There’s a reason the barista occupies a hallowed place in Italian life. It takes skill and a great deal of patience to master an espresso machine. Great espresso at home ; sounds like a great idea, but it’s never a snap.
Home machines are as fussy in their way as the big carlike jobs in espresso bars, and also much less convenient mostly because they’re not plumbed.
Hooking up an espresso machine directly to a pipe and drain might seem a curious and excessive notion. But after you’ve cleaned up your four hundredth sludge overflow from the drip tray, or after the first time you burn Out a pump because you didn’t realize the water reservoir was empty, you see the beauty of it.
A plumbed machine is beyond most people’s budgets. A few home machines, though, offer the heft and much of the power of professional ones. Heft is crucial in the metal parts, which will retain heat and produce the desired crema, or sandy foam, atop the espresso.
With espresso machines, there’s a direct correlation between what you pay and what you get. There are no bargains, and the most expensive machines produce the best results. Surprisingly, they’re also the simplest to operate, with the very fewest buttons, programs, and gizmos.
An investment of $250 or more will get you a boiler that holds enough water to produce both espresso and foamed milk for cappuccino and latte. Getting into the $350-$400 range will buy a machine with heavy metal and guaranteed crema.
Table of Contents
- 1 Espresso Machine Buying Guide
- 2 Criteria When Selecting an Espresso Machine
- 2.1 Our Espresso Machine Reviews Judging Criteria
- 2.2 De’Longhi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
- 2.3 Cuisinart EM-200
- 2.4 Nespresso D120 CitiZ
- 2.5 Breville Barista Express BES860XL
- 2.6 Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
- 2.7 La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola 8-Cup Lever Style Espresso Machine
- 2.8 Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine
- 3 Espresso Machine Type
- 4 Capacity
- 5 Cup’s Quality
- 6 Ease of use
- 7 Price
- 8 Comments
- 8.1 Stove Top Mocha Pots
- 8.2 Manual/Lever Espresso Machines
- 8.3 Semi Automatic Espresso Machines
- 8.4 Super Automatic Espresso Machines
- 10 The Working Mechanism of an Espresso Machine
- 11 Common Questions
Espresso Machine Buying Guide
Buying an espresso machine? Is it your first? Second?? Third??? No matter, it can still seem a daunting task going through all this plethora of categories, features, models, and marketing pitches. In this guide I will try to make it very easy to choose, because it can be!
First, Know Thyself! You have been to coffeehouses and already know what you like and what not. Be honest, is your budget tight or would you like to have the best coffee possible? Do you want it to be fast, easy and clean, or would you like to get your hands dirty, like a true Italian barista? Last but not least, measure the available counter top space and make sure it fits…
Okay, believe it or not the tough part is over. Take a look at the table below and choose the most appropriate machine type based on budget and preferences. In the price ranges below, you will get good machines; try to avoid models that are priced below these ranges … especially if you are aiming for a robust office espresso machine. Further, within each category, paying more gets you more. Easy!
[Optionally, continue reading below the table for information on each machine type.]
If you are looking to save some time and just skip ahead to the best espresso maker without reading all the reviews, this espresso maker is the best value deal on the market.
If you are looking for a quality yet cheaper espresso maker I suggest you have a look at some of the models from Mr Coffee
Mr. Coffee was created in 1972 by North American Systems, Inc. Its formation and entry into the lucrative coffeemakers industry was officially announced by NAS founder and within that same year, its first invention, an automatic drip coffeemaker, was unveiled to the retail market.
In the three years that followed, it has become widely popular with the American households and achieved that significant milestone of 38,000 units sold in a single day in 1975, the first brand ever to hit that magical number.
Over the years, Mr. Coffee has gone through a number of crisis (like the severe coffee shortage in the late 70s and the recent financial meltdown) as well as a change in ownership (it is now owned by Sunbeam Products Inc.), yet it survived them all and continues to delight us with wonderful products like the Classic Edition and the MRX coffeemaker.
Criteria When Selecting an Espresso Machine
Selecting an espresso machine should be considered an investment. The amount of money that you spend on the machine combined with the amount of time and enjoyment that you get out of using your machine is extremely important. Nobody wants to buy a machine that makes great espresso, but is hard to use or breaks easily. Also, no one wants to skimp on price and get a bad espresso, but how cheap is too cheap?
Below we look at the major factors that you should look for (and that we DO look for) with every machine that we review. The list is ordered from most important to least important, so you should focus the most on the first category and least on the last one.
Our Espresso Machine Reviews Judging Criteria
This is by far the most important thing that you should pay attention to when selecting a machine because making good tasting espresso is what you’re buying the machine for.
