Best Espresso Machines: Complete Buyer’s Guide

Best Espresso Machines For The Home

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So, you’ve decided to dig deep into your pockets and invest in an espresso machine for your home.

I congratulate you on taking the initiative, and soon you’ll be brewing great-tasting coffee that’s going to be just as good, if not better, than many of the popular high-street cafes – give yourself a tap on the back.

Okay, deciding that you want to buy an espresso machine is the easy part. The difficult part will be pushing aside those crappy generic machines to find a real hidden gem that’s worthy of your hard-earned money.

I’ll be honest, it’s not an easy task. With so many mediocre machines on the marketplace, finding the right one will be a challenge.

With that in mind, I’ve done a lot of the heavy research for you and picked out and tested some of the best espresso machines for the home coffee enthusiast.

Our Top Pick: Best Value

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How Much do you Want to spend on an Espresso Machine?

Sure, you can get a great espresso machine on almost any budget, and there are some cheap options; in fact, you can find some decent units for under $200.

But as that old saying goes, you do get what you pay for, and those cheaper machines look great when you bring them home, but you will more than likely be faced with a whole host of issues later on – with failing pumps and leaking water tanks being some of the common problems that plague low-end units.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a cheap espresso machine. You can still get what you want without breaking the bank, but don’t expect the machine to last a lifetime or to come with extra functions to froth milk or a built-in grinder to grind your whole coffee beans.

It’s easy to become all giddy when you get to the store to buy your new espresso machine, and often the sales clerks will “reel you in” with features and functions found on expensive devices that you’ll probably never use.

So bearing that in mind, take a minute to set yourself a budget that you’re happy to spend on a new unit.

If you’re unsure, I would recommend setting a budget of up to $1000; that doesn’t mean you have to spend every last cent.

But, this should allow for a bit of wiggle room so that you can get the right machine with the features and functions you need, and maybe you’ll have some leftover funds to buy a milk frother and grinder too.

Espresso Portafilter Machine

12 Best Espresso Machines For The Home

Below I have diligently picked out some of the best espresso machines for any budget. These machines are perfect for a barista novice or even a full-fetched barista wanting to brew great-tasting coffee at home.

You won’t go far wrong with any of these machines for making an authentic Italian espresso.

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine

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Our first recommendation is the popular Rancilio Silvia. This traditional-looking machine has set the gold standard for home espresso makers for over two decades. It’s an entry-level machine that’s easy to operate for a novice but can also satisfy the experienced barista.

Even though this unit has been designed for home use, it still has the insides of a commercial-grade machine. For example, the industrial-sized 58 mm portafilter, the commercial-grade group head, and the single boiler are just some of the critical components typically reserved for high-end espresso makers.

This semi-automatic machine is a stainless-steel workhorse. It comes equipped with a forged marine brass group head boiler, which provides stability in heat, combined with a sizeable 12-oz boiler, which gives an incredible steam capacity.

The portafilter also comes with a 3-way solenoid valve that quickly releases pressure after your extraction has finished.

One small gripe is that this unit doesn’t come with a built-in coffee grinder. This shouldn’t be a big concern because, ideally, you should already have a good coffee grinder – especially if you take your coffee seriously.

Suppose you want to get serious about making classic Italian espresso or cappuccinos at home. In that case, this machine is a great option that has already proven its worth with its loyal fanbase.

What We Love

  • The group head is commercial-grade that provides excellent heat stability and espresso extraction quality.
  • The steam wand provides a complete range of motion and precise steam pressure.
  • The coffee pod adapter kit is available separately.

Take Note

  • People have reported intermittent leaks when the machine gets extremely hot.
  • The steam function is a little noisy.

Breville The Infuser

Breville The Infuser

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Any real barista knows that pre-infusion is a must to get the most flavor out of your coffee. With pour-over methods, this is called the “bloom.” Breville has taken the initiative and incorporated this important technique into their “Infuser” machine.

How it works is pretty neat. The Breville BES 840XL utilizes a steady, low-pressure stream of water that pre-infuses (very much like a bloom) the packed coffee grounds and preps the portafilter for the optimal 9-bar extraction.

It’s also worth noting that this unit comes with a PID temperature controller, which is programmable in 2-degree increments with aids in a more consistent flavor profile by reducing temperature fluctuations during operation.

