Brewing espresso is both a science and an art. But with the right machine and a little bit of practice, you can brew coffeehouse quality espresso and drinks right in your own kitchen. The question is: how do you find the right machine? I’ve tested and owned quite a few espresso machines. Some were fantastic – others were mediocre. So, to save you time, money and frustration, I’m going to share my top picks for the best espresso machines money can buy.
Most Popular & Least Expensive: De’Longhi EC155
The De’Longhi EC155 is one of the best-selling espresso machines out there, and after giving it a test drive, I can see why. It packs high-end features into a brewer that costs less than $100. And it looks great sitting on your countertop too.
With the EC155, you have the option of using ground coffee or pods, which is a feature so many other brewers are missing. If I don’t want to deal with grinding my own beans, I can whip out an espresso pod and start brewing. This is one of the features I really love about this machine.
But the great features don’t end there. The EC155 is like having your own personal barista. With a swivel jet frother, you can whip up cappuccinos and lattes just like your local coffee shop – but for a fraction of the cost. I do have to note that you’ll have to buy a frothing pitcher separately if you plan on brewing up coffeehouse drinks.
And get this – the machine has two separate thermostats. One is for the water temperature, and the other is for steam pressure. Each can be controlled separately, so you always brew at the perfect temperature for espresso. With 15 bar pump pressure and a self-priming operation, you get a delicious shot of espresso through a quick and convenient brewing process.
When I took a look at the price of this machine, I have to admit that I was skeptical. It’s not easy to find a quality espresso machine for less than $100. But I was impressed when I learned that this machine uses a stainless steel boiler. I’m confident that if you take care of this machine, it will take care of you (or your love of coffee) for many years to come.
Clean-up was easy too. The 35oz water tank and drip tray are removable for easy cleaning.
With thousands of positive reviews, the De’Longhi EC155 is easily the most popular espresso machine out there. And so far, it’s one of my favorites for espresso brewing at home.
Runner Up: Breville BES870XL Barista Express
I can’t possibly talk about the best espresso machines without mentioning the Breville BES870XL Barista Express. If it weren’t for its high price tag, this machine might have made the top of my list.
The Barista Express is a fully automatic machine with a built-in grinder and all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a professional-grade machine. Just take a look at this brewer’s fantastic features:
- 15 bar pump
- 1600W heating system
- Automatic temperature adjustment for the perfect shot of espresso
- 67oz. water tank
- Conical burr grinder
- 1/2 pound sealed bean hopper
- Controls for filter size, grind amount, shot number and shot strength
- Option to choose hot water steam
- Mug warmer on top of the machine
- 54mm stainless steel portafilter and tamper
Cleaning is a breeze too. A “clean me” light lets you know when it’s time to give your machine a good cleaning. A cleaning kit is also included, which is conveniently tucked away in a hidden storage compartment. The drip tray and water tank are removable for easy cleaning.
The Breville BES870XL is one of the most advanced espresso machines I’ve had the pleasure of testing. Built with high quality stainless steel and backed by the Breville name, this is a machine that will give you years of use. And if you’re the type of person who buys at least one cup of coffee from your local coffee shop each day, this machine will pay for itself in no time.
I have nothing but good things to say about this machine, but its $600 price tag may put this brewer out of reach for a lot of people. And that’s why I think the De’Longhi EC155 is still the smarter option. Both the EC155 and the BES870XL feature 15 bar pump pressure and controlled water temperatures, which are two of the most important things when brewing espresso. Sure, the BES870XL goes the extra mile by grinding your beans for you, but if you’re on a tighter budget, you’re not missing out on all that much by choosing the EC155.
Best Value: Gaggia 14101 Classic
Designed in Italy, the Gaggia 14101 Classic is an espresso machine that really gives you your money’s worth. It’s a commercial-quality machine with higher pressure capabilities than the other machines on my list. This beautiful machine isn’t fully automatic, but it produces a great shot of espresso.
Here’s why the Gaggia 14101 earned the title of “Best Value” on my list:
- Built to last: The 14101 features stainless steel housing, brass portafilters and stainless steel filter baskets for the utmost in durability.
- Convenient: This machine uses coffee pods for convenient espresso shots anytime. It also brews two cups at once. A hot water dispenser can be used for brewing tea, and a cup warmer will ensure your espresso never touches a cold cup again.
- Affordable: This espresso machine may not have the same low price tag as the De’Longhi EC155, but it’s still more than affordable. If you find yourself buying a $4 coffee every day, this machine will pay for itself in just four months.
- Easy cleaning: Removable 72 oz water reservoir is removable and easy to clean. Gaggia also gives simple directions on how to clean and maintain this machine.
The 14101 boasts quite a few impressive features too. With a 17-1/2 bar pump and high-voltage boiler, this machine brews fantastic shots of espresso. A frothing wand and hot water dispenser are also included, so you can whip up cappuccinos and lattes right in your kitchen. And the machine comes with a tamper, measuring scoop, and filters for both single and double shots.
