We updated this article in October 2021 to vet all picks previously tested by the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab, replace out of stock items, refresh pricing and include new recommendations based on updated testing, including a new pick from De’Longhi.
The best home espresso machines can help you get your latte or cappuccino fix right in the comfort of your own kitchen. Traditional coffee shop machines can seem like huge, unknowable beasts, but home espresso machines can have you pulling a shot with a good "crema" (the creamy, light-colored surface of an espresso) in no time. Some espresso makers will grind beans for you, pack the grounds and make your cup with just the push of a button, but many require you to learn to fill a hopper (known as a portafilter) with grounds and tamp them (which means to compress the grounds into a puck so the hot, pressurized water can extract a lot of flavor as it passes through quickly).
The Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab has a century-plus long history of testing kitchen appliances and all types of coffee makers, including pour over coffee makers, single-cup brewers, French presses, drip coffee makers, portable coffee makers for camping, cold brew coffee makers and so much more. To find the best home espresso machine, we tested a mix of super-automatic, automatic, semi-automatic and capsule machines, selected based on popular brands, best-selling machines and attributes like milk frothers and built-in coffee bean grinders.
These are our top picks for the best espresso machines to buy in 2021 — read on for notes on how we test and for our Kitchen Lab's top tips for finding the espresso machine that’s right for you:
This automatic espresso machine delivers a cup of espresso that's as fancy as it looks; plus, it’s easy to use and adjust based on your preferences. Choose from six grind sizes (fine for dark espresso, coarse for coffee), then select single espresso, double espresso, Americano or coffee. It also dispenses hot water for tea.
La Specialista has a built-in tamping mechanism, which helps pack your grounds perfectly, and a pressure gauge you can monitor to ensure you're making the perfect cup. It also has an adjustable steam wand that can be used for flat (best for lattes) or foamy (best for cappuccinos) milk. We loved the full-body espresso it produced, with a thin, silky crema. A knock box for used grounds can be bought separately, which we found very useful when making espresso after espresso.
- Preset brews offer consistency
- Nespresso will recycle returned pods
First, we love how easy the Nespresso VertuoPlus is to use. The lid opens and closes with a press of the lever and you can start brewing with the push of a single button. You also won't accidentally use the wrong pod: The capsule machine uses a special system to detect the barcode on the capsule and then brews it exactly how it’s supposed to brew. Choose from five drink types, including espresso, double espresso, gran lungo, mug and alto (perfect for your travel mugs).
In our tests, every cup of coffee came out hot and rounded with a luxurious crema. We also like that the position of the water tank can be moved around to accommodate any size counter space. Another noteworthy perk is that Nespresso recycles used pods if you send them back to the company and their newest Vertuo machine is made from 54% recycled plastic. Finally, you can't beat the price.
- 30 grind sizes, 5 temperature options and 4 filter baskets
- Automatic machine
- Steam wand for frothing milk
If you’re very particular about your coffee, this is the automatic espresso machine for you. The Barista Pro allows you to choose from 30 different grind sizes and five temperatures. The steam wand is basic, so you can froth your milk exactly how you like it. It also comes with four filter baskets, two for pre-ground coffee and two for whole coffee beans. We recommend playing around with the settings, starting with the default settings, to create your perfect espresso.
- Perfect for traditionalists
- Hands-on operation
- Steam wand attached for frothing milk
The Breville Bambino Plus is a perfect automatic machine for those who crave the traditional espresso-making experience. It comes with two dual-wall filter baskets for pre-ground coffee beans, a trimming tool, tamper and a milk jug to be used with the attached steam wand. Choose between a single espresso or a double espresso, plus steamy, frothy or very frothy milk. In our tests, this machine made espresso that was strong with a crema that wasn't overbearing. We also appreciated that this machine heats quickly and wasn’t too loud.
- Super simple operation
- 4 brewing sizes, plus latte and cappuccino options
- Built-in frother
If you’re looking for a Keurig upgrade, a special gift or the option to froth milk with a capsule machine, look no further than the Keurig K-Cafe. Four coffee size options (6 oz, 8 oz, 10 oz and 12 oz), plus a “strong” option make it easy to enjoy your favorite K-cup exactly how you like it. Opt for an Espresso Roast K-cup capsule and the “shot” size option and you’re well on your way to making a fine cup of espresso.