Want more flexibility with your coffee-to-water ratio? The Breville BES 840XL has you covered thanks to the double-shot filter baskets that can take a dose up to 19-22 g (filter baskets typically take anywhere from 11-13 g).

Compared to some classic Italian espresso machines like the Silvia, this Breville unit is far easier to operate. In some ways, it is more reliable due to the built-in PID thermometer and a pressure gauge.

These features help ensure that both the temperature and pressure are at their optimum when pulling espresso shots.

Included with the Breville is a good quality tamper, a durable pitching jug for frothing milk, and the large 61 oz water tank is a decent size.

What We Love

  • Large double-shot basket.
  • PID temperature controller.
  • Coffee pre-infusion.

Take Note

  • A lot of trial and error to dial in a good brew.

Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine

Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine

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If you are looking for a cheaper-priced espresso machine, the Gaggia is a perfect option. Gaggia is a well-known espresso brand and has a long history in coffee. They have a full range of kitchen appliances, but it’s their espresso machines that they are known for.

Made in Italy, the Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro Espresso Machine features a desirable 15-bar pump, a turbo milk frother, a chrome-plated brew group, elegant push-button controls, and a removable portafilter and water reservoir. Plus, it’s made in Italy, the home of some of the best espresso machines.

The Gaggia Classic Pro gives you the ability to make two cups of coffee simultaneously. The stainless steel, easy-to-clean outer body means this machine is an absolute favorite for home use.

With a great mix of functions and features, the Gaggia provides everything to help make your morning espresso brewing ritual painless and easy while allowing the complete beginner to retain full control over the brewing process. The simple yet sleek design of this coffee maker is ideal for any modern kitchen and will complement your counter effortlessly.

What We Love

  • It is manufactured from commercial-grade durable components.
  • Easy to clean and use rocker-style brewing switch controls.
  • Use pre-ground coffee or ESE coffee pods with the incorporated pressurized basket.
  • Features a 3-way solenoid valve often reserved for commercial machines.

Take Note

  • Finding replacement parts might be a struggle due to being made in Italy.
  • You will need to invest in other accessories to get the full potential out of this machine.

De’Longhi 15-Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine

De’Longhi 15-Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine

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This budget-friendly DeLonghi espresso machine is the EC702 stainless steel 15 Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine.

If you’re a fan of Cappuccinos or Lattes, the De’Longhi comes with a built-in milk frother, which saves you from having to buy a separate milk frother. I should point out, though, that the De’Longhi doesn’t come with any other tools to complement the milk frother, such as a stainless-steel milk pitcher, so that would have to be purchased separately.

Another neat feature of the DeLonghi 15-bar espresso machine is the option to use coffee pods and freshly ground coffee. The unit comes with various attachment holders: one for a single shot of espresso, a holder for two shots, and the espresso pod contraption that can take coffee pods.

To get the most out of your tamped coffee, the De’Longhi uses 15-bars of pressure that helps to maximize crema for a delicious, barista-style espresso.

The drip tray can also be removed so you can accommodate larger mugs or even squeeze in a small thermal coffee mug. An excellent cheap espresso machine that’s worth the modest asking price.

This machine is fantastic for the price – it’s simple, easy to operate, and delivers excellent espresso.

What We Love

  • Features a self-priming function for minimum start-up time.
  • It has two different thermostats, so steam and water are controlled separately.
  • Slim, compact design takes up little space.
  • The three-in-one filter holder takes pods, ground coffee, or 1 or 2 espresso shots.

Take Note

  • Espresso shots tend to pull light.
  • The included hand tamper is awkward to use and plastic.

Breville Cafe Roma Stainless Espresso Machine

Breville Cafe Roma Stainless Espresso Maker

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The Breville Cafe Roma is the perfect machine for your first foray into making great-tasting espresso at home. It comes equipped with everything you’ll need to craft café-quality beverages.

The Breville ESP8XL is super easy to use, so much so that even beginners will find pulling smooth shots of espresso effortless. Even though this is a budget unit, it’s still capable of pulling a decent serving of espresso but don’t expect the quality of crema you would expect from a thousand-dollar machine.

The Café Roma’s durability is one of its most significant selling points, and honesty, the quality of the components is remarkable for such a low-cost espresso machine.

The unit comprises mainly stainless steel, which is corrosion-resistant and easy to keep clean.

Under the hood, you will find a 15-bar thermoblock pump, which will give you more than enough pressure to extract all of the subtle nuances in flavor from your chosen coffee.

