This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclaimer for more information.
Choosing the best espresso machine under $1000 is the perfect starting range for a high-end machine that offers you quality, temperature stability, pressure accuracy, posh exteriors, durable metallic parts.
These seven high-end espresso machines will include semi-automatic, manual, portafilter-less, and portafilter espresso machines. Whatever your choice, these high-quality machines will offer you delicious coffee, rich crema, and perfectly textured milk.
With so many choices in the market, it’s difficult to understand which one is the best for you.
Not to worry, we have concluded their exclusive features, pros, cons, and why they would look and brew the perfect cup of coffee!
|Breville BES878BSS Barista Pro Espresso Machine, Brushed Stainless Steel, Medium||Prime||Buy Now|
|Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine with Iron Frame and Stainless Steel Side Panels, 11.4 by 13.4-Inch (Stainless Steel-Updated 2019 Model)||Prime||Buy Now|
|Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro Espresso Machine, Solid, Brushed Stainless Steel||Prime||Buy Now|
I’m partial to Breville espresso machines since this is the brand I chose to start my day with. (as you can see below, my wife took this picture before I had my morning cup of coffee, so I don’t look too happy).
With its beautiful rectangular body, it’s one of the first machines to offer you a built-in grinder, a grinder cradle, programmability, pressure gauge, steaming wand, PID controller, and pressure controller.
Breville barista is a semi-automatic espresso machine with a built-in grinder. Unlike other brands, this device will allow you to program your dosage, shot volume, shot period, and shot temperature.
Not only this, Breville barista has eight grind size settings for you to select for your preferred espresso, a dedicated water outlet (This is for Americano), and a manual steaming wand.
Since it’s semi-automatic, it’s the perfect machine for polishing your barista skills and adjustments.
It will take time to brew the perfect cup that you want from it, but rest assured, Breville is known for its temperature stability, pressure quality, and the FAMOUS steaming wand’s textured milk.
Three exclusive features Breville barista offers are the programmability of the temperature and the central pressure gauge. You can change your brew temperature with 1+-/2+- increments (refer to the manual).
The pressure gauge displays the quality of your grind. It should fall between the grey zone for the perfect brew. Anything below or above that grey zone is considered too fine or too coarse. You can also program the pre-infusion time in this machine!
Breville barista is a beautiful machine with a stainless steel exterior with a visible left-top hopper, illuminating buttons, four indicators including a ‘clean me’ cycle, a big water tank, a bigger drip tray, etc.
- Breville barista offers many accessories to go with the machine. These include a stainless steel pitcher, tamper, water filter, pressurized/non-pressurized baskets (four in total), cleaning kit, etc.
- The water tank has 2 liter of capacity; the bean hopper holds 250gms of coffee beans with a vacuum seal at the top.
- Two-year warranty.
- Manual tamper and stainless steel razor.
- The grinder cradle allows hand-free dosing directly in the portafilter. (You can grind directly in the portafilter)
- PID controller to maintain temperature stability.
- The machine has a larger footprint than other brands
- It doesn’t offer automatic steaming of the milk. So, you will need to froth it manually.
- You cannot use oily beans in the machine.
- The learning curve is a little high, you will need to read the manual.
Rancilio Silvia is a purely semi-automatic espresso machine! Unlike other brands, this machine doesn’t indulge in unnecessary programmability or super-complexity. With four simple buttons, this machine does everything for you.
Rancilio has an old-school model with stainless steel casing, concise body, a commercial-type portafilter, and group head.
Rancilio is known for building commercial-grade domestic machines. The portafilter and the group head both are 58mm, giving you the exact hardware cafes use.
Another exclusive feature of Rancilio is the boiler. Although it is a single 12-ounce boiler, it’s made of copper and brass! These are the best materials to make the heating element.
Of course, you will need to adapt the machine with a PID controller to stabilize the temperature when it gets too hot. Rancilio takes 10 minutes to heat up, and you will need to release steam to reduce the temperature.
Apart from that, Rancilio lives up to its super-easy interface. After switching on the machine, turn on/off the button for brewing, steaming, and water.
The machine comes with a manual steaming wand and a knob to switch between steaming and water outlet.
Rancilio has a big cup warming space, a large water reservoir at the back, and a stainless steel drip tray. Every switch that goes in function illuminates red light to show ongoing action.
- The machine is easy to use and easy to clean.
- Rancilio Silvia offers a 2-liter water tank and a 12-ounce water boiler.
- Its body is concise both horizontally and vertically; It can easily adjust in your kitchen space.
- Commercial-style portafilter, group head, and boiler cannot be found in other domestic semi-automatic espresso machines.
- The commercial group head provides temperature and pressure stability.
- You can control steam’s pressure with the knob.
- It comes with two non-pressurized baskets.
- No programmability. As stated, the machine only ever allows you to turn it on and off. It doesn’t let you try additional barista techniques.
- The drip tray is too small for many actions.
- You cannot pull back-to-back shots with this machine. It needs a break to regulate the temperature back to normal for another shot.
- You will have to invest in a PID controller to ensure the temperature remains between 190-205 degrees Fahrenheit.
Gaggia’s classic pro can be considered the smaller version of Rancilio Silvia. It’s a compact machine with stainless steel casing, 58mm commercial style portafilter, commercial-style group head, manual steaming wand, etc.
Like Rancilio, Gaggia is an easy-to-use semi-automatic espresso machine with minimal complexity and a simple interface with zero programmability. With three switches and a knob, you can turn on/off the machine, brewing process, and steaming.
It allows you to switch between hot water and steam. Gaggia classic pro comes to you at a very affordable price despite the commercial quality it provides.
Two exclusive features of Gaggia Pro are its traditional boiler and the water reservoir. Unlike many Thermo coil heating elements, Gaggia sticks to the traditional sturdy boiler.
Gaggia water reservoir can be refilled from the back or removed from the front for easy refilling.
Another exclusive Gaggia pro is its steaming wand. It’s a commercial wand with double holes to increase aeration and steam pressure in the milk.
Gaggia offers two pressurized and two non-pressurized baskets at such an affordable price. Pressurized baskets allow you to brew a decent cup even without an indecent/awful grind.
- The machine has a very compact size and can fit in kitchen space easily.
