Our Top Pick for 2016: Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
Read our full review.
With over 54% of America’s population over the age of 18 drinking coffee habitually, it can be hard to imagine that there was once a time when the morning caffeine fix wasn’t even a concept. Since the discovery of the coffee plant in Ethiopia, millions of people have passionately honed their blending craft. After many conceptual prototypes, the very first “official” espresso machine was brought to life in the early 20th century by a man named Luigi Bezzera. There are thousands of espresso machines available today, and the following are among the best around.
Table of contents
- #1 Gold Pick (1st Place Winner)
- #2 Silver Pick (2nd Place Runner-Up)
- #3 Bronze Pick (3rd Place)
- #4 Budget Pick (Best Cheap)
15 Bar Italian Pump
Compact Brewing Unit
Only Takes Up 6 Inches Of Space
1600w Thermo Coil Heating System
Fast Preheating Time: 25 Seconds
Thermo Block Technology
Automatically Adjusts Water Temperature
19 Bar High Pressure Pump
Ideal Temperature In A Quick 40 Seconds
Optimal Espresso Extraction Temperature
2 Programmable Buttons
Automatic Flow Stop
Stainless Steel Conical Burr Grinder
Removable 24 Ounce Water Tank
#1 Gold pick (Winner): Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine
View it on Amazon for $569.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
The Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso machine is outfitted with a 15-bar Italian Pump and a 1600-watt thermo-coil. The 15-bar pump implement gives the owner a greater ability to control the water and achieve results that are closer to their most desired flavor.
It’s designed with a purge function that allows owners to precisely calibrate the water temperature. The Breville machine’s purge function also enables the owner to zero in on the perfect water temperature for espresso extraction.
The Breville machine’s water storage tank has approximately 67 fluid ounces of fluid capacity. To make the espresso brewing process more seamless, the Breville machine is also outfitted with a pre-brew function. A stainless steel conical burr grinder is also built into the machine, allowing the owner to prepare ground beans for the portafilter in advance. For additional convenience, a 0.5 lb. sealed bean hopper and a removable dip tray are also included.
An unfortunate drawback that some owners occasionally experience with other espresso machine models is an uneven distribution of water. In order to assure that water is distributed in an optimally even fashion, the Breville machine is designed with a flat shower head.
Certain owners may enjoy their espresso more if the cup itself is on the warmer side. To make the temperature of the cup and the beverage slightly more congruent, the Breville machine is made with a cup warmer placed at the top.
The burr grinder gives the Breville machine a relatively swift blending speed, which is the product’s biggest selling point. With the burr grinder, owners can grind raw beans into espresso within 60 seconds.
After successfully brewing their espresso, owners of the Breville machine won’t have to worry about leftover water needing to be drained out of the filter basket. After the coffee has been extracted, a feature specially built into the machine removes the need to manually remove excess water.
At the start of the brewing process, owners will have the convenience of a grind size dial and a grind amount dial. The grinding settings range from a rougher, more robust grind and a smoother grind of a finer texture.
Thanks to the inclusion of dual wall filters for pressure adjustment, even owners who don’t have a wealth of experience with brewing coffee have an ample chance to practice and acclimate to the machine. There are also single wall filters in place, which can offer more of a potential challenge for the more experienced espresso baristas.
The single wall filters give the owner slightly more leeway for trying out different sizes and amounts for their grind. Single wall filters also allow the owner to pinpoint the exact tamping pressure that they desire for their blend. The hefty amount of different options for fine-tuning the machine make it useful not only for simply making espresso, but also for giving owners an opportunity to hone their barista skills.
Depending on whether the owner is using a dual wall filter or a single wall filter, the owner can adjust the amount of ground coffee that they desire to be dispensed. A filter size button is included for the owner’s convenience so that the correct amount of ground coffee can always be reliably dispensed in the brewing process.
To make cleaning up less of a hassle, the Breville machine has a built-in cleaning kit housed in a hidden storage compartment placed directly beneath the dispenser. In addition to the cleaning kit, the hidden compartment can also be used as an area to store additional filters.
