Espresso machines are other great alternatives to pod coffee machines. The truth is that there is a world beyond these single-serve coffee machines: many users prefer the more traditional espresso machines, either because they do not like the pod system or because they prefer to control more directly what coffee they put in their machines.
This section explains the main advantages and qualities of the best espresso machines on the market. Before you buy your espresso machine from Amazon, you should read this guide to get a better understanding of the ground you walk on.
Espresso machines or portafilter coffee machines (so-called because of the inclusion of the filter holder) have become very popular in recent years. They have been installed in many homes, as they allow coffee to be made very similar to those obtained in coffee shops with professional machines and a tasty and suggestive foam to crown each cup.
Each preparation in a portafilter espresso machine is limited to one or at most two cups (unlike traditional Italian coffee machines where you prepare as much coffee as you like).
- 1 Manual espresso machines: Comparison. Which one to buy?
- 2 Characteristics of a manual espresso machine
- 3 The best brands of espresso machines of 2021
- 4 The best espresso machines of 2021: Top 5 analysis
- 5 The essentials on portafilter espresso machines
- 6 Semi-professional espresso machines
- 7 19 bar espresso machines
- 8 20 bar espresso machines
- 9 Small espresso machines
- 10 Red espresso machines
- 11 Espresso machines with a built-in grinder
- 12 Individual espresso machines
- 13 Double espresso machines – Espresso and filter
- 14 12v espresso machines
- 15 2 Spout Espresso Machines
- 16 How does an espresso machine work?
- 17 The grinding of espresso coffee
- 18 Differences between an electric espresso machine and a pod machine
- 19 Differences between a manual and automatic espresso machine
- 20 How do you use an espresso machine?
- 21 Spare parts for espresso machines
- 22 Espresso machines: prices and ranges
- 23 Frequently asked questions and problems with espresso machines
- 24 Cheap espresso machines
- 25 The best-selling espresso machines with portafilters
Manual espresso machines: Comparison. Which one to buy?
With this comparison of manual espresso machines, we aim to answer the main questions of buyers before deciding to buy: what are the reference brands, which is the best espresso machine for the home, what prices are being handled on the market.
When buying an espresso machine, the number of options, brands and models is so large that the consumer has a hard time deciding. The range is much wider than in other sectors of the industry.
These shown in the table are not necessarily the most powerful machines, but they are the most sold electric espresso machines on the Internet and most popular in our market. A good touchstone to know how to start your search.
Characteristics of a manual espresso machine
In this section, we will tell you how to choose an espresso machine. If you have experience in this field, you can skip this section, but if it is the first time you are going to buy one, you will surely have many doubts about which espresso machine to buy.
These are the details and aspects that you should pay attention to when buying your espresso machine at Amazon:
- The main feature of a portafilter espresso machine is just that: the portafilter. It is a filter holder where you insert the filter with ground coffee to make coffee. Manual espresso machines generally have a filter holder and two different sized filters included.
- In many cases, the larger filter has a double use: for making large espressos, and it is also compatible with ESE single-dose pads.
- The water tank on these models is usually located at the rear of the body. They can be removed, are made of transparent plastic, and have a capacity of between one and one and a half litres.
- Practically all of them include a steam nozzle so that we can emulsify the milk on our own. It is usually a classic Panarello, adjustable, not automatic.
- Features such as the cup tray, the stainless steel finish, or the presence of pressure gauges and temperature indicators are not common in the low range models. To enjoy them, you must go to the medium-high range models.
The best brands of espresso machines of 2021
This is the largest and most varied segment of coffee machines in the industry, so as you can imagine… there are many brands of quality espresso machines. Dozens, literally.
We’re going to choose only the most representative ones because we couldn’t possibly talk about all of them. Do you want to know which is the best brand for the espresso machine? You will probably find it in this list, but we will also talk about others with different virtues.
Delonghi espresso machines
If there is one firm of worldwide prestige in the field of espresso coffee and known to all, it is Delonghi. It is a brand that has recently focused on its line of super automatic Delonghi coffee machines, but which in the manual sector has some of the best selling models on the Internet, such as the arch-rivals Delonghi Dedica coffee machine or those of the Delonghi ECP.
When you go to buy a Delonghi espresso machine, you will probably find some discontinued and very old models. Bear in mind that this is a manufacturer that is constantly renewing its catalogue, but that has a lot of stock (Delonghi espresso machines remain on sale for many years).
Cecotec espresso machines
There is little left to tell about Cecotec espresso machines. Many of its machines are among the best selling on the Spanish market. This is basically for two reasons: the immense variety of its catalogue and because they have an excellent value for the price.
