Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Espresso Machine of 2021

Bring the cafe home to you with this impressive machine.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman
By Michelle Powell, Max Mutter, Liz Nelson, and Penney Garrett  ⋅  Jun 24, 2021
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
After researching the top models on the market, we bought 16 of the best espresso machines to test side-by-side. Pulling more than 500 shots, and making more than 200 lattes, we had everyone from professional baristas and coffee roasters to espresso newbies use every machine and taste test the results. We also ran through each machine's cleaning cycle multiple times, assessing the relative difficulty of each. Whether you just want the fastest and most convenient home espresso or are willing to put in a little work to perfect your barista skills, we can help you find the right caffeine contraption.

Top 16 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 16
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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award 
Price $1,500 List
$1,499.95 at Amazon
$600 List
$599.99 at Amazon
$300 List$700 List
$589.95 at Amazon
$500 List
$499.95 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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78
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Pros Excellent espresso and milk steaming, can pull and steam simultaneously, multiple programmable features, relatively user-friendlyExcellent espresso, can achieve near-perfect microfoam, relatively easy to use for a semi-automatic machineGreat espresso, impressive milk steaming performance, compact designGreat taste, cafe quality lattes and cappuccinosGreat taste, exceptional lattes and cappuccinos, mostly automated milk steaming
Cons Expensive, requires some effort and a learning curve, no built-in grinderPricey, requires more effort/practice than fully-automatic machinesNo built-in grinderOn the pricier side, requires some effort and a learning curveNo built-in grinder, automated steam wand isn't ideal for microfoam or latte art
Bottom Line A great choice for those that want the best possible at-home espresso quality, but it comes at a hefty priceA cafe-quality machine that manages to still be friendly towards beginner baristasOne of the smallest machines we've found that can achieve cafe-quality resultsA perfect choice for those that don't mind putting in a little work to get the best tasting shotA top-notch machine that pulls great shots and offers the best mostly-automated milk-steaming we've found
Rating Categories Breville the Dual B... Calphalon Temp IQ Breville Bambino Breville Barista Ex... Breville Bambino Plus
Taste (40%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Ease Of Use (30%)
9.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
Ease Of Cleaning (15%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Milk Steaming (15%)
10.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
Specs Breville the Dual B... Calphalon Temp IQ Breville Bambino Breville Barista Ex... Breville Bambino Plus
Dimensions 14.7" x 14.8" x 14.7" 5.6" x 14.5" x 17.3" 7.7" x 12.6" x 12.2" 13.2" x 12.5" x 16" 7.7" x 12.6" x 12.2"
Milk Frother Steam Wand Steam Wand Steam Wand Steam Wand Automatic Steam Wand
Water Tank Capacity 84 oz 94 oz 47 oz 67 oz 65 oz
Cost per Shot $0.45 $0.45 $0.45 $0.47 $0.47
Lifetime Cost per Shot $1.08 $0.70 $0.58 $0.76 $0.68
Number of Cafe Replacement Shots to Make Up List Price 588 235 118 277 198
Number of Cafe Replacement Lattes to Make Up List Price 351 141 70 165 118


Best for Most At-Home Baristas


Calphalon Temp IQ


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Taste 9
  • Ease of Use 7
  • Ease of Cleaning 7
  • Milk Steaming 9
Milk Frother: Steam Wand | Water Tank Capacity: 94oz
Excellent espresso
Great microfoam production when milk steaming
More beginner-friendly than most semi-automatic machines
No built-in grinder
Requires more effort than fully automatic machines

The Calphalon Temp IQ is more than capable of producing cafe-quality drinks at home with rich, complex espresso and silky microfoam. The Temp IQ offers an easy path for beginners to evolve their barista skills. With a user-friendly interface and straightforward instructions, it gives a more accessible approach to manual grinding, tamping, brewing, and milk steaming than other machines while providing excellent-tasting results. The Temp IQ has a pre-infusion setting that evenly saturates the espresso grounds creating more control over the brewing process. Additionally, this feature helps beginners produce quality espresso by compensating for minor tamp or grind inconsistencies. This machine is not only for novices, though: a multitude of customizable settings lets even expert baristas endlessly experiment and refine their espresso-based drinks.