The Breville machine has a built-in swivel-action steam wand made from stainless steel, suitable for any brewed beverage. The wand is capable of swiveling with complete 360 degree rotation.
Owners can purchase the Breville machine with the confidence that their machine won’t abruptly break down from overuse. To increase the espresso machine’s longevity, it has been built with high-resilience materials. Owners will be free of the frustration that comes from an espresso machine sliding to and fro on the counter when the grinder has been activated; this is due to the no-slip feet that are built into the bottom of the machine.
The Breville machine weight 23 pounds and is 13.2 x 12.5 x 15.8 inches. The machine is available in three different color schemes: Stainless Steel, Black Sesame, and Cranberry Red.
#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): De’Longhi EC680 Dedica 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine
View it on Amazon for $239.96*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
The De’Longhi EC680 Dedica 15-Bar Pump Espresso machine won’t steal away too much valuable space on the counter from your other appliances. The stainless steel-constructed frame is made with a compact design for spatial convenience.
Like most high-end espresso machines, the Dedica machine doesn’t keep the owner waiting all day for their blend. The machine’s thermoblock mechanism gives it the power to raise its heat up to espresso-brewing temperature within just 35 to 40 seconds.
Self-priming functionality gives the machine its ability to provide blended espresso at a speed that fits the owner on the go. The boiler has been specially designed to produce and dispense water at the exactly 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
To ensure that the machine has the proper level of durability for to resist hot water corrosion, the boiler is made of resilient stainless steel. All parts of the machine have been made with a degree of toughness to ensure that it passes the test of time after repeated use.
The machine gives both experienced baristas and novice brewers alike the ability to create espresso with foam of a professional venue’s quality. Owners can effortlessly create high-quality foam with the specially designed Cappuccino Frothing feature.
Owners who have a penchant for micromanaging the strength their espresso blends will be pleased with the Automatic Flow Stop function. With Flow Stop, the owner can choose between either one or two shots. Flow Stop ensures that the blend’s volume doesn’t exceed the exact quantity that the owner desires.
Like the Breville machine, the Dedica espresso maker isn’t exclusively limited to making espresso alone. Owners have the freedom to blend cappuccinos and lattes with the machine just as easily as espresso. The steam button can be used to control the thickness and richness of the foam in any beverage that they choose to blend.
Owners should make sure that they take care to attach the water tank carefully and completely. If the water tank isn’t attached in the correct fashion, there’s a risk of fluid leakage. To make the machine’s maintenance slightly more manageable, owners should take note of an alternative use for the steam button. Pressing the steam button can can prevent the machine’s nozzle from getting congested with fluid.
Every tool of the coffee brewer’s trade is included in the Dedica espresso machine kit for maximum convenience. There is a filter holder, a tool that both tampers and scoops coffee, and mini descale fluid. For those who haven’t yet had years to get their espresso machine operating skills down to a science, a quick-start guide is included to help get new brewers up to speed.
All of the Dedica machine’s precise controls are made easier to see and use thanks to a conveniently illuminated control panel. The control panel has three simple buttons that can toggle the machine’s settings and customize your drink blending preferences.
In the event that you leave the machine activated and idling for significant period of time, the machine will enter a “standby” mode. Thanks to standby mode, owners don’t need to worry about accidentally leaving the machine on for too long and accidentally creating a spike in their energy bill.
The Dedica espresso maker weighs 9.3 pounds and is 13 x 5.9 x 13 inches. It is available in either a stainless steel color scheme or a candy apple red color scheme.
#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker
View it on Amazon for Too low to display*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
The Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker is made for easy use with specially made Nespresso coffee capsules. The machine comes with over a dozen different coffee pods of various flavors included in the box by default. Between 9 and 11 used capsules can be stored in the machine’s used capsule compartment.
The machine itself has a compact frame and functions with brewing technology designed for quick heating. Even compared to other professional-grade brewing machines, the Nespresso Inissia is capable of brewing espresso quite swiftly. The machine is generally able complete its preheating process in just under 25 seconds.
