The Best Espresso Machines for Beginners, Coffee Nerds, and Everyone in Between

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You can make some adjustments to the Bambino Plus if you want a more hands-on experience; you can adjust the brew temperature between low, medium, and high, set your own brewing time, and set the milk steaming to manual mode. But you don’t have to do any of that to get good coffee from this machine.

Specs

Size: 7.7″ x 12.6″ x 12.2″
Weight: 11 lbs
Water reservoir size: 64 oz.
Cup clearance: 5″
Colors: Stainless steel, damson blue, and black truffle
Warranty: Two years


The best pro-style espresso machine: Rancilio Silvia Pro X

Rancilio Silvia Pro X Espresso Machine, 1 liters, Stainless Steel

If someone wants to level up their espresso experience Morocco points to the Italian-made Rancilio Silvia, saying, “If someone is beyond a hobbyist and they said, ‘I want to look at manual gauges, I want an enhanced haptic experience, I want to manipulate levers and have something I’m excited to look at for years to come’, that’s when you get into a machine like this.”

The Rancilio Silvia Pro X uses a dual boiler system as a heat source, which means the steam wand and group head each have their own water held at different temperatures. This is what you find in most professional machines because it lets baristas steam milk for one customer while brewing espresso for another. Single boiler machines make you wait between brewing and steaming. The Pro X has an adjustable PID controller front and center so you can set the water temperature to a precise degree, a shot timer to check how long a brew takes, a powerful steam wand for velvety textured milk, and an easy-to-read pressure gauge so you can see if your brew is hitting the correct pressure (between 8 and 10 on the gauge is the sweet spot). It also has enough cup clearance, the distance between the drip tray and the portafilter, to brew directly into a coffee mug rather than a small espresso cup. This is actually not that common a feature in high-end home espresso machines, and can simplify the process of making an Americano or a cappuccino. One other nice feature: It comes with an automatic wake up time, so it can begin heating up before you’re even out of bed. That comes in handy because nicer espresso machines like this can take close to 20 minutes to come up to temperature due to their large boilers.

Specs

Size: 9.8″ x 16.5″ x 15.3″
Weight: 44.1 lbs
Water reservoir size: 67 oz.
Colors: Stainless steel, black, white, pink
Warranty: Three years


The best budget espresso maker: Solis Barista Perfetta Plus

Solis Barista Perfetta Plus Espresso Machine

It is unusual to find an espresso machine at this (low low) price point that delivers the kind of quality espresso the Swiss-made Solis does. That was something I learned the hard way during my years of espresso maker testing for our sister site Epicurious. I’ve tested almost a dozen different machines in this price range including all the big names from the Breville Barista series, the Delonghi Specialista series, and the Gaggia Classic. And while there are some good performers in that group, nothing was as good a mix of quality and value as the Solis. Its success is thanks, in large part, to its adaptive PID that controls water temperature separately for the different functions of the machine—espresso brewing and milk steaming. The espresso shots come out with a smooth layer of crema and, during testing, we found them as rich and flavorful as shots from machines that cost two or three times as much. he Solis also comes in a delightfully petite package. Espresso makers have a tendency to command a lot of counter space, but the Barista Perfetta Plus is just seven inches across, making it a comfortable fit,even in a tight kitchen. It also packs a powerful steam wand for foaming milk and a hot water dispenser for making Americanos. The only slightly annoying aspect of this otherwise excellent machine is that adjusting the settings for things like water temperature and shot time is not intuitive. You really need the instruction manual to tell you what sequence of buttons to push because you won’t figure it out on your own. That said, even if you just left it with the factory default settings you’ll still be happy with what you get if you’re looking for a value price.

Specs

Size: 7″ x 17″ x 12.5″
Weight: 12.5 lbs.
Water reservoir size: 57 oz.
Colors: Black, white, stainless steel
Warranty: Two years, carry-in warranty


The best super automatic espresso maker: De’Longhi Eletta Explore

De’Longhi Eletta Explore Fully Automatic Espresso Machine with Cold Brew

There are people out there who want a latte or cappuccino in the morning but don’t want to do anything to get it. And for them there is the super automatic espresso machine. Super automatics are all-in-one operations that grind, tamp, brew, and even dispense milk for a variety of different drinks all with the push of one button. During my product testing, DeLonghi’s Eletta Explore bested a bunch of other super auto machines from brands like Philips and Jura thanks mostly to its versatility. It can make more than 40 different drinks, including macchiatos, flat whites, and a lot of iced coffee drinks. But, even with those wide-ranging capabilities, it’s incredibly easy to use. A large touch screen is front and center and gives clear instructions on things like setting up the milk frother or adjusting the burr grinder. I had my mother, no tech enthusiast, give it a try to compare with a Nespresso machine and she liked it so much she wanted to take it home. With a super automatic espresso machine you will sacrifice some in terms of taste—almost any time you fully automate a process like brewing espresso you lose some nuance of flavor—but the Eletta Explore is a machine that can deliver you any coffee drink you think of and asks nothing of you in return.