The downsides of the Temp IQ are the price and the semi-automatic brewing process is much more laborious than a fully automated machine. Also consider that this machine does not include a grinder, so that will be an additional expense if you don't already own one capable of grinding for espresso. That said, after years of testing home espresso machines, we can unequivocally say that a bit of investment and effort is required if you want to recreate cafe-quality drinks at home. The Temp IQ will not disappoint, as long as you don't mind making these adjustments to get the best possible results.

Read review: Calphalon Temp IQ

Best for Heavy Use


Breville Barista Express


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Taste 9
  • Ease of Use 7
  • Ease of Cleaning 6
  • Milk Steaming 9
Milk Frother: Steam Wand | Water Tank Capacity: 67oz
Great taste
Cafe quality lattes and cappuccinos
Pricey
Requires some effort and a learning curve

The Breville Barista Express is a perfect choice if you're part of a family of coffee drinkers or don't mind spending a little extra for a machine more likely to stand the test of time. This latte slinger has been a flagship of the at-home barista market for some time. The semi-automatic brew process and the high-quality steam wand can accurately recreate any drink on a cafe menu. Perhaps most importantly, the Barista Express uses higher-grade components than most of its competitors and is more likely to run longer. Case in point, we once purchased a refurbished unit to make daily lattes and cappuccinos for an office of over a dozen people for five years. Today, that same machine continues to serve a family of two.

The Barista Express has a steeper price tag, which is generally a prerequisite to getting cafe-quality results. Additionally, it can take a bit of practice to master both the semi-automatic brewing and manual milk-steaming process. However, this brewing style is another prerequisite for getting top-notch results, and the Barista Express manages to make the process slightly more intuitive for beginners than most. It's hard to do better than this machine if you enjoy learning new skills and would like to make espresso a long-term morning tradition.

Read review: Breville Barista Express

Cafe Quality for Less


Breville Bambino


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Taste 9
  • Ease of Use 6
  • Ease of Cleaning 7
  • Milk Steaming 10
Milk Frother: Steam Wand | Water Tank Capacity: 47oz
Cafe quality espresso and milk steaming
Compact design
Heats up fast
Relatively inexpensive
Requires separate grinder

If you're looking to make cafe-quality espresso at home while spending as little as possible, the Breville Bambino should be at the top of your list. The Bambino manages to pull espresso and steam milk that belies its small stature and price point — we had trouble discerning between cappuccinos made with this machine and those made with cafe-quality equipment. It also takes up relatively little counter space and costs nearly half of what many comparably capable machines do.

However, there is a drawback to the low cost of the Bambino. This machine does not have a grinder built-in, meaning you'll need to purchase an espresso-quality grinder separately. While that extra cost generally won't completely bridge the price gap between this and other cafe-worthy machines, it can come close. If you already have such a grinder, this machine is a fantastic choice.

Read review: Breville Bambino

Best Bang for Your Buck


Gevi


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Taste 7
  • Ease of Use 6
  • Ease of Cleaning 6
  • Milk Steaming 8
Milk Frother: Steam Wand | Water Tank Capacity: 42oz
Good espresso
Good milk steaming
Impressively inexpensive
Falls short of cafe-quality
Sometimes slow and clunky to use
Requires separate grinder

In our opinion, the Gevi strikes one of the most impressive balances of performance and price on the market. In our tests, this machine managed to produce good espresso shots and impressive milk-based drinks while sporting a price tag that is well below average.

Though the Gevi makes good espresso and steamed milk, both fall short in the texture, creaminess, and taste achieved with more expensive machines. Also, taking about a minute to switch from brew to steam mode and additional time to cool back down to brewing temperature, the Gevi is a poor choice for anyone making multiple drinks in a row. Finally, you'll need to purchase an espresso quality grinder separately. Still, if you don't mind making slight sacrifices in taste and convenience, this machine is one of the least expensive ways to make decent espresso at home.

