Straight to the Point
The best small espresso machine is the Breville Bambino Plus, which features precise brewing temperatures and an automatic steam wand while only being seven inches wide. The OXO Brew 8-Cup Coffee Maker is our favorite small automatic drip coffee maker, but we also like the Kalita Wave 185 Strainless Steel Dripper, AeroPress Go, and Fellow Clara French Press for small manual brewing options.
You don’t need a full-sized cafe in your kitchen to brew excellent coffee. In fact, some of our favorite coffee gear is of a smaller stature.
We think even the tiniest kitchen counter can be transformed into an espresso paradise with the right equipment, whether you’ve dreamt of a coffee bar in your apartment or need a travel-friendly brewer for a hotel room, Airbnb, camper, or the like. There’s just no need to sacrifice quality for size. So, we went through our coffee reviews and rounded up the best small coffee gear, no matter how much space you have to spare.
The Winners, at a Glance
Things to Consider
Map Out Your Counter Space
If you’re on the hunt for smaller coffee equipment, chances are you’re looking to maximize your available countertop space. When it comes to espresso, the Breville Barista Express Impress has a built-in grinder to save space, but it might not fit in a tight corner. That doesn’t mean you have to stick to pre-ground espresso (we seriously encourage buying whole beans), it just requires getting creative. For around the same cost, you could pick up the Breville Bambino Plus and Baratza Encore ESP and tuck one behind the other when not in use. For drip coffee, the OXO Brew 8-Cup Coffee Maker has the smallest footprint of any drip brewer that we recommend, which pairs great with the Baratza Encore grinder. But if counter space is maxed out, you can opt for the Timemore Chestnut C2 Max handheld coffee grinder, which is great for drip coffee (and pourover and French press) and can be tucked away into a drawer when not in use—just as long as you’re willing to put in some elbow grease for your morning cup.
Plan for Accessories
A pourover brewer (like the Kalita Wave 185 Strainless Steel Dripper) is much smaller than an automatic drip coffee maker, but once you snag a gooseneck kettle, coffee scale, and coffee grinder, it’s easy to crowd your counters with brewing accessories. A better alternative could be relying on the Espro P3 French Press instead—it’s easy to fill with whatever kind of kettle you have and doesn’t need a coffee scale to keep track of your pouring. Don’t get us wrong—we love a dedicated pourover bar—but sometimes a simpler brewer is the best way to avoid clutter.
Prep Yourself for Travel
If you’re heeding the call of the wild and want a portable rig for adventure coffee (or maybe just an alternative to hotel brews), it’s hard to beat the AeroPress Go. This plunger-style brewer is the more portable version of one of our favorite single-serve coffee brewers and comes with all of its accessories packed inside of a travel cup. Fresh-ground fiends can also bring a handheld coffee grinder for better-tasting brews. If the AeroPress Go’s eight-ounce capacity won’t cut it, however, the Kalita Wave 185 Stainless Steel Dripper can brew up to 24 ounces at a time and its sturdy stainless steel construction makes it easy to toss into any luggage without worry (though you’ll also need something to brew it into).
The Best Small Espresso Machines and Coffee Makers
What we liked: It doesn’t get more compact than the Bambino Plus when it comes to espresso, and this machine delivers more professional-style features than models twice its size. Its ThermoJet boiler heats up in just seconds, it features an algorithm-driven PID (a module that controls precise brewing temperatures), and it even has an automatic steam wand that aerates milk with silky microfoam. And above all else, it pulls excellent espresso shots, which is why it’s our favorite espresso machine.
What we didn’t like: Our only real gripe with this machine is that the automatic espresso volume buttons aren’t as consistent as we like, so we recommend stopping your espresso shots manually.
Price at time of publish: $500.
- Dimensions: 8 x 13 x 12 inches
- Weight: 11 pounds
- Accessories: 54mm tamper, the Razor precision dosing tool, 16-ounce stainless steel milk jug, 1- and 2-cup single wall and dual wall filter baskets, cleaning tool, cleaning disc
- Care instructions: Backflush with coffee detergent according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- Warranty: 2-year limited product warranty
What we liked: The Barista Express Impress has an assisted tamping lever attached to its built-in grinder, saving you extra counter space. Though it’s slightly larger than the Bambino Plus, it’s also the only all-in-one espresso machine to earn a top pick in our espresso machine review. What really impressed us (har har) was its automated coffee portioning system—the Express Impress uses the puck depth (measured by the tamper) to calibrate how much espresso it doses into your portafilter, cutting down on the learning curve for home espresso beginners.
What we didn’t like: Like the Bambino Plus, we don’t think the espresso volume measurement buttons are accurate enough to use regularly and recommend stopping your shots manually.
Price at time of publish: $900.
- Dimensions: 13 x 15 x 16 inches
- Weight: 24 pounds
- Accessories: Stainless steel milk jug, 1- and 2-cup single and dual wall filter baskets, water filter holder with filter, the Razor precision trimming tool, cleaning tablets, Allen key, steam wand cleaning tool, cleaning disc, cleaning brush, descaling powder
- Care instructions: Backflush with coffee detergent according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- Warranty: 2-year repair, replacement warranty
What we liked: It’s not the smallest option out there, but it is the smallest model that aced our rigorous coffee maker tests. The OXO 8-Cup can brew enough coffee for a small crowd, and is still compact enough to fit easily on most small counters. Its sprayhead and automatic bloom cycle evenly saturate the coffee, and its precise brew temperatures ensure every pot brews up sweet and balanced. It also features a mode for single-cup brewing, too, and a smaller filter basket insert to go with it.