Specs

Size: 10.25″ x 17.5″ x 15″
Weight: 24.7 lbs.
Water reservoir size: 60 oz.
Colors: Black and stainless steel
Warranty: One year


The best espresso maker according to the national barista champion: Decent DE1

Isaiah Sheese, owner of the three Archetype Coffee shops and roasteries in Omaha, Nebraska, won the United States National Barista Championships in 2023 and placed 4th in the world, so if you’re looking for a coffee professional to ask about the best espresso maker, you won’t find one much more credentialed than he is. “If you’re gonna make espresso at home and it’s not just for convenience,” observes Sheese, “typically people want to play around and experiment.” He likes the Decent DE1 for that purpose because it can do, well, just about anything. “You can basically change any variable that you want to extract as much flavor as you want.” Decent machines combine the sort of precision of café-quality machines with a high-tech interface that makes every single variable of an espresso shot customizable. Sure, you can adjust water temperature like you can with lots of PID machines, but you can also change the temperature, the pressure, and the flow rate during a brew to give your shots different flavor profiles, or set a shot timer that will shut off the water after a specified time. All this is controlled via a sizable touch screen tablet that’s easy to read and straightforward to operate. The DE1 has an eye-popping price tag ($3,699 at the time of writing) but it gives you complete control over and information about every part of the process, which is something you won’t find on any other home espresso machine.

Specs

Size: 9.1″ x 14.5″ x 16.5″
Weight: 29.1 lbs.
Water reservoir size: 68 oz.
Colors: Black
Warranty: Two years (200,000 espressos)


How we picked the best espresso makers

Along with my years of espresso machine testing for our sister site Epicurious (if you want an unbiased take on dozens of machines beyond what’s here check out the Best Espresso Machines, Tested and Reviewed), I brought in the opinions the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen’s resident coffee guru Chris Morocco and national barista champion Isaiah Sheese. Just like he does when walking home cooks through recipes, Morocco was able to bring his expertise to bear in a way that recognizes the wide range of experience and interest levels out there. Sheese, on the other hand, leaned into what he knows best: pulling the perfect espresso shot, knowing full well that that takes patience and what he calls tinkering with the process. The result for you, readers, is a balanced list of picks that understands that even asking “what is the best espresso machine” is sort of like asking “who is the best painter.” There’s not a single answer to that question because unlike, say, a nonstick pan, people want very different things from their espresso machines.


What to look for in an espresso maker

Does it make tasty coffee?

Perhaps this goes without saying, but it is table stakes that an espresso machine should make a shot of espresso that has nuanced flavors, full body, and a rich crema on top. Machines achieve that with the right mix of temperature (200℉) and pressure (9 bars). Don’t be fooled by listings that say an espresso maker has enough power to reach 20 bars of pressure. Typically that kind of claim is compensating for the fact that it doesn’t actually regulate its pressure very well.

Ease of use

Making espresso drinks can be a finicky process—weighing your coffee beans, getting the grind right, tamping the beans with the right amount of pressure, and that’s before you even get to brewing. Anything a machine can offer to make the process easier and more reliable is welcome. That could be a quick heat up time, brewing on a timer so you don’t have to start and stop the process, or an easy-to-control steam wand for texturing milk. The one exception to this is a built-in grinder. With super automatic machines you don’t have a choice, but I’ve tested several semi-automatic machines with built-in grinders, like the Breville Barista Express, and found that they’re often underpowered compared to standalone grinders. You’d be better off spending part of your budget on a good coffee grinder.

Does it look good?

We know this sounds superficial, but whatever espresso maker you pick, it’s going to be sitting on your counter for everyone to see for years, so you should like the way it looks. “I would skip over the $1000 tier of Breville machines entirely,” Morocco says, “and get something that’s nicer to look at.” His Rancilio Silvia pick not only looks like a beautiful piece of industrial design, it comes in a variety of colors too for those who don’t want a stainless steel everywhere look.

Price

Here’s the bad news: With espresso makers you get what you pay for. According to Sheese, “anything under $500 and you’re not going to get that great of a machine.” Generally that’s because those machines lack things like PIDs. Both the Breville Bambino Plus and the Solis Barista Perfetta sneak in under the $500 mark, but they are the exception rather than the rule.


What else do you need to make espresso?

A good burr grinder

Both Morocco and Sheese make it clear that any coffee machine is only as good as the coffee grinder you use alongside it. That’s because it takes a fine, even grind and you need to be able to make very small adjustments to the grind size to get it just right. There are now some good entry-level espresso grinders that will get you what you need without breaking your budget. Morocco is a big fan of the Fellow Opus.

Opus Conical Burr Grinder

A good tamper

Unless you go the super automatic route you will need to tamp your own coffee grounds. Sheese recommends a Normcore tamper for most people. Because it’s spring loaded it will ensure you tamp with the right amount of pressure every time. Just make sure you get the right size tamper for your machine. For Breville or Solis machines like we have up above you’ll want a 53.3mm tamper (sometimes listed as 53mm or 54mm). For prosumer machines like the Rancilio Silvia you’ll want a 58mm tamper.

Normcore 58mm Coffee Tamper

Normcore 53.3mm Coffee Tamper

A coffee distributor

Because espresso takes such a fine grind, the coffee grounds can clump up, preventing water from running through them evenly. You use the needles on a distributor to break those clumps up before tamping. Sheese likes distributors from Barista Hustle to do the job.

Barista Hustle Comb Distribution Tool

Barista Hustle AutoComb Espresso Distribution Tool



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Author:Noah Kaufman | Website:www.bonappetit.com

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