If you are in pursuit of the perfect espresso, an espresso machine is one of the best ways to jump into this quest. These days it is more and more common to see a home espresso machine on the kitchen counter. It is both a means to save money and to enjoy a good coffee at home.
However, the sheer number of espresso makers on the market can be daunting. There is everything from machines priced less than a hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars.
We have compiled a list of the best espresso machines of 2023 and a buying guide to help you find the right model for you. In this guide, we will focus on the best espresso machines under $2000. For this price, you should be able to get a high-quality machine capable of pulling a decent shot of espresso, but it obviously won’t compare to commercial-grade espresso makers.
What Are The Different Types Of Espresso Machines?
Before we dive into the list of the Best Espresso Machines, here is a brief rundown of the different types of espresso machines.
Manual Espresso Maker
Manual espresso machines have grown in popularity in recent years. These machines are non-electric and rely on a hand-operated lever to generate the pressure required for espresso. While these machines are beautiful and hipster, they are tricky to use and have a steep learning curve. They also are strictly for straight espresso and do not have the option of steaming milk. A manual espresso maker won’t be a great fit for most people. However, this would be a superb option for the espresso enthusiast. A manual espresso maker offers the greatest level of control and can deliver some of the best quality espresso shots.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
A semi-automatic espresso machine is the most popular type of espresso machine. These types of espresso machines use an electric pump to maintain consistent pressure and flow. The user controls all other aspects of brewing, from grinding and tamping the beans to starting and stopping the extraction. Most semi-automatic machines come with a built-in steam wand, and some have a coffee grinder as well. These machines are a great way to learn to brew espresso. A semi-automatic espresso machine is the best option for the everyday barista.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
A super-automatic espresso machine is the flip opposite of a manual espresso maker. Here the espresso machine does virtually everything for the user. From grinding beans to dosing and tamping, then pulling a shot. Some super-automatics even froth milk for you. These machines allow a small level of customization such as altering the grind size, temperature, and strength. The downside is that they are usually large, bulky machines and are expensive. These machines are for the person wanting good coffee without the fuss. Because these machines are so expensive we have not included any on this list. In our opinion, you get better bang for your buck with a semi-automatic espresso machine. However, if you are interested in a super-automatic see our guide to the best super-automatic espresso machines.
The final category is capsule machines like Nespresso machines. These machines are a bit controversial in the coffee world as they don’t technically produce real espresso. But they are worth considering if you are looking for a simple coffee maker that produces a consistent cup of coffee. With these machines, you simply pop a capsule in and push a button to produce coffee. The Nespresso machines often come bundled with a milk frother allowing you to produce coffee shop drinks from the comfort of your own home. If you have a small budget a capsule machine could be the way to go, however, you do also have to factor in the cost of the capsules. A capsule machine is a good option for someone who prioritizes convenience over taste.
In this guide to the best espresso machine, we are mainly going to focus on semi-automatic espresso machines. This type of machine is going to be the best option for the majority of home baristas. A semi-automatic espresso machine offers the best combination of features and value for money. In addition, these machines allow you to hone your barista skills and grow in the craft.
Best Espresso Machine 2023
We have listed the best espresso machines in order of price rather than superiority so you can find the best espresso machine within your budget.
Best Budget Espresso Machine
The Delonghi Dedica is an elegant and affordable espresso machine for the brewer on a budget. Delonghi is a well-known name in the coffee industry, with a reputation for producing quality machines.
The Delonghi Dedica is one of their more basic machines that is aimed at beginners. It has a few things going for it, the first being the compact size. The Dedica has a slim, space-saving design, great for those with limited countertop space. Despite its small size, the Dedica has a powerful 15-bar pump and a thermoblock heating system that has the machine ready to use within 35 seconds.
