6 Best Espresso Machine for Beginners/How To Know Which One Is Right For You

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Between the satisfaction of personally brewing the perfect espresso shot and the amount of money you’ll save in the long run compared to goig to the coffee shop every day.

But, it can be hard figuring out what the best espresso machine for beginners is and what type will fit your needs and lifestyle the best.

There are numerous reasons why your espresso isn’t perfect, including—a bad coffee grinder, a lousy espresso machine, wrong grind size, inconsistent ground and tamp, incorrect brewing setting and temperature. 

If your espresso machine is at fault, there are a few features and characteristics you must consider before purchasing an espresso brewer for a novice coffee enthusiast like yourself.

There’s a significant learning curve to perfect your espresso shots, and an expensive espresso machine won’t make things any easier at first. 

That’s why we recommend entry-level semi-automatic espresso machines for individuals who wish to learn the ups and downs of brewing espressos, to control the taste and aroma of their beverage, and to be able to learn the whole process as you go. 

If you plan to invest in an espresso brewer, we have reviewed the six best entry-level espresso machines that provide just enough features to give you what you need without overwhelming you.

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Breville Bambino Plus

Bambino Plus is the first semi-automatic espresso machine to introduce an automatic steaming wand in their system.

This fully stainless steel machine includes a massive water reservoir, innovative thermojet with 3-second heat up, pre-infusion, five easy-to-use illuminating buttons, temperature and foam control, auto-purge, 54mm portafilter, and four-holes steaming jet. 

Bambino Plus is a small machine that can quickly adapt to small kitchens.

Its sleek metal body with some minor plastic accents is perfectly designed for any kitchen decor. In addition, the two programmable buttons—one shot and double shots—can be turned on and off for brewing. 

The third button is to initiate automatic steaming, whose temperature you can control.

There are three settings for temperature and foam: Low, medium, and high. Breville bambino is known for producing scorching beverages if you prefer your drink hot. 

The water reservoir is present at the back and has a capacity of 64 ounces (1.9 liters)—it’s a lot for a small entry-level machine.

The intelligent device also informs when the water reservoir is detached. Furthermore, it also indicates when the steaming wand is not in position. 

Other exclusive features of Breville Bambino are: 

  • PID temperature controller to switch between extraction and steaming within seconds. 
  • Temperature sensor situated at the drip tray to sense milk’s temperature through the milk pitcher. 
  • Pressurized baskets for beginners to ignore a bad tamp, grind, etc. 

Pros

  • Breville’s services offer stainless steel tamper, razor, milk pitcher, and cleaning kit. 
  • The machine has a long stainless steel milk steaming wand with a plastic handle. 
  • Cup warming plate. 
  • Floater inside the drip tray to alert flooding.
  • 19-22 gram fixed dosage. 
  • Removable drip tray.
  • Removable water reservoir. 

Cons

  • The machine is small and lightweight, and you will need to hold it in position to attach the Portafilter. 
  • The small drip tray gets full often. 
  • No non-pressurized baskets to accompany the machine. 
  • It can be considered expensive, but every feature is worth the price. 

Breville Barista Express

Barista Express is a highly praised semi-automatic espresso machine. The machine has a similar long-horizontal design to other high-end Breville models and stainless steel casing. 

The machine is massive with heavy, accurate features. Breville Barista Express has a built-in grinder, portafilter cradle, pressure gauge, programmability, dedicated water spout, and a manual steaming wand.

  • Built-in grinder: 

The grinder has a non-integrated bean hopper that further increases the height of the machine.

It has a capacity of 250 grams and is sealed with a black tinted lid to protect the beans from UV radiation and keep them fresh for a longer time. The grinder has eight grind size settings and two buttons to control the grind amount and the size. 

There’s a cradle that holds the Portafilter to grind directly inside it. The machine also has a built-in tamper holder. 

  • Pressure gauge

The pressure gauge is present at the center and has grey markings to display pre-infusion, over-extraction, under extraction, and proper extraction. 

  • Temperature control: 

With this machine, you can control the volume of your espresso shots and the temperature with -,+1, and -,+2 increments. 

