Espresso is delicious, but it can rapidly become a rather expensive habit, especially if you enjoy milk drinks. At roughly five dollars a pop, your daily latte habit could easily cost you $150 a month. The better option for your wallet is to dive into the world of home espresso drinks and start making your own.
Where do you start if you don’t know anything about espresso machines? Start here. Keep reading for our top ten picks of the best espresso machines for beginners.
The Top 10 Espresso Machines for Beginners
Making espresso can be intimidating. Amid all the jargon and technique involved, choosing the best espresso machine as a beginner can be daunting, especially if you’re not sure what you should be looking for.
Can you even buy a decent espresso machine for less than $1000? The short answer is yes.
Keep reading for Home Grounds’ in-depth guide to the top ten best espresso machines for beginners. Keep reading to the end because some budget espresso machines will surprise you with their versatility.
1. Breville Bambino Plus – Best Overall
Machine Type: Automatic
- Capacity: 64 ounces
- Dimensions (width x height x depth): 12.5″ x 12.2″ x 7.6″
- Milk System: Automatic Steam Wand
Making espresso at home for the first time can be intimidating. You must be mindful of the coffee’s grind size, extraction pressure, water temperature, and flow rate. Get any of these variables wrong, and you might end up with a bitter, sour, or under-extracted shot of espresso. The Breville Bambino Plus automatic espresso machine is our pick for the best espresso machine for beginners at home because it simplifies the process.
With a relatively small 7.6 by 12.5-inch footprint, this espresso machine does everything but dose, grind, and tamp for you.
Once you’ve ground your espresso and prepped the coffee puck, lock the portafilter into the group head. The Bambino Plus is ready to pull your first shot within three seconds, thanks to its updated ThermoJet heating system. From there, press either the one or two-cup buttons, and the Bambino Plus uses a flowmeter to stop automatically once the right amount of coffee has been extracted. A PID controller ensures an accurate and stable brew temperature.
Making a cappuccino is just as easy. Fill the stainless steel pitcher with your milk of choice, place the steam wand inside the milk frothing pitcher, set it on the sensor, and choose your milk temperature and milk foam consistency from three settings. The Bambino Plus will stop once the desired milk temperature and foam level have been reached and will automatically purge the steam wand.
We love the Bambino Plus because it will grow with you from beginner to advanced. It provides the flexibility to program your shot volume and pre-infusion times or to operate it manually. Likewise, the steam wand can be used to manually froth and texture milk like a barista.
If you’re looking to dive straight into the world of higher-end espresso with as little hand-holding as possible, the best espresso machine is our runner-up, the Gaggia Classic Pro. It is the most popular entry point into prosumer-level espresso while still being easy and affordable enough for any beginner.
Housed in a durable stainless steel chassis and made from commercial-grade components, the Gaggia Classic Pro’s sharp, clean lines make it clear to anyone who sees it on your counter that you’re serious about your espresso. And Gaggia has the history and expertise to deliver the professional-grade cafe experience right to your kitchen.
The Gaggia Classic Pro is a commercial-grade, semi-automatic espresso maker that pulls great espresso shots and froths milk that is silky and creamy. The rotating professional steam wand makes it easy to stretch and texture your milk for latte art, regardless of the size of your frothing pitcher.
It includes a three-way solenoid valve, which ensures your spent coffee puck stays dry for easy, convenient cleanup. After all, there’s nothing like cleaning out a portafilter with a wet, gritty puck of spent coffee.
The chrome-plated brass portafilter includes both pressurized and non-pressurized filter baskets, so you’ll be pulling rich espresso shots and making barista-worthy cappuccinos even if you haven’t bought a fancy espresso grinder yet. If you need to use pre-ground coffee or ESE pods, the Gaggia Classic Pro’s got you there, too. Just measure your pre-ground coffee or place your pod into the non-pressurized filter basket, and you’re ready to go.
After perusing many espresso machines for the budding barista, we found that the Philips 1200 series is truly the best espresso machine value for the money.
The Philips 1200 Series espresso machine is a super-automatic model with a built-in coffee grinder with ceramic burrs. The hopper holds 10 ounces of coffee beans, and there are 12 steps of adjustment to help you dial in your grind. While the grinder doses the fresh-ground beans directly into the portafilter, there is a bypass shute if you want to use pre-ground espresso.
