Best Espresso Machines of 2018

Danny Chadwick ·
Multimedia & Home Improvement Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We’ve been reviewing the best espresso machines for seven years. In that time, we’ve spent hundreds of hours researching, testing, rating and ranking numerous products; made countless caffeinated beverages; and consulted with baristas and other professionals in the coffee industry. At the end of our most recent analysis, we chose the Breville Infuser as the overall best espresso maker because it was easy to use and created the highest quality espresso with the freshest flavor. This is the perfect espresso maker for the coffee connoisseur’s kitchen, and it eliminates trips to overpriced coffee houses to get your morning boost. 

Best Overall
Breville Infuser
The Breville Infuser’s programmable drink buttons, advanced heating technology, first-rate frothing capabilities and high-quality tamper help it make fresh and tasty espresso shots every time you use it.
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Best Value
Mr. Coffee Café Barista
This machine is good for the coffee lover on a budget. It not only makes decent-quality espresso, but it also has a convenient milk frother for making cappuccinos and lattes.
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Best Pod Machine
CitiZ&milk
This is the perfect machine for people who don’t want to grind coffee beans or deal with a portafilter. You can have an outstanding drink in less than a minute.
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Product
Price
Overall Rating
Performance
Convenience
Accessories
Warranty
Espresso Quality
Frothing Quality
Ease of Use
Pressure (bars)
Water Reservoir (liters)
Programmable Buttons
Auto Shut-off
Total Filter Baskets
Milk Frother
Milk Jug
Warranty Period (years)
$449.95 Amazon
9.2 9.2 9.4 10 5
100%
100%
60%
15
1.8
1
4
1
$389.88 Amazon
9.1 10 10 6.7 5
80%
90%
100%
19
1
2
0
1
$275.00 Amazon
7 8.6 6 5.8 2.5
70%
80%
90%
15
1.1
0
3
-
0.5
$199.99 Amazon
6 7.5 3 7.5 5
60%
60%
80%
15
0.5
1
-
2
1
$185.76 Amazon
6 6.5 6 4.2 10
40%
40%
80%
15
2
1
-
2
-
3
$369.00 Amazon
5.5 7.1 4 4.2 5
75%
50%
60%
15
2.1
0
-
2
-
1
$79.99 Amazon
5.1 6.9 5.4 7.5
50%
0%
100%
20
0.7
2
-
0
-
-
2
$105.99 Amazon
4.9 6.7 2 5 5
40%
80%
50%
15
1.1
0
-
3
-
1
Best Overall
The most important thing to know about the Breville Infuser is it makes high-quality, tasty espresso. In fact, its espresso scored the highest in our taste tests. This is no surprise since it has a pre-infusion system, which means the machine soaks your coffee grounds before it begins extracting. This results in a fresher, more flavorful shot.
Pre-infusion technology is normally reserved for more expensive and professional machines, so it’s big boon to have it on a consumer-level model such as this one. Some of the products we reviewed take several minutes to bring water to the appropriate temperature, but the Breville Infuser has a thermocoil heating system that warms water in less than a minute. This is especially important if you have a tight morning routine or need to get out the door in a hurry. The Infuser makes it easy to brew espresso with its two dedicated buttons: one for a single shot and one for a double shot. There’s also a programmable button you can set to your own unique preferences; once that’s done, all you do is put your cup under the spout and push the button. This espresso maker also creates excellent froth. It comes with a stainless-steel milk jug that you place under the frothing wand. If you know what you’re doing, it only takes a few seconds to get high-quality, tasty froth. The last feature worth noting is the machine’s tamper. All the other models we tested included tampers made of flimsy plastic that were only marginally effective. The Breville Infuser includes a weighty metal tamper that can make a properly even tamp – something the rest of the machines we reviewed were sorely lacking.
Pros
  • Includes a high-quality metal tamper
  • Makes excellent froth
  • Heats water fast
Cons
  • Is one of the loudest machines we reviewed
  • Takes a while to master all its features
  • Is only under warranty one year
$499.95Amazon
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Best Value
The first thing you should know about the Mr. Coffee Café Barista is it’s far from the perfect machine. Its temperature can be inconsistent, it can get a bit messy and the quality of its espresso varies from shot to shot.
That said, it’s great for people who love coffee but don’t want to bust the bank for a machine that costs hundreds of dollars more. What makes this espresso machine stand out above other similarly priced models is it’s relatively simple to use. It has a three convenient preprogrammed drink buttons on the front: one for espresso, one for cappuccino and one for latte. Once the portafilter is in place, just set your cup underneath and the machine does the rest for you. The Café Barista’s milk frother is unique in that it’s part of the machine itself, rather than the standard jug and wand setup. The milk compartment fits neatly next to the portafilter and froths at the push of a button. When it’s done, you simply slide the nozzle over and froth pours right into your cup. It’s very convenient – even if the quality of the froth leaves a little to be desired.
Pros
  • Best value for the price
  • Integrated milk frother
  • Dedicated buttons for making espresso, cappuccino and latte
Cons
  • Water temperature tends to be inconsistent
  • Milk frother can make a bit of a mess
  • Taste varies from shot to shot
$164.99Amazon
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Best Pod Machine
Of the two pod espresso machines we reviewed, the CitiZ&milk is the best by a mile. And it’s not only the best pod machine we tested, but it’s also the easiest and fastest way to get your morning cup. In our tests, we found that it takes less than a minute from when you turn on the machine to when you have your espresso, latte or cappuccino.
This is thanks to the machine’s great design – all you have to do is place a pod (or capsule) in the top of the machine, close the lid and press one button, and you’ll have a flavorful espresso shot in short order. The coffee the CitiZ&milk made was among our testing team’s favorites. And the crema was as good as or better than that made by the ground-based espresso makers we tested. This machine also comes with the best automatic milk frother we saw. It’s a handsome thermos-style jug that fits on a base connected to the machine itself. Simply fill the jug with milk, place it on the base and hit the start button. The CitiZ&milk’s specially designed spring swirls the milk around to frothy perfection. It’s truly the best froth produced by any espresso machine we tested.
Pros
  • Is the easiest machine to use
  • Brews high-quality espresso quickly
  • Makes outstanding froth
Cons
  • Uses expensive Nespresso-branded pods
  • Has a relatively small water reservoir
  • Includes a lot of parts for such a small machine
$449.00Amazon
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Best for Artistic Frothing
Creating espresso art requires a combination of skill, milk and an espresso machine capable of creating the right kind of froth. In our tests, which included a team of reviewers and a professional barista, the DeLonghi EC-685 emerged as the best espresso machine for creating artistic froth. It creates the perfect foam consistency for you to manipulate coffee and milk into whatever designs you want. The professional barista even said the quality was on par with a professional espresso machine. The art you create in the froth is only limited by your imagination, skill and patience at not drinking the coffee. In addition, the DeLonghi earned one of the highest ease of use scores. It received a 9 out of 10 in the review of the espresso machine's controls. For coffee drinkers familiar with how espresso is made, the machine is easy enough to operate immediately out of the box. For novices, it may take a little longer, but not long to master.
Pros
  • Artisanal frothing quality
Cons
  • Doesn't come with a milk jug
$275Amazon
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Most Affordable
Espresso machines are not cheap. Most consumer-level espresso machines cost around $500 and can run as high as $1,200. If you love espresso but can't afford to spend that much, the Aicok is your best option. At under $85, it's the most affordable espresso machine we tested. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. In our taste test, it received a 5 out of 10, the second lowest scoring espresso machine. It received a 0 out of 10 in the frothing test, in part because it doesn't have frothing capabilities. This means you can't create cappuccinos and lattes or other froth-heavy coffees. In addition, it only makes one cup at a time because it has a small water reservoir capable of holding just 0.7 liters. However, it received one of the highest ease-of-use scores because it's a pod-based espresso machine. You just add the coffee-pod and it makes the espresso automatically. Fast and affordable.
Pros
  • Very affordable espresso
Cons
  • Performed poorly in taste test
$79.99Amazon
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