This may make sense, but a lot of people tend to compromise on this aspect because the price of a particular unit is cheaper or it was easier to clean. Both of those are important factors, but if you’re paying a fair amount of money for something that you’re going to use on a regular basis if not every day, you want to make sure that what you’re making tastes good and gives you the most enjoyment out of your machine.
Ease of Use:
The ease of use of the machine is determined by two factors: how easy it is to make a good espresso, and how easy it is to clean and maintain.
A good espresso machine, regardless of price, should be easy to use. This factor is different for everyone though, as someone who is experienced with making espressos will find many more machines that are easy to use than a person who is buying their first machine. For that reason, the factor is entirely subjective, but for our reviews we will rate the machine for both novices and advanced users.
A quick way to determine how easy a machine is to use is to look at how many levers and buttons are on it. Generally, the fewer the buttons on the machine, the easier it is to make an espresso.
The other major aspect in the ease of use category is how easy the espresso machine is to clean. If you buy a machine that makes fantastic espresso, but it takes 20 minutes to clean every time, then this isn’t a machine that will get much use unless you’re ready to clear up some time in your schedule. The other problem with machines that are hard to clean is that once you finish making your espresso, you want to enjoy it, and having to clean every nook and cranny of an intricate machine is not something that helps you enjoy your coffee. We always take this factor into account when writing our espresso machine reviews.
The best way to figure out if an espresso machine has a lot of maintenance associated with it is to see how many removable parts are required to make the espresso. The more removable parts that touch the coffee, the more maintenance you will have to do. A second way you can tell is by comparing the user manuals of two different espresso machines, since all the information on cleaning and maintenance will be in there.
The third major category that all machines should be rated on is how well they’re built. The build quality comes down to two factors, the quality of the materials and the quality of the engineering. For the most part, all of these machines are engineered fairly well, since most of the companies are large and/or fairly well established.
The biggest factor then is the quality of the materials, and common sense is what wins out here. More expensive material generally signal a higher build quality (metal is stronger than plastic). This quality is especially important in an espresso machine, as you are working with high pressure to make quality cups of espresso, so the materials used in the machine need to be able to stand up to the stress on a repeated basis.
The best way to ensure a good build quality is to go with a trusted espresso machine manufacturer. Companies that have been around a long time have had the ability to get a reputation (good or bad), and those with good reputations will shy away from putting out low-quality products just to make a quick buck. They’re in it for the long haul.
So why is price all the way down here? This is for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that price should be more of a guideline than a set figure. Your goal isn’t to get the most expensive machine that you can afford, but to get the best one that you can afford. As with many things, the best one isn’t always the most expensive.
The best way to think about price is by looking at the espresso machine market in tiers. If you know that you have $250 to spend on an espresso machine, don’t immediately go look for machines that cost exactly that amount of money. Instead choose a band, in this example we would use $100-250, and compare some of the top machines that you find there, without considering the price.
The final reason that makes price less of a factor in our judging is because of the type of product you are purchasing. With espresso machines, we are looking for an appliance that will last you for 10 years if not more. The longer a machine lasts and is put to use, the lower cost per day of the machine. If you just focus on price, you may end up buying a cheap machine that lasts you for a year, but on a cost per day basis is ten times higher than the machine that was slightly cheaper but had a higher build quality.
Add-on machines are a very nice feature in a lot of mid-end espresso machines. Whether it’s a milk frother or a grinder, there is something nice about having a lot of different espresso equipment that goes together.
While it may be nice, a lot of times the companies that have a lot of add-on’s to their machine have compromised on build quality because they are trying to sell the total package. These are the same companies that revamp their products every year and introduce little to no features or improved function.
During an espresso machine review, we place almost no weight on whether a machine has add-on’s as there are plenty of tools out there that function just as well, if not better, than the things that a company would like to sell you with their machine.
Accessories are similar to add-on’s in the sense that they are not required to make the machine work, but are sold separately. The difference is that these consist of things like scoops, cleaning fluid, cups, and other accouterments.
As with the add-on’s, this holds very little weighting in our espresso machine reviews, but if a company happens to develop a good machine with a strong lineup of accessories, we will definitely take that into account when scoring them.
Note on Add-On’s and Accessories:
Both add-on’s and accessories are both highly subjective, which is another reason that we don’t put much weight on them. While we might not like the look or design of one of machine’s extra products, it could be very interesting to someone else, so we won’t penalize a machine based on subjective tastes.
This is a rough summary of how we score espresso machines, so when looking at our reviews or machine hunting in a store, please keep these in mind, and focus on the first two factors the most when looking for an espresso machine.
De’Longhi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
Anyone who appreciates a good cup of coffee made quickly and efficiently will benefit from the De’Longhi EC155 pump espresso machine. The coffee maker is a convenient size and fits easily onto a work top, table or counter.
