11 best espresso machines
Your morning routine will never be the same again
You know espresso is good if the crema – the foam on top – is golden and the taste is bitter but not sour, and rich but not too sweet.
It is made by "expressing" a small amount of almost boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans.
There are three main types – a pod or capsule machine, pump espresso maker or bean-to-cup machine, although hybrids also exist.
The first type is the most user-friendly – you pop a pre-packaged capsule or pod into the machine, press the button to pierce it and prompt hot water to be sent through it to produce the espresso.
Pump espresso makers use a thermostatically controlled boiler to heat the water to the optimum temperature for coffee (between 85˚C and 92˚C), before passing it through the ground coffee at the correct bar pressure.
Then there’s the bean-to-cup option, which is usually a fully or semi automated pump espresso maker with a built-in grinder. If you go for one of these, make sure you get one with a good grinder – this, as any barista will tell you, is the most important part of espresso making.
Consider whether you want a milk frother. Make sure the machine will fit in your kitchen among all your other gadgets – some are much bulkier than others. Check how often you need to refill the tank. And always look into how easy it is to keep clean, including whether the parts are dishwasher friendly.
Nespresso Vertuo Plus Coffee Machine by Magimix: £119.99, John Lewis
At last, a Nespresso machine that can make various sized coffees without the need to use several capsules for larger cups.
In fact, you can make five different-sized coffees – from espresso to Alto size – using a single capsule and the machine is a cinch to get going and use, thanks to the automatic opening and closing with one-touch brewing.
Using centrifugal force to extract the coffee, it doesn’t take long to get going and is a good-looking machine.
On the downside, you can’t froth milk and the capsules aren't cheap. It’s big too, but at least the water tank is movable.
Jura S8 Bean to Cup Coffee Machine: £1,395, John Lewis
We could dazzle you with the science of this coffee machine – with its precision-grinder and pulse extraction process that creates intense espresso flavour – but the bottom line is that this Swiss-made machine makes barista-style coffee with golden crema (as well as 14 other varieties).
It couldn’t be easier to use, thanks to the colour touch-screen panel with graphics and animation and you can use the app to programme individual preferences for all the family, order more coffee when your stocks are running low and work through maintenance programmes.
It looks the part, too – coffee machines don’t get smarter looking than this.
Sage The Barista Touch: £749, Lakeland
Despite the hefty price tag, this isn't the most expensive coffee machine made by Sage. But it’s our favourite because it’s compact yet it makes espressos so rich and flavoursome that you’d think you were in Italy.
You can personalise to your heart's content with strength and temperature, and you won’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to get it going as the heating system means it’s ready to brew in a few seconds.
Designed for doing everything a coffee shop machine would do, it even has an adjustable grinder, and the steam wand works a treat (and self-cleans), while the colour touchscreen makes it easy and fun to use.
Dualit Coffee Machine: £171.97, Amazon
You can use this with Dualit or Nespresso capsules, ESE pods (easier) or ground coffee (a bit trickier), all of which create incredibly rich tasting espresso with golden crema.
It’s quick to use, yet you can tailor your espresso to the max.
Available in black with chrome detailing or pure polished chrome, it has magnificent aesthetics, a decent milk frother and is easy to clean.
At 1.5 litres, the water tank doesn’t need refilling much, but there’s nowhere to put the used pods or grounds and it does take a bit of effort to use.
DeLonghi Dedica: £179.99, John Lewis
If you have a small kitchen but you love traditional coffee, this is a great little machine that makes velvety smooth espressos (and cappuccinos using the milk frother) to die for.
You can use coffee grounds or ESE pods (a coffee version of tea bags) and there’s a rapid 30-second heat-up time for those who are in a hurry.
You can make two cups at once and there’s a handy cup warmer. Available in black, silver or red, it looks good but be warned clearing up can be a bit messy.
Smeg ECF01 Coffee Machine: £259.95, John Lewis
This vintage-looking machine – which is available in a brand new colour for this year - will take pride of place on any worktop, although be warned it’s larger than it looks.
It’s intuitive to use and the espresso – which is made from pods or ground coffee – is so hard to fault that even the most discerning coffee connoisseur is bound to give it the thumbs up.
The milk steamer turns it into delicious cappuccino in super-quick time and although the machine can take a bit of clearing up afterwards, the drip tray can be emptied easily and the milk frother only needs a brief wipe.
Krups Nespresso Expert: £202.49, Lakeland
If you’re after a hi-tech, smart looking Nespresso capsule machine that’s easy to use and will make rich and thick espresso exactly to your liking, then look no further.
It’s on the expensive side for a capsule machine (and the milk frother costs extra) but there’s plenty to play with to achieve your perfect cup – including cup size and temperature settings – and you can use the app to have your coffee ready whenever you want, along with receiving alerts about when it needs cleaning or descaling.
In addition to espresso, it makes ristretto, lungo and Americano.
It is, however, quite big.
Lavazza A Modo Mio Jolie Plus: £99.99, Lakeland
The espresso produced by this stylish Italian-looking capsule machine will send you straight to coffee heaven – not bad for under £100.
Plus, it’s quiet so you won’t have to wake your partner even if you live in a studio flat. You can get it going straight from the box without even using the instructions and unlike many espresso machines it’s easy to keep clean, with dishwasher-friendly parts.
It’s small, so another great option for compact kitchens, and although that means the water tank is also little, it’s a doddle to remove and refill.
Melitta Barista TS Smart: £1001.18, Amazon
With some fully automatic coffee machines, you can feel a bit short-changed when it comes to the actual drink. Yes, they look great, but the coffee itself just doesn’t taste like the real deal you get with manual coffee machines.
Not so with this machine, which also has loads of whistles and bells so that you can have fun creating your perfect cup using the intuitive touch panel or even from your smartphone using Bluetooth (there’s also a version without Bluetooth, but we think the app is great, not only helping you control your coffee making capabilities, but giving you maintenance alerts and instructions, as well as suggesting different sorts of drinks).
This machine is well-built too and should see you through years of great tasting caffeine fixes.
Gaggia Velasca Prestige Bean to Cup Coffee Machine: £540, Coffee Italia
Say goodbye to bland cups of coffee that make you wondered why you bothered.
The rich espressos from this machine are as good as it gets and the quick-heat boiler means you won’t have to wait long for your coffee.
A fully automated bean-to-cup machine, it gives you all the authentic taste and process but at the mere touch of a button. And, as you’d expect at this price, you have plenty of control over the temperature, grind, strength and shot length, and the patented water filter system keeps water fresh too.
Both the grinder and frother are among of the best we’ve tried and it’s a surprisingly quiet machine too. It’s easy to keep clean and takes up minimal space.
Maintenance, which is often the downside of automated machines, is actually pretty simple and quick and if anything does go wrong, Gaggia’s customer service is second-to-none.
Francis Francis Illy Espresso Coffee Maker: £153.22, Amazon
This retro-looking machine makes a great espresso, even if the capsules aren't cheap (they're better value if you buy them in bulk).
We found the coffee has a tempting aroma, thick crema and a smooth taste with a kick. Plus, it all takes just 30 seconds.
The steam pipe froths milk really well and the controls are simple to use. Just be warned that the water tank can be tricky to remove for refilling. It comes in red, black or white.
Verdict: Best espresso machines
The best luxury buy is the Jura S8 Bean to Cup Coffee Machine – it’s intuitive, hi-tech and makes excellent coffee quickly.
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