Top Ten Reviews started reviewing espresso machines in 2011. Since then, we’ve spent hundreds of hours performing hands-on test, doing in-depth research, and consulting with baristas and other experts in the coffee industry.

Recently, we had a barista come to our lab to instruct our testing team on how to make good coffee, as well as tell us what she thought people should look for in a home espresso machine. She said one of the most important factors is how much water pressure the machine can push through the portafilter. She also stressed the importance of the tamper and expressed concern about the subpar plastic ones included with most of the machines we reviewed. The tamper is so important, she recommends you spend some extra money and get a durable metal one, rather than use the plastic ones that come with most espresso makers.


We compared the machines’ features, benefits and drawbacks, focusing on espresso and froth quality, ease of use, pressure specifications, portafilter quality, tamper quality, and more. Our final scores, recommendations and reviews are informed by data collected during testing, advice from the barista and our team members’ personal experiences with the machines. All our tests were designed to simulate the real-life experiences of the average consumer.

How Much Do Espresso Machines Cost?

At the most basic level, you can get a stove-top espresso maker for about $30. Of course, this there are more steps, it takes longer and requires more expertise to do correctly. If you want a simple, single-cup pod-style espresso machine, you might spend between $40 and $150, depending on the frothing capabilities, water reservoir size and other features. The most popular espresso machines cost between $150 and $200, but if you're really into concentrated coffee, consider the espresso machines between $450 and $1,200. These are the machines capable of producing professional café quality espresso in your kitchen.

