The Best Espresso Machines of 2020
If you’re serious about home brewing, your counters host an arsenal of coffee products, including a burr grinder, pour-over coffee maker, and French press. But how’s your espresso game? Like most people, you probably have to head to the nearest coffee shop and pay more than you’d like to get a shot of great espresso.
Shelling out $5,000 for an entry-level, home espresso machine like a La Marzocco is unrealistic for most people. But making espresso at home doesn’t have to be a fantasy. If you’re willing to spend between $500 to $1,000 and have the patience to learn, you can be brewing espresso right in your kitchen.
To help you navigate the world of semi-automatic espresso machines, we selected 10 of the most top-rated and popular espresso machines across mid-range price points and put them to the test.
We brewed shots after shots of espresso and judged the machines on both objective and subjective test results, including ease of use, durability, versatility, and taste. Although our best value pick, the Gaggia Classic Pro (available at Amazon) pulled the most delicious shots of coffee, we chose the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine (available at Amazon) as our winner for its convenience and excellent performance across a variety of tasks. With its intuitive touchscreen design, it’s a perfect appliance for both beginners and experienced espresso snobs who appreciate consistent and high-quality shots of coffee.
Here are the best espresso machines we tested ranked
The Best Espresso Machines
The semi-automatic Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine makes top-notch espresso and it includes a burr grinder, tamper, and frothing pitcher.
Most espresso machines don’t come with everything you need, so you end up buying a bunch of accessories to actually make your coffee. Not so with the Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine.
It comes with a stainless steel conical burr grinder, a 1/2 pound sealed bean hopper, a 54mm tamper, a steaming wand for frothing your milk, and a frothing pitcher. The only thing you need to buy is the espresso beans. The user manual is very detailed, so you should be able to follow its instructions without too much trouble.
Based on our testing, learning how to use the machine is well worth the effort, and the result is absolutely beautiful-tasting coffee. It’s actually really easy to use, and you’ll have the process down after two or three attempts.
The Barista Express espresso machine uses a 15 Bar Italian Pump and a 1600W Thermocoil heating system to make rich espresso. Since it’s a semi-automatic machine, the Breville automatically adjusts water temperature after steam to extract the most flavor out of your beans. The machine also has a 67 fl.oz (2L) water tank with a nice handle for easy removal, and it comes with a replaceable water filter.
The built-in burr grinder is high quality, and you can easily adjust the grind size and amount with a dial on the front of the machine. You can choose to use either a single- or double-wall filter basket, and the grinder will automatically adjust to give you the right amount of coffee grounds for your brew. Reviewers love that it comes with the grinder and praise its quality.
If you push the 54mm stainless steel portafilter into the hands-free grinding cradle, the grounds will go right into the filter. The grinder shuts off when it’s done, too, so you don’t have to worry about figuring out if you’ve got the right amount. Finally, the included 54mm tamper ensures that your grounds are evenly pressed, so you get the most out of your beans.
When it comes to deciding how much espresso you want to make, you can choose between two presets for 1- and 2-cup volumes. Alternatively, you can manually override the settings and choose your own amount of espresso.
The Thermocoil heating system controls the water temperature, and you can watch the espresso machine’s pressure gauge. If you want frothy milk on top of your espresso, you can use the 360-degree swivel steam wand to whip up some foam in the included milk pitcher.
A removable drip tray catches any excess, so you don’t end up with a huge mess on your hands. You do have to clean that part every day. Breville’s machine will also tell you when it needs a thorough cleaning, and it comes with a special cleaning kit. Follow Breville’s very detailed care and maintenance guide to keep your machine in working order.
The machine comes with a one-year warranty in case of issues. User feedback is very positive, and most people had a very easy time making high-end espresso with the machine.
If you’re inexperienced, it’s a good machine to learn with, and if you’re interested in fiddling around with settings, you can do that, too. It’s an all-around great espresso machine, according to several reviews by experts and everyday users.
The best part about this machine is that it comes with everything you need (except the beans). You don’t have to spend an extra $100+ on a good grinder or $25-$100 on a milk frothing pitcher and tamper. You will pay a bit more for it than some other machines on this list, but it’s well worth it.
Before you purchase the Breville Express, be aware that Breville will probably phase out this model soon with the newer and faster Breville Barista Pro. We recently tested it and there’s a lot to like, and we think it may become our new overall pick in our next update. However, until it’s actually out of stock, we find that the Express works just as well as the Pro, albeit a bit slower. It’s also cheaper, so it remains our overall pick for now.
Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro Espresso Machine
Though it may not look as exciting as the Breville models we tested, the Gaggia Classic Pro constantly pulled the best shots of espresso in our roundup. As an upgrade from Gaggia’s popular espresso machine, the Classic, the Pro features many components that are commonly seen with commercial-grade espresso makers, including a three-way solenoid, over-pressure valve that helps discard dry coffee puck easily.
The chrome-brass 58-millimeter wide portafilter is on par with commercial-grade portafilters, which may explain why it continuously pulled shots of espresso that had superior texture and full-bodied flavor in our taste tests. The Gaggia model was also the only machine we tested that produced crema with little leopard-like speckles, which gave each shot a unique depth. The taste was pleasant, with notes of caramel and cocoa, which indicated a high-quality coffee. The commercial-grade steam wand frothed velvety milk foam that helped us create the perfect lattes. The machine comes with three filter baskets: one pressurized basket for consistency, one single-walled for creativity, and a pod basket for ESE pods. (They’re specialty espresso pods different from Nesprssso capsules. You can buy them from Illy on Amazon.)
Although we’re satisfied with its overall performance, the Gaggia isn’t without flaws. It took about five minutes to brew a double shot from start to finish—four minutes longer than the average time for our top pick. Due to the lack of a PID system that monitors temperature digitally, it took about 30 seconds to heat up, trailing behind the Breville models. Additionally, Gaggia is less user-friendly than Breville Barista Touch as we struggled to insert the portafilter under the brewhead. However, if you’re interested in learning about espresso and pulling a cafe-quality shot, this Gaggia is your best choice for the value.
Breville Barista Touch Espresso Maker
The Barista Touch is by far the most intuitive, user-friendly, and reliable espresso machine we tested. Pulling a perfect shot of espresso takes practice, patience, and some understanding of science, but the Barista Touch significantly reduces the guesswork. With its advanced digital temperature controller (also known as PID), the Barista Touch was able to produce shot after shot of creamy, smooth, and flavorful espresso of consistent quality. Another key element is its thermojet heating system, which allowed us to get the machine ready in just three seconds.
We were blown away by this semi-automatic machine’s touchscreen, a feature that sets the Barista Touch apart from the competition. If you have no knowledge of coffee at all, you’ll be able to pull an espresso shot within minutes. Simply by touching the options on the LCD display, the machine can walk you through the ins-and-outs of making the perfect latte. For advanced drinkers, it gives you the option to save the specifications of your desired drinks. For instance, you can pre-program the weight of the ground coffee, the grind size, the time of brewing, the temperature of the steam wand, and the texture of the steamed milk by touching the screen.
The package comes with four filter baskets, including a single-walled basket for aficionados who want to hone their espresso skills. The stainless steel, magnetic tamper felt heavy while in use, which made tamping easy. The razor trimmed off any excess ground coffee once it was tightly packed into the portafilter, and further guaranteed every shot we made was exactly the same.
Overall, the Barista Touch was the easiest machine to dial in, as its user-friendly features allowed us to adjust the ground weight and grind size without difficulty. What made it really remarkable was how it’s perfect for coffee drinkers who are at different levels of espresso fluency. For intermediate enthusiasts, they can watch the tutorials on the touchscreen and troubleshoot any problems that may occur. For professional drinkers, the versatility and customization can maximize their creativity in pulling the perfect shot.
The Barista Touch also has its limits compared to the commercial-grade machines. Though it’s excellent at making coffee drinks at your fingertips, the taste of espresso itself isn’t extraordinary for connoisseurs who enjoy the diverse tasting profile and depth from single origin beans, which require a more professional device to extract. The automatic frothing system also isn’t consistent for users who appreciate their milk foam with uniform quality. But for the price, we were incredibly impressed—and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better.
Breville BES840XL/A the Infuser Espresso Machine
When it comes to balancing convenience and affordability, the Infuser is right in the middle—it provides the majority of Breville’s most advanced features, without costing you an arm and a leg.
Like the Barista Touch, this model has a pre-infusion function that gives the coffee grounds a thorough low-pressure wash before pumping pressure through them. The PID heating system accurately controls the water temperature for the best brewing results, which is also adjustable at 4°F increments. It’s also programmable, which allowed us to save our favorite coffee presets for easy brewing during testing. The analog pressure gauge can tell you whether the pressure has reached the required level, and whether you’re over- or under-extracting your coffee. This specific feature made dialing in much easier and took out the guesswork when we first tested it.
Ultimately, the Infuser makes a great learning tool for beginners who want to learn how to become an at-home barista.