Read review: Gevi

Best for Serious At-Home Baristas


Breville the Dual Boiler


89
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Taste 9
  • Ease of Use 9
  • Ease of Cleaning 7
  • Milk Steaming 10
Milk Frother: Steam Wand | Water Tank Capacity: 84oz
Excellent espresso and milk steaming
Can brew and steam simultaneously
Multiple programmable features
Relatively user friendly
Very expensive
Requires some effort and a learning curve

The Breville Dual Boiler is one of the best options for those who want all of a professional-grade machine's capabilities in their kitchen — if you can stomach the premium price. The Dual Boiler consistently pulled cafe-quality shots and steamed creamy, luscious milk in our testing. The double boilers allow you to brew espresso and steam milk simultaneously, cutting down the time it takes to make a latte. Concurrency with brewing and steaming will also enable you to pour freshly steamed milk into the freshest brewed espresso, which is the best practice for creating the highest quality drink. Despite this impressive pedigree, the Dual Boiler keeps its user experience reasonably straightforward and beginner-friendly. You'll need to learn to grind and tamp coffee and steam milk manually; however, the intuitive interface and helpful feedback provided by an LCD output and pressure gauge make those processes feel more manageable than they do with some other semi-automatic machines.

Its massive price tag is the obvious downside of the Dual Boiler, and you'll still need to purchase a separate coffee grinder. We think the Breville Barista Express and its built-in grinder is sufficient at a more reasonable price for those looking to make high-quality lattes at home. That said, the Dual Boiler won't disappoint if you're willing to pay a premium for that extra bit of performance that brings you to third-wave cafe-level capacity.

Read review: Breville Dual Boiler

Best for Automated Milk Steaming


Breville Bambino Plus


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Taste 9
  • Ease of Use 7
  • Ease of Cleaning 6
  • Milk Steaming 8
Milk Frother: Automatic Steam Wand | Water Tank Capacity: 65oz
Small footprint
Impressive cappuccinos and lattes
Mostly automated milk steaming
Pricey
No built-in grinder

For many people who dream of making cafe-quality cappuccinos and lattes at home, milk steaming is what holds them back. While it's not a super complicated process, it can certainly be intimidating and requires time and patience to develop the skill. If you're already rushing a morning routine, the Breville Bambino Plus is a great choice. The Bambino steam wand is mostly automated; pour milk into a pitcher, toss it under the steam wand, select your desired level of foam and temperature, press a button, and the machine steams the milk for you. We found that the resulting milk has much better texture and taste than milk from any other automated frother in our lineup. In our opinion, this automated steam wand is the best way to recreate your favorite cafe drink at home without learning the technique of manual milk steaming.

The lack of a built-in grinder is the biggest downside to the Bambino Plus since it means you'll have to purchase a high-quality, espresso-worthy grinder, making the unit one of the more costly at-home espresso options overall. However, the Bambino Plus will improve your morning coffee game if you don't mind paying a bit extra for that optimal mixture of quality and convenience.

Read review: Breville Bambino Plus

Best for Convenient Cappuccinos


Gaggia Anima Prestige


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Taste 7
  • Ease of Use 9
  • Ease of Cleaning 7
  • Milk Steaming 7
Milk Frother: Automatic | Water Tank Capacity: 60oz
Incredibly convenient and easy to use
Good taste
Expensive
Drinks aren't as high-level as those from a semi-automatic machine

For those mornings when you just don't want to deal with grinders and gauges, there is the Gaggia Anima Prestige. At the push of a button, it grinds, tamps, and brews the coffee for you. It can also automatically steam and dispense milk if you want to turn that espresso into a cappuccino. Apart from cleaning the milk dispenser and clearing out the spent grinds periodically, the Prestige requires almost no effort. It also lets you use fresh coffee beans, which improves the espresso's taste and makes it a better value than the similarly convenient pod machines.

The high price tag is the clear drawback for the Prestige. It often sells for less than its retail price, but it's still an investment. In addition, the espresso drinks it produces aren't quite as tasty as those made with the significantly less expensive Breville Barista Express. However, it can still make quite a good cappuccino, and if you're willing to pay extra for the convenience, we don't think you'll be disappointed.