- A three-way solenoid valve system allows you a drier puck after brewing.
- It has a dual heating-up system. The system heats the machine faster and in 30 seconds.
- Stainless steel casing and illuminating lights for the action going on inside the machine.
- You can adjust the steam and its power with the knob present.
- It warms up fast.
- The drip tray is an optimal size with enough space to cover multiple brews.
- Gaggia Classic pro is a small machine with not enough space for big cups and not enough space on the cup warmer.
- Gaggia offers plastic tamper and plastic scoop, which is never good for tamping. So, you will need to invest in a stainless steel tamper.
- It has plastic parts in some places.
Jura A1 has a classic design with a simple, easy-to-use touch interface. It is considered a super-automatic espresso machine with a built-in grinder, bypass doser.
Jura A1 grinds the beans, tamps the beans, and brews the beverage without you having to do anything but turn it on and hit brew. It’s a complete hand-free operation!
It offers three drinks, Ristretto, espresso, and condensed coffee. Also, Jura has many indicators that light up to indicate ’empty/detached water reservoir’ ‘not enough coffee in bypass dose, ‘no beans in the hopper, or clean me, etc.
The grinder has many grind size settings and has a conical burr to provide precise grind size.
Another exclusive feature of Jura is its cylindrical spout that can slide up and down to create space for bigger and smaller cups. It allows 6inch of space when it slides up!
- You don’t need a portafilter or messy grinding and tamping. The machine does it all inside the system for a hand-free operation.
- It has an auto-off switch to save energy and electricity.
- It has a touch screen panel for added modernization along with the sleek-black model.
- Comes with a water filter for less descaling cycle than other machines.
- Hopper is hidden inside the machine, and that doesn’t increase the overall height or size. The hopper has a black sealed cap to keep the beans fresh.
- NO portafilter takes away the barista feel while brewing. This machine doesn’t allow you to perform any actions apart from refilling the grinder, adjusting the grind size setting, and touching few options.
- The water reservoir has a 1-liter capacity, which is ample for espresso but never enough for regular coffee.
- Bypass doser only allows a single scoop at a time.
- Small hopper of 4.4 oz (124gms)
- It has an even smaller drip tray to hold spills.
Dinamica is another portafilter-less, double-spouted fully-automatic espresso machine. With the grinder and bypass doser present at the back, this machine grinds, doses, tamps, and brews automatically once you press the brewing button.
Along with the grinder, this machine also allows you to use pre-ground coffee (decaf/flavored coffee) in the bypass doser if you are out of beans.
Delonghi Dinamica has an easy-to-use interface with a touch panel to order functions in and around the machine. These six touch options include espresso, lungo, 2x of drinks, iced coffee, regular coffee, steam, rinse cycle.
Yes, Delonghi offers iced coffee, and it does provide space between the brew-spout outlet and the drip tray to adjust to a big iced coffee glass.
Dinamica grinds more, extracts more dosage, and brews for a longer period when you touch the ‘iced coffee’ option. This feature is exclusive to the machine!
Delonghi also offers a Panarello steaming wand for perfect steamed milk. Apart from the usuals, the machine also offers many indicators that indicate you of the descaling cycle, water reservoir removed, steaming, etc. You can refill the water reservoir easily because it’s present at the front and is equally big!
Delonghi Dinamica has one of the most beautiful, modern interfaces. It comes in two colors, black and white, and has a stainless steel casing.
The rectangular water reservoir is present at the right beside the brew group. Another specialty of Delonghi is its dishwasher-safe drip tray!
- The grinder has stainless steel burrs for a better, more consistent grind. Along with the grinder, it also has a bypasser.
- The grinder offers 13 grind size settings.
- The hopper is integrated and doesn’t increase the height of the machine.
- The machine is compact and sits beautifully on any countertop.
- The auto-rinse option allows for easy cleaning.
- The hopper capacity is 285gms. The hopper is really big and is sealed with an air-tight rubber lid.
- The machine heats up in 40 seconds.
- The spout height is adjustable.
- You can program your drinks, their temperature, and the strength of the coffee
- It’s easier to clean this machine with a dishwasher-safe drip tray and a removable group unit.
- No portafilter means you will not get to experience the barista-style brewing.
- The machine is completely automated, so if you enjoy being more envolved when it comes to brewing your coffee look for an automatic or manual espresso machine.
La Pavoni is a completely manual espresso machine where human power applies the pump pressure to extract the brew. Unlike semi-, fully-, or super-automatic espresso machines, you won’t be having buttons, a display screen, and indicators to display actions. Everything will be in your hands!
This la Pavoni espresso machine is a direct lever machine and lacks spring to co-coordinate and control the pressure. So, unlike in spring-piston machines, you will be responsible for sustaining the pressure.
The piston is usually down in a direct lever machine; you pull the lever up to apply pressure and pull it down again to release the pressure. La Pavoni has a small water reservoir and boiler.
The device is made of heavy metal steel and is chrome-plating. A manual steaming wand is present at your right for steaming and frothing!
These machines cannot regulate temperature, so you will need to sink heat and allow the machine to heat up faster for accurate temperature.
There’s a knob present at your left to control the steam and its pressure. Please note: These machines are all-metal, and you will experience severe burns if you don’t handle them with proper safety gloves.
La Pavoni Europiccola has a compact body with defined angles and metal finishes. You can beautifully adjust this machine at any corner of your kitchen.
- The machine comes with a side cylindrical glass to display the water level inside the boiler.
- It offers an automatic cappuccino milk frother if you don’t want to froth the milk manually.
- La Pavoni has a long guarantee period because it’s a manual machine.
- The boiler comes with safety valves to protect you from severe burns.
- It’s a direct lever machine and is more affordable than other spring-piston manual espresso machines.
- La Pavoni has a small footprint compared to other machines.
- A manual espresso machine requires more manual work than any other machine, and takes more of a learning curve to perfect the technique.
- The drip grill, handle, knobs are all made of plastic.
- The boiler can only store 0.5 liters of water.
- You will need to turn off the machine completely to reduce the temperature for the next extraction.
Jura D6 is another portafilter less super-automatic espresso machine with a built-in grinder and an automatic steaming system. For its price, Jura D6 does offer automation at every step.