The product has a dual filter holder that allows the use of ground espresso for brewing the coffee or the use of ESE coffee pods. There is a swivel jet froth maker to create a frothy cappuccino if required. The water tank and drip tray can be removed easily for cleaning.
This espresso machine is a compact 8 x 11 x 10 inches and weighs only 9 pounds. It can therefore stand in a small space and can be moved around easily from one place to another. The water tank is quite large despite the compact size of the machine, meaning that there is not a constant need to refill it. There is an approximately 2.5-inch gap between the output spout and the base, enough for an espresso coffee cup.
This espresso machine includes separate thermostats for water and steam pressure allowing more precision in the preparation of the espresso. The jet frothing mechanism allows the milk to be frothed quickly and can be ready for adding to the drink as soon as it is brewed. The quality stainless steel used in making the boiler allows it to withstand frequent use.
This compact espresso machine takes up relatively little space and has a smart appearance. The brewing time is quick and the frothing wand is convenient. The pump driven machine can extract the full flavor from the ground coffee and therefore delivers a very satisfactory espresso quickly. People who prefer to drink espresso praise the crema or froth produced on the espresso when made with this machine. This coffee machine when used properly can be used reliably over a long period of time.
The De’Longhi EC155 espresso machine should be cleaned regularly otherwise its operation may be slowed down by soiling of the machine parts. If the ground coffee filter is used rather than ESE coffee pods the need for frequent cleaning is likely to be greater. Owing to the compact size of the espresso machine there is not much room for a cup between the output nozzle above the cup and the grate at the base of the machine, so small cups must be used. Generally this is not a problem for people who enjoy pure espresso but may give cappuccino fans a little inconvenience as they often need a greater quantity of coffee and a larger cup. Some users have reported some occasional leaking of liquid from the base of the espresso machine.
We reviewed it’s younger brother the EM-100 here, and we have to say that there is a lot that the EM-200 has going for it as the older one in the family. Some of the quirks are gone, and there are a few great tricks that the EM-200 has picked up which make it a standout machine at just under $200. While we did like the EM-100 for what it could do, the EM-200 takes it much farther for just a bit more.
While you may only know Cuisinart for their food processors, you may soon begin to know them for their espresso machines as well. The quality of the espresso that comes out of here is absolutely phenomenal and something that we would expect from a machine twice it’s price. Everything about the machine makes it easy to make a good espresso that is exactly the size you want.
One thing that we did notice with this machine was that it was a bit harder to get a consistent crema than you would think. Regardless of how everything else was prepared and tamped, the crema wasn’t as strong as we would’ve liked.
Ease of Use:
With most espresso machines in the sub $200 category, you end up trying to figure out when you’ve made a shot, and being forced to measure each shot out and then mixing it in a cup. Some machines have an option that lets you select whether you want one shot or two, but they are usually inconsistent at best. The EM-200 on the other hand pours you exactly one or two shots every time. This makes it incredibly easy to size your shot and make the same quality coffee every time.
Since it isn’t a super-automatic, you will have to do a little more work to make your espresso: grinding the beans, tamping the coffee, etc. You will end up getting a good cup of espresso without too much fuss. The machine itself has a very simple, classical styling to it that only gives you the options that you need and leaves out a lot of the rest.
This machine works with espresso pods as well if you would rather skip grinding and tamping your coffee, which makes the brewing process significantly easier to go through.
Many things Cuisinart makes are rock solid, and the EM-200 is one of them, to a point. While the machine is fairly well made, it does have some noticeable defects that prevent it from working properly at all times. The responses of people who have had problems with their machines have been helped by the fact that Cuisinart customer services seems to take these complaints seriously and will very quickly repair or replace your model, which is a good sign of a product that a company is willing to stand by.
While the company does seem willing to stand by their product, which is a good sign, the build quality could be a little better, but we’ve seen much worse on a machine in this price range. Having a machine break is never fun, but it seems that it isn’t that big of a problem and is taken care of quickly.
Besides a steam nozzle, which functions at about a 5/10, the EM-200 has a cup warming tray and has the added feature of allowing you to manually program your brew amounts. This is a great feature to have if you want to make drinks that are more or less than a single or double shot or play around with the amount of caffeine that you want in your morning coffee.
The EM-200 is a great step up for Cuisinart from the EM-100, but there are still some issues that we would like them to address in the build quality department before definitively making a judgement on it. If it weren’t for the iffy quality, I would definitely say that this machine is a best buy in the under $200 category. One way of allaying some of the build problems is to go with a reseller like Amazon, who has a fantastic return policy and will truly give you no-hassle service.
Nespresso D120 CitiZ
The Nespresso D120 CitiZ is the newer version of the Nespresso C120, and offers much of the same performance as that, but is even slightly better quality. This is truly a great machine at a good price. Find out more below.
