Espresso coffee machines
Can you make the perfect coffee in your kitchen?
Which type of machine suits you? Here are the pros and cons of each, plus features to look for.
Semi-automatic and manual espresso machines work along similar lines: you pack the coffee into the filter basket, which sits in the portafilter. You then twist the portafilter into the machine. The only significant difference is that manual machines require you to judge the amount of water that flows through the filter basket whereas semi-autos cut off the flow once a pre-set amount is poured.
Capsule machines use hermetically sealed pods of coffee. You drop a capsule in the top, pull a lever and push a switch. The machine pierces the capsule and forces hot water through to make an espresso.
These machines use proprietary systems such as Caffitaly or Nespresso. We don't recommend capsule machines because of the extra waste they create.
Learn more about coffee capsules.
Automatic and automatic-manual espresso machines (also known as “super automatic”) automatically grind the coffee, tamp it, and extract the espresso shot. You fill the bean hopper or add pre-ground coffee, add water to a reservoir and press a button or two. Some models contain an automated milk frothing and dispensing device.
Ask whether there's a demonstration model of the machine you’re interested in so you can try before you buy, and look for these features:
TIP: If the machine you want doesn’t have a grinder, and you want to grind your beans fresh before each brew, choose a burr (rather than blade) grinder so the coffee is ground evenly and extracts evenly for the best flavour.
TIP: If there’s a froth enhancer on the milk-frothing wand, removing it will often produce a better foam (despite its name). Some froth enhancers aren’t removable, so check.
There are also separate tools available to whisk and heat your milk, as well as milk pods that are poured directly into your cup.
TIP: You can make velvety smooth milk froth with a basic coffee plunger. Heat the milk and pour it into your pre-warmed plunger. Then pump the plunger through the milk a few times until it foams.
See our test results and features for all the espresso machines we've tested.
Capsule machines are often the cheapest type to buy up front. But they can mean spending more long term, as capsules typically cost more than ground coffee or whole beans.
Here's how coffee costs compare over a year, based on two double shot espressos a day:
* Excludes the price of the coffee machine, since there’s a wide range in prices. Check out our test results to compare prices of the different machines.
We've tested 36 espresso machines.
Find the right one for you.