Jura D6 has a big rectangular footprint with a water reservoir at your left and a grinder at the right. Jura also offers a bypass doser for pre-ground coffee/decaf and flavored coffee.
It has a unique steaming cappuccino frother that sucks the milk through a pipe into the machine, steams and foams it out through the milk outlet.
You can select between espresso, coffee, and cappuccino with pre-programmed settings. Also, you can actually program these beverages, their strength, temperature, etc.
Jura D6 offers an LED screen to display the ongoing action. Another touch option, ‘P,’ allows you to program the machine. These programs include rinsing, descaling, water hardness test, language, etc.
Two knobs let you surf through the various options in the machine. The second allows you to turn on the steaming option once the machine signals you to do so!
Jura offers 6 grind size settings, and it comes pre-programmed at the coarsest setting. The cappuccino outlet pours the drink directly into the mug. Plus, Jura D6′ milk is known for its smooth, micro, dense milk.
- The machine has an optimal size water tank-60ounces
- It grinds, doses, tamps, brews, and steams for you directly in the container. It’s a hand-free operation.
- An easily read LED screen.
- The two spouts are adjustable and can accommodate 5inch of glass between the spouts and the drip tray easily!
- You can select the strength and temperature of the coffee.
- The unit comes with a water filter to avoid constant descaling.
- It has an auto-shut-off
- It has a rather simpler interface compared to other Juras.
- Offers only three limited beverages.
- The drip tray is too small, and so is the hopper, given its massive size.
- The machine is pretty big for smaller kitchens.
- No portafilter, no barista feel.
The Most Popular Types Of Espresso Machines
These categories are divided by the level of automation each espresso machine has.
Every individual has specific demands of their espresso machines since they will have a different budget and flavor profile.
Thus manufacturers produce multi-styled, multi-functioning espresso machines with different features to please different users.
So, despite being semi-automatics, two different machines from different companies can have a completely different system.
For instance, Sage’s semi-automatic espresso machines have a built-in grinder which is an asset of super-automatic espresso machines. La Pavoni’s manual espresso machine has automatic cappuccino frothing apparatus.
Some espresso machines might have portafilter, while others have internal spouts to extract your beverages.
So, these machines and their variety can be wild! Before getting ready to answer what you should look for in the machine, let’s learn a few key pointers of these subcategories of espresso machines!
Manual espresso machines
Manual espresso machines gave birth to espressos, milk-based beverages, and the future inventions of other advanced machines. These machines were first coined in 1884 and were later improved in 1901.
Manual espresso machines used steam-driven pressure to extract espresso. Today, we use spring-piston and direct lever pressure to brew through manual espresso machines.
Many industries, like the famous La Pavoni, still develop and sell manual espresso machines or lever espresso machines.
These machines are the true meaning of history, elegance, and classic variety. Manual espresso machines are still the replica of the first invented manual machine with a metallic body and similar piston-driven model.
They have a big boiler, manual steaming wand, bigger group heads (stability).
If you are someone who’d want the ultimate upper hand over your brew and want to perform every detailed step, including applying pressure, deciding the extraction period, extraction temp, steaming milk, then manual espresso machines are the one for you!
You will need to pull down the spring piston or direct lever to build up the pressure in the machine.
Manual espresso machines are the most difficult of them all, and it will take many trials and errors to understand and ace the brewing method.
They will also be more expensive than other fully automatic espresso machines!
But if history, class, and elegance is your forte, manual machines are the one for you!
Who are manual/lever espresso machines for?
- Someone who can spare time while brewing espresso shots. It does take time for the machine to heat up completely.
- People who enjoy old-school devices and don’t mind that they are more difficult to operate.
- For individuals who, manual espresso machines aren’t cheap!
- If you enjoy manual actions around the machine, including applying pressure, then the machine is for you!
Semi-automatic espresso machines
The next level of automation is semi-automatic espresso machines. These machines will apply the pump pressure for you, but the rest of the brew is in your hand. Semi-automatic has a modern interface and smaller footprint with minimal functionality but semi-control over it.
With a semi-automatic, you will need to decide the brew temperature, brewing period, extraction period (25 seconds), pre-infusion, and steaming of the milk. The machine does apply pressure, but it gives you the barista feel of other manual functions that you can try on the machine like a real barista.
Semi-automatic espresso machines are the most affordable out of them all and the most minimal machine unless you want a highly functional and programmable semi-automatic.
Some manufacturers do invent highly functional semi-automatic espresso machines with built-in grinder, bypass doser, multiple programs that you can change and play with.
These high-defined semi-automatics will be harder to operate with multiple programs and a higher learning curve.
If you enjoy semi-automatic power but don’t want complexity, choose Rancilio or Gaggia. They come with simple steps to turn on/off, and bam, the brew is finished.
Who are semi-automatic espresso machines for?
- Someone who’d enjoy the barista-feel while brewing and pulling espresso shots.
- Can afford to spend time while brewing?
- Semi-automatic espresso machines require skills to pull off good espresso shots.
Fully-automatic espresso machine
There’s minimal difference between a fully automatic and a super-automatic espresso machine. With technology advancing every day, fully automatic will BREW your beverages with a single touch/click.
These machines can brew with a single touch and, at the same time, also allow you to experience on-hand actions with its programmable features.
Most of the machines now come with a built-in grinder which wasn’t the key feature of these machines when they were first invented.
Nonetheless, fully automatic espresso machines do allow a barista experience compared to super-automatic machines.
Unlike super-automatics, fully automatic machines will always come with a portafilter, manual dosing, and manual tamping.
Even if your fully automatic has a grinder, you can dose and tamp in an open system rather than a closed version that usually happens in super-automatic espresso machines.
Apart from this, fully automatic espresso machines will do everything for you from grinding, brewing, and steaming. They are for people who’d like a barista-style machine with full automation.
Fully automatic brands usually have a bigger footprint with too many functions stacked together. The hopper is visible at the top and adds up to the overall height and weight of the machine.
Who are these machines for?
- Someone who’d brew instant beverages with a single touch without wasting enough time on it.
- Someone who has enough space for the wide features of the fully automatic.
- Individuals who prefer programmability between the automation.
- The machine allows people automation along with programmability. You can switch between the two at any given time.
