Top 10 manual espresso coffee machines

Espresso machines are still the queen of the party (despite the strength of modern and attractive pod coffee machines), so many consumers are still dying for them. And our readers are no exception.

Now that you’ve decided to buy an espresso machine for your home, it’s time to find out about all the options on the market. And let’s start by offering the updated ranking of the best espresso machines in 2023 (according to real data from Amazon, updated daily).

And now that you know which is the best espresso machine of the moment, it’s time to go deeper into different aspects. Let’s go there!

The best espresso machine: which one to buy in 2023?

Manual espresso machines are still a strong point for expert tasters and espresso lovers at home. Despite the ever-increasing possibilities afforded by super-automatic coffee machines, the opportunity to control every parameter of the extraction by hand with precision is something that baristas and good coffee lovers still value above all else.

Manual espresso machines are still the king of the market, and good examples of this are the Poemia, EC-680 or Gaggia Classic models, which are at the top of the sales charts year after year.

The sales of manual espresso machines are booming and shows no signs of slowing down. When we climb up to the highest level, their level of sophistication and technology equals them even in price with the most popular automatic coffee machines. So, in this article, we are going to shed some light on the question of which is the best manual espresso machine? Which is the best espresso machine for the home?

A good manual espresso machine can cost from 200 pounds upwards, as you can see from our final list. And we don’t just mean a Saeco manual espresso machine, a Krups manual espresso machine, or a Delonghi manual espresso machine (to name a few well-known brands).

This segment is home to real jewels from little-known brands. Armoured coffee machines are an absolute reference in the sector, but that due to their high cost and exclusivity are only accessible to a very specific public.

To get the most out of them, you should buy a good coffee grinder and always use freshly ground coffee.

Best of all, the manual espresso machines are not at odds with the economy, and you can find models of enormous performance in everyday life at a very affordable price. For example, an 18-bar manual espresso machine like the Solac Squissita is in the range of 100-120 pounds, even less if you get a good deal.

Manual or automatic espresso machine?

Well, the answer depends, above all, on the profile of the end-user.  Buying an espresso machine is not an exact science but depends on many factors.

More experienced users will undoubtedly opt for the former, while super-automatic ones are more popular if you do not have barista skills and want to enjoy the best coffee effortlessly. Strictly speaking, they are probably the best coffee machines on the market, but purists and experts will always prefer a manual.

  • Manual espresso machines: they allow you to control the entire espresso extraction process and are cheaper.
  • Automatic espresso machines: they are much more complete and allow you to make brews at the touch of a button.

As you can tell from the title of this article, we are going to focus only on the manual ones. To buy an automatic espresso machine, you already have a similar guide on this website.

Below we show you which manual espresso machines have been the best in recent years, according to the sales lists on our portal. In other words, find out which are the best-armoured coffee machines or the best espresso machines without capsules.

The best manual espresso machines in 2023 (according to us)

Here is a more detailed overview of the models that we believe are the best-armoured espresso machines of 2023 that can be bought in Europe today.

As you can see, our criteria do not necessarily match those of consumers or actual sales lists. This is logical: we try to be guided by quality arguments, while sales, in the end, are very much dependent on price and brand popularity.

It is a subjective, unordered list that takes into account several criteria. The most important is the performance and quality of the final result (the espresso). Still, in some cases, it can influence the design or the price/quality ratio to tip the scale towards one coffee machine or another. If we had not done so, we would have a list of 20 or 30 models, and thus we would not be helping you to find your perfect espresso machine.  Quite the opposite.

Let’s get started!

When we talk about something as generic as the best coffee machines of 2023, we can include dozens of models. We can also omit or leave out some of them, but what we can assure you is that all those on this list deserve to be described; in other words: they are not all the same, but they are all the same. Let’s get started:

1. Illy X1

The Illy X1 is a real monster, an outstanding espresso machine that not only draws attention for its design and colours but also its versatility. It is essentially a pod coffee machine (like all Illy brand machines). Still, in one of its versions, called the Illy X1 Grinded, it also allows the use of ground coffee or ESE single-dose bags to prepare the espresso, just like a traditional manual espresso machine.

2. Delonghi EC-860

Many of the best coffee machines on the market belong to this Italian manufacturer. The model EC-860 is the top of the range of Delonghi manual espresso machines, above even other popular and most sold references such as the Delonghi EC-685.

This Delonghi EC860 Automatic Cappuccino is an espresso machine without plastic, which maintains all the qualities of the lower models, starting with the characteristic stainless steel housing, compatibility with ESE single-dose or 15 bar pressure. It differs from them above all in the steamer with an automatic cappuccino preparation system.

3. The Pavoni Domus Bar

As you can see in the photo, having a LaPavoni Domus Bar at home is the closest thing to enjoying a professional coffee machine like those in the hotel business. Its numbers are scary: 3.5-litre capacity, a pressure gauge to calibrate the pressure, boiler with three thermostats, well, and its price is also scary, but that’s another matter.

Moreover, the Pavoni Domus Bar is the only manual espresso machine with an integrated grinder in this ranking.

4.  Lelit PL41

Lelit is one of those manufacturers of espresso machines specialised in premium models, which are not known by the general public due to their exclusivity and the high price of their products. This Lelit PL41 is one of the few coffee machines capable of competing with the Rancilio Silvia (which we also talk about in this article). It has a giant tank of almost 3 litres capacity, and in some versions, it supports the use of ESE single-dose. Its boiler can store up to 300ml of water.

