The best espresso machine should be easy to use and create consistently good quality coffee. Espresso comes from the Italian word 'esprimere', meaning 'to press out'. An espresso machine extracts a short, rich coffee by running hot water through the grounds under pressure. There are affordable options, such as the Salter Caffé Barista Pro Espresso Machine, which is a semi-automatic appliance that simplifies espresso-making whilst still giving you control over the brewing. Alternatively, you may prefer the convenience of a coffee machine that uses pods, such as the Nespresso Pixie. Again, it's a doddle to use and brews a delicious, creamy espresso in minutes.
A home espresso machine is a freestanding appliance that sits on a counter with its own water tank, so no plumbing is required, and it's nowhere near as hefty as the coffee machines you'll spot in your local coffee shop. The machine heats the water, making it more energy-efficient than boiling a kettle. The resulting espresso can be a single 40ml serving or a double espresso at 80ml. It's small, but if the beans or grounds are good quality from your favourite coffee subscription service, you'll appreciate the release of aromas and flavour notes - perfect for anyone who loves a good black coffee. You also get a delicious foamy crema on top that contains flavoursome coffee oils.
Best espresso machines at a glance:
• Best for Italian-style espresso: illy X7.1 Iperespresso – View on illy
• Best high-end espresso machine: Sage Bambino Plus – View on Sage
• Best budget espresso machine: Salter Caffé Barista Pro Espresso Machine – View on Amazon UK
For a specialist espresso machine that will form the centrepiece of your home coffee bar, we'd recommend opting for a Sage appliance. Some premium Sage coffee machines have built-in grinders; so you can enjoy an authentic bean-to-cup taste in the comfort of your home. The controls are intuitive, so you can focus on fine-tuning your milk texturing skills with the steam wand. But, cappuccinos and lattes are a whole other story...
However, if you want to recreate those sensational espresso shots you had in Milan – sans the steam and faff – then you may prefer a coffee pod machine. These compact and user-friendly appliances can be as small as a roll of kitchen towel. Fill the water tank, turn it on, pop in a pod and press the brew button. It really is that simple and the quality can be excellent – Lavazza, L'OR and Nespresso are well worth a shot. We've picked out the best espresso machines in our list below.
Best espresso machines
Best for Italian-style espresso
The unique shape of the illy X7.1 Iperespresso is inspired by the 1960s Italian design. With a
- Classic look
- Energy saving
- Automatic descaling
- Only compatible with Iperespresso capsules
Best high-end espresso machine
Sage appliances elevate making coffee into an art and a science. The Sage Bambino Plus is one of
- Compact design
- 3-second heat-up time
- Built-in steamer
- Pre-infuse brewing method
- Takes a little patience perfecting how to brew
Best budget espresso machine
If you're new to espresso machines, you might be unsure about splurging on a costly appliance,
- Easy to use and clean
- Make two cups at once
- Small, so two cups means espresso size cups
Best for budding baristas
For simplicity, quality and value for money, the De'Longhi Dedica Style Traditional Pump Espresso
- Doesn't take up too much worktop space
- Easy to clean
- Barista-style experience
- Steaming function takes some getting to grips with
Best coffee pod machine for espresso
Lavazza A Modo Mio Tiny Espresso Coffee Machine is super easy to operate. Use one button to turn
- Two temperature settings
- Adjustable cup holder
- A must for Lavazza lovers
- Compatible only with A Modo Mio capsules
Best compact espresso machine
With a 20-bar pressure pump this CASABREWS Compact Espresso Machine has professional level
- Strong pump
- Stainless steel
- Simple to use
- Needs a peruse of the instructions in order to use it correctly
Best espresso machine for style
Get steampunk vibes with the Swan Nordic Espresso Machine. The dials and buttons have a vintage
- Brews two cups at once
- Steam wand
- Some reviews comment that it's a little flimsy
Best barista-style espresso machine for ease of use
A great entry-point coffee machine if you want to learn how to brew like a barista. The Breville
- Entry-level to brewing espresso like a barista
- Automatic or manual extraction
- Milk wand is temperamental
Best Nespresso espresso machine
Just like a ristretto, this tiny Pixie packs a punch. It's just 11cm wide, so it's ideal if you're
- Delicious espresso from Nespresso Original pods
- Powerful pump
- No customer review
Best for double espresso
For a concentrated and robust brew at twice the size, choose the L'OR BARISTA Sublime Coffee
- Compatible with Nespresso Original pods
- Double spout
- Makes two drinks at once
- XXL pod exclusive to L’OR
FAQs: Best espresso machine
Why is espresso different from regular coffee?
Espresso is different from regular coffee due to its preparation. Whilst regular filter coffee is prepared through drip extraction, espresso is brewed by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans. This results in a concentrated, rich and flavourful shot with a distinctive crema layer. In addition, lots of accessories are needed in order to make espresso – it's a bit of an art. If you're thinking about becoming a hobbyist barista, there are some essential barista tools you'll need in your arsenal.
Finally – if you don't know your cortado from your ristretto – a helpful guide to the different types of coffee is a must-have, so you can explore the amazing world of coffee-making.
Can I make regular-size coffee in an espresso machine?
When buying a coffee machine, note the difference between appliances that are designed for espresso cups and those that can fit a mug under the spout. If you are looking for mug-size coffee (230ml+) go for a Nespresso Vertuo Next, which is taller and can even accommodate a carafe (500ml).
Alternatively, you can follow the barista method of brewing a shot or two of espresso and pour them into a taller glass, topped up with rich, frothing milk to make a latte.
When an appliance is called an espresso machine it generally implies that it's designed for making small Italian-style coffee.
What brand should I go for?
If you have a budget of £400+ and want the best espresso machine, go for a Sage or KitchenAid appliance. These include bean-to-cup machines that put you in control of the entire process and are a must for aspiring coffee enthusiasts. Nespresso and illy coffee machines range from £100–£600 and have automatic features that make brewing easy and convenient. It's also delicious-tasting coffee.
Mid-range espresso machines are between £100–£250 from Lavazza and L'OR also offer convenience as they are pod-based machines. Finally, if you're looking for the best budget espresso machines, go for Tassimo, Nescafé Dolce Gusto or Salter. These appliances range from £30–£100.
Natalie Knowles is a Homes & Garden Product Writer for Yours, specialising in home appliances. When she's not testing sparkling water makers, she flexes her creative flair as an artist.