Breville barista express will demand a significant learning curve, including how to grind appropriately for espressos, manual tamping, and brewing.

In addition, you will need to go through a substantial learning curve to balance all the three together to brew the perfect shots. 

However, with Breville barista express, you can choose between manual or automatic dosing.

For automatic dosing, push the Portafilter inside the cradle, and it will dose 19-22 grams (as per the direction in the machine). To manual dose, press and hold the Portafilter until the required quantity is met. 

Pros

  • For the features, it’s pretty affordable. 
  • Massive water reservoir with a capacity of 67 ounces (2 liters)
  • Large drip tray, cup warming plate, and storage box. 
  • Two pressurized and two non-pressurized baskets. 
  • Complementary stainless steel tamper, razor, and milk pitcher. 
  • High-quality milk frothing technology. 
  • Equipped PID controller. 
  • Moderate footprint and lavish body 

Cons

  • It takes about 10 minutes for it to heat up. 
  • No-kill switch at times of bad tamp, improper reading in the pressure gauge, etc. 
  • Single boiler. (this means that you will have to brew your espresso and steam your milk separately)

Delonghi EC155

If you are looking for a basic espresso machine that will brew decent shots, has an affordable price tag, and gets you through the learning curve—Delonghi EC155 is the answer for you.

The machine has a lot to offer for the price tag, including a stainless steel cup warmer, aluminum pressurized portafilter and basket, a non-pressurized basket, 35-ounce removable water reservoir, concise body, storage box, medium drip tray, etc.

There’s a precise water window to display the water level without removing the water tank.

Also, Delonghi EC155 offers a Panarello steaming wand that directly defuses air inside the milk.

Although many baristas prefer control over their milk and brew, beginners can really rely on and make decent shots with Panarello and pressurized baskets. 

The easy-to-use knob will allow you to switch between steaming, hot water, and brewing.

However, the machine will take a couple of seconds to adjust to different temperature settings for milk and espressos. 

There are red and green indicators to display when the device is ready for brewing/steaming. You can use the traditional method to sink heat by defusing steam through the steaming wand until indicated. 

Pros

  • The machine has a storage box to store baskets and pods 
  • The Portafilter has a holder to lock the basket inside it properly. 
  • It’s very affordable. 
  • It consumes significantly less space
  • 15-Bars of a pressure pump
  • Manual brewing. 

Cons

  • There’s a lot of plastic on the machine, and it has average looks, but this is why it’s affordable
  • The built-in tamper isn’t removable and is made of plastic. 
  • NO solenoid valve results in a watery coffee puck after brewing. 
  • Small drip tray. 

Gaggia Classic Pro 

Gaggia classic pro is a high-quality commercial-style semi-automatic espresso machine that brews delicious espresso shots.

Suppose you are someone who wishes to invest in a high-end semi-automatic espresso machine and doesn’t mind a budget. In that case, the classic pro will be an affordable version for Rancilio Silvia. 

The machine has a small footprint with stainless steel casing and solid metal accents. It comes in multiple colors and has a great look. 

You can operate the device with three simple switches—turn on/off the machine, steam/foam the milk, and brew espresso shots. 

This high-end machine has a commercial-style 58mm chrome-plated brass portafilter, 58mm group head, and a high-quality chrome-plated brass boiler.

Brass is considered a novelty for building espresso boilers. However, this machine is not equipped with a PID controller and cannot stabilize temperature. 

You will need to manually sink the heat (sink means turning on the steam wand and releasing heat) and wait a couple of minutes for temperature management.

Gaggia classic pro comes with a commercial-style manual steaming wand and a large water tank with 2.1 liters of capacity.

The water tank can be refilled from the top and removed from the front. You can also see the water level from the side window.

The machine offers pressurized and non-pressurized baskets for beginners and individuals who still learn their grinding settings and tamping. 

Pros

  • Three-way solenoid valve for a dry coffee puck. 
  • Knob to adjust steam pressure. 
  • Red-light indicators to display the machine’s ready for action.
  • The device has beautiful color variations, has a great body and a lavish look. 
  • It has a petite size and is perfectly fit for a small-sized kitchen. 