One great thing that I haven’t mentioned yet is the machine’s excellent temperature control. The grouphead and portafilters are made from marine-grade, heavy-duty brass with chrome plating for maximum temperature stability.
The Gaggia 14101 is a great little espresso brewer with convenient, practical features. It uses more pressure than the other machines on my list, which results in a heartier brew. If you have a larger budget and are looking to invest in a quality espresso machine, the 14101 is a smart choice.
My Favorite Higher-End Model: Jura Ena Micro 1
Jura has a reputation for being the “best of the best” as far as coffee makers go. And if you’re looking to invest in a high-end model, the Jura Ena Micro 1 is an excellent choice. With such a simple and compact design, Jura proves that you don’t need to give up valuable counter space just to brew a great shot of espresso.
The Jura is a smart little brewer with three cup sizes to choose from and two aroma levels. The machine’s special aroma preservation cover also keeps your beans fresh, while the grinder grinds them gently.
Let me walk you through some of the great features the Ena Micro 1 has to offer:
- Variable brewing to control coffee strength individually; brews up to two cups at a time.
- 15 bar, high-performance pump for a rich crema.
- Pre-brew aroma system that allows the coffee’s aroma to fully develop before brewing.
- Adjustable coffee spout for exceptional quality crema in any sized cup.
- Conical grinder for full aroma and consistent grinding.
- Filter cartridge to prevent scale.
- Thermoblock heating for quick and fresh water heating every time.
- Auto power-off to save energy.
Although this machine is compact (just 12.7” x 9” x 17.5”), it’s still easy to clean. A cleaning, rinsing and descaling program makes it easy to maintain your machine with just the touch of a button. Plus, you also have the option of adjusting water hardness if you don’t plan on using the filter cartridge.
The Jura Ena Micro 1 is the priciest machine on this list at just under $800, but it comes with plenty of convenient and quality features that help brew up a delicious shot of espresso.
Another Very Affordable Favorite: Nespresso Inissia
The Nespresso Inissia is another affordable favorite of mine. I’ve tested this model in the past, and I found it to brew an exceptional espresso. And it preheats in just 25 seconds. It’s not all about quantity with this model, but it is all about quality.
The build of the Inissia is exceptional. First, it’s A Class energy efficient and holds up to 24-ounces of water. A black exterior makes this model very easy to clean and fits well with any décor. Weighing just 5.3 pounds, the Inissia is made with an ergonomic handle for a precise grip. Easy to use, this machine comes with a preheat setting that takes just 25 seconds to complete. This means no more waiting for your water to preheat – the machine does it for you. It will start making the espresso automatically once the water is hot enough.
For just $100, this model offers European quality espresso that is delicious to the very last drop. You’ll have a hard time finding this level of quality for cheaper.
This model features:
- 25-second preheating time
- 19 bar high pressure
- 2 programmable buttons: espresso and lungo
- 24-ounce water tank
- A Class energy rating
- Automatic shutoff after 9 minutes
You’ll need to use Nespresso coffee capsules in this machine. This model holds 9 to 11 capsules at one time so there’s no unnecessary cleanup needed after each brew. One thing you won’t find in the product description if you order from Amazon, is that 16 coffee pods are included.
Maintenance and cleanup are a breeze. Like most espresso makers, there’s not much involved. You’ll need to:
- Clean out the water container. Don’t worry, it’s removable.
- Clean the capsule bin. The bin can hold 9 – 11 used capsules before needing to be dumped.
- Clean the drip tray. It pops right off for easy cleaning.
You can wait to clean out the capsules and clean the drip tray, but it’s much more sanitary to dump the capsule bin daily and to simply rinse the drip tray. If the outside of the unit gets dirty, a simple wipe with a sponge is all that’s needed.
Nespresso is a brand that is known for their durability and longevity. This model comes with a one-year warranty that will need to be activated by the buyer. Below are the main pros and cons that I found with the Inissia:
- Great tasting espresso.
- Easy preheating.
- Energy efficient.
- Automatic shutoff after 9 minutes.
- Easy to clean and maintain.
- Ergonomic handle for an easy, tight grip.
- Holds up to 11 used capsules.
- Need to use Nespresso capsules.
This model is a little noisy, but it’s not much of a concern. Most models produce some noise, but few produce the exceptional taste of the Inissia. Having to buy Nespresso capsules means that you’ll always pay $0.5 to $0.7 per capsule without much option in terms of trying other espresso brands. However, with over 16 different flavors and the highest quality beans in the world, you’d be hard-pressed to not find a flavor – or several flavors – you like.
The Nespresso Inissia is compact, easy to use, easy to clean and built to last. A delicious taste, the espresso or lungo you make will have a bountiful aroma and a great taste that’s almost impossible to find anywhere else at this price.