The quality-price ratio of this model is incredible, but you can always go up a step and acquire an even superior machine, such as the Lelit PL62. In any case, a domestic espresso machine could be considered “top of the range“. The best of the best, as long as you can afford it.

5.  Riviera & Bar CE442

There aren’t many French espresso machines on the market, but this Riviera&Bar CE 442 enters this select premium Olympus in its own right. The Riviera&Bar CE 442 is a manual 19 bar espresso machine. It is built entirely of stainless steel and has a capacity of 1.2 litres. It includes pressurised filters and an anti-drip tray with adjustable height.

6.  Graef Pivalla

Another coffee machine that makes good use of the saying “big donkey”, whether you walk or not. Do you need to prepare large quantities of coffee every day? Are you going to give your espresso machine intensive use? Well, here’s the Graef Pivalla, with its 2.5-litre water tank, its integrated professional pressure gauge and its endless list of accessories: cleaning sets, filters, presser, stainless steel milk jug, complete with German warranty.

7.  ECM Classika II

Another one of those wonders is halfway between the domestic manual espresso machine and the professional coffee machine. The ECM Classika II has a separate 0.75-litre boiler and a 3-litre water tank. Its entire construction is based on metal components, both outside (stainless steel housing) and inside (copper conductor and pipes). It costs around 1000 pounds, but be assured that this is not a manual espresso machine in use.

8.  Rommelsbacher EKS 2000

The Germans and the Dutch are a European powerhouse when it comes to espresso and coffee machines, both automatic and manual espressos. The German company Rommelsbacher is one of the leaders in this last segment, and the EKS 2000 model is its best example. It has 19 bar pressure, a water filter, a fairly large cup preheating space, and a generous 1.5-litre water tank (transparent and visible from the outside).

9.  Gaggia Classic

The Gaggia Italians are another of the great, immovable references in the manual espresso machine segment.

Their most prized and beloved coffee maker is the Gaggia Classic, which has practically all the virtues that an expert in the field can ask from an Italian espresso machine in his home. Steel casing, 1-litre tank, extreme reliability (never fails, temperature accuracy of extractions is absolute), compatibility with ESE single-dose machines.

10.  Rancilio Silvia

Surely, and in the opinion of many, the best espresso machine in the market and the leader of this ranking for many reasons. The Rancilio Silvia is an icon, a reference in the sector for many years. Steel housing, internal brass components (boiler, filters), 2.5-litre water tank, triple thermostat, all the elements and details are designed to ensure a perfect coffee temperature at every extraction and at any time.

As we said before, this is a selection of 10 models in which we have taken into account the price factor to prioritise some coffee machines over others.

If we abstract from the cost of each machine, we could also cite among the best some semi-professional coffee makers, such as the New Simonelli Musica, the Rocket Espresso Appartamento or the Marzocco Mini (one out of the ordinary, but too expensive to recommend to an average user profile).

Comparison of espresso machines: A machine for every case

Although they are all “manual espresso machines”, this is a very broad term that covers many different types of espresso machines, and many users do not know this.

We are going to try to do our bit by trying to shed some light on this issue and making a simple classification.

Cheap espresso machines

It is probably the most popular segment among consumers. They are the best value for money espresso machines and usually do not exceed 80 or 90 pounds in price. Below that figure, we can talk about very economical machines. Naturally, we cannot expect dazzling performance and no great displays of manufacturing materials in return.

Brands such as Cecotec, Ikohs or Eco-De lead this sector of the cheapest espresso machines.

Medium range espresso machines

These can be placed in the £100-200 price range and are the perfect choice for a slightly more discerning consumer profile who intends to use their machine on a daily basis. The perfect balance between quality and durability.

In this range, Delonghi espresso machines are top of the range in terms of both quality and variety of options in their catalogue.

High-end manual espresso machines

Here we are already talking about the best manual espresso machines over 200 pounds, and with no price limit. We can find machines on the market for thousands of pounds. In this guide to the best top-of-the-range espresso machines, you’ll find more information to read.

Capsule espresso machines

Didn’t you know? Almost all pod coffee machines are espresso machines, as they use this extraction method to make espresso coffee. The difference to arm coffee machines, in this case, is not the method of production but the way the raw material is inserted (ground coffee on the filter holder in one case and single-dose pods in the other).

We already have a guide to pod espresso machines on our website, so we will not go into further detail here.

Best old manual espresso machine

The Oster Prima Latte was the best-selling manual espresso on our website a few years ago. It is a very popular coffee maker throughout Europe thanks to its milk container and its specialisation in making lattes and cappuccinos. It is still a regular on the sales lists year after year; it does not seem to pass the time.

The Delonghi EC-680 was the queen in the past. Like the Oster, it is a coffee machine with a huge acceptance and is still Delonghi’s best-selling model for this segment today. Its spectacular design with stainless steel and its compatibility with ESE single-dose coffee machines are particularly noteworthy. Over time it has been replaced by its successor (very similar), the Delonghi Dedica EC-685.

Another of the winners was the Saeco manual espresso machine hd8323/12, better known as Saeco Poemia. It is an old school espresso machine whose appearance takes us back in time. Its reliability, however, is not affected in the least, and it has an increasingly affordable price in its favour.