These machines use pumps to drive near-boiling water through a layer of finely ground coffee and filter into your espresso cup quickly. The whole process, from loading to full extraction, should take under one minute (around 25 seconds of extraction to produce 25ml of espresso) and speed is one of the major advantages of this brewing method over traditional drip methods.
There’s also more than one type of home espresso machine for making barista-style coffee, so we’ve explained the different types below. Although some machines will grind the beans freshly for you (these are broadly known as bean-to-cup coffee machines), there are alternative ways to achieve this without splashing out.
Our guide to the best coffee grinders is a great place to find some manual and electric options. With practice and a supply of freshly-ground coffee, there’s no reason why you can’t achieve excellent espresso coffee in the classic Italian tradition at home.
All costs-to-run calculations were done against the variable tariff at the time of testing (16.6p/kWh), which has since changed – read more on the current energy price guarantee rates.
Looking for more advice and buyers’ guides for kitting out your kitchen? Our reviews section is a great place to get inspired, packed with tried-and-tested favourite gadgets to help you make delicious recipes everyday.
Jump to section:
- Best mid-range espresso machine for freshly ground coffee: De’Longhi La Specialista Arte, £435
- Best classic espresso machine: Gaggia Classic espresso machine, £428
- Best blowout espresso machine: Smeg EGF03 espresso machine, £849.95
- Best espresso machine for frothy coffee: Breville One-Touch Coffee House II, £349.99
- Best espresso machine for small kitchens: Dualit Espresso coffee machine, £129.99
- Most stylish home espresso machine: De’Longhi Dedica EC685.M coffee machine, £169
- Best espresso machine for quality design: KitchenAid Artisan espresso machine, £449
- Best home espresso machine for aficionados: SMEG ECF01 espresso machine, £309
- Best portable espresso machine for single espresso: Wacaco Minipresso GR espresso maker, £55.90
- Best semi-automatic espresso machine for beginners: Swan One Touch espresso machine SK22150, £169.99
- Best affordable espresso machine: VonShef 15-bar espresso machine, £109.95
- Best hand pump espresso maker: Flair Signature espresso maker, £478.81
- Best mid-range espresso maker: Sage Bambino Plus espresso maker, £329.95
- Best espresso machine for beginners: Swan SK22110 Retro Pump espresso machine, £78.89
Check out expert barista Celeste Wong’s recommendations for the best moka pots, gooseneck kettles, coffee grinders and decaf coffee to buy on our sister brand, olive magazine:
De’Longhi La Specialista Arte manual espresso machine
Best mid-range espresso machine for freshly ground coffee
- Dual-height cup tray for long and short drinks
- Stainless steel milk jug, heavy tamper and tamping mat all included
- Water tank proved temperamental to load
- Crowded control panel
Star rating: 5/5
If you’re someone who likes to try different bean varieties and roasts but you don’t want to buy a separate coffee grinder, the De’Longhi La Specialista Arte is an excellent choice.
It will grind beans freshly from its hopper when a coffee is selected, offering 11 grind settings to choose from. This technically makes it a bean-to-cup coffee machine but we’ve included this here because of its price point, compact size and quality.
The coffee dosing is automatic (but adjustable), then you do the hands-on part of compressing the grinds with the help of a silicone tamping mat and heavy tamper.
It’s the high-quality extras that not only make the experience of using this espresso a joy, but it’s relatively simple even for beginners, such as the dosing hat that sits on the portafilter to minimise mess.
The comprehensive instruction manual is packed with diagrams and tips to guide you through everything from pre-infusion temperature profiles to the ratios of espresso-based coffees, and will even help you improve latte art skills. For the money, this is an excellent value espresso machine.
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Gaggia Classic espresso machine
Best classic espresso machine
- Professional grade accessories and specifications
- Easy to use rocker switches
- Good tamper and coffee scoop included
- Efficient steam wand
- Tall. Not suitable for storing under countertops with spotlights.
Star rating: 5/5
Designed and made in Italy, the Gaggia Classic is pitched as a state-of-the-art coffee machine for the home – a statement we don’t disagree with.
Much of this is due to the impressive functionality hidden behind its stainless steel body, such as the solenoid valve, which is responsible for controlling water temperature inside the filter holder, but you can also feel it in the parts for manually making coffee.
The chromed brass group and filter holder are the same size, weight and style of those used with professional commercial machines, designed to control the heat during brewing for optimal extraction.
The three filters (single, double and ESE pods) require a solid clip meaning there’s no annoying rattling. There’s space to store and warm five espresso cups on the top. Even with its state-of-the art style, this is still one easy-to-use machine.