Some of these Cecotec espresso machines are among the most economical on the European market. Take a look at the prices:
Saeco espresso machines
It has been several years since Saeco, one of the leading brands in the espresso industry was acquired by Philips. And since then, its production has been much more focused on super-automatics, not on manuals.
Gaggia espresso machines
Gaggia is synonymous with prestige and tradition in the world of Italian espresso. It is a brand that preserves the essence of espresso coffee in the transalpine country like no other. Of course, this is conveyed in an excellent line of manual Gaggia espresso machines.
Within Gaggia, we find absolutely leading machines and references in the sector, such as the Classic or the Carezza, but we also have a line of more economical Gaggia espresso machines: the Gaggia Viva and Gran Gaggia Prestige.
Solac espresso machines
The Solac brand has to be by right on the list of the best brands of espresso machines on the Internet because its popularity in our country is evident and has been for several decades. We have included them because of their excellent quality-price ratio.
All Solac espresso machines are in the range of 100 pounds, in many cases without exceeding it, and that makes them very competitive options. They also have the advantage of being present in almost all physical shops and large surfaces, which puts them within reach of a greater share of the public.
Krups espresso machines
Krups is a brand that is well known for a particular type of machine: Krups’ automatic coffee machines. However, they also have a very interesting range of manual machines. In particular, there are four Krups espresso machines (portafilter): the Calvi, the Calvi Latte, the Classic and the Krups Opio.
If you are going to buy a Krups espresso machine, we could consider them to be mid-range. The finishes and materials are quality, in many cases in stainless steel, and in general, they are well-regarded machines in the industry.
Ufesa espresso machines
Ufesa espresso machines have the same functions, virtues and shortcomings as the Solac machines we have described above. They are very simple, with basic features, traditional design and economical cost. Don’t expect to be surprised when you buy your Ufesa espresso machine, but do expect a guarantee and durability.
The Ufesa Duetto Creme espresso machine has always been the classic reference model, although it was updated a few years ago to the CE7240 model.
MiniMoka espresso machines
MiniMoka is a company that has been in the industry for many years and, like the previous ones, is distinguished by its reduced costs. They sell a lot, and although all the Minimoka espresso machines continue to be renewed, they end up being very popular with the public.
Over the years, they have presented an endless number of models on the market, but recently only two models have been produced: the CM-1821 and the CM-1695. These are their prices today:
The best espresso machines of 2021: Top 5 analysis
Well, this is the most popular and competitive sector of the entire coffee industry, and so it is not easy to answer the question: Which is the best espresso machine?
Even so, we have dared to elaborate our particular Top 5 of the best espresso machines, according to our criteria, of all those we have analyzed on the web. There are many more good espresso machines, but if we have to keep 5 of them, it would be this one:
Oster Prima Latte 2
Not many espresso machines offer the possibility of making automatic cappuccinos at the touch of a button. One of these is the Oster Prima Latte 2 (or Breville Prima Latte 2), the second version of the machine that was perhaps the pioneer in this field. We insist: there is not much to choose from in this select type of machine, and this is possibly the best of all.
Delonghi Dedica EC-185
This machine has been among the best-selling espresso machines on the Internet for several years. That says it all. The reasons for this success are its stainless steel body, its super-compact design, its compatibility with ESE single-dose machines and, of course, the prestige of having one of the most famous firms on the market behind it. A set of virtues that are difficult to match.
- 15 BAR PRESSURE to create your perfect espresso with a rich aroma and a nut coloured cream on top
- MILK FROTHER: Froth or steam milk with the Adjustable Cappuccino System to create frothy cappuccinos, macchiatos or caffè lattes
- CUSTOMISE ESPRESSO: Thanks to the professional barista technology, you can control every step of the Coffee-making process, from tamping your ground Coffee to setting the temperature and length
- HOME COMFORT: At only 15 cm wide, it’s our slimmest design yet, offering a small footprint and big features
- EASY TO CLEAN: Manual descaling system will keep your machine running smoothly so you can always enjoy your favorite beverages
Users with a slightly more demanding profile will be familiar with this machine, the most emblematic machine of an already established firm, such as Gaggia. This is a very old model that has been around for several generations (the last one dating back to 2019). A classic that never goes out of fashion and that fully satisfies baristas who seek greater precision than usual in their espressos.