Read review: Gaggia Anima Prestige

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
89
$1,500
Top Pick Award
Can make cafe-quality drinks at home with reasonable ease, but requires a bit of a financial investment
81
$600
Editors' Choice Award
An excellent choice for those that want the ability to make cafe-quality espresso drinks at home
80
$300
Best Buy Award
A small machine that makes great espresso and perfectly steams milk
80
$700
Editors' Choice Award
If you don't mind a little learning curve and elbow grease, this is some of the best espresso you can make at home
78
$500
Top Pick Award
An excellent choice for those trying to recreate cafe drinks at home, especially if you already have an espresso-quality grinder
77
$450
Good choice for experienced baristas that already have a good grinder on hand
76
$1,100
Top Pick Award
If you value convenience over all else this machine will make a good cappuccino at the push of a button
71
$600
If you like capsule style machines and want an automatic milk frother this is the machine for you
69
$1,000
Decent all-around machine, but the price is high for what you get
68
$775
Makes top notch espresso if you're experienced at manually pulling shots, but this machine may flummox beginners
67
$350
If you already have a good grinder, this machine is a decent buy with a small footprint
67
$130
Best Buy Award
Provides good results for a fraction of the cost of many quality consumer machines
67
$530
If your main concern is saving money on cafe drinks in the long run, this is the perfect machine for you
63
$199
Good for those that will pay a bit extra for convenience and would like to be able to make regular coffee as well
60
$449
A good overall machine that offers an improvement in espresso quality over most super-automatic machines, but has some milk-steaming limitations
56
$1,000
A machine that prioritizes speed and convenience over quality and taste

An impressive lineup of machines, ready to caffeinate our testers...
An impressive lineup of machines, ready to caffeinate our testers and delight our palates.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Why You Should Trust Us


Michelle Powell, our in-house coffee expert, has spent over a decade working in the specialty coffee industry. That journey has seen her train with such hallmark establishments as Blue Bottle and Four Barrel. She has also completed multiple times in the Southwest Regional Barista Competition. Having made tens of thousands of lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos, Michelle is the cornerstone of our espresso machine testing and evaluation.

Max Mutter has been testing and writing about coffee-related paraphernalia at GearLab for over four years, having now used more than 100 espresso machines, grinders, and coffee makers. Penney Garrett has traveled the world, studying botany, clinical herbalism, and nutrition with some of the top teachers in the country. She, like Michelle, has also worked in specialty coffee for over a decade, dipping her toes in everything from sourcing green beans to roasting to training competition baristas. Liz Nelson just recently started writing for GearLab, having spent the last 11 years working in specialty coffee as a barista and a coffee roaster. Currently, Liz is running a roasting and importing start-up high in the mountains of Colorado.

We bought some of the best and most highly-regarded machines on the market. We purchase all of our products at full price and don't take any freebies from manufacturers. Additionally, we spent nearly 200 hours getting seriously caffeinated, pulling hundreds if not thousands of shots, and steaming gallons of milk with each machine while paying close attention to the final product, the user-friendliness, and ease of cleaning.

Related: How We Tested Espresso Machines

We steamed a whole lot of milk in order to find the best machines...
The Barista Express offers everything you need to make seriously...
Every manual shot we pulled was weighed and measured in order to...

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 offerings of espresso machines fall primarily into two categories: those that value convenience over taste and those that value taste over all else. Whichever category you prefer, our testing results will be able to guide you towards the best machine.

Related: Buying Advice for Espresso Machines

Beautiful shots like this can be achieved right in your home kitchen.
Beautiful shots like this can be achieved right in your home kitchen.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

If an espresso machine is going to keep you from spending a few dollars on a latte every morning, it must produce good-tasting coffee and be easy to use. Consequently, half of our testing focused on the quality of flavor from each machine, taking both the espresso and steamed milk into account. The other half focused on how easy the machines were to use and clean. The following sections detail the results of those individual tests.

Value


Unfortunately, quality espresso does not come cheap. That said, across the board, these machines can make a shot of espresso or latte for much less than you'd pay in a cafe. Even the most expensive machines can make up their cost within a year if you're a daily latte drinker. You can read more of our thoughts at the end of this article about the costs of these machines and whether they will really save you money in practice.