Cons

  • It’s more expensive than your average entry-level espresso machine, but it’s commercial-style and highly upgraded. 
  • The grill tray is thin and can result in sharp cuts. 
  • The Portafilter is tight, and it isn’t easy to adjust it inside the group head properly. This has been complained about a lot with various espresso machines, but you need a tight fit to keep the machine pressurized. You will get used to locking the portafilter in, and this won’t be an issue.
  • It comes with a plastic tamper which is never ideal for tamping. You will need to invest in a high-quality stainless steel tamper. 

Capresso Ultima Pro

Another primary espresso machine with minimal features and an affordable price tag is the Capresso Ultima pro.

The machine is an entry-level espresso brewer with a concise body, 58mm Portafilter, stainless steel accents, cup warming tray, and five easy-to-operate illuminating buttons. 

An exclusive feature of Capresso is its self-tamping Portafilter. So you don’t need to manually tamp the ground coffee into a puck inside the Portafilter.

Instead, the machine will do it for you once you lock in the Portafilter. The Capresso Ultima pro also has a decent-sized cup warming plate at the top, a good-sized drip tray, and a stainless steel grill tray. 

Capresso has two programmable buttons, the main power switch, hot water, and steaming switch.

All these buttons illuminate at the time of action. This espresso brewer takes a couple of minutes to heat up properly. Plus, with Capresso, you will also have to sink heat to maintain the overall temperature. 

The machine has a removable water reservoir at the back. A water window at the front shows you the current water level. 

Pros

  • The machine has a small footprint and will on a small counter or coffee bar.
  • It comes with a measuring scoop. 
  • Very affordable. 
  • A side knob to adjust the steaming intensity
  • The machine offers a big descaling unit. 
  • Removable plastic scoop inside the Portafilter for easy cleaning. 

Cons

  • The cup-size space is minimal and might not adjust a cappuccino mug underneath. 
  • This fundamental model is great for beginners, but you will outgrow it over time if you want to level up your barista skills.

Nespresso VertuoPlus By Delonghi

Delonghi’s Nespresso VertuoPlus is a super-automatic modern espresso machine with unique technology and a classy exterior.

This espresso brewer is a capsule machine, not a Keurig k-cups machine. Instead, Nespresso develops sealed aluminum capsules to brew espressos, coffee, and other beverages with a single click. 

VertuoPlus has a single button that brews different beverages, including espressos.

How? Every ground coffee capsule is bar-coded. 

The machine reads the bar code and brews accordingly. For instance, espresso capsules are the smallest, and the bar-code will advise the device to set the extraction period, temperature for an ideal espresso shot.

On the other hand, for coffee, the extraction period and temperature would be different. 

VertuoPlus has a beautiful design with a funnel-like spout to pour brewed coffee, a visible water tank parallel to the machine, a milk frother, a capsule dispenser at the back, and an adjustable drip tray.

There are four-five slots to adjust the drip tray at different levels to accommodate bigger and smaller cups. 

The water tank is pretty massive and can hold 60 ounces of water. Also, another innovative feature of this machine is its click-technology to open the head and capsule holder automatically. 

Once you click the lid present at the top of the spout, the device automatically opens the head for you to insert the capsule. You can click it again to close the head and dispense the used capsule as well! 

Pros

  • The machine includes 12 complimentary capsules of variety—espressos, 5 oz coffee capsule, 8oz coffee capsule, 14 oz coffee capsules, etc. 
  • It’s super-automatic. With a single click, you can brew espresso without going through the learning curve of brewing espressos. 
  • It brews espressos and dense coffees.
  • The machine is very affordable. 
  • It has a classic sleek black model. 
  • The machine has a petite body and can easily adjust to smaller kitchens and apartments. 
  • It heats up in less than 15 seconds. 

Cons

  • You cannot use freshly ground coffee beans with this machine. Pre-ground coffee is never as fresh as freshly ground coffee beans. 
  • The machine is made of plastic. 
  • You wouldn’t be investing time in learning and perfecting your espresso technique. 
a man pointing to a digital blue question mark referring to the questions you should ask before buying the best espresso machine for beginners

Questions to ask before buying the machine

Are you a profound espresso lover and solely drink espressos? Or, do you preferA variety of beverages? 

