Purchasing a good espresso machine can guarantee you will be greatly supplied with top-notch espressos for several years, in many cases, for over a decade, as these machines are respectful investments all coffee lovers must do at least once. The only problem is that, once you got one, you will surely be getting another in the future when your first-ever machine goes bad and die.
Espresso machines are not only a great way to make espresso these days, but they are also incredibly convenient to facilitate the preparation of many coffee recipes, as well as they are multi-task and can be hot beverages central from where you can get help to prepare teas, milk-based shakes or drinks and of course, anything that includes coffee, brewed or ground.
We did a selection with some of the finest espresso machines that are available now in the market for 2021, considering their features, their popularity, and prices, offering solutions for diverse budgets. As we review these machines we will also explain how espressos are brewed, especially if you are not schooled yet in the espresso universe, so you can follow what these beauties do when it comes to preparing refined espressos and, to enhance your knowledge on espresso machines and the espresso preparation itself, don’t miss our espresso machine guide at the end of the reviews to catch up some cool tips.
These are the Best Espresso Machines for 2021
Jura is another great name among the best espresso makers. They have been developing some of the finest home espresso machines in the industry for many years, not to mention their very elegant and unique design that complements their Swiss high-quality tradition. Ena is the most popular espresso maker these days developed by the brand, is a revamp of their successful C series, which includes the C1000, one of the most popular models of espresso machines. But different from the C series, the Ena offers a single extraction valve, which makes it a more affordable home espresso, still with the high quality and refining of Jura’s design.
The only let down of this quite compact is the fact Jura Ena is a highly automatic espresso maker. There are no controls for customization while making espresso shots, and the machine is developed to favor high-quality coffee beans as Jura is an excellent crema extractor. If you meet these requirements, you will do just very well with Ena, a machine that is developed especially for espresso preparations as you may note, there is no frothing system included in this model.
For customers that feel a bit phobic to modernism, Jura’s quite minimalist design can become a bother as it is a bit complicated to know where are its main controls, which are not many, but still, are mysterious to be found.
This Breville machine is one of the most expensive you can get in the market and, likewise, it is one of the most praised and approved by customers, with the highest rating by buyers in several online stores and for that reason, we added it in our list of top espresso machines for 2021. One important thing about this espresso machine though is the fact it is like most machines on our list, quite automated, so people who are traditionalist may not love it as much as other espresso machines in the market that are more classic but, do not have a rate that high, or are simply obscure to popular knowledge, specifically because they require professional skills to handle and are quite expensive. We will see at least a couple of these models later and I’ll also explain why we didn’t include more of them in this list.
But back to the Breville Oracle, this espresso machine is the middle ground between traditionalism and automation. The BES980XL offers one of the best-customized espresso services in the market, as you just have one specific ready-made recipe for Americanos since it is a stronger, double espresso-based mix – quite simple for a machine to perform and with no need for you to operate the same task twice. Even though, you can control the strength of this recipe.
From that on, you can make use of the adjustments of extraction, amount of brewed coffee, frothing, and grinding size to prepare your own coffee drinks, like cappuccino, mocca, and latte. For all of them, you can set up personal adjustments to create your own recipe that suits your taste – or the type of coffee bean you are brewing. Breville has many different adjustable controls for all the espresso creating tasks. You easily set a grind size, the temperature of the water, steam pressure for frothing, and time of brewing. All these adjustments are digital, you just have to set a measure and get started.
For last, this Oracle has a quite compact build, even though it is a large machine that can prepare two cups simultaneously, meaning it will grind and brew the respective amounts of coffee beans and water necessary for that preparation at once. Its design fits well any counter as there are no levers, but dialers, designed to save space, including the froth leveler.
You probably have seen several times DeLonghi among the best espresso machine lists for 2021. They really have a name in the industry and that is not in vain. One of the top espresso machines for a while is the Magnifica. It got already several different versions, but the ESAM3500.N, or simply the Magnifica N is still one of their top espresso makers.