The Breville also comes equipped with double and single and shot dual wall filters. These filters are a great feature to have for a novice as they allow you to pull creamy espresso shots consistently.

All of this is packed into a small footprint allowing this machine fits nicely onto any kitchen countertop.

If you’re keen to start experimenting with pulling espresso shots at home and you’re shopping around for your first espresso machine, the Breville ESP8XL Cafe Roma is a great option at an unbeatable price.

What We Love

  • The dual-wall filter system produces an excellent crema.
  • Small compact size takes up little countertop space.
  • Features a frothing enhancer and a cup-warming hot plate.

Take Note

  • It does not brew ESE coffee pods.
  • Regular coffee mugs do not fit underneath.

Cuisinart Stainless Steel Espresso Maker

Cuisinart Stainless Steel Espresso Maker

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If you are looking for something slightly cheaper, take a look at the Cuisinart 15-bar espresso. It has similar functions to others on our list. However, the build quality is not as good, and it does feel and looks like a budget unit, especially with all of the plastic parts.

Even with budget looks and feel, I was surprised to find a pump espresso machine that consistently delivered 15-bar of pressure at this price point.

The Cuisinart features a built-in steamer for frothing milk for cappuccinos, lattes, and other milk-based drinks. You can use fresh or ground coffee in the portafilter, or if you prefer, you also can use coffee pods by utilizing the provided adapter. With both options, you are able to brew 1 to 2 cups in any one cycle.

The drip tray on the Cuisinart espresso maker can also be easily removed so that you can fit in different cup sizes – it also features a cup warming plate to preheat your cups.

If you’re new to making espressos at home, you may struggle with this Cuisinart as it comes with minimal operating instructions. However, a quick search on YouTube should bring up some step-by-step tutorials on this exact machine to give you a helping hand.

What We Love

  • Can dually brew from either ground espresso coffee or pods.
  • Features a large removable water reservoir.
  • Cup warming plate ensures your cups are preheated.
  • Never misplace your portafilter with the built-in holder.

Take Note

  • Sometimes the unit produces inadequate steam.
  • Not the best customer service if you require any support.

Delonghi Dedica 15-Bar Pump Stainless Steel Espresso Machine

Delonghi Dedica 15-Bar Pump Stainless Steel Espresso Machine

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If you’re short on kitchen-counter space, take a look at the Delonghi Dedica (EC860M). Taking up less than six inches of space, the Dedica is one of the smallest stainless-steel espresso machines on our list.

But don’t let its compact size fool you because the Delonghi Dedica still comes packed with functions and features often reserved for larger, more expensive units.

For example, Delonghi has still managed to squeeze in a decent-sized 35-ounce water tank that holds enough water for up to 17 2-ounce espresso shots. Plus, it delivers 15 bars of pressure, which is guaranteed to produce a thick and creamy crema.

Sure, it’s compact, but the Dedica can still brew two shots at once thanks to the dual-spout portafilter. Perfect for sharing or for those bleary eye mornings when you need a little extra caffeine to jump-start your day.

Are you feeling lazy this morning? Don’t fret because this unit also accepts ESE coffee pods. Fancy a cappuccino or a latte? The Dedica has you covered with its built-in steam wand so you can effortlessly froth milk.

Yes, it doesn’t come with a built-in coffee grinder or some of the extras like a good tamper or a steaming pitcher jug, but at this price point, you really can’t complain.

What We Love

  • A powerful machine in a small package.
  • Comes with a dual-spout portafilter.
  • Use coffee pods with the provided adapter.

Take Note

  • Some users have reported issues with the on/off button.

Calphalon BVCLECMPBM1 Temp iQ Espresso Machine

Calphalon BVCLECMPBM1 Temp iQ Espresso Machine

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For those of you looking for an espresso machine that can keep up as your barista skills and espresso nerdiness grow, look no further than the Calphalon Temp IQ. The Calphalon Temp IQ (BVCLECMPBM1) gives you everything you need to brew exceptionally excellent-tasting espresso at home.

For starters, this machine comes with its very own built-in coffee grinder that comes with 30 adjustable grind settings.

Both the brew head and the steam wand are fully capable of brewing cafe-quality espresso with that rich, creamy, and elusive micro-foam we all yearn for.