Your preference can help you select the best fit for you. As a beginner, we are always skeptical about the pros and cons, which one is the best, and which device will be a wrong purchase. 

Thus, it’s essential to learn as much as you can because there’s a large margin of technology that goes behind every espresso device—the boiler, temperature controller, automation, water tank, quality, pressure pump, etc. 

As a beginner, we are all unaware of the features we may need in our espresso machines. So, this section will cover multiple questions that will help you decide the features you want and don’t want. 

How programmable is it?

Entry-level espresso machines don’t have many programmable features. You can switch on/off the extraction period at any given time, foam the milk according to you, but that’s all.

However, for a beginner, these two programs are more than enough!

One of the most important aspects of brewing espresso is the extraction period. An even extraction decides the flavor and content of your espresso beverage.

Twenty-five seconds is ideal for brewing espresso; you can get this perfect timing using a coffee scale/timer

Most of these (All) entry-level espresso machines are semi-automatics, i.e., the brewing time and milk foaming are in your hand.

Some of these machines (bambino plus and Breville barista) come with factory-set pre-programmed settings like the extraction period. However, you can also program them according to your personal choices. 

Breville barista express allows you to program the temperature of the milk with 1,2 increments as well. 

A man measuring a table with a steel measuring tape

How large is the footprint and height?

Semi-automatic espresso machines are usually smaller in size unless there are additional features—big boilers, water reservoirs, Temperature controller, built-in grinder, etc. 

Breville barista is one such exceptional semi-automatic espresso machine that’s developed with a built-in grinder.

As a result, its size is larger than the rest of the counterparts but is still moderately balanced horizontally. 

If you have a big kitchen and would love to have some more prominent features in your entry-level espresso machines—a larger machine will have more accessories.

However, if you live in a small apartment and want a normal-sized espresso machine, we have mentioned many great options. 

While choosing the size of the espresso machine, don’t forget to inspect all three dimensions because you’d need extra space at the top for warming cups, changing water reservoirs, refilling bean hoppers (if any), etc. 

As a beginner or someone who doesn’t consume a whole lot of coffee and espresso every day—a smaller size espresso machine will look decent and will provide you with enough quantity. 

The bigger the espresso machine, the bigger its features and higher the price. However, if you’d like to invest a good fortune in a big espresso machine, there are many great varieties. 

Smaller machines will serve you a small quantity of coffee/espresso per day, and the heating process might be slower, but they will save additional costs. 

Please note: Smaller espresso machines are not of inadequate quality; they are made smaller for a reason—to adjust in a small kitchen and still brew decent espressos. 

How much does it cost?

Entry-level espresso machines may cost you anywhere between $200-$700; the price might differ and slightly increase or decrease depending on the features available in the device. 

Beginners may not wish to invest too much money in an entry-level espresso machine, but that doesn’t mean you pay a small fortune for nothing at all. Some of the essential features that must be kept forth and ahead of the price tag are: 

  • The quality of the boiler: The material used to build the boiler is essential because that determines the heating time and temperature inside the machine. 
  • Temperature controller: Invest in a PID controller if your machine doesn’t come with one. It will balance the temperature between extracting and steaming. 
  • Stainless steel tamper: A low-budget espresso machine is likely to offer a plastic tamper that is never good enough for tamping. Instead, invest in a quality tamper for better espresso at home. (make sure your tamper is the same size as your portafilter)

Other features that add additional cost to your espresso machines:

  • Built-in grinder: These are designed to grind perfectly for the espresso machine. Built-in grinders are usually of high quality like the ones in Breville barista. 
  • Programmability. 
  • The material used to build the machine: stainless steel will complement your kitchen and allow a longer life to your espresso machine. 
Picture of a kitchen with an entry, level espresso machine, and a stand-alone coffee grinder

Does it have a built-in grinder?

As discussed, most semi-automatic espresso machines will have a high-quality built-in grinder that will increase the overall cost of your espresso machine. 