Lidl espresso machine
We cannot give many details about this machine, the well-known Silvercrest espresso machine because you know that it is a different model depending on the year and that when the popular German supermarket chain decides to launch it, it is sold out in a few days. We refer you to their review to know in-depth the details of the most recent models:
- Espresso Maker
- For coffee and coffee
- 15 Bar Pumpendruck (incl. Pressure relief valve)
- User-friendly operation
WMF Espresso Maker Lumero
This is another high-end espresso machine whose price probably exceeds the expectations and possibilities of many consumers but whose performance is also above average. It has a 1.5-litre capacity, Cromargan stainless steel body (WMF brand), and a filter holder with 3 different sizes.
The essentials on portafilter espresso machines
These are the most relevant articles on our website regarding electric espresso machines.
Semi-professional espresso machines
If you are considering buying a semi-professional coffee machine, you may find yourself in two circumstances: either you are planning to use it in a business, or you are a demanding user who experiments at home and is not satisfied with just making an ordinary coffee.
Semi-professional espresso machines differ from domestic ones in that they give you much greater precision in controlling the pressure and, above all, the extraction temperature.
Most of these semi-professional espresso machines have additional accessories and premium features, such as stainless steel finishes, a grinder to enjoy the freshness of freshly ground coffee, copper or brass boilers, etc.
To see more examples, take a look at our guide: the best professional coffee machines for your home.
19 bar espresso machines
As you know, and if you don’t know it, we recommend you read this article about pressure bars in coffee machines. Espresso machines use pressure pumps that usually reach 15 bars, if not more. This is because some bars are dissipated during the process, so this excess is necessary to ensure the 9 bars needed to extract a good espresso.
Many coffee machines have pumps capable of reaching further, and this is the case with 19 bar espresso machines. Here is one:
And if you want to see more, check out our article on the best 19-bar espresso machines.
20 bar espresso machines
The same explanation as in the previous section applies to the 20-bar espresso machines. The idea is the same, but they go a little further.
It should be made clear that a 20-bar espresso machine is not necessarily better than a 15-bar machine. For example, hotel and catering coffee machines work with just 9 bars because they use rotary pumps that do not dissipate a single bar during operation.
Small espresso machines
With the cramped conditions and small kitchens of modern flats, many users limit their range of options to the smallest possible espresso machines.
These compact machines are distinguished above all by their very narrow design. In other words: the compact is really the width dimension. Some machines are only 15 or 16 centimetres long from left to right, although you should be aware that this reduction in space does have its benefits. One of the most frequent is that the capacity of the water tank is usually smaller than usual.
Here are some examples of very small espresso machines:
Red espresso machines
We have already produced a complete article about red coffee machines of all types that can be found on the market. If we want to focus only on the red espresso machines, here is a large bouquet:
Espresso machines with a built-in grinder
Coffee-grinding espresso machines, which are also hand-operated, are by no means the common standard in this segment. They account for only a small percentage of the total market (as this is a characteristic of super automatics), but we still have enough models to choose from.
The only problem is that they tend to be high-end models and not at all economical. If you want something, it costs something.
To cite an example, Ariete is a brand that is clearly committed to this type of espresso machine with a built-in grinder. The aroma of freshly ground coffee is unbeatable, so if you don’t have a coffee grinder at home, it’s a good idea to get one of this type.
Individual espresso machines
As the name suggests, these are single-person or single-cup espresso machines. They do not have a water reservoir as such, but use just the right amount of water for one cup of espresso at each extraction. No more and no less.
They have the characteristic that many of them are portable and therefore very small in size. Some use ground coffee, and others use single-dose ESE. And watch out: some single-drink espresso machines do not have a plug and therefore do not heat the water; you need to use hot or boiled water beforehand.
Double espresso machines – Espresso and filter
Double espresso machines, or combi machines, usually have two groups of coffee, one with a portafilter and filter to make espresso, and another with a permanent filter and a drip cone to make filter coffee. The two functions coexist and can be used separately. So, that’s two coffee machines in one.
Double espresso machines are a perfect option for houses where users with different tastes live together, as they allow you to enjoy the advantages of both brewing systems, however, without the need to show off or provide advanced features under any circumstances.
12v espresso machines
The 12-volt espresso machines do not have a conventional plug to connect them to the mains at home but a 12-volt socket for the car cigarette lighter outlet. For this reason, they are also known as car coffee machines. It should also be mentioned that these same models sometimes have 24-volt connectors (not 12-volt) for use in trucks, motorhomes or larger vehicles.
2 Spout Espresso Machines
This concept of the two-spout espresso machine is very popular among consumers, so we will explain it briefly in this section.
We are not going to show examples because practically all the espresso machines on the market have two spouts. This function mainly serves to make the coffee come out of both spouts at the same time so that if we place a cup under each spout, we can pick up two espressos simultaneously.
