Splurge or Save: How Does Breville’s $700 Espresso Machine Compare to DeLonghi’s $170 Alternative?

published Mar 26, 2024
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Credit: Photos: Williams-Sonoma, Amazon; Design: The Kitchn

At this point, it’s practically a joke to tell someone to just make coffee at home in order to save money. Unfortunately, if you have a habit of ordering a $7 latte every morning, the daily expense does eventually add up — and there’s nothing like having access to great coffee in your own kitchen. That’s why we recommend investing in a good coffee machine. Purchasing the right espresso maker and learning how to use it can easily help you create beverages that rival those from your favorite cafes, but with so many different brands and models out there at varying price points, it can be difficult to determine which machine is right for you. Longtime readers of The Kitchn know our editors are constantly testing new coffee gear, so if you’re looking for advice, you’re in the right place. Our Splurge or Save series compares two editor-tested and loved products that serve the same purpose but retail for different prices, and today, we’re looking at espresso machines.

Previously, we looked at Dutch ovens before moving onto countertop appliances — specifically, stand mixers. We’re continuing on the appliance track by looking at Breville’s $700 Barista Express Espresso Machine and comparing it to DeLonghi’s $170 15-Bar Espresso & Cappuccino Machine.

Credit: Photos: Williams-Sonoma, Amazon; Design: The Kitchn

Breville vs. DeLonghi

When it comes to espresso machines, Breville is bound to jump to the forefront of your mind. The brand specializes in top-of-the-line machines for at-home use, though most of them sell for what might seem like a commercial price. We’ll be focusing on the Barista Express Espresso Machine, which is one of the brand’s more affordable models but still quite pricey nonetheless. One of our editors also tested the 15-Bar Espresso & Cappuccino Machine by Delonghi, which is $530 cheaper. So, how do the two compare?

Overview of Breville’s Barista Express Espresso Machine

Even if you prefer drinking lattes or cappuccinos over straight-up espresso shots, a bonafide espresso machine is still going to be your best bet when it comes to achieving that barista-level coffee flavor. This is in large part because high-quality espresso machines come with built-in bean grinders. As you might already know, grinding the coffee beans yourself right before you brew them will result in a fresher and more intense flavor profile. Breville’s Barista Express has a grinder, not to mention other cool features that made it a standout in former commerce editor Sholeen’s kitchen.

“The Breville Barista Express espresso machine is a workhorse; it pulls espresso shots like a total pro, while the steam wand (it does a 360-degree swivel!) heats and froths milk for delicious cappuccinos, lattes, and more,” she wrote in her review. “I also really love that it has a built-in water heater so I can simply top my espresso shot with piping hot water for a cup of black coffee or make a cup of tea without using a kettle. During hot days, I swap hot water for tap and ice cubes for a refreshing cold brew. It truly does it all.”

Sholeen also noted that despite looking complicated, the Breville is surprisingly easy to use. That being said, if you’re used to a single-button coffee maker or want something that’ll make a quick cup of coffee in a minute before you head out the door, this might not be the appliance for you. Our tester described the process as follows: Turn on the power, use the puck to get the right amount of freshly ground beans, pull an espresso shot, and then use the milk wand to create just the desired amount of froth and heat. Sounds simple enough, but you might have to watch a few YouTube tutorials to get there, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Still, you’ll be happy to learn that the Breville comes with a variety of tools that’ll set you up for success, including a steel milk jug, four filter baskets, and cleaning supplies. As far as caring for the machine, the process will likely take you longer than it would for a more basic coffee machine. You have to hand-wash or rinse multiple parts, and decalcifying the machine every couple of months is also recommended. In short, this is a relatively high-maintenance appliance, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll pay for itself.

Overview of DeLonghi’s 15-Bar Espresso & Cappuccino Machine

If you don’t have $700 lying around to spend on an espresso machine, not to worry — there are many viable budget-friendly options. Namely, DeLonghi’s 15-bar model. Its name essentially means that the machine applies optimal pressure while brewing your cup, resulting in a close-to-perfect aroma and flavor. But all you really need to know is that it’s compatible with both ground coffee and Nespresso-brand espresso pods. Whether you’re having a slow morning and want to manually make a double-shot or latte, or you’re heading out the door and want to quickly pop in a pod, this coffee maker does it all.

Although the Breville machine doesn’t have an exorbitantly large footprint, the DeLonghi is even more compact and won’t take up a ton of countertop real estate. Senior commerce editor Ian also noted that it’s incredibly easy to use, even for beginners. “Even the most novice home barista can handle the setup, maintenance, and operation of this thing,” he noted in his review. “If you can make a pot of drip coffee — which, yes, you can — you can make a real-deal espresso. The DeLonghi is essentially ready to rock right out of the box, and once you plug it in, all you have to do is fill the built-in water reservoir and run a hot water cycle through the machine to clean it.”

Credit: Amazon

If you want a detailed, step-by-step explanation of how to use the machine, continue reading Ian’s review. But after a preliminary trial, you’ll have the hang of it. Like the Breville, the DeLonghi also has a built-in steam wand and frother, allowing you to whip up foamy cappuccinos and lattes. It doesn’t come with a built-in grinder or tamper, but those who frequently find themselves short on time might just appreciate the lack of bells and whistles. Ian still recommends grinding the coffee beans yourself, but you can always purchase a separate grinder for that or ask your local coffee shop to do it for you.

The Verdict

If you have barista experience or are willing to put in some work to gain the skills, you can never go wrong with a Breville espresso machine. Of course, another factor to consider is whether you’re willing to forgo your morning coffee shop run and actually use it. In any case, there’s a reason this brand has such a strong reputation — its appliances really are that good. If, however, you want something quicker and more accessible, go with the DeLonghi. It doesn’t have quite as many accessories as the more expensive machine, but it will level up your coffee flavor-wise if you’ve just been using a drip machine. We hate to be so wishy-washy with our final verdict, but whether you should splurge or save really does depend on your lifestyle! However, you can rest assured that if the Breville is out of your budget, the more affordable option is still a totally solid choice for everyday use.

Buy: DeLonghi 15-Bar Espresso & Cappuccino Machine, $143 (normally $158.97)