The machine is simple to operate and has only three buttons on the front to select either a single or double shot or steam. A dial on the side of the machine is used to control the steam wand. The Dedica comes with 3 double-walled baskets to cater to pre-ground coffee or ESE pods. These baskets are helpful for beginners, allowing you to pull crema-rich shots even if the coffee is not dialed in precisely. However, it does eliminate the option of using freshly ground coffee, unless you invest in a single-walled basket.
In fitting with the beginner-friendly vibe, the Dedica has a Pannarello steam wand. This is an attachment on the wand that helps introduce air into the milk. While it makes frothing milk foolproof, it does create thick frothy foam rather than silky microfoam.
Given the low price point, there are some sacrifices in the design. While the machine has an elegant design, it does have a lot of plastic in the build, which affects durability. The Delonghi Dedica is a very basic coffee maker with no extra bells and whistles. One example of this is that the Dedica does not have a solenoid valve (which drains the water from the puck) making the group head very messy after pulling a shot. The drip tray is also very small, requiring frequent emptying.
If you are a beginner looking for a budget espresso machine that is simple to operate, the Delonghi Dedica is up your alley. However, we would suggest that if your budget could stretch a bit further it would be better to invest in a machine with better build quality and one that will grow with you.
Gaggia Classic Pro
The Gaggia Classic Pro is one of the most popular entry-level espresso machines that has been around for over 10 years. The fact that there have been very few updates to the coffee maker is a testament to the timeless design. The Gaggia is known to be an absolute workhorse with the best build quality among budget machines. It is not uncommon to see decade-old machines still churning out espresso.
The Gaggia Classic has a basic design with three rocker switches to manually control the power, brewing, and steaming. Despite this, it is not quite as easy to master as some other machines. The Gaggia lacks some of the more modern features to simplify brewing. Out of the box, the machine is set to 15 bars brewing pressure rather than the desired 9 bars of pressure. This is to cater to pre-ground coffee, however, if you are wanting to use freshly ground coffee you will need to install an OPV mod to lower this pressure.
The Gaggia Classic also doesn’t have PID temperature control, so struggles to maintain a stable brewing temperature. You can get around this with temperature surfing or by installing a PID kit (but this is an extra expense you will need to factor in). Despite these quirks, the Gaggia Classic Pro yields surprisingly delicious and complex shots, with thick crema.
The Gaggia Classic Pro comes with a commercial-sized 58mm portafilter and both double and single-walled baskets. It also comes fitted with a commercial steam wand. Being a single boiler machine, there is a delay when switching between brewing and steaming. The boiler in the Gaggia is small which means it is quick to start up, however, it struggles to produce strong steam power. The steam wand itself is mediocre and certainly lacking when compared to more modern machines like the Breville Bambino Plus. Given this, the Gaggia is more geared toward espresso lovers.
While the lack of features in the Gaggia Classic Pro may put some espresso lovers off, it is the perfect machine for the hobbyist barista who doesn’t mind tinkering with a few parts. The Gaggia Classic Pro is affordable, superbly built, and produces delicious espresso. There is also a huge online following offering tips and guides to brewing with the Gaggia. If you are serious about espresso the Gaggia Classic Pro is worth considering.
Breville Bambino Plus
Best Value Espresso Machine
The Breville Bambino Plus is one of Breville’s latest machines that offers superb value for money, considering the features included in the machine. The Bambino Plus has a simple design, with a grand total of five buttons to control the machine (Single or Double Shot, Steam, Milk Temperature, and Level of Froth). This paired-back design makes it intuitive to use and a good option for newbies.
Inside the machine is packed with cutting-edge technology to ensure it delivers delicious espresso. The Breville Bambino Plus has a low-pressure pre-infusion and PID temperature control for well-extracted shots. But the most impressive feature is the Thermojet heating system. This system has the machine ready to brew within 3 seconds of turning it on and allows you to switch between brewing and steaming with virtually no wait time.
The other stand-out feature of the Breville Bambino Plus espresso machine is the automatic steam wand. The user simply has to place a pitcher of milk under the wand and the machine produces coffee shop quality milk with no skill required from the barista. The temperature of the milk can be adjusted between 50, 70, and 90 C, and the texture of the milk is selected from three different levels. The steam wand can also be used manually as you advance in your skills.
