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Best Espresso Machines for Delicious, Rich Espresso

Espresso dates to 1884, when Angelo Moriondo is believed to have patented the first espresso machine. It was later improved in 1901 by Luigi Bezzera, and then by Desiderio Pavoni, who founded the firm La Pavoni and began the first mass production of espresso machines.

Espresso has become more and more popular in recent years all over the world, due in part to the rise of many popular coffee chains that sell tasty espresso. Espresso is produced by the forcing of hot water under high pressure through specially ground, dark roasted coffee. True espresso is very highly concentrated and almost has a sort of a syrup-like consistency to it. It is a real delight to coffee lovers, when properly made. Fortunately, espresso makers are becoming very common and the prices are dropping. You can get a really quality cup of espresso without breaking the budget (but at the same time, you get what you pay for!).

Our best lists for espresso machines in 2021 include a wide variety of excellent products depending upon your budget. They include best stovetop espresso maker, best manual espresso machine, best semi-automatic espresso machine and best automatic espresso machine. We took great care in judging the quality of the various espresso machines, keeping in mind that to judge the quality of the espresso based upon the general price range of that particular line of products.

What are the best espresso machine of 2021?

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine

The Rancilio Silvia espresso machine provides single cups of a variety of coffee. This unit is designed for home use, yet offers a commercial articulating steam wand which boasts one steam hole tip to control the steam. This machine even has espresso newbies in mind. It offers a Pod kit for beginners, to give them time to learn the proper technique when adding the right amount of ground coffee. The machine comes with a 12-ounce brass boiler and is decked out with three thermostats. Talk about quality this unit boasts a heavy duty pump and a whopping 67 ounce water tank for serious espresso drinkers. This machine is semi-automatic, meaning that it only requires a portion of the work.

Breville Maker Barista Touch Espresso Machine

The Breville Barista is a semi automatic machine which combines both brewing and grinding it one unit, and boasts features commonly found on home espresso machines. PID temperature control ensures extremely accurate brew water which is vital for consistent shots. This feature is so precise that it allows the user to adjust the temperature up or down 4 degrees to ensure each cup of espresso is robust. The Barista also offers a dry puck feature, and a purge system both used to release excessive steam in the drip tray making sure the coffee is not burnt by residual steam in the boiler.

DeLonghi Super-Automatic Espresso Machine

This elite machine is a automatic espresso maker, which means all you have to do is add the beans and water and press a couple buttons and the machine will then grind, tamp, and brew your coffee for you. This unit is fully loaded with power, making it a productivity hog. It has buttons designed to enhance your espresso experience. The Magnifica boasts a digital control panel packed with programmable settings, as well as a built-in burr grinder. The unit also has a one-touch foam system. Not only does this unit make great espresso it also produces delicious cappuccino.

La Pavoni Romantica Espresso Machine

The first name in manual lever machine starts with the Italian made La Pavoni PDH Professional 16-Cup Espresso Machine, and when this work of art is compared to any other machine, they all fall short. It has a built in boiler, so once the water is heated up you lift the lever to allow the water to flow into the filter holder, push the lever down, and get exceptional espresso at up to 20 bars of pressure. There are two nozzles so you can fill two demitasse cups at once and the boiler even builds up enough steam so you can froth milk or cream in a separate pitcher.

This espresso maker also features a gorgeous, steam punk-inspired design. A beautiful, gold plated façade topped off with a rosewood lever handle will allow it to stand out on any countertop. This is by far the most expensive espresso machine on this list, but if you want bragging rights in your neighborhood (or demand the absolute best shot of espresso that can possibly be made) this pick is the only one to have.

Delonghi EC155 Pump-Driven Espresso Machine

While De'Longhi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker has the highest price of our “budget” picks, it’s made in Italy so you know the manufacturer knows thing or two about making terrific espresso. This machine features a removable 35 ounce water tank for easy filling and a front mounted selector dial to easily select the function you want. The frother is on the left side so for all of you right handers it may take a little getting used to. However, if you’re a lefty this is probably the perfect espresso machine for you. You can make two cups at a time and it even comes with a cup warmer so your espresso stays hot until it’s ready to be poured. One drawback is the tamper isn’t the greatest so for best espresso results, you'll need to get an aftermarket replacement.

Buyer's Guide

If you are looking at buying an espresso machine it is probably safe to assume that coffee holds a special priority in your life. After all, if there is one thing you should not compromise on, it is a good cup of coffee.

Having your own espresso machine allows you to brew the perfect cup, the way you like it, at a fraction of the cost you’d pay at a cafe. Many espresso machines include a steam wand to froth milk for cappuccino and lattes. Keep in mind that you cannot skimp on the quality of coffee beans just because you have a fancy machine. The quality of the beans you use, as well as the grind, will always play a major role in a well-brewed cup of java.

In this guide, we’ll explain the four main types of espresso machines and the benefits of each. This will help you determine which type is best for your needs.

What to Consider When Buying an Espresso Machine

The type of machine that is best suited to your needs will depend on:

The Desired Ease of Operation

Some machines simply require you to press a single button to produce your drink, while others require a little more effort, cleaning, and maintenance.