Using the touchscreen interface, you can choose “Coffee”, “Espresso,” “Steam,” and “Hot Water” options. Under the “Coffee” and “Espresso” options, you can customize both the dose and the volume of your final drink.
If you decide to make a latte, the pannarello steam wand injects a bit of air along with the steam — taking all the guesswork and fuss out of creating silky, luscious frothed milk. When you’re done, the pannarello steam wand and group head detach from the Philips 1200 Series for easy cleanup.
Last but not least, the Philips 1200-Series is also compatible with AquaClean filters. With these filters installed, you can make up to 5,000 cups of coffee before descaling.
4. Breville Barista Touch – Best Style
Machine Type: Automatic
- Capacity: 67 ounces
- Dimensions (width x height x depth): 15.5″ x 16″ x 12.7″
- Milk System: Automatic steam wand
The Breville Barista Touch espresso machine receives our award for the most stylish, but it is also among the most capable. It blends aesthetic appeal with superior espresso quality and customization while still being easy enough for a beginner to operate.
The 15.5 by 16-inch footprint may be daunting, but the stainless steel Barista Touch packs an entire cafe’s worth of espresso-based drinks at your fingertips in a futuristic package. The bean hopper holds a generous half-pound of fresh coffee beans, ensuring you’ll always be ready to whip up a cappuccino, or three, for yourself or surprise visitors.
Operating this machine is a breeze, but you still need to be involved. You have to manually adjust the grind size via the dial on the side of the machine, level, and tamp the ground coffee once it dispenses into the filter basket.
Using the touchscreen interface, you can choose between six pre-programmed drinks: Espresso, Americano, Latte, Flat White, and Cappuccino. The Barista Touch also lets you create six additional customized drinks. Starting from any of the presets above, you can adjust the temperature and froth level of the milk, the grind size, and the espresso volume – and even add a custom name for your preset.
The Barista Touch uses the same automatic steam wand as the Bambino Plus, so you can let it do the work for you or operate it manually as you develop more skills.
Finding space for the things we need (and the things we want) is a constant battle for most of us who live in an apartment. Many of the espresso makers we’ve reviewed thus far would take up precious real estate on our already diminutive kitchen counter space. But with De’Longhi’s Dedica EC680M, we can have our espresso and drink it, too.
At less than six inches wide and twelve inches high, the DeLonghi EC680M has all the features you need for making excellent espresso. The included portafilter is heavy and durable. Along with the standard one and two-shot pressurized filter baskets, the DeLonghi EC680M also comes with a filter basket just for ESE pods.
The pannarello steam wand takes the trial-and-error out of frothing milk. To give your frothed milk the perfect silky texture, the pannarello steam wand injects air, along with the hot steam, into the pitcher. You’re guaranteed a velvety microfoam every time.
As a final touch, the Delonghi Dedica EC680M has a few hidden features. After your machine reaches the optimal temperature, you can adjust the brew temperature, auto shut-off time, and espresso volume. And if you have particularly hard water, program your espresso maker to the “Hard Water” setting; the DeLonghi Dedica EC680M will optimize the brew variables to yield the best espresso.
6. Breville Infuser – Best Automatic Espresso Machine
Machine Type: Automatic
- Capacity: 61 ounces
- Dimensions (width x height x depth): 13.7″, 13.25″, 11.5″
- Milk System: Steam Wand
We love every facet of the art of making espresso, but sometimes, it’s nice to have an espresso machine that does the work for us. And with the Breville Infuser, we have all that and more.
You still have to prep the puck and manually froth milk, but the Breville Infuser is the best espresso machine to balance between automated convenience and customization. While you can brew with the default settings, you can also customize the volume of each shot or operate it like a semi-automatic machine. A PID control lets you adjust the brew temperature by increments of four degrees Fahrenheit, and the built-in pressure gauge also lets you track extraction pressure.
Before the shot is even pulled, the Infuser pre-infuses the puck at low pressure to help the coffee grounds expand and saturate evenly – hence its name. Then, it applies the standard nine bars of pressure to extract every last drop of goodness from the coffee.