This is the big one for most people, and for a good reason. A lot of automatic machines promise good taste, but they don’t always seem to deliver. This could be a problem with the machine, the coffee, or the settings, but when you’re drinking slop it doesn’t really matter who’s fault it was. The CitiZ is absolutely phenomenal in it’s automated brewing process and it churns out fantastic espresso literally at the touch of a button. I couldn’t imagine much better espresso without running a fully tuned prosumer machine at double this price.
The crema is great as well. While I don’t drink cappuccinos or lattes with any frequency (or, ever), I’ve been told by other people who’ve used the machine that it does those just as well, which makes sense given that you’re using the same fantastic espresso.
Ease of Use
Is this thing easy to use? If you think that pushing in a capsule and pressing a button is a chore, then you might not like this machine. For the rest of us, it’s an absolute dream! I really wanted to split hairs and count all the things I had to do to get the machine going and it came down to four things: 1) Put glass in machine 2) Insert capsule 3) Close door 4) Press button. Since all of those things can be accomplished in about 5 seconds, I would give this a perfect score for ease of use.
There is one caveat to all of this, and that is that you do need to buy the Nespresso pods to use the machine. There is no good substitute for them and they aren’t sold in many stores, so make sure to have a good stock of them because otherwise you won’t be able to enjoy the (almost) one touch operation.
I’m not a huge fan of plastic on espresso machines, because it tends to indicate that the machine is less than ideal for brewing hot liquids and that it may be sloppily engineered. Neither of these things applies to the Nespresso D120. The machine is superbly engineered
There is no shaking of any parts or any areas where there are gaps in the plastic, and everything is tightly sealed, with the exception of the things that you have to take apart to clean, but I’d hope I can get THOSE parts out, otherwise you’d be looking at a single-use machine.
The D120 CitiZ has absolutely fantastic add-ons. Unlike some machines in this price range, it doesn’t have a cup warmer, which could be considered to be a negative, but the rest of the accessories are fantastic. The milk foamer is almost magical in how easily it works, and on top of that is easy to clean. I would give up a cup warmer for a working milk foamer any day, especially when so many machines overlook a solid milk foamer, even though it’s something that is used by a huge part of their customer base.
The Nespresso D120 CitiZ is the real deal, and that’s about all there is to say about it. For what you pay for, you get so much it’s almost unfair: one touch operation at a level that is
higher than that most automatic machines at twice the price, a fantastic coffee selection, quick cleanup, and great accessories. If you don’t buy this machine it’s because you want to use your own beans, which is a big IF because the espresso that you can get is definitely top of the line.
If you have the budget, we recommend this for anyone who is not a total espresso aficionado (or aspires to be one) because you WILL be satisfied. If our review didn’t convince you, let the fact that this is one of the highest rated espresso machines on Amazon, with absolutely breathtaking reviews do it for you.
Breville Barista Express BES860XL
The Barista Express BES860XL is a great machine in a ton of different ways. Sitting at $599.99, it’s not the cheapest thing out there, but for that price you get a lot of great things, and a few not so good as well.
The general makeup of the machine is very high quality and that is followed by a lot of the pieces being pretty high quality as well. One shining example of this is the grinder that comes with the machine being the much better conical grinder versus the substandard burr or blade grinder.
Breville Barista Express BES860XL
The BES860Xl has a good taste to the shot, but it does take some getting used to in order to get the pour right. Some people have complained that the shot is too cool or that the puck they get out of the machine is wet, but those are problems that are due to lack of knowledge about how to use this particular machine and once they are fixed aren’t a problem anymore. The issue with cool espresso has to do with not warming up the demitasse before making your first espresso. This actually cools down the shot and is what reduces the temperature, not a problem with the machine’s water heater.
The BES860XL does have a steam pump that’s used to provide pressure, which if you’ve been around espresso machines long enough will know produces pretty mediocre espresso compared to some of the better machines out there, and at the price it’s a little surprising that they do use that type of pump, but the taste of the espresso is good enough that the combination of everything together seems to work well enough.
Barista Express from the left side
Ease of Use:
The Barista Express BES860XL is exactly what it’s name implies; it’s an express espresso maker. While there is a learning curve to making good espresso, some of the other things that are required to really get the espresso to a high quality are taken care of for you. The biggest thing is the conical burr grinder that’s included in the machine, which is a HUGE timesaver and means that you don’t have to grind your beans before brewing a shot, one of the reasons that they put “Express” in it’s name.
The ease of use on a machine like this is a bit difficult to pin down because, like all machines should be around this price point, there are a lot of options that they ‘give’ you to make the espresso more customized to your immediate preferences. In short, the BES860XL is very easy to use to just churn out a shot, but it can just as quickly become incredibly complicated when you change some settings around trying to find the ‘holy grail’ of shots.