- Fully automatic espresso machines are as expensive as a machine can get. If your budget does allow for such an expense, go for it!
Capsule/Pod espresso machines
Capsules Espresso machines can be considered the more affordable approach to super-automatic machines.
These machines will brew for you instantly without much action. Unlike super-automatic espresso machines, these use pre-ground capsules and pods to brew coffee instead of freshly ground coffee.
Capsules are sealed aluminum pods that have flavored pre-ground coffee inside of them. Nespresso invented capsule espresso machines to provide coffee with complete automation.
If you are someone who doesn’t mind pre-ground coffee, these machines are more affordable, easy to use, and of smaller interface compared to other technical machines.
Pods are paper-sealed flat circular bags of coffee and can be used in almost all espresso machines, including manual and semi-automatic espresso machines.
These pods can easily fit in your portafilter if the portafilter has an additional pod basket. These pod baskets are flat with less depth because ESE pods are usually thin! ESE pods stand for easy-serve-espresso coffee.
Meanwhile, capsules can only go with a machine that’s specifically designed for capsules.
Pods can go in almost all the machines. Capsule machines are smarter; they also come with manual/automatic steaming wands and technology. Many capsule espresso machines offer a variety of espresso-based and milk-based beverages.
Who are these machines for:
- Someone who’d want automation without spending too much money.
- Individuals who enjoy pre-ground coffee and don’t want to invest in a grinder. Someone who’s on decaf coffee.
- Capsules do have a variety of flavors.
- Capsule coffee machines have a small footprint compared to other massive super-automatic espresso machines. They can fit beautifully in your kitchen without much hassle.
- Capsule machines offer automatic steaming wands at a cheaper rate.
Questions To Ask Before Buying These Machines:
Espresso machines have a wild variety of upgrades and technology to offer. Every additional technical upgrade adds up to the overall cost of your espresso machine.
Thus, it’s essential to know which feature adds up the overall cost of your device! You shouldn’t pay for more than the machine’s worth!
We’ll answer questions that will help you decide which feature is the most essential for you and which feature you can avoid to save some money. For instance, the Jura A1 doesn’t come with a steaming wand.
Fortunately, many individuals don’t consume as much tea and milk-based beverages as one might wonder. This machine cuts down the cost of unnecessary additions and is used to strengthen other areas of the espresso machine like the boiler, etc.
What type of portafilter does it have?
Now, you might wonder if a portafilter is the same for every machine, but super-automatic espresso machines have a variation to offer you. Before concluding the variant, let’s understand what a portafilter exactly is.
The portafilter is a basket molded with a handle to carry ground coffee for the brewing process. When you attach the portafilter in the group head, the brewing initiates at the junction.
You need to adjust a basket inside the portafilter to dose and tamp the coffee.
Many machines with built-in grinders come with a portafilter cradle to hold the ground or come with an enclosed system. You can attach the portafilter and allow auto-dosing and auto-tamping in an enclosed system.
There are many types of portafilter depending on their size, handle, open/closed, locked/.unlocked.
- Portafilter size: Domestic portafilters usually offer a 54mm diameter. Commercial-style portafilters come with 58mm diameter.
- Handle: Manufacturers usually put their mark and unique design over the handle to show brand name and pattern. Handles are usually made of plastic or wood.
- Open/close: Domestic portafilters usually have a sealed bottom, but bottomless portafilters come with an exposed rear. This open bottom allows you to visualize the saturation process. You can actually notice water mixing in with ground coffee with a bottomless portafilter.
Open portafilters are usually for professionals who can brew without making a mess. Open bases of portafilter can cause much mess since the coffee can sprew out anywhere if not saturated properly.
Closed portafilters have spout bases. You will find two spouts with most of the domestic portafilters for separate double shots.
Portafilter and portafilter-less espresso machines
Super-automatic espresso machines now come with direct brewing spouts where you don’t need to attach/detach the portafilter from the group head. The brew unit is completely closed off in these machines providing a complete level of automation.
These alternative variants, grinds, doses, tamps and brews all inside the machine for a hand-free operation. These spouts can slide up and down to accommodate more space in-between.
Portafilter-less strips away your chance of having hands-on barista experience. On the positive side, you will not have to worry about the dose, tamp, spilled grounds, extra cleaning responsibility, etc.
Portafilter-less spouts are only evident in super-automatic espresso machines like the Jura, Saeco, etc. Although if you want a portafilter espresso machine, you can always choose Sage/Breville models for the barista-stye brewing technology.
Does it have a dual boiler?
As stated, dual boilers are the most expensive addition to an espresso machine, and it isn’t easy to land on one under $1000. Dual boilers can brew and steam simultaneously, which is not possible for a single boiler (that’s responsible for brewing and steaming both).
It’s no secret that espresso gets sour when it gets cold, and unfortunately, you might cool down your espresso shots with a single boiler.
A single boiler takes a lot of time to adjust its temperature from brewing to steaming quickly.
You will need to wait to increase the temperature to pull another shot unless your single-boiler is equipped with a PID controller.
The PID controller maintains the machine’s temperature between 190-204, optimal for pulling shots. PID controllers are an expensive addition if your machine doesn’t come with one (Sage/Breville offer PID controllers with every machine of theirs for free)
With a single boiler, you will need to steam the milk before pulling the shot. This will prepare the milk without cooling down the espresso shots. If you are fine with steaming first and pulling the shot later, single boilers can save you a lot of money!
If you choose a single boiler machine, make sure to choose a strong boiler like brass/chrome plated to brew hotter espresso shots!
The single boiler is for people who can:
- People who don’t mind spending time brewing and steaming at different times.
- Single boilers usually offer manual steaming wands. Manual steaming is always better than automatic steaming because you can froth milk better than the machine once you enhance your frothing skills.
- If you don’t mind steaming before brewing, single boilers are good for you!
- Most single boilers won’t produce as cold of a brew as one might wonder. It takes time to brew with them, but pulling the shot at the end stabilizes the temperature of the overall beverage.
If you brew and steam with a single boiler, make sure to pre-heat the whole device from cups to pitcher to the group head, shower screen, portafilter, and baskets.
This will allow additional temperature maintenance. Single boiler espresso machines will usually take 10-20 minutes to heat up properly unless they are equipped with a fast heating element.