On the other hand, the term “two-headed espresso machine” is also used a lot in the hotel and catering industry to refer to the classic two-headed coffee machines.
How does an espresso machine work?
The following video documentary summarizes perfectly how an espresso machine works and how its internal elements behave when preparing our coffee. It’s 4 very valuable minutes if you like this world we advise you to watch it because it’s worth it:
The grinding of espresso coffee
Let’s also talk about coffee grinding, a basic process to obtain a drink in good condition and which very few users pay attention to. Did you know that each type of coffee machine requires a specific grinding? You can read more about this in our article types of grinding: a thickness for each coffee.
The case of an espresso machine is no exception.
Espresso machines need very fine grinding, whereas Italian coffee machines simply need fine grinding. If we go further, filter coffee machines (the typical drip coffee machines) require a medium grind, and if we are going to prepare our coffee in a plunger coffee machine or in a stew, we will need the grind to be as coarse as possible.
Pod coffee machines are logically not included in this specification because they already incorporate the coffee you are going to use perfectly conditioned in their pods.
To get to the point… what does all this mean? Well, it’s worth using coffee with the specific grind for our coffee machine (in this case, the most ground coffee possible for our espresso machine). Keep this in mind when buying your espresso machine! And by the way, if we’re talking about grinding, you’ll need a good grinder at home. Have you already gone through our section on coffee grinders?
– OK, that’s all very well but… how do I know if the grinder I’m using is the right one for my espresso machine?
Well, it’s very simple: take a good look at how long it takes your coffee maker to prepare the coffee, and at the result. Once the water has been heated, the coffee should be extracted within 20 to 30 seconds for each cup. If it takes longer or takes much less time, you should check the grinding.
Here are some clues: If your coffee is prepared very quickly, it is normal to have hardly any cream on top. That will mean that you have used a ground coffee that is too thick. On the other hand, if the coffee takes longer than expected to come out and has a very, very dark colour (almost black), the ground coffee has probably been too fine. The good thing about this is that once you get the point, you have the coffee to your liking forever.
Differences between an electric espresso machine and a pod machine
The main difference between a portafilter espresso machine and a capsule machine is precisely the preparation of the coffee. While pod machines use pre-prepared single doses, an espresso machine allows you to put your favourite ground coffee into it. Your favourite brand or blend, different experiments, an electric espresso machine is much less limited in this respect than a single-dose machine.
Beyond this detail, there are many differences between espresso machines and pod machines, especially in terms of concept. But in our opinion, the end consumer (i.e. you) is primarily interested in three:
- Cleaning: in an espresso machine, you have to clean the filter, while a capsule machine is much less laborious in this respect.
- The price of drinks: in the long run, an espresso machine is always more profitable than a pod machine. If you want to know exactly how much, have a look at ere article: How much does it cost to have a pod coffee machine at home?
- The ease of use: not that espresso machines are difficult to operate, but it is true that you don’t have to worry about anything in a pod machine. You simply insert the capsule, press a button and drink your coffee. It should also be noted here that many espresso machines have a built-in grinder, so you don’t have to worry about the grinding process.
- The taste: in an espresso machine, the coffee bean is ground just before use… and therefore, the taste it offers is incomparable to that of a pod.
All this apart, of course, from being able to use the coffee you want in an electric espresso machine. The single-dose machines also make use of their system to prepare other types of drinks such as infusions, chocolates or more sophisticated preparations.
Differences between a manual and automatic espresso machine
In a manual espresso machine, you control the entire process (from grinding, if you wish, to dosing and extraction). In automatic coffee machines, everything is started at the touch of a button; as long as the machine has coffee, you don’t have to worry about anything else. You’ll see this very quickly if you look at the photos: manual espresso machines have the classic portafilter on the front where you insert and press the ground coffee. Automatic machines do not require a portafilter.
Of course, this has an impact on the final result: automatic espresso machines make good coffee, but they can never match the nuances and customisation that a manual espresso machine allows.
On the other side of the scale, of course, is the simplicity of operation: if you are in a hurry or if you have to make a lot of coffee a day, a portafilter espresso machine may not be your best option. But always keep in mind that the coffee you use will be the same in one system as in the other.
As you can see, some qualities play in favour of manual espresso machines, and others play in favour of automatic ones. In short: think carefully about what you are going to use your coffee machine for before you buy it!
How do you use an espresso machine?
Using an electric portafilter coffee maker is very easy, but strangely enough, hardly anyone carries out the steps correctly. Here is a summary of them:
Time needed: 5 minutes.