Do you already have a stand-alone grinder at your home for espressos? Or do you use pre-ground coffee? 

If you are using pre-ground coffee, it’s time to upgrade your game with better and fresh flavors.

Freshly ground coffee will change your espresso’s taste! Unfortunately, pre-ground coffee can never offer a fresh taste because most flavors escape when the ground is allowed to oxidize.

Investing in a stand-alone/built-in grinder would be an excellent start for a delicious espresso. 

I’d suggest choosing a built-in grinder instead of a stand-alone grinder because the quality will be better, it will be space-friendly, and it will be set for espressos. 

However, if you brew different beverages, invest in a stand-alone grinder. Choose a grinder equipped with stainless steel/ceramic flat/conical burr, not a blade one. 

Built-in grinders will add $200-$300 to the overall cost of your machine. However, a separate quality grinder will cost under $100.

High-budget grinders will fall anywhere between $200-$300, but you don’t need that yet.

Does it froth milk?

Every espresso machine is bound to offer a steaming wand because individuals love milk-based espresso beverages.

The entry-level manual steaming wand may be slow, but they provide a great learning curve for beginners.

The low pressure helps learners understand the temperature, swirl, and foaming technique of milk. 

Steaming wands will heat the milk and also create microfoam. While steaming depends on the boiler, foaming is entirely in your hand.

(Pro tip: Dip the end of the steaming wand half an inch inside milk to introduce air from the surface. This will create great microfoam.)

A great substitute for manual foaming is the Pannarello wand. The Pannarello wand automatically injects air inside the milk.  

Aero milk frother also swirls and foams the milk automatically. You can choose a Panarello wand or aero for automatic steaming and foaming. Or, you can select a manual steaming wand to learn manual skills at foaming. 

Nespresso doesn’t come with a steaming wand; you will have to purchase an aero milk frother with it to create milk-based beverages. 

Is it easy to clean?

It’s not challenging to clean small espresso machines. Stainless steel is easier to clean than plastic. Also, if you don’t have time for cleaning, make sure the device has some dishwasher-safe parts included; it will make cleaning easy. 

  • Wipe the outer surface with a damp cloth. 
  • Purge portafilter after and before every brew. 
  • Purge the steaming wand every time you use it (before and after both)
  • Change the water tank daily for clean water. 
  • Descale the machine as asked or use filter water to avoid frequent descaling. 

A clean machine is essential for tasty coffee and espressos. An espresso machine that’s not clean will have residual coffee stuck at the group head, portafilter, basket mesh and will give a stale taste to the newly brewed beverage.

Similarly, if the steaming wand has leftover milk stuck from the last session, it will not steam at all due to congestion or blockage of holes, or it will taste awful with the residual milk included. 

Portrait of a barista pouring milk in a cup at the coffee shop standing next to an entry-level espresso machine with a large water reservoir.
Portrait of a barista pouring milk in a cup at the coffee shop

How large is the water reservoir?

Are you a frequent coffee/espresso drinker? For someone who consumes 4-5 espresso shots a day you will want a larger water reservoir, so that you don’t need to refill it as often.

On the other hand, an individual who consumes less espresso and no coffee will do just fine with a small water reservoir. A decent-sized water reservoir will have a capacity of 60-70 ounces. `

The smaller entry-level espresso machine will have small water tanks with a capacity of 30-40 ounces. 

Some machines like the bambino plus offer 60 ounces of water tank despite their small footprints.

Also, make sure you use filtered water to avoid descaling. Descaling requires a lot of water, and a small reservoir will empty soon enough with frequent purging and descaling. 

Espresso shots don’t require much water but purging and cleaning the machine after every brew does, so choose the water reservoir wisely. 

  • Filtered coffee: 1: 15—1gram of coffee:15 ml of water.
  • Espresso: 1:2—1gram of ground coffee brews 2 ml of an espresso shot. 

Does your machine brew both espresso and coffee? For coffee, you will need a more extensive water reservoir because coffee uses a whole lot of water compared to espresso. 