Can it froth milk?
The bigger question is do you want to froth milk?
Many people avoid consuming milk-based beverages because they want to enjoy the espresso shots pure without taste dilution. Most of the time, these people have to compromise with an unnecessary steaming wand when they don’t even use it at all.
Fortunately, manufacturers have started to create and develop espresso machines without a steaming wand to reduce additional costs! Jura A1 is one such machine that doesn’t have a milk frother.
Another great machine is the capsule espresso machine. Most of these machines offer you an optional choice to buy or not buy the milk frother. It’s not part of the machine’s build.
If you enjoy milk-based espresso beverages, espresso machines come with either a manual steaming wand, automatic wand, cappuccino outlet, etc. With a manual frother, your milk and its texture are in your hand.
Manual frothing isn’t difficult, and if you master your skills, you can foam better than the automatic steaming wand.
On the other hand, an automatic steaming wand can create one of the most wonderful microfoams for milk-based beverages.
Machines that come with a separate milk frother usually have a cylindrical space and a small frothing device at the center to create the whirlpool.
Automatic steaming wands are going to be more expensive than manual wands. The quality comparison can depend on an individual’s skills with a manual stick. It will take time to master them, of course.
- Semi-automatic espresso machines: These machines will always come with a manual steaming wand with less powerful steam.
- Manual espresso machine: Manual machines will also come with a manual steaming wand. Some lever espresso brewers like the La Pavoni also come with an automatic cappuccino outlet.
- The power of the steam can depend on the company and the level of the manual espresso machine.
- Fully- and super-automatic espresso machines: These will always come with the powerful automatic steaming wand to produce the best of foam milk.
Is it compatible with ESE pods?
ESE pods stand for Easy-serve-espresso coffee pods. These pods are small circular flat paper discs filled with pre-ground espresso coffee. This pre-ground can be decaf, flavored espresso shots, or anything that falls under your choice.
Don’t confuse Coffee bags with ESE pods. Coffee bags can have different sorts of coffee within various parameters of ground size. It can be coarse for french press or medium-fine for drip coffees.
Coffee bags can be used in traditional brewing methods. However, ESE pods are specifically designed for espresso-based beverages and can only fit in espresso machines. So, if you want to use ESE pods, you will have to have an espresso machine.
ESE pods are circular specially designed to fit the round portafilter baskets. Most of the espresso machines that come with a portafilter will allow you to use ESE pods.
Usually, espresso machines that come with a portafilter have pressurized and non-pressurized baskets and ESE pod baskets. These baskets have low depth and are almost thin to adjust the pod only.
If your machine doesn’t offer an ESE pod, you cannot use it in the baskets! Fortunately, most companies do offer ESE pods.
Please note: different manufacturers will produce different-sized pod baskets to adjust their ESE pods only. Like the Tassimo or dolce gusto pods, these pods will only fit in their own branded coffee machine.
Similarly, Nespresso will only accept Nespresso capsules rather than other brands. Portafilter-less espresso machines cannot use ESE pods, but they do have bypass doser to allow pre-ground coffee brewing.
It is usually present close to the hopper and the grinder of super-automatic espresso machines.
You can simply scoop down the pre-ground coffee and pour it into the bypass doser. Don’t scoop more than a single because more than one scoop doesn’t work on bypass doses.
How big is it?
Espresso machines can be pretty humongous and eat a lot of your counter space if you are dealing with a small kitchen.
Thus, it’s necessary to choose the correct sized espresso machine for your pantry. If your kitchen does allow enough space, then any machine will do fine.
It’s not just the height that you must concern yourself with, but also the width and the length of the device. Many portafilter-less espresso machines have enhanced width to cover the water reservoir and brewing unit at the back.
Not only this, you should measure the height of the espresso machine after including cups at the top of the warming plate, the accessibility to the hopper’s lid, water reservoir’s handle, and bypass doser cap.
If you are barely adjusting the height of the machine below a cabinet, you might need to reconsider the space for accessing the back and the top of the espresso machine easily.
Entry-level espresso machines are usually smaller with less functionality and less commodity with the system. Hence, they use very little space on the counter.
Please note, these machines are the most fragile espresso machines out in the market. So, choose a place that’s safe for your machine before anything.
Things to consider before adjusting/buying the machine in the chosen space:
- Does it have a safe electric switch to plug in the device? Does the device have long enough cords to reach the switch?
- Is there a sink close to the machine for easy refill and dump?
- The space above the machine and beside the machine.
Manual espresso machines are tall-cylindrical with heightened piston levers. These machines don’t consume much surface area on the counter but require a tall height to adjust properly. If you are planning to buy a manual espresso machine, check its height with your counter space.
Semi-automatic is the smallest machine. They are easy-to-use, minimal machines with less to no function other than the brewing head and the steaming wand. Semi-automatic espresso machines can fit beautifully in any kitchen space.
Fully automatic espresso machines may or may not have a built-in grinder. If your espresso machine has a built-in grinder, check if the hopper is integrated inside the machine or stands out at the top.
Portafilter espresso machines will usually have hoppers outside the dynamics of the machines, and portafilter-less espresso machines have integrated hoppers.
Fully and super-automatic espresso machines are massive both horizontally and vertically. Super-automatic with portafilters will be longer in length, and portafilter-less espresso machines will be longer in height.
How easy is it to clean?
To keep your machine lasting longer, serve great coffee, and look lavish simultaneously, you MUST keep your machine clean from stains, scratches, scaling, and coffee residue.
Please note: Cleaning takes a lot of time if your machine demands constant descaling and rinsing. SO, choose an espresso machine that fits better with your time.
Smaller machines are more difficult to clean with their small corners, edges, splits, plastic wares, small-fuzzy internal space, etc.
If you cannot spend time cleaning a small plastic machine, don’t buy an entry-level espresso machine and switch to high-end espresso brewers with a metallic body and a bigger surface area.
External cleaning isn’t the only thing that keeps your machine safe and healthy; internal cleaning is more important to ensure no part is being suffocated in the dirt.
- Wash the water reservoir with hot water and refill it every day to clean/rinse the unit with fresh water. (Make sure your machine has a removable water reservoir)
- Use soft water to avoid descaling.