One thing that no one will argue with on the Breville is that the build quality is top notch. The biggest concern that I’ve heard from almost everyone who gets an espresso machine (and keep in mind this isn’t exactly scientific) is that the machine is too light. It seems that most people equate the weight of a machine to it’s quality, and in most cases it makes sense. Metal is much heavier than plastic, and the more metal that you have in a machine the better the machine (generally) is.
The BES860XL is a very heavy and solid piece of equipment. From my testing and from what I have heard through people who have had the machine for long periods of time, there are really no issues beyond freak occurrences with machines randomly breaking pieces off, which is always a good thing to have. Personally, I tried to move this thing around and had much more trouble than many other machines that I have reviewed, which is something that rarely happens and is incredibly nice to have. You don’t have to worry about roughhousing with this one folks.
At $599, the price on the machine is pretty good for a mid-to-high level espresso machine. In addition to that, there are a lot of features in the sense that you get not only the machine but also the (great) conical burr grinder and a lot of options to customize your shots. The one thing that I am surprised at for the price is the quality of the espresso hardware itself. Having a steam brewing process in an espresso maker at this price is an interesting choice, however I can’t fully fault Breville for it as the espresso that’s being made when you know what you’re doing is absolutely fantastic and that’s the #1 concern.
The biggest add-on that you’ve heard me talk about in the entire review is the grinder which is a huge plus for people who either haven’t decided to go out and purchase their own grinder or who are using a substandard piece of equipment at the moment.
The Breville Barista Express BES860XL is a great machine at the price point and offers a lot of convenience which is a big plus for people who want more of a no-fuss approach to their espresso. Additionally you have the option of customizing things like the grind or the brew time among other things to make the espresso better or worse if you want to go the custom route. You can purchase this espresso machine at a great price from Amazon.
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
The Rancilio Silvia Espresso machine has attracted some great reviews from critics. Today, we analyze the ins and outs of this espresso machine for our readers. Rancilio itself has been manufacturing quality espresso machines since back in the 1920’s and claim to engage in extensive research & development for continual advancement of products. Anyone who’s familiar with the coffee machine industry will know that the Rancilio brand rules the market like Tefal in homeware.
Based on our personal experience and several customer reviews, this machine produces a mean espresso that is far better than other brands’ coffee. It is never too bitter or sour. Microfoam can be made if the correct amount of tamp is utilized. The only advice would be to ensure your coffee is ground well. Investing in a burr grinder like Rancilio Rocky would be the best bet for that. If you’re picky about your coffee, try grinding the beans just before brewing and use beans that have been roasted only a few weeks earlier. Fresh espresso coming up!
Ease of Use
The entire logic behind buying your personal espresso machine is ease of use. And the Rancilio Silvio certainly doesn’t fail at that. The machine is really compact and doesn’t take up too much space on the countertop. Unlike more complex machines, you require no expert espresso-making training to use it. It’s a smooth sail from purchase point to the actual coffee making. A quick look through those instructions and you’re ready to impress your friends with some unforgettable lattes.
For first time users, you can find a series of user-friendly short videos showing how to navigate this machine. Rancilio certainly has gone to great lengths to provide customers with simple directions. It is much appreciated considering not too many other coffee machine manufacturers do this. Rancilio’s customer care is fantastic.
-Basic Dimensions: The dimension figures are W 11 2/5” H 13 2/5” D 9 3/10”. That places it in the medium-size category. Most advertisements show it with 6 espresso cups (demitasse) sitting on top.
-Encouragingly Heavy: It’s quite heavy at 30.4 pounds. This is something you may or may not like. To us, that was a pretty obvious sign of a quality espresso machine. The machine doesn’t appear to be made of too much plastic, which clarifies the extra weight.
-Excellent Quality Stainless Steel: Yes, it is made of 100% stainless steel, including the housing, grid, and drip tray as well. This gives it a lovely look that will gel well with modern kitchen design trend sporting steel counters and cupboards.
-Controls:The Silvia features rocker switches. It has no displays and is non-programmable. However, it does include a back pressure valve for relief and safety. That and the burn-out protection are plus points.
-Pod Adaptability: The coffee filter is capable of work with a pod adapter, unlike many coffee machines out there. Set in chrome and plated in brass, it has both single and double-shot capacity for the filter basket.
-Steam Wand: This part is made from stainless steel but sports no adapter for frothing. Height off your counter is approximately four inches, which is standard height. Some might seek a bit higher. Frother length comes to 3 and ½ inches.
