7 best espresso machines for barista-quality coffees
Help save the environment and eventually your pocket by investing in a quality appliance that will give you the perfect cup every time
Us Brits drink an impressive 95 million cups of coffee per day, with espresso being a popular choice for early risers, and those suffering from a mid-afternoon slump.
So, what better way to ensure the quality of your coffee, to save money, and to cut back on using disposable cups than by investing in your own espresso machine?
There are many models on the market, ranging from the standard – which use ground coffee or capsules – to the more technologically advanced, with some now even incorporating impressive bean-to-cup grinding capabilities.
We were looking for machines which first and foremost make a fantastic cup of quality espresso, with any additional extras (such as milk frothers, or the ability to make other styles of coffee) exactly that: just extras.
We were also looking for machines which sit (and look) the part on the kitchen countertop, without taking up too much space.
We were after coffee machines that were straightforward to set up and use, as well as being easy-to-clean and refill. Essentially, we wanted barista-quality coffee without the faff as, let’s face it, mornings are already far too hectic as they are.
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Illy Y3.2 espresso and coffee capsule espresso machine: £99.44, Amazon
Nifty, narrow and compact, this capsule-based machine takes up barely any counter space and makes an incredible espresso in a matter of seconds. It’s easy to set up and use – essentially fill up the water tank and pop in your capsule – and the 0.75L water tank, which sits at the back, is easy to remove and clean. It also comes with a programmable temperature setting, so you can tailor your espressos exactly to your liking. It is only compatible with Illy capsules though, but it still works out much cheaper than a shop-bought coffee, and tastes just as good. No-fuss and easy to clean and operate, this came out top for us.
De’Longhi motivo ECC221B espresso coffee machine: £89, Ao
A well-designed machine that fits snugly on any countertop, the De’Longhi motivo rivals more expensive machines for its coffee quality and ease of use. This model is efficient, heats up quickly and can also make cappuccinos and lattes in addition to a top-quality espresso. It can also make two coffees simultaneously: ideal for busy households. The only downside is that it’s slightly on the noisy side.
Siemens EQ.3 espresso machine: £499.99, Siemens
If you’re a fan of mod-cons and want a fuss-free high-spec coffee machine, this one’s for you. As well as being time-savers in the kitchen, bean-to-cup coffee machines are starting to become more affordable, and you don’t have to be a technology whizz to use the straightforward touchscreen monitor. Considering how advanced this piece of kit is, we got it up and running in only five minutes. On top of making a brilliant espresso, it can also create cafe crema, cappuccino and latte macchiatos, and there’s a handy bean strength button depending on whether you’d like your coffee to be mild, regular or strong. A couple of models we tested used water filters for optimum coffee quality, and this model comes with an optional Brita filter which also alerts you when you need to replace it. The 45-minute self-clean function is also a nice touch. You may want to measure your countertop space first though; this machine is slightly larger at the back than a lot of the models we tried.
Smeg ECF01CRUK espresso coffee machine: £279, Ao
This retro-inspired model is certainly a looker – especially if you already own other Smeg kitchen appliances – but this steel and chrome beauty also makes a great-tasting espresso. The appliance is versatile, using both ground coffee and capsules, and the in-built cup warmer and milk frothers are a nice touch too, especially if you also have a penchant for cappuccinos.
Nespresso by Krups inissia XN100540 espresso coffee machine: £59.99, Currys
Counting more than 22 varieties of espresso and lungo capsules in its range, Nespresso is a much-loved brand when it comes to coffee. Available in black, red and white, this compact and nifty model comes with an easy-to-use touch button system and can whip up a shot of the good stuff in just 25 seconds. It’s extremely good value for the price, and benefits from having an adjustable cup stand to cater for different sized coffees, plus it automatically shuts off after nine minutes of inactivity to save electricity.
Dualit, 3-in-1 multibrew espresso coffee machine: £199.99, Lakeland
This good-looking stainless steel model has the added benefit of being compatible with capsules, pods (it’s Nespresso compatible), or ground coffee, depending on your preferences. While it was one of the most involved machines that we tested – the instruction manual recommends warming up each cup with hot water before making your coffee, and cleaning the machine after each use – this attention to detail ultimately ensures quality, and makes a fantastic cup of espresso. It also comes with a handy maintenance kit to prolong the life and health of your model, including filter papers, a filter pin to prevent granule build up, and a cleaner for cleaning the steam wand.
Sage SES500BSS bambino plus coffee Mmchine: £274, John Lewis & Partners
As well as being aesthetically pleasing, this advanced machine makes a top-quality espresso (and also cappuccinos). It’s nice and neat, and comes with a range of accessories, from a separate milk jug to a metal razor to trim the coffee level down to size. It has an in-built water filter, to guarantee optimum water quality, as well as a number of handy time-saving pre-set functions including: espresso (30ml); double cup (60ml); three milk temperature settings (warm, hot, ideal) and three milk foam settings (low, medium, high).
The verdict: Espresso machines
For a straight-up espresso that’s quick and easy to make and a compact machine that’s easy to use, Illy Y3.2 espresso & coffee capsule machine is ideal, while the De’Longhi motivo ECC221B espresso coffee machine is a good option if you’d like a functional non-capsule machine which can also make espressos and cappuccinos. At the upper end of the market, and for the coffee aficionado who is looking for a bean-to-cup model, the Siemens EQ.3 creates next-level espressos.
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