The best espresso makers you can buy
True espresso only comes from high-end machines, but now you can have your very own and best espresso maker under 200 at home. The semi-automatic Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso maker is the best one you can buy.
Coffee lovers start out innocently enough with drip filters, French presses, milk frothers, and stovetop espresso makers; but then next thing you know, they’re browsing Amazon for full-on espresso machines with all the bells and whistles. If you’ve reached that stage of coffee addiction, don’t worry, we’re here for you.
We’ve researched everything you need to know about buying a shiny new espresso maker for your home and we’ve combed through the details and reviews for dozens of machines so you don’t have to. Before we get into the best espresso makers you can buy for your home, let’s take a look at all the key terms and information that you need to know to make an informed purchase.
What makes a true espresso?
The Italian Espresso National Institute has very strict standards as to what can be called a true espresso. However, the basic idea is this: Espresso makers force a small amount of nearly boiling water under at least 9 bar of pressure through finely ground coffee to make true espresso.
The result is a thicker, creamier coffee with more caffeine inside. Pressure seems to be the key defining metric of making real espresso, and that’s why stovetop espresso machines don’t produce “real” espresso, according to the experts (but we still highly recommend them for anyone on a budget).
There are two kinds of espresso makers 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. Neither are featured in this buying guide, but you can read all about our favorite stovetop espresso makers here.
Pump-driven makers are much more common and there are more varieties that fall under that umbrella, according to CoffeLounge.
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 maker, you set the right temperature and electricity pumps the espresso out for you.
Semi-Automatic Pump: Here, you’ll 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 maker also makes you grind the beans and tamp them into the portafilter. The machine 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 machines in this buying guide are either semi-automatic or pod machines with one exception: the Minipresso, which is a manual, travel espresso machine.
Things you’ll need to make espresso
Some machines come with all the accessories you need to make espresso, but others don’t. Check to see if your machine includes any accessories before you buy them. You will need a grinder to have freshly ground espresso, a milk frother or a milk frothing pitcher if you like foamy milk for cappuccinos or lattes, and a tamper to press down the coffee grounds before you make espresso. We explain why you need each one and recommend which ones to buy below:
Grinder: If your machine doesn’t have a grinder built-in and it doesn’t use pods, you’ll need to buy a grinder. Burr grinders are best, and you should try to get the most powerful one you can find. It’s key to have evenly ground coffee that’s meant for an espresso machine. You’ll get the most flavor and crema out of perfectly ground beans. Here’s a budget option: Buy the Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Mill on Amazon for $39.49 and a top-of-the-line option: Buy the Rancilio Rocky Espresso Coffee Grinder on Amazon for $355.00
Frother: You’ll need a milk frothing pitcher for most of these machines and a milk frother for others on this list. If your machine doesn’t have a steam frothing wand, you can read our full guide on the best milk frothers here. If your machine has a steam frothing wand but no frothing pitcher, you can buy the Rattleware 20-Ounce Latte Art Milk Frothing Pitcher on Amazon for $18.75
Tamper: This nifty tool evenly presses your grounds so you can make the most out of your coffee beans while making espresso. Buy the Rattleware 53-Millimeter Aluminum Tamper on Amazon for $22.95
Cleaning and maintenance
Espresso makers aren’t the easiest things to clean. Every maker is different, but CoffeeLounge has 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 maker by running water through it. Each maker will have a slightly different process, and some manufacturers provide tips and suggestions in user manuals. CoffeeLounge and other suggest mixing 2 oz. of vinegar in 20 oz. of water every now and then to clean out the machine even more thoroughly. After you use vinegar, though, be sure to rinse it three times with water to avoid any lingering vinegar taste in your next espresso.
Clean the frothing wand and grinder. You can dust off extra grounds with a brush. Clean both after each use.
Disassemble and wash any parts that you can take off and 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 these steps and check the special instructions your machine has in the manual.