With two different buttons that can be custom-programmed, the owner can choose between whether they’d like to prepare an espresso or a lungo. The machine’s folding cup tray allows to it accommodate recipes involving all different size of cups, whether they’re short or tall. The tray automatically drops to catch drips after the cup’s removal.
The use can fine-tune their desired blending frequency with the use of a high-pressure pump that has nineteen bars. For storing water, the Nespresso Inissia has a detachable tank with a 24-ounce water capacity. Up to 9 cups of coffee can be successively brewed without needing to refill the water tank.
More energy-conscious owners will want a machine with a small carbon footprint that they can use consistently without draining too much power, and the Nespresso Inissia answers that need. The machine is designed so that it automatically shuts off to save power after just nine minutes of inactivity, preventing owners from accidentally wasting energy if they leave it on for too long.
In addition to the “soft” implements giving the machine its technical functionality, the machine’s “hard” assets make it more physically convenient as well. The machine is outfitted with an ergonomic handle that makes it capable of being comfortably held by the owner.
The Nespresso Inissia was constructed so that it could easily physically fit into most kitchen counter arrangements without taking up too much surface area. It is a very manageable size of 12.6 x 4.7 x 9 inches. The machine is also quite lightweight, at only 5.3 pounds, allowing just about any user to easily pick it up and move it around without a great deal of effort.
Prospective buyers should be advised that the outer casing of this machine is made out of plastic, not the typical stainless steel material. The American model of the Nespresso Inissia is compatible with 110V power sockets, but not the 240V power socket. If the customer resides in Europe wishes and to use the Nespresso Inissia with a 240V power socket, then there are European units that have been built for compatibility with such.
The most frequently-praised feature of the Nespresso Inissia has to do with the coffee selection feature. With past models, owners had to activate the preheating process and then come back at a later time to manually start the coffee brewing process after the preheating was completed. With the latest model of the machine, owners will not actually have to wait for the machine to finish reaching the desired heat before they select their coffee.
The current Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker is not only most technologically sophisticated model in the manufacturer’s espresso maker production line so far, but also the most affordable for its value. There are six different color schemes that the machine can be purchased in (Black, White, Red, Silver, Pacific Blue, and Titan).
#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Mr. Coffee ECMP50 Espresso/Cappuccino Maker
View it on Amazon for $69.49*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
The Mr. Coffee ECMP50 Espresso/Cappuccino Maker is an honorable mention among the more affordable yet reliable espresso makers on the market. Brewing rookies and veterans alike can enjoy what the machine offers for its value. The machine has 15 bars of pressure built into the pump system, giving the owner a satisfying level of control over brew extraction.
In addition to espressos and cappuccinos, the machine is also perfectly capable of creating lattes as well. Owners can easily create drinks like the French café au lait, made with about 66% steamed milk and 33% espresso. No matter what beverage the owner chooses to make, there is tamping tool that can be used to ensure that the coffee grounds remain properly evened out.
In addition to controlling the darkness and richness of the blend with the pump system, owners may also manage the frothiness of their beverage with the machine’s frothing arm. The machine’s milk frother has been specially made to create a satisfying later of foam over the finished product. Some owners might prefer to use the frothing arm for their own personal pitchers, and to accommodate that desire, the frothing arm has been made fully pliable so that it can be directed away from the machine.
Owners can specify whether or not they’d like to prepare a single shot or two with the the machine’s dual-shot brewing functionality. Both a single shot filter and a dual shot filter are included to complement the dual-shot brewing system.
With power granted by a thermal block heating system, the Mr. Coffee espresso maker is capable of bringing beverages to the desired temperature within a relatively swift window of time. There is a detachable water reservoir with a carry capacity of up to 40 ounces, allowing the machine to continuously prepare successive cups without a tedious need to be frequently refilled.
The use of all the machine’s features are streamlined through precise steam controls and a one-touch brew system. With the indicator lights, owners can have a reliable visual on exactly when their blend is ready.
To make the cleanup process less labor-intensive, there is a drip catcher in place. The drip catcher itself can be removed and cleaned, which spares the owner from the need to take the entire machine apart just to take care of stray drops after every brewing session.