How We Tested

Every espresso machine we reviewed was subjected to a battery of tests conducted by a member of our reviewing team and our expert barista.

Espresso Quality Test

As we evaluated espresso, we considered its color, texture, temperature and flavor, as well as its crema. We used the same type of coffee, amount of coffee, tamping pressure and coarseness of grind in each test. The machines that produced espresso with proper crema and the best balance in flavor earned higher scores.

Frothing Quality Test
During this test, we used each machine to steam milk to approximately the same temperature – 150 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit. We used the same amount of milk for each espresso maker, and those that created the creamiest, sweetest and tightest microfoam scored higher.

Ease of Use Test

We scored each machine based on how easy it is to learn to use, how clear its instructions are and how intuitive it is. We graded on a curve because manual espresso makers are harder to figure out than pod machines. The makers that were easiest to use earned higher scores than those that were more difficult.

What to Look for in the Best Espresso Machines

Performance
A perfect shot should have a balance of sweet, acidic and bitter flavors; it should be hot but not scorching; and it should have a thick layer of crema on top. With the help of a seasoned barista, we tested each espresso machine with the same brand, roast and grind of coffee for each shot pulled – initially, anyway.

The result from each espresso machine was different. We found that machines without pressurized portafilters, or filter baskets, required a finer grind. It was easy to spot the high-quality shots by their crema alone, but we also relied on testers' taste buds to determine which machines made the most consistent and tasty espresso.

Since an espresso machine doubles as a cappuccino maker, we tested each one’s ability to create tight microfoam out of a variety of milks, including whole, low-fat, skim, soy and almond milk. We used exactly 4 ounces of milk for each steaming test and made sure to heat it to about 150 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit. There were a few automatic steamers that produced better results than the steam wands because they are regulated, but you don’t get as much control.

Most commercial espresso machines use only 9 bars (a unit of measurement that refers to atmospheric pressure) of pressure, which is all that’s needed to properly brew a good cup of espresso. Most espresso machines made for home use list that they use 15 bars or more. The difference here is in the type of pump they use, and it’s why the best commercial espresso machines cost more. The vibratory pumps home espresso machines use need to create 15 bars of pressure to get the required 9 bars to the portafilter. However, anything more than 15 bars is superfluous.

Convenience

Automatic espresso makers are much easier to use than manual machines, so when we evaluated how easy they are to use, we graded on a curve. With a manual machine, you need a basic understanding of how fine you should grind your coffee beans and how much pressure to apply when tamping them in the portafilter. An auto machine doesn’t require any expertise. Once you understand how to grind your beans and pull a quality shot, though, it’s like second nature.

We started by timing how long each espresso maker took to heat up, but we gave up because every machine was ready to brew in less than a minute. However, some machines require you prime the pump, or rather, the boiler. It’s a good habit to get into and only needs to be done when you haven’t used the machine in a while. Self-priming machines are more convenient and more hands-off than the others.

It’s also important to know what sort of maintenance your espresso maker needs. We cleaned each machine according to the manufacturer’s suggestions and noted how difficult it was, then assigned the maker a comprehensive maintenance score.


Little details, such as a removable cup tray or adjustable grouphead that allows for bigger cups, are important to consider. We also noted which machines include a cup-warming tray, which is convenient because espresso cools very quickly. A larger water reservoir cuts down on maintenance, and an auto-shutoff is an invaluable safety feature, especially on mornings when you’re just not awake enough to remember to turn off the machine.

Safety
We checked the temperature of each espresso machine’s exterior as it brewed. Most of the machines were warm to the touch but didn’t burn. A status light that lets you know when the espresso machine is on can also help prevent accidental burns, in case you inadvertently press buttons. Makers with an auto shut-off feature received more credit than those without one.

Accessories

The best espresso machines include all the pieces you need to get started right away, although none of the makers we reviewed include shot glasses. We didn’t score products based on their accessories because these extras don’t make or break the quality of the machine. Also, some of the best cappuccino makers are either super automatic or pod machines that don’t require the extra bits.

Some manufacturers include a pitcher for frothing milk so you can make a cappuccino or mocha right out of the box. The semi-automatic espresso machines include at least one portafilter, but some may include a second one or a pod-adaptable filter. Most makers also come with a tamping tool, and some include a measuring spoon.

Warranty & Support

Espresso machine warranties vary between one and two years. We found that the best home espresso makers we tested offer support at least by email, and most of them offer phone customer care. Other manufacturers offer live chat assistance, too. All the espresso machines we tested have user manuals you can access online.