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Best Coffee Machines for Espresso (Finest Picks)

Best Coffee Machines for Espresso (Finest Picks)

An espresso is a concentrated kind of coffee that’s made using pressure to push near-boiling water through tightly pressed coffee grounds to bring out a strong coffee flavor and aroma.

Espresso has grown in popularity due to its simplicity. It also packs a powerful caffeine punch and it’s versatile. Espresso is at the heart of many popular coffee drinks, including cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos.

If you want to enjoy a coffee shop quality espresso in the comfort of your home, you need to have a reliable espresso machine as it can make or break the quality of your drink.

Short Answer: There are numerous options for espresso machines available in the market and I’ve narrowed down 2 of the best espresso machines. These are the Gaggia Classic Pro and Breville Barista Pro.

Let’s keep reading this article to know what magic an espresso machine can bring to your kitchen.

Can regular coffee machines make espresso?

An espresso shot in a clear glass atop a saucer with a teaspoon.

You can’t make espresso with a regular coffee machine, but with a few tweaks, you can brew a strong coffee with a more intense flavor, similar to an espresso shot.

If you want to call your brew an espresso, it must be made with a concentrated amount of bold and rich coffee.

Drip coffee makers don’t work this way. They provide a higher flow rate but lower water pressure than a true espresso machine.

If you want to know more about the differences between espresso and drip coffee, you can read my comprehensive post right here.

What is the difference between an espresso and a coffee maker?

Roasting

Filter coffee beans are roasted specifically for the brewing method. They’re much lighter, which preserves the bean’s acidity. Espresso roasts, on the other hand, are typically much darker and more flavorful.

Grinding

Regular coffee makers use a thick and coarse grind, whereas espresso machines use a finer grind.

Brewing

The finer grind of espresso allows the machine to brew and pour in under 30 seconds. Drip coffee, on the other hand, has a coarser grind, which increases the brewing time to up to ten minutes.

Pressure

An espresso machine forces water through the coffee grounds using very high pressure. In contrast, coffee makers depend on the power of gravity to slowly pull down water through the filters.

Price

Because of their limited features and simple functions, regular coffee makers are always the less expensive option. However, if you want a barista-style coffee, investing in a quality espresso machine is well worth it.

The table below summarizes the differences between an espresso machine and a coffee maker:

ProcessEspresso machineCoffee maker
BrewingFiner grinds of espresso require 25-30 secondsThe coarser grind of drip coffee allows you to be
it for about 10 minutes.
RoastingRoasts are much darker, richer, and less acidicLighter roasts are more acidic.
GrindingUses fine, powder-like coffee grindsUses coarse-thick coffee grinds
PriceMore expensiveUsually the cheaper option due to its simple function
PressureUses high pressure to force water through the coffeeRelies on the power of gravity to pull water
through filters
Distinguishing points between an espresso machine and a coffee maker.

Is it worth buying an espresso machine?

Double espresso shots coming out an espresso machine.

Whether you want to enhance your espresso-making skills, satisfy your taste buds, or save time and money instead of going to your local cafe, purchasing an espresso machine can be a wise and worthwhile investment.

Brewing an amazing cup of espresso is quite challenging but thanks to technology, automatic espresso machines have made it possible to brew a barista-level espresso at home.

With an espresso machine in your home, you won’t have to leave your house to get your favorite cup of coffee. Making it easier for you (especially if you’re an introvert), and a whole lot cheaper!

According to Business Insider, you’re spending about $1 to $5 on the cup of coffee you choose to buy every day, whereas if you made that cup at home, you’ll only be spending around 16 to 18 cents for that cup.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean you should avoid coffee shops and hiss at Starbucks. There are still some benefits to getting a cup of coffee outside (socializing, to name one), but nothing beats the experience of wanting to make a cup of coffee and not having to leave the house for it.  

Best coffee machines for espresso

Let’s check out the best espresso machines in the market right now.

Front view of a stainless espresso machine being cleaned.

Gaggia Classic Pro 

The Gaggia Classic Pro is a sleek, powerful espresso machine that delivers full-bodied, rich espresso shots.

While it requires some practice to get the perfect pour, it’s well worth it.

Pros: 

  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Simple design
  • Produces full-bodied shots

Cons: 

  • No dedicated hot water spout
  • Contains a few plastic parts
  • It will take some time to learn how to use it
  • The portafilter basket sticks to the group head if you don’t remove it while hot

Price: $441.83

Breville Barista Pro

This model comes with Breville’s Smart Grinder Pro and everything else you need to make an amazing espresso except the beans. The Breville Barista Pro is one of the quickest and easiest machines to make cafe-quality espresso at home.