This automatic espresso machine has a quite simple design to prepare espresso and cappuccino with the push of a button. You can see the milk tank is designed juxtaposed to the brewing valve and that’s specific to prepare lattes and especially, cappuccinos. The Magnifica N is easy to use and can easily brew espressos for all tastes but, different from Breville’s Oracle that has a standard Americano recipe, this DeLonghi machine does cappuccinos.
That doesn’t mean the frothing system here is mandatory as the whole machine also works with digital controllers so, you can select to make single or double espresso, set the strength, time of brewing and amount, grinding size of the coffee beans, and let the frothing away for a pure espresso.
Similar to the Oracle, but with a design a bit more intrusive, Magnifica N is oriented to be easy to use and to make a nice morning shot of espresso. Is important to note that, while both these two first machines on our list have a milk frother, this DeLonghi is a more semi-automatic machine, so you can’t actually handle the quality of the frothing like you do with the Oracle. Once again is a matter of how you like to prepare your espresso and cappuccino.
This second Breville of our list is a more rustic model compared to the Oracle, it is less automated, but that doesn’t mean it offers you more adjustments. The main difference though is the fact this espresso machine doesn’t have digital interfaces, rather digital controls. The Barista Express has the same kind of compact design as Oracle, but all its controls are manual adjustments: grinding settings are adjusted through a dialer with graphic indicators, making espresso with a single push of a button – for either single or double serves, while the espresso shot dosing has a single setting, the Filter button, you can either adjust for single-shot or double shot.
The only thing on the Barista Express that is unchangeable via controls is the temperature. Similar to the Jura machine, it is designed to brew a traditional espresso, so the temperature is not up for discussion, it is internally set to 200ºF (93ºC). Breville says you can, actually, change the default set inside the thermocoil of the espresso machine, but this is something for people skilled on that matter and require you to disassemble the machine.
There is also a cleaning program to wash the grinding cradle. When it is required to clean, an indicator light will turn on, so you have to attach the cradle to the steam screw station and the machine will perform the hyalinization for you. The machine also comes with a complimentary cleaning kit to finish brushing residues, especially to clean the drip tray, milk frother, and steam wand.
One more DeLonghi on our list, the Compact Magnifica S is actually one of the most precious babies of DeLonghi. For many years this automatic espresso machine was a hit and it only is outdoned in popularity by the latest Magnifica series (including the N model we have seen before here). As the name suggest, Magnifica S is a compact version of the series, a small one, but it still offers all the key features of the most robust Magnifica machines and more.
Particularly, many people consider this a superior model, especially because of a clever design. One the design difference that may be quite positive for some is the isolated steam wand, different from the juxtaposed Magnifica N milk frother system. Here, people who prefer to froth the milk on their own will benefit from the separate steam wand that is designed elegantly at the left edge of the espresso machine’s face.
The milk tank for sure can’t be seen here, which is a let down for those who prefer to have a visual check, on the other hand, Magnifica S has a sleek and much more elegant design and, with no milk tank on the front of the machine, there is space for serving two espressos at the same time, a big let down of the somehow clumsy design of the Magnifica N. There is no automatic recipe for this machine, so it is a great way to go for those who prefer to keep it demure when it comes to automation and prepare their own milk-based coffees manually.
Speaking of which, the automated settings here are no little thing compared to the Magnifica N. There is a good array of options to customize grinding and brewing spontaneously available at the big digital board face.
This digital control board is much diverse, it may be easier for some and more confusing for others, depending on how you learn to deal with machines, having all the option in your face may be troubling to remember later, for others, learning steps on a digital display is the hard part, so is up to your ways.
The last espresso machine of our list is a quite compact, somehow cute and the most affordable home espresso machine of our list. Capresso is an American brand from New Jersey, and their espresso machines are developed in the USA, even though they can still keep their products with a quite good cost-benefit. The difference here from most of the machines we have seen is the capacity.
Since it is a small, compact espresso machine, it doesn’t brew a lot of coffee at once, two single espresso shots per brewing and if you want more you have to add more coffee beans and water. Even though it has its limitations – including the fact it does NOT include a built-in burr grinder – it still offers a steam wand and digital controllers to start brewing or frothing.
