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The Best Espresso Machines (Under $600), According to the Best Experts

updated Sep 13, 2019
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Espresso machines, as you might imagine, can get very complicated and very expensive. There are all sorts of buttons to push, bars of pressure to think about, pumps and boilers to consider, etc! The big machines can cost thousands of dollars and take up the counter space of three (five?) toaster ovens. We are NOT here to talk about those machines today. No, the machines on this list are all less than $600 (and we acknowledge even that’s a lot to spend!) and incredibly easy to use. And yet, somehow, they make barista-level drinks.

Here, we gathered the top espresso machines, according to other well-respected testers including Wirecutter and Cook’s Illustrated.

First, a Look at the Different Types of Espresso Machines

There are three main types to talk about.

Manual Espresso Machines: Kind of like driving a stick, manual espresso machines rely on you to do the most important work. You’ll create the necessary pressure by pulling on a lever; mess it up and you’ll get uneven extraction. These sorts of machines are complicated and require real skill. And that’s why there are no manual espresso machines on this list!

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines: These use a pump to hit that perfect amount of pressure. (And have a boiler to get the water to the optimal temperature.) You still get to load the grounds into the portafilter and do the fun part, but the machine does the hard stuff. Most of the ones on this list are semi-automatic and we’ll note the ones that aren’t.

Fully Automatic Espresso Machines: As you’d guess, these do it all. They measure and grind the beans, pull the shot, and may even froth the milk and pour it right into the drink. These machines are for the home cook who cares more about drinking espresso than making it.

Note: If you’re wondering why the moka pot isn’t on this list, it’s because moka pots do not technically make espresso. Although the coffee brewed in a moka pot is strong, it’s not brewed with the same amount of pressure that’s required in an espresso machine.

5 of the Best Espresso Machines

The Best Espresso Machine for Beginners, According to Wirecutter

We love that Wirecutter spent 60 hours testing only machines that are good for beginners. (You know, because most of us aren’t trained baristas.) The Bambino Plus from Breville earned the top spot because it’s super easy to use (even the user manual is easy to understand), results in rich and consistent shots, and has a sleek, compact design. What testers found most impressive, though, was the machine’s ability to make a silky milk froth that can seriously rival your favorite coffee shop (you can use the quick auto-froth setting or manually steam the milk). If you don’t have a ton of experience pulling espresso shots (but want to get it!), this is the machine for you.

The Best Fully Automatic Espresso Machine, According to Cook’s Illustrated

If you want something that will do practically all the work for you, say hello to the Gaggia Anima Automatic Coffee Machine. You put your favorite coffee beans into the machine and it churns out perfect espresso drinks based on your preferences of temperature and strength. It’s got an attached steam wand for manually frothing milk, which Cook’s Illustrated says is comfortable to use and pops off for cleaning. The digital controls are clear and intuitive, and while the machine can hold up to 60 ounces of water, it only takes up 8.7 inches of counter width.

If you want the convenience of built-in grinding, but want the fun of tamping, Cook’s Illustrated suggests the Breville Barista Express, which also happens to be a favorite on Reddit and gets the award from CNet and Epicurious (see below).

The Best Espresso Machine, According to Epicurious

Epicurious‘ top pick two years in a row, the Breville Barista Express gets a lot of love from the rest of the caffeinating community, too. Fans of the machine cite the fact that it has a pro-level pressure meter, which allows you to accurately monitor the drink as you make it and make adjustments for next time. (Most other home machines — especially the ones at this price point — don’t have this.) But as intimating as a pressure meter may sound, the machine is still fairly easy to use. And the finished shot has the texture and flavor of what you’d expect from a cafe.

The Bestselling Espresso Machine on Amazon

A (good!) espresso machine for just $200? You’d think it’d be impossible! Until you read some of this machine’s Amazon reviews. Not only is it the bestselling espresso machine on Amazon right now, but it also has more than 1,850 five-star reviews. A lot of these reviews do have tips for getting the most out of the machine, so you will have to put in a bit of effort to learn how to best use it, but did we mention that it’s only $200? And it has an integrated milk situation instead of a steam wand.

The Best Nespresso Machine, According to Wirecutter

If you want an automatic, capsule-based, super-fast machine, Wirecutter says this is the best Nespresso machine. Apparently, it makes the same espresso as more expensive Nespresso machines, but it has a smaller footprint and no unnecessary bells or whistles. It also wins the “Amazon’s Choice” badge. Pod-based brewing, however, is not for everyone.

Kitchn’s Thoughts on the Best Espresso Machines

Get the Breville Barista Express. It’s that simple. This machine comes up again and again on various “best lists” and we can vouch for it, firsthand. Yes, it’s $580, so you have to really want to have espresso at home in order to justify the price. But it does that otherwise-annoying grinding work for you and will give you the right amount of hands-on experience to learn the ropes without sending you into a frustrated, under-caffeinated rage.

If you want something that will make espresso AND coffee, go for the De’Longhi Combination Espresso Drip Coffee Machine. It’s great for people who drink both but don’t want to add a bunch of extra machines to their countertops. It makes up to 10 cups of drip coffee and pulls a barista-level shot of espresso. And it’s only $160!

Do you have an espresso machine that you love? Tell us about it in the comments below!