In our opinion, the Calphalon Temp IQ and the Breville Barista Express hit the Goldilocks zone — providing everything you need to create cafe-quality espresso drinks at home with reasonable price tags for those ready to invest in their coffee-making arsenal. However, these machines are still far from cheap. If you're looking for an inexpensive machine, we find the Breville Bambino to be an excellent option. If even that feels to pricey, we think the Gevi is not to be overlooked. You'll make some sacrifices in taste and convenience, but your wallet won't be stripped bare.

A cafe-quality drink made by the Breville Duo Temp Pro.
A cafe-quality drink made by the Breville Duo Temp Pro.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Taste


We recognize that while some coffee drinkers enjoy exploring espresso flavor profiles, others are mainly in it for the caffeine. To cover the spread of preferences, we enlisted a diverse group of taste-testers ranging from casual coffee drinkers to people who have owned an espresso machine for years to professional coffee roasters. We had these testers drink straight espresso, cappuccinos, and lattes from each machine and asked them to consider things like texture, mouthfeel, and overall taste.


There were several machines in our testing group that we feel can genuinely rival a cafe's quality. Breville dominates this field with the Dual Boiler, Barista Express, Bambino, Bambino Plus, and the Duo Temp Pro. The Rancilio Silvia and the Calphalon Temp IQ are the non-Breville models that earn cafe-level designation. It is important to note that all of these models are semi-automatic, meaning you have to choose the grind size, tamp the grounds into the portafilter, brew the espresso, and manually steam the milk using a steam wand. This process requires much more effort than fully automated machines, but we've found it's also the only way to get third-wave specialty coffee-quality results. Luckily these machines, namely the Temp IQ and the Barista Express, make learning these skills relatively easy for beginners.

The Breville Barista Express and its coffee shop style brewing...
The Breville Barista Express and its coffee shop style brewing process produced some of the best tasting espresso in our testing.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

All of the super-automatic (i.e., fully automated) machines we tested produced similar taste results, with the machines that used whole beans slightly besting the single-serving capsule systems. Four different machines scored decently in this metric, putting them noticeably, but not far behind Breville's top-scoring offerings. In general, these machines make good drinks, but you probably will not convince an espresso aficionado that they came from a specialty cafe. The espresso from the Gaggia Brera had a good taste, but even when set to produce its most robust shot, some testers felt the results were slightly watery and weak. The steam wand can froth milk well, making a good drier cappuccino but doesn't quite meet the level of perfect latte-worthy steamed milk. The Gaggia Anima Prestige performed similarly. Its espresso has a pleasant taste but is somewhat watery, with the shot getting thin towards the end of extraction. The milk drinks it produces are very similar to the Brera's, but with the added convenience of an automatic milk frother.

The incredibly convenient Gaggia Anima Prestige didn&#039;t make the best...
The incredibly convenient Gaggia Anima Prestige didn't make the best espresso in our testing, but it was close. Close enough that we often gladly traded the couple taste points for a quicker cappuccino.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Gevi is a semi-automatic machine that produces good espresso but lacks some of the boldness and creaminess you get in a cafe-quality shot. Still, this espresso at least passed muster for even our pickiest taste testers, making this machine a viable budget option.

The Gevi offers good espresso at an impressively low price.
The Gevi offers good espresso at an impressively low price.
Credit: Jason Peters

The offerings from the De'Longhi Magnifica were creamy but slightly on the weak and watery side as well. The steam wand makes decent volume for dry cappuccino foam, but the milk's texture isn't quite velvety enough to get that perfect latte microfoam. The De'Longhi Dedica DeLuxe made similar espresso, just on the weak side of perfection, and the steam wand also excelled at dry foam but lacked microfoam capabilities.

The Magnifica&#039;s steam wand makes decent steam and frothed milk, but...
The Magnifica's steam wand makes decent steam and frothed milk, but falls short of coffee shop quality.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Nespresso has primarily dominated the capsule espresso market for a while now, and it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon. Based on our tests, that dominance is well earned. We found the Nespresso pods to produce a bolder and richer flavor than any other capsule-based competitors. That said, we think these shots are still a bit weaker and more watery than those that come from most non-pod machines. However, they are good enough that the convenience makes up for that slightly decreased quality. We've found that regardless of what machine you're using, Nespresso capsules produce nearly identical results.