The Breville Bambino Plus has a compact footprint and a sleek, modern design that will look good in any kitchen. It comes with all the accessories required to start brewing including a tamper, dose-trimming tool, milk pitcher, and cleaning tools. The only downside is that the machine only comes with dual-walled filter baskets designed for pre-ground coffee. All-in-all, the Breville Bambino Plus espresso machine is outstanding, yielding rich, consistent shots and steaming perfectly textured milk with little skill required. This is a great value machine for the beginner.
Best Manual Espresso Machine
The Flair 58 is the latest manual espresso machine to be released by the popular Flair Espresso. It is a lever machine that is aimed at the hobbyist barista. These types of machines use a lever, rather than a mechanical pump to create pressure. Manual espresso machines are the latest trend among home espresso enthusiasts, as they give the brewer complete control over every aspect of brewing including temperature and pressure.
Brewing with a manual espresso maker is certainly not for everyone. They have a steep learning curve and the workflow is more involved than with an electric espresso machine. The Flair 58 is unique in that it mitigates some of the eccentricities of brewing with a manual espresso maker by including an electronic temperature control system that preheats the brewing chamber. This system keeps the brewing head (not the water) at a low, medium, or high temperature. While you still have to boil water separately, this removes the need to preheat the machine, which is a welcome addition.
Asides from this, the Flair 58 is a striking machine that just looks incredible on any benchtop. The Flair 58 has a heavy-duty black frame, complemented with wooden accents. It comes with a commercial-sized 58mm portafilter and a pressure gauge which is helpful for pressure profiling. The lever has an ergonomic design, making it easy to pull down and generate pressure.
The Flair 58 pulls a superb shot of espresso, but it is strictly espresso, there is no milk frother included. If you are a coffee geek and want to get into pressure profiling and playing around with different styles of espresso shots, the Flair 58 offers you the flexibility to do this at a very affordable price point.
Breville Barista Express
Best Espresso Machine with grinder
The Breville Barista Express is one of Breville’s top-selling machines and has been a long-time favorite among beginners. The Barista Express offers everything required to start brewing including a built-in grinder, manual steam wand, and a bunch of accessories. The machine itself is rather bulky (not surprising considering it has a built-in grinder), but has a modern, polished design. It comes in two color options; stainless steel or black to fit with most kitchen aesthetics.
Inside, the machine is packed with features like PID temperature control and a low-pressure pre-infusion to yield delicious, well-extracted espresso. The machine is fairly straightforward to use, however, does have a steep learning curve initially. There are preset single and double-shot buttons for brewing espresso. There is also a helpful pressure gauge on the front of the machine to indicate extraction pressure. This is a good guideline to see if the coffee is dialed in correctly.
The Breville Barista Express comes with an integrated stainless steel conical burr grinder, offering 16 settings. This small number of grind settings is sufficient for a beginner but far inferior to an external grinder. The grinder doses directly into the portafilter, with options to set a dose for single and double shots, or grind manually.
The Breville Barista Express also comes with a manual steam wand, which isn’t amazing but does the job. It also comes with a huge array of accessories including a milk jug, magnetic tamper, single and double-walled filter baskets, dose trimming tool, and cleaning products. If you are a beginner looking for an affordable espresso setup the Barista Express is the machine for you.
Best Italian Espresso Machine
The Rancilio Silvia, or Miss Silvia as she is affectionately called, is another iconic espresso machine that has been around for 20+ years. She has a cult following among home baristas with a reputation for lasting for decades and producing thick, textured shots of espresso.
The Rancilio Silvia displays quality craftsmanship that stands the test of time. With a simple design, the Silvia is easy to service and has spare parts readily available should anything go wrong. Rancilio has prioritized a high-quality build rather than features. Inside the machine is a large 12 oz brass boiler. The boiler is durable and can produce multiple drinks back on back before needing to reheat.