Another great feature of this compact model is the steam pressure. There are many cheap espresso machines that work more like a drip brewing, but Capresso has the same 15 bars of pressure that all previous espresso machines offer. That means you can grind high-quality coffee and brew it for a great crema extraction, one of the reasons why this semi-automatic machine is successful.
To sum up our finest espresso makers list, we included what is a classic model for traditional espresso machines, a La Pavoni leveler espresso machine. La Pavoni is, for itself, a quite traditional and renowned Italian brand of professional espresso machines. People who seek for the best kind of classic Italian espresso will benefit a lot from this kind of coffee maker, but its easy to use.
Leveler espresso machines require some hard work manual job. There is not built-in burr grinder, so the beans are processed separately, and then later you have to accommodate the ground coffee in the cradle and tamp it with strength to then release manually with the steam pressure. If you are schooled on how to operate a leveler barista espresso machine, surely is the way to go, otherwise this will be quite a hard work and, perhaps, even dangerous if you don’t know how to properly handle the tamper.
The PPG-16 is the most refined coffee maker La Pavoni developed. It is all made of brass and has its distinctive golden look. Nothing here is automated, and the water takes a while to boils its water tank has a capacity to brew 16-cups. No wonder this is a professional machine, oriented for commercial use. There is also a froth wand to make cappuccinos, lates and other milk-based coffee recipes, but all requires dexterity and a good knowledge of the machine and a smart eye on the pressure levels.
The reason this is the only non-automated machine we included in the list is the fact they are not really home oriented espresso machines, as we said, they require a barista professional knowledge and will be quite expensive – though, not more than the top automated barista machines we have seen on top of our list.
If you want to really step up on your game preparing espressos, this is the most accessible espresso machine. If you are already schooled on professional appliances, this is the latest and highest-rated La Pavoni model.
Similarly to the Magnifica N espresso machine, Saeco is designed to make great espresso and also has an intrusive milk frother system juxtaposed to the extraction valve. This coffee maker developed by Philips is quite famous, it is their most successful espresso and cappuccino maker and its quite easy to use as its on a list of top automatic machines. As our first two models, Saeco is also a high quality espresso maker for the extraction of espressos, and while it also cappuccino maker, Philips developed a model that is quite focused on providing a great espresso in first place. The built-in burr grinder has ceramic blades, to avoid any taste alterations that some quite mr coffee lovers claim to feel with stainless steel blade grinders.
All the extraction process also happens quite automated to make your life easier, but Philips offers a great digital interface to make your adjustments as accurate to your taste as possible. Their digital interface is also more friendly and visual than many other LCD displays, so the result is a configuration quite intuitive. Everytime you create espresso shot, you can save it either on a single cup or double cup of espresso dosage. You can as well prepare the automatic cappuccino, but the machine gives you freedom to test and try your own combinations to prepare lattes, moccas and so many other recipes you may want.
This espresso machine also has an automatic cleaning system to help you out even more, keeping the burr grinder, the milk frother and water tank always clean.
What is an espresso machine?
An espresso machine works with the steam brewing method, this the most basic definition of an espresso itself, as the pressure of steam brews the coffee ground for an intense extraction to make espresso that other methods can’t perform with the same efficiency.
To make use of steam, these machines work with pressure valves, have a quite meticulous and complex design of brewing, something that used to be much more laborious and complex with traditional espresso machines like the lever ones.
Espresso machines are actually an evolution of the classic stove top coffee makers, best known as moka pots. As the automation makes the work faster and easier, espresso machines also enable customized cup of espresso, shots, servings and also enable frothing milk technologies.
How to find Your Espresso Machine
Even if you have purchased an espresso machine, we have here some interesting tips that will enlighten you on your expertise about these appliances, especially if you are looking for a replacement for an older machine already deceased, unfortunately, or if you are looking for something better, with a bigger budget.
Espresso machines, like many kitchen appliances, evolve fast in the market. There are no radical changes from generation to generation, but some interesting features are important to know to keep on the right track for the ideal espresso and cappuccino maker for you. Likewise, if you are quite a novice in this universe, you will benefit a lot of these tips as there is a thing that is really important to take into account when choosing a machine: your own preferences and taste.