DeLonghi La Specialista EC9335M
De’Longhi’s La Specialista features a dual-boiling system that heats the coffee and milk separately, which is common for commercial-grade machines. At first glance, we were curious about how it actually worked—as we can almost guarantee that there’s no brand-new dual-boiler espresso maker under the $1,000 mark on the market, at least for now. A dual-boiling system shortens the wait time and makes the coffee brewing process a lot quicker, which is why the high-end espresso machines at busy coffee shops almost always have at least a dual-coil heating system. We don’t think a dual-boiler system is necessary since all the single-boiler Brevilles we tested are equipped with the quick-heating system that makes coffee drinks as fast as the De’Longhi with double boilers.
It feels like De’Longhi was trying to acquire a larger market share in an already jam-packed espresso market by adding as many luxurious features as possible: a built-in conical grinder, a smart tamping station, two separate boiling systems for coffee and milk, an analog pressure gauge, 19-bar pump pressure, and active temperature monitoring. However, some of the features didn’t prove to be useful during our testing.
The Specialista is the only machine with a smart tamping station, which means zero mess. After filling the portafilter, we used the lever on the side of the machine to tamp down the coffee grounds and voilà! We were good to go. The coffee received high marks in our taste test, as it consistently pulled full-bodied espresso shots with clarity and flavor. For Americano drinkers, there’s a water spout next to the portafilter for easy dispensing.
Despite the coffee’s delicious taste, the Specialista has some seemingly fancy functions that we don’t think are necessary. First, the 19-bar pump pressure is frivolous. No matter how powerful the water pump (at the back of the machine) is, the output pressure on the grouphead will always be between 9 to 10 bars, which is what an espresso shot requires, no more, no less. A 15-bar pump is what’s needed for that optimal brew head pressure, and the extra pressure will result in water pumped into the drip tray, which is located under the water tank. And with a grinder and two boilers, the machine is the tallest, heaviest, and bulkiest in our roundup. If you live in a small apartment, we don’t suggest investing in this one.
Breville Barista Pro
As we unboxed the Barista Pro, we were immediately impressed by its brushed stainless steel appearance and heavy-duty build quality. It’s the widest among all the machines we tested, resembling a classic La Cimbali espresso machine you might find in an artisanal coffee shop. Once turned on, the machine automatically started a cleaning cycle, dispensing cold and hot water for about two minutes.
The machine comes with a conical built-in burr grinder, an LCD screen, and an adjustable steam wand. The burr grinder offers 30 grind sizes from coarse to fine, while the portafilter can pack up to 19 grams of ground coffee, which can be adjusted from a few seconds to 15 seconds of grinding. The built-in grinder has a smart sensor, which means ground coffee automatically starts to fill in the portafilter once it touches the grinder sensor.
Another highlight of the model is the pre-programmed brew presets, which guarantee the same shot every time you use it. For drinkers who like to explore different settings, the Barista Pro has customization settings that are easy to maneuver with the twist of a knob.
This model features a thermojet heating system and a digital temperature control system (PID), just like the other Brevilles we tested, which primed the machine to be ready in just three seconds. The low-pressure, pre-infusion design allows the coffee ground to soak in water evenly in low-pressure before the high-pressure pump kicks in, giving the coffee consistency and smooth taste. It’s also very simple to use when making an Americano—after pulling a double shot of espresso in a 10-ounce glass, simply trim the knob to the water position and hot water will come directly from a nozzle in the same area as the portafilter spout.
The Barista Pro had the potential to be a winner of our roundup. Sadly, its gigantic size makes it less appealing, as we took portability and counter-space-friendliness into account in our tests. For beginners, the technicality of this machine may also make it intimidating to use. As its name suggests, it may be a better choice for the experienced home baristas with room to spare.
DeLonghi Dedica EC680
As a loyal De’Longhi user, I enjoyed how easy it was to set up the Dedica. It was the slimmest espresso machine in our tests, but the small footprint didn’t affect its overall performance. It has all of the basics: an adjustable steam wand, a sturdy portafilter, and a 15-bar pump, which gives the coffee ground about 9-bar pressure on the grouphead, the optimal pressure for espresso comes with three dual-walled filter baskets, including one for ESE pods.
The steam wand can froth two types of foams: one for lattes and one for cappuccinos. We like the manual milk frothing wand because it allows you to customize the texture of the foam, but there isn’t an option to optimize the temperature. Throughout testing, it frothed average quality foam but didn’t perform well on the microfoam test, which allows users to create latte art.
The other downside of the Dedica is how long it takes to brew a double-shot of espresso—five minutes from start to finish. The Breville Barista Touch, for instance, took two minutes. It also took five attempts for us to dial in a double-shot in under 30 seconds, which was another key criterion to judge if the machine was worth buying. For at-home brewing on a tight budget, the Dedica is sufficient, but requires a good grinder to optimize coffee quality.