Plus, if you’re new to espresso making the pre-programmed settings for single and double shots combined with 15-bars of pressure and the simple interface for selecting steam will help you dial in those perfect shots with ease.

Under the hood, the Calphalon Temp iQ utilizes Thermoblock heating technology and PID temperature control for consistent heat throughout each espresso extraction.

The pre-infusion that blooms the espresso grounds is also a smart feature that ensures your coffee is optimally extracted.

The Calphalon is perfect for beginners. It’s fully automatic and comes with everything to get you up and running. Combine all this with a relatively painless cleaning process, and you have a marvelous machine!

What We Love

  • Includes everything to start brewing espresso at home.
  • Relatively easy to use for a semi-automatic machine.
  • 1 and 2 cup single/dual wall filters.
  • Auto-shot control: Dispenses the correct amount of water for 1 or 2 shots of espresso.

Take Note

  • Putting the portafilter on and off takes a steady hand.

Yabano 15 Bar Compact Espresso Maker with Milk Frother

Yabano 15 Bar Compact Espresso Maker with Milk Frother

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Another good cheap espresso machine that made our list of recommendations is the Yabano compact espresso maker.

Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it lacks functionality, and just like those pricier units, the Yabano comes with a powerful 15-bars of pressure and a front-facing gauge to ensure consistent brewing.

The built-in steam wand is a nice touch at this price point, and you’ll be able to enjoy milk-based espresso drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos at home. The large-capacity water tank is easy to remove and fill – it holds just over 33 ounces of water. You get all of this in an elegant and compact unit that won’t take up too much space.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t going to be the most durable unit, but for the price, if it lasts a few years, you would have gotten your money back versus going to a high-street coffee shop every day. It’s the perfect choice for beginners.

What We Love

  • Budget-friendly and perfect for beginners.
  • A small compact design takes up little space.
  • Very easy to disassemble and clean.

Take Note

  • Not the most durable unit.

Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso And Cappuccino Maker

Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso And Cappuccino Maker

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Do you prefer “a cup of” convenience as you race out of the door in the early hours – take a look at the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker.

The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista comes with full brewing options to tailor a drink to your preference, combined with an automatic milk frother and an adjustable tray to fit that much need super-sized coffee cup. It really doesn’t get any easier than this.

Actually, it can get easier – the milk frothing is all done automatically – just push a button and let it do its thing (no guesswork). Plus, the one-touch control panel makes selecting the kind of drink you want to brew utterly convenient.

This machine is for those of you who enjoy espresso-based drinks, don’t have much time in the mornings, and maybe want to save a few bucks by not forking out an arm-and-a-leg for overpriced lattes at Starbucks every day.

Simply put, if you’re looking for a convenient, quick way to get a decent cup of espresso, cappuccino, or latte, this is a great option that doesn’t break the bank.

What We Love

  • Super-easy to operate and virtually hands-free.
  • One-touch control panel for drink selections.
  • 15-bar pump system.

Take Note

  • More tailored towards beginners.
  • Lots of plastic components.

Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee & Espresso Machine

Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee & Espresso Machine

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I wouldn’t usually recommend Nespresso products – let’s be honest, it’s not much fun placing a pre-packaged capsule inside a compartment and hitting a button.

But, some of you might be looking for convenience over functionality, so the Nespresso would be a good fit and has made the list.

I get it. You might have no interest in specialty coffee, but you still want to enjoy a drinkable espresso or creamy latte in the morning. This coffee machine is probably going to be the easiest way to do it.

I have noticed with Nespresso machines that they lure you in with extremely cheap coffee makers, and then they tend to overcharge for the capsules to go inside the unit.

Even though Nespresso’s patent has expired, the price for capsule coffee is still slightly inflated. On the plus, I have noticed that many specialty coffee roasters have started producing coffee pods that include high-quality coffee beans.

Not a lot more I can say about the Nespresso Vertuo Next – it will be a good fit for some of you, and it does produce a coffee with a full body and rich crema.

What We Love

  • Five cup sizes, Alto, Mug/Coffee, Gran Lungo, Double Espresso, and Espresso.
  • Simple, one-touch brewing.
  • Purchase coffee pods from specialty coffee roasters.

Take Note

  • Plastic components.
  • Additional ongoing costs and waste.

Flair Signature Espresso Maker

Flair Signature Espresso Maker

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The final espresso maker to make our list is a strange one – it’s manually operated. This device isn’t anything new. In fact, they have been around for some time but never really took off.