The manual steam wand, powered by a 1,650-watt heating element, is no slouch. While it doesn’t froth milk as quickly as a prosumer machine, the milder steam jet gives you more time to get the milk frothing technique down without scalding it. Also, because this is not a pannarello steam wand, you’ll have complete control over the type of microfoam you create.
The Breville Infuser comes with a collection of accessories and a storage compartment to round out this already fantastic package. You’ll get two pressurized and non-pressurized filter baskets, a coffee scoop, a magnetic tamper, stainless steel milk frothing pitcher, a cleaning disc and tablets, and a razor tool for prepping your puck.
Sometimes you just want a quick espresso fix, even if the quality suffers a little. But at other times, we live to savor every moment. Each step in the process of making espresso becomes a meditative experience. For those times, the semi-automatic espresso machine is your best friend, giving you almost complete control to pull the perfect shot.
The Home Grounds pick for the best semi-automatic espresso maker for beginners is the DeLonghi EC155, one of the most affordable ways to break into the best home espresso machine market. With an ultra-fast heat-up time, 15 bar vibratory pump, and manual steam wand, the DeLonghi EC155 is semi-automatic simplicity at its best. You control the extraction time, so you can make virtually any ristretto, espresso, or lungo-based drink you can dream up.
The EC155 includes a pressurized portafilter, always a helpful option for new espresso enthusiasts because it guarantees a beautiful crema atop your shot, even if your puck prep isn’t quite right. The dual portafilter seamlessly accommodates ESE pods for an even more streamlined workflow.
8. Jura ENA 8 – Best Super Automatic Espresso Machine
Some of us want to control every facet of the espresso-brewing process, and some of us just want a cappuccino with as little fuss as possible. So how about an easy-to-use espresso machine that practically does all the work for you? Feast your eyes and senses on the beautifully designed Jura ENA 8 – your own private barista.
If you want your cappuccino to involve no more work than tapping a few buttons, the ENA 8 is your dream come true. With the JOE smartphone app and Bluetooth connectivity, the only work you’ll have to do is load the 4.4-ounce coffee bean hopper, fill the water reservoir, and fill a frothing milk pitcher with your dairy of choice.
Along with all this convenience comes a few great perks. To start, the built-in conical burr grinder has five settings for dialing in your grind. And if you have some pre-ground espresso laying around, measure the grounds into the bypass filter, and you’re good to go.
By default, there are ten available beverage options, each available with just the touch of a button:
- Latte macchiato
- Flat White
- Espresso Doppio
- Hot Water
- Frothed Milk
- And Espresso
Moreover, each of these presets is customizable via the touch screen. You can adjust the coffee volume, choose between ten different coffee strengths, and customize your milk froth.
The ENA 8 is equipped with a Clearyl water filtration system and self-cleaning modes for both the milk frother and the coffee brewing chamber. A stainless steel thermoblock heater preheats the Jura ENA 8 espresso machine to the optimal espresso-brewing temperature in just seconds. Read our Jura ENA 8 review to know more.
9. Flair Neo – Best Manual Espresso Machine
Machine Type: Manual
- Capacity: 60 mL
- Dimensions (width x height x depth): 4” x 10.2″ x 14”
- Milk System: None
There’s nothing worse than craving espresso on a trip and finding yourself in a coffee shop desert. With the Flair Neo portable espresso machine, you enjoy espresso wherever life takes you.
The Neo is Flair’s lowest-cost model, but that’s not why we love it for beginners. It’s the only model with their patented “flow control portafilter.” Like a pressurized portafilter, it makes it easier to pull beautiful shots.
To start brewing, add 17 grams of espresso into the portafilter, preheat the brew chamber with boiling water, add two ounces of boiling water to the brew head, and lower the lever. That’s it. The Flair Espresso Neo is easy to clean, needs no electricity, and even works with pre-ground coffee.
Made from aluminum and stainless steel, this manual espresso maker is also impressively durable and features a stunning sculptural design. It’s an inexpensive way to break into manual espresso brewing, though lovers of milk-based coffee drinks will want to accessorize with a frother.