The machine comes with a paper tamper by default, though some customers advise prospective buyers to also consider purchasing stainless steel tampers that can provide just a little bit more durability in the long run than paper.
The Mr. Coffee ECMP50 Espresso/Cappuccino Maker is one of the lightest espresso makers available, weighing in at just 1.2 pounds. The machine’s measurements are 11.4 x 13.7 x 13 inches, which should allow most users to find kitchen counter space for it relatively easily.
Ease of the Cleaning Process and Machine Maintenance
Cleanup is a necessary evil of the espresso making process, and espresso machine manufacturers who have the customer in mind will always have features to make cleanup as seamless as possible. Even if an espresso machine has top-of-the-line features for convenience, the tedium of having to clean the entire mechanism as a single unit could quickly prove to be more trouble than it’s worth.
Consider whether or not the machine has a feature for collecting drips and leftover water when the brewing process has finished. Most high-ending machines will be outfitted with a folding tray that is automatically dispatched when the cup is removed from the space beneath the dispenser.
Every part the machine that gets exposed to moisture should always be made completely dry after the espresso has been brewed. As robust as these machines might be, a buildup of water that seeps into the more sensitive parts of the interior could quickly render the machine inoperable if neglected for too long.
Cleaning an espresso machine should always be done with the right type of soap, or otherwise, there might be a risk of accidentally corroding the machine’s material. Be sure to rinse off the machine properly as well, or otherwise, the flavor of the beverages made by the machine might take on an unpleasantly soapy aftertaste.
A key aspect of easily-cleaned espresso machines is the quickness with which it can be disassembled. When choosing a model, take note of which parts are detachable and which parts are permanently affixed to the machine’s main frame. The cup, frothing equipment, and frothing receptacle should all be easy to take apart and wash just as easily as dishes.
Make sure that you’re very careful about keeping track of the important rubber gaskets inside of the espresso maker when you disassemble it, as they can be quite easy to lose and tedious to replace.
Before buying the espresso machine, it may be a prudent to also include some espresso machine cleaner in your order. A simple solution of vinegar and water can also be used to make the the cleaning more thorough. A good ratio to stick with is generally about twenty ounces of water and three ounces of vinegar.
To prepare for the cleaning process, either the espresso cleaner or the vinegar solution can be poured into the portafilter. Running the machine’s basic cycle with the cleaning solution added, for about four repetitions of five to ten seconds, should be enough to ensure that the interior of the machine is properly cleansed.
Size and Aesthetics of the Machine
Naturally, you’re going to want your new espresso machine to physically fit wherever you think about placing it in the kitchen. It might seem like a self-explanatory matter, but it’s surprising just how many people fall into the trap of carelessness when it comes to picking the right size for their appliances.
Before you start fantasizing about all of the fine details of the espresso machines, do a visual scan and hands-on examination of exactly where you think the espresso machine may fit. If you really want to ensure that the fit is perfect, it might actually help to keep a written or typed record of the exact measurements of free space you have available.
Once you have the exact measurements worked out, you’ll save yourself from the risk of needing to process a credit card refund for something that you never even get around to turning on. Most of the best-reviewed espresso machines will generally be made in a compact size to fit into relatively small spaces, but it definitely won’t hurt to know exactly how many centimeters you have to work with.
In addition to working out the right amount of free space on your counter, make sure that you have a good idea your future espresso machine’s cord length and placement of the spout as well. Espresso machines on the heavier side ought to be placed somewhere that you can dependably keep them for use at any angle that you need, without having to move it around too much.
If the machine’s water tank isn’t easily accessible from the position that you’ve placed the machine in, then the machine’s convenience could be canceled out by having to pour from an awkward angle. In a similar vein, having a cord that is too short might prove slightly inconvenient if you find yourself refilling your machine on a frequent basis.
In the event that you really get your heart set on an espresso machine that’s just a little bit too large to be kept on the counter, you might be better off keeping your espresso machine stored in a place like the cabinet or possibly even the garage. If you do store the machine in a place that isn’t immediately visible, you’re going to want to keep a close eye on it for rusting.