However, this has changed, and in recent years manual espresso has really started to become popular.

The Flair Signature espresso maker is one of the best devices for producing a great-tasting full-bodied espresso manually. So much so that I would wager a bet that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a shot pulled from the Flair versus a full electric pump-driven unit.

Surprisingly, the Flair can still put out up to 10 bars of pressure with an extraction time of roughly 45 seconds.

Don’t be put off by the appearance of the Flair, it’s straightforward to operate, and not only that, but it weighs almost nothing, 5lbs – making it perfect for that weekend getaway where getting your hands-on good coffee will be a challenge.

What We Love

  • No electricity is required.
  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Easy to clean – completely remove the brewing head, separate the parts, and rinse with water.

Take Note

  • It makes good espresso, but only one shot at a time.

Types of Espresso Machines

Before choosing the best espresso machine, you will first have to settle on the type of device you want.

Here’s a quick rundown of the official espresso units and everything in between:

Hands-On or Hands-Off?

You’ll soon quickly realize that most high-end espresso machines have some level of automation.

Before you scrutinize each brewer’s features and functions, you can quickly whittle down your options by simply deciding how much automation you want with your new espresso coffee maker.

If you haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about or if you didn’t realize that there were different automation levels, keep on reading.

I’ll briefly cover the various options available, along with an approximation of their cost to buy.

Semi-Automatic

As the name suggests, semi-automatic espresso machines do some of the work for you, but not all the work. You’ll still have to let the espresso machine know how strong you want your espresso, how many grounds of coffee to tamp in the portafilter, as well as the amount of water needed to make the perfect shot.

The semi-automatic espresso machine still takes a lot of the guesswork out of making espresso because it heats the water to the correct temperature and determines when the espresso meets your preferred consistency.

If you’re looking for a cheap espresso machine, the semi-automatics are not that expensive, and you can pick up a consumer-level machine for under $200.

Automatic

The difference between semi-automatic and automatic espresso machines is slight. However, the price jump to this class of machine can leave a big dent in your pocket.

Sure, automatic espresso machines have a few more functions and features. Still, the most significant difference between the two is the fact that automatic espresso makers will measure the correct amount of water for you. Once done, they will then automatically shut off.

This makes automatic home espresso machines perfect for the novice. You don’t have to guess whether the espresso is ready to serve or if it still needs more water because the machine has taken that element of the guesswork away.

This is my favorite type of espresso machine.

… and that brings me to the super-automatic variety.

Super-Automatic

If you thought it couldn’t get any better than the automatic espresso machine, think again. Because the super-automatic espresso machine comes with all of the bells and whistles and can even take your dog for a walk if you ask it nicely – okay, maybe not dog walking, but you get my point.

If you have money to buy the best espresso machine with the same functionality as those installed in high-street cafes, then the super-automatic is the way to go.

This espresso machine class lets you create a full-bodied espresso completely hands-free; the machine literally does everything for you.

You don’t have to measure the water or know when it’s hot enough, and you don’t even have to grind or measure out your coffee beans and get this; you don’t even have to froth your milk!

If you want to be the number one home barista in your neighborhood, this machine is for you; however, don’t expect much change out of $1000.

Espresso shot being pulled

Coffee Pods or Coffee Beans?

In the past, espresso machines operated without pods, but with the latest trend of using pre-packaged coffee pods, most modern espresso machine manufacturers have caught on.

You can now find a host of espresso makers that take both pods and regular pre-ground coffee.

There isn’t much of a price difference between a machine that takes pods and one that doesn’t. However, if you drink regular cups of coffee brewed with those pre-packaged coffee pods, the cost of making your cup of Joe will soon add up.

In the long run, grinding your beans not only tastes better, but it will cost you a lot less per cup versus the coffee pods.

With the pre-packaged coffee pods, you’re paying for convenience. I don’t like them, but opting for an espresso coffee maker that uses pods comes down to your personal preference.

Pumping the Iron or Getting Hot and Steamy?

One of the significant differences with the espresso maker is how the coffee is pulled out of the grounds – simply put, how the water passes through the coffee grounds.

There are two ways this is achieved with espresso machines (as far as I am aware), with machines split into two types, pump-driven and steam-driven.

One method uses steam to extract the coffee, and the other process uses heated, pressurized water, which is then pushed through the tightly packed coffee grounds.