Check out what you must not miss to pair up with the right machine for your needs – if you are somehow already experienced, you can jump midway of this guide to get the more insightful tips.
Pros of an Espresso Machine
There are many advantages on buying a espresso machine, starting by the type of coffee you will get, what you will get from the coffee beans and the advantages compared to other kind of brewing methods and machines.
Espresso coffees are not only some sort of elitist standard for coffees, they are in fact one of the finest preparations of coffee since they get all they can from the beans.
This is the best way to enjoy a high-quality coffee bean. You’ll not want to purchase expensive and refined coffee to brew it with a dripping coffee brewer, where you will loose a lot of flavor and nutrients.
For these reasons, the espresso machine won’t work well either with cheap coffee as the result can end up quite spoiled.
To make espresso with steam pressure ( usually 15 bars of pressure ) enables the brewing to pull most of the nutrients and specially the coffee oil in a rich compound. Pressure is the only way to create a deep infusion, while the preparation will get you cup of espresso fast , before the coffee can start cooling down and loosing its flavors and tastes.
There is one thing that signals high-quality extraction of coffee: the production of cream. We will take in depth about it later as it is something also very important when you are brewing an espresso.
Espresso machines allow you the material source to prepare many kinds of beverages, like cappuccinos, moccas, lattes and many others, and the are easy to use.
The espresso is always the bottom line of these coffee preparations, but most espresso machines also come with a steam wand, water tank, frothing milk wands so you can make it all at the same time.
While there are many frothing systems that work quite together to make espresso, many have a separate steam wand that allows you to have more freedom when preparing your mixes.
If you want a good cup of espresso, things get much easier when you have an automatic machines. Espresso machines are mostly semi-automated (without a built-in grinder) or totally automatic machines.
Not everybody has the time or patience to learn how to make espresso with more manual machines, so these sturdy beauties make all that hard work for you.
This is a topic a bit complex to unravel because it all depends on your standards and your expectations. Espresso machines are for sure the most expensive in the market, and that is simply fair because they do a lot of things and have at least four different kinds of systems entrenched into single machine.
They are designed to work with refined coffee, so you have already the expensive machine and the expensive coffee. That all means, on other words, you will be getting the best, and you will be paying for it, if your standards for coffee are that refined and you are really a coffee aficionado, it is the way to go.
Other types of automatic machines can be much more affordable, but they have a lot of cons that can even make you spend more money on the long term, for example, Nespresso alike espresso machine requires you to purchase the coffee pods forever, they are expensive and they don’t even have the greatest kind of coffee processed – after all, is an industrial coffee already ground and infused with artificial flavors.
Dripping machines can prepare great cup of coffee, but you will lose most of the essential oils of the coffee in the paper filter, not to mention all nutrients that won’t be extracted only with hot water, so is like throwing money in the garbage as the coffee beans will be wasted, you will be toasting your money because you do not want to pay for an equally good machine.
You will not need to be in the mood for a coffee to use your espresso machine. As they have steam services, frothing and boiling, you can use them to prepare teas, boil milk or just have a jar of hot water for any other need.
What should I look for in Espresso Machine?
This section is relevant for both experienced and new users of espresso machines. There is more for choosing the machine than just the services it offer, but how they do offer and what kind of new features they are including these days to make these machines better than previous models and in the end offer you the most amazing cup of coffee.
The main issues operating espresso machine is the aftermath of preparing an espresso. Many models we included here have auto-cleaning programs, so you can make use of the steam of the machine to clean it easily and save time performing the maintenance of the appliance.
If they don’t offer at all any auto-cleaning services or are not that much complete, these machines should at least be simple to disassemble and include cleaning kits. The grinder burr requires a quite precise and intensive cleaning.
The coffee hopper requires cleaning from time to time as the coffee oil will start to clog the beans and even possibly proliferate microorganisms. The same goes for the milk tank. Many machines include a water steam cleaning system for them, but if that’s not the case, you will have to wash it with dish soap and water.
