Normal drip coffee makers can be had at any flea market for a few pennies, but trying to find a decent espresso maker is the next best thing to impossible. Being more intricate and complicated machines with a multitude of settings and hundreds of variables, any of which can make or break your sipping experience, we thought it prudent to help our jilted java brethren with the most exceptional espresso makers, and how to pick one on your own.
Types of Espresso Makers
When you make the decision to purchase an espresso machine, you first must decide what type will best meet your needs. Espresso machines come in three different types: super automatic, semi-automatic, or pod. Here’s how each one variates:
- Super autos do everything from grinding the beans to setting the temperature and are the easiest to use, but also the most costly. They also need much more maintenance and care than other models.
- Semi-autos are what baristas use and require that you (or your cooking staff) grind the beans and monitor the machine. The cost is significantly less, but there’s more work that goes into the process; which also gives you more control over each cup.
- Pods are becoming as ubiquitious among the espresso crowd as drip makers, but they’re largely inferior to either of the other types. They’re extrodinarily simple, requiring placing a pod and turning it on, but they generally produce inferior coffee that’s stale and underwhelming.
Whichever style suits your drinking habits, we’ve some suggestions for the 16 best espresso machines to begin your journey.
Best Espresso Machines
La Marzocco GS/3
Build Your Own: Made to order, the GS/3 comes in your choice of manual paddle or automatic, so you can select your style long before you ever order it. With exacting temperature controls, the ability to fine-tune the pre-infusion times, and precise water measurement, you’ll get perfect shots every day of your life.
Jura Giga 5 Automatic Coffee Machine
Fire and Forget: The Giga 5 is the total package for brewing fiends. A pair of ceramic disc grinders chew up your beans quickly and quietly, so early risers need not disturb the entire household. An array of nearly 20 coffee presets lets you pick and choose favorites via TFT rotary display, and it looks stunning at home, at work, or on your superyacht.
Rocket Espresso R60V
Tweak: You’re going to need quite a few cups just to stay awake while you fiddle with all the settings. The R60V is anything and everything a professional could want in an espresso machine, along with a smartphone interface that can swap the triple pressure settings, adjust the saturation, and change the brewing time so that you’re never out of touch with your caffeine.
Vesuvius Dual Boiler with Pressure Profiling
Watcher: Two stainless steel boilers, multi-phase pressure profiling, a FG304 gear pump, and wood accents against a chrome body make this a gorgeous and incredibly intelligent machine. Everything is controlled by the intuitive dot matrix screen, which lets obsessives change and alter every stage of the brewing process without ever getting their hands dirty.
SAECO HD8954/47 Philips Xelsis EVO
Two-Timer: A dual-chamber carafe for your milk keeps the froth from becoming too much or too little, and a double-boiler allows you to get your fix faster without sacrificing quality. Half a dozen presets let you pick and choose how your espresso is made, or permits each member of the family to have their own sweet setting.
Gaggia RI8762 Anima Prestige Super Automatic
Icon: Though it looks like one of the giant Easter Island heads, the espresso that comes out of the adjustable spigot is the result of pure engineering prowess. It froths milk with just a button press and the pre-infusion mode soaks your beans until they pop and sizzle with deep, dark flavors that will sweep you away.
KRUPS EA8442 Falcon
Screen Time: No product has ever looked less like a falcon than the Falcon, but that fades into the background once you realize the intuitive touchscreen controls allow you to make any kind of customizable drinks – including ristretto – using little more than your finger.
DeLonghi ECAM22110SB Compact
Familiar Faces: An automatic built for apartment dwellers, the ECAM22110SB makes lattes, espresso, and cappuccinos without requiring much counter space. Saturation controls and energy saving features make this an automatic that you can switch and change to suit your nefarious purposes.
Gaggia 90500 Titanium Super Automatic
Personal Barista: Meant to take any possible thinking out of the equation, the automated process of the 90500 is, indeed, super. A conical burr grinder and 60 oz reservoir coupled with a zero wait steaming wand, 15 bar pump, and cup warmer make this the caffeinated assistant you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.
Ready for the Big Leagues: There’s little to separate gorgeous Silvia here from her professional counterparts. The group head, articulating steam wand and knob, and ergonomic handle are all taken straight from commercial models. For those who require more speed, a pod and capsule adapter can be had, but we feel it drags the otherwise wonderful machine down.
Breville BES870XL Barista Express
Quick Change: As soon as the steam is released, the BES870XL readjusts the water temperature to ensure that the 1600 watt coil system is keeping the proper programmed temperature. A built-in grinder and automated system make the Barista Express a one-stop automatic with a delightfully modest price tag. Add a few hundred dollars, and it’s still a bargain.
Gaggia 14101 Classic
Occam’s Espresso: About as simple as a mechanical coffee machine gets, the Classic has all forged brass components for predictable temperature regulation and a three-way solenoid valve along with independent expansion valve to keep heat well in hand.
De’Longhi EC680 Dedica
Rapid Release: Give the Dedica 40 seconds and it will give you the ideal water temperature. The stainless steel body hides thermo block technology that permits it to heat faster and more efficiently for a better brew time and again while full video instructions teach newbies how to hit the mark without strain.
Pod Father: Among the pod products, the Nespresso is one of the few standouts. You’ll be forced to use their capsules to make the Inissia work, but the flavor array and grind quality is good, the heat production is quick, and you’ll get a passable cup with just a few button-presses.
Mr. Coffee ECMP50
Underthink: It’s easy to junk this as just another pretender to the espresso throne, but the designers at Mr. Coffee have concocted an affordable machine that can give you a single or double shot that you’d be proud to serve to almost anyone. The frothing arm and 15 bar pump system are basic, as is the drip catcher, but the heating system is solid, and the proof is in the product, which is incredible considering the cost.
Bialetti Moka Express
Stovetop Solution: Made in Italy, this makes espresso with the same elegant simplicity that french press coffee machines bring to standard cups. Made of polished aluminum you can find it in whatever size you need – between 1 and 12 demitasse – and the simple body comes apart for easier cleanup.