Cup Clearance

Espresso’s taste depends on many factors, including the crema at the top, the acidic content inside the liquid, milk’s composition, and foam. 

An espresso shot without milk will be slightly bitter, slightly acidic, and will include other under notes of chocolate, fruits, spices, etc.

The perfect blend of flavors and oils can only be obtained when the beans are ground right, tamping is correct, and extraction is done correctly. 

  • Under extraction will sour your coffee: Don’t brew in less than 25 seconds because the water will only soak the acidic nature of the beans and no flavors. 
  • Over-extraction will bitter the taste of espresso: Don’t brew for more than 25 seconds because water will start to soak tannins. Tannins are responsible for the bitter flavor of the coffee.
  • Pre-ground coffee will not create crema: All the oils evaporate with oxygen leaving no crema. Always ground freshly to brew thick crema. 
  • Light-roasted beans will brew too acidic coffee with no flavor profile. 

Thus, a general thumb rule for brewing flavorful espresso with definite cup clearance will be dark-medium roasted beans, finely ground puck, gentle tamp, 25 seconds of extract, and 9-bars of pressure. 

The correct proportion of crema in espresso is 1/10. 

Does it have a warranty?

High-quality espresso machine brands will offer 1-2 years of warranty.

While choosing an espresso machine, always choose the one with a guarantee because many technical errors can go wrong with an electric device, especially if it’s expensive and has many modern features like a built-in grinder, boiler thermojet, PID, and an overall complicated design. 

This warranty period will mostly change all the damaged parts, but customer service can be time-consuming and frustrating. Some companies even offer complete returns, exchanges, refunds, or repairments within the warranty period. 

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How does an espresso machine work?

Espresso machines function on electricity to initiate the boiler and pressure pump.

Both the boiler and the pressure pump are two crucial aspects of brewing espressos. The boiler will heat the water and milk for extraction and steaming. 

On the other hand, pressure pumps will ensure 9-Bars of atmospheric pressure to the coffee puck to extract most of the flavors within 25 seconds.

Complete extraction of flavors within 25 seconds can only be possible with a pressure pump. 

To operate the espresso machine: 

  • An entry-level espresso machine will take 10-20 minutes to heat up. Temperature is very important for brewing espressos. Cold espresso will taste sour and ruin the flavor profile. Ideal temp for espresso shot: 190-205 degrees Fahrenheit. Perfect temp for milk steaming: 160-180 degrees. 
  • Purge the empty portafilter or pull blind shots to heat the portafilter. 
  • With an entry-level machine, steam the milk first. Pulling espresso shots first will cool them down faster. 
  • To pull shot, grind fine ground coffee beans, dose them, and tamp firmly. 
  • Lock in the portafilter and place two glasses below. 
  • Click the one-shot/two-shot button for initiating the brewing. It will pre-infuse and extract within 25 seconds. 

As a coffee novice, we suggest an automatic pressure pump instead of a manual pump.

What is the best espresso machine for the home?

The significant difference between a domestic and commercial espresso machine is the quantity and speed they offer.

Commercial machines need to brew faster espressos in higher quantities with back-to-back shots without lagging. 

Fortunately, you don’t need such features in a domestic espresso machine. An entry-level device can be slow, produce low quantity but should always produce quality shots. 

Many baristas suggest semi-automatic espresso machines to be the best for home because they offer the easiest learning curve to individuals who wish to learn the art of brewing and steaming. In addition, these machines are affordable and consume less space. 

  • Commercial-style semi-automatic: Gaggia

However, you can always choose slightly more automated machines than semi-automatics like the Nespresso machines that provide espressos and coffee without any learning curve, or an upgraded Panarello wand or automatic steaming wand.

A scale with question marks on either end referring to which espresso machine is the best for your home.

What is the best inexpensive espresso maker? 

Delonghi EC155 is considered the best inexpensive espresso maker because it provides:

  • Decent espresso shots.
  • A reasonably easy interface.
  • Concise and decent-looking body at a very affordable price tag. 

