Looking for the best espresso machines around? Whether you prefer the convenience of a bean-to-cup machine or the authenticity of yer classic ground coffee espresso maker, we've got the best options right here. We've trialled them all, and are consequently quite wired and on edge, so PLEASE don't argue with our choices, mmm-kay?
They may be a little more difficult to use than pod coffee makers, and a touch more expensive, but the results are much more satisfying. Are you ready to step into the world of freshly ground, artisanal coffee?
Espresso maker buyer's guide
These are the key things to consider when shopping for an espresso machine.
1. Bean to cup machines generally perform worse than non-bean-to-cup. This is because there's more to go wrong, so they're less reliable over longer periods. The grinders tend to be poor, and sometimes aren't even adjustable, and they're also often useless at tamping. There are exceptions to these rules and they're in this list, but be warned: you'll need to pay top dollar if you want a bean-to-cup that really does the business.
2. Are you a fan of capuccinos? Then look carefully at the milk frother on your machine of choice. A small, thin steam wand is generally only good for heating milk up, not for texturing it. Some machines, especially bean-to-cup use tube-and-flask systems that are also somewhat suspect. What you want is a big, fat, steam wand on your espresso maker, or buy a separate milk frother. Please note, if you prefer espresso, café au lait or even, if you're not too demanding, latte, it doesn't really matter how good your machine's milk frother is, so ignore all of what we've just said.
3. You'll probably end up consuming more coffee than you expected, if you buy a good espresso maker. If you get one with a small water tank, you'll have to top it up regularly. If this thought irritates you, consider getting one with a larger water tank.
4. You'll have to clean and descale your new machine fairly regularly. Again, if this thought irritates you, consider a pod machine, stovetop coffee maker or cafetiere. Or stick to instant.
Sage by Heston Blumenthal The Oracle, to give it its full name, is so good the company claim it's like there's a barista inside (a very small one, obviously, but then Italians are often quite small). Nominated for a T3 Award in 2015, it really does take the effort out of making great coffee, as indeed it ought to for £1599.
The Oracle has automatic grinding, dosing, tamping and milk texturing, automating the most difficult parts of making an espresso. The genius of it is that it looks and feels like you're operating a classic, coffee-shop espresso machine, but in reality, tech is doing all the hard work for you.
However, if you want, there are numerous manual settings you can play with. There's a massive variety of grind levels on the (excellent) burr grinder, and you can also play with everything from pre-brew and extraction time to tamping levels. The Oracle is also generally easy to clean and maintain (apart from descaling, which is something of a mission). We love it, and Sage's other, less expensive, models are also highly recommended.
£1,599 | Sage
This is simplicity itself, and a big favourite of proper coffee bores. Mix your preferred amounts of coffee and water, and press through a coffee filter, straight into your mug and 30 seconds later, you've got your coffee. The method of pressing means it's tough to get a decent crema, but the flavour is most definitely there, and the price makes it all but essential.
Confusingly, the other product that Aerobie is renowned for is a kind of Frisbee variant. Don't get your purchases muddled.
This bean-to-cup coffee machine features a 4:3 touchscreen, allowing you to select one of the 17 (nine black, eight white) drinks the Krups is capable of making. The intuitive one-touch system means you simply select your order on screen, make sure there's plenty of beans in the grinder and occupy yourself for a minute whilst Krups delivers your coffee. When it's done, the machine will even clean itself, detergent and all.
The Krups makes really good coffee. Its milk frothing performance is middling but acceptable. A relatively small water tank and bean holder mean you will be topping up regularly, and the size makes operation a touch fiddly compared to some of the monsters in this list but it is far easier to fit into your average kitchen.
£1,299 | Krups
Jura Impressa Z6
With most of the features of the earlier Z9 but at a lower price, this Swiss bean-to-cup machine is still an insanely expensive trophy purchase. You use its LCD screen to select from a huge quantity of drink options, then the machine does the rest.
The Jura Impressa Z6 is self-cleaning, looks as outrageous as it price would suggest and is absolutely not suitable for artisan coffee purists. However, as a kitchen statement piece and idiot-proof coffee-producing device, it's hard to beat.
£1,895 | Buy the Jura Impressa Z6
De'Longhi PrimmaDonna Elite
A bean-to-cup with a smart home twist, the PrimmaDonna Elite lets you choose from multiple beverage options. There are presets of course, but you can also tailor quantities of coffee, milk and froth to create your own idea of the perfect cappucinno, lungo or macchiato, and save favourites for yourself and other household members, so you all get exactly what you want with one press of a touchscreen
Adding to the techy cleverness, you can also create drinks and control it remotely from your iOS or Android device of choice. Does anyone really need this level of personalisation and connectivity from a coffee maker? Quite possibly not, but what is not up for debate is the quality of the results.
£1,500 | John Lewis
Generally, we wouldn't recommend a bean-to-cup machine at this price, but Gaggia is such an industry stalwart that we'll give the benefit of the doubt to this new one. The Naviglio is a compact, easy-to-clean piece of kit, with a five-level, adjustable ceramic grinder and (slightly puny) steamer. It's a steal at the price, but it'll be interesting to see if its longevity matches its convenience.
£300 | Amazon
Rocket Espresso Evoluzione Giotto
Sleek, shiny and handmade in Milan, the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione Giotto, "provides commercial-grade precision and stability in a domestic-size machine." As well as a 2.7-litre water reservoir, there's the option to plumb it in, and with a proper steam wand, this is a serious device.
You'll need to add a quality grinder and tamper, and the drip tray could be bigger, frankly. Even so, for the serious coffee lover, this is hard to fault. It looks like a work of art, and creates works of coffee art; what more could you ask?
£1,500 | Amazon
Presso ROK Coffee Maker
ROK is a manual, non-electric espresso maker, which is environmentally friendly and sexy in an Italian artisan kitchenette kind of way.
Coffee at its most manly, ROK requires you to STUFF the filter pod wth coffee, SWOOSH in hot water then SQUEEZE it through the coffee by pushing down the exercise machine-style handles. Crema is lacking but taste is not. You will, of course, need a seperate device for frothing milk, if frothy milk is what you desire with your coffee. Made from polished aluminium, it'll look good next to your lever-operated, chromed citrus press. We dare say.
£80 | Amazon
The Miele CM6300 bean-to-cup is quiet, relatively compact, self-cleaning and efficient - pretty much the last word in convenience. It even pre-heats the cup, and then produces a soft LED light to create a 'pleasant atmosphere' as your drink is poured. The conical grinding unit is better than on a lot of machines of this type, and the machine features individual setting for multiple users.
Though coffee and milk texturing are not out of the top drawer, if it's convenience and ease you're after, the Miele CM6300 is hard to beat.
£1,299 | Miele
Illy X1 Iperespresso
The X1 puts you in total control when making an espresso, with a number of impressive tools to let your inner barista emerge. Measure, dose and tamp just your way: it’s all in your hands. Control the volume to pull precisely the size espresso you prefer: regular, lungo, or ristretto (long or short, for those non-Italian speaker).
If we're being honest, it's not the most practical machine, but it's sufficiently beautiful, with a truly iconic design by renowned Italian architect Luca Trazzi, that we'll let that pass. The price has come down a lot since we first reviewed it, too.
£312 | Amazon