cleaning testing. This was largely due to its super simple and automated descaling process, and the fact that its steam wand breaks down into multiple pieces, making it easy to clean all the nooks and crannies. The only downside is that none of its parts are dishwasher safe.
The Nespresso Evoluo fell slightly behind the other capsule machines in our ease of cleaning testing, scoring a 7 out of 10. Like its compadres it require essentially zero daily cleaning, unless you use a separate frother to make milk drinks. It lost points for its descaling process, which took us over 35 minutes and went through so much water it became a hands-on process with refilling the water tanks and making sure things weren't overflowing. The Gaggia Anima Prestige also scored a 7. Its automatic milk frother can be stored in the fridge to avoid daily cleanings, and every part of it except the tank (which is easy to clean by hand) are dishwasher safe. It descaling process is also easy. The only downside is that the drip tray fills up more quickly than other machines, so it requires a bit more frequent emptying and cleaning.
Starting off the bottom, but not abysmal, scores was the Gaggia Brera, which earned a 6 out of 10. Its steam wand can collect some buildup on the inside, and thus requires some diligent cleaning if it's used often. The descaling process was also fairly involved and lengthy - it took us over 40 minutes. The Breville Barista Express also scored a 6 in this metric. This was mostly due to its semi-automatic design which requires wiping out the portafilter after each use and cause the drip tray to fill up a bit faster, necessitating more frequent emptying and cleaning. The steam wand also must be wiped off and cleaned after each use, and the descaling process was straightforward but fairly hands on. Finally the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista scored a 5. Its milk frother is completely dishwasher safe. However, its portafilter is somewhat difficult to clean and its descaling process requires constant attention to make sure everything is going smoothly.
For this metric we more closely evaluated the quality each machine's technique for preparing milk, rather than just assessing how it tasted when added to a shot of espresso. We did this because we know some consumers will be more concerned with the milk quality than anything else. This would namely be those that care as much or more about matching the texture of coffee shop latte than they do about the taste notes of the espresso.
If you're looking for the perfect latte steamed milk that can create latte art, the Breville Barista Express can satisfy those mandates. Accordingly it scored a 9 out of 10 in this metric. Its steam wand takes a bit of practice, but once you find its sweet spot you can create delightfully creamy steamed milk with just a hint of foam on top, exactly what the most exacting milk steamers will be looking for. The only Machine that matched this quality in our testing was the Rancilio Silvia, which is a great machine if you already know how to pull a shot, but is frustratingly difficult to use for beginners.
After the Breville we had a second tier of machines, all of which scored a 7 out of 10. These machines generally could create steamed milk with a decent texture and some nice fluffy frothed milk, though with some imperfections. The De'Longhi Nespresso Lattissima Pro and the Gaggia Anima Prestige both have automatic milk frothers that are very consistent and create good frothed milk, but the bubbles in the foam are a bit larger than the ideal 'microfoam' that creates the perfect cappuccino topping. The steamed milk from these machines tastes more like simple heated milk rather than having the velvety texture we were hoping for. The De'Longhi Magnifica's steam wand lent a little more adjustability to the milk prepping process, but in our testing it produce steamed and frothed milk very similar to the Lattissima and the Prestige, though with much more required effort.
The Gaggia Brera and the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista both scored a 6 in this metric. The Gaggia Brera's steam wand create a nice foam when frothing, but the foam bubbles were larger, making it feel less creamy than the foam produced by the higher scoring models. It could steam milk fairly well but lacked the nice texture we were looking for, and we could never get that small layer of foam on top that is indicative of perfectly steamed milk. The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista produced similar steamed and frothed milk, though it did so with a more convenient automatic frother.
Finally, both the Nespresso Evoluo and the Nespresso Inissia scored a 1 out of 10 in this metric. This was solely because neither machine offers a built-in method for preparing milk. We were able to get some decent milk drink results from these machines by using a stand alone milk frother. In our testing we used the Epica Milk Frother and the Nespresso Aeroccino Plus.
Is One of these Machines Really Cheaper than Starbucks?
We know that for many users the decision to buy an espresso machine isn't really about wanting to drink espresso at home, but is more financially driven. And we hear you, it can be painful to shell out as much as you'd spend on a cheap lunch just to get a cup of coffee in the morning. So we did a breakdown to see if these machines really can save you money.
Our first analysis looked at how much it cost to produce a shot of espresso from each machine. For the units that use fresh beans we assumed a cost of $12 for a pound of coffee. To see if they can save you money we compared these to the price of a shot of espresso at Starbucks, which costs roughly $2, depending on your region. We know what you're thinking, you've never made it our of Starbucks only having spent $2. If straight espresso shots aren't your thing you probably get one of Starbucks' specialty lattes, which average around $4 (again, depending on your region). So we threw that into our comparison as well. Our results are in the graph below:
So clearly these machines can make espresso much more cheaply than going to Starbucks. However, they do have the initial cost of buying the machine, a cost that going to Starbucks doesn't have. So we also did a lifetime cost per shot calculation that takes the cost of each machine into account. For this calculation we assumed an 8 year life span for each machine, and an average of 300 shots made per year, for a total of 2400 shots:
So even taking the cost of the machine into account, these products can save you a significant amount of money over going to Starbucks (if you're a latte drinker even factoring in the negligible cost of milk, which shakes out to about $0.17 per drink, won't change much). Also, this analysis makes the more inexpensive capsule machines look less appealing, as the additional cost of the capsules quickly adds up.
Bringing an espresso machine into your home can be a complete game changer. Being able to make a high quality morning pick me up (or hangover cure) without leaving the house feels nothing short of magical. We hope our test results and analysis have cleared the confusion that can surround choosing the right caffeine contraption. If you're still not sure what you should get, check out our buying advice article. It further details the factors you'll want to consider in your purchase decision.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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