Smeg EGF03 espresso machine
Best blowout espresso machine
- Bright, colourful exterior
- High-quality accessories
- User-friendly features
- Built-in adjustable grinder
- Chunky footprint
- No adjustable height tray
Star rating: 4.5/5
New for 2023, Smeg’s latest espresso machine is a sleek statement gadget that perfectly aligns with the brand’s 50s aesthetic. On the countertop, it looks like a shiny new toy: bright red and glossy with accessories to match, including a robust 58mm portafilter and a stainless steel milk jug. Other colours include black, cream, white, pastel blue and pastel green.
Where it differs from the ECF01 – Smeg’s first and (so far) only other espresso machine – is the built-in grinder, which means you can enjoy freshly ground beans in every cup. The hopper slots in easily and rotates left and right depending on the grind size you want, from super-fine to medium. The grinder is also impressively quiet and speedy, filling the portafilter basket in seconds. Our espresso was sweet, strong, and topped with silky crema, and we loved the manoeuvrability of the steam wand too.
It’s simple enough for beginners, but it does come with an alarmingly steep price tag – so perhaps isn’t the best entry-level choice. On the plus side, it’s one of the classiest-looking coffee machines we’ve come across and fully delivers on quality.
Cost to pull one double espresso each day for one month: 3.9p
Breville One-Touch Coffee House II
Best espresso machine for frothy coffee
- Quality espresso
- Grounds and pod-compatible
- Small footprint
- Sleek, slimline design
- Auto shut-off
- Portafilter baskets release easily
- More expensive than most
- No americano preset
- Limited guidance on how much coffee to use
- Have to twist the portafilter very firmly to lock it in
Star rating: 4.5/5
If you’re a regular drinker of lattes or cappuccinos, this Breville model comes with an customisable automated milk frother that delivers deliciously creamy results. It’s a sleek, compact machine with clearly marked icons and an intuitive display, and has a progress bar along the top so you can see how quickly it’s heating up.
It uses ESE pods or coffee grounds, which slot inside the portafilter basket with ease. There’s a scoop included with a tamper on the end, though the guidance on how much coffee to use was a bit vague – Breville advises filling the basket 3mm from the top, though most other machines simply say one scoop of grounds for a single shot.
We also found locking the portafilter into the grouphead quite tricky, and needed two hands to stop the machine from slipping on the worktop as we did it. The effort was worth it, however: the Coffee House II produced excellent espresso with thick, glossy crema.
Cost to pull one double espresso each day for one month: 1.2p
Dualit Espresso coffee machine
Best espresso machine for small kitchens
- Good espresso
- Simple, intuitive controls
- Small footprint
- Easy to insert grounds
- Adjustable speeds for steam wand
- Auto-shut off
- Steam wand can be tricky to manoeuvre
- Manual stop for espresso
Star rating: 4.5/5
This Dualit model is a solid choice for anyone making the jump from instant coffee to brewing fresh espresso. It’s intuitive and fuss-free, with a simple dial and slimline body that’s ideal for small countertops. All the icons are easy to identify, with clear lock and unlock symbols around the group head to make securing the portafilter a speedier process. Scooping and tamping the grounds into the portafilter was also mess-free.
Manoeuvring the milk frother into the position we wanted was more awkward (making it difficult to achieve the perfect microfoam), but we liked that we could adjust the speed of steaming using the dial on the side. Both our single and double espressos flowed steadily and were pleasant with thick, hazelnutty crema.
It’s also worth noting that you have to manually stop the flow of espresso, so it may be worth purchasing a separate small measuring cup if you want to ensure consistency (or set a timer – you’ll want to aim for between 25-30 seconds for a single shot). That aside, this is a machine that produces solid results, and with a price tag of below £150, it offers great value too.
Cost to pull one double espresso each day for one month: 0.9p
De’Longhi Dedica EC685.M manual espresso maker
Most stylish espresso maker
- Good range of movement with the milk steam wand
- A* energy rating
- Slightly unstable when locking portafilter
- Easy to press a button accidentally
Star rating: 4.5/5
De’Longhi’s Dedica espresso machine is uber sleek, with a stainless steel exterior that gives it a true, modern-classic feel. At 1.1 litre capacity, its water tank is smaller than others but it packs in 15-bars of pressure to create deliciously smooth and crema-topped espresso with no hint of bitterness.
It’s also a practical size for fitting on smaller countertops, only 14cm wide and 33cm deep. For an espresso machine that won’t break the bank and looks great on your countertop, the De’Longhi Dedica EC685.M manual model should be at the top of your list. Read our full De’Longhi Dedica EC685.M review.
KitchenAid Artisan espresso machine
Best espresso machine for quality design
- Five-year warranty
- Proper stainless steel tamper included in the box
- Anti-slip mat for tamping
- Single- and double-wall filter baskets included
- Small icons denoting its functions
- More expensive than most
Star rating: 4.5/5
KitchenAid products have a brand legacy to live up to, so when new models are released, expectations are high. The Artisan edition of the espresso machine has a low, slimline footprint but a hefty metal body that gives it good stability on its grippy base.