The Lattissima Pro&#039;s automatic milk frother does a good, but not...
The Lattissima Pro's automatic milk frother does a good, but not great, job.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Ease of Use


Ease of use is a crucial aspect of a home espresso machine. If your machine isn't easy and fun to use, it will end up rusting in an appliance graveyard instead of enhancing your morning coffee routine. We tested this metric by making tons of espresso on each machine, paying close attention to each interface's intuitiveness. We also conducted cappuccino time trials to see how long each machine requires you to wait.


It's hard to beat the push-button-get-espresso functionality of the Nespresso Evoluo when it comes to convenience. All you do is turn the machine on, insert a capsule, and push a button. It even has a barcode reader that adjusts its settings based on the type of capsule inserted. The only downside is that you'll need to get a separate milk frother if you want milk-based drinks.

The Nespresso Evoluo&#039;s bar code adorned capsules made brewing...
The Nespresso Evoluo's bar code adorned capsules made brewing straightforward.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Gaggia Anima Prestige is the only machine in our tests that could get close to the push-button ease of the Evoluo. Thanks to its super-automatic functionality, putting beans in the hopper and filling the milk jug is pretty much all you need to do. With a few selections on the intuitive control panel, the machine grinds, tamps, brews, and steams the milk. You will occasionally have to clean the milk dispenser and the bin where the spent beans collect; we found this cleanup easier than any of the semi-automatic machines. Also, it offers the opportunity for nearly hassle-free cappuccinos, something the Evoluo can't do.

The intuitive Gaggia Anima Prestige produced the quickest and...
The intuitive Gaggia Anima Prestige produced the quickest and easiest cappuccino in our testing.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

We found the Breville Dual Boiler to be the most user-friendly out of all the semi-automatic machines we tested. Though it still presents a learning curve for beginners, the intuitive interface, large and clear LCD output, helpful pressure gauge, and relatively forgiving steam wand make the curve a little easier than most equivalent machines.

A clear interface is both reassuring for beginners and allows easy...
A clear interface is both reassuring for beginners and allows easy customization for more experienced baristas.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Rounding out the group of top scorers is the other single serving capsule machine — the De'Longhi Nespresso Lattissima Pro. Its use of capsules makes operation very simple, and we were able to make a cappuccino with the built-in automatic milk frother in less than two minutes. It fell short of a higher score because the functions are displayed with symbols, requiring manual reading and memorization.

Automatic milk frothers, like the one on the De&#039;Longhi Nespresso...
Automatic milk frothers, like the one on the De'Longhi Nespresso Lattissima Pro, are the quickest and easiest way to a cappuccino.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

We also found the Phillips 3200 and its touchscreen impressively easy to use, though this convenience was invalidated by its poor performance in our taste tests.

The Phillips 3200 is impressively easy to use, but delivers a taste...
The Phillips 3200 is impressively easy to use, but delivers a taste more akin to that of the pod machines.
Credit: Jason Peters

Just behind the top scorers in our ease of use testing was the Gaggia Brera. Its super-automatic functionality means making espresso is simple. However, using the built-in steam wand to make a cappuccino took over 4 minutes, and its buttons aren't intuitively labeled.

The symbols will make sense once you use the machine a bit, but upon...
The symbols will make sense once you use the machine a bit, but upon first glance, they're a little confusing.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Leaving the super-automatic realm and moving to more capable but more labor-intensive semi-automatic machines decreases user-friendliness but generally brings an increase in quality. We've found the Calphalon Temp IQ to be one of the friendliest of these machines for beginners, offering clear instructions and intuitive labeling. The Breville Barista Express is not far off in this regard, though it lacks the intuitive beginner's instruction manual of the Calphalon. Of these semi-automatic models, the Breville Bambino Plus is the only one with a semi-automated steam wand, making it an excellent choice for those who have trouble mastering the art of manually texturing milk.