- If you have a portafilter-less espresso machine, empty the puck dustbin every day to dispose of organic waste from the machine.
- Use a brush to clean the grinder and its burr.
- You can wash the hopper with water in the sink. Check if these wares are dishwasher safe.
- Rinse the brewing unit after every use.
High-end espresso machines follow an automatic ‘clean me’ cycle every once in a while, but they can be lengthy and bothersome. So, choose a bigger water reservoir to cover the cleaning volume.
Descaling cycle will take a similar period, and the machine won’t continue to work unless you decide to descale. So, always choose a bigger tank. The machine offers both descaling and cleaning kits; use them when needed and don’t skip cleanings.
Please note: Choose a machine that’s split into parts for easier cleaning and is dishwasher safe. Don’t put metallic wares in soapy water or water at all. A damp cloth is fine to wipe the metallic parts clean.
What features does it have?
Espresso machines have two main functions: pulling espresso shots and steaming milk, but there’s still so much more these machines can offer.
Every enhanced feature will increase the value of your machine overall. So, ask yourself which feature you’d like in the machine and which ones you can live without.
Functionality and interface: You can either choose affordable switches to brew and steam with simplicity or use illuminating buttons interface, or the touch screen for advanced technology.
Operating buttons and touch screens are more difficult than switches, but both allow you to better program the machine.
Programmability: how much programmability does your machine allow you to perform?
Programmable features include changing the temperature of the brew, the density of steaming, shot volume, shot temp, milk temperature, pre-infusion period, brewing period, etc.
Espresso machines with buttons/touch screens like Breville’s models will allow you most of these probabilities.
Boiler: Will a single boiler suffice your espresso demands, i.e., brewing and steaming at intervals, or you want to steam them together? If you want faster beverages, choose the expensive dual boiler machine.
Pump: Your pump should have max. 15-Bars pressure to last longer and pull consistent shots. Without a good pump, you cannot have the correct amount of extraction.
Automatic steaming or manual: If you want to steam instantly without learning how to do it manually, an automatic steaming wand will give you more powered steam and save you time. Manual steaming will require you to learn how to aerate the milk for the correct texture.
Portafilter or no portafilter: Portafilter and the group head are needed for you to have the most control of the amount of crema and the depth of flavor from your spresso.
Changing the grind size, tamp pressure, and amount of coffee will have different effects on how your espresso tastes.
Big reservoir: If you are a heavy coffee drinker and your machine demands cleaning often, you’ll want bigger reservoirs and a bigger drip tray.
PID controller: Without these, your machine won’t maintain temperature for steaming and brewing. It will keep on increasing the temperature and might reach 210 degrees Fahrenheit.
Two hundred ten degrees is way too hot for brewing and will heat your machine’s system. So, buy a PID-equipped machine or buy one with your machine.
Pressure gauge: A pressure gauge displays the quality of your shots, the grind size you used and determines a better pre-infusion and extraction period. It helps you learn and witness your brewing skills.
Built-in grinder or no grinder: Grinders are an expensive addition to your machine. So, if you already have a separate grinder, it’s best not to choose a machine with a built-in grinder. Remember, to have a great tasting espresso you need a high-end grinder that will consistently grind your espresso beans to a fine size.
The machine’s assets: Machines should offer stainless steel tamper, stainless steel razor, milk pitcher, cleaning kit, and cleaning tools. Many brands only offer plastic tampers which are more of a waste, and you’d need to buy separate ones.
Is it easy to use?
High-end espresso machines can have complex programs, but they are also easier to use once you learn to use the.
The most easy-to-use machines are the ones that offer zero programmable options and use simple switches to turn on and off the action like the Rancilio Silvia.
On the other end, advanced espresso machines (super-automatic) are also easy to use because they allow single-touch operation. They also allow programmability for you to receive your desired taste.
If you want all the included features in an espresso machine and not just the switch on/off the system, it will have a learning arc. It’s not of utmost difficulty to learn different espresso machines and their programs to be very honest.
You just need to sit down and read the manual.
The most difficult machine to come across will be high-end semi-automatic espresso machines.
These machines only ever apply pressure, and the rest of the brewing process is in your hands. It can be intimidating at first to learn how to properly use them.
Choose a semi-automatic only when you want to polish your barista skills. If you simply want to enjoy espressos without indulging in its complexity, then choose super-automatic espresso machines.
The top-most complex machines still remain manual espresso machines. With these machines, you not only need to develop a brewing and steaming game but also practice applying pressure.
Applying pressure is not as easy as pulling down the lever. It requires power, precision, and accuracy. You will need to understand where to apply the most pressure, when to pre-infuse, when to let go and pull it back again.
What is your skill level?
Buying an espresso machine that you cannot easily operate is a scary and an expensive bet. I have seen many users who couldn’t get a hold of their machine and never brewed their perfect shots ever.
It’s not difficult to learn a new machine and develop better shots, but you need practice, patience, and knowledge.
Super-automatic, fully automatic, and capsule espresso machines are the easiest because they have a single-touch operation for brewing the shots.
The next following machine is one-switch on/off devices. After stabilizing the temperature, you need to decide the extraction period. These machines also have a learning arc but are easier than high-end espresso machines.
Semi-automatic and manual espresso machines are the most difficult ones to master. If you love the beauty and elegance of manual espresso machines, it’s worth the bet.
Starter level: After wasting your money on cafes, you finally decide to invest healthily in an espresso machine without any knowledge. To start your journey, invest in a small entry-level espresso machine and level up your games after 4-5 months (sooner, if you’d like)
Pro level: If you have had quite the experience with an entry-level machine and want to develop further skills to brew cafe-like shots– switch to a high-end semi-automatic espresso machine.
The gourmet level: If you simply want to enjoy espresso without investing time and much effort and have a budget to spend freely, choose a super-automatic espresso machine. There’s a wide range for you to choose from!
How durable is it?
Entry-level espresso machines cannot promise you much life because they use the cheap-end raw material to produce goods. They are good for the learning arcs, but they are not with you for the long run.
You can invest in a cheap entry-level semi-automatic espresso machine but don’t invest in cheap super-automatic machines. They will cost more money and won’t last long.
High-end espresso machines from trusted manufacturers will be the most healthy investment for you. These machines will last longer than you can expect.