It’s a classy, pricey unit that fully delivers in terms of coffee quality, steam wand efficiency and the accessories included (which is where many machines fall).
There’s a weighty stainless steel tamper and an accurate coffee scoop that decants 12g of coffee into a single-shot filter basket (just the right amount). After brewing, the used coffee puck was almost dry, making it mess-free to tap out.
All we missed was a second cup tray for lifting espresso cups higher to the stream to stop splashing.
SMEG ECF01 espresso machine
Best home espresso machine for aficionados
- Richly dark espresso with silky crema
- Good selection of customisation options
- No accompanying stainless steel milk jug despite the high price
Star rating: 4.5/5
Smeg has channelled its iconic 1950s designs into this slimline espresso machine that’s simple on the surface, but packed with advanced personalisation features.
If you have the budget to invest, the ECF01 upper-mid range machine is a sleek and stylised addition to a kitchen countertop that creates rocket-fuel espresso. Just read the instructions thoroughly before use. Read our full SMEG ECF01 espresso machine review.
Wacaco Minipresso GR espresso maker
Best portable espresso maker for single espresso
- Compact and portable
- Integrated coffee scoop and cup
- Water needs to be preheated
Star rating: 4.5/5
The Wacaco Minipresso GR features five main parts that screw together into one portable, robust package. Its integrated manual pump generates eight bars of pressure (116 PSI) to produce a full-bodied single espresso, complete with a thick crema.
The build-quality combined with the hands-on process means it’s not only fun to use but a genuinely functional bit of kit for making espresso on the go. Read our full Wacaco Minipresso GR espresso maker review.
Swan One Touch espresso machine SK22150
Best semi-automatic espresso machine for beginners
- 20 bars of pressure
- ESE pod compatible
- Large-cup latte setting produces too much coffee for the largest mug in your cupboard
Star rating: 4/5
This Swan is the new iteration of the fully manual Swan Retro Pump SK22110 espresso machine. It’s arguably a step-down model for personalisation, but a step up in automation and ease-of use. It comes in several pastel colours (including pink – check out our full round-up of the best pink kitchen accessories and appliances for more fun pink gadgets).
The preset buttons make it more user-friendly. There’s a steam wand that’s intuitive. You’re left with the ‘fun bits’ of filling, tamping and loading the portafilter. Just choose the filter, press the button and it’s 20-bar pressure pump does the work.
Just remember to manoeuvre the milk steam wand into the mug beforehand. Read our full Swan One Touch espresso machine review.
VonShef 15-bar espresso machine
Best affordable espresso machine
- Dishwasher-safe portafilter basket
- Wand for steaming milk
- Slow to warm up
- No accompanying milk steaming jug
Star rating: 3.5/5
If you don’t have much space in your kitchen, this 15-bar pressure espresso machine by VonShef is an easy-to-use model that isn’t too large, and gives you freedom to personalise your coffee without the heavy price tag.
Three buttons control its simple features; power on, steam and espresso. Once the machine is fully heated and the function selected, you control when and how much water is pulled through the portafilter.
The filter itself is double-shot in capacity so can be half-filled for a single. The steamer wand is also intuitive to use. Read our full VonShef 15-bar espresso machine review.
Flair Signature espresso maker
Best hand pump espresso maker
- Sustainable option for making espresso
- Great build-quality
Star rating: 4.5/5
This espresso maker stands out for one obvious reason – it’s operated by hand rather than electric, meaning it has environmental benefits. It also produces a high standard of coffee to rival any traditional machine.
Once you’ve got used to the functionality, making coffee is simple. It’s easy to clean, superbly small and well-engineered. Read our full Flair Signature espresso maker review.
Sage Bambino Plus espresso maker
Best mid-range espresso maker
- Easy to use
- Efficient milk frother
Star rating: 4.5/5
Simple, intuitive and capable of brewing thick, rich espresso, the Bambino Plus packs a lot of power into a mid-range package. It comes loaded with bonus features, including a very good steaming wand and a clever water tank.
Despite its name, it does take up a fair amount of room, so this should be considered before investing. Read our full Sage Bambino Plus review for all specifications.
Swan SK22110 Retro Pump espresso coffee machine
Best espresso machine for beginners
- Good value for money
- Dial-controlled milk steamer
Star rating: 4/5
Our favourite espresso machine under £100, this vintage-looking Swan machine produces good results for its reasonable price tag, although we recommend packing the filter with ground coffee if you like a strong brew.
It ticks a lot of boxes – easy to use and clean, plus it comes with a milk frother and temperature gauge. The aesthetic might not be everyone’s taste, but it does come in different colours. Read our full Swan Retro Pump espresso machine review.