How to use an espresso machine at home
- Pour the ground coffee into the filter.
The ideal dose is 7-8 grams. And the coffee should be finely ground. It’s better if you buy it in beans and grind it yourself because the packaging usually comes with a medium grind that is not suitable for espressos.
- Press the coffee.
Once you have the ground coffee in the filter, you must press it so that the layer is uniform. Otherwise, the water will not filter evenly through the coffee. Watch out: if you press it too much, the water will take a while to pass through, and the coffee will become bitter (over-extraction).
- The water must be very hot.
Wait until the coffee maker has heated the water in the boiler well. If you are not sure, turn on the machine a little earlier, but don’t be in a hurry to make the coffee.
- Preheat the cup or glass where you are going to serve it.
With this simple operation, you ensure that the coffee does not lose temperature as soon as it touches the cold walls of the glass or your cup.
- The extraction should take 25-30 seconds.
When you have everything ready and press the button to make the coffee, remember that the extraction should not last more or less than that range of 25-30 seconds. If not, check the above steps and adjust them accordingly.
Spare parts for espresso machines
When buying spare parts for your espresso machine, you will normally have to stick to the brand or manufacturer of your machine. Items such as trays or water tanks, to name but a few will have to adhere to certain dimensions and shapes and will not be suitable for you. However, some components can be purchased as standard parts for most espresso machines:
Espresso machine filters
The filter of an espresso machine is an essential element: without it, there is no coffee. All machines carry their own, and many include two (one deeper than the other). However, in the long run, they can deteriorate or get lost… or you may simply want to get a higher quality one than the one that comes as standard.
When buying an espresso filter, you should make sure it’s the same diameter as the original in your coffee machine. Otherwise, it will not fit into the filter holder. Here are several examples of espresso machine filters from Amazon of various manufacturers and diameters.
Descalers for espresso machines
Another indispensable accessory for espresso machines is the decalcifying liquid. There has always been a debate about whether a coffee machine can be decalcified with vinegar, but it is always advisable to use coffee machine descalers, if possible, from the same manufacturer. In the article we have just linked to you, you have all the information about this, although we also include several examples here directly from Amazon:
Espresso machines: prices and ranges
- Low-end espresso machines are usually under 100 pounds in price.
- Mid-range espresso machines can be categorised in the 100-200 pound range.
- Finally, top range espresso machines have almost no limits, and their borderline is confused with the professional models used in coffee shops and businesses. Getting hold of one of them will cost you several hundred pounds, and in many cases, they are more expensive than a super-automatic coffee machine.
Frequently asked questions and problems with espresso machines
Here we will summarize some of the main doubts with espresso machines that often arise among our readers. If you have any problems with your espresso machine or doubts about getting one, here are some of the most common questions.
What is an electric espresso machine?
It’s a machine that makes espresso by pumping water under high pressure through a ground coffee filter. The electric pump is what differentiates these machines from Moka pots, and the filter holder (which allows you to use the ground coffee of your choice) is the essential difference to the pod coffee machines.
Espresso or drip coffee maker?
Well, that depends on your taste, because the preparations have nothing to do with it and no type of coffee maker is better than the other. Filter coffee is much lighter, while espresso is much more concentrated, perhaps with fewer nuances. You can learn more in our guide to drip coffee machines.
Espresso machine vs Nespresso
My espresso machine does not froth
Many users mistakenly associate the quality of espresso with the presence of froth. The foam is often “produced” artificially through pressurised filters. This does not mean that the coffee is better, far from it.
If your espresso machine does not foam, it is probably due to a lack of pressure (pumps can be bought as spare parts). You can also check or change the filters (see our guide to pressurised filters).
How to decalcify an espresso machine?
No water comes out of my espresso machine
A breakdown, unfortunately, quite common in very old coffee machines or in low-cost machines (nobody gives a hard time to pesetas, you know). The most frequent causes are a bad connection with the water tank, a breakdown in the pressure pump, or a break in a hose or internal pipe that prevents the correct circulation of water.
My espresso machine does not heat up
We explicitly address this issue in this other generic article: my espresso machine doesn’t heat up.
Cheap espresso machines
In this section, we are not going to expand too much, as we have an exclusive guide where we talk about the best cheap espresso machines in the market. There we tell you which is the best cheap espresso machine, the brands you should check if you want to buy a cheap espresso machine, and some tips so that you don’t get caught.
The best-selling espresso machines with portafilters
The best-selling espresso machines on the market are constantly changing, so here is a daily updated list of the top-selling models on Amazon. They are usually the best-valued espresso machines by consumers, mainly because of their good value for money.