The durability of a product doesn’t solely depend on the manufacturers’ warranty period but also on the condition you keep your machine in.
What could ruin your espresso machine?
- Not wiping off the milk from the steaming wand: Soon, it will start to clog the steaming holes and build a residue around your wand. It will further ruin your milk’s taste.
- Not cleaning the portafilter after brewing: Coffee is organic, and it will clog up at creases if you don’t rinse your portafilters, group head, shower screen after fresh brew. This residual coffee will invite germs, unhygienic machines and will hinder the taste of future brews.
- Not changing the water reservoir’s water: Stagnant water invites many unwelcomed colonies. You will be risking your health if you don’t change it every day.
- Not wiping the unit will result in awful stains on your expensive device.
You can get most repairs done while being in the warranty period to avoid additional expense. After the guarantee period, you can order the spare parts post-damage to reduce the overall cost.
It’s better to spend on repairing than sulking and wasting an expensive machine.
Does it have a warranty?
Don’t buy electronic products, especially from online platforms, without a warranty and guarantee. Most of the known brands will not only offer a warranty but also offer a guarantee and full refund if the product doesn’t meet your demands.
Companies like Breville usually offer a 2-years repair, replace, and complete refund guarantee.
If there’s small unintentional damage, you can ask for a free repair. If the machine is very faulty, ask for a replacement, but if it’s completely not what you want, you can ask for a refund of the product.
Please note: The whole guarantee process can be very lengthy to have a repair, replacement, or refund because customer services are often lacking and don’t understand the situation or respond to our queries on a timely basis.
It’s best to study your product properly before you make the purchase. We have tried to include detailed information about the products (to have peace of mind with your purchase.)
When to demand a warranty/guarantee?
- When your grinder doesn’t grind fine enough for espresso even with the finest settings (It’s rare but possible)
- The grinder stops functioning after a while. Please note: Built-in grinders have less warranty period than the rest of the machine, so always keep your grinder in check.
- Brews not hot enough means a bad boiler or damaged boiler.
- Not enough hot milk or frothed milk indicated a bad steaming wand or clogged-up wand.
- Water leaks reflect bad internal damages. Look out for water leaks in the steaming wand, brew unit, water reservoir, or other dents.
- The broken exterior is sore.
- Not enough extraction.
- Buttons not lighting up and system lag is impossible to deal and brew with. System lag occurs in high-technology machines, so it’s best to replace it.
Before you buy an espresso machine, carefully read all the return/refund and guarantee policies. Some tacky companies play around with words to sell off unreliable products and then refuse the refund with some tacky rules. Beware of such policies.
Why Are Espresso Machines So Damn Expensive?
Espresso machines are a beautiful combination of art, and science. It uses a high amount of technology to brew a single shot of espresso.
The machine not only boils water but also stabilizes the temperature between 190-205 for shot stability.
Another technical feature is the steaming wand. High-end espresso machines offer automatic steaming wand to brew most milk-based beverages and thick, dense microfoam to meet the standard quality.
All these technologies come together and assemble in a small footprint to offer you the most delicious espresso. The science and materials that go behind pulling every shot make these machines such an expensive purchase!
The expensive parts that add $100s to the overall budget:
- Dual boiler: Dual boilers are the most expensive addition to espresso machines. These boilers together brew and steam at the same time to offer you hot brews. Unfortunately, dual boiler espresso machines cost more than $1000!
- Built-in grinder: Another expensive addition is the built-in grinder with stainless steel burr. These grinders are crucial and the second-most expensive addition to machines.
- Boiler’s material: The boiler’s material can play a significant role while maintaining and building the machine’s temperature. The most expensive material for boilers is brass. After that, it’s copper followed by stainless steel.
- Quality of the pump
- Steaming wand (manual/automatic)
- Touch screen, the machine interface, buttons, illumination, water reservoir’s size, etc.! All these add up to the overall cost of the espresso machine.
- The material used to build it.
What is the most reliable machine?
The most reliable machine will depend on your budget.
I feel that my Breville Oracle is one of the best made espresso machines available, but it costs $2,200.
Not everyone is going to spend that type of money, so you need to decide what your budget is and what options you want available to you before you can determine what the best machine is for you.
- Do you wish to experience barista-style brewing? Then, semi-automatic espresso machines are the ones for you.
- Would you rather brew with a single click? If so, then fully- and super-automatic espresso machines are the one for you.
- If you want full control over the machine, then a manual espresso machine is your go-to choice.
In terms of quality and flexibility, super-automatic espresso machines will brew for you the most delicious espressos and milk-based beverages without worrying too much about the details, but fully-/super-automatic machines are going to test your budget.
Baristas usually recommend semi-automatic espresso machines for every individual because these machines allow you to experience the whole brewing process up close with the constant intervention of your skills.
With a semi-automatic espresso machine, you can optimize your drink with your preferred settings because everything is in your hand.
But if you don’t want to experience and spend time brewing, super-automatic espresso machines are the most reliable choice for you!
However, if you want something more affordable then Nespresso capsule machines will do it for you without a doubt.
Capsule espresso machines are the easiest and the most affordable choice. They are super-automatic without the grinder.
Capsule machines use pre-ground coffee to avoid the expense of a grinder. You can simply put the capsule inside the container and click buttons and start the brewing process.
Is 15-Bar Pressure enough?
Since the history of espresso machines and to this date, espresso machines will always use 9-Bars of pressure to extract espresso shots.
Machines that comply and increase the overall cost of their product by manifesting 20-Bar pressure or more is simply faux.
No pressure above 9-Bar pressure will increase the quality, extraction period, saturation, and collision of the brew.
If espresso machines don’t require more than 9-bar pressure, why do companies advertise 15-bar pressure? The high 15-bar pressure pump protects and only ever applies 9-Bar pressure.
A 15-Bar pump is used to protect the pump from running off by giving extra withstanding pressure ability.
Some companies advertise more than the 15-Bar pump pressure to falsely confuse people to buy fake products when they are not of any quality. If you stumble on a product that costs more and advertise increased pressure pumps without any other promising feature, avoid the machine.
Manual espresso machines still focus on creating 9-Bar pressure for precision because it’s manual-driven pressure and cannot be controlled. So, they focus on creating a position that can exert 9-bar pressure, not more, not less.