-Very Durable Brass Boiler: The boiler is a very crucial part of any espresso machine. You’ll want this to be a reliable and long-lasting one. The Silvia houses a brass boiler that runs with 953 W and has a 12 ounce volume. Being manufactures entirely of brass means that it’s more durable compared to regular steel or aluminum boilers that most machines consist of.
Considering it’s a machine from a popular company like Rancilio, it’s quite cheap and affordable. Ranging in the vicinity of $700 to $750, this product’s price is appealing for those on a tight budget. The Silvia Espresso Machine is at the lower end of the Rancilio line in terms of cost and is a part of their ‘Home’ line. It’s a much better idea to snag yourself the cheapest home in the good neighborhood than a less costly one in a bad suburb. Makes sense? You know what we mean.
What Add-Ons It Comes With
The Rancilio machine houses a big reservoir for water with a capacity of 74 ounces. The removable top and hot water dispenser are two added features that just add to the convenience of using this coffee machine. The machine comes with a 1-cup filter, 2-cup filter, measuring scoop, and coffee tamper.
The features of this machine are quite typical for something in this price range and style. What makes it different from other coffee machines is Rancilio’s thought for customer ease that goes into the design and details. Many of its users appreciate the option of adding an Easy-to-serve pod kit. This adds another dimension to this product that other machines don’t offer.
For this machine, a Terry’s Tamper is recommended for optimal use and brewing ability.
Honestly, this espresso machine has got almost everything going for it, including the price, which is hard to come by with a quality brand like Rancilio. Great customer service, quality looks, and simple operations are a few to note. Reviews on this Rancilio machine prove that this is one espresso machine that is unlikely to disappoint those that are very particular about their coffee. From this reviewer, anyway, that’s great praise indeed.
La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola 8-Cup Lever Style Espresso Machine
If you are the kind of person who truly cares about making a bloody good cup of espresso, and cares about controlling everything that makes a good cup of espresso, the La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola 8-Cup Lever Style Espresso Machine is the pick.
There’s no doubt that this espresso machine can make a great espresso, but can you make a great espresso with this machine? With the La Pavoni Europiccola, you have to grind, tamp, and pull your own shot. Some people even go as far as to roast their own beans, but that is not strictly required.
This beautiful espresso machine in chrome is heavy and you can feel the quality of the parts when you pull. It is a machine only for the perfectionists because you won’t get superb espresso at the first shot. It takes some learning to get the pressure and timing precisely correct so that you get that lovely crema-topped espresso that tastes just right.
However, once you’ve learned the ways of the La Pavoni Europiccola, you’ll enjoy making espressos every day and serving awestruck guests as they come around.
Only for the Enthusiasts
Be warned, only buy this espresso machine if you will enjoy the whole process of the espresso making. If you think you can live with grinding and tamping, but not learning how to pull a perfect shot every time, get a semi automatic. If you want to press a button and get great espresso, get an automatic or super automatic.
The best thing about the La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola 8-Cup Lever Style Espresso Machine is that it has no flimsy breakable parts. No electronics to fail you at any time either. Parts like seals are easily replaceable. Find out more by following the link.
Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine
Espresso Machine Buying Guide Table
Espresso Machine Type
Ease of use
|Home||Good||Okay||$20-$60||Optionally add a $20 milk frother|
|Home||Excellent||Very challenging||~$800||Optionally add coffee grinder|
|Home||Excellent||Challenging||$500-$1500||Optionally add coffee grinder|
|Home/Office||Good||Easy||~$1,000||Built-in coffee grinder,
Auto milk frothing possible
|Home/Office||Good||Easy||~$300||Proprietary expensive capsules|
Stove Top Mocha Pots
Can it get simpler than this? The stove top mocha pot is the most common gadget among Italians for making coffee at home. It is cheap and it works well. Smart Italians!
These specialized pots come in various sizes based on the number of cups each makes. They take in water and ground coffee and are placed on the stove for a few minutes. That’s it really.
Just note, because they are not able to reach the 9 bar pressure required for espresso, the resulting brew is called mocha. The best mocha pot is the Brikka from Bialetti. Through some ingenious tricks, it is able to provide higher pressure and yield a good cup of coffee. When combined with Bialetti’s Tuttocrema milk frother, or a similar product, one can actually get a delicious latte cup. This is a safe first step that is much easier and cheaper than a full blown espresso machine.
Manual/Lever Espresso Machines
The lever espresso machine is pretty much located at the opposite ends of the scale when it comes to ease-of-use and cup’s quality. On the one hand, the resulting cup can be (with proper technique) unbelievable. On the other hand one needs to work hard, over time, to establish the proper barista technique.
The original lever machines, representing the first true espressos, where developed by Achille Gaggia in 1948. Today, the lever machines are used mainly by passionate coffee geeks’ to present not only great coffee but also incredible machine designs.