While there are many types on the market, we’d advise any espresso lover to buy a traditional pump-action machine, which combines mechanisms for both maintaining water temperature and applying pressure.
The best coffee pod machines require you to buy pods, which can be less cost-effective while also posing a greater sustainability issue as they’re difficult to recycle or biodegrade. In contrast, espresso machines just require ground coffee, and there are a couple of types to choose from.
Automatic espresso machines
These will heat the water, brew and extract espresso into your coffee cup. You’ll likely need to do the dosing and tamping of the grinds, then load and unload the portafilter. Certain elements will be adjustable to help you personalise your coffee, like the brew time, quantity and water temperature.
Manual espresso machines
This type of machine doesn’t plug into the mains, so are generally more portable and sustainable espresso makers compared to plug-in automatic types. The water does need to be pre-heated, but they do offer a very hands-on process of making the coffee that’s incredibly gratifying.
If speed and convenience are the biggest decision drivers for you, a bean-to-cup coffee machine may be an interesting alternative. Some espresso machines – including most of the ones reviewed in this guide – have extra features in addition to coffee extraction.
- Milk steamer wands: These are a popular add-on, used to heat and froth milk for lattes, cappuccinos and other creamy concoctions. If you like your coffee with milk, we recommend you either buy a machine with a steamer, or get a standalone steaming/frothing appliance to go with a machine that doesn’t have the feature.
- Single- and double-cup capabilities: Some espresso machines will be able to make two cups of coffee at the same time.
- ESE pod compatibility: Biodegradable pouches containing ground coffee that can be placed into the portafilter and minimise the mess of wayward grinds.
- Coffee dosing spoon and tamper: Filling your portafilter with coffee and compressing them down into an even layer is an essential part of the espresso-making process, particularly if splitting espresso between two cups.
In the interest of meeting lots of different needs, we’ve featured a variety of espresso machines, with styles ranging from retro to contemporary, for different budgets.
Before you choose one and place an order, think carefully about the types of coffee you’d like to make and the characteristics you’d like your coffee machine to have.
Whether you’re a total beginner or looking to refresh your barista skills, there are a few simple steps to making the best espresso from the comfort of your kitchen.
- Invest in good coffee beans: A good cup of espresso starts with high-quality coffee beans. When browsing, think about which aromas and flavour profiles you like – medium-to-dark roasts are usually better for making espresso. You can find inspiration in our guide to the best coffee beans.
- Grind just before brewing: Where possible, try to use fresh, very finely ground coffee when making espresso. We’ve tested the best coffee grinders to bring you our picks of the most efficient, value for money and well-designed models on the market.
- Use a tamper: This will help you to evenly distribute and pack the coffee grounds into the portafilter, resulting in better quality coffee. When using the tamper, apply pressure and gently twist so the grounds are uniformly spread. Most espresso machines come with a tamper included, but you can buy them separately as well.
- Preheat your cup: If you want to keep your coffee at the optimum temperature for longer (and preserve all those delicious espresso flavours), warm your mug beforehand. Simply fill it with hot water, leave it for few minutes, then throw the water away.
- Clean your machine regularly: Keeping on top of cleaning will help to increase its lifespan. Look at the instruction manual of your gadget to find cleaning and descaling advice.
The espresso machines featured in this review were chosen from a carefully curated longlist of over 20 machines and tested against strict test criteria using the same, finely ground coffee. Each machine was scored out of five against the following core criteria:
We looked for espresso with rich flavour, smooth consistency, a hazelnut-coloured silky crema and bold aroma.
These are investment appliances and therefore the quality of each component needs to be built for daily use and longevity.
How helpful is the manual and how intuitive is the machine to use?
Does the machine offer good return of investment?
- Ease of assembly and packaging
The machines were scored on how easy they were to set up, the protective quality of its packaging and quantity of single-use plastic in its box.
The following criteria also played into our decision-making:
For example, a milk wand for steaming milk, accompanying stainless steel milk jug, single- and double-cup functions.
Adjustable water temperature, coffee brew time, hard or soft water settings.
Needs to be easily accessible or removable for refilling.
Descaling settings, self-cleaning functions, steam wand purge, dishwasher-safe portafilter and filter baskets, portafilter rinsing.
Espresso machines can vary from the slimline to the big and boxy.
Would we buy this for keeping out on our kitchen countertops? If not, they weren’t included.
Some of these factors may matter more to you than others. The coffee fanatics among you will care deeply about the quality of extraction, and advanced features such as temperature control and milk frothing.
Minimalists will be interested in the kitchen footprint and ease of cleaning. If you’re new to making coffee and don’t mind your espressos on the weaker side, value for money and ease of use may be your top priorities.
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