While the Espresso Roast K-cup doesn’t quite deliver on crema, a built-in coffee frother allows you to froth milk quickly and easily for cappuccinos (less milk) and lattes (more milk); plus, there’s also a “cold” option if you’d like to enjoy your frothy milk drink over ice. In our tests, this capsule machine was very consistent when it came to preheat time, brew time, coffee temperature and volume.
- Small profile for little kitchens
- Full-bodied, creamy espresso
- 19 bars of pressure
Not much beats this capsule espresso machine's small size and power: With 19 bars of pressure, it makes a good, full-bodied espresso with a creamy crema. Choose from espresso or lungo (which translates to “long” in Italian and produces a slower, larger espresso), with the option to use or remove the drip base for a bigger cup.
The water container seems small at first glance, but we didn't mind refilling it for the freshest tasting cups. It may also be purchased in a bundle with a separate milk frother, or consider a similar espresso machine we tested with a built-in frother that uses the same type of original pods.
- Grinds, tamps and brews
- Milk hopper is very easy to use
- Flavorful espresso
This super-automatic espresso maker grinds your beans and turns out excellent, hot espresso with a thin but creamy crema. But our experts were impressed with the milk hopper and frothing capabilities. The milk hopper is easy to fill, attach, detach and clean. When you choose a drink that incorporates milk, the machine indicates the frother setting and gives you time to select it from three options before frothing begins. It also reminds you to run the cleaning stage for the milk container. It has a touchscreen that’s highly responsive and easy to operate.
- Easy-to-use touchscreen control panel
- Dishwasher safe milk hopper
- Less-bold coffee, for those who like lighter-bodied drinks
The automatic LatteGo espresso machine from Phillips has a large, intuitive touchscreen control panel that makes it easy to select and brew drinks. It grinds whole beans for five different drinks: espresso, cappuccino and latte macchiato as well as black coffee and Americano. It has a removable, dishwasher-safe milk hopper rather than a wand, so frothing milk is simple and hands-free. Our testers found the drinks flavorful but light-bodied.
- Attractive design
- Front-loading water reservoir
- Pre-brew function
The Gaggia Carezza Deluxe is made in Italy and has classic Italian styling that suits upscale kitchens (at a reasonable price for an automatic espresso machine). While we have not tested this machine in our labs, reviewers comment that the machine makes great coffee — once you get to know its quirks, such as finding the grinds, tamping and timing that will produce the cup you want. We like the front-loading water reservoir with viewing window for easy access, though some reviewers comment that you have to refill it frequently.
We evaluate each espresso maker ease of use, time to brew, consistency, taste and how loud they were. In our most recent test, we rounded up well over 20 espresso machines in the Lab, brewing more than 60 cups of espresso. We test the timing and temperature of multiple straight espressos and note the quality of the crema. We also rate the flavor and smoothness of each drink. If the machine had a milk frother, we tested it with both skim and oat milks. Where applicable, we made cappuccinos and lattes to compare the milk ratio of each setting and the quality of the frothing.
Our favorites were the machines that were easy to set up, simple to use without a user manual, quick to heat up and reasonably quick. The best machines produced a hot, smooth cup of espresso that had depth and wasn't too bitter or acidic, with crema that was smooth without any noticeable big or small air bubbles.
An espresso machine is an investment — especially if you want one with all the bells and whistles. There are several ways to make espresso, with manual, semi-automatic, automatic, super-automatic and pod machines all available to the home barista, so it's important to consider the type that fits your needs.
✔️ Manual machines require finely ground beans that are scooped into a portafilter and tamped down. The filter is attached to the brew head and a lever is used to manually pull water through the grounds. It is the most customizable method but arguably the most difficult to master.
✔️ Semi-automatic machines are similar to manual machines in terms of preparation, but they operate with a button or dial that automates the water flow instead of a lever, and the size of the brew is controllable.
✔️ Automatic machines use a button instead of a lever to brew espresso. The size of the espresso or coffee-drink is automated and often programmable. This method offers more consistency than a manual or semi-automatic machine, making them super easy to use and nabbing top scores in Lab tests.
✔️ Super-automatic machines are a step above automatic machines. In addition to automated and programmable coffee sizes, they can also grind beans, measure them out and often tamp them. These tended to be our favorite in Lab testing for their do-it-all performance.
✔️ Capsule machines use capsules or pods filled with pre-measured coffee to make espresso or other coffee drinks. They offer the most consistency and hands-off ease of use.