Manual espresso machines also allow you to pre-infuse if you use proper techniques.
On the other hand, the pump pressure can control the amount of pressure exerted while brewing. With these machines, you can decide the pre-infusion time, the pressure applied for pre-infusion, and overall extraction.
High-end espresso machines allow you to play with pre-infusion time and pressure build-up, but no other machine will allow you to decide the pressure unless it’s a manual machine.
Is delonghi better than Breville
Delonghi and Breville are both very famous espresso coffee maker companies, and the comparison between them in my opinion is far between.
Delonghi produces goods for the commonwealth and enhances its game with both cheap and expensive technical espresso brewers. Breville, on the other hand, focuses on the quality of the product it produces.
Delonghi considers the value and affordability of the product, and Breville solely focuses on providing A-grade quality no matter what. Both companies have different footprints, interface, design, model height and size, and brand exclusive features.
Delonghi creates one of the most diverse-looking brands; every model has a unique blend of new technology. On the other hand, Breville sticks to a similar footprint and focuses on changing the internal and interior dynamics and function of the machine rather than the exterior.
Delonghi Espresso machines
Delonghi’s an Italian coffee company brand and has been established since 1950. With Delonghi, you will find a wide range of espresso machines, from the lowest to the highest of price/technologically advanced espresso makers.
Individuals who wish to continue their espresso journey can start with DeLonghi’s affordable entry-level machines.
Although these entry-level machines might not match the quality and quantity of your cafe brews, it’s still an inexpensive start. You can upgrade your espresso games with Delonghi with increasing technology and price.
Delonghi is worldwide famous for its portafilter-less super-automatic espresso machines. Most of DeLonghi’s models don’t include a portafilter, but exceptions do follow.
Delonghi’s super-automatic espresso machines are double-spouted, come with a built-in grinder, exclusive bypass doser, and integral hopper design.
Breville/Sage espresso machines
Breville has been known for its quality products since 1932. The company first started in Sydney, Australia, and is now worldwide famous for its quality without compromise characteristics. Breville is known as Sage in the U.K.
Breville is the first company to have come with smart-espresso machines. Smart espresso machines include a smart screen and touch interface with fine-colorful beverage options to surf through. The technology is rare in other machines.
Breville has been famous for its automatic steaming wand’s quality for a long time now. Breville installs PID controllers in every espresso machine despite its expense. PID controller is exclusive to the brand. Not only the PID controller, everything Breville offers is high grade.
These A-grade accessories include their stainless steel conical burr grinder, dual boilers, Thermo coil heating element, Barista-style interface, stainless steel material, easy-to-use buttons/touch screen, illuminators, etc.
- If you’d want to settle down for something affordable and elegant- Delonghi is the right choice for you.
- If you prefer something of quality, elegance, class, barista experience, and technology, then Breville is the one for you. That is if you are OKAY spending a couple of extra bucks.
If you’d ask me, I have a biased heart for Breville espresso machines. They create goods for the customers and make sure to provide every quality possible.
For instance, Breville offers free stainless steel tamper and stainless steel razor with every machine they sell; no other espresso machine company does that!
Any experienced or naive barista would tell you about the importance of a stainless steel tamper. Tamping is one of the most crucial steps while brewing, and Breville knows.
How long can you expect an espresso machine to last?
If you clean your machine as needed it will last you years as long as you purchased a quality product.
As a rule of thumb, I try not to recommend any espresso machine under $300. Once you get cheaper than this, you’ll start seeing many more plastic parts that can hold up for very long.
Most of the espresso machine companies will offer 1-2 years of warranty/guarantee. If your machine does go bad in the span of two years, the company will repair the product for you or have it replaced for bigger damages.
The damages shouldn’t be harmed/caused by you and should be solely internal and natural.
Every machine with a different design, model, and construct will have a different warranty period. High-end espresso machines will last longer than entry-level espresso machines.
No matter how powerful the machine is, in the end, it’s just a machine and will break sooner or later. It’s best to keep them in a defined atmosphere with care and discipline.
How to take care of your machine?
- If it’s plastic, keep scratchy things away to avoid ruining the front screen/panel of the machine. The plastic casing is prone to scratches.
- Wipe the exterior body with a damp cloth and no aggressive detergents to avoid a bad chemical reaction.
- Don’t allow water/coffee droplets to stay around the exterior of the machine. Wipe them as soon as possible to avoid ugly stains.
- Rinse the group head, portafilter, baskets, steaming wand before and after every brewing cycle.
- Wipe the steaming wand with a damp cloth as well to remove milk microfoam.
- Refill the water tank daily, and don’t use stagnant water.
- Use soft water and a water filter to avoid descaling the machine often, if at all.
- Empty the drip tray as often as you can.
- Clean the grinder with a brush and not with water to keep the burrs safe.
Entry-level espresso machines will break down within a couple of months/years. Most of these machines have internal and exterior plastic parts that are not very sturdy.
Buy a cheap entry-level espresso machine to experience the dynamics of brewing espresso, then switch to advanced machines.
High-end espresso machines last longer than their guarantee period, of course. Take care of your machine and its part, and it will serve you longer.
Make sure you can take as many opportunities as your guarantee allows you to. Repair the machine in the guarantee period for free!
Manual espresso machines last the longest, with some parts changed/replaced. They are built to last. These machines can last for years and years. When choosing a manual machine, make sure it’s manufactured in Italy for quality reasons.
Quality espresso machines are expensive, and it’s important to choose wisely before investing $1000+- on devices. This list of espresso machines will give you an idea of the seven best espresso machines under $1000, their pros, cons, and the idea of the best deal for you.
If you have time, do read the Q&As before purchasing to be certain of your choices and what you’d like in the machine, and how much you should spend on it. Expensive espresso machines have a lot of features to stumble upon. The best machines will give it all to you, but you must choose the best while excluding the bad ones.
After all, brewing and drinking espresso is a cultural reset for so many coffee lovers. Its wide variety of flavor profiles and beverage menu is almost impossible to skip. So, choose an espresso machine that will suit your budget and choices perfectly.
Don’t compromise with what you want and brew the most delicious espresso beverages by developing your game with these top-notch espresso devices.