The Silvia is controlled by four manual rocker switches for power, brewing, hot water, and steam. The machine is capable of pulling some mean espresso shots, which is why it has such a large following. However, there are some caveats to this. Like the Gaggia Classic Pro, the Silvia lacks a PID system so is finicky to use. To get around this, you can use temperature surfing to flush overheater water out of the boiler. The other option is to retrofit a PID or purchase a machine with a PID controller already installed.
The steam wand is one of the best in its class, offering good steam power and a full range of motion. The Rancilio Silvia is a better option than the Gaggia if you like milk-based drinks.
While the Rancilio Silvia boasts quality construction it lacks some of the modern conveniences offered by other machines like a PID system, hot water spout, and removable water tank. Despite this, it is an excellent starting machine for those who are serious about espresso. It is superbly built, produces delicious espresso, and has good steam power and there is a huge community behind it, offering support and tips.
Breville Dual Boiler
Best For the espresso enthusiast
The Breville Dual Boiler is a popular prosumer espresso machine. While it may look like a simple appliance, it is packed with high-end features. As the name would suggest, the Dual Boiler has two boilers, both governed by an electronic PID. This feature is common among the more premium machines and allows the barista to pull a shot and steam milk simultaneously. This confers a huge advantage in speeding up workflow, particularly if you are brewing multiple espresso drinks back on back. The Dual Boiler is fitted with a manual steam wand and while this is more powerful than those found on entry-level machines, it doesn’t compare to a commercial steam wand. The dedicated steam boiler does, however, produce drier steam which creates a better milk texture.
Another noteworthy feature of the Dual Boiler is that it offers a huge amount of control over brewing parameters. Almost everything can be customized from adjusting the brewing or steam temperature to setting the pre-infusion duration and pressure or programming the shot time or volume. This level of control is rarely seen on espresso machines at this price point and is a big selling point for espresso enthusiasts. All of the settings are customized via the LCD screen.
It is also worth mentioning that the Dual Boiler is often modded. The most popular modifications are installing the Acaia Lunar Scale into the drip tray and what is termed the Slayer Mod, which repurposes the hot water knob to allow it to control extraction pressure. These mods are by no means necessary but do allow the machine to grow with you if you want to get into pressure profiling.
Like all the Breville machines, the Dual Boiler has a thoughtful design. This is seen in the little things from the retractable wheels on the bottom, making it easy to move around, to the huge water tank that can be filled from either the back or front of the machine. A shot clock starts with espresso extraction allowing you to time shots. And the Dual Boiler also has a programmable auto-on function to start the machine automatically.
The Breville Dual Boiler is a serious machine for the espresso enthusiast, offering an unparalleled level of control. There is a reason this machine is a fan favorite in the coffee world and the machine that we own.
The Insta-worthy Espresso Machine
The Rocket Appartamento is a stunning Italian-style espresso machine. If you are looking for a statement piece machine, this is a hard one to go past! As is characteristic of Rocket Espresso machines, the Appartamento has impeccable build quality. Built from high-quality components the Appartamento features a sturdy stainless steel casing, a quality copper boiler, and a classic E61 group head. This beauty is built to last!
As the name would suggest, the Rocket Appartamento has been designed for apartments with limited bench space. As such, the machine has a very compact footprint, allowing it to slip into small spaces.
The Rocket Appartamento is what is known as a heat exchange machine. This type of machine allows you to brew espresso and steam milk simultaneously. The E61 group head is commonly found on commercial espresso machines and offers excellent temperature stability, which is essential for producing consistent, well-balanced shots. The Appartamento does not have PID temperature control, but rather a pressure stat. While this may be a deal-breaker for some, if you aren’t intending on playing around with brewing temperatures, PID control isn’t really necessary for a heat exchange machine.