The Features You Require

You may want some extra hi-tech features on your machine, automatic functions, steamers, and frothing nozzles.

Available Counter Space

Espresso machines vary in size from light and compact to large, bulky structures.

Budget

Automatic espresso machines vary greatly in price depending on their features, brand, and size.

Types of Espresso Machines

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

Semi-automatic espresso machines have an electric brewing pump that is manually turned on and off by the user. The user is required to scoop ground espresso into the portafilter handle, install it in place, and press the brew switch to make the coffee. Once the desired amount is brewed, the user manually turns the switch off to stop the process. The operation is straightforward, although it does require some manual involvement and a little experimentation to create the perfect cup.

The price will vary depending on the features, however, even an entry-level pump machine can produce authentic, good quality espresso.

Pros:

  • Semi-automatic espresso machines are relatively simple to operate.
  • Using good quality coffee, they will yield authentic espresso with a thick crema.
  • Semi-automatic machines offer flexibility in terms of coffee grind fineness, volume, and pressure.
  • Many semi-auto machines accept both ESE-style paper espresso pods and pre-ground espresso.
  • There are no circuit boards or complicated internal mechanisms.
  • They don’t require much counter space.

Cons:

  • They have manual functions which means a little experimenting may be required initially.
  • They can be a little messy.
  • Non-pressurized, commercial portafilters are very dependent on the coffee grind fineness and pressure. Both need to be applied optimally to create a good brew. This requires a very fine grind and some practice. Alternatively opt for a pressurized style portafilter that is more flexible, user-friendly, and can use most pre-ground coffees.

Super-Automatic Espresso Machines

Super-automatic espresso machines complete the full brewing process for you at the touch of a button. They include a built-in grinder that automatically grinds the coffee. The machine brews a predetermined amount of java and dumps the used grounds into an internal waste container.

Pros:

  • User-friendly with no expert skills required.
  • Some super-automatic espresso machines can also froth milk for cappuccino using a steam wand or automatic milk frothing system.

Cons:

  • Although results are better than many cafes, semi-automatic machines offer a thicker, creamier brew than super-automatic machines.
  • Super-automatic machines are more complex internally relying on one or more computer boards for the automatic functions.
  • Some models require a little more counter space than semi-auto machines.
  • They are more expensive than semi-automatic machines. Top-end ranges come with extra features, although there may not be a huge difference in the quality of coffee produced. Some higher-end machines may offer the option to use pre-ground coffee as opposed to whole beans and the ability to adjust brew volume and water temperature.

Capsule Espresso Machines

Capsule espresso machines are the epitome of convenience. They use pre-filled capsules with ground coffee. Some models are also equipped with a steam wand or automatic frothing system for cappuccino and lattes.

Pros

  • Capsule espresso machines are user-friendly with no expertise needed.
  • Small compact models requiring little counter space are available
  • There are a wide range of functions and pricing options including dual cup models and integrated milk frothers.

Cons

  • Machines are only compatible with specific types of capsules. Verify the availability of brands, blends, and capsules that are compatible with the machine before buying.
  • Machines can be internally complex requiring a computer board and mechanisms to transport capsules.

Manual Lever Espresso Machines

Manual espresso machines require a great deal of skill and expertise. If you are a purist who wants to spend time experimenting and honing your brewing skills, this one is for you. Brewing variables include the espresso bean quality, pressure, coffee grind fineness, and the manipulation of the brewing lever.

Pros

  • This offers authentic, old-style espresso coffee.
  • Machines are mechanically simple and long-lasting with good maintenance and care.

Cons

  • The machine takes 10 to 15 minutes to warm up since all of the water is heated inside the boiler to build pressure.
  • Manual lever machines take practice to master and require patience. Once you have the hang of it is worth the effort.
  • Manual lever machines only accept fine ground espresso.
  • They are significantly more expensive than other espresso machines and can be a little messy.

Extra Features to Consider When Buying an Espresso Machine

  • Built-In Coffee Grinder
  • Water Filter
  • Cup Warmer
  • Programmable Settings
  • Frothing Wand

Espresso Machine FAQ

Q: How often should you clean an espresso machine?
A: If you use your espresso machine daily, clean it once a week. After every 200 shots of coffee (or 3 to 6 months) a thorough machine cleaning using espresso machine cleaning tablets or powder should be done. Rinse the group head well with clean water after using any cleaning agents.

Q: What will happen if you do not descale your espresso machine?
A: Mineral scale build-up can clog water flow. If it is not removed it can cause your machine to stop working. The water can't reach optimal brewing temperature. This prohibits full flavor extraction from the beans.

Q: What does the term ‘bar’ mean for espresso machines?
A: The term “bar” refers to the pressure (psi) needed to produce a good shot of espresso. With manual lever machines, this is achieved by pulling the lever and applying the correct pressure. Manual machines generally have a pressure gauge to see when to start pulling the shot. Automatic and semi-automatic machines have an internal pump with a bar pressure anywhere from 3.5 to 19 bars.

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