It seems like eons ago when we were routinely sipping perfectly frothed lattes brewed by our local baristas, but bringing the best espresso machine into your kitchen could help fill the void of your favorite neighborhood cafe. Sure, you won’t be pumping out Lourve-level portraits in cappuccino form on your first try, but you can still whip up caffeinated beverages that far outshine the canned cold brew you’ve been pounding. Aside from quality of taste and consistency, investing in an espresso machine will make an impact on your wallet, because every coffee lover knows how quickly a daily caffeine fix adds up.
Making your beverages of choice at home is a great way to practice social distancing, and you might just learn a thing or two about the art of a great espresso. You don’t have to be a professional barista to create complex, flavorful drinks—but the first step is a great espresso machine. We spoke to Giorgio Milos, Master Barista for Illy Caffè, about what to look for in a quality machine. Ahead, his insights on how to find the one for you, and the seven best espresso machines reviewers can’t stop raving about.
What kind of espresso machines exist out there?
The best espresso machine for you depends on your needs and experience level. Manual machines, which you use to pump espresso out by hand sans electricity, are the most difficult to master. Semi-automatic machines are prepped the same way, but they operate with a dial or a button for water flow, rather than a lever. Automatic machines require you to grind the beans before they automatically brew your espresso drink, while super-automatic machines grind the beans for you. Just looking for something convenient? Capsule machines are the way to go. “For at-home use, I recommend capsule machines which prepare a consistent, beautifully tasting espresso,” explains Milos. “I have the illy X7.1 at home and use it every morning, but there are smaller and more affordable machines like the Y3.2, which is good for first-time buyers.”
How does an espresso machine work?
“For coffee purists, espresso is the quintessential coffee preparation—rich, aromatic, and velvety all at once; a natural layer of crema on top belying a full-bodied, yet deftly balanced liquid below,” muses Milos. “A jet of hot water passes under a pressure of nine bars through a cake-like layer of ground and tamped coffee. It’s truly a small miracle of chemistry and physics: science and art gliding together on air.” Securing a machine with nine bars of pressure is what experts will tell you makes true espresso, but stove-top alternatives will still get the job done if you’re on a budget.
What is the best espresso machine?
There are several top-rated machines to consider, at a range of price points and functionalities, but the best machines have optimal pressure and water temperature. “Pressure is what makes espresso different from any other coffee preparation. Fortunately, almost all espresso machines come with a pump system that can handle the job and apply nine bars of pressure. The temperature of the water is even more critical, and the range must be within 90-94C (194-201F).” If you’ve been improving your home while you’re stuck inside, arm your kitchen with tasty drinks via the best espresso machines around. Ahead, seven models that rose to the top, backed by thousands of reviewers who sung their praises.