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For those afflicted with a coffee obsession, our espresso machine reviews will guide you to the best the current market has to offer, based on how dedicated you are to producing the perfect shot of espresso and what you are willing to spend for it.
These machines vary widely in cost, ranging from about $40 to well over $2,000, with the most expensive ones producing the best tasting coffee with the least amount of effort.
However, if you are willing to do a little work, you can create a delicious cup of espresso for only a few cents per cup.
If you are a true espresso geek who already owns an Isomac or La Pavoni, read no further.
You need to seek professional help for your addiction and obviously have waaayyyy too much money.
If, however, you just want a good cup of joe that does not resemble the warm caffeinated dishwater your current home machine makes without having to run out to Starbucks to pay inflated prices for mediocre java, then read on…
Nespresso, Gaggia (someone seriously needs to change the name of this company), Rancilio, and Saeco are among the top-rated brands, though you probably won’t hear of most of them outside of these espresso machine reviews.
And if you don’t need to use your appliances as status symbols, the lower-priced Mr. Coffee and DeLonghi espresso machines also seem to make a lot of people happy.
Espresso is made by forcing hot water, under pressure, through finely ground, well-tamped coffee, resulting in a 1.25 oz. shot of pure coffee essence, topped with a crowning layer of frothy crema (assuming it is done correctly).
This procedure sounds simple enough, but if you do it wrong your shot will come out tasting like burnt mud.
The quality of espresso can vary widely, depending on many factors, including the quality of the coffee beans you choose, the fineness of the grind, and the temperature and pressure of the water as it passes through the coffee.
Not that you’re under any pressure or anything…
The cheapest espresso (often misspelled as “expresso”) makers are the kind you use on the stovetop, like the Bialetti my Italian grandmother used to use.
But since we are aiming for tasty espresso, not rocket fuel, experts agree that this method does not produce enough water pressure to create a truly good espresso with a decent layer of crema.
There are electric steam machines, which get the water pressure only up to about 2 bar, producing a cup of strong, usually burnt-tasting coffee, rather than a real espresso.
The true espresso “machines” are those that use an electric or manual pump to push perfectly heated water at 9 bar through finely-ground coffee.
This amounts to the equivalent of sucking a bowling ball through a garden hose.
Cheaper espresso machines may have parts that are not sturdy enough to stand up to that much pressure on a regular basis, which is why the good ones tend to be more expensive.
Our espresso machine reviews are divided into four types:
Manual Espresso Machine Reviews
As the name implies, manual espresso machines allow you to control all aspects of the cycle, which gives you a lot of control but can vary the taste of the espresso with each cup you make and is a lot of work. If you love your java enough to put in the time and effort to experiment you can produce a truly sublime shot of espresso.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine Reviews
The most popular type of machine, and the type that gets the best espresso machine reviews, the semi-automatics have automated temperature controls for the boiler, an automated pump, and switches to activate and deactivate the pump.
It’s up to you when to turn the pump on and off. It allows you some level of control without having to do everything yourself.
Automatic Espresso Machine Reviews
For the most convenient and consistent result, there are automatic espresso machines. The pump, water temperature controls, and water volumes are all selected with the press of a button.
No-fuss, no muss, which is why the Nespresso espresso machines are so popular. While they usually deliver a consistently drinkable brew, they are not the choice for those who like a little variety every now and then.
Super Automatic Espresso Machine Reviews
These do all the work for you, including grinding, measuring, tamping, brewing and cleaning. They do everything but drink it for you. Needless to say, these are generally also the most expensive.
Many of the popular models, such as the Nespresso espresso machine, use pre-made capsules or “pods” that allow you to just pop them into the machine, eliminating the need to grind, measure and tamp down the coffee.
These are of course very handy but can be an expensive and limiting choice since you are generally tied to getting all your coffee from the manufacturer and can’t just pop out to the local market or trendy coffee store if you suddenly run out.
And should you come across some Jamaican Blue Mountain at a one-day-only sale for $2.99 a pound it will do you no good whatsoever. But if all you are looking for is a steady, reliable cup of joe before heading out to work every day, this may not be a problem.
Before you even consider shelling out for an expensive machine, however, investing in a burr grinder is necessary if you want to achieve true espresso nirvana, as blade grinders just can’t grind the beans finely enough.
Oh, you thought you could just buy your espresso pre-ground? HAHAHAHAHA!!! Think again, coffee boy.
If you want to impress your date with the excellence of your espresso, you won’t be doing it with stale pre-ground coffee. You have to grind it right before you pull the shot or the quality of your espresso will suffer.
It’s advised that you spend about as much on the grinder as you would on the machine, so if you have a $500 budget, look for a $250 grinder. Yes, this IS that important! If you’re not willing to invest in a good grinder you may as well stick with your ancient Mr. Coffee machine.
After you have explored our espresso machine buying guides and choose the model you like, you may want to read some useful tips and tricks on how to make espresso. Unless you are going for one of the super-automatic models, every shot of espresso is only as good as the barista who creates it. And just think about how impressed your date will be!