The Calphalon Temp IQ is one of the more beginner-friendly of the...
The Calphalon Temp IQ is one of the more beginner-friendly of the semi-automatic machines we've tested.
Credit: Laura Casner

Ease of Cleaning


Making hundreds of shots with each tested machine, we also took careful notes on the cleanup required after each use such as cleaning the portafilter, wiping the steam wand, emptying the drip tray, etc. Additionally, we ran each machine through its descaling process at least twice, both timing the process and noting any annoyances. Descaling removes the mineral buildup synonymous with heating water over and over. It's best to descale every 2-6 months depending on how hard your water is.


Two models share the top spot on the podium for this metric. The Nespresso Lattissima Pro has a cleanup-free capsule system. The descaling process is easy, and all parts of the automatic milk frother are dishwasher safe and can be stored in the fridge to negate the need for daily cleaning. The De'Longhi Magnifica is the only non-capsule machine to grace the top tier of our ease of cleaning testing. This position is primarily due to its super simple and automated descaling process. The Magnifica's 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.

With a fully automated descaling process, the Magnifica is among the...
With a fully automated descaling process, the Magnifica is among the easiest machines to clean and maintain.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Nespresso Evoluo fell slightly behind the other capsule machines in our ease of cleaning testing. Like its compadres, it requires virtually no daily cleaning unless you use a separate frother to make milk drinks. It loses points for its descaling process, which took us over 35 minutes and went through so much water that it became a hands-on affair to refill the water tanks while making sure the machine wasn't overflowing.

Capsule machines require no cleanup when making espresso, but if you...
Capsule machines require no cleanup when making espresso, but if you want to add milk, cleaning the separate milk frother can be a bit of a drag.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Gaggia Anima Prestige has an automatic milk frother that 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) is dishwasher safe. Its descaling process is also easy. The only downside is that the drip tray fills up more quickly than other machines, requiring more frequent emptying and cleaning.

The Anima Prestige is easy to use and easy to clean.
The Anima Prestige is easy to use and easy to clean.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The De'Longhi Dedica DeLuxe (the EC685M) offers a relatively painless cleaning process as well. We found wiping out the portafilter to be generally quick and easy, and the steam wand can similarly be taken apart quickly for easy cleaning. The only complaint we have in cleaning this machine is the descaling process, which took nearly a half-hour and required our direct attention for most of that time.

The steam wand disassembles and is dishwasher safe.
The steam wand disassembles and is dishwasher safe.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

We found the Calphalon Temp IQ and the Breville Dual Boiler to be the easiest to clean of the semi-automatic machines we tested. Both use steam wands and portafilters that are easy to wipe out and clean after each use and feature descaling processes that are relatively painless (though the Dual Boiler's process takes much longer due to the size of the machine). Neither can compete with the cleaning convenience of a capsule or super-automatic machine, though we think the better espresso is well worth the additional cleaning effort.

The Dual Boiler generally keeps messes to a minimum, and its...
The Dual Boiler generally keeps messes to a minimum, and its required cleaning is fairly easy.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Thanks to similar designs, most of the Breville models we tested scored similarly. The portafilters and steam wands that these machines use require a bit more rinsing and wiping down than their super-automatic cousins. They also all have drip trays that tend to fill up rather quickly, so you'll have to empty them more often than with some other machines. However, all offer straightforward descaling processes, so long-term cleaning doesn't feel painful. Overall, these machines take more cleaning effort than super-automatic machines, but the taste quality gains will be more than worth it for most people.

The comparatively tiny Breville Bambino is relatively easy to clean...
The comparatively tiny Breville Bambino is relatively easy to clean for a semi-automatic machine.
Credit: Jason Peters

Milk Steaming


We specifically focused on each machine's ability to create different steamed milk textures for this metric, as many people will value milk texturing capabilities more than espresso-making prowess. For testing, we attempted to make everything from the velvety microfoam that creates a perfect latte to the fluffy foam that defines a dry cappuccino and every iteration in between. Our main conclusion: if you want great milk, you'll have to learn to use a manual steam wand, but the automated options are ever so slowly catching up.