The best type of espresso machine is the pump variety (ask any barista, and they will probably tell you the same). The espresso produced tastes like a “real espresso.”

You’ll find no burned or charred aftertaste, which can sometimes occur with steam-driven machines.

I’ll admit that the pump espresso machines are a bit pricier than the cheaper steam units.

But if you enjoy and savor your espressos, you won’t be happy with a steam-driven machine’s results, trust me, so opt for the pump machines.

Get Your Grind on with a Built-in Grinder

One of the most desirable features of an espresso machine for home use is one with a built-in coffee grinder.

You will typically find coffee grinders built-in to the more expensive machines, and they’re on all of the super-automatic models I have seen so far.

After all, if you want your espresso maker to weigh, grind, and move the coffee beans, you’re going to have to pay a little bit more for it.

If you are on a tight budget, I would probably rule out buying a machine that comes with a grinder.

However, that being said, you will have to pay for a separate coffee grinder at some point because pre-ground shop-bought espresso coffee doesn’t taste the same as freshly ground, and good luck finding the correct grind for your machine.

built-in coffee grinder

To Froth or Not to Froth Milk – That is The Question!

You would think that all of the high-end espresso machines would have a built-in frother or a steam wand (as they are typically called).

However, that isn’t the case. I have found that many cheap espresso machines have milk frothers built-in that are better than the more expensive units.

When choosing a machine, you will have to use your instincts and intuition to ensure the home espresso machine you want has a decent milk frother.

If you want to save a few dollars by buying a cheaper espresso maker that doesn’t have a steam wand built-in, don’t worry because you can always buy a frother separately.

Things You’ll Need to Make espresso

Almost all of the espresso machines come with the necessary tools to get you started, but I tend to find that the pre-packaged items’ quality is typically not all that great.

I recommend that you check what comes with your machine and buy extras or better, more durable replacements if needed.

For example, you’re going to need a good grinder to grind your whole coffee beans fine enough for espresso.

Also, a frothing pitcher jug depending on whether the espresso machine has a steam wand already built in.

Lastly, you will need a tamper to evenly and firmly press the coffee into the portafilter.

Espresso Coffee Grinder

If the espresso machine doesn’t have a way to grind coffee or doesn’t use pods, you will have to invest in a decent grinder.

You will need a decent coffee grinder. Burr coffee grinders are going to be your best option. Forget about blade grinders (like the F203 grinder); they cannot produce a fine-enough Espresso coffee grind.

If you’re on a budget, I recommend that you pick up the Hario Skerton, it is a manual grinder, but you really can’t complain about the price. If you want to know more about this burr grinder, take a look at my full Hario Skerton coffee grinder review.

If you have a larger budget and want a push-button device, my second recommendation is the Rancilio Rocky. You can also read my complete guide on the best grinders for some other suitable options.

Milk Frother

If you’re planning on making a latte or a creamy cappuccino, you will need some way of frothing your milk.

Luckily most of the espresso machines come with a steam wand already built-in, so you will have the ability to froth milk using that and a metal jug.

If your machine doesn’t have a steam wand, you can still froth milk, but you will need to invest in a milk frother. Don’t worry, these aren’t typically that expensive, and you can read my full guide on the best milk frothers for some options.

Coffee Tamper

Lastly, you will need a good espresso tamper so that you can evenly press your freshly ground coffee into the portafilter. There are many different types available, and it can be confusing as to which is the best to buy.

I recommend that you get yourself the 58mm Espro Calibrated Flat Tamper. It’s excellent for beginners because it takes the guesswork out of how much pressure you need to use.

You can find more details on this tamper and some other options in my best espresso tamper guide, so make sure you give that a read.

How to Use an Espresso Machine?

Now you have got yourself a new espresso machine, and you have all of the tools needed to churn out some excellent-tasting espresso shots.

Next, I’m guessing you will want to know how to make the perfect espresso shot with a rich and golden crema.

The best place to start is to look at the instruction manual provided with your unit since every machine is slightly different. The manual will tell you the “pull time” and the general consistency to look for – so at least you will know the basics of how to operate your particular unit.