Metallic burrs vs. Ceramic burrs
You have noticed that only one of the espresso machines in our list has a ceramic burr. That’s not because they are worse than stainless steel, the most common material for it, but because ceramic is more expensive and quite tricky.
Some advocates of traditional coffee say that metallic alloys like steel clog more oil and “steal” some of it from the final extraction, while ceramic is less reactive with the coffee oil. The result is espressos with a better texture for ceramic burrs than stainless steel.
On the other hand, ceramic burrs when get damaged mean total lost of the machine, the whole equipment must be replaced as it is very hard to substitute the burr – however, is quite hard that scenario may happen.
Either this is your first espresso machine or one of many you have already purchases, warranty policies are always something that must not be skipped and neglected when it comes to espresso machine.
Two companies may offer a standard 2 year warranty, or a premium 5-year warranty, but one can offer a partial cover only on the machine or burr, the other a complete cover, and so on.
There are many different scenarios possible, and there are even lifetime – limited though – warranty policies. Depending on the machine you are purchasing is important to keep an strict eye on these limitations.
Standards of the machine
First and foremost, an espresso machine must not take too long to boil the water and gather enough pressure to start brewing.
This is important because the grinding happens a little bit before this process start, and the beans will be already processed and exposed, the faster the process of grinding and then extracting happens, the better the essential oils of the coffee are conserved – and not clogged around.
All the machines we included in this list have at least a 15 bar of pressure and they have water tank from 1.8 to 2L – so they heat up fast enough. The only exception is the Caspresso machine, which has a 1L tank and will actually heat up really fast.
High-quality coffee beans
It’s useless to covet a premium espresso machine if you are not going to invest the same rigor for the coffee grounds. Most importantly, you have to purchase beans and not pre-ground coffee. Only with refined beans you will be able to obtain an authentic espresso.
One of the ways for you to detect you made good shot of espresso is checking the production of cream. For those who are novices here, cream is the softer, lighter layer that floats over the dark coffee extraction. A good extraction produces a cream at least 1/5 of the thickness of the whole serve, and it is often a light amber color.
When it is too dark or too thin, it means you didn’t a very great job, and that may be part due to bad coffee beans, or a wrong grinding size, or the machine not brewing properly. The cream looks like a milk foam, but there is not milk at all involved at this point. It is simply the essential oil of the coffee mixed with bubbles.
Warm ambient, cups and tray
There is nothing more puke inducing than drinking a tepid good coffee. The extraction of coffee, depending on what you are brewing, as the size of the coffee grounds, servings and the size of serving, can take one to two minutes. If you are running this process inside a cold kitchen, the experience is already getting spoiled.
As espresso shots are not a coffee pot, you don’t need to much to cool them down to a point they get spoiled. Place your espresso machine in an ambient with a normal ambient temperature and, as you have probably seen already on restaurants, keep the cups pre heated so they don’t steal the coffee heat and help to cool it down faster than expected.
You can even make use of the hot water from the machine to heat up the trays so they don’t cool down the cups. This kind of precaution seems crazy, but specially during cold seasons, all extra heat helps a lot.
For last, and it also works as a first, don’t try to experiment too much if you don’t really have a high level of expertise on coffee grounds and flavors. Each type of coffee works well with specific guidelines of preparation, some will be great with coarse grinding but others will be terrible with that same measure.
It goes also from strength of extraction – some coffee varieties are naturally a strong bitter, shortening it even more will lead to a terrible outcome. Most respectful coffee brands offer their guidelines for customers just like any product, follow it strictly, and from this on you should try to adventure yourself testing different approaches if you think what you got is not good enough.
Brewing espressos in the dark can lead to a lot of waste of good coffee – as well as waste of your money.
Wrapping it up
We hope we got it all covered for you, from the finest espresso machines to how you can know if they are suitable for you, either if you are beginning or if you are looking for another espresso machine that works great. Many of these models are in the market for many years, but they are still on the list for top espresso machines in 2021, as a symbol of their quality and efficiency.
As a matter of reference, you can dive further into the series of these espresso machines as they have other similar models with slight differences. Surely we could not include all of them, but the most relevant sources for you to research deep are here.
Last update on 2021-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API