If you’re looking to cut down on visits to your local coffee shop, the best home espresso machines can help you get your latte or cappuccino fix right in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Espresso uses a lot less water than traditional drip coffee, plus finer grounds and a minimum of nine bars of pressure, according to the Italian Espresso National Institute, which shortens the brewing time to less than 30 seconds. The result is thicker, creamier, and stronger-tasting than drip coffee. While a single shot of espresso typically measures in at .88 of an ounce, espresso has more caffeine per fluid ounce than drip coffee (between 375 mg and 520 mg per 7.6-ounce cup of espresso, compared to between 95 mg and 165 mg per 7.6-ounce cup of coffee, according to Nespresso).
There are several ways to make espresso with semi-automatic, automatic, super-automatic, or fully automatic pod machines. But an espresso machine is an investment — especially if you want one with all the bells and whistles — so it’s important to consider the types of features that fit your needs.
How we test espresso machines
The Good Housekeeping Institute’s Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab has a century-plus long history of testing kitchen appliances and coffee makers, including pour over coffee makers, single-cup brewers, French presses, and so much more. To find the best home espresso machine, we test a mix of super-automatic, automatic, semi-automatic, and capsule machines, selected based on popular brands, best-selling machines, and unique attributes like milk frothers. We evaluate each on ease of use, time to brew, consistency, taste, and how loud they were. In our most recent test, we rounded up well over 20 espresso machines in the Lab, brewing over 60 cups of espresso. If the machine had a milk frother, we tested it with both skim and oat milks.
Our favorites were the machines that were easy to set up, simple to use and didn’t require a user manual, and heated up quickly and didn’t require a lot of waiting around. The best machines produced a hot, smooth cup of espresso that had depth and wasn’t too bitter or acidic, with crema that was smooth without any noticeable big or small air bubbles.
Read more about our favorite models below, and scroll to the bottom of this story for our Kitchen Lab’s top tips for finding your best espresso machine:
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Best Overall Espresso Machine
VertuoPlus Breville-Nespresso USA bestbuy.com
First, we love how easy the Nespresso VertuoPlus is to use. The lid opens and closes with one touch of the lever, and you can start brewing with the touch of a single button. You also won’t accidentally use the wrong pod: The capsule machine uses a special system to detect the barcode on the capsule and then brews it exactly how it’s supposed to brew. Choose from five drink types, including espresso, double espresso, gran lungo, mug, and alto (perfect for your travel mugs).
In our tests, every cup of coffee came out hot and rounded with a luxurious crema. We also like that the position of the water tank can be moved around to accommodate any size counter space. Another noteworthy perk is that Nespresso recycles used pods if you send them back to the company and their newest Vertuo machine is made from 54% recycled plastic. Finally, you can’t beat the price.
- Nicely priced capsule machine
- Foolproof operation
- 5 drink types; smart auto detection brews based on capsule type
Best Value Espresso Machine
Ultima Pro Capresso amazon.com
When it comes to traditional espresso machines, this one is a great value — it’s very easy to use and makes a smooth cup of espresso with a perfect crema, comparable to one of the most expensive automatic machines we tested. It features buttons for double espresso, hot water, and steam (used to steam and froth milk with the attached steam wand). It can also be programmed to brew an espresso larger or smaller than the 1.5 oz default (the larger the espresso, the more mild the flavor and vice versa).
This machine’s most unique feature is hidden below the lid — a holder for the included coffee-measuring spoon and extra coffee filter. While the water tank is small compared to other espresso machines, we consider this a pro because it encourages you to change the water more often, which means fresher tasting espresso.
- Great value and top-rated coffee
- Simple interface with buttons for double espresso and hot water
- Steam wand attached to froth milk
Best Customizable Espresso Machine
Barista Pro Breville amazon.com
If you’re very particular about your coffee, this is the automatic espresso machine for you. The Barista Pro allows you to choose from 30 different grind sizes and five temperatures. The steam wand is basic, so you can froth your milk exactly how you like it. It also comes with four filter baskets, two for pre-ground coffee and two for whole coffee beans. We recommend playing around with the settings, starting with the default settings, to create your perfect espresso. Fun fact: this espresso machine made Oprah’s Favorite Things List for 2020.
- 30 grind sizes, 5 temperature options, and 4 filter baskets
- Automatic machine
- Steam wand for frothing milk
Best Traditional Espresso Machine
Bambino Plus Breville amazon.com
The Breville Bambino Plus is a perfect automatic machine for those who crave the traditional espresso making experience. It comes with two dual-wall filter baskets for pre-ground coffee beans, a trimming tool, tamper, and a milk jug to be used with the attached steam wand. Choose between a single espresso or a double espresso, plus steamy, frothy, or very frothy milk. In our tests, this machine made espresso that was strong with a crema that wasn’t overbearing.
- Perfect for traditionalists
- Hands-on operation
- Steam wand attached for frothing milk
Best Compact Capsule Espresso Machine
Essenza Mini Breville-Nespresso USA amazon.com
Not much beats this capsule espresso machine’s small size and power: With 19 bars of pressure, it makes a good, full-bodied espresso with a creamy crema. Choose from espresso or lungo, with the option to use or remove the drip base for a bigger cup. The water container seems small at first glance, but we didn’t mind refilling it for the freshest tasting cups. It may also be purchased in a bundle with a separate milk frother, or consider a similar espresso machine we tested with a built-in frother that uses the same type of original pods.