Some of the exclusive features Delonghi offers to brew decent shots at its best: 

  • 15-Bars of pump pressure to apply proper 9-bars for complete flavor extraction
  • Stainless steel water boiler. Although the boiler is small, it’s still stainless steel which is a pretty great feature for a machine with such an affordable rate. 
  • Illuminating lights to display when the machine is ready. Easy-to-use interface and small footprint. 
  • The machine offers a Panarello steaming wand that automatically introduces air to the milk creating great foam milk—this one is a great plus. 

The machine only costs you $129.76 for many extensive features, rare for such a price tag. Before you doubt the machine’s quality, DeLonghi is an Italian espresso machine company, and they are known for producing some of the best espresso machines in the market. 

What’s the most reliable espresso machine?

Without a doubt, Breville and every product that Breville has manufactured displays quality, humble services, enhanced technology, and excellent espressos.

So if you are planning on investing in a high-quality machine, Breville is the answer. 

Now, you might consider Breville to be over-budget but acknowledge all the features they offer.

Every machine of Breville, including bambino plus (the small Breville invention), offers PID controller, thermojet and other high-quality heating elements, quality frothing wand, stainless steel tamper, stainless steel razor, stainless steel milk pitcher, temperature sensor, and whatnot.

These features might seem minimal, but high-end products charging thousands of dollars don’t offer such exclusive characteristics that Breville does—that speaks volumes!

A lovely teenage Latina shrugs her shoulders, hands out and palms up, as if to say, "I haven't a clue," or "What's up with that?" when it comes to what kind of espresso machine to buy

What type of espresso machine should you get? 

There are many espresso machines in the market, but there are four significant sub-categories of espresso machines depending on the level of automation they provide. 

  • Manual espresso machine.
  • Semi-automatic
  • Fully automatic
  • Capsule. 

Manual espresso machines. 

These machines require electricity to heat the water, but everything else is in your hand. You control everything from applying pre-infusion pressure to extraction pressure and calculating the accurate extraction time. 

Manual espresso machines have big boilers and a spring-piston/direct lever to pressure the coffee puck. There’s a significant learning curve required to brew with a manual espresso machine, but once you get a hold around it, they will taste heavenly. 

Manual machines are expensive because they are equipped and built wholly with chrome-plated brass or copper. 

Semi-automatic espresso machines: 

These machines are equipped with 15-bars of pumps to infuse pressure to the puck automatically. However, every other brewing step is in your hand, from deciding the ideal brewing time to foaming milk. 

Semi-automatic is an excellent intermediate between manual and fully automatic machines. They are also modern, advanced with lavish models and affordable prices. 

Fully automatic espresso machines:

These machines will apply the pressure for you, grind, dose, may/may not tamp, brew, and steam for you without any learning curve on your side.

Fully automatic espresso machines have a built-in grinder, complete automation, and advanced technology to brew shots with a single click or touch. 

Fully automatic espresso machines are expensive but provide full automation with great costly features. 

Capsule espresso machine: 

As discussed, these machines use a pre-ground sealed coffee container made of aluminum (recyclable) to brew espressos, caffeine varieties, coffee, decaf, and other flavorful varieties with one touch. 

Capsule espresso machines are super-automatics without the need for a built-in grinder, learning curve, or high price tags.

These machines are affordable, modern, and produce decent shots. However, they can never deliver as fresh of espresso as freshly-ground coffee will. 

Anyways, these machines may cost anywhere between $200-$500. However, they offer high-quality features, no additional requirement for grinder, fast brewing, and no lengthy cleaning cycle. 

An espresso machine with a double boiler sitting on a counter in a cafe with various size espresso cups sitting on top of it.

Difference between Single Boiler and dual boiler

Entry-level espresso machines are only equipped with a single boiler. Dual boilers are the most expensive addition to any espresso machine and are only found in high-end super-automatic or high-end semi-automatic espresso machines. 

With a dual boiler, you can brew and steam at the same time without any temperature disturbance. On the other hand, a single boiler can either brew or steam at a time. 

Single boilers are more time-consuming and might result in cold espresso. Pro tip: steam the milk fast to maintain the machine’s temperature and then pull the shot to balance the temperature.

What’s the average price of a good espresso machine?