10. Nespresso Pixie – Budget Pick
Machine Type: Automatic
- Capacity: 24 ounces
- Dimensions (width x height x depth): 12.8″ x 9.3″ x 4.4″
- Milk System: None
Our budget pick is the Nespresso Pixie. While purists might argue (correctly) that Nespresso isn’t true espresso, we’d suggest that it’s still an excellent alternative for espresso newcomers. Think of it as the gateway drug to a real home espresso machine.
This espresso maker is the only one on our list that doesn’t use fresh coffee beans or ESE pods. As the name suggests, it is only compatible with Nespresso capsules. Though, of course, you can buy reusable Nespresso capsules and add your own ground coffee.
The Pixie doesn’t give you much control over variables to dial in your espresso – no grinding, tamping, dosing, or shot timing required – but it allows you to customize each drink’s volume. What’s more, Nespresso capsules come in a variety of flavors, so you’ll always have a convenient way to enjoy any espresso-based drink you like.
Lastly, the pint-sized Nespresso Pixie espresso maker comes in various colors, so your espresso maker can complement your kitchen’s aesthetic.
How to Choose the best espresso machine for Beginners
You’re probably wondering what to look for if you’re in the market for your first espresso machine. If you’re totally new to the world of espresso, the amount of choice can be overwhelming. This in-depth buyer’s guide will show you the ropes.
Why The Type of Espresso Machine Matters
The first criterion you’ll want to consider as you’re buying your first espresso machine is the level of control you want over your espresso.
Grinding, tamping, and pulling beautiful Ristretto shots sounds great in theory, but are you prepared to invest the time and effort into perfecting those ristretto shots? If not, what are your options?
Manual Espresso Machines
Manual espresso makers — like the Flair Neo — are the simplest, and often the most affordable, way to explore the espresso world. Instead of relying on an electric pump to pressurize water, manual espresso machines use a lever or press coupled with good old elbow grease.
Though they seem simple, there’s much more customization than first meets the eye, explains Novo Coffee’s Josh Taves (1).
From the standard ratio/grind adjustment, to temperature profiling and advanced pressure profiles, the Flair [lets you] explore it all in a compact and attractive package that you can take anywhere.
In other words, even if you’re on a tight budget and need to buy a manual espresso maker, your espresso-based drink options are just as broad as anyone who owns a fully automated espresso machine.
Semi-Automatic and Automatic Espresso Machines
In considering these two types of home espresso machines, one factor distinguishes them: whether the shot stops on its own.
Semi-automatic espresso machines extract coffee using pump pressure, but it’s up to you to stop the extraction at the right time. By contrast, automatic espresso makers stop the shot after a specified volume is reached. Whether you decide on an automatic versus a semi-automatic depends on how much you value consistency from shot to shot, as coffee professional Dominic Vittitow notes (2).
[Semi-automatic] machines require constant supervision … to keep all variables in line with the recipe. Despite the increased margin for error, these [espresso machines] are often associated with the craft and art of making great coffee.
While there’s a great sense of pride in knowing you’ve finally mastered the perfect ristretto or turbo espresso shot, sometimes, it’s not worth the mess you’ll have to clean up if you forget to stop the shot.
In short, if you’re a multi-tasker, choose an automatic espresso machine, but if you’re a tinkerer, the semi-automatic machine may be best for you.
Either way, most automatic machines will let you customize each shot’s volume when creating your recipes.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
The super-automatic espresso machine is in a class of its own. With a built-in coffee bean grinder, myriad espresso and coffee drink options, self-cleaning cycles, and even Bluetooth connectivity, the super-automatic espresso machine takes luxury to a whole new level.
These super-automatic machines often command higher price tags, so they may offer better warranties and customer support. While you may spend more upfront, it’s an investment that should last you for quite a number of years.
Before you spend a few thousand dollars, ask yourself how often you plan to drink espresso. Yes, having an all-in-one unit may be convenient. But if a flat white is something you drink on special occasions, then spending a few grand may not be worth it.
Capacity and Dimensions: Your Espresso Machine Should Fit You
The amount of espresso you plan to make should dictate the capacity you need. While having a large water reservoir is nice, it’s not a good idea to keep it filled constantly if you don’t use it often. If the water becomes stagnant, it can be prime real estate for fungi, mold, and bacteria – not things you want in your espresso (3).