The Rocket Appartamento has a few quirks. The first is that it takes a while to heat up after being turned on. The second is that the lack of a PID system means you may need to run cooling flushes before brewing to ensure the water is at the ideal brewing temperature. Despite this, the Appartamento produces impressive quality espresso that is complex and flavorful. The Appartamento also has superb steam pressure, quickly and easily producing microfoam. It is fitted with a no-burn steam wand, which doesn’t get too hot after use and is easy to clean.
The Appartamento is a stunning espresso machine with a premium fit and finish. If you are looking for a prosumer espresso machine combining functionality with flair the Rocket Appartamento is for you.
The Best Espresso Machine | The Verdict
Investing in an espresso machine is an exciting time for a home barista. In this list, we have included what we consider to be the best espresso machines of 2023. All of these machines will produce delicious espresso and help you grow your skills. Which one you opt for will come down to your budget and how far along your coffee journey you are. But there are a few stand-out home espresso machines.
The Breville Bambino Plus espresso machine is the best espresso machine for the newbie, offering a gentle entry into espresso. For the experienced brewer, the Breville Dual Boiler is an excellent machine packed full of features. And finally, for the espresso geek, the Flair 58 is really the ultimate end goal.
Tips for Picking An Espresso Machine
Still not sure which machine to pick, or what features you need? Read our buying guide below for some helpful tips.
Your budget will be the most limiting factor when it comes to deciding which is the best espresso machine for you. And one important thing to factor into your budget is the cost of buying a quality coffee grinder. If you have been in the coffee world for long, you will know that virtually every coffee expert says that your coffee grinder is more important than your machine. While this can be hard to swallow if you have a limited budget, trust us when we say a good quality grinder is crucial when brewing espresso.
To produce good espresso, you need a coffee grinder that will be able to grind fine enough, while offering enough settings to dial in your shot correctly. The Baratza Sette 270 or the Eureka Mignon Specialita are two of our favorite espresso grinders. These grinders produce quality and consistent grinds while offering a large range of grind settings, perfect for dialing in.
When it comes to espresso machines, there are three price brackets; entry-level, prosumer, and consumer. Entry-level machines usually fall under the $500 price bracket and are the best option for those just starting. They are typically single-boiler machines and have more basic designs and fewer features. Some of the most popular entry-level machines are the Gaggia Classic Pro and the Breville Barista Pro.
As you progress in your skills you might want to step up to a prosumer espresso machine. These machines start from around $1500 and offer commercial-grade quality. These machines typically are dual boiler or heat exchange machines allowing you to steam milk and brew at the same time. They are well-built and offer more flexibility in brewing. Popular machines in this category include the Breville Dual Boiler and the Rocket Appartamento.
Finally, you have the consumer-level machines. There are often diminishing returns with the more you spend on a machine. And this is certainly true when you step up to a consumer-level machine compared with a prosumer-level one. You aren’t necessarily going to end up with better-tasting coffee, but these machines are pretty sweet if your budget stretches that far! Prices for these machines start at around $5000 and examples include the Linea Mini, GS3, and the Slayer (one notable exception is the Lelit Bianca which is a lot more affordable than these other machines).
Which price bracket you should be aiming for also comes down to experience. If you are just starting, investing in an appliance-level machine like the Breville Bambino Plus will require less of a learning curve compared with something like the Rocket Appartamento. You also need to consider what types of espresso drinks you want to be brewing. If you are an espresso enthusiast, machines like the Gaggia Classic Pro or Flair 58 will be good options. If you want to make milk-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos you will need to invest in an espresso machine with decent steam power.
Each machine will offer a different range of features. We have compiled a list below of some of the most popular features so you can understand what each one brings to the table.
Single Boiler vs Heat Exchange vs Dual Boiler
Single Boiler Espresso Machines are the most affordable type of machine, given they only have one boiler. With a single boiler machine, you have to pull a shot and then steam the milk after. There is often a short delay when switching from brewing to steaming as the boiler has to get up to a higher temperature. A single boiler is a good option if you are on a budget, or if you are wanting to drink mainly espresso.