Good espresso machines can be subjective, and the price tag may depend on individuals and their demands for different features. Every advanced feature will increase the value and overall cost of the espresso machines. 

Universally, the average price for an entry-level espresso machine for beginners would be anywhere between $150-$300 (except for Delonghi EC155 that only costs $129). 

Similarly, a high-end espresso machine with every possible feature and automation/quality will cost you anywhere between $500-$2000. 

Also to mention, a capsule machine like the Nespresso will cost $200-$400 for a high-quality Nespresso machine. 

How many bars of pressure does an espresso machine need?

The accurate Atmospheric pressure required to brew espressos is 9-bars. Every espresso machine will offer 15-bars of pressure pump to execute 9-Bars without exhaustion.

Please avoid companies hoaxing the importance of 20+ bars that produce faster brews because that’s not physically possible.

Espresso grounds need exactly 9-bars to extract flavors completely—anything above or below the line will lead to over/under-extraction. 

A counter in a cafe with a stainless steel coffee tamper with a wooden handle on a tamping m, at with coffee grounds all over the counter

How important is tamping?

Just as equally important as the coffee beans, the machine itself, or the grinder. Tamping is a crucial step towards uniform extraction.

Without tamping, you will either receive over-extracted coffee or under-extracted coffee or worse, both. 

How does tamping enable uniform extraction? First, Tamping gently pressurizes the loose coffee puck into an equally distributed coffee cake. This coffee cake ensures that the water diffuses with coffee uniformly.

Loose coffee will have indifferent space between the ground leading to too much water absorption at some places and too little at others. 

Tamping evenly distributes and reduces the space between ground coffee for a proper collision of water and grounds. While tamping, ensure no cracks are left behind, and the surface is leveled at the top. 

If you see cracks, disturb the ground and tamp (pack) it properly again. If it’s not leveled, use a razor to remove the excess ground from the top. 

What type of grinder do you need?

Espressos demand uniform, consistent, and finely ground coffee puck for an even extraction. This can only be attained using high-quality coffee grinders. You can either choose built-in grinders or stand-alone grinders especially designed for espressos. 

  • Built-in grinder: These are the best choice if you are only going to brew espressos. They are high-quality and are designed especially for grinding fine. 
  • Standalone grinders: Choose a high-quality grinder like Breville’s or Baratza to grind for perfect beans for espressos 
  • Conical burr grinder: Conical burr grinders are more uniform and consistent than flat burrs. 

Please note: Entry-level coffee grinders will never be able to grind fine enough for espressos. However, these grinders will still brew decent shots with pressurized baskets.

coffee beans making up a square, but each corner has a different type of bean, including espresso, robusta, which are best for entry level espresso machines

What types of beans should you use?

You must have heard of whole espresso beans for brewing espresso shots. To make it clear, espresso beans aren’t a coffee species or a roastery method, but a category to define beans for espressos more accurately. 

  • Arabica and robusta beans: 

Both these coffee bean species are accurate and for espressos. While robusta beans will produce a dark, highly-caffeinated espresso shot, arabica coffee beans will make sweet, flavorful espressos. 

  • Dark-Medium roast or highly-dark roast: 

Dark-roasted coffee beans are at the perfect age of complete flavor extraction. When you slow roast the coffee beans until they are brown and crunchy, the process cooks most of the flavors and oils out the beans’ content. 

Light-roasted coffee beans are often undercooked and don’t provide complete flavor extraction. Thus, they are not ideal for espressos.

On the other hand, slow roasting until the beans turn darkest brown or slightly burnt will have oil extracted out at the bean’s surface. This results in bitter espresso and enhanced crema. 

Many individuals prefer dark-medium roast for a balanced taste without too much acidity or bitterness. 

Conclusion

Espresso language and espresso machines might seem complicated, and the whole process may seem challenging, but espresso brewing is more rewarding once you give it your 100%. 

These entry-level espresso machines will help you initiate your espresso journey at home while also cutting down the over-expenses you spend at Starbucks coffees every day, week, and month. 

With a bit of patience, consistency, and one of these quality espresso machines, you can easily pull great shots in no time!