To keep these molds from living rent-free in your espresso machine’s water tank, realistically assess how often you’ll actually be brewing espresso.
Don’t forget to consider the space available to house your espresso machine. Height is an important consideration if you plan to slide it under your upper cupboards.
To Steam Wand or not to steam wand?
Do you enjoy plain espresso, or are you partial to creamy clouds of frothed milk? If you enjoy the former, you can save money (and cleaning tasks) by getting a machine without a milk system. But if you enjoy a good mocha or macchiato, a steam wand or automatic frother is necessary.
If milk frothing is a priority, you’ll have to choose between automatic frothers, automatic steam wands, and manual wands. Automatic frothers and steam wands simplify the process, but you lose some or all control over the texture of your milk. Manual steam wands take some practice to master, but your efforts will be well rewarded, especially if latte art is your ultimate goal.
Pannarello vs. Pin-Hole Steam Wands
Pin-hole wands are usually found on espresso machines geared toward intermediate to expert users. They aerate the milk by shooting a high-pressure jet of steam through a small pinhole at the wand’s tip. Milk steaming with the pin-hole wand is entirely a matter of technique, so a newcomer to the espresso world may not want to start here.
A pannarello wand has a secondary intake hole on the wand’s side to inject air during milk steaming. It is much more forgiving, so it is a common choice on more beginner-focused models (4).
Buying your first espresso machine as a beginner is an exciting time. The espresso world is your oyster.
Our top pick is the Breville Bambino Plus. With pre-infusion, volumetric controls, and an automatic steam wand, this automatic espresso machine makes it easy enough for anyone to craft an amazing latte. At the same time, it offers manual options to experiment with as you improve. It’s a wonderful machine for a beginner or anyone looking to balance quality with convenience.
What is the anatomy of an espresso shot?
The anatomy of an espresso shot is the crema, body, and heart. Each layer contributes an element to the final cup. The crema imparts aroma, the body imparts sweetness and mouthfeel, and the heart balances everything out with slight bitter notes. However, once a shot of espresso is pulled, you have only ten seconds before the heart dominates the shot, which increases bitterness (5).
Can you make great espresso with a manual coffee grinder?
Yes, you can make great espresso with a manual coffee grinder, but not every manual coffee grinder. You need one that produces very consistent fine grinds and with enough grind size settings to properly dial in a shot. You’ll also need strong arms because grinding fine enough for espresso by hand takes work!
What’s the difference between a traditional and turbo espresso shot?
The difference between a traditional and turbo espresso shot is the extraction time. Traditional espresso is extracted in 25 to 30 seconds using fine grinds and nine bars of pressure. A turbo shot is extracted in 15 seconds with a coarser grind and about six bars of pressure. The more modern turbo espresso yields higher extraction rates and a more consistent shot overall (6).
- Josh Taves. (2018, November 29). Test Drive—Make Coffee on the Flair Without Breaking the Bank. Barista Magazine Online. https://www.baristamagazine.com/flair-espresso-machine/
- Vittitow, D. (2021, June 24). How are super-automatic espresso machines evolving? Perfect Daily Grind; Perfect Daily Grind. https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/06/how-are-super-automatic-espresso-machines-evolving/
- Are you drinking germs and mold? (2019). Capecodhealth.org. https://www.capecodhealth.org/medical-services/infectious-disease/are-you-drinking-germs-and-mold/
- Steaming and Frothing. (2017). Gaggia North America. https://www.gaggia-na.com/pages/steaming-and-frothing
- Starbucks Coffee Company Fact Sheet: Starbucks ® Vanilla Macchiato. (2014). https://stories.starbucks.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Fact_Sheet_Starbucks_Vanilla_Macchiato.pdf
- Cameron, M. I., Morisco, D., Hofstetter, D., Uman, E., Wilkinson, J., Kennedy, Z. C., Fontenot, S. A., Lee, W. T., Hendon, C. H., & Foster, J. M. (2020). Systematically Improving Espresso: Insights from Mathematical Modeling and Experiment. Matter, 2(3), 631–648. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matt.2019.12.019