A perfect latte is hard to come by. It's a silky blend of rich espresso, smooth steamed milk, and creamy microfoam. Technically speaking, a latte has a single shot of espresso (or double for more flavor and caffeine), eight to ten ounces of milk, and up to a three quarter-inch layer of foam on top, according to Felix Torres, a barista partner with De’Longhi. That precision makes brewing lattes and cappuccinos daunting: Do you really need to invest in both an espresso machine and a milk frother for a latte that rivals your favorite coffee shop?
Luckily, latte machines exist. These coffee makers have the ability to both brew espresso and froth milk (which means it can also brew other espresso-based drinks like cappuccinos and macchiatos).
To find our favorite latte machines, the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Kitchen Appliances & Technology Lab tested a variety from popular brands and highly-rated models that use ground coffee or coffee pods to brew espresso and have built-in frothers. We evaluated them for ease of use and cleaning, consistency, taste, and loudness. We also tested how quickly they preheat, brew, and froth. We favor latte machines that brew smooth and good-tasting espresso (hello crema!) and froth both milk and milk alternatives quickly and quietly. The frother should produce luxuriously creamy and hot milk with just the right amount of foam. Our picks for the best latte machines to buy are:
In our tests, we liked how this easy-to-use machine preheated in under five seconds, brewed espresso in about 30 seconds, and the frother produced hot milk with impressive microfoam in under one minute. This means that you could have a perfect latte in under two minutes! It allows you to set both the temperature and amount of foam in your milk, making it easy to customize your latte. The frother automatically purges the inside with clean hot water so that it doesn’t clog after each use.
The Breville Bambino Plus was not only one of the most compact latte machines we tested, it also had the biggest water reservoir (64 ounces), which means less refilling. Our favorite feature is the double wall basket in the portafilter, which is more forgiving than single wall filters found in most espresso makers — it helps produce a decent espresso even when the coffee is inconsistently ground.
This latte machine is easy to use and it will consistently make a decent latte. For about $90, it is a great value investment. It takes ground coffee for a single shot, double shot, or soft coffee pods (coffee in a tea bag-like round paper filter). The body is made of BPA-free plastic and the removable water reservoir holds about 50 ounces of water. You have to start and stop the brewing of espresso (i.e. it does not stop automatically) allowing you to determine how much espresso you’d like. You can also control the amount of steam released to heat or create foam in your milk with an easy-to-use dial.
For beginners that may feel intimidated by the complicated-looking buttons and dizzying number of options on most latte machines, the Capresso Pump is a great choice. It features an on/off button and one dial that turns left for brewing espresso and right for frothing coffee. That’s it! Also, the double-wall basket in the portafilter is more forgiving — the coffee beans don’t have to be as evenly ground to get a great espresso.
Reviewers love that the frother is relatively quiet (for a newbie, the high-pitched sound of a frother can be scary!) The top of the machine can be used as a passive cup warmer, which helps keep drinks warmer for longer. It features a 46 ounce removable water reservoir and it takes ground coffee and soft coffee pods.
This latte machine makes “espresso-style” coffee by brewing a concentrated shot of coffee from your favorite K-cup (or the Keurig reusable coffee filter, which is sold separately). Its removable water reservoir holds 60 ounces of water. Out of all the latte machines we tested, we loved this lidded stainless steel frother the most because it was the easiest to use. It has three settings (cold, latte, and cappuccino) and it automatically froths milk until foamy with a simple touch of a button. The inside of the frother has a clearly marked fill line for lattes (about six ounces). It is quiet, fast, and easy to use. The best part? It’s dishwasher safe!
The La Specialista comes with valuable bells and whistles that make its higher price point worth it. We love the built-in grinder that measures the exact amount of ground coffee you need for either a single or double shot of espresso. The built-in tamper relieves the pressure of having to get it right — evenly compressed coffee grounds results in properly extracted flavors. We also love that it preheats quickly, self-cleans, and reminds you when it's time to descale.
It features a 34 ounce removable water reservoir and a pull-down tray to get small cups closer to the espresso spout, which is important for richer crema. In our tests, we found both the espresso maker and frother to be relatively quiet. Most importantly, the espresso was full of flavor and crema, and the frother was easy to clean. Another noteworthy perk: De’Longhi has a series of very helpful how-to videos that not only teach you how to use this machine, they also provide suggestions on how to make latte and latte art!
The Creatista Plus sits on our testing Lab’s coffee station and our editor, Jessica Teich, enjoys making her daily latte with it. She “loves that this model has different brewing sizes and easy settings for whatever drink." It features eight coffee selections, including latte, latte macchiato, and flat white. The self-cleaning frother provides four texture levels and 11 temperature options to choose from. Teich noted that the frother can heat the milk very quickly, so we recommend starting at the lowest temperature setting and increasing it gradually until you find the perfect one.
The Mr. Coffee Espresso Machine is easy to set up and prime, heats up fast, and it is fun to use. This one brews great tasting espresso and perfectly frothed milk at the same time with the touch of a button. It features two removable reservoirs, one for water and one for milk, which can be stored in the fridge! Point the frothing wand towards your cup and hot foamy milk will be released into it. We were impressed that steamed milk did not splatter onto our counter. A dial on the milk canister allows you to control the amount of foam created. The frothing tube can be cleaned with a touch of a button. We recommend cleaning it after each use (before storing it in the fridge).
If you are looking for a compact latte machine that makes a statement with its iconic retro design (it also comes in seven colors), the SMEG is your go-to. It is only six inches wide, 12 inches high, and 13 inches deep. It features three filters for single shot, double shot, and soft coffee pods and a 33 ounce removable water reservoir. The simple control functions include only three buttons for single shot, double shot and frothing. We noticed that setting personal preferences like temperature, amount of coffee brewed, auto shut-off time, and water hardness, requires a complicated sequence of button-pressing. We recommend keeping the manual handy!
During testing, we noticed that it brewed the best espresso with a fine/medium grind size (not the finer grind usually used for espresso). We recommend that you experiment with different grind sizes starting with a fine grind (like table salt) until you get the best results.