As a coffee nut, coffee-shop lover, and former professional barista, I don’t normally make recommendations for home espresso equipment. Not because I don't want you to have delicious espresso at home, but because it takes a lot of practice and a lot of burned fingers to learn to make espresso well. Many people invest in an espresso machine like they invest in the exercise equipment that becomes a very expensive coat rack: If you're going to buy it and never use it, you're almost... always better off going to the local café.
That said, there is a true magic to having espresso at home, making yourself a cappuccino in your pajamas, and avoiding awkwardly waiting around the end of a bar with a cluster of strangers, all desperate to grab the first latte that hits the counter. Espresso is hard, but that doesn't mean it's impossible—especially if you're easy to please, ready to practice, and up for a good culinary challenge. There are lots of resources available online for learning how to make good espresso: Look up videos on YouTube, read articles and DIY books, and don't be too shy to ask your favorite barista for pointers—many of us love getting geeky on the technical stuff with our favorite customers.
Whether you want equipment fit for the pros, a combination piece for indecisive mornings, something nonelectric, or a machine that will take care of the details you're too tired to worry about, we've got a list of the best options at every budget and every level of interest and expertise.
And don't forget that to make truly great espresso drinks you need to grind your coffee fresh. So make sure you've checked out the best coffee grinders to buy as well.
01 of 07
Yes, this espresso maker from Breville has a high price tag, but compared to some of the other machines on the market (like the $4,500 La Marzocco Linea Mini, which is a barista favorite) this machine is actually a steal. Plus, it’s reliable, durable, and produces consistently great coffee.
Dual-boiler espresso systems are undoubtedly the gold standard for home or commercial equipment: They allow the machine to maintain the optimum temperature for simultaneously brewing espresso coffee (195–205... degrees Fahrenheit) as well as for creating steam (closer to 250 degrees Fahrenheit), which means no waiting around, watching your crema disappear while you wait to steam milk. The Breville also has programmable options for softly pre-infusing the coffee, and has a control valve that monitors extraction pressure—two things most home machines don't feature. If espresso is your go-to coffee every day, this is the machine for you.
02 of 07
The Silvia machine from Rancilio may as well be called Old Reliable: A longtime favorite for tinkering coffee geeks and espresso obsessives these hard-working, long-lasting, easy-to-maintain machines offer a great combination of quality, affordability, and ease of use. While the single boiler can create a bit of lag time between pulling a shot and building up steam pressure to froth your milk, and cleaning the Silvia is something of a beast, there's no sturdier, more dependable, or... user-friendly machine on the market for less than $1,000. Period.
03 of 07
Need espresso on the double, no matter where you are? Don't want to pay a fortune for a countertop machine with all the bells and whistles? Don't care about cappuccinos? Go hand-held. For less than $100, this portable little espresso machine will brew up a strong cup in no time, no matter where you are. It uses manual pump pressure to extract the coffee, and all you'll need is grounds and hot water to make the magic happen. If you like steamed milk with your espresso, this isn't... going to be the one for you, but it's a perfect option for someone who wants to keep their coffee simple and strong.
04 of 07
In all fairness, I don't actually recommend going the combination coffee-and-espresso-maker route: Often these machines try and fail to perform well in either capacity, as brewing coffee and brewing espresso require different temperatures, pressures, and machine-environment conditions. That said, sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don't: If you want the double option, this KRUPS machine is about as good as you're going to get. The espresso side is always the loser on a... combo unit, and this one suffers the same fate: The espresso brewer can only achieve 4 Bars of atmospheric pressure, while commercial-grade espresso machines use around 9. That means your espresso will be somewhat limpid and lack crema, but hey, it will be a caffeinated kick in the morning. Having a milk steaming wand on your coffee maker is a bonus, however, bar none. You can always whip up a fancy-seeming cafe au lait, simply by adding steamed milk to your brewed coffee.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Stovetop "espresso" makers (what they make is more like a very strong percolated coffee than true espresso, but who's counting?) are a fantastic option for anyone who loves a rich coffee flavor without all the big gadgetry and fancy tools. This one has a great speckled, cowboy-aluminum look to it, and an easy-open top to avoid burned fingers.
If you need to make a lot of coffee this pot comes in multiple sizes from a 3-cup version all the way up to a 12-cup version.
Pro tip when using... a stovetop "moka" pot: Use hot water in the base, to avoid the brewer sitting too long over a flame while brewing, which will heat the coffee grounds and can cause bitter flavors.
06 of 07
Super-automatic espresso machines are kind of a gamble: It can be difficult to make adjustments for quality and taste, and they can be a pain to clean, but if you're relatively easy to please with your espresso drinks, this tidy little unit is a great option. It has a front-loading water reservoir, which means you won’t have to pull the whole machine out to fill it up as frequently.
And it also comes with a self-rinse cycle to cut back on the after-shot care. The temperature recovery cycle is... quick, too, meaning the steam wand is ready to use not long after the shots are done—something most home machines struggle with.
07 of 07
If you're the classic type who loves old-school everything and really wants to "pull" your shots, a manual machine can be a fun, fascinating, and show-stopping piece of your home coffee bar. This powerful little piston machine harks back to the bars of Naples, using man- and steam power to brew individual 2-ounce shots of coffee. La Pavoni is one of the most respected and longest-standing names in espresso machines for both commercial and home use; this unit's brass boilers, keen... internal thermostat, and 32-ounce reservoir speak to the company's generations of manufacturing. Manual machines can be tricky to master—there's a reason most espresso machines have gone push-button—but are great fun for the hobbyist, and allow for experimentation with each and every brew.