Basics Tips: A Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine

  • Pour clear, cold, filtered water into the water chamber of your machine. About an ounce of water per shot will be required.
  • For a typical double espresso, you will need 18 grams of finely ground coffee.
  • Tamp the coffee firmly and evenly (read the manual for the suggested pressure) inside the portafilter.
  • Remove any grounds from around the sides and top of the filter, then twist and lock it into place in the machine.
  • Place your espresso cup under the spout.
  • Next, you will need to flip a switch or press a button, depending on your unit’s design.
  • When the optimum temperature is reached and the machine begins to force water through the coffee, start your timer (a simple stopwatch will do the trick).
  • You should start to see your espresso shot begin to drop in about 5 to 6 seconds. The consistency will be a syrupy, dark liquid, and as the espresso starts to finish, it will be a lot lighter (referred to as “blonding”).
  • Because we are pulling a double shot of espresso, the whole brew cycle should take roughly 20 to 30 seconds, and the overall volume should be around 30 grams (this is a very rudimentary starting point).

Cleaning your espresso machine

How to Clean Your Espresso Machine?

Now comes the fun part – cleaning!

As you know, the best espresso machine isn’t cheap, so after you’ve parted with a small fortune, you will want to make sure that your device keeps running optimally for years to come. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t if you keep the unit clean and well maintained.

This is an essential cleaning schedule that you should follow for your espresso machine.

Cleaning After Each Pull

This is the easiest and, at the same time, the most overlooked. Keeping your unit clean after each use is going to not only save you time in the long run but it’s going to ensure that your machine is in tip-top shape.

Suppose you are not planning to pull another shot of espresso. In that case, you should empty the grounds from the portafilter, rinse thoroughly, then place it back into the machine and run some water through it to rinse out any remaining coffee grounds.

Any old coffee ground stuck in the unit will only taint your next shot of espresso.

If your unit has a built-in steam wand, make sure to wipe it down with a clean damp cloth and release a little steam to ensure that any remaining milk residue has been flushed out.

Daily Routine

When you know you’re not going to use your espresso machine anymore that day, you should ideally do a final clean.

It’s not as challenging as it sounds, and it shouldn’t take more than 5-minutes. It’s taking the extra time doing ongoing cleaning like this to ensure that your unit works without issues for years to come.

  • Wipe off any residue from your splash screen with a damp towel.
  • Install the backflush portafilter basket into the portafilter.
  • Run a brew cycle through the group head while gently jiggling the portafilter handle. This will help to clean and remove any grounds that have found their way into small crevices.
  • This step is known as backflushing, but be careful because the water is going to be hot.
  • Repeat this backflushing process at least three times or until the water runs clear.
  • Finally, remove the drip tray, drain and wash, dry, and put it back on the machine.

Every 1 to 2 Months

Even though you’re “hopefully” cleaning your espresso machine after each use and at the end of the day, you will still need to do a deeper clean every month or at a push every two months.

This type of deep cleaning will help remove the buildup of any minerals deposited in the water. The amount of buildup will depend on the hardness of the water in your region.

  • First, you will need to fill your espresso machine with the required amount of a heavy-duty descaler solution such as the Saeco Espresso Machine Liquid Decalcifier.
  • Next, start your machine so that the descaler solution will flush through the boilers and pipes, which will clean out calcium deposits in the espresso machine water lines.
  • Leave the machine turned on with the cleaning solution for at least half an hour. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions at this point for the appropriate time. You can use some of the descaling solutions on the steam wand and the group head too.
  • Finally, empty the reservoir and refill it with clean water and rinse the machine with clean water. You can repeat a couple of times until you are confident that all mineral buildups have gone.
  • Once you’re finished, I strongly recommend that you use a litmus paper to test the water’s pH to ensure that all the chemical descaler has been thoroughly rinsed out. If the blue litmus paper turns red, continue flushing clean water through the espresso machine.

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Why Should You Trust Us
Mark Morphew Resident Coffee Expert Mark has over 20 years of experience in the catering and hospitality sector. He takes his years of knowledge and expertise and applies it to critiquing coffee equipment and brewing gear.

Since the creation of the Bean Ground coffee blog in 2014, Mark Morphew and a small circle of coffee hobbyists have rigorously tested, reviewed, and researched coffee gear. In most cases, they have purchased the items themselves with the sole intention of rating and evaluating.

In that time, they have built up a list of quality points to look for and what makes specific equipment better than others. They cut through the noise and marketing hype that often surrounds products to give you their unbiased opinions so you can make clear decisions on your next purchase.
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