For those seeking genuinely cafe-quality lattes at home, Breville's flagship offerings are the best bet. The prosumer Duo Temp Pro, the more accessible Barista Express, and the smaller Bambino (the original model, not the Plus) can produce that fine, creamy microfoam that defines a good latte, allowing for experimentation with latte art. All of these models use a traditional steam wand, which does present a learning curve for beginners. However, we found that such a wand is the only way to create superior steamed milk, so it's worth the extra effort.

The tiny Bambino is able to produce cafe-quality results.
The tiny Bambino is able to produce cafe-quality results.
Credit: Jason Peters

The Calphalon Temp IQ also manages to churn out cafe-quality milk, with its steam wand being particularly adept at creating the microfoam required for an excellent cortado or latte.

Gorgeous microfoam from the Temp IQ.
Gorgeous microfoam from the Temp IQ.
Credit: Laura Casner

The milk-steaming capabilities on the Rancilio Silvia are also quite adept, equaling those of the top Breville models. However, we found its wand to have more of a learning curve than most of the other manual steam wands, so this model is best for those with barista experience.

The Silvia&#039;s steam wand is one of our favorites.
The Silvia's steam wand is one of our favorites.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Breville Bambino Plus is far and away the top performer for automated milk steaming. With just the press of a few buttons, it creates a creamy, sweet texture. For those that want high-quality espresso drinks at home but don't want to steam milk manually, this is the machine for you.

The automated steam wand can achieve a fairly wide variety of milk...
The automated steam wand can achieve a fairly wide variety of milk textures.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Gevi is the least expensive machine we've found with a steam wand that can produce a true microfoam. While the texture is maybe slightly less creamy than the milk steamed with more expensive machines, it comes very close.

From straight shots to lattes, we were impressed with the drinks the...
From straight shots to lattes, we were impressed with the drinks the Gevi was able to serve up in our testing.
Credit: Jason Peters

The Gaggia Anima Prestige and the De'Longhi Nespresso Lattissima Pro both have automatic milk frothers that are very consistent and create a well-frothed product. Still, the foam bubbles are slightly larger than the ideal 'microfoam' we look for in the perfect cappuccino topping. The steamed milk from these machines tastes more like milk heated in a microwave rather than the velvety texture espresso connoisseurs seek.

Like all steam wands, the one on the Barista Express requires a...
Like all steam wands, the one on the Barista Express requires a little practice to master, but it made come of the best milk in our testing.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Are These Machines Cheaper Than a Cafe?


The basic answer to that question is yes. All of the machines we tested can pull a shot of espresso and make a latte for much less than what you'd pay at a coffee shop. In fact, even the least cost-effective machines can produce a latte for just a quarter of the average cafe cost.

Even when you take the cost of the machines themselves into account, it is still worth it in the long run if you consume espresso-based drinks with any sort of regularity. Most of the models we tested make up their upfront costs if you replace 100-150 cafe lattes with made-at-home lattes. At the highest cost end of the spectrum, the impressively pricey Breville Dual Boiler makes up its cost in 351 lattes, with that figure rising closer to 375 if you add a top-tier grinder into the cost calculation. That may seem like a lot, but if you replace your daily cafe visit with an at-home latte, you make up your investment in a little more than a year.


Theoretically, any of the machines we tested can save you money compared to regularly going to a coffee shop. So, if you replace your cafe routine with an at-home espresso machine, you're almost definitely going to save some money in the long run (not to mention time if your go-to shop is always packed). However, for many people, the reality is that an at-home machine won't be a complete replacement for visits to a cafe. In our experience, making quality espresso at home can satisfy part of that craving, but you'll probably still find yourself in a cafe or roastery from time to time. If you fit into this latter description, an espresso machine may feel a bit like a splurge but can still pay for itself in the distant future.

Conclusion


Making espresso at home is a luxury that is also immediately attainable. With some practice, you can cut down on coffee runs and vastly improve your mornings at home. We hope that our testing results have set you on the right highly caffeinated course and help you navigate the delicious world of espresso.

Michelle Powell, Max Mutter, Liz Nelson, and Penney Garrett