Pros: 

  • No need to buy a grinder
  • User-friendly
  • Quick prep time

Cons: 

  • Doesn’t include the pressure gauge present in other models
  • Built-in grinder could have more settings
  • Probably not repairable out of two-year limited product warranty
  • Expensive

Price: $799.95

How to make espresso using an espresso machine

It’s not easy to pull a perfect shot of espresso, but if you follow the tips below, you can skip most of the unpleasant parts of learning.

What you’ll need

  • Semi-automatic espresso maker
  • Burr grinder (unless its already built-in)
  • Tamper
  • Espresso beans
  • Scale (optional)
  • Milk thermometer
  • Milk Steamer

Brew Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 2 cups

1. Turn your espresso machine on and preheat

To get the best out of your espresso maker, you’ll have to make sure that the machine is preheated. This can take around 25 minutes for some machines, so warm up your machine in advance!

2. Measure and grind your beans

Fill your portafilter with about 20 grams of ground coffee after setting your grinder to fine-grind size.

If your espresso machine has a built-in grinder, grind it directly into your portafilter.

Trim any excess coffee with your hand and smooth it down before applying pressure with your tamper.

3. Tamp your grounds to make them flat and even

Make sure to evenly distribute the grinds before tamping. This can be done by tapping the side of the portafilter gently with your hand, or by leveling the espresso grounds with your finger.

Once you’ve done that it’s time to start tamping.

It would help if you pressed down straight to tamp well. You’ll have to use quite a bit of pressure here. Follow the rule to tamp until the grounds stop settling, make sure that you get a level top.

Quickly spin your tamper to polish the top of your espresso puck. Clean off any excess grounds from the side or top of your portafilter and you’re ready to go!

4. Pull your first shot

Ideally, it takes 20 to 30 seconds to pull a single espresso shot.

If you were able to pull a shot in 20-30 seconds, you’ve technically made an espresso! Hopefully, it’s dark, rich, and amazing. However, this first shot is simply establishing a baseline.

5. Dial in the shot

Take note of the pressure reached if your machine has a pressure gauge. This allows you to fine-tune your next shot by applying a little more or to lessen it.

Reliable espresso machines will indicate how well (or poorly) your shot was extracted.

If you don’t have a gauge, taste your espresso. If your espresso was pulled too fast, try a finer grind. Similarly, if your espresso took a long time to pull, use a coarser grind.

This is also the time when you decide whether you want a pure espresso or a milk-based specialty coffee. If you want to add milk, let’s go to the next step.

6. Steam your milk

If your espresso machine comes with a steam wand, good for you! But if it didn’t, you’ll need to use a separate milk steamer for your milk.

Pour cold milk into your stainless steel milk jug before using your machine’s steam wand. To remove any condensation, turn on your steamer wand for a few seconds.

Then place the steamer wand tip in the milk. Start the steamer and froth the milk until it reaches the consistency you want. Throughout the process, keep the steamer wand just below the surface.

Once you’ve achieved the desired frothiness, plunge the tip into the base of your milk pitcher and continue to steam until you reach your milk’s preferred temperature.

You can watch this video as a visual aid to make the perfect espresso at home.

What else can I make with an espresso machine?

If your espresso machine can also steam milk, you can make a wide variety of drinks.

Popular drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos are just a few examples. The flat white is a hybrid of these two varieties.

If you’re interested to learn more about the difference between a latte and a cappuccino, you can check out my post here.

These drinks can be served hot or cold. If you don’t like milk in your coffee, you can make an Americano – an espresso variant diluted with hot water.

To sum it all up

The best 2 espresso machines I highly recommend are the Gaggia Classic Pro and the Breville Barista Pro. They both make excellent espressos but they differ in price.

The Gaggia Classic Pro is affordable, but it takes some time to learn how to use it. The Breville Barista Pro is pricey, but it allows espresso-making easy and includes a built-in grinder.

Purchasing an espresso machine is a wise investment. Not only can its bold and rich shot help you start your day with a much-needed caffeine shot, but it also allows you to make a variety of cafe-quality specialty drinks with a single machine.

An espresso shot also contains the many health benefits of coffee like antioxidants and it’s zero-calorie as long as you drink it plain.

Brewing an amazing cup of espresso is honestly difficult, but thanks to technology, automatic espresso machines have made it possible to brew a barista-level espresso at home.

The machines I recommended in this post will ensure that you have an amazing espresso experience. Simply follow the tips I gave and you’ll be able to pull out a great shot of espresso every time.

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