Heat Exchange Machines also have a single boiler. The boiler is kept at a higher steam temperature, but within this boiler is a tube that heats the water for brewing espresso. Heat Exchange Machines allow you to pull a shot at the same time as steaming milk. The downside of these machines is that you have no direct control over the water temperature for brewing. Additionally, if you are pulling back on back shots, any water left in the tube will need to be flushed because it will keep getting hotter (aka cooling flushes). These machines aren’t as expensive as dual boiler machines but still have the advantage of being able to brew and steam simultaneously.
Dual boiler machines are the most expensive types of espresso machines. These machines have two boilers, one for steam and the other for brewing. These types of machines allow you to control both the brewing and steaming temperatures. And given this, achieve more consistent brew temperatures. The other benefit of a double boiler machine is that you can brew and steam simultaneously.
Temperature control is essential with espresso, as to get a well-balanced shot you need to ensure your brewing temperature is around the ideal temperature of 195-205F. There are two common forms of temperature control in espresso machines: a thermostat and a PID system.
A thermostat is a basic device that will turn on the heating element in a boiler when it falls below a certain temperature and then back off again once it reaches the desired temperature. While these systems work, they result in fluctuating temperatures that often result in inconsistent shot quality. There are ways, like temperature surfing, to get around this, but this takes some time and practice to master for each machine.
A PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) system constantly monitors the water temperature in a boiler and makes small adjustments to keep it at the set temperature. There are several benefits to this system. It allows you to directly control the temperature of the machine and alter it for different roasts. It also ensures the machine is kept at an accurate and stable temperature for more consistent shots.
Ideally, an espresso machine should run at 9 bars of pressure. This is the sweet spot before water starts to compact the coffee grounds further and slows the flow rate of water through the puck resulting in over-extracted, bitter espresso.
If you like milk-based beverages look for a machine with a decent steam wand. Often on cheaper machines, you will find a Pannarello attachment, which helps incorporate air into the milk. Pannarello steam wands are simple to use but produce frothy milk rather than silky microfoam.
A manual steam wand is a better option. You should opt for a machine with good steam pressure, capable of creating a vortex when steaming milk, which is necessary to achieve microfoam.
Breville has recently introduced automatic steam wands onto some of their machines. By all accounts, these seem to do a remarkable job of steaming milk and producing microfoam.
Some home espresso machines, like the Breville Barista Express, come with built-in grinders. While these can seem good value for money, an integrated grinder is almost always inferior to a stand-alone grinder. Integrated grinders often don’t offer a large range of grind settings, or have good-quality burrs. In addition, they are often difficult to clean and suffer from blockages. We highly recommend investing in a separate burr grinder, rather than an all-in-one machine.
A pre-infusion function is a noteworthy feature found on some machines. With pre-infusion, a small amount of water, at low pressure, is introduced to the puck to wet the grounds before the higher-pressure extraction occurs. This pre-infusion prevents channeling and aids in an even extraction which means better espresso.
Single Walled vs Double Walled Filter Baskets
Double-walled (or pressurized) filter baskets are commonly found on entry-level machines. These baskets have a false bottom with a tiny pinhole at the bottom. The purpose of them is to create higher pressure in the basket which improves extraction and allows the use of less precisely ground coffee. These baskets are designed for pre-ground coffee and are easy to master, producing enjoyable results early on.
Single-walled (or non-pressurized) baskets are designed to be used with freshly ground coffee. With these baskets, the extraction is governed by the grind size, rather than resistance in the basket. Single-walled baskets produce a nice shot of espresso with better crema. These should be the end goal of home baristas, however, the double-walled baskets can be helpful when starting, or if you don’t have access to a coffee grinder.
Extra accessories included
Some machines come with accessories like cleaning supplies, milk pitchers, or tampers. These can help cut down the initial cost of an espresso setup.
We hope this guide has helped unpack some of the different features available in home espresso machines. For some tips on how to start brewing espresso check out our beginner‘s guide to espresso.