In addition to getting your free space and ideal appliance size worked out, you’ll definitely also want to consider the aesthetic aspect of the machine as well. An espresso machine that has the right type of coloration can bring out a new level of synchronous beauty and style in your kitchen.
Grinder Capacity and Storage
What the best kinds of high-end espresso machines will generally have in common is a reliable method for storing your ground coffee beans and used coffee capsules when the machine isn’t being actively used. It’s not uncommon for there to be a compartment or series of compartments that allow you to keep your ground beans securely held until a specific preset time that you designate for brewing your espresso.
If you get an espresso machine that doesn’t offer the convenience of a built-in grinder, then you’ll have a buy a separate grinder and use it before preparing every blend. Investing in an espresso maker that keeps the grinding and brewing process contained to a single apparatus can save you a lot of valuable time. The extra price you’d pay for a built-in grinder will eventually pay for itself through its convenience.
An important thing to make sure of is that the grinder you’re using actually has the capacity to manage the volume of grinds you plan on making with it. Much like the size of the espresso maker itself, many people have carelessly overlooked the upper limits of their grinder and wound up doing avoidable damage to their appliance in the process.
Automatic Grind Depositing and Weight Calibration
Another thing to make sure of is that you’re aware of whether or not your espresso maker requires you to manually deposit the grinds into the basket. Some of the highest-quality espresso makers come with the convenient feature of automatically depositing the grinds into the basket after the grinding process has been completed.
With an espresso machine that has a built-in grinder and a double stock basket, you can accurately calibrate the grinder; all that you need is a scale that can be set to the precision of 0.1 grams. You’ll generally be able to get the most accurate calibration if you separate the portafilter from the basket and then weigh the basket individually.
Water Refilling Method
Generally speaking, your espresso machine’s water tank should be able to easily produce around nine or so successive cups of espresso it’s one of the higher-end models on the market. Be aware of whether or not your chosen espresso machine has a built-in water filling apparatus or not. There is typically a small spout in place to make pouring in water a bit more convenient, but if not, you might want to invest in a funnel to make things easier.
Some of the more advanced espresso machine models might even come with the ability to be directly hooked up to your water source, allowing you to completely forgo the manual pouring process altogether. The espresso maker’s connectable water source could potentially be anything from your sink to your refrigerator’s water fountain, but naturally, this depends entirely on the the model.
The convenience of being able to connect a water source is a feature that’s usually only found built into the machines meant for commercial use, but there are some potential workarounds for DIYers. Even if the connectable water source feature isn’t built into the machine’s base features, almost every variation of espresso maker can potentially be modified for direct no-pour functionality; however, you if you aspire to make those modifications, you should consult the manufacturer t first to see which water source is the most feasible connection for your specific machine model.
In addition to checking for possible direct water source connection options, you may also want to consider whether or not the model you’re interested in comes with an automatic low-water shutoff feature. Even the most experienced baristas among us can still be susceptible to plain human error every now and then, so having a feature that immediately stops the machine if there isn’t a proper amount of fluid can spare you the annoyance of a ruined pitcher of milk or botched espresso.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
The speed and programmability of a high-end espresso machine can more than make up for its price with the time it saves you in your morning routine. Being able to have your coffee beans stored, automatically ground, and immaculately whipped into the perfect espresso all in one fell swoop is a privilege well worth the effort of research. An espresso machine that completely removes all the labor and tedium from the blending process allows you to fully appreciate espresso-making as an art form and not a chore.
Discussion and comments
We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?
Do you know of an even better product?
- Jimmy Stamp. (2012, June 19). The Long History of the Espresso Machine, Smithsonian Magazine
- E. Meistwe. (2011, August 25). Coffee History: Luigi Bezzera, Inventor of the Espresso Machine, Serious Eats
- Professor’s House staff. (2015, March). Espresso – Interesting Facts and Statistics, Professor’s House
- Turkish Coffee World staff. (2015). History of Turkish Coffee, TurkishCoffeeWorld.com
- Coffee Drinking Statistics, StatisticBrain.com