Semi Automatic Espresso Machines
The semi automatic espresso machines are completely main stream these days. They represent a good compromise between the good coffee they produce, the reasonable technique level that is required, and the relatively affordable price levels.
Here you brew the coffee at the press of a button, but you still need to work on getting the ground coffee into the right place, and yes, clean after you are done…
These kinds of machines fit those of us that would like to make no compromises in terms of the coffee quality, and are willing to invest some time and effort in perfecting their technique.
In fact, many of the products in this category also allow you to use espresso pods, for a quicker and cleaner process; just don’t expect the same results as when using freshly ground coffee.
For many home baristas, the semi-automatic machine is the optimal choice. That’s because it gives you more personal control over the final output and flavor of an espresso drink.
Automatic machines don’t usually appeal to espresso connoisseurs because they don’t give you any control over the outcome of the drink and solely rely on easy-serving-espresso (ESE) pods or capsules.
On the other hand, while super-automatic machines are the most advanced devices in the market, they remove the home brewer from the intimate aspects of making espresso; grinding beans, tamping them, controlling steam pressure, etc. These machines are also a lot more expensive to own.
Semi-automatic espresso machines offer the best mix of automation and control for a home brewer. With this type of machine you can get the best-quality and taste out of your coffee beans without a whole lot of extra effort.
In fact, many people spend years perfecting their style and technique to brewing espresso. This means that every time you brew a cup, it’s another chance to hone in on your signature taste and play with the subtle nuances that go into your version of the perfect espresso, cappuccino or latte.
Now, keep in mind that semi-automatic espresso machines are just that – semi-automatic. You’ll find that some of the steps to making espresso are automated, but many are not. This is what allows you to put your personal stamp on the final product.
Below is a list of some of the features that make a semi-automatic espresso machine so desirable:
- The water pressure and temperature are automated so these always stay consistent
- You control the amount of steam and water flow for individual preference of taste
- You control the pump and its flow by deciding when to turn it on and off
- It doesn’t include a built-in bean grinder. You must grind the beans separately and tamp them into the portafilter yourself.
Now that you know why a semi-automatic is a great investment, we’ll go over how to choose the best grinder.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines
The super automatic espresso machines are a different breed. They go a large step forward when it comes to ease-of-use. Press a button and….well, that’s it actually. These machines will fresh ground your coffee, brew it, and some will even froth your milk automatically – an all-in-one package that leaves you little to do but drink… The coffee is good, just not as good as it could be if pulled manually.
This is an excellent choice if “unskilled” people are likely to use it. An office machine will also need to have a larger boiler and a robust build out.
Capsule Espresso Machines
Welcome to the world of branded coffee. The most famous espresso capsule systems in the world come from Nespresso (Nestle) and Lavazza. The capsule and the machine form a proprietary system that allows the resulted cup to be of good (but not great) quality, although it is not grinded fresh, nor pulled manually.
This is in fact the most popular espresso system in Europe, mainly due to the ease-of-use. Just plug the capsule and press a button. Once done, dump the capsule and that’s it. You can also choose your coffee by the cup which is a big plus for an environment with many users.
The unique combination of a good cup of coffee, fast, and clean, does come for a price though. Generally, a cup of coffee from these machines cost twice as much as a similar cup from any of the others…and switching for another brand is unfortunately not possible.
Pod Espresso Machines
Many of the semi-automatic espresso machines also double as pod machines. The pod system is very similar to that of the capsule. It provides a clean and quick way of making an espresso. Insert the pod in the handle (portafilter) and run the hot water through it with a push of a button. Once done, take it out. Easy!
Also you can buy pods from an endless list of suppliers which allows the price to be nearly half that of the capsules. However, keep in mind that since this is not a closed proprietary system, like the capsule one, the quality may be at times somewhat compromised.
This will fit well a household with a mixed bag of users. Some who wish the best coffee possible and do it manually, and some who wish the convenience of the pods.
The Working Mechanism of an Espresso Machine
Unlike a coffee maker (which uses a dripping mechanism to brew a cup of joe) an espresso machine works instead by forcing very hot water through finely ground coffee known as a “puck.” This process causes the liquid to become thicker than regular coffee. In the end, this cappuccino also forms froth, known as “crema,” on top of the drink as a result of emulsifying the oils in the coffee into a colloid.
A fact that many people get backwards is that an espresso shot actually has less caffeine than cup of coffee (40-75 mg as compared to 80-185 mg.) If daily caffeine intake is a concern to you, then an espresso machine is a great investment.
Finally, when trying to find the best home espresso maker for your needs, you’re going to have to consider what type of drive mechanism you want it to use to make the beverage. Not all espresso machines operate in the same way, and the strength and taste of the drink is affected by the operation it uses to produce it.