- Small profile for little kitchens
- Full-bodied, creamy espresso
- 19 bars of pressure
Best Espresso Machine for Beginners
K-Cafe Coffee Maker Keurig amazon.com $199.99
$169.99 (15% off)
If you’re looking for a Keurig upgrade, a special gift, or the option to mindlessly froth milk, look no further than the Keurig K-Cafe. Four coffee size options (6 oz., 8 oz., 10 oz., and 12 oz.), plus a “strong” option make it easy to enjoy your favorite K-cup exactly how you like it. Add in an Espresso Roast K-cup capsule and a “shot” size option and you’re well on your way to making a fine cup of espresso, too.
While the Espresso Roast K-cup doesn’t quite deliver on crema, a built-in coffee frother allows you to froth milk quickly and easily for cappuccinos (less milk) and lattes (more milk); plus, there’s also a “cold” option if you’d like to enjoy your frothy milk drink over ice. In our tests, this capsule machine was very consistent when it came to preheat time, brew time, coffee temperature, and volume.
- Super simple operation
- 4 brewing sizes, plus latte and cappuccino options
- Built-in frother
Best Automatic Espresso Machine
La Specialista De’Longhi bestbuy.com
This automatic espresso machine delivers a cup of espresso that’s as fancy as it looks; plus, it’s easy to use and adjust based on your preference. Choose from six grind sizes (fine for dark espresso, coarse for coffee), then select single espresso, double espresso, Americano, or coffee. It also dispenses hot water for tea.
La Specialista has a built-in tamping mechanism, which helps pack your grounds perfectly, and a pressure gauge you can monitor to ensure you’re making the perfect cup. It also has an adjustable steam wand that can be used for flat (best for lattes) or foamy (best for cappuccinos) milk. We loved the full-body espresso it produced, with a thin, silky crema. A knock box for used grounds can be bought separately, which we found very useful when making espresso after espresso.
- 6 grind sizes and 5 brew options
- Easy to use and adjust
- Adjustable steam wand and tamping mechanism
Easiest-to-Use Espresso Machine
Super Automatic Espresso and Cappuccino Machine
This super automatic espresso machine is very easy to set up and use. Simply press the “on” button before being guided through a step-by-step set-up on the screen. During our test, we were able to set the time, date, and water hardness level with no effort. The buttons were very clear and responsive, and the screen guided us through every remaining stage from preheating, to brewing, and cleaning. We never had to guess what stage the machine was up to, because it clearly spelled it out on the screen.
Choose between five sizes (espresso, long coffee, ristretto, doppio or americano), three milk options (cappuccino, macchiato, or frothy milk), an extra shot, a dark brew, and three water temperature options for different tea (green, black, and herbal). The milk container connects easily to the coffee outlet, which smoothly adjusts to a wide variety of heights to accommodate different cup sizes and help prevent splattering.
One of the most unique features: You can set a “wake” time for specific times and days — so you can skip the 1½ minute preheat time and enjoy a hot cup when you were ready.
- Super automatic machine with clear step-by-step directions
- Endless options for brew sizes, milk options, and water temperatures for tea
- Programmable brew time
Best All-in-One Espresso Machine
Mr. Coffee Occasions Coffee Maker Mr. Coffee amazon.com
The Mr. Coffee All-in-One Coffee Maker does it all. It can make espresso, K-cup based drinks, or a full pot of coffee in a thermal carafe. It also has a steam wand to froth milk. The control panel is very easy to use, and the attachments became easier to attach and detach after the first couple of times. In our tests, the automatic espresso function produced a nice crema, the K-cups tasted well-brewed, and the coffee was hot and full-bodied. The thermal carafe kept coffee hot for hours! When we checked on it the next day, it was still over 100°F!
- Capability for espresso, K-cup brews, or pots of drip coffee
- Thermal carafe keeps coffee hot for hours
- Steam wand to froth milk
Best Italian Capsule Espresso Machine
The Clio Brewer Clio cliocoffee.com
When we tried the dark roast from this high-pressure espresso machine, we were instantly transported to Italy where the espresso is strong and deep with a thin, silky crema. If more mild is your style, you can choose from an additional four blends that are all hand-roasted in Clio’s facilities in Northern Italy, including a mild, medium, or decaf roast and black tea. The pods can be used to make a double espresso or 10-oz cup. They’re recyclable after you remove the lid and toss the grounds. The unit is slim and compact, and comes in white and red.
- Dark roast espresso tastes like that from a manual or automatic brewer
- Brews quickly
- Recyclable pods
How to find the right espresso machine for you
Before you get brewing, you’ll have to decide what type of machine best suits your needs. Here’s what to keep in mind:
- Manual machines require finely ground beans that are scooped into a portafilter and tamped down. Then the filter is attached to the brew head and a lever is used to manually pull water through the grounds. It is the most customizable method and arguably the most difficult to master.
- Semi-automatic machines are similar to manual machines in terms of preparation but they operate with a button or dial that automates the water flow instead of a lever. The size of the espresso or coffee-drink may be controlled.
- Automatic machines also use a button instead of a lever to brew espresso. The size of the espresso or coffee-drink is automated and often programmable. This method offers more consistency than a manual or semi-automatic machine, making them super easy to use and nabbing top scores in Lab tests.
- Super-automatic machines are a step above automatic machines. In addition to automated and programmable coffee sizes, they can also grind beans, measure them out, and often tamp them. These tended to be our favorite in Lab testing.
- Capsule machines use capsules or pods filled with pre-measured coffee to make espresso or other coffee drinks. They offer the most consistency.
Nicole Papantoniou, Good Housekeeping Institute Deputy Director, Kitchen Appliances Lab Nicole runs the Good Housekeeping Kitchen Appliances Lab where she oversees the content and testing related to kitchen and cooking appliances, tools, and gear; she’s an experienced product tester and developer, as well as recipe creator, trained in classic culinary arts and culinary nutrition.
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