The best espresso machine for every skill level

What else do we try?

A manual espresso machine on a countertop


Isabel Fernandez/Insider


What else we recommend and why:

Less than $500

Breville Bambino ($299.95): Breville’s latest addition, the Bambino, is its most stripped-down offering. If this is the measure of your budget and you want a true machine (as opposed to a device), this is the best you can do. Breville cut a few shortcuts here because it had to, and the trade-offs we’ve noted compared to the Bambino Plus (which we favor) are: an aluminum portafilter (as opposed to steel which retains more heat), pressurized portafilter baskets (for good coffee and pressure, you’ll want the non-pressurized ones), it generates less pressure than the Plus. You can still make a great espresso with this machine, you’ll just have to order a few extra accessories to do so.

Breville Bambino Plus ($499.95): If you already own a grinder and have your heart set on a Breville machine but can’t decide on the Duo Boiler, this is essentially the Barista series but without the built-in grinder.

AeroPress ($34.95): The Aeropress is a great coffee-making tool that many coffee snobs keep on the kitchen counter, where it’s their only coffee-making device. What you get from an Aeropress is something like finely pressed French press coffee with a generous layer of foam, but it’s not exactly an espresso. For many, this simple little plastic device will suffice. Also, its portability makes it useful for outdoor use.

Less than $1000

Breville Barista Express ($699.95): It was almost a mess between the Express and the Pro, and while we lament the loss of the pressure gauge on the Pro in favor of an LCD interface, it’s a faster, smoother machine. That said, if you want to save a couple of hundred bucks (price varies a lot on this machine), Barista Express is a great alternative.

De’Longhi The Specialist ($899.95): A very close competitor to the Breville Barista Express, the De’Longhi La Specialista is nearly identical in design, but comes with a built-in tamper that eliminates a lot of chance for user error, which we like, but many people prefer to use a tamper and/or or leveler. Still, it’s about the same price and comes with a three-year warranty instead of the one-year warranty that Breville offers. This is another machine to seriously consider.

Style 58 ($575): The Flair 58 is a newer, beefier version of previous Flair models, and the best manual machine we’ve tested, but it will cost you. That said, if he prefers to get extremely obsessive and doesn’t want to spend too much money, the Flair will beat our previous recommendations, and we highly recommend ordering one.

Gaggia Brera ($539): We found this automatic to be quite good, but its shots don’t compare to the Gaggia Classic Pro due to the built-in grinder that allows for minimal adjustments. Still, if you want an all-in-one automatic machine that can do it all when it comes to espresso drinks, it’s noticeably more affordable than much of its competition, and passable, albeit big and clunky.

The Pavoni Europiccola ($968.87): Lever machines with built-in boilers are among the best on the market for two reasons: they’re affordable (compared to commercial machines), and they’re built like tanks, so they’ll outlast anything. The problem is that learning how to get a good shot of espresso out of one of these things is a real challenge, and it takes time. If you are willing to follow the steps, we recommend it, but you have a long journey ahead of you.

Less than $2000

Breville double boiler ($1,599.95): We’ve used this machine a couple of times and professionals like Lance Hedrick of Onyx Coffee Lab and Dan Kehn of Home-Barista.com call this the Breville masterpiece. Like any of Breville’s newer, higher-tier machines, it offers some of the fastest heat-up times and is highly tweakable, so you can adjust the brew temperature and even (via a trick) the pressure. of preparation.

What we do not recommend and why:

Over the past few years, we’ve tested around a dozen of the most popular espresso machines and another handful of Nespresso and Illy capsule machines. Since there are now more options in the form of third-party pods and refillable pods for Nespresso machines (there are currently no refillable Illy pods), you should go with Nespresso. The model we recommend above is among the most affordable, and there is little point in splurging when you decide to buy a capsule machine. If you want foamy drinks, consider investing in a separate frother, which is easier to use Y cleansed.

Breville Bambino Plus ($499.95): This machine worked almost as well as the Breville Barista Express or Pro, but didn’t seem to pack as much power and is more designed for those moving from a pod machine. Considering the price and the difficulty of repairing a Breville machine that is out of warranty, we think the Gaggia Classic Pro is a better option. Still, we’re testing the new Bambino (not to be confused with the Bambino Plus we are discussing here) and we will discuss our findings in the next update.

Cuisinart EM-200 ($237.49): This machine almost made espresso, but we couldn’t produce the thick elixir that we got from machines in the $450 and up range. If you are going to spend around $200, it is better to go for a manual device or a capsule machine. That said, some might find it passable in a cappuccino or latte.

De’Longhi Stilosa ($99.99): This machine replaced the De’Longhi 155 15-Bar, which made decent frothy coffee. However, like the Cuisinart, the Stilosa delivered something a bit more watery than espresso and more akin to French Press or AeroPress coffee. Like the Cuisinart EM-200, it may be passable in cappuccinos or lattes, but a pod machine or manual device will give you a better espresso for the same price.

Rancilio Silvia Pro PID ($1,690): This is a pro machine for the home, but like a pro race car, it works best in the hands of a pro, and might be something best worked on, not started. It also didn’t seem to let the lighter roasts shine, which we asked our expert, Dan Kehn, about, who agreed. Still, it’s a powerful machine that will allow you to make superlative shots, but with a lot of practice and a bad espresso down the drain.

Smeg ($529.95): This is a cute little machine and it certainly has a drawback, but it pumps out more watery shots than we’d like, and for the price, it’s just not competitive.

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