What we didn’t like: Some batches between 20 and 24 ounces showed signs of uneven extraction, so it can be difficult to know at which brew volume to switch between the smaller basket and the larger basket.
Price at time of publish: $200.
- Stated capacity: 1.25 liters/40 ounces/8 cups
- Height of brewer: 13.5 inches
- Weight: 10.3 pounds
- Type of carafe: Thermal carafe
- Average brew time: 5 minutes, 53 seconds
- Warranty: 2 years
What we liked: With near-indestructible stainless steel construction, the Kalita Wave 185 is also one of the lightest and most compact pourover brewers around. But what we really love is its flat bottom and small exit holes, which encourage even extraction for sweet and balanced coffee. In our testing we also found it had the most consistent flow rate regardless of grind size. It’s easily packable for travel, and can fit in most kitchen drawers for storage.
What we didn’t like: The biggest downside is having to order custom sized filters, which are hard to find in most stores. We recommend stocking up online.
Price at time of publish: $44.
What we liked: The AeroPress is one of our favorite single-serve brewers (especially when paired with a Fellow Prismo filter), and the AeroPress Go is an even more compact version. The entire brewer and its accessories all fit inside an included travel cup, so you can easily hide it away in any kitchen drawer or pop it into a backpack for camping. One of our favorite things about the AeroPress is how versatile it is: you can use it to brew espresso-style concentrated coffee, make pourover-like brews, or flip it over and use it as an immersion brewer, like a French press.
What we didn’t like: Because it’s such a versatile brewer, it can take some practice to master your favorite recipe. It’s also a brewer limited by size—it can only brew around eight ounces at a time.
Price at time of publish: $40.
- Materials: Plastic
- Weight: 11.5 ounces
- Dimensions: 5.4 x 4.2 x 3.8 inches
- Accessories: Scoop, stirrer, travel cup, lid, filter holder
What we liked: A French press is excellent for brewing large amounts of coffee without needing a lot of storage space, and the Fellow Clara is our favorite one by far. Its dual-wall insulation ensured ideal brew temps while keeping coffee hot for almost an hour, and its rubber-edged micro-mesh filter kept grit out better than any other model we tested. The inside of the Clara also features a nonstick coating, making it easy to clean off any residual coffee oils (which cause that old coffee smell). We also really like the volume-based measurement lines—if you don’t have a scale handy, you can use the visual guides for both coffee and water to fudge your way to pretty good coffee. And if you do have a scale? The Clara brews clean, sweet coffee that’s easily repeatable.
What we didn’t like: The Clara’s biggest downside is its price—it’s more expensive than any other French press we tested. It also tops out at 24 ounces compared to glass French presses of the same size that can brew up to 32 ounces—the dual-wall insulation cuts down on available brewing capacity.
Price at time of publish: $100.
- Capacity: 24 ounces
- Dimensions: 4.53 x 6.69 x 7.87 inches
- Materials: Stainless steel
- Insulation: Dual-wall insulated
- Filter type: Single screen
- Care Instructions: Hand-wash
What we liked: The Moka Express comes in multiple sizes, but when we tested moka pots we were impressed with how much coffee the 6-cup model could brew for its size. While it won’t brew quite as strong as espresso, the Moka Express is a great way to share sweet and syrupy coffee with friends while taking up much less space than any espresso machine.
What we didn’t like: We had some issues with getting the top to screw on easily, and the soft aluminum threads liked to stick to each other during assembly. It’s also made from aluminum and isn’t induction-friendly the way that a stainless steel moka pot is, like the Bialetti Venus.
Price at time of publish: $33.
- Materials: Aluminum, plastic
- Weight: 24.6 ounces
- Capacity: 9 ounces
- Induction-friendly: No
- Care instructions: Wash with warm water, allow to air dry before re-assembling; clean with coffee detergent when coffee residue becomes visible
How do you make a small amount of coffee?
The best way to make a small amount of coffee is with a single-serve manual brew method, like a pourover, French press, or AeroPress. Drip coffee makers tend to brew single cups too quickly, leaving the coffee tasting weak and sour. When you brew coffee by hand, you have more control over the brew time no matter how big or small the batch is.
What is the simplest coffee set up?
The simplest coffee setup is an automatic drip coffee maker with a high-quality burr grinder and a scale. This combination will brew excellent coffee with repeatable results and require very little effort from the user—just measure out the water, weigh and grind your coffee, and brew. If you’re looking for a simple coffee setup that doesn’t take up too much space, we also recommend looking into pourover brewing.
Can you make good espresso without a fancy espresso machine?
Yes—our best-tested espresso machine is the Breville Bambino Plus which packs lots of incredible features, like precision temperature control and an automatic steam wand, into an entry-level espresso machine. It makes really excellent espresso, is quick to heat up, and costs much less than most well-regarded home espresso options. You can also look into brewing with a moka pot, though the coffee it produces isn’t actually espresso.
Why We’re the Experts
- Jesse Raub is the commerce writer for Serious Eats. He worked for 15 years in the specialty coffee industry and is our resident coffee expert, having tackled numerous coffee-related stories for the site, including reviews of coffee scales, handheld coffee grinders, and semi-automatic espresso machines.
- For this review, we included our findings and top picks from various tests. You can read more about how we tested (and which models we do and don’t recommend) in our reviews of espresso machines, French press coffee makers, and more. We made sure to link to our independent reviews throughout this piece.