According to the Fourth Estate Coffee, home espresso makers utilize several different drive mechanisms to produce the cappuccino.
While there are actually four main types of espresso machines, for home use you really only need to be concerned with two:
1. Steam-Driven Espresso Machine
This device is very attractive to many consumers because of the low price ($30-$70). But, it’s important that you know that instead of making real espresso, it actually just produces very strong coffee.A steam-driven machine works by forcing stteam pressure through the coffee grounds to make the beverage. Because the temperature of steam and pressure is inconsistent, it’s impossible to generate thick crema.If you’re serious about brewing a cup of espresso, we suggest that you not buy this type of machine. However, for the budget conscious consumer who wants a stronger cup of coffee, your best bet is this steam-driven Mr. Coffee ECM160 machine for under $40 on Amazon.
2. Pump-Driven Espresso Machine
For making real espresso, this is the type of device you want. This espresso machine makes a true cappuccino by pumping water from the boiler and forcing it through the coffee puck. When you walk into a coffee house that serves espresso, this is the type of machine you’ll see.
There are several variations in a pump-driven espresso maker:
Semi-Automatic: This is the most popular pump-driven espresso machines among enthusiasts. Home brewers love this device because the quality of each cup is controlled by the you. You also control the amount of pump. It does not come with a coffee bean grinder, so you’ll have to grind and tamp them into the portafilter yourself. The best semi-automatic machine we recommend for a great mix of value and price is the Gaggia 14101 Classic Espresso Machine for around $350.
Automatic: This type of machine is great for people who want a easy solution for a cup of self-brewed espresso without having to get their hands dirty. The pump controls itself with the push of a button and coffee is supplied in a pod or capsule form. The only drawback to this device is that you are limited to the flavor selections by the manufacturer. If this appeals to you we highly recommend the Nespresso CitiZ for around $160.
Super Automatic: This is the top of the line, best home espresso machine. People are most attracted to this machine because it does everything for you: stores the beans, grindsthem, brews and self-cleans. Just choose a few settings, hit a button and let it go. The most expensive units also contain a built-in milk frother. If you want an espresso machine that is hassle free, yet produces a high quality beverage, then this is your best option. We suggest you go with the KRUPS EA8250 Espresseria for around $640.
How do I know if I have good crema?
A high quality cappuccino is one that has a great crema. The crema is the foam that forms on top of the espresso. In order to find out if you’re brewin a cup with great crema, use the “Island test.” This simple test will instantly tell you if your espresso machine is producing a good crema.
Just sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top of the beverage and watch what happens. In low quality espresso, the sugar will immediately dissolve. In a high quality cappuccino, the sugar dissolve slowly below the crema.
What type of water should I use with my machine?
Not many people know this but the type of water you use in your cappuccino maker will make it or break it (literally) as well as affect the taste.
You may think that it is safest to use distilled water (which lacks minerals), but in fact, a good tasting espresso actually requires some mineral deposits in the water to make it taste best. Distilled water will cause your cappuccino to taste rather flat and shouldn’t be used.
On the other hand, some tap water has too much mineral content and can therefore cause your device to build up mineral deposits very quickly. If your machine is not cleaned regularly due to the hard ward content, you may end up breaking your machine.
The best option for water to use in your espresso device is bottled drinking water or spring water. These types of water usually have the best balance of mineral content for a great tasting cup of espresso and a longer maintenance cleaning schedule.
If the machine is plumbed you’ll definitely want to add a water softener if your tap water has a high mineral content. The ideal situation is for your water to have an approximate hardness of 7-8° dH and a neutral pH balance. Check out this First Alert WT1 Drinking Water Test Kit for $11 on Amazon.com in order to find the right balance.
How often should I clean my espresso maker?
Regardless of the type of water you use in your espresso maker, you will need to descale/decalcify it regularly. As we mentioned above, if you have hard water this maintenance schedule will become more frequent so you don’t break your machine. A good rule of thumb is to clean your device every 2-3 months. If you have a super-automatic machine that has a digital alert to notify you for when to do this, it makes things easier. For those of you who do not, just mark our calendar in advance.
By descaling/decalcifying your appliance you are removing any mineral and calcium build up. If you neglect this process and too much of this builds up it can destroy your machine.
Descaling and decalcifying your machine on a regular basis will keep your machine running smoothly for years to come, because removing limescale build-up allows your machine to maintain constant brew and steam pressure. And, remember… never use use vinegar to descale espresso machines.
Only use a descaling agent as suggested by the manufacturers. We hope this guide has helped you figure out what the best home espresso machine is for your needs. While there are some key elements to consider when finding the best cappuccino maker for your tastes, it should be a lot easier now that you’ve read this information. Continue browsing through our website to find the best espresso machine reviews for all types of products!