Breville Bambino Plus
Like the other espresso machines from Breville, the Bambino Plus has an innovative thermojet heating system, which means it reaches the optimal temperature for a nice shot of espresso faster than a regular espresso machine. It also features, like other Brevilles, the precise temperature control to ensure consistency. Thanks to its compact size, the Bambino Plus is a perfect fit for small apartments with limited countertop space. The 54-millimeter-wide portafilter packs 19 grams of coffee, which is on the heavy side of the traditional espresso weight. In Italy, baristas typically uses 7 grams for ristretto and 14 grams for espresso normale.
The frothing wand boasts the ability to both adjust the temperature and texture of the milk, making it easy to create micro foam for cappuccinos, lattes, and designing latte art for advanced espresso drinkers. The only thing we didn’t like about the frothing wand was how it pulled towards the user, as opposed to pulling to the side, which made it difficult for the user to visually monitor the milk foam.
What knocked the Bambino Plus down a few spots in our testing was its long dial-in time. It doesn’t offer any guidance on dialing in the perfect shot other than eye-balling the weight of coffee grounds, which makes the machine a simplified version by comparison to the upgraded models from Breville. Though it comes with the best heating and pressure system, pulling consistently smooth shots from Bambino Plus was still a struggle for us. Bambino Plus was not a bad product for the job but it was just that other espresso machines performed a better job without any struggle for our testers. The accessories are simple: two dual-walled filter baskets, a tamper, a milk jug, and a razor. I like dual-walled filter baskets, but having options for single-walled baskets allows more creativity for experienced drinkers.
Mr. Coffee Café Barista
Upon first impression, Mr. Coffee’s espresso and cappuccino maker seemed to cover the basic needs: a 15-bar pressure pump, a set of accessories that include a plastic tamper and a scooper, options for single- and double-shot espresso, and an automatic milk frother that takes out all the guesswork when it comes to frothing. Unfortunately, not every feature impressed.
The lid on the water tank doesn’t open or close at a convenient angle, and the automatic milk frother delivered disappointing milk foam that wasn’t made for lattes and cappuccinos. For a similar price, a pod-espresso maker or a pod coffee maker can do a much better job than this model from Mr. Coffee.
What kind of espresso machines are there?
There are two kinds of espresso machines in this world: steam-driven and pump-driven.
Steam-driven machines come in two types: stovetop espresso makers like the Bialetti Moka Express and pump-less electric machines.
Pump-driven machines are much more common and there are more varieties that fall under that umbrella, including:
- Manual Lever Pump: It works just like you’d imagine it would — you manually pump the espresso out by hand with no help from electricity.
- Electronic Pump: With this kind of machine, you set the right temperature and electricity pumps the espresso out for you.
- Semi-Automatic Pump: Here, you grind the beans and tamp them into the filter before turning on the machine. Then, you pump the button to turn it on until the water turns black, at which point you turn it off.
- Automatic Pump: This machine also makes you grind the beans and tamp them into the portafilter. It will automatically turn on to brew the espresso and go off again when it’s done.
- Super Automatic Pump: Finally, a super-automatic machine takes everything out of your hands. It grinds the beans, tamps the grounds into the filter, boils the water, pushes it with lots of pressure, and takes care of the waste for you. It’s very easy, but it’ll cost you a pretty penny.
There are also fully-automatic pod machines like the Nespresso, which require zero assistance from you beyond popping in a pod and pressing a button. All of the espresso makers in this buying guide are either semi-automatic or pod machines.
How to clean your espresso machine
Espresso machines aren’t the easiest things to clean. Every machine is different, but here are some great basic tips for beginners that should apply to most machines.
- Clean the outside regularly. It’s best if you do this before and after each use so that you avoid germs, dust, and other particles interfering with your machine.
- Clean the inside of your machine by running water through it. Each machine will have a slightly different process, and some manufacturers provide tips and suggestions in their user manuals. CoffeeLounge and other sites suggest mixing 2 oz. of vinegar in 20 oz. of water every now and then to clean your machine even more thoroughly. After you use vinegar, though, be sure to rinse your espresso maker three times with water to avoid any lingering vinegar taste in your next drink.
- Clean the frothing wand and grinder. You can dust off extra grounds with a brush. Clean both after each use.
- Disassemble and wash any removable parts. Just pop them in your dishwasher or sink for a good soap and water scrub. You don’t have to do this part every day, but try to do it more than once a month.
- Follow your machine’s instructions. You can also use special espresso cleaners, but be sure to